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Everything Avatar => Avatar: The Last Airbender => Topic started by: Loopy on August 04, 2016, 06:52:10 PM

Title: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on August 04, 2016, 06:52:10 PM
Hi, all! As I mentioned in my advertisements for these forums, this is a place where we can come together as a group to look back on each AtLA episode and unearth some discussion points with the benefit of hindsight and a much larger context. I figure one thread per Book should be about right, but I'm open to alternative solutions.

So, the first episode is "The Boy in the Iceberg." We all know this episode and the major plot points, but here's some discussion points that occurred to me on a rewatch:


Destiny alert: (This is something I'm going to logging, since Iroh seems to subscribe to the idea of "Destiny," but whether he's right or wrong is up in the air, and something he says in the finale makes me wonder what "destiny" even means to him.) Zuko just so happens to be in the right spot at the right time when Aang awakens and to later see the flare release from the trap on the ship. Either it's a massive coincidence, or something wants Zuko to find Aang.

Feel free to bring up your own points as well! I'm not going to hold this to a schedule; when we run out of things to say, we can go to the next episode.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: theColonel on August 04, 2016, 07:15:02 PM
Quote
Does Katara always keep fish in her sleeve for emergencies?
This is the most worthwhile thing discussing.

Anyway, I actually like Iroh's harder edge here. Sometimes you forget the guy is a military veteran (and a successful one at that), so you think he'd display a little more strength outside very serious situations (in which case, it is almost obligatory for most characters, be they wise men or fools, to adopt a more serious attitude). Though I agree that Iroh's behavior here is, in part, influenced by earlier conceptions of his character. Though I would also like to say that I don't think that the Iroh in the show lacked a hard-edge at all, I'm just agreeing that that moment when he's training Zuko was interesting.

As far as magic is concerned, I'm interested in that too. I wish the show touched on that a bit more? What is considered part of the every-day world and what is considered sorcery? I suppose if you were to venture outside the world of Avatar you could bring up that classic distinction which says that magic is forcibly bending nature to your will by coercing outside the conventional means. Though that doesn't answer the questions from the perspective of the Avatar universe.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: FartsOfNeil on August 04, 2016, 07:37:08 PM
Relatively certain the raids stopped after Kya.  It's pretty heavily implied in S3 that the purpose of the raids was to remove water tribe benders as a threat and they believed her to be the last one, so Katara and Sokka would be the only children to care since they were the only one's alive to witness it.  Does raise the question of how those kids got made in the first place if Hakoda got every marching off right afterwards.  Maybe it's Water Tribe tradition for men about to shove out to war to get some 'we may never see each other again' downtime just prior to shore leave.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Nausicaa on August 05, 2016, 12:29:39 AM
Yeah, I think that most of the kids in the village would be too young to remember the last time the Fire Nation turned up.

(I'll try to rewatch the episode later.)
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: SC on August 05, 2016, 03:49:51 AM
  • Katara's reaction to Sokka's sexism is well animated, but it always looks weird to me because it's too details. It stands out too much from the rest of the animation. I can't help but wonder if the Mike or the Bryan modeled the full performance.

Appa and Aang's animations when they both sneeze are also incredibly detailed.  It does look strange. When Appa sneezes, the next scene is a scene of Sokka freaking out and the animation's quality is that of a low-budget anime. :b


  • So, how often did the Sokka and Katara's village get Fire Nation raiders? Sokka immediately assumes that Aang is a spy, and in the next episode, everyone in the village is rock solid in their belief that the Fire Nation is on their way. The fact that the kids don't seem to care about their warrior training would indicate that Sokka is just being paranoid and got unlucky with Zuko's arrival, but perhaps there were cases where Fire Nation ships came by a for a look, and the villagers needed to hide or evacuate.

The last attack was probable when Kya was killed.  Most of those kids probably weren't even born yet.  This would explain their utter lack of interest in training to fight the Fire Nation.  That's probably nothing more than a ghost story to them.

We can assume the Fire Nation has stayed away because they thought they killed the last southern waterbender.  The villagers are probably always on high alert because they're just waiting for the Fire Nation to realize Katara's a waterbender.  So, not so much paranoia as much as it is a case of people planning for the inevitable. I say this because it seems like Kana was echoing a lot of Sokka's sentiments. She was quick to banish Aang and she was upset Katara had even gone to the old navy ship.


  • I like Iroh's harsher attitude with Zuko during the training session, up to the point of even popping a fireball right in Zuko's face. I have a mental model of an Iroh who would be far too sensitive for such a thing, given Zuko's history, but here puts on a show of intimidating strength when Zuko fails to respond to his teachings. I wonder, was this the remnants of an outdated characterization for Iroh, or one of very few hints at his harder edge?

I think it's a hint of his harsher side.  We know he has one, and the first two books of ATLA were spent showing us how pragmatic Iroh can be.  What I find interesting about this scene is that Iroh shoots fire directly in Zuko's face, and Zuko doesn't even flinch.  And it was obvious, from Day 1, that someone had burned Zuko's face.  You'd think that would be the sort of thing Zuko would back away from.  So, was this the sort of thing Iroh did so much that Zuko had come to expect it and had even become desensitized to it?


  • Does Katara always keep fish in her sleeve for emergencies?

I always assumed she watched Aang struggling to catch a penguin so she just fished it out of the water before she went over to talk to him.


  • I've always been struck by Aang's line when Katara doesn't want to go into the wrecked Fire Nation ship: "If you wanna be a bender, you have to let go of fear." Earlier in this episode, Sokka tries to teach the kids, "Now men, it's important that you show no fear when you face a firebender." In the next episode, Sokka is obviously terrified when he faces Zuko's ship, but he rallies and manages to get a good hit in, and when Aang arrives to save him, one of the Water Tots says, "Show no fear!" I think it's getting to the point where 'showing fear' is a recurring motif in the two-parter. Yet, I don't recall it being followed through in subsequent episodes, and fear doesn't seem to play into anything important. A dropped idea, or a part of something I'm missing?

I just saw it as a subtle nod toward the notion of how easily people confuse "fearlessness" with "bravery".


Destiny alert: (This is something I'm going to logging, since Iroh seems to subscribe to the idea of "Destiny," but whether he's right or wrong is up in the air, and something he says in the finale makes me wonder what "destiny" even means to him.) Zuko just so happens to be in the right spot at the right time when Aang awakens and to later see the flare release from the trap on the ship. Either it's a massive coincidence, or something wants Zuko to find Aang.[/list]

Even if there were forces at work (spirit world interventions?) that willed it so Zuko would find Aang and set a series of events into motion, I don't know that Iroh has the inside track on that.  We already know that he had a vision about Ba Sing Se and that he misinterpreted it as him conquering it for the Fire Nation.  Was it destiny that caused the death of Lu Ten, thereby causing Iroh to fall into a deep mourning and give up a siege that he would later continue as a full-on attack to liberate Ba Sing Se from the Fire Nation five years later?  Or was it just a coincidence?  Lu Ten's death changed Iroh and this ultimately had an impact on the person Zuko become.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on August 05, 2016, 05:15:54 PM
As far as magic is concerned, I'm interested in that too. I wish the show touched on that a bit more? What is considered part of the every-day world and what is considered sorcery? I suppose if you were to venture outside the world of Avatar you could bring up that classic distinction which says that magic is forcibly bending nature to your will by coercing outside the conventional means. Though that doesn't answer the questions from the perspective of the Avatar universe.

I actually struggle with the way "magic" is defined in many Fantasy stories. For that reason, my favorite depiction is The Lord of the Rings (novels), where when Frodo and Sam meet with Galadriel at her water-mirror: Sam asks to see some elf magic, and Galadriel says she's not clear exactly what Hobbits would consider to be magic, but guesses that the visions in her mirror would quality. To her, it's all just power that she commands. So, similarly, if a world has a power that can contradict the laws of nature, are the laws of nature really hard laws, or is "nature" simply greater and larger than than the current understanding?

I also have a problem with fiction that portrays magic and science at odds. The scientific method can definitely be applied to magic systems.


Relatively certain the raids stopped after Kya.  It's pretty heavily implied in S3 that the purpose of the raids was to remove water tribe benders as a threat and they believed her to be the last one, so Katara and Sokka would be the only children to care since they were the only one's alive to witness it.  Does raise the question of how those kids got made in the first place if Hakoda got every marching off right afterwards.  Maybe it's Water Tribe tradition for men about to shove out to war to get some 'we may never see each other again' downtime just prior to shore leave.

Yeah, I try not to worry too much about the timeline when it comes to AtLA. The Mike and the Bryan were up front about not doing the math. :D However, if we want to patch things, perhaps it took Hakoda up to a year to put together a fighting force capable of leaving on an extended deployment.


We can assume the Fire Nation has stayed away because they thought they killed the last southern waterbender.  The villagers are probably always on high alert because they're just waiting for the Fire Nation to realize Katara's a waterbender.  So, not so much paranoia as much as it is a case of people planning for the inevitable. I say this because it seems like Kana was echoing a lot of Sokka's sentiments. She was quick to banish Aang and she was upset Katara had even gone to the old navy ship.

Yeah, that's something I glossed over, but Kanna is definitely the one in charge, even though Sokka is a loud advocate. Perhaps there's a touch of PTSD in the certainty that a Fire Nation attack is always imminent.

I think it's a hint of his harsher side.  We know he has one, and the first two books of ATLA were spent showing us how pragmatic Iroh can be.  What I find interesting about this scene is that Iroh shoots fire directly in Zuko's face, and Zuko doesn't even flinch.  And it was obvious, from Day 1, that someone had burned Zuko's face.  You'd think that would be the sort of thing Zuko would back away from.  So, was this the sort of thing Iroh did so much that Zuko had come to expect it and had even become desensitized to it?

