Thursday, January 27, 2011

Virgin Road (JDrama) * * * * *

Not long ago I was asked why I love Japanese dramas so much. I answered that it's because they're different from what I'm used to. The American dramas always have complex stories and a lot of sex, everyone ending up in bed together. Latin-American soaps have confusion over parenthood, a lot of shouting and passion. All are predictable and after a while boring. What I failed to say was that I always learned something from Japanese dramas.

So, the question is, what did I learn from "Virgin Road"?

I have learned many things from this drama. First of all, I learned what it means to be a father. I always knew from experience that being a father not only meant donating a sperm, but careing. Kissing bruised knees. A father is someone who loves his daughter unconditionally. Someone who stands beside her no matter what. The same goes for a family. A family is a group of people who love each other unconditionally, blood not being an issue.
I also learned that mothers are the strongest people in the world. I have a great love for mine and I always knew that she was strong, but this drama pointed out for me that if I am to become one myself, I have to be strong. Becoming a mother is a solitary journey in a way. You become one in yourself, apart from others. They can help you, but eventually, it is your own path.
Furthermore, I learned about the true meaning of two Japanese phrases. When they come home, they say "tadaima" and the other, who are already there, say "okaerinasai" in return. When translating, they mean "I'm back/home" and "welcome back/home". However, the most basic rule of any translation is that when we just look at the words, the true meaning behind them may disappear. So the difficult part is giving their true meaning back. "Tadaima" "I'm home", "okaerinasai" "welcome home". This drama points out the home aspect of these phrases and that someone actually says it. Having a home where there are people waiting for you to come back, that is what these phrases are truly about. Having people; your family to go back to.
People who want you to come back is a wonderful thing that you really only appreciate if no one can say "okaerinasai" to you anymore, or if no one ever said it to you. If you are not one of these people, then this drama makes you realise just how lucky you really are. For those people, who have no one to hear "Okaerinasai" from, you learn that some day you may unexpectedly find people who will want you to come home. That you will find a home with people who love you. Once I heard a sappy English song in a cartoon that still rings true in my heart and this drama made me think of. It went like "A house full of love is a home". Home is in the heart. It's not and address.

This all being said, what is this drama really about? There is a woman, Kazumi, who becomes pregnant. She's determined to have her child, but is afraid that once her father learns that the father is not around, he will make her abort it. That is not something she wants, so she enlists the help of Kaoru, a man she meets on the plane home, to play the role of the father. It is quite obvious that they will fall for each other. Is it obvious that they can be together? No, it is not. Will they end up together? Only the last episode will tell. In the process they teach us and each other many lessons, grow up a lot and learn some secrets. Through it all, the clock is ticking, the baby is growing in Kazumi. The drama itself keeps you on the edge about who will lead Kazumi down the 'virgin road' in the end.

This may be an old drama, made in 1997, and in somewhat a poor condition. The hairs look funny and the clothes baggy, but what it says is timeless and after a while, you no longer notice the not perfect quality of the picture, but you just want to know how it ends. So ignore that if you may be put off in the beginning, because the drama is well-worth watching.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Stolen Throne (Dragon Age, #1) by David Gaider * * * *

I really love the game Dragon Age and wanted to read the corresponding novels. I did not have high expectation, though since the story of the game itself is great, I did hope it would be good. I actually enjoyed the book a great deal.

The story does kick off in an abrupt fashion, but the characters are introduced gradually. In a similar fashion to the game, we get to learn the past when it comes up, while the story progresses. Often, you can feel that the writer mostly writes for games as the party often ends up with four or less characters. That is the same standard in the game. However, this is good in the sense that it puts the reader back into the frame of the game.

The book mostly focuses on two men, Maric and Loghain, their relationship as it evolves and changes. It does shed some light on the motivations behind Loghain's betrayal. It is also very exciting and surprising as the characters get into situations where you stop and wonder how they are going to get out of it. The writer did avoid describing huge battles and mostly summarizes the happenings after the fact, rather focusing on the acts of the main characters. While this may seem like an evasion - and it is a technique I'm going to remember -, often in novels great battles do tend to be hard to follow, and lack the excitement that witnessing them would bring. Therefore, it doesn't feel like a great loss.

While this may not be the greatest fantasy novel of all time, it is an interesting read, gives good background to the game and overall just clean fun. It also makes you want to play again. Therefore, it does fulfill its purpose.