Highlights of My 2015


Today¬†I thought I’d write out some highlights of 2015 for myself while it still doesn’t quite feel like “2016” yet: the big highlights, the ones that really stand out. ūüėĄ I’m going to jump right in and will go in chronological order. ūüėĄ

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I Created an Anime Blog.

My introduction to anime in 2014 led to a full obsession at the beginning of 2015, and I created my second blog “Jamie Talks Anime”. I’ve started second blogs before but they’ve never gone anywhere, but “Jamie Talks Anime” was very different. I actually had things to say about the stories and characters and music that came out of anime. I’ve enjoyed meeting so many new people through that blog and it gained 85 followers in its first year! As long as I keep watching and loving anime, I’ll continue to blog over there. But that was definitely a big change to my blogging habits and highlight of 2015.

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The Great Divorce Ended.

After almost four years of turmoil, with a two-year divorce process for my parents, it all finally ended in April. We celebrated. That was¬†all¬†a huge deal for me and my family, like breaking the surface of the sea to breathe. It was nice to hear words like “lawyer” disappear from our vocabulary after April but new routines left me spiraling like crazy all summer. I’m finding my footing now.

It’s relieving but crazy that it’s all over. I remember being eighteen thinking… “I’ll be twenty when this will be¬†all over. No way.” But here I am, at 21 and it’s all over and time is crazy.¬†I can already easily say my family is better off now by having my dad go his own way. And a lot personal growth and good things has come out of the whole awful experience.

And I’m incredibly proud of my mom. She’s a fighter to have made it the end of it without changing her mind. She’s very brave.

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I wish I could write to eighteen year old me and tell her that twenty-one me is doing ok, near the end of the dark tunnel where the light is. Or at least, there’s enough light to cast¬†my shadow on the tunnel wall to groove with me and¬†my¬†music. Things are getting better, baby steps at a time!

My 21st Birthday.

Yep, 2015 was the big year that I officially became an adult. But not much happened LOL. I saw Ant-Man in theaters, had my favorite sandwiches, and made the day a quiet one. I didn’t do very much but I felt very loved from the many messages and notes I received that day. Really though, not much happened in regards to my birthday.

The biggest thing that¬†DID happen¬†that day ended up being completely unrelated: my dad decided to get remarried at the courthouse before bringing my brother home to me. And I’m still baffled¬†about why it was on my birthday¬†(or why he decided to get remarried three months after going through¬†divorce he *said* he didn’t want.)¬†I don’t know, I try very hard not to criticize my dad on here as¬†I’m just not really ready¬†go into how he’s made me feel…but that’s not normal, is it?

So, yep, turning 21 was quiet but the day was bizarrely memorable.

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I Passed My GED Tests.

I never blogged about it, but I did get my GED in 2015! After just over a year of studying¬†at a GED tutoring school, and knocking each test out one at a time, I passed the math test in¬†September for my certificate! The math test was a huge deal for me when I passed it as I’m horrific in math. Horrific. Please don’t ask me to do your taxes. Don’t even ask me to find the total cost of three Big Macs in the drive thru, unless you’re handing me a calculator. ūüėĄ

Mathematical intelligence is my lowest intelligence, so math is my immortal enemy. It was a VERY happy day when I stumbled out of that two-hour test, my brain fried, and became informed I’d passed. So now I have my GED, which will be extremely helpful when I begin job hunting! And studying for it filled in a lot of missing information I didn’t have since¬†I really lacked a high school education.

So, hip hip horray! But screw you, math. I’d say “stay out of my life”, but I’m in a college math class now, so it seems I can’t get away from you just yet. ūüėĄ

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Speaking of college.

That was another big deal for me at the end of 2015. Just before I got my GED, I began a class at my community college during the fall semester. It was for creatively geared people struggling to figure out what type of career would fit them. That class changed my perspective in positive ways for so many things and I ended up really loving it! And my plans for college took a 180 turn between September and Dec. I want to start working towards an associates degree of some kind!

And I have actual career ideas in mind that I know would fit me. Besides strengthening my writing skills, I became very aware of how much joy and personal strength I have in helping and cheering on people. I like helping people feel heard and understood and empowered to be their very best selves. And I know I’d love to have a career the field of helping people someday! It was amazing to learn that about myself thanks to college!

I have much more to say on this subject that will go into another post, but 2015 was the year that I tried college and liked it! ‚̧

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I Get to Meet my Best Friend!

This is¬†the last¬†big thing that fell into motion during 2015 for me!¬†After being friends through blogging¬†for five years, with 2014/2015 being full of weekly skype chats, anime marathoning, and just getting to be best friends, James and I began the initial stage of planning our first visit!¬†That stage is basically completed at this point; all that’s left is for my plane ticket to be bought for the visit this upcoming summer!

AND I’M INCREDIBLY THRILLED. You guys! I’ve always wanted to meet my different blogging buddies, several of you reading this included; but I’m so glad James will be the first because we’re such good friends and have known each other for a long time! The two of us marvel that once upon a time the extent of our friendship was merely in the comment section of our blogs talking about Star Wars and The Avengers! ūüėĄ

But he’s the best, you guys! James is truly my best friend and he’s one of the kindest people I know. He encourages me everyday to keep my chin up and be the best me I can be. He’s also incredibly smart; he has excellent taste in stories; and he’s hilarious as heck! So I’m really excited that before 2015 was over we got to talk about meeting! Now it’s just a countdown to May!