That's another good point. Zuko is still working on his Firebending basics, according to Iroh, so perhaps a chunk of that three years was getting Zuko to stop flinching when fire came too close to him. Zuko's lack of a reaction could have been gradually built up, with Iroh popping fireballs closer and closer over time.

Of course, Zuko was also a growing boy, and I don't know if that could have affected his progress with the basic forms.

I just saw it as a subtle nod toward the notion of how easily people confuse "fearlessness" with "bravery".

Could be. Bravery is mentioned throughout the series (https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&as_q=brave&as_epq=&as_oq=&as_eq=&as_nlo=&as_nhi=&lr=&cr=&as_qdr=all&as_sitesearch=http%3A%2F%2Fatla.avatarspirit.net%2Ftranscripts.php&as_occt=any&safe=images&as_filetype=&as_rights=), and even in some contexts that do question true bravery. Perhaps the strength of the motif here was setup for a topic that the storytellers wanted to address, but didn't have solid plans for yet.

Even if there were forces at work (spirit world interventions?) that willed it so Zuko would find Aang and set a series of events into motion, I don't know that Iroh has the inside track on that.  We already know that he had a vision about Ba Sing Se and that he misinterpreted it as him conquering it for the Fire Nation.  Was it destiny that caused the death of Lu Ten, thereby causing Iroh to fall into a deep mourning and give up a siege that he would later continue as a full-on attack to liberate Ba Sing Se from the Fire Nation five years later?  Or was it just a coincidence?  Lu Ten's death changed Iroh and this ultimately had an impact on the person Zuko become.

Good questions, and who says Iroh's vision is was even a true vision? After all, it's not exactly a huge leap that the son of the Fire Lord who made a lot of progress in a war of conquest would eventually finish the war by taking the enemy capital. I'm just making notes of where people say that something is their destiny and then it later happens. We can sift through the results as the count climbs.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: SC on August 07, 2016, 08:32:49 AM
As far as magic is concerned, I'm interested in that too. I wish the show touched on that a bit more? What is considered part of the every-day world and what is considered sorcery? I suppose if you were to venture outside the world of Avatar you could bring up that classic distinction which says that magic is forcibly bending nature to your will by coercing outside the conventional means. Though that doesn't answer the questions from the perspective of the Avatar universe.

I actually struggle with the way "magic" is defined in many Fantasy stories. For that reason, my favorite depiction is The Lord of the Rings (novels), where when Frodo and Sam meet with Galadriel at her water-mirror: Sam asks to see some elf magic, and Galadriel says she's not clear exactly what Hobbits would consider to be magic, but guesses that the visions in her mirror would quality. To her, it's all just power that she commands. So, similarly, if a world has a power that can contradict the laws of nature, are the laws of nature really hard laws, or is "nature" simply greater and larger than than the current understanding?

I've always fallen into the Science We Can't Understand camp.

I also have a problem with fiction that portrays magic and science at odds. The scientific method can definitely be applied to magic systems.

Agreed. I rather like thinking about the Science of Bending and the Science behind the Spirit World.  It is an alien world? Another dimension?  Are the portals Korra opened / created like worm holes that take you to a faraway place?


Relatively certain the raids stopped after Kya.  It's pretty heavily implied in S3 that the purpose of the raids was to remove water tribe benders as a threat and they believed her to be the last one, so Katara and Sokka would be the only children to care since they were the only one's alive to witness it.  Does raise the question of how those kids got made in the first place if Hakoda got every marching off right afterwards.  Maybe it's Water Tribe tradition for men about to shove out to war to get some 'we may never see each other again' downtime just prior to shore leave.

Yeah, I try not to worry too much about the timeline when it comes to AtLA. The Mike and the Bryan were up front about not doing the math. :D However, if we want to patch things, perhaps it took Hakoda up to a year to put together a fighting force capable of leaving on an extended deployment.

That would put Katara around 10 years old.  But she honestly seemed like she was only 7 or 8 when their mother died.


I think it's a hint of his harsher side.  We know he has one, and the first two books of ATLA were spent showing us how pragmatic Iroh can be.  What I find interesting about this scene is that Iroh shoots fire directly in Zuko's face, and Zuko doesn't even flinch.  And it was obvious, from Day 1, that someone had burned Zuko's face.  You'd think that would be the sort of thing Zuko would back away from.  So, was this the sort of thing Iroh did so much that Zuko had come to expect it and had even become desensitized to it?

That's another good point. Zuko is still working on his Firebending basics, according to Iroh, so perhaps a chunk of that three years was getting Zuko to stop flinching when fire came too close to him. Zuko's lack of a reaction could have been gradually built up, with Iroh popping fireballs closer and closer over time.

Hmm...  Hadn't even considered that.  That seems like something Iroh would do.

I'm interested on your take about the theory proposed by some that Iroh actually sabotaged Zuko's training and that's why Zuko struggles with Firebending.

Of course, Zuko was also a growing boy, and I don't know if that could have affected his progress with the basic forms.

I think it had more to do with his impatience, honestly. which could be a sign of his youth.  But it could also be a sign of how desperate his situation was.  Remember, Zuko was preparing to find an Avatar that he thought would be a hundred+ years old and fully-realized.  He thought he needed the big tricks to take him out.  Plus, after three years of working the basics, maybe Zuko thought Iroh wasn't taking the mission seriously.  Given Iroh's playful nature, I could understand why Zuko would make this assumption.

In the Waterbending Scroll, Zuko thought Iroh was just being stupid when he turned the ship around to go shopping for a lotus tile.  It isn't until the middle of Book 2 that Zuko learns why that tile is so important. There are things going on in Iroh's life that Zuko just wasn't privy to until Book 2. And, let's be honest. Iroh has been prone to legitamate fits of stupidity (brewing poison tea, wandering off alone to go to a hot springs in the middle of enemy territory). Zuko probably thought the guy was an idiot. :b


Even if there were forces at work (spirit world interventions?) that willed it so Zuko would find Aang and set a series of events into motion, I don't know that Iroh has the inside track on that.  We already know that he had a vision about Ba Sing Se and that he misinterpreted it as him conquering it for the Fire Nation.  Was it destiny that caused the death of Lu Ten, thereby causing Iroh to fall into a deep mourning and give up a siege that he would later continue as a full-on attack to liberate Ba Sing Se from the Fire Nation five years later?  Or was it just a coincidence?  Lu Ten's death changed Iroh and this ultimately had an impact on the person Zuko become.

Good questions, and who says Iroh's vision is was even a true vision? After all, it's not exactly a huge leap that the son of the Fire Lord who made a lot of progress in a war of conquest would eventually finish the war by taking the enemy capital. I'm just making notes of where people say that something is their destiny and then it later happens. We can sift through the results as the count climbs.

I know.  But I like rambling. :b  As an aside, I think when you get done going through all three books, cateloging Iroh's attitude about Destiny, you're going to find out that much of Iroh's thoughts on destiny seem to tie in with his own personal agenda.  Whether he actively realizes this or not is a matter for debate.

I always considered that maybe Iroh's "vision" was a daydream he had as a child that had become an obsession.  And, over time, he had convined himself it was a vision that he needed to act upon.  So, he would have seen it as an Act of Providence where Destiny is actively on his side the same way Ozai thought his encounter with Aang was an Act of "Providence" that would lead him to greatness.  In both cases, the outcomes were not what they had prepared for.  So, either their interpretation of Destiny's paths for them is wrap in so much personal and cultural bias that they can't even see a clear picture of what will happen.  Or they both have fallen victim to their own hubris.  Or, again, maybe it's a deliberate trap set by an unseen force to "neutralize" people who are dangerous which would also be an Act of Providence.  It just wouldn't be an act that yielded favorable outcomes for them.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Nausicaa on August 07, 2016, 10:11:03 AM
Just rewatched The Boy in the Iceberg.

(http://vignette1.wikia.nocookie.net/avatar/images/b/bb/Young_Roku_and_Gyatso.png/revision/latest?cb=20090302125341)
(http://ic.pics.livejournal.com/ljlee/36569938/12099/12099_original.jpg)

Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on August 07, 2016, 05:45:06 PM
I'm interested on your take about the theory proposed by some that Iroh actually sabotaged Zuko's training and that's why Zuko struggles with Firebending.

This is the first I've heard of that theory in this form. Supposedly, the original series bible for AtLA- constructed back before any episodes would have been written- leaked, and among the plot details described within was Iroh actually being loyal to Ozai, and purposefully teaching Zuko a flawed form that Ozai would be able to counter. Zuko taught this form to Aang in ignorance, and so Aang couldn't fight Ozai directly. I wrote a short story based on it, which seemed to popularize the concept a bit more.

As far as the finished product goes, though, I don't think it can fit. Individual styles barely get any mention (if there's a mention at all) with the story focusing more on the 'source' of Bending, what emotions go into driving each fighter. As far as character logic goes, I'm not entirely sure if Iroh really thought Zuko would find the Avatar, while considering the duel that happened when Zuko encountered Zhao, any sabotage in Zuko's style was more likely to get him killed fighting another FIrebender.

And my own personal theory of Iroh's character was that he wasn't committed to opposing Ozai until the Book Earth finale. I think Iroh was waiting and seeing what Aang was like and what his agenda was throughout Book Water, and how far the Fire Nation itself was going to go. Zhao's authorized act of killing the Moon Spirit was enough to turn Iroh against his home nation finally, but he still would have rather hid in Ba Sing Se than actively join the fight.

