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 56: Shadowmancer by G. P. Taylor (2003)

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Ah, this is the kind of fantasy books I’d want to read again sometime in the future. I could care less about the religious aspect and whatnot – a good fantasy book is a good fantasy book. People need to shut up and stop criticizing fantasy books because they promote Christianity or atheism (as in the case with Philip Pullman’s Dark Trilogy) already. Don’t want your kids to be brainwashed? Don’t let them read anything.

I guess those British people must have an advantage when it comes to fantasy writing. The U.S. just makes a terrible setting for a fantasy story. Must be why I’m rarely impressed with a fantasy book written by an American writer (e.g., Rick Riordan).

Book 54: The Ratastrophe Catrastophe (Illmoor Chronicles Book One) by David Lee Stone (2004)

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It’s supposed to be funny but I’m not laughing. Weird.

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.

Book 33: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling (2007)

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Yes, I finally read the final installment of the Harry Potter series. The whole time I was reading it I couldn’t help thinking of my first encounter. I was a junior in high school and an Afghanistan classmate casually mentioned that she loved Harry Potter. This was when the first four books were already favorites of kids who read fantasy books but not really known by kids who didn’t read at all. Kind of like Vanessa Hudgens before the nude photo scandal. Now everyone has some idea who she is even if they’ve never seen High School Musical.

I especially remember the time I read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It was the hugest book and Rowling needed about two years before she came up with the fifth book (actually, it’s three – I just checked). I still remember the library I found it in. Now it’s the library I go to most often. Sigh, I can’t believe how time flies. I could’ve sworn it was just yesterday when I borrowed the fifth book from Samantha and the sixth book from Stephen. They both knew never to lend any books to me again – ever.

In the meantime, the epilogue for this book is rather stupid. I find it annoying when main characters who first meet each other when they’re really young eventually get married. Not saying it’s impossible, but considering the contemporary setting, it’s highly unlikely. Surely new friends come along and they don’t all get married as soon as they hit twenty? Rowling should have left the epilogue to the readers’ imagination. Leave some room for possible relationships among the characters, but don’t conclude it outright.

And finally: it’s just idiotic of Harry and Ginny to name their kids Lily, James, and Albus. Talk about being overly sentimental.

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.

Book 14: Song Quest (The Echorium Sequence) by Katherine Roberts (1999)

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I tried. I really did. But with names like Kherron and Rialle, and with bizarre terms like Challa and Aushan (italics not mine) . . . I just had to stop trying. Not worth the effort.

I can’t even begin to understand how one reviewer could say this book is “[f]or the child who keeps asking for the next Harry Potter.” It’s nothing like Harry Potter. At all. For one thing: Harry, Ron, and Hermione are all English names. For another: any foreign words in a Harry Potter books are usually readable nevertheless.

I really don’t want to use any brain cells on a fantasy book just trying to pronounce the names. Period.