5aa2b29a8d6caffe98ba30d6e7a8a6c3These are just some big highlights of 2015, the things that stand out of the most. 2015 was a lot, a lot of little things too:

2015:

was the year that I had blue hair for twelve months. The year my sister joined the military. The year I failed to do¬†yoga. The year I began writing stories for myself again.¬†It was also the year I lost a book in a hard drive crash. The year I realized I really liked lime slices in my water. The year I saw The Lord of the Rings for the first time. The year¬†when¬†on social media I stopped trying to be something I wasn’t. The year a family pet died. The year I rode the bus by myself for the first time. The year I finally confessed¬†a hard secret and was still loved despite it. The year the shadows broke all over.

I don’t know how 2015 was for you, but I’m excited to have survived it! I’m desperately looking forward to what’s in store for me in 2016!

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~Jamie

My Hiatus is Over! || My Summer


Well, my hiatus for this blog ran a lot longer than I originally expected, but it was a much-needed personal break to let my mind and emotions be by themselves for awhile.

The thing about running a personal blog is that it’s…well…personal. It can get hard to share things or write about even silly things when you’re confused and befuddled¬†about¬†big issues in your life. So the break from this blog has been good to just allow my mind to simmer with itself. ¬†I haven’t come to any conclusions, but I’m okay with not being completely okay. That in and of itself is freeing.

I plan to catch you all up on the different things I’ve struggled with in the near future, as those are heavy topics for their own posts. But today I’ll just catch you up on my summer as best I can! ūüėÄ

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In many ways it was a very quiet summer. It others, it was loud and confusing and emotional.

My parent’s divorce was finalized at the end of April (a big HIP HIP¬†HOORAY¬†goes right¬†here!) and my entire family’s routine changed as my brother began to¬†switch¬†between my home and my dad’s home every other week. I’m still adjusting here in September: My weeks seem to begin on Fridays and then have no ending. It’s super weird. ūüėĄ It works though; I miss my little bro¬†when he’s not here, but I also enjoy that quiet off-week too because… eight year old boys……..just wow.

I worked on my sci-fi book throughout June, but as my head got louder and louder with doubts and theological questions and frustration, I paused the¬†writing. I’d hope to pick it back up in¬†August, but computer issues and now college still keeps me from continuing with it for the time being. The only other story I worked on over the summer was personal story for myself, an nontraditional romance that is incredibly fun write. But that was all the fiction I managed to write over the summer. ūüė¶

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I turned 21 at the end of July! It was a very nice birthday; with early morning happy birthday emojis from my best friend, to the exciting Ant-Man which Mom agreed to watch with me, to my favorite sub-sandwiches for dinner. The amount of birthday wishes and phone calls and cards made me feel very loved and special! There was a damper on the day’s end (I.E. my dad suddenly remarrying on my birthday before bringing my brother home–a topic for another post) but thankfully the shock of it didn’t really kick in till the next day.

Overall, I had a wonderful 21st birthday! Thank you again for all your sweet comments!

Small things can keep you busy like you wouldn’t believe. One day the internet went out. We didn’t figure out until the next day that it wasn’t a neighborhood thing but our own problem. *headdesk* Stupid little things like that seemed to happen all summer. ūüėĄ

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Between the end of July and through almost the entirety of August, I had computer struggles. Oh how¬†those just thrill me to pieces. ūüėĄ This problem interfered with the blogging I was doing, and I breathed in and out of calm control and fits of frustration. As of now, the issue has seemed to resolved it’s self, which is the weirdest thing EVER, but I’m not complaining! I can upload images to WordPress again!

The pro that came out of that whole experience, though, was that I learned a behemoth-like amount of information¬†about my computer this summer and how I can¬†maintain it from my good ol’ friend¬†James The Reviewer.¬†Thank you again for all your help last month, James, you were the best! (Seriously, guys, he taught me so much computer stuff, and took a lot time to walk me through possible solutions for the issue, even though he didn’t have too. I’m such a baby when it comes to my computer, so it was nice to have¬†support from someone steadier than myself. XD)

Friends are literally the best thing ever.

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Happier moments of the summer included watching and talking and writing about anime. So many adventures; so many wonderful characters who are now very dear to my heart (Takeo and Yamato! Kiyoshi-dono! Renge! NICOLAS BROWN, MARRY ME!) I kept¬†my anime blog alive despite the computer issues–I don’t know¬†how!!!–and had lots of fun! I’ve established some wonderful friendships this summer and¬†almost everyone that I’ve met in the anime blogging community has been very kind and enthusiastic!

It’s also incredible¬†to be exposed to a second language every single day through stories. The Japanese language is so beautiful to listen to and I feel a little more familiar with it as each week goes by! It’s my new favorite thing!

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COLLEGE. As August began to close, I first pondered, then agreed to start¬†college before fully wrapping up my GED studies. I’m taking one class, a career exploration class for creative minds at my local community college and I’m already glad I agreed to start. While I now have homework to bring home, I really like the class’s content so far. I think I will learn a lot about myself this semester and shall be able to zone in a specific career or degree that I would personally be driven to achieve.

Since it’s also a class about understanding yourself, I hope that it will help me work through a lot of junk I¬†still have from the past nine¬†years of unbalanced homeschooling and over-the-top patriarchal churches and emotional exhaustion. ¬†I spent most of my teens years having my individualism smothered in the¬†patriarchal movement, which I’m still recovering from.