If Zuko had captured Aang during Book Water, I think Iroh would have sat and observed the whole incident. He would have counseled Zuko, of course, but I don't think it would have been to let Aang go or join Aang's cause, but rather to simply be true to himself and make sure he brought the Avatar back to the Fire Nation in the right way. Perhaps Iroh would have advocated that Zuko bring Aang back for talks of some kind, rather than as a chained prisoner.

I think Iroh's not quite on the protagonist/good vs antagonist/evil scale that the narrative is, basically.


II think it had more to do with his impatience, honestly. which could be a sign of his youth.  But it could also be a sign of how desperate his situation was.  Remember, Zuko was preparing to find an Avatar that he thought would be a hundred+ years old and fully-realized.  He thought he needed the big tricks to take him out.  Plus, after three years of working the basics, maybe Zuko thought Iroh wasn't taking the mission seriously.  Given Iroh's playful nature, I could understand why Zuko would make this assumption.

In the Waterbending Scroll, Zuko thought Iroh was just being stupid when he turned the ship around to go shopping for a lotus tile.  It isn't until the middle of Book 2 that Zuko learns why that tile is so important. There are things going on in Iroh's life that Zuko just wasn't privy to until Book 2. And, let's be honest. Iroh has been prone to legitamate fits of stupidity (brewing poison tea, wandering off alone to go to a hot springs in the middle of enemy territory). Zuko probably thought the guy was an idiot. :b

Yeah, it all make sense.


II always considered that maybe Iroh's "vision" was a daydream he had as a child that had become an obsession.  And, over time, he had convined himself it was a vision that he needed to act upon.  So, he would have seen it as an Act of Providence where Destiny is actively on his side the same way Ozai thought his encounter with Aang was an Act of "Providence" that would lead him to greatness.  In both cases, the outcomes were not what they had prepared for.  So, either their interpretation of Destiny's paths for them is wrap in so much personal and cultural bias that they can't even see a clear picture of what will happen.  Or they both have fallen victim to their own hubris.  Or, again, maybe it's a deliberate trap set by an unseen force to "neutralize" people who are dangerous which would also be an Act of Providence.  It just wouldn't be an act that yielded favorable outcomes for them.

All good things to keep in mind. I don't think I'll actually come to a conclusion by the end, but we can at least weigh the different theories and see how they compare with all the evidence.



On the topic of the training scene, aside from showing that Iroh is a lot more controlled with his firebending (compared to Zuko, who is willing to knock someone over with his fire blast), I think it maybe reveals an implicit level of trust between Zuko and Iroh. Despite the fact that Zuko's been burned, and despite the fact that Iroh was in the middle of  chastising him, Zuko didn't feel physically threatened enough to move or flinch. But it's a level of trust that Zuko maybe doesn't even realise he has. Like, he takes it for granted that his uncle isn't going to hurt him.

Interesting point. Zuko does later assume that Iroh will refuse to forgive him for the Crossroads Debacle, most likely based on his experiences with Ozai, but in that case, Zuko felt he had done something to merit such treatment. In this scene, Zuko hadn't done anything but mouth off a little, so he likely knew that such an offense wasn't likely to bring Iroh's wrath (through long experience of mouthing off and getting no punishment in return, no doubt). So my point is that there was indeed that trust, but Zuko is so damaged that the trust only goes so far.

IIt's mentioned that Zuko's father also searched for the Avatar. I wonder what that entailed. I'm guessing that by the time it was Ozai's turn to search, it wasn't taken too seriously. Maybe he just used it as an excuse to go on vacation  :P

I was always in that camp that Azulon and Ozai didn't personally do any searching, and simply ordered/directed searches. Zuko was the only one to actually go looking.

I find it interesting that they only mention the "men of the tribe" going to war, considering that we later learn that the Southern Tribe is more progressive than the Northern Tribe. Did the Southern Tribe hold onto the idea that only men can be warriors, or was it an issue of convenience? (There's a lot of young kids around, I'm guessing a fair number of them were babies when Hakoda left.) Maybe the Southern Tribe didn't have any hangups about female waterbenders fighting, but never applied the same attitude to female non-benders?  Where did Sokka's opinions on women come from- did he learn them from someone else, or were they just a weird side-effect of him being left behind as the village "protector"?

That's a good question. I think the only difference we actually get evidence of is that the Southern Tribe simply doesn't have arranged marriages. However, that does call to question why Katara thought she would get trained. It could be what you said, that Waterbenders get an exception, but I wonder if it might be a difference in leadership. Perhaps in the South, the gender-rules can just be pushed aside by a willing Chief, and Katara figured that Sokka was just being bossy and contrary.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: SC on August 08, 2016, 05:15:40 PM
I'm interested on your take about the theory proposed by some that Iroh actually sabotaged Zuko's training and that's why Zuko struggles with Firebending.

This is the first I've heard of that theory in this form. Supposedly, the original series bible for AtLA- constructed back before any episodes would have been written- leaked, and among the plot details described within was Iroh actually being loyal to Ozai, and purposefully teaching Zuko a flawed form that Ozai would be able to counter. Zuko taught this form to Aang in ignorance, and so Aang couldn't fight Ozai directly. I wrote a short story based on it, which seemed to popularize the concept a bit more.

Well, that explains some things.  Back in 2007, some people on lj were talking about how this was canon.  I never got to look at the series bible.  You wouldn't happen to know where I can view a copy, would you?


As far as the finished product goes, though, I don't think it can fit. Individual styles barely get any mention (if there's a mention at all) with the story focusing more on the 'source' of Bending, what emotions go into driving each fighter. As far as character logic goes, I'm not entirely sure if Iroh really thought Zuko would find the Avatar, while considering the duel that happened when Zuko encountered Zhao, any sabotage in Zuko's style was more likely to get him killed fighting another FIrebender.

Agreed.  But I always found this other theory fascinating because it seemed to come out of nowhere in the early days of the fandom. A lot of folks were drabbling about it and I thought, if that's true, that just adds a whole other dimension to Iroh's character.



If Zuko had captured Aang during Book Water, I think Iroh would have sat and observed the whole incident. He would have counseled Zuko, of course, but I don't think it would have been to let Aang go or join Aang's cause, but rather to simply be true to himself and make sure he brought the Avatar back to the Fire Nation in the right way. Perhaps Iroh would have advocated that Zuko bring Aang back for talks of some kind, rather than as a chained prisoner.

I doubt that Iroh would go this route, at least not while Ozai was Firelord.  He seems to have a rather low opinion of Ozai, saying he's not the "understanding type" and that Ozai doesn't forgive. He's also seen what Ozai did to Zuko. So he sees that Ozai is violent and radical--not the sort to embrace talks with the Avatar.

I don't think Iroh had a game plan.  He always thought Aang was dead, and so his only job was to be a father and teacher to Zuko and indulge him in his futile mission and give him emotional support.  With Aang in the picture, his only option was to let Zuko try to capture him, then take him back to the Fire Nation to suffer Ozai's wrath.  Because, when we got to The Boy In the Iceberg, what are Iroh's options?  Sabotage Zuko's efforts, or go with the flow?



I think Iroh's not quite on the protagonist/good vs antagonist/evil scale that the narrative is, basically.

I think Iroh is one of the best gray characters we've ever gotten from ATLA or Korra.  A critical analysis of his character reveals a man who has done as much bad as he's done good, and much of the good he's done has been to service his own personal agenda.  He is literally one of the nicest yet one of the most terrifying characters to come out of the franchise.


  • Speaking of which, it is a little weird seeing Iroh being so harsh.

Honestly, if I were trapped on what I thought was a hopeless mission with S1 Zuko for three years, I'd probably be harsh, too. Plus, at that point, Zuko only really responded to harshness because, frankly, that's all he had ever been shown.  When I first watched this, I assumed that was what was going on and I didn't give it much thought.  It's only after we see the person Iroh is at the end of Book 3 and in Korra that seeing stuff like this in the rewatches throws me off.


  • It's mentioned that Zuko's father also searched for the Avatar. I wonder what that entailed. I'm guessing that by the time it was Ozai's turn to search, it wasn't taken too seriously. Maybe he just used it as an excuse to go on vacation  :P

Actually, I think Mike said that he didn't actually go on the search himself.  He, Azulon, and Sozin sent people out on the search. But yes, I believe it was stressed that he wasn't taking it seriously.  In fact, it was made clear in interviews that Ozai deliberately sent Zuko on a "fool's errand".


On the topic of the training scene, aside from showing that Iroh is a lot more controlled with his firebending (compared to Zuko, who is willing to knock someone over with his fire blast), I think it maybe reveals an implicit level of trust between Zuko and Iroh. Despite the fact that Zuko's been burned, and despite the fact that Iroh was in the middle of  chastising him, Zuko didn't feel physically threatened enough to move or flinch. But it's a level of trust that Zuko maybe doesn't even realise he has. Like, he takes it for granted that his uncle isn't going to hurt him.

Interesting point. Zuko does later assume that Iroh will refuse to forgive him for the Crossroads Debacle, most likely based on his experiences with Ozai, but in that case, Zuko felt he had done something to merit such treatment. In this scene, Zuko hadn't done anything but mouth off a little, so he likely knew that such an offense wasn't likely to bring Iroh's wrath (through long experience of mouthing off and getting no punishment in return, no doubt). So my point is that there was indeed that trust, but Zuko is so damaged that the trust only goes so far.

