Book Review: Monkey [Part 1]

Monkey, also known as Journey to the West 西游记 or Sun Wukong 孫悟空, was written in 1592 by Wu Cheng’en. It is one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. Most Chinese people know the story because it became enormously popular through its television adaptations and plays. It influenced some of the earliest Chinese and Japanese animation. It also influenced many series like Dragon Ball. 

I’m reading an English translation by Arthur Waley. Waley only translated 30 chapters out of 100 episodes. However, it’s still one of the best English translations out there. He omitted most of the poetry. If you like poetry, hopefully you can find a version that includes it. There is poetry in this one, but very little of it. 

Page count: 350

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Synopsis: Monkey is “born” and becomes the Monkey King. He then trains under a Master and learns the secrets of immortality. Monkey then becomes very cocky in his abilities and creates havoc in Heaven. He challenges Buddha and loses terribly.

The above synopsis is only on the first part of the book. I wrote broadly because I didn’t want to spoil too much. The rest of the book will be on the pilgrimage to the West. Monkey travels with Tripitaka, Pigsy and Sandy to retrieve sacred scriptures and enlighten people about Buddhism. They face many adverse monsters and bodhisattvas along the journey.

I’m writing about the parts in isolation because there’s too much content to cover in the first quarter of the book. I divided the book in my own way: Part 1 ends when Monkey is punished by Buddha, before he begins the pilgrimage. Other people include Tripitaka, Pigsy and Sandy’s stories into the first part but I think those stories make up its own part.

There are lots of flaws, but it’s understandable because it was published 1592. What I perceive to be “flaws” are:

  • Fights are not detailed at all. For example, “x and y battled z many times and then y fled.” (I’m using my own words here, but that’s the gist of it.)
  • No character descriptions. I know what Kuan-yin looks like because I’ve seen television adaptations and because of my culture, but not everyone has the same experience as me.
  • The epic part of Monkey challenging Buddha is only told in a mere three pages.

I believe that television adaptations do a better job at these. However, nothing can compare to the book in my opinion, because so much happens in every page. No adaptation can possibly cover every single detail, whether it’s showing hundreds of thousands of men fighting against Monkey, or all the events that happen. Expect “ten years passed” thrown around every few pages.

One of the biggest reasons, in my opinion, why this story is so successful is because of Monkey. He is so clever, witty, confident and funny. Although he disturbs Heaven and so many characters, he’s so likable.

I recommend this classical novel to everyone.

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Japanese Drama Recs: Romance Manga Adaptions

1. Switch Girl!!

Synopsis: Nika Tamiya is the most beautiful girl at school. All the boys are in love with her and a lot of girls are envious at how she does everything so perfectly. However, she has a secret… She is a switch girl! When she arrives home, she “switches off” and transforms into her “true” self: a lazy and unfeminine girl. Arata Kamiyama, a geeky guy at school, finds out her secret. Arata is the opposite of her… He appears to be geeky at school but he’s actually super hot!?

The plot of this romantic comedy shojo series is similar to the popular manga, Horimiya. I like Switch Girl!! more though. I liked this drama because the cast is spot on. Many Seventeen models play the characters, including Mariya Nishiuchi, the main lead. Renn Kiriyama who plays Arata is good-looking too.

I watched this back when I was in high school and I was hooked from the beginning. I ended up procrastinating on whatever homework I had, so fair warning.

If you like this, you might like:

  • Horimiya (manga)
  • Hotaru no Hikari (Japanese drama)

2. Good Morning Call

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Synopsis: Nao Yoshikawa moved into a new place, but she finds that she was scammed because another person is living in the same place as her. The person she has to live with is Hisashi Uehara, one of the most popular guys at school. Uehara is aloof and hard to get along with. Good luck Nao and don’t fall in love.

Good Morning Call is a Netflix Original series, based on the romantic comedy shojo series. I don’t know a single person who did not like this! The “living with the most popular guy at school (or my boss) and he is also cold and distant” trope is done again and again. The ending is predictable, but it’s still enjoyable to watch.

If you like this, you might like:

  • It Started With A Kiss (Taiwanese drama)
  • Playful Kiss (Korean drama)
  • Just You (Taiwanese drama)
  • Hotaru no Hikari (Japanese drama)

3. Dame na Watashi ni Koishite Kudasai

Synopsis: Michiko Shibata is a woman in her thirties. She is jobless and just broke up with her money-swindling younger boyfriend. She encounters Ayumu Kurosawa, her former supervisor. Hearing her situation, he gives her a job and a place to stay at his cafe.

You may already be familiar with the actor who plays Ayumu. He is played by Dean Fujioka, the singer who sang History Maker, the opening song of Yuri on Ice. Ayumu is so sweet… Where can I find someone like that?

Personally, high school shows don’t interest me as much anymore. I’m into josei series like this one, because I can relate to their struggles more and we are closer in age.

If you like this, you might like:

  • Hotaru no Hikari (Japanese drama)
  • Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii (anime)
  • Just You (Taiwanese drama)

Nostalgic Anime: Fruits Basket

As you may know, there will be a new Fruits Basket anime in 2019, which will cover the entirety of the manga. Growing up, Fruits Basket was one of my favourite anime so there’s a lot of nostalgia.

The creator, Natsuki Takaya, had some issues with the production of the series, specifically with the voice acting, character designer and animation director. I personally loved the imagery, music and voice actors so it will be interesting to see the changes in the 2019 anime. I’m excited for the new anime, but right now I’m going to write about the 2001 anime.

