The Best of 2021 in Books and Comics

Oh, 2021… it was, in many ways, quite similar to 2020, actually. We did a general summary of the year here, and now the time comes to sum up our reading/watching experiences. This year, we decided to combine our best and worst title is one place, one reason being it’s already mid-January…

Piotrek: and another, at least in my case, that I mostly made really good choices and there’s really not that much bad stuff to write about.

Ola: Oh, for me this reading year was more of a mixed bag, with some truly flabbergasting titles from NetGalley – and some truly amazing, too. It was generally a pretty good year, reading-wise. Lots of solid titles, not too many re-reads… I will also remember this year as my introduction to the marvellous metaverse of manga – and that journey will continue!

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Akira Toriyama, Dragon Ball Z (1989 – 1995), part 2

Here we go, as promised months ago, in the first part of the review ;). My enthusiasm for Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z hasn’t changed a bit, even though since then I’ve read loads of other shonen titles: Fullmetal Alchemist, Naruto, Kaijuu no. 8, My Hero Academia, Bleach, One Piece, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba… I still consider Toriyama’s opus magnum the best ;). Though that doesn’t include the most recent run, Dragon Ball Super, which is so bad I refuse to acknowledge it as canon ;).

So, without further ado, here’s my second part of the highly emotional journey through Toriyama’s famous manga. There are tears, and fist pumps, and everything in between ;).

Dragon Ball Z, vol. 12: Enter Trunks!

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5.5/10 stars

The first third, concluding the fight between Goku and Freeza, is simply amazing. Loved every bit of it! All stars!!! And it’s actually the only reason this got five stars instead of one.

Because after that first part… well, to be fair, it was probably impossible to top the Goku-Freeza showdown with anything, really. But the rest of the volume is a disappointment, a major slump in terms of both emotional and martial content, with the coincidental return of Freeza and Goku, over a year later, to Earth, just as a setup for the appearance of a mysterious warrior from the future. Trunks must save the day in the absence of Goku, and while the reveal of Trunk’s parentage was a really fun part, the ease with which he dispatched Freeza and his nasty dad was rather jarring. And then we get the forewarning about evil androids soon to be made by a mad scientist, and the decision to wait for them and train hard just doesn’t make any sense. Aargh. That’s just so lazy.

Honestly, I hoped we had seen the last of the Red Ribbon Army a long time ago. Not to mention that the new Terminator vibes are somehow way less alluring than the old Superman vibes 😉

One of the weakest volumes to date, I’m afraid. Still moderately enjoyable, but nowhere near the usual levels I came to expect from Toriyama’s DB and DBZ.

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Akira Toriyama, Dragon Ball Z (1989-1995)

All right! So, after my review of the original Dragon Ball series I promised I’ll make one (well, two, actually, otherwise this post would’ve been waaaay to long) for Dragon Ball Z. And here it is! 😀

It was a delightful ride, and I loved every minute of it (eeh, maybe not every minute of the Androids/Cell arc, but whatever ;)). While Toriyama’s manga was my first foray into the genre, after reading a few more shonen titles (such as Naruto, One Punch Man [bleeeh!], Fullmetal Alchemist) and other non-shonen mangas like Yotsuba&! I can say with certainty that the whole 42-volume run of original Dragon Ball (i.e. containing both Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z) will forever remain one of my absolute favorites.

What can I say that I haven’t already said in my previous review? Only two things: one, Dragon Ball opened up for me a whole new cultural experience, and I jumped into it with willful, joyous abandon. I traced the origins of the Monkey King to Hindu Hanuman, linked his exploits to other tricksters around the world, and generally immersed myself in the Japanese culture and history. And I’m far from finished ;). And the second, that DB rekindled my interest in martial arts and its philosophy, and that i’s also a thoroughly fascinating topic.

Now, ad rem.

Below, you can read the first part of my highly emotional, whimsical reviews of Dragon Ball Z, as they appeared on GR. Beware, lots of exclamation marks! 😉

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Familiar Sunshine Territory Tag ;)

Ages ago, I’ve been tagged by Red Metal to do their 11 very intriguing questions. Many thanks for the tag!

Since Piotrek is understandably busy arranging his wedding, I’m going to do this one on my own – so no double answers this time, sorry 😉

Between music, film/television, and game critics, which do you find the least consistently reliable?

Between music, film/television, and game critics, which do you find the most consistently reliable?

I’m going to answer the two above together. I must admit I don’t spend much time following critics of any kind, not even book critics (with the exception of you guys ;)) and particularly not movie critics. I’ve been burned too many times to pay any attention to what most of them has to say 😉 These days I very rarely read commercial reviews; I prefer to form my own opinion about any form of artistic expression, be it a movie, a TV series, a music album, or a video game. From time to time I check aggregate opinions on BoardGameGeek, sometimes Polygon, IGN and IMDB 😉 I grew tired of RT, their aggregates seem skewed by arbitrary algorithms and I find myself disagreeing with the majority of the critical reviews compiled there.

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Akira Toriyama, Dragon Ball (1985 – 1989)

Confession time: as a kid, I was never into manga. Sure, I watched an the odd anime episode, from Tōshō Daimos to Captain Tsubasa (though the last was hard to endure, watching that football roll through the whole episode was sleep-inducing and I don’t think I ever watched a whole episode, really ;)), but I hadn’t taken to it at all. If all you had to judge Japanese art was Sailor Moon, well – I’m pretty sure you can understand my total lack of interest back then.

But fast forward to 2021, and voila! In April and May have devoured all 42 volumes of Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z and was so happy with it that now I’m looking for a nice edition to buy myself a treat 😀 And because I reviewed all the DB volumes on GR, I decided to take inspiration from Lashaan and post them here on the blog as well. What’s so cool about DB, I hear you ask? Well, a whole lot of stuff, really: the whimsy, the humour, the fantastical imagination of the author, the absolute mastery of simplicity in art (which, man, I have read some other mangas since DB, and none of them come close to Toriyama’s art), and, of course, the main protagonist Goku. While the whole idea for DB and its little hero is rooted in the Chinese legends of Monkey King (and you can check out my review of Liu’s take on this mischievous trickster here), Toriyama took it in such fantastic, unexpected directions, deftly mixing Western and Eastern popculture with mythology and martial arts ethos. And that last element was what surprised me the most, I must say: Toriyama’s depiction of martial arts, and martial artists’ ethos, is amazingly deep, even if delivered in an offhand, funny way. I actually think it’s the best that I had read. Hats off!

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