God didn’t make me as a incomplete soul¬†or personality¬†without a man and¬†I should not have buried myself¬†for others for years and years!

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Hopefully I’ll really discover how I think and function as an individual during this semester, so I can continue becoming my own person. I mean, I’ve done¬†a lot of this in other areas of my life already (I’m learning to say no for myself, I’m learning healthy boundaries, and I¬†am learning¬†to enjoy what I enjoy without feeling weird about it) but I still need help understanding my core. Personal exploration will be very healthy for me!

It has been a confusing, crazy, quiet, enjoyable, angry, emotional summer. I love anime; I really love anime. I’m happy that I got to enjoy the lightning storms in the evening while I listened to music. I’m mad at my dad because, wow, thanks for dragging us through the mud for years insisting a divorce would ruin our already ruined family¬†and then remarrying before the papers are barely cold on my birthday; like I didn’t have enough trust issues with men!¬†And¬†I’m happy that my mom insisted I think about starting college.

I’m hopeful I’ll find my path by the end of the year.

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I am¬†still¬†a lot of emotions from this summer and I haven’t worked through everything; but that’s okay. I’m okay with knowing that I’m both angry and happy and miserable and hopeful all at the same time. I THINK THAT IS LIFE?!?

However,¬†I’ve had my fill of¬†quiet time with just myself. I ready to come home, to this blog and to all of you!¬†Thanks for waiting for me, guys. I love you all! I can’t wait to continue blogging here!

What did you do or feel this summer?

~Jamie

Favorite Bromances


Bromance.

It’s a pop culture term that summarizes¬†two guys (usually fictional characters) who have a deep/brotherly relationship (and/or often pertaining to actual romance, which I leave out when I use the word.) I don’t use this term that much¬†but sometimes it’s feels¬†appropriate when I’m trying to talk about a great friendship between two male best friends.

Personally,¬†I love seeing deep, platonic relationships between guys in my movies and TV shows–usually those connections reach out from the screen to me and are near-unbreakable, which is why the movies and shows become near-unbreakable too!

These below are my personal favorite fictional best friends.¬†They’re¬†listed in an attempted alphabetical order to avoid the heartache of ranking favorites. ūüėĄ

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Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee | The Lord of The Rings Trilogy

I’ve worked on this post for a long time but I could never complete it for some reason. Now, after seeing The¬†Lord of the Rings, I know¬†why. It’s because this list was¬†incomplete without Frodo and Sam, one of the best bromances ever. ūüôā These two were easily my very favorite part about The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Sam such a bad*ss best friend–he always had Frodo’s back, even when the ring began effecting Frodo’ judgement for the worse. And Frodo, when he was thinking straight, really appreciated Sam’s loyalty and brotherhood. ¬†And of course, the moments on Mordor: #THEFEELS

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Han Solo and Chewbacca | The Star Wars Trilogy

I think they’re usually viewed as “character with sidekick” sort of relationship but just because Chewbacca isn’t a main character in the Star Wars movies doesn’t mean that he and Han Solo aren’t¬†bros for life. Besides¬†Wookies are very intelligent and all, so their connection is completely legitimate.

The movies don’t even need to make a big sub-plot demonstrating their strong friendship because it looks so natural and real on the screen.¬†They’re a¬†classic¬†addition to idea of brotherhood and kick-butt partners.

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Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings | A&E’s Agatha Christie’s Poirot

Ever since I first watch the show¬†over five years ago, I’ve absolutely loved this detective duo. They’re such a great addition to the bromance group¬†since, in many ways, they’re a rather mismatched pair. Poirot is very particular,¬†sharp, and proper, while Hastings is a relaxed chap who walks the line of being a little clueless.

But they work because they care for each other’s companionship!¬†I’ve loved these guys since day one over five years ago, so the fact they’ve managed to stay within¬†this list speaks to their true and memorably fun friendship.

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Jake the Dog and Finn the Human | Adventure Time

Adventure Time is one of my more recent favorite shows because of its quirky stories, characters, and stylistically simple, magical world. The two main characters are unquestioningly one of the best broships you’ll ever find on TV. They were even raised to together as brothers. Finn and Jake go on adventures, take quests, woo princesses, play video games, and contemplate simple life lessons of friendship.

It’s sounds similar to many¬†kid shows, but Finn and Jake’s friendship feels so special and authentic in a simple way. They’re partly why Adventure Time’s¬†been embraced by young adults like myself. ‚̧

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James P. Sullivan and Mike Wazowski | Monsters Inc/University

I shouldn’t even have to talk very much about these guys: you should know Sulley and Mike are the best of classic¬†besties ever. Their song to each other in the credits literally goes “I wouldn’t have nothin’ if I didn’t have you.” Pixar perfectly captures the epitome of best friends with a big fuzzy monster and a one-eyed being¬†shaped like a beach ball. They’re one¬†of my most favorite duos in film and they absolutely had to get placed here. ūüėÄ

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Jenko and Schmidt | 21 /22 Jump Street

I have a soft spot for these high school rivals-turned-cop partners. While these films are quite adult, they are among my favorite comedies: This is thanks to the fantastic chemistry between characters Jenko and Schmidt. Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill are exceptional together in these films, and the characters combined with wonderful comedic timing carry the movies from meh to great.

I absolutely love Jenko and Schmidt together as best buddies and cop partners, so they very easily get to make my list of best bromances.