At the beginning of S3, Iroh refused to talk to Zuko when he was seeking advice.  This also contributed to the idea that Iroh hadn't forgiven him when really, Iroh was probably just sick of having the same dumb conversations with Zuko.  But I also think that Zuko's doubt comes from a place of personal shame.  He hadn't forgiven himself and he probably thought Iroh felt the shame for him that he felt for himself.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on August 08, 2016, 07:07:11 PM
Well, that explains some things.  Back in 2007, some people on lj were talking about how this was canon.  I never got to look at the series bible.  You wouldn't happen to know where I can view a copy, would you?

From what I can see, the Copy+Paste on ASN is the last existing record:

http://forums.avatarspirit.net/index.php?topic=17159.0

Note the debate halfway through the thread about the validity of the whole thing, and the later note that some details were confirmed by the Art Book.

If I ever attend another Q&A with the Mike and the Bryan, I'd try to ask about this.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: SC on August 08, 2016, 07:16:31 PM
^I think I have the I.P. Bible saved on an old flash drive.

EDIT: Never mind..  It's only a couple of pages from the bible. :/
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: theColonel on August 08, 2016, 09:19:08 PM
The abandoned storyline about Sokka getting his first taste of a real-life battle sounded interesting. It's a shame we didn't get to see it happen.

Anyway, I'm a bit undecided on Iroh. I agree that he never expected the Avatar to return and just stuck with Zuko for emotional support. He must have been pretty at peace with himself if he was fine spending the rest of his days on a boat on an impossible search though.

When Aang did return, however, I think he was willing to help Zuko capture him. I'm not so sure if he was concerned with what would have happened to Aang though, in that it doesn't seem likely that he would have made a big deal about the Avatar being brought before the Fire Lord as a chained prisoner. I always assumed that he understood that the Avatar was a prime target for the Fire Nation, and was okay with the fact that this meant that Aang would likely be eliminated. Now that doesn't mean that he didn't care about the balance. The Season one finale proves, to me, that he does. Iroh's mindset seems to be that provided the Fire Nation doesn't try to do anything stupid like destroy the world, that balance between the nations can still work out, with the Fire Nation ruling over the world in a just manner. While it is true that he accepted Zhao's invitation to be his military consultant in order to be close to Zuko, I don't think he would prevented the fall of the Northern Water Tribe had Zhao simply stuck with conquest.

It was only after the Season One finale in which Iroh takes a stance against the Fire Nation. And I don't think he did that just because he was a fugitive. When he had the chance to join Zuko and return home, he didn't take it, which suggest that at that point in time, he was no longer interested in allowing the Fire Nation to win the war.

So Iroh can be interpreted as a pretty ambiguous character.  Though I don't think that him siding with the Empire up until the end of Season one makes him evil.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on August 09, 2016, 07:44:20 PM
You know, that makes me realize, Iroh wants balance and the natural order to prevail, but the natural order is the Avatar Cycle. Aang dying and being reborn doesn't go against that. Perhaps his whole strategy was about trying to plant the seeds for the generation after Zuko to fix things, and events just forced him to get more aggressive with his timeline. :D
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: theColonel on August 09, 2016, 08:49:23 PM
Maybe. Though I don't seem to recall him planting much seeds. He's probably the kind of guy who sits backs and observes, and only interferes when the situation is completely dire. So, in my view, he'd let the world work out its own problems.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on August 14, 2016, 08:06:25 PM
I intend to start the discussion for the next episode on Tuesday. I can delay if anyone has any other points they want to discuss for this episode, though.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Kyatto on August 15, 2016, 02:07:44 AM
I intend to start the discussion for the next episode on Tuesday. I can delay if anyone has any other points they want to discuss for this episode, though.

I've taken the liberty of doing the drunk version. Drink every time Zuko says honor. We're in the first episode and yeah. Yeah. Yeah...

I don't understand where Zutara came from. Well, I kind of do after the Waterbending Scroll episode. But before that it's like what? I understand you ship like hot dudes with the lead chick but Seaosn One Zuko is not hot. He's okay, but super whiny. Katara could totally do better.  Did Zutara happen as a thing before that episode? Are there Zutara shippers from day one?

Why is Katara waterbending out in the open sort of if her mom died to protect her waterbending.  I don't think the person who outed her the first time would just sit around. They'd be like "yo Fire Nation there's another one give me some extortion money". I don't find this plausible upon rewatch anymore.  Katara just looks like an idiot. Kya died for nothing.  Sokka is  the best character just going by the first episode.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: longman on August 16, 2016, 07:46:55 AM
We all know how great the worldbuilding is via the dialogue, with Katara establishing that Bending isn't magic. However, what does constitute magic in Katara's mind? Avatar stuff? Spirit stuff? All the nonsense from the ghost stories she heard as a kid? I'm with Sokka: Bending is magic, even if it is an everyday-sort of magic.
My interpretation is bending is a well established extension of the natural laws of this universe; magic is a visual 'trick' or other phenomena of sketchy undertanding.

Destiny alert: (This is something I'm going to logging, since Iroh seems to subscribe to the idea of "Destiny," but whether he's right or wrong is up in the air, and something he says in the finale makes me wonder what "destiny" even means to him.) Zuko just so happens to be in the right spot at the right time when Aang awakens and to later see the flare release from the trap on the ship. Either it's a massive coincidence, or something wants Zuko to find Aang.

Actually you missed the first Destiny Alert - Gran-Gran's!

Gran-gran [to Katara and Sokka] : Aang is the Avatar. He's the world's only chance. You both found him for a reason; now your destinies are intertwined with his.

What were Gran-gran and the WT thinking the whole time her grandchildren were gone? Realistically they had no way of knowing if Katara and Sokka were okay, if they'd succeeded in finding/saving Aang, or if they were all prisoners of the FN or dead. It was pretty much two teenagers and a beast of burden going after a warship. Sometimes I like to  think the newly formed gAang took a quick detour afterwards to confirm their safety but that would have endangered the SWT again. I suppose the SWT had faith that Aang, Sokka and Katara were fine, cuz destiny?

In that case the ultimate question is -how does one recognize destiny? Perhaps it is related to an encounter with the 'supernatural'. Iroh had a vision, Zhao discovered the spirit library and the identity of the Moon and Ocean Spirits, Katara and Sokka found the Avatar, and Zuko ...also kinda found the Avatar, I guess...its pretty important, given that 'destiny' will convince anyone in this world to do crazy things.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on August 16, 2016, 09:38:26 PM
Since both posts above touch on events in this next episode, we may as well move on so we can discuss them more fruitfully. It's time to discuss "The Avatar Returns":



We have enough discussion points for now, I think, but before we move on to the next episode, I'd like to do mini-writeups of Aang, Katara, and Sokka. I think these two episodes do some interesting things with them that foreshadow the kind of great storytelling and character work the series will continuously employ, but I don't want to overload this post right now.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: shorewall on August 17, 2016, 01:22:25 PM
For Sokka banishing Aang, he's not acting rationally.  He's acting out of instinctive fear of the unknown, with no greater goal than, "get it away from us."

I love the parallel prep scene between Sokka and Zuko.  The compare and contrast.

When I was watching the show, I couldn't get Zutara, especially over Kataang, but now that I am jaded, it makes me giggle.

I like Destiny as an in-motion future.  It's like, in each moment, you can rise to the moment, or shrink.  Maybe we choose our destiny by our actions.  If life is full of possibilities, how many are closed off due to nurture or nature, and then each choice we make closes off additional possibilities.  It's like a cosmic game of "Guess Who?" where we are eliminating possibilities.  Or like the sculptor, who when asked how he sculpted an elephant, replied that he carved away everything that didn't look like an elephant.  What we are left with at the end of our lives is our destiny.  And if we went back in time with no memories, and everything else was constant, we would make the same choices and have the same life/destiny.

I also like how they had Aang be an airbending master.  It was pretty cool and different.  And he still got some training in learning the other elements.  But he was always a pretty old soul.  I liked it.  Child-like in some ways, very mature in others.

As for the Avatar Spirit, I figured it was kind of a crap shoot.  Kinda like Metronome in Pokemon.  :D  It's not like he could control it, or that it always acted in the ideal manner.  Until the Finale.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on August 18, 2016, 06:40:44 PM
For Sokka banishing Aang, he's not acting rationally.  He's acting out of instinctive fear of the unknown, with no greater goal than, "get it away from us."

True, but Gran-Gran and the rest of the tribe were also part of the decision.

Granted, though, I doubt any of them were thinking very clearly. I'm just nitpicking, but perhaps that could be an interesting AU: Zuko shows up, and Sokka is alone with Aang tied up, the rest of the Tribe evacuated, and Sokka shoves Aang forward and says, "How much will you give us for him?" And Zuko is all, "I wasn't expecting this. Do you take cash, or do I need to pay in pelts or something?" :D


When I was watching the show, I couldn't get Zutara, especially over Kataang, but now that I am jaded, it makes me giggle.

You're luckier than me. I had a vague awareness that Zutara was a fandom thing before I began watching. I was able to marvel at the imagination of shippers during my first watch-through.


I like Destiny as an in-motion future.  It's like, in each moment, you can rise to the moment, or shrink.  Maybe we choose our destiny by our actions.  If life is full of possibilities, how many are closed off due to nurture or nature, and then each choice we make closes off additional possibilities.  It's like a cosmic game of "Guess Who?" where we are eliminating possibilities.  Or like the sculptor, who when asked how he sculpted an elephant, replied that he carved away everything that didn't look like an elephant.  What we are left with at the end of our lives is our destiny.  And if we went back in time with no memories, and everything else was constant, we would make the same choices and have the same life/destiny.

