Book 60: Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama

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I’m going to devote this entry to the entire series. You see, for about two weeks now I have been rereading and rereading the manga that I am becoming so obsessed with it and so attached to the characters that I must write something. This must be how those die-hard Harry Potter fans feel.

First of all, you kids who think DBZ is stupid: Dragon Ball is the Naruto/Inuyasha/One Piece of my generation. So if you like one of those series (or maybe all of them), take that. Dragon Ball also has influenced many of the popular shonen manga today – indirectly or otherwise. I did think for a while that the anime was stupid (because the manga always rocks), but lately I’ve been wanting to see some of the filler episodes. It drives me crazy not knowing what officially happens during the several periods of years that the manga never covers.

Rereading Dragon Ball brings back so many memories. It sort of feels like listening to the music you used to listen as a child. In fact, since I never really listened to music until I was in high school, so comic books are like the substitute for childhood music for me. It started in third grade when my oldest brother finally bought the first ten volumes of Dragon Ball despite my mother’s threat to disown him if he dared wasting money on comic books (really?). The series ended two years later. I remember losing interest because I thought the artwork and the translation were getting sloppy. (Now that I’ve read the U.S. version, I definitely know that the translation was REALLY bad.) Regardless, I spent the next few years rereading every single volume until I memorized literally every line. I was surprised two weeks ago when I found out I actually still remember a good chunk of the dialogues.

As a kid I couldn’t really put things in perspective though. Dragon Ball to me was just another fighting manga. The good guys fight, the villains either die or become good, and everyone lives happily ever after. All I knew was the Z fighters super strong and even if you put all of today’s superheroes together they still couldn’t win against Goku, Gohan, and Vegeta. These days, I’m taking a different approach toward the characters.

Let’s see. It all started with 12-year-old Goku meeting 16-year-old Bulma. Kamesennin, Ulon, Yamcha, Puar, Chichi, and Kuririn also came to the scene in the first four volumes. The series started out as a gag manga, but somewhere along the way it evolved into a more serious manga. The characters that were created merely to entertain were abandoned as the fighters became more developed. Eventually even Yamcha and Chaoz slided down the ladder.

In the beginning, Goku was a kid. Then he grew up and got married sometime between volume 16 and volume 17 at the age of 19. He had Gohan when he was 20. Gohan was 4 years old during the Vegeta saga, almost 5 during the Freeza saga, and 9 during the Cell Saga. I guess it felt like he was supposed to be older because it used to take so long before the bookstore released the newest volume. Hard to believe that events in Dragon Ball often happen within a short time frame – as in a few days.

But in spite of that, all the characters still grew up so fast. I couldn’t make sense of it when Gohan suddenly transformed from someone younger than me to someone older than me. It felt even worse toward the end of the manga when everyone was 10 years older. Gohan is now 26, which makes Goku 46, which makes Bulma 50. In actuality they shouldn’t look the old, but that’s besides the point. Not that there’s any point to all this rambling.

In any case, it feels weird watching someone turns from a child to a grown man. Is this how parents feel? One moment Gohan is just a good-hearted little kid, and the next moment he’s a dorky teenager who wants to look cool (and fails miserably – much to my embarrassment). Haha, he might be the epitome of Asian nerds today actually.

It still feels unreal. So long ago yet it feels just like yesterday. Time is relative indeed.

Book 53: The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan (2006)

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Ack, seriously. What the hell is this?

I did like the first half of the first book, but halfway throughout this book I just couldn’t take it anymore. I’ve never managed to care for Percy – the main character. His narration was fresh and entertaining at first, but after a while even that couldn’t make up for everything else that is wrong with this book. As I’ve mentioned before (I think), the references to the Greek myth become really old, especially because I already know everything there is to know about the Greek myth. Everything becomes predictable. What’s worse, I find it hard to believe that Percy honestly couldn’t guess what’s in stock for him. He knows that something is a trap and yet he still falls for it.

I can see why Poseidon isn’t all that proud of him.

Movie 9: Princess Mononoke (1997)

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Japanese title: Mononoke Hime

Fear not, fans of Hayao Miyazaki. I’ve finally come across Princess Mononoke, a movie that I cannot begin to criticize it is that excellent. Yes, this is the first of his movies that will escape being tag as “boring” by yours truly – a most qualified judge of anime and movies in general. I absolutely love everything about it. There’s enough action and the characters are fascinating. Ashitaka is the kind of guy that lured me into watching anime in the first place. He’s almost perfect.

Kudos for having ex-prostitutes instead of regular women and for letting ’em show what they got. Toki is excredibly tough.

Movie 8: Hero (2002)

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Chinese title: Ying Xiong

Strange. I normally like Chinese movies, and I’m a big fan of Jet Li. That said, you would think I’d love this movie from the bottom of my heart. But I don’t. Maybe my memory is deceiving me, or maybe it’s the snobbishness kicking in, but Chinese movies used to be a lot better. During a fight the characters move so unnaturally, making it obvious that they are hanged and choreographed by some invisible strings – as though they’re puppets.

It reminds me a lot of the time I watched either House of the Flying Daggers or Bulletproof Monk (I forgot because I’ve seen way too many movies) where the fight scenes look equally idiotic. I need some real action! Real fights! See, this is where I have a sudden appreciation for Jackie Chan (I dislike him otherwise and I seriously think he’s ready to retire).

The story is great, though. Historical movies always make me want to learn the real history behind it. I want to know how much of the movie is true and how much of it is made up. (I was both intrigued and disappointed when I found out about the historical Princess Anastasia of Russia. And Anna Anderson. And such.) Unfortunately, I have no idea where to begin where China is concerned. I promise I’m going to pick up a history book on China one of these days. Yeah, one of these days. Definitely.

Movie 3: Musa: The Warrior (2001)

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Whoa. I first saw this in 2005 and it’s still as beautiful as ever. I think they edited out some scenes in this version. Pretty sure there was a point during the journey where everyone gathered round and shared what they were going to do once they got home. I wouldn’t have felt so attached to them otherwise.Seeing this movie the second time, I understand the plot a whole lot better. I now see where the love story plays into this. If the general didn’t have a crush on the princess, he wouldn’t have bothered trying to save her. The whole group would’ve returned to Korea safely. I can’t help but feeling sorry for him anyway though. Toward the end when everyone is dying, the princess chooses to hold Yeosol instead of him. I guess dying with that in sight will just hurt.

In this version, Daejung is called Sergeant Jinlip. I don’t see the resemblance between the two names, but then I don’t know any Korean at all. Jinlip is still the wise one, the one who looks after the general without being obvious about it. He doesn’t want power; he just wants for everyone to get home safely.

The text in the beginning of the movie says this: “This is the story of those who were unable to return home [to Korea].”

Kind of makes you wonder if Jinlip was unable to make it home using that raft.