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Kuroko and Kagami | Kuroko’s Basketball

These two were the first anime duo to pop in my head when I was creating this post. Even though I’ve only see the first season so far, these guys still easily make my best of the best list. Kagami’s passionate¬†about¬†basketball but struggles to control his strengths while Kuroko can barely do anything on the court¬†outside of his amazing passing ability. The two discover that they perfectly compliment each other in-game, even if they can butt heads off the court, and their unlikely friendship is formed.

The partnership turned friendship in this anime had me hooked. The two have these epic fist bump moments where I want to fall out of my chair for love of them.¬†Kuroko’s lack of presence annoys Kagami at first, but they eventually find, heart to heart, that they can only be better at what they love if they work together. ‚̧

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Michael Scott and Dwight Schrute | The Office

A little more one-sided than you might think, the duo of well-meaning but idiotic Michael Scott and the cold-with-secret-soft-side Dwight Schrute is a priceless pair for both comedy and friendship. During the first few seasons, Michael just barely puts up with Dwight’s intense devotion as “Assistant Regional Manager,” while Dwight is completely devoted to Michael’s every wish and whim.

However, as the seasons pass, Dwight’s devotion is slowly repaid by Michael with real friendship and brotherhood, which is why they’re make it on this list. Also they’re hysterical together.

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Mitchel and Cameron Pritchet| Modern Family

Mitch and Cam are the¬†only official couple to be included here (because what’s the point of this post if I don’t¬†mention¬†these guys?!)¬†While¬†Modern Family¬†has an amazing cast of characters, the standouts to me are the uptight¬†yet¬†steady redheaded Mitch who’s balanced by the bubbly jack-of-all-trades Cam: These guys are one of my favorite duos ever.

Mitch and Cam are¬†wonderfully developed characters,¬†both encompassing and simultaneously¬†shattering the idea of”the gay couple” on several levels. I absolutely respect and admire the show’s writers for so thoughtfully creating such vivid, realistic, hysterical people–I will never get tired of watching these guys react to life together.

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Rick Grimes and Daryl Dixon | The Walking Dead

Although not a main theme to The Walking Dead’s plot like in Adventure Time, the brotherhood between a¬†former Sheriff’s Deputy, Rick, and a rough-around-the-edges red neck, Daryl,¬†is one of the best parts of the show! Especially since these two guys are my favorite characters!

Daryl’s real brother Merle was abusive and bad-tempered, so when Daryl is no longer around¬†his bad influences and begins to mature, he finds a better older brother-like friendship in the group’s¬†leader, Rick Grimes. It’s not at all a quick friendship to say the least, but that’s why it feels so authentic. And without the zombie apocalypse it would never have been formed!

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Sherlock Holmes and John Watson

Easily one of my favorite duos of all time (if not my ultimate favorite,) the classic literary duo are represented here with my two personal favorite pairs (technically the only two sets that I genuinely¬†love) with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman from Sherlock and Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce’s 1940’s classics. Of course I adore Holmes and Watson in the books, especially since those are from Watson’s perspective.

Much like Poirot and Hastings, they sometimes seem a bit mismatched (especially in Sherlock) but they have one of the truest friendships in all fiction, as far as I’m concerned. Not because they have a perfect friendship without flaws, but because through the flaws they still can stick together.

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Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s Many Character Duos | in The Cornetto Trilogy

I’m encompassing three sets of bromances here, all portrayed by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. The characters they play have very different types of friendships¬†which¬†are all priceless. Shaun and Ed from Shaun of the Dead¬†are the hysterical duo where the one character is more worried about his future while the other acts a burden. The fantastic friendship in Hot Fuzz¬†is between the uptight Sergeant Angel and the soft-hearted sidekick Danny: they create a a wonderful¬†cop duo (and the purest bromance of these three.) And in the last one, Pegg and Frost portray¬†a broken friendship which is poorly reunited.

This British trilogy of stand-alone films features these brothers and it’s FANTASTIC due to excellent writing, character development and amazing comedy¬†chemistry between Pegg and Frost. ‚̧

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Stewie Griffin and Brian Griffin | Family Guy

Although Brian’s creation was as¬†sidekick for family patriarch Peter Griffin, the absolute best episodes of Family Guy are when he’s teamed up with the one-year-old, English-accented, evil genius Stewie Griffin, in¬†the “Road To” adventures. They’re another badly mismatched pair who start¬†off hating each other but eventually become great buds.

Even non-“Road To” episodes with the two characters interacting are hysterical and completely awesome as zing each other and time travel.¬†I adore them too much to leave them off this list!


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The original list of guys to include here was twice this big but¬†I kept only my¬†favorite of favorites for length, which means Woody and Buzz, Arthur and Merlin, Tamaki and Kyoya of “Ouran,” and Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes are¬†only honorable mentions. But that’s life, I suppose. (And to tell the truth, I enjoyed Steve and Bucky more when it was only The First Avenger; all the fangirls got annoying during Winter Soldier and nearly ruined them for me. ūüė¶ )

So: How many bromances have you seen from my list and would you agree with me? What are some of your favorite pairs of best guy friends?¬†Any pairs you would include that I didn’t (I can think of some popular pairs that are very absent from my list)?

~Jamie

My Summer with Studio Ghibli


studio-ghibliWhat sets this Japanese animation company apart from most other studios is their ability to perfectly capture the precious moments in life; like good food, affection between friends and family, and respect for neighbors and nature. If you are into movies or animation, then most of these films I saw this summer are must-sees, all drawn in the most enchanting animation style!