That's a good way of summarizing it. There's a specific quote about Destiny in this series that's going to take us a while to get to, but I'm already eager to apply this philosophy to interpreting it.

I do wonder about applying the word "Destiny" to such a thing, though, but the more I think about it, the more I believe I need to do a dive into Buddhism to really do worthwhile analysis. If anyone here is a Buddhist, I'd be happy to hear if there's any additional insight. (I say Buddhism because I figure the Mike and the Bryan being a couple of California vegans are likely to have taken influence from that, but it's possible they went with Chinese mythology instead.)


I also like how they had Aang be an airbending master.  It was pretty cool and different.  And he still got some training in learning the other elements.  But he was always a pretty old soul.  I liked it.  Child-like in some ways, very mature in others.

Yeah, we got the best of both worlds- learning new moves as a measure of character growth and an over-powered start.


As for the Avatar Spirit, I figured it was kind of a crap shoot.  Kinda like Metronome in Pokemon.  :D  It's not like he could control it, or that it always acted in the ideal manner.  Until the Finale.

As an engineer and mathematician, though, I don't believe in the concept of "random" or "crap shoot." :D Everything has (theoretically) reproducible factors that made for the final result. Even Metronome uses the device's random number generator, probably seeded with the date and time. ;D
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: shorewall on August 18, 2016, 08:57:03 PM
For Sokka banishing Aang, he's not acting rationally.  He's acting out of instinctive fear of the unknown, with no greater goal than, "get it away from us."

True, but Gran-Gran and the rest of the tribe were also part of the decision.

Granted, though, I doubt any of them were thinking very clearly. I'm just nitpicking, but perhaps that could be an interesting AU: Zuko shows up, and Sokka is alone with Aang tied up, the rest of the Tribe evacuated, and Sokka shoves Aang forward and says, "How much will you give us for him?" And Zuko is all, "I wasn't expecting this. Do you take cash, or do I need to pay in pelts or something?" :D

:D

When I was watching the show, I couldn't get Zutara, especially over Kataang, but now that I am jaded, it makes me giggle.

You're luckier than me. I had a vague awareness that Zutara was a fandom thing before I began watching. I was able to marvel at the imagination of shippers during my first watch-through.

I knew about Zutara, but I was looking for clues that could lead people to think that was a thing.  I didn't yet understand the depths of denial.  :D

I like Destiny as an in-motion future.  It's like, in each moment, you can rise to the moment, or shrink.  Maybe we choose our destiny by our actions.  If life is full of possibilities, how many are closed off due to nurture or nature, and then each choice we make closes off additional possibilities.  It's like a cosmic game of "Guess Who?" where we are eliminating possibilities.  Or like the sculptor, who when asked how he sculpted an elephant, replied that he carved away everything that didn't look like an elephant.  What we are left with at the end of our lives is our destiny.  And if we went back in time with no memories, and everything else was constant, we would make the same choices and have the same life/destiny.

That's a good way of summarizing it. There's a specific quote about Destiny in this series that's going to take us a while to get to, but I'm already eager to apply this philosophy to interpreting it.

I do wonder about applying the word "Destiny" to such a thing, though, but the more I think about it, the more I believe I need to do a dive into Buddhism to really do worthwhile analysis. If anyone here is a Buddhist, I'd be happy to hear if there's any additional insight. (I say Buddhism because I figure the Mike and the Bryan being a couple of California vegans are likely to have taken influence from that, but it's possible they went with Chinese mythology instead.)

I dunno.  What is destiny?  Can we know it before hand?  I think the more data you have, the more you might be able to predict what someone would do in a given situation.  So if you were omniscient, you could know what ever would happen.  It would be a foregone conclusion.  However, would that knowledge cause you to act in such a way as to change what would be?  Or would that be accounted for?  Would your predictions be constantly updating as you yourself influenced events?  Or would you have to exercise perfect control in order to preserve your predictions?

It's like that old question, "Do we have free will?"  I believe that since we don't know what's going to happen, we do.  And even if we did know what was going to happen, we could act in such a way as to mess things up, even if just to prove we could.  If we act in accordance with our will, even if it is observable and predictable, nothing in that invalidates our free will.

As far as "is there a destiny", and can we know it, like some kind of inherent meaning to our lives, doesn't there have to be an observer to determine that?  Like, if we look back on our lives, we can assign meaning.  Like Korra did to her near death experience.  Or there can be some force like god, or spirits, that assigns meaning and judges us based on that.  "If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"  If we have a destiny and no one is around to know it, does it really exist?

I believe that no one can know their own destiny ahead of time.  Unless it is a force like god that knows all and restricts itself from interfering.  They could tell you your destiny in such a way that it wouldn't invalidate the prediction.  Other than that, like Gran Gran and Iroh, I think it is a strong belief that motivates to action.  Like faith.  You believe it so strongly that you act to make it a reality.  So is that destiny?  Or belief?  Like I said, we need someone who is qualified to assign meaning to that.  I would say that isn't destiny in the traditional sense, but yes if we want to change the meaning of destiny to mean that.  A self-chosen destiny.

As for the Avatar Spirit, I figured it was kind of a crap shoot.  Kinda like Metronome in Pokemon.  :D  It's not like he could control it, or that it always acted in the ideal manner.  Until the Finale.

As an engineer and mathematician, though, I don't believe in the concept of "random" or "crap shoot." :D Everything has (theoretically) reproducible factors that made for the final result. Even Metronome uses the device's random number generator, probably seeded with the date and time. ;D

Fine, not random, but complex enough to be indiscernable to the human eye.  ;)
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: longman on August 19, 2016, 12:06:51 PM
Since both posts above touch on events in this next episode, we may as well move on so we can discuss them more fruitfully. It's time to discuss "The Avatar Returns":
Sorry Loopy, I wasn't paying attention. Somehow I thought we were discussing the premiere 2-parter, not just Ep 1.   :-[

Sokka keeps calling Aang an "enemy" and accuses him of working for the Fire Nation. So, if Aang saw the Waterbender in their midst, why let him walk away? Why not kill him? Or, if they weren't worried about Katara's abilities being revealed, why not try to ransom Aang back to the Fire Nation? Banishing Aang and then trying to fight the incoming invaders seems like doing things the hard way. :P
First of all, Katara's waterbender status doesn't seem to have figured into the SWT's psychology at all. A bit odd, but maybe a lot of time had passed since that was a conscious factor from their perspective. Otherwise Katara's waterbending/fishing or even talk with a foreign Aang should have drawn a stern rebuke from Sokka or Gran-Gran. Secondly, Sokka kidnapping Aang for ransom would require his knowledge of precisely what the FN was after and why. We know that, he doesn't. At best, he thought the flare would attract the FN to their shores. In all, I think the SWT villagers lived in fearful isolation, which makes sense considering their practically defenseless circumstances. Sokka also called Aang a 'traitor' and 'foreigner' and the rest of the adults regarded him with quiet unease. So its not clear that he or the adults of the tribe actually considered Aang a hostile, but more a sketchy and uncomfortable unknown, one they could do without.

The scene where we cut between Sokka and Zuko preparing for combat is very cool, highlighting the differences between their cultures and giving us the first truly serious and sympathetic moment for Sokka. It makes me wonder how much Warrior Training  he was truly given. Obviously, the skills he brings to bear against Zuko are terrible, but I would think that the whole war-paint thing would only be shown to proper warriors, and Sokka sure seems to know what he's doing with it. Perhaps Sokka did get training, but but practiced little or poorly in the intervening years.
Yeah, I like that we are learning to take Sokka (and Zuko) seriously not because of badass skills (which Sokka lacks atm) but because they take themselves seriously. These are two tenacious young men with a strong sense of values. You watch Sokka hold his ground though terrified and hopelessly outmatched against the looming warship and you realize that he sure doesn't 'play soldier' in Katara's words. The spirit is willing, even if the flesh is weak.

For longman's point, Gran-Gran does indeed mention Destiny in this episode, but the way she says adds "now" to the intertwining bit makes me think she's just talking about their always-in-motion futures, rather than Destiny as some kind of acting force. Still, perhaps we have a clue in that Destiny is considered a variable thing - or, more interestingly, something free of time, something always in the Now, and we only perceive a small portion of it at a time. If that even means anything. ;)
It does :). However if we consider Gran-gran's  immediate previous sentence - "you both found him for a reason"- it leans towards the predestination angle too, I think.  Note also that at this point Sokka and Katara had already chosen to go after Aang, and Gran-Gran shows up not just to confirm the decision, but takes it a step further by bringing extra supplies for the 'long journey ahead'. How does she know that? Does Gran-Gran have a touch of Aunt Wu's gift? Is it possible that she'd have reacted the same way regardless of her grandkids' intentions? Or did she observe Sokka after the ship left and put two and two together? It is interesting to note that she draws inquisitive looks from Karata and Sokka; esp with the destiny talk.

Finally, I wonder why Aang's Avatarness convinces Gran-Gran that destiny was at work in her grandkids, and not the initial discovery of a relic of a bygone age who apparently had the power to deliver Katara's waterbending dream. Why one and not the other?