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Synopsis: Tohru Honda is living in a tent due to unfortunate family circumstances, and she is found by her classmate Yuki Sohma and his cousin Shigure. After hearing her story, they allow her to live with them. Another person named Kyo starts living with them and Tohru learns something about the Sohmas. When hugged by the opposite sex, members of the Sohma family turn into animals of the zodiac. Yuki is the rat, Shigure is the dog, and Kyo is the cat. Tohru learns about the realities of the curse and meets the other members of the zodiac.

It is a beautiful and sweet anime, but my complaint is that the series stops so abruptly. The anime only shows around one-third of the manga and the curse is still an issue. I’ve read the manga and it becomes a little dark because there is a shocking reveal. I got a completely different feeling when I read the manga, but I enjoyed the sweetness and simplicity of the anime. Both anime and manga are good, but the non-ending in the anime is frustrating. Nonetheless, it’s wonderful in its own way and is still worth checking out.

The opening song can sort of put you to sleep, but it sounds so nice. I love the music in the anime a lot and Fruits Basket will always have a special place in my heart.

Dropped: Kyoto Teramachi Sanjou no Holmes (Holmes of Kyoto)

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Holmes of Kyoto is a 12-episode anime that aired in July 2018. I became interested in it because I like Sherlock Holmes, but Holmes in this anime is pretty different from Sherlock Holmes. Holmes is knowledgeable on antiques, but his personality is different from Sherlock Holmes.

Synopsis: Mashiro Aoi walks into an antique shop in Kyoto. There she meets Yagashira Kiyotaka, nicknamed “Holmes,” and she starts working there with him. Together, they solve cases related to antiques and artwork.

The cases are not like those in Detective Conan, which I thought this was cool because they were doing their own thing with it. The cases are about antique counterfeits and art thieves, which isn’t super interesting. Some anibloggers critiqued the show from the start by saying it was unimaginative, and it did get boring. It seemed that every episode progressively became more uneventful so I dropped it.

I genuinely enjoyed this anime in the beginning. I was learning about Japanese antiques, history and festivals so I thought it was informative yet pleasant to watch. I dropped it after watching episode 6.

Review: Inuyashiki

I wrote the bulk of this review in May 2018. This 11-episode anime came out in October 2017.

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Synopsis: One night at a park, an explosion takes place and two people are killed. The extraterrestrial beings that caused the explosion repair their bodies but turn the two people into robots. The two people are Inuyashiki, a 50-year old man who looks older than his age, and a teenager named Hiro. With their robot bodies, they are able to do a lot of things that humans cannot do, such as cure diseases, heal people, kill people, control technology, and fly into space. Inuyashiki uses his powers to do good and heal people. Hiro, on the other hand, uses his powers to mass murder people.

It’s very interesting to see how people react differently to new powers. I was interested from the start, but I wasn’t hooked until I watched episode 6. That’s when things really picked up. The ending made sense to me because I’m not sure how they would end it otherwise. It was kind of expected. The last episode showed President Trump and an interesting depiction of him.

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This is probably one of my favourite anime. You don’t normally see a super cool, older man as the protagonist in anime. Hiro loves One Piece, and Trump is in anime. The opening theme is one of my favourite songs. It’s by MAN WITH A MISSION.

Book Review: Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination

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Edogawa Rampo is known as the Father of Japanese mystery writing. If you are into mystery or horror, read this book! There are nine short stories in this book, and I’ll be talking about two stories that left lasting impressions on me.

1. The Human Chair

I was sucked in the story before I realized it. The writing is superlative! It’s about a person who stays inside a chair and his experiences of people sitting on him. It was weird but it was right up my alley. I was so fascinated, I could not stop reading.

Then I read Junji Ito’s retelling of the story! Junji Ito is a popular mangaka who specializes in horror manga. Junji retells The Human Chair with an alternate ending and I loved it. I recommend reading Rampo’s short story then reading Junji’s manga.

2. The Red Chamber

Have you ever thought about the perfect crime, and if such a thing is possible? This short story talks about the perfect crime, and it does have logic to it. Several examples are provided in this story. One line I loved from the story was, “Not any ordinary type of murder, I told myself, but murder which would baffle even Sherlock himself!”


It was interesting to see that Sherlock reference but it makes sense because Rampo was influenced by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It was also interesting to see Edgar Allan Poe’s influence on Rampo’s writing, because Poe was a significant figure to Rampo’s work.

This shouldn’t be surprising, but many of these stories are about murder and a lot of the times they are told from the murderer’s perspective. I get that it’s not for everybody!

Review: Phoenix Wright Season 2 – Episode 1

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I reviewed the first season (post here) and gave it a good review. However, I don’t think I will be continuing this one because I wasn’t too impressed with how the first episode was handled.

I didn’t like the pacing of the first episode. It was very rushed. A criticism I had in my review on the first season appeared again because Phoenix figured out contradictions really fast. It makes the case seem so easy, but the game is a bit harder. I think they could have showed us Phoenix’s thought process more, instead of having him point out contradictions immediately.

It also didn’t sit right with me that there was such an energetic mood, even though someone had just been murdered. Maggey Byrde seemed a little too happy, even though the victim was her boyfriend. Then Gumshoe sends her roses at the end of the episode which was funny, but too soon! What kind of mood are they going for? The exaggerated effects made me laugh, so I guess they want the audience to laugh while watching this court case.

The focus of season 2 is on the third game in the Phoenix Wright game, Trials and Tribulations. However, the first episode is on the first case in the second case. This makes sense because the first case in the third game is a bit heavy and may draw watchers away. Episode two will be on the second case of the third game, so maybe the first case will be in a future episode.

I love the opening theme because Yamashita Tomohisa (Yamapi) sings it. I recognized his voice right away because he was my idol when I was in high school. This was one of the best parts of the show.

Final verdict: Dropped.