This summer, I got introduced to Studio Ghibli’s anime films; I ended up watching nearly all of them too fast because they were so good! Even the overrated ones displayed some of the most beautiful animation. I want to bring more attention to these movies, so I’ve compiled single paragraph thoughts on the ones I’ve seen below. they’re¬†presented in the order I watched them and are spoiler-free!¬†I’m also incredibly proud of this post as it took about a month to create, write and design! I don’t do this for everything, so consider this a demonstration of¬†my strong feelings for these films (many of which I now own on DVD!)

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A strong shout out and thank you needs to be said to my best friend,¬†James, for suggesting I give Studio Ghibli a try, and for recommending Whisper of the Heart so many times. ūüėȬ†Ghibli has¬†definitely been a big highlight of my 2014 summer! The studio definitely changed how I look at anime and animation in general and greatly expanded my film world (and Top 100 Favorite Movies list!) Thank you so much, James!

Notes: The only Ghibli films I haven’t seen include Only Yesterday, Ocean Waves, and Tales from Earthsea. I have seen Nausicaa, but since it’s¬†technically not Ghibli, I opted to leave it out. Just a personal choice on my part.

arrietty-disneyscreencaps.com-1368The Secret World of Arrietty || 2010 || G 

“Human beings are dangerous. If we’re seen, we have to leave. My parents said so.”

My first Studio Ghibli film. It appealed to a childhood love of mine for tiny people, so¬†it turned out to be perfect starting point. Arrietty was whimsical, breathtakingly beautiful, and quite endearing. I found it very enjoyable, even though it wasn’t a rousing epic or a heart stopping adventure. It was a very sweet tale that elevated your boring objects like sugar cubes and sewing pins to a completely¬†new¬†perspective within the hands of a Borrower. Everything was just very delightful, from¬†endearing heroine Arrietty (many of Ghibli’s¬†films are filled with some of the most wonderful female leads!) and her unique little family, to¬†the most gorgeous animation. A highlight for me was the original score that was a very gentle Celtic. It definitely lifted the story to special heights as it guided story’s emotion. Overall, this is personally special to me because it was my first Ghibli film, so I give it an extra half a star. ūüôā

Final Comment: A Whimsical Wonder || 5/5  stars

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mimiWhisper of the Heart || 1995 || PG 

“Take me home, concrete roads!”

This was highly recommended to me, a beautifully told coming-of-age story. Set at the point when the libraries were preparing to computerized their systems, Shizuku’s interest in piqued by seeing a familiar name on all her checkout cards-she eventually meet the person and their stories become entwined. The atmosphere of Tokyo’s neighborhoods, antique shops, apartment complexes, and the people who pass by them, made for a very comforting backdrop for the story to unfold and one that I was fascinated to watch.¬†The film handles young romance exceptionally well, never once feeling awkward or weird–a gigantic plus! I loved Shizuku as a female lead and would certainly love to revisit her life in a sequel if it could be handled well. At times, Whisper of the Heart¬†can feel rather slow at the beginning but do not let your impatience get in the way of the perfect character handling and atmosphere. By the end of this movie, I was in puddle of tears from happiness and I’m still trying to figure out how they made such a small ending feel so monumental.

Final Comment: Sneak Attack On The Emotional Zone|| 5/5 stars

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216299-the-wind-rises-1The Wind Rises || 2013 || PG-13 

“Airplanes are beautiful, cursed dreams, waiting for the sky to swallow them up.”

This is one of Ghibli’s most beautiful films to date! I consider it almost a “sin” that Frozen took the Oscar this past year instead of The Wind Rises, especially when I saw how the Academy voted. A loose biopic, the film beautifully depicts the a life of Jiro Hirikoshi, who helped develop aircraft for the Japanese right before World War II and how his life’s passion was taken and used for harm. Airplanes have never been so interesting to me as they were throughout the running time of this film. The romance that developed during the second half ¬†was so heartbreakingly beautiful that I ended up crying from the pure emotion. The animation in and of itself was basically¬†flawless (especially character designs; for the most part, Ghibli creates some of the most pleasant and innocent looking characters I’ve ever seen that’s refreshing to the eyes!) A surprise was hearing John Karinski’s voice in this film (Jim Halpert of The Office, people!) and I actually liked Joseph Gordan Levitt’s acting too! The highlight of this film was simply the entire story¬†and how it was presented. It was incredibly enjoyable and moving to behold in its entirety. Personally, I am still battling my temper that this film is so unknown compared to Disney’s very lacking ice and princess flick.

Final Comment: Oscar Worthy || 5/5 stars

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Qualit¬é: deuxi¬Źme g¬én¬ération.   Titre: Le Royaume Des Chats.The Cat Returns || 2002 || G¬†

“Always believe in yourself. Do this and no matter where you are, you will have nothing to fear.”

As this film is loosely connected to Whisper of the Heart, which I loved terribly, I ended up watching this sooner than later. Sadly, it does not live up to what Whisper of the Heart delivered. The cat, The¬†Baron, who originated in Whisper,¬†was the best part; sadly, the rest of the film I didn’t enjoy half as much. It was a decent kids film, it simply tasted different from the previous three¬†Ghibli films I’d seen. It wandered into more children’s stereotypical territory in a hit and miss type fashion. Overall, it was alright but I probably won’t watch again. (I should note that it is still better than some of America’s¬†extremely cheesy and crude kids movies.)