I have to say, I love that they started Aang as already being an Airbender Master. Lots of "shonen" style shows like to start their child protagonists as beginners, to tie their progression to their maturation process, but it makes for pretty dull fight scenes at the beginning of the series. Aang starts off here as already the best warrior on the ship (besides Iroh), so we get to see some cool moves and clever tactics from him, making his escape a really cool sequence. (I love when he smacks Zuko with the mattress.) Aang is sometimes accused of being a Mary Sue, but I'd much rather a hyper-competent protagonist, and then scale the enemies up to be a threat, rather than start with Ash Ketchum and watch pidgies go at it.
What I like about this fight scene is that there is a lot of info neatly packed up here. Given that this is one of the first fight scenes in this series, it might have been enough to simply have a cool sequence showcasing bending abilities. But we are also getting insight into the characters. Aang is quite skilled and confident in the element of surprise over his captors. Yet he doesn't revel in the action; in fact he's not really investedin fighting at all. He just wants to find his staff and get out. Zuko is aggressive and impatient, getting quickly frustrated with Aang's defensive tactics, yet stubborn enough to jump off the bridge and catch a fleeing Aang in midflight. (What if he missed? Dude could have killed himself. He wasn't even caught offguard by the novelty of a man flying! This says an awful lot about Zuko.) Finally, the amount of exertion demonstrated by both characters grounds bending with a sense of realism, confirming that it is indeed 'not magic' and not like the magical elements of other universes where characters perform incredible feats at almost no cost.

We're properly introduced to the Avatar Spirit in this episode as well, seeing it echo the glimpse we got of Aang's freezing flashback. In light of what we later learn about Raava and Collective Consciousness, what do you guys figure happened? I've always tried to force the headcanon of Aang only being able to access abilities and Avatars that he is aware of. We can discuss Kyoshi when we get to that episode, but does that headcanon hold up even now? Did Aang's inexperience a hundred years ago cause him to freeze, and could seeing Katara's bad Waterbending now have given him access to just enough abilities to save himself properly this time? Or do we just chalk it up to the storm simply being too strong for him to resurface, so freezing was his only opportunity at the time (and I can assume that he knew enough about Waterbending at the time to know that freezing was possible ;D)?
Aang didn't actually witness Katara waterbend until after the second AS incident, did he? Anyways, I put the century-long deep freeze down to the chaotic environmental conditions and Aang's youthful immaturity. Wrt abilities, waterbending was used in both occasions because it was the most accessible element. The first time around the AS perceived nothing but utter chaos, between the stormy ocean and Aang's own confused emotional state, all viewed through the prism of his underformed senses; so it switched into an emergency shutdown procedure. The second incident was much better due to improved externalities and also because as with many things in life, it improves with use. However, Aang fainting immediately afterwards and risking easy recapture shows there was still a lot of room to improve. There is enough evidence to suggest that the AS has a bit of a  'monkey's paw' characteristic, and this is possibly one of the reasons for the ancient wisdom that young avatars reach the age of maturity before knowing who they really are.

There's one more thing I'd like to say about these two episodes, but its perhaps best left for later. This is enough for now.



P.S. about Zutara - I had no idea of it or even of 'shipping' as a thing when I watched ATLA the first time. When I stumbled upon Zutara within the internet fandom, I twas at first confused, and then I thought it was pretty stupid  ;D. What I really want to know is how 'shipping' became a thing in fandoms, but maybe not - there are 'meatier' things to discuss here  :P
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on August 19, 2016, 07:05:06 PM
I believe that no one can know their own destiny ahead of time.  Unless it is a force like god that knows all and restricts itself from interfering.  They could tell you your destiny in such a way that it wouldn't invalidate the prediction.  Other than that, like Gran Gran and Iroh, I think it is a strong belief that motivates to action.  Like faith.  You believe it so strongly that you act to make it a reality.  So is that destiny?  Or belief?  Like I said, we need someone who is qualified to assign meaning to that.  I would say that isn't destiny in the traditional sense, but yes if we want to change the meaning of destiny to mean that.  A self-chosen destiny.

Again, good thoughts, and I think we'll be touching on this again as we get into further mentions of Destiny.



First of all, Katara's waterbender status doesn't seem to have figured into the SWT's psychology at all. A bit odd, but maybe a lot of time had passed since that was a conscious factor from their perspective. Otherwise Katara's waterbending/fishing or even talk with a foreign Aang should have drawn a stern rebuke from Sokka or Gran-Gran. Secondly, Sokka kidnapping Aang for ransom would require his knowledge of precisely what the FN was after and why. We know that, he doesn't. At best, he thought the flare would attract the FN to their shores. In all, I think the SWT villagers lived in fearful isolation, which makes sense considering their practically defenseless circumstances. Sokka also called Aang a 'traitor' and 'foreigner' and the rest of the adults regarded him with quiet unease. So its not clear that he or the adults of the tribe actually considered Aang a hostile, but more a sketchy and uncomfortable unknown, one they could do without.

I think, out of universe, the storytellers simply hadn't invented the idea that the Fire Nation was hunting Waterbenders. Certainly, the idea that the Northern Water Tribe was able to survive behind its defenses without any ongoing conflict indicates that the Fire Nation didn't care what they did so long as no new hostilities were initiated, which brings into question what exactly the purpose was behind collecting Southern Waterbenders in the first place. So I think all that backstory was created for Hama and later integrated into the reason for Kya being killed, and before that there was only the vague idea that the Southern Tribe had fought the Fire Nation, during which Waterbenders fought and died off, somehow leading to Kya's death.

In-universe, though, we can fault the characters for not thinking things through very well. Perhaps the days of Waterbenders being hunted was long ago, and the reason behind Kya's death not very well known. Perhaps it was just Azulon who had a mad-on for Waterbenders, and after his death the whole operation was abandoned, and the Tribe somehow discovered the new disinterest. (Perhaps a Fire Nation patrol ship came by, Katara stupidly displayed her Waterbending, and there was no reaction? There's more fanfic fodder for anyone who wants it. :D)


Yeah, I like that we are learning to take Sokka (and Zuko) seriously not because of badass skills (which Sokka lacks atm) but because they take themselves seriously. These are two tenacious young men with a strong sense of values. You watch Sokka hold his ground though terrified and hopelessly outmatched against the looming warship and you realize that he sure doesn't 'play soldier' in Katara's words. The spirit is willing, even if the flesh is weak.

Yeah, it's all great stuff. I'm going to touch on this in my coming character write-ups, but you have a very good point that the show gives us an unvarnished (as in not held up for mockery) of the way these characters see themselves. It draws us into their POV, and that creates empathy with the audience.

(As shorewall has probably discovered, I'm very careful in my own writing who gets featured in my Tight 3rd Person POV sections. Any character who doesn't is either an enemy meant to be reviled or someone who's hiding stuff from the audience.)


It does :). However if we consider Gran-gran's  immediate previous sentence - "you both found him for a reason"- it leans towards the predestination angle too, I think.  Note also that at this point Sokka and Katara had already chosen to go after Aang, and Gran-Gran shows up not just to confirm the decision, but takes it a step further by bringing extra supplies for the 'long journey ahead'. How does she know that? Does Gran-Gran have a touch of Aunt Wu's gift? Is it possible that she'd have reacted the same way regardless of her grandkids' intentions? Or did she observe Sokka after the ship left and put two and two together? It is interesting to note that she draws inquisitive looks from Karata and Sokka; esp with the destiny talk.

Finally, I wonder why Aang's Avatarness convinces Gran-Gran that destiny was at work in her grandkids, and not the initial discovery of a relic of a bygone age who apparently had the power to deliver Katara's waterbending dream. Why one and not the other?

That'ss not something I'd ever considered before, but I can't think of anything to rule out the idea of clairvoyant Gran-Gran. Most likely, she just saw the situation as the kids having to go on the run as fugitives after attacking a Fire Navy ship, but Katara speaks specifically of a legend at the end of this episode: "According to legend, you need to first master water, then earth, then fire, right?" Previously, she had just talked about her hopes for the Avatar, and this might just be a reference to history as legends ("When we had Avatars, they used to learn everything in this cycle..."), but maybe there's something more, a prophecy of Aang's return that had circulated as anti-Fire propaganda.


What I like about this fight scene is that there is a lot of info neatly packed up here. Given that this is one of the first fight scenes in this series, it might have been enough to simply have a cool sequence showcasing bending abilities. But we are also getting insight into the characters. Aang is quite skilled and confident in the element of surprise over his captors. Yet he doesn't revel in the action; in fact he's not really investedin fighting at all. He just wants to find his staff and get out. Zuko is aggressive and impatient, getting quickly frustrated with Aang's defensive tactics, yet stubborn enough to jump off the bridge and catch a fleeing Aang in midflight. (What if he missed? Dude could have killed himself. He wasn't even caught offguard by the novelty of a man flying! This says an awful lot about Zuko.) Finally, the amount of exertion demonstrated by both characters grounds bending with a sense of realism, confirming that it is indeed 'not magic' and not like the magical elements of other universes where characters perform incredible feats at almost no cost.

Yeah, this is a great lesson I've taken from AtLA into all my writing. Fight scenes are usually seen as unnecessary, just there for people who need something more kinetic in between plot points and drama, but I like the action scenes in the media I consume or write to be character-building moments, in that the way the characters fight and what they fight for is as informative as any dialogue scene.


Aang didn't actually witness Katara waterbend until after the second AS incident, did he?

Not when he was fully awake, no. I was referring to the iceberg cracking incident. :D I know, that's cheating.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on August 22, 2016, 06:52:49 PM
I'll post my character write-ups piecemeal throughout the weak, to give us a chance to focus on each one without lots of point-by-point quoting. First up is Sokka, surprisingly absolutely no one who knows me. :D

(http://piandao.org/screenshots/water/water2/water2-600.jpg)

Sokka is presented in the first episode as a fairly stock example of The Complainer. This is the character who always opposes what the more likable character wants, and is punished by either the universe (in the more merciful stories) or the other characters for the disagreement. There's an unpleasant message in that trope, as it implies that anyone who holds a minority opinion or doesn't always conform to the group is a criminal worthy of punishment and disdain. (I like to think that the entire current political situation in America is entirely because of the bad storytelling in 80's cartoons.) In most cases, the 'likable' characters are those with the more stereotypical Dreamer outlook on life, believing that everything can be solved with positive outlooks and a vegan lifestyle, possibly narrowing the message from "the minority is always wrong" to "practical people are always wrong." As dangerous as the first kind of message is, encouraging a culture of intolerance for anyone who dares not join the group-think, the latter might actually scare me more, as I make my living as an engineer, and so I find practical considerations to be the things that stand between grand ideas and lots of people dying because the software that controls the life-support systems wasn't designed properly.