Final Comment: Meh, Kids Will Like It || 3/5 stars

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Howl’s Moving Castle || 2004 || PG¬†

“Here’s another curse for you – may all your bacon burn!”

Very imaginative and fantastical, Howl’s Moving Castle is one of Studio Ghibli’s more popular films with a very large fan base, which at points has caused me to scratch my head to a degree. Frankly, I think it’s rather overrated but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t an enjoyable watch. I did love the fantasy elements a lot; for example, the magical walking castle was really neat. The cast of characters was great; the fire demon Calcifer (English voice done by none other than Mike Wazowski’s voice, Billy Crystal!) was an imaginative fantasy creature and entertaining without being too silly. Christian Bale was great as the wizard Howl too! The film starts out quite strong, but gets¬†too busy with¬†different story threads¬†during the last half, ultimately failing to¬†resolve a major problem set up in the beginning. So, sadly I was left rather disappointed when the film ended. Still, it’s a good watch, especially for fantasy lovers.

Final Comment: Fantastical but Overrated || 4/5 stars

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neighbor-totoro-disneyscreencaps.com-3771My Neighbor Totoro || 1988 || G 

“There was a great big Totoro!”

Easily one of Ghibli’s most recognizable films, this is one of the best animated films I have ever seen in my life. Not only is it a timeless classic, but it’s depiction of family and sisterhood was pulled off better than in nearly any Disney film I’ve ever seen. This is by far the best and most realistic set of fictional sisters ever and that definitely made the film for me–they were so endearing!¬†Little moments in the girls lives as they moved into a new house, settled into a new community, and glimpsed the forest spirits, was what made¬†the film so monumental in heart and soul–it’s a quiet movie with massive heart. It’s also very entertaining, as little Mei is incredibly adorable and says and does¬†some humorous¬†things. The animation is a little old but it doesn’t hurt the film at all–in fact it has a charming, timeless quality to it that adds to the film’s quaint, sweet atmosphere of childhood. I’ve rewatched this film many times now with my seven-year-old brother and have teared up nearly every time by end. In short, this is a must-see.

Final Comment: Definition of Your Timeless Classic || 5/5 stars

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Ponyo || 2008 || G 

“That’s the most boring goldfish I’ve ever seen in my entire life.”

I fell in love with this movie almost instantly and I would rank it highly among one of my top favorite Studio Ghibli films. The animation of the water blew me away, as it looked so fluid and soft! The world of and above the sea, and their meeting together, was captured in perfect detail, charm, and awe through the story of two little children.¬†Title character Ponyo was enthusiastic and strong-willed without being obnoxious, while the little boy Sosuke was adorably mature, bright, and kindhearted for his age; with such lovable leads, it was very hard not to adore this film! I absolutely loved the flow of the story’s plot and the level of emotion it took me to. The cast of characters was relatively small but also¬†incredibly enjoyable and memorable;¬†Ponyo’s wizard father and Sosuke’s spunky mother were both especially fun characters. In many ways, words fail me to describe how beautiful this movie was. From¬†thrilling adventure, heart-tugging moments of joy, breathtaking animation, and¬†a beautiful score, this was simply a masterpiece. Talk about going above and beyond for a children’s movie!

Final Comment: Favorite Tale From The Sea || 5/5 stars

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Spirited AwaySpirited Away || 2001 || PG 

“I finally get a bouquet and it’s a goodbye present. That’s depressing.”

Boy, this movie is loved to insane heights but I didn’t click with it on the first watch. While I was sick, I gave it a second try.¬†While¬†I still hold¬†to¬†my opinion that it’s kinda overrated, I did enjoy it more the second time through. It is a great feat in the animation universe. Incredibly bizarre yet solid, we get to follow human Chihiro as she becomes¬†stuck in the nighttime world of a bathhouse for spirits, separated from her parents. Yep, this film is your classic fantasy adventure! Although some of the characters are a little ugly to look at, mostly the animation is fascinatingly interesting and hard to look away from. Spirited Away also manages to communicate emotion that gives the adventure some gravity, which overall helped it while on my second watch. I did have a problem with a poorly presented back story of one character, but I cannot go into detail without spoiling things. Overall, it’s… an interesting¬†movie; it will probably grow on me a little bit at a time with each rewatch.

Final Comment: Crazy but Worth The Time|| 4 /5 stars

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kikis-delivery-serviceKiki’s Delivery Service || 1989 || G¬†

“You’d think they’d never seen a girl and a cat on a broom before.”

Kiki’s Delivery Service perfectly captured what a family film should feel like, hitting a well-balanced mark that¬†some animated films miss; it was not too silly yet also not too serious. It was¬†deliciously delightful and quaint, thoroughly soaked in a nostalgia for a simpler time. Kiki was¬†a fantastic character to get behind¬†as her¬†simple journey of becoming an independent young adult¬†unfolded through adventures, mishaps, and lots of heart. Her talking cat Jiji was adorable and funny without being ridiculous or weighing down the film with too much silly dialog. In fact, the whole cast of supporting characters were great! Kiki herself was a big highlight; I really wanted my younger brother to watch this film as she displayed an optimistic, strong will to work hard for herself, without seeming perfect or unrealistic. The film continues to grow on me with each rewatch, of which I’m very happy!

Final Comment: Wonderful Family Film || 4.5/5 stars

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960__castle_in_the_sky_blu-ray_x04_Laputa: Castle in the Sky || 1986 || PG 

“Oh, no! There goes my crystal!”

Laputa: Castle in the Sky is Ghibli’s first film and it’s a great children’s fantasy adventure, packed with space pirates, a lost civilization, a magical necklace, puzzles needing solving and a roller coaster of adventures that almost never stop. However, in some ways, it felt a little young for me, so I didn’t enjoy it ¬†quite as much as, say, Kiki¬†(my brother would LOVE this film though, and I need to show it to him soon!) There was just a tad more silliness mixed in–not in a bad way; it just felt a little hit and miss to me personally. However, for Ghibli’s first official film, it’s pretty decent! Lead characters Sheeta and Pazu are easy to get behind and were fun to follow throughout the story. Mark Hamill’s voice acting as a certain character was a pleasure to hear, too! I’m probably ranking this a little too low but until I can give a proper rewatch, I’ll have to stick with how I feel right now.

Final Comment: Decent Kids Adventure || 3.5/5 stars

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Princess Mononoke || 1997 || PG-13 

“You cannot change fate. However, you can rise to meet it, if you so choose.”

The versatility Ghibli has to tell so many different types of stories is amazing–from children’s adventures to bizarre fantasy to¬†heartfelt drama. Ghibli is a master at their craft of storytelling! This versatility is especially clear in this rather mature epic, Princess Mononoke. Although the environmental theme became so overpowering¬†that it felt more a sermon than a plot theme, the film still delivered a solid fantasy epic. Led by the likable but doomed Ashitaka, we get to watch as he’s caught up in a battle over the forest, some fighting to keep it safe and others wanting what it can give them, with little regard of the spirits that live within it. An extremely fascinating part of this film was that there¬†practically no ‘bad’ side. Nearly all the characters were cast in shades of grey, each having good and bad motivates that gave a very large, telling image of humanity. I hope to revisit this film in the future, to form a more solid opinion of it, and to enjoy the animation, of course.

Final Comment: Preachy yet Epicly Beautiful || 4.5/5 stars

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poppy-hill-disneyscreencaps.com-3998From Up on Poppy Hill || 2011 || PG 

“There’s no future for people who worship the future and forget the past.‚ÄĚ

This made me think of¬†Whisper of The Heart,¬†in a small ways. Poppy Hill, for some reason, isn’t that popular, so I’m among the few who really enjoyed this movie. As a high school attempts to save their clubhouse, we get to peek into the private lives of a couple of students¬†in particular and their budding relationship; all with the backdrop of Japan’s struggle to move forward after WWII without loosing touch with their heritage. Like most Ghibli films, it handles the sweet beginnings of romance wonderfully. As a period piece, the bits of drama throughout the film were enjoyable to watch, as was the look into the Japanese culture. My only complaint was that the end felt a bit abrupt–but only because I wanted see more! Like Whisper, I could have sat for hours watching the lives of these characters if the movie had kept going! So, overall, this was a very pleasant animation!

Final Comment: A Precious Throwback to What Was “Whisper”¬†|| 4.5/5 stars

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Porco-Rosso-porco-rosso-29177479-1200-713Porco Rosso || 1992 || PG 

“I’d rather be a pig than a fascist.”

Drenched in playful romanticism of yesteryear and accompanied by sea planes, air bandits, big Italian families, hidden coves, lost loves, and oh! a man cursed to have the face of a pig? Yes, you read that right; while that part¬†felt random, somehow it still managed to work. Porco was an endearing yet serious character;¬†I found myself drawn into his story and¬†really enjoyed the stay, watching him handle pirates, his delicate sea plane, and eventually fight for honor. The plot, once it got going, was a fantastic ride and beautifully delivered.¬†A special highlight¬†was the smart and optimistic young engineer Fio and I consider her one of Ghibli’s most underrated characters. She was an absolute joy to watch, but I never see her mentioned by most fans. ¬†Overall, except for a less than satisfactory last ten minutes,¬†I was¬†pleasantly surprised by this film¬†and almost instantly in love!

Final Comment: Yes! The Pig Thing Does Work!|| 5/5 stars

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968full-my-neighbors-the-yamadas-screenshotMy Neighbors The Yamadas || 1999 || PG 

“The reason the Yamadas get along fine is because all three adults are nuts. If one of you¬†were normal it would unbalance the rest.”

Very different from Ghilbi’s other films, this film was a¬†comical commentary on your regular, middle class family. Although it’s¬†almost¬†two hours, it plays out¬†like a bunch of shorts, and not your typical,¬†single overarching plot. It was a sweet film, with some fun moments and some wonderful watercolor-like animation,¬†perfectly capturing each family member’s perspective of life. Although I wouldn’t consider it a favorite of mine, I would consider it worth watching if you consider yourself a Studio Ghibli fan or an animation buff in general. It had a very unique feel to how it’s told and how it looks and even its own sense of humor. Being an animation geek myself, I did make the effort to watch this one.

Final Comment: Had Some Good Moments || 3.5/5 stars

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pompoko-4592Pom Poko || 1994 || PG 

“I have no face!”

Of all the Studio Ghibli films I’ve watched, this is the one I’ve liked least of all,¬†and I think it’s almost universally unpopular. Following¬†shape shifting raccoon-dogs fighting for their forest, those shape shifting moments were pretty much the only enjoyable parts for me. Sadly, I didn’t like the rest, as it was unbelievably strange and weird to say the least.¬†You would not believe what part of the male anatomy they decided to animate in this film–I did not care for that¬†part. ūüėĮ The all-too familiar environmental message was quite in-your-face, which I always find intrusive of my mental personal space–if that make sense? Overall, the film felt very odd. It’s the only Ghibli film I actually completely dislike.