So it's easy to think, based on AtLA's first episode, that the series is going to fall into this same trap. Sokka is the complainer, the practical one, the straight man for the more puerile skits, and is made to suffer accordingly for the more likable characters' amusement. However, some hints are introduced in the second episode that the story isn't going to stick with this formula. Of course, the most obvious moment is when Katara finds that is Sokka going to help her rescue Aang, now that it's clear the kid is the Avatar and not a danger. The beauty of this scene is that allows Sokka this nice moment without taking away from his previous characterization of being the practical guy- while Katara was giving her speech, he was already loading the boat. There's more subtle hints as well, like how Sokka's relationship with Gran-Gran is warm and respectful, and this isn't portrayed as something to be mocked in the manner of a "Mama's Boy." (I say this as a proud Mama's Boy.) Finally, there's perhaps my favorite Sokka scene in the episode, where he's the one who figured out how to get Appa to fly (again, using his more practical method of brute-force guessing to recall the phrase Aang had used earlier, while Katara is delivering speeches), and he's genuinely amazed by it. This grumpy, practical, pessimistic guy shows real child-like wonder and excitement over a flying bison, and while the moment is dampened by Katara's pointing out how uncharacteristic it is for him with just a smirk (and calling back to his previous skepticism of Appa being able to fly), I think it's notable that Sokka is allowed to maintain his smile even after Katara's little teasing, as pictured above. I think that speaks to something brighter in Sokka that the storytellers wanted us to see in him, foreshadowing a character arc that will allow him to maintain his personality (that practical nature, the pessimism, etc) while still coming out from the darkness of loss and hopelessness. As Aang said to Katara, she and Sokka are still kids, even if they've been forced to grow up by the war.

Agree? Disagree? Am I reading too much into little hints, or were these sophisticated clues truly buried in a story for kids?
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: longman on August 24, 2016, 05:57:27 PM
Nailed it dude. Really nothing to add. Well, I might also add that this second episode also foreshadows that Sokka's comic relief role means that it will take a while for his character to be consistently taken seriously.  As you noted, his best moment in the second episode is dampened by Katara's teasing smile turning it into a joke.* There's also GranGran's parting words to him - 'be nice to your sister' - who in contrast is congratulated for reviving  long-lost hope. Even the final scene concludes that the NWT is the intended destination for Aang and Katara - who btw dominate the entire discussion - to accomplish their bending development goals,  while Sokka is given the throwaway 'knock firebender heads on the way'. What about his development? What about his goals?

Interestingly, Sokka is at least partially right about a few things: about the bolt of light from Aang's iceberg potentially attracting the FN, about the flare Aang accidentally set off doing the same thing - basically, about Aang's presence and antics being a danger to his would-be hosts, which continued to be a problem throughout Book 1.  I also like Sokka's adaptivity and creativity foreshadowed by his hilarious head-bonking triumph over Zuko aboard the ship, reversing his own similar humiliation in their previous encounter.

*In retrospect, this might have been a missed opportunity.  I mean come on, they are actually flying atop a magic beast for the first time ever! This is one of the most magical and wondrous moment of their lives, and its turned into a joke? Sure Sokka keeps his smile afterwards, but the wonder of the moment is lost. In the past month I spent some time watching a couple of Hayao Miyazaki's movies, and, noting his fascination with planes and flight and his well known influence on AtLA, I wonder how he would have handled this scene.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on August 24, 2016, 07:32:59 PM
Nailed it dude. Really nothing to add. Well, I might also add that this second episode also foreshadows that Sokka's comic relief role means that it will take a while for his character to be consistently taken seriously.  As you noted, his best moment in the second episode is dampened by Katara's teasing smile turning it into a joke.* There's also GranGran's parting words to him - 'be nice to your sister' - who in contrast is congratulated for reviving  long-lost hope. Even the final scene concludes that the NWT is the intended destination for Aang and Katara - who btw dominate the entire discussion - to accomplish their bending development goals,  while Sokka is given the throwaway 'knock firebender heads on the way'. What about his development? What about his goals?

Good points, and it's true- Sokka's character arc isn't revealed until the episode with Bato. He goes through most of the first season with no goal besides keeping the other two alive, as far as the viewer is concerned. And it turns out that his character arc is born of the reason for that desperate protectiveness.


Interestingly, Sokka is at least partially right about a few things: about the bolt of light from Aang's iceberg potentially attracting the FN, about the flare Aang accidentally set off doing the same thing - basically, about Aang's presence and antics being a danger to his would-be hosts, which continued to be a problem throughout Book 1.  I also like Sokka's adaptivity and creativity foreshadowed by his hilarious head-bonking triumph over Zuko aboard the ship, reversing his own similar humiliation in their previous encounter.

Yeah, one of the nice consistencies in AtLA is that Sokka is frequently right, but no one listens to him. And when he's not right, it's born of unusual circumstances.


*In retrospect, this might have been a missed opportunity.  I mean come on, they are actually flying atop a magic beast for the first time ever! This is one of the most magical and wondrous moment of their lives, and its turned into a joke? Sure Sokka keeps his smile afterwards, but the wonder of the moment is lost. In the past month I spent some time watching a couple of Hayao Miyazaki's movies, and, noting his fascination with planes and flight and his well known influence on AtLA, I wonder how he would have handled this scene.

Good point, but I expect that this was the result of episode limitations. Episode 201 had extra scenes of Appa flying, according to the storyboards that were revealed either on the DVD or at a convention, but those were cut for time. I expect that such a thing happened frequently, and I can't fault giving priority to character moments, even if they're silly jokes. Movies are one thing, but TV episodes have 22 minutes to accomplish everything they need to, and I don't envy anyone the task of managing that.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: shorewall on August 25, 2016, 07:48:35 PM
I like your contrast of Sokka as the practical type.  I am not that, but I like those who are.  After all, dreams only count when they are based on actionable principles.  Both sides are important.

I agree that they set Sokka up to be a thorn in Katara and Aang's side, and while they played with it, they also did a good job of subverting it.  Which is nice.  :)
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: FartsOfNeil on August 26, 2016, 12:52:58 PM
I think that speaks to something brighter in Sokka that the storytellers wanted us to see in him, foreshadowing a character arc that will allow him to maintain his personality (that practical nature, the pessimism, etc) while still coming out from the darkness of loss and hopelessness.

But everything changed when Book 3 attack..er..aired.

(http://piandao.org/screenshots/fire/fire18/fire18-739.jpg)

Ugh...I'm getting the rage feels...

Anyshlitz, another thing that I think needs to be noted about the character is his...dichotomy.  Regardless of writer intent, there's a looot about the character that kinda paints a commentary of natural behavior vs.  socially systematized behavior.  I e'splain...

(http://piandao.org/screenshots/water/water9/water9-11.jpg)

This is the first scene in Book 1 Episode 9: The Waterbending Scroll.  Up to this point, the only person who's ever held the reigns of Appa were Aang.  Technically, you could argue Katara did during ep2's 'yip yip' discovery, but I'd argue the siblings weren't much more than along for the ride while Appa went off to find his BFF.  But now here we have this scene of Sokka nonchalantly doing something that is...frankly kind of extraordinary.  I said once that it was as if someone learned how to ride a horse when less than a year prior, they didn't know horses were things that existed.  Yet at absolutely no moment prior to this scene is it ever established that Sokka learned how to lead Appa.  No scene, dialogue or even visual cues show or even slightly hint at this kind of development.  It is completely without comment on the part of the showrunners...and that's a big deal because it shows complete confidence that we the audience would accept a core aspect of his character dynamic:

For all his blustering in the first season about gender roles and masculine posturing, Sokka is a uniquely progressive and open minded person.  New things do not bother him and he adapts to drastic changes to his environment with remarkable efficiency to the point where he's the one who's turned to when the Gaang is facing something they don't understand.  It's contextualized as him being the 'idea man', but really, it's his damn near super-human ability to accept a situation no matter how unfamiliar it is to him and just go with it.  He may question, but he never outright rejects and that's something I'm not sure I can say applies to any other character in the series.

But then ya got the blustering, the warrior chest puffing, the womenz-doo-dah-kooking-und-da-MAYUNZ-makes-da-brave-fightingz-wit-da-pointy-stikz!  Thing is, all those moments are obvious...and they feel it.  By which I mean, they feel forced.  By which I further mean they feel unnatural and false to the character...because they are.  They are in complete opposition to who Sokka is, but they're so loud and obnoxiously present, they kinda hint at how important they are to him.  Presumably as a sort of anchor to keep himself connected to a father that's not there, but it could also be read as the power of social conditioning.

Though that does beg the question that if it clung to Sokka so much, why didn't it cling to Katara?  But eh...that's another thread I suppose.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: shorewall on August 26, 2016, 01:22:49 PM
Good point.  If Sokka is so affected by his culture (that we don't really get to see much of), then why isn't Katara?  (message!)
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: FartsOfNeil on August 26, 2016, 05:11:26 PM
Actually I just realized I answered my own question.  Sokka's deal clearly revolved around his father while Katara's was all about...well...