Final Comment: I Shoulda Skipped It || 2.5/5 stars

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la-tumba-de-las-luciernagasGrave of the Fireflies || 1988 || NR 

Once again, Ghibli’s ability to deliver a variety of stories is shown by this epicly devastating yet somehow beautiful piece of animation. Following two siblings and their will to¬†survive after their city¬†is bombed near the end of WWII, the price of war is depicted very clearly¬†through their struggles, nothing sugar-coated to say the least. The two main characters are breathtakingly realistic, endearing, and well-balanced. Little Setsuko is a heart-stealer, unbelievably cute and sympathetic. Seita, the older brother, is also an easy hero to get behind as he attempts to shelter his sister from the effects of war. On an overall scale, everything is fantastic in this film, from voice acting, to animation, to story flow. However, I must note that the film got¬†so¬†depressing that I had to stop near the end before finishing it later. The fact that I never want to watch this film ever again lowers the score just a bit. I think¬†everyone should see this at some point in their lifetime but it should not be expected to be an easy watch and rightfully so. Well done, Ghibli, well done.

Final Comment: The Definition of a Tear-Jerker || 4.5/5

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Shall we tally the scores? Out of sixteen¬†movies, there are four that are¬†marked under 3.5 and two the acceptable 4. With the remaining ten films all being above average/raising the bar of the animation genre, with¬†four gaining near perfect¬†4.5, and six claiming¬†5 out of 5 stars, I say, where have you been all my life, Studio Ghibli?! Sure, they’re not perfect, just like every other film, but that’s not why they’re marked so high. What they are is genuine. Imaginative. Relate-able. Gorgeous. Touching. In the end, to me, they’re priceless and well worth the time to share.

This summer will definitely be one I’ll remember¬†as¬†the year I realized I could watch anime and love it. I now happily own¬†(yes, I put my money where my mouth is)¬†My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo, Porco Rosso, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Whisper of the Heart, The Secret World of Arriety, and¬†even Howl’s Moving Castle¬†on DVD. I hope to buy The Wind Rises, From Up On Poppy Hill, and maybe even Spirited Away in the near future! That’s how much I love them and need them accessible, right at my fingertips!

If even one of these films piqued your interest, I strongly recommend you¬†find a way to watch it! Hopefully Studio Ghibli can bring happiness to your life as it did mine! If you’ve already seen some (or all!) of these films, what did you think of them? Did you like them as much as I did? I¬†surely hope that you did!

~Jamie

I’m refraining from, “wow, January flew by already?!”


My January was pretty much Pandora, horror movies, Post Christmas shopping, Skyping and a brilliant sci-fi story idea that refused to cooperate with me in time to enter in Booktrack’s New Years contest.

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I learned that it was okay not to push myself on making a story work if it just wasn’t the meant to be written at that moment. I’ve filed “Extraction” away and will to let it boil in my mind for a little while longer. However, in other good news in regards to writing, Booktrack sent me an email that began, “touching base with you because your work on Booktrack stands out as some of the best on the platform. ¬†To show our appreciation for our star authors we’re going to be creating author profile pages, and we’d love to include one for you.”¬†!!!! I got to send in a short bio for my page! So, while I couldn’t get my story to cooperate with me, I was thrilled to be approached because of my past work that includes both writing and music/sound effect editing. ūüėÄ That was just a big wow moment for me!

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I got to Skype with my friend Rebecca twice during the last week of January; it was the first time we’d attempted it and it was very exciting to speak face to face. I especially liked it because it’s been ages since I’ve had a proper conversation with someone my age eye to eye. She’s a very sweet person with the prettiest southern accent and we have so many things in common! I finally got to talk to another girl who likes The Walking Dead and all sorts of other fandoms as well. She showed me an icicle from outside, too, which was really neat! I’m looking forward to Skyping more with her (and, of course, our mutual friend James!) throughout the next year!

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Post Christmas shopping is one of the best parts of January, in my opinion; I bought some candles, Bath and Body Works products, which I’ve not had in ages, some new shirts, movies, which include the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films, and accessories for my iPod. I feel set up for the new year and I’m now strongly buckling down to spend a lot less for the next six months until my 20th birthday. (I’M GOING TO BE 20 IN JULY GUYS IT FEELS SURREAL.)

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A big part of my January was my dive into the horror genre. It was a careful dive, I assure you, one where I went for the highly recommended films, the ones with a bit more depth than just a regular slasher film and packed a punch when it came to plot twists. Unpredictable plot twist that make sense are some of my favorite things when it comes to films and the horror genre is actually full of fantastic writing and plotting; the good ones are just as artistic and masterful–sometimes even more so–then a regular movie because of the emotions that needs to be properly communicated from screen to audience without being cheesy or forced. My respect for the genre, when it’s done right, is a lot bigger than it was a year ago. I’ve made it through the three Scream movies (first was the best and the third one was better than the second) and then got wowed by Shutter Island and Identity. I’m looking forward to watching more highly recommend horror films in the near future (and hopefully writing another one myself.)

Some of my plans for February will be studying for my driver’s permit again, re-begin trotting the neighborhood again after my Christmas break, watch some more scary movies and eat lots of chocolate. My sister and I also figured out how to iMessage each other so I’m sure there will be a lot of that this month too. ūüėõ

~Jamie