(https://i.ytimg.com/vi/3zb30QEzHGs/mqdefault.jpg)
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on August 26, 2016, 06:42:46 PM
Yeah, I really think it's about his father. Sokka's confidence was massively undermined by the sequence of his mother's death, his tribe's decline, and his father leaving with all the REAL warriors. Sokka embraced every instance of what tumblr would call "toxic masculinity" in order to shore up his own confidence, from the role of the warrior who has to protect and teach the next generation to enforcing the "girl stuff" role even when Katara pushes back against it. He adapts when he starts seeing the rest of the world, most especially Kyoshi Island, but by that point he has other things to worry about.

You also have a really good point about his adaptibility. I stumbled on a similar sense when I was writing him as encountering what were functionally zombies in an AU where he hadn't encountered anything explicitly supernatural yet. I thought I'd have him in some kind of denial at first, but when I went to write it, I realized that it rang completely false. So I had him freak out momentarily at the sudden threat, and then essentially go, "Okay, monsters. Let's start assessing our resources."

For Appa's reins specifically, I would assume that Sokka has at least had some experience with leading or guiding an animal. The tribe might not have any by the time Aang showed up, but they had a bigger settlement in his youth and surely that included a pack animal or two? Anyway, he might have just needed some extra tips for what Appa would expect, or he's just the "auto-pilot" for when Appa might just need some easy guidance.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: FartsOfNeil on August 26, 2016, 07:38:18 PM
Anyway, he might have just needed some extra tips for what Appa would expect, or he's just the "auto-pilot" for when Appa might just need some easy guidance.

To the first point I then ask why no one else does it...because no one else does it.  The only other person who's ever shown piloting Appa is Katara in The Southern Raider because they wrote themselves into a corner and simply had no other alternative and when it comes to character development...we don't talk about Book 3...

As to the second:

(http://piandao.org/screenshots/water/water19/water19-133.jpg)

I wasn't aware Appa had a mile high club setting for his auto pilot.

Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on August 27, 2016, 10:54:13 PM
Ah, yeah, forgot about that. Okay, Sokka learned quickly.

I'll post the Katara write-up soon if everyone has had their say on Sokka. I think that one will be a bit more controversial.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: longman on August 29, 2016, 12:51:52 PM
WRT handling Appa, Katara did this a couple of times, one of the first while searching for Aang and Sokka in Ep 7, before Sokka in Ep 9.
(http://piandao.org/screenshots/water/water7/water7-867.jpg)
Even Zuko piloted Appa a couple of times in the series finale. Apparently, the main prerequisite is mutual familiarity and trust. The rest is 'yip-yip' and general familiarity with domesticated animal labor which isn't hard to come by in this  universe.

That said, I definitely agree with everything said about Sokka's adaptivity. As for his character dichotomy, Loopy makes a good point that Sokka's macho persona is in itself an adaptation to the severe depredations of his home country. As I pointed out in my previous post, this does have positives even if the narrative doesn't overtly acknowledge them, and moreover it gives way as Sokka encounters new situations. Interestingly, his encounters with Zuko in Ep 2 foreshadow his eventual path to self-actualization: it will not come by pure martial skills or 'macho-ness' - e.g. charging head on screaming at Zuko - but by thinking creatively - head-bonking Zuko as he attempted to use Aang's staff to climb aboard the ship.

Good point.  If Sokka is so affected by his culture (that we don't really get to see much of), then why isn't Katara?  (message!)

Perhaps she didn't. Remember that time in Ep 12 when the gAang realized they were out of food and money and Katara told Sokka to 'get a job, smart guy'? Why didn't she get the job ?   ;)

Also, in Ep 1, Katara complained about having to do all the housework while Sokka was out 'playing soldier'. Arguably the prevailing culture did affect her, but the key difference with Sokka is that she complained about it. I suspect we will touch on the implications as we get into Katara's character analysis.


Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: shorewall on August 29, 2016, 06:29:25 PM
Good point, @longman.  :)
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on August 30, 2016, 06:51:31 PM
I'm going to write less about Katara for several reasons. I'm not as practiced at being long-winded about her (just look at my fanfic output and compare the presence of the two siblings :D), but also her characterization builds on what I discussed with Sokka. Plus, I feel like I've been talking at you guys with my latest material in this thread, so I'd like to do more questions to prompt discussion.

Katara is our first POV character in the cartoon, narrating the opening, and she's the one to free Aang and bond with him. So, for a first discussion point, how fundamental does everyone feel that Katara is to AtLA's story outside of the romance? I've said before that it's appropriate that Katara shares the final scene with Aang, since she was introduced before him in the narrative, but does the rest of the premiere back that up, or is she firmly portrayed as a sidekick/love-interest in the two-parter?

Katara is a traditionally likable character from the California mindset, an outspoken feminist who believes in the power of hope and optimism, a Supergirl for a world based on Chinese myth. Not much is done with this in the two-parter, since she has few skills at this point, but she's shown to be capable enough to save herself from some Firebenders. Is this a good presentation of feminism in storytelling, or does it combine with Sokka's comic relief to make for an overly "preachy" tone?

Katara is sometimes accused of being a Mary Sue (I disagree, both because she doesn't match the original definition of the term and because without that definition the term means nothing) or at least not being held accountable for her flaws by the narrative (I agree with certain examples). The two-parter shows her as the last Waterbender of her tribe, an outspoken feminist, a beauty, and an optimist. However, she also has moments where she's wrong- she was wrong when she assumed Sokka would be contrary for its own sake rather saving Aang, and was wrong about the power of her speeches to make Appa fly. So, what's the verdict for this point in the series? Mary Sue or not?

We also get the scene in the second episode where Aang is banished from the tribe by Sokka and Gran-Gran, and Katara threatens to power up all her Hope and go off with the Last Airbender to find her destiny as a Waterbender... And then Aang tells her that it's a bad idea being made in anger, and she should stay. And Katara listens to him, acknowledging that he's right (even if she's still royally ticked off about it). This is a subtle but interesting moment, I think, an indicator that Katara's archetype isn't going to remain untarnished as the story unfolds. Am I reading too much into things, or could this moment be foreshadowing that things aren't always going to be black'n'white for her, that she might not be ready for everything she's going to experience? Compromise is in her future, but at the same time, she's not being set up to be completely broken;  she needs to learn the practicality that serves Sokka so well in this episode.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: shorewall on September 01, 2016, 12:06:22 AM
Re: Katara as an important character.  I don't know if it is a popular opinion, but imo she was integral for Aang's hero's journey.  He couldn't have done it without her.  Even if you take out the shipping (as a lot of fans do ;)) their relationship is central to the show.  Whether it is focused on or not, there are so many shots of Katara comforting and supporting Aang.  It is really sweet and amazing.  I don't think that relegates her to the side kick or love interest role either. 

It's like the old saying, "Behind every great man, there is a great woman."  Or as the Bible teaches, "Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man, in the Lord."  And Aang inspired her and gave her a new life as well.  They changed each other's lives.  (You could argue like Ichigo and Rukia in Bleach, which is why that ending was BULLSHIT!!!  ;D)

Katara was very independent and outspoken, but at the same time, she was a nurturer.  And not just to Aang.  I feel she is a great example of strong femininity.  Maybe the greatest.  She can fight and hold her own, which is important in an action show like ATLA.  But she doesn't run away from her nature.  She doesn't have to prove anything.  (Well, except at the North Pole.  ;)) 

One of her greatest moments is braving the Avatar State to bring Aang down out of it.  Another great moment is when Aang is shot by Azula, and Katara washes Zuko and the Dai Li away in her rush to catch him in that amazing shot.  And yet another when she gives Zuko the real dope when he joins their group.  I love every stage of Katara's character.  And to those who say that Katara doesn't always face the consequences of her actions, of course not!  She's a woman!  :D  A pretty woman! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBz0BTb83H8)  ;D  ;D  ;D

Katara is amazing, but of course she has flaws.  If she didn't, then she would be a mary sue.  It makes her a person, instead of a trope.

So back to the first two episodes, Katara is the primary mover of the show, which I feel does count for something, taking destiny into account.  ;)  And she begins bonding with Aang, which is the reason they'll go after him, and the reason he'll survive and be successful.  And because she goes, Sokka goes, which is also important.  They needed each other.  Each is integral in their own way.  You could argue that Toph's character (though not her power) was superfluous.  Mom, Dad, and the chosen one.  (Just like in the school episode.  ;D)

I mean, going back to destiny, how often do you meet someone who is just what you need them to be?  And you meet them in such a way that you can know and feel that this is real, and important?  And then you don't f' it up, and drop the ball, but you make the right moves and do the right thing and have it work out?  I could see that as a type of destiny.  :)

Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on September 02, 2016, 07:07:45 PM
That's a very good way of looking at it. Katara drives a lot of plot, especially in these first two episodes. As I've argued before, she's the one essentially setting the gAang's agenda for the majority of the episodes, both pushing Aang on his quest and keeping Sokka from focusing only on the wider quest.

As for her flaws, maybe I can start a "Katara was jerky and the narrative acknowledged it" count as I watch. :D
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on September 07, 2016, 06:54:06 PM
At last, we come to the hero of the story, the main character and primary butt-kicker.

The first thing that most strikes me about Aang is just how Age Twelve he is. More so than any other character I've come across, even on those tweenie sitcoms that are Nickelodeon and Disney's bread-and-butter (not that I watch many, but I was there when Nick invented the genre), Aang strikes me as the most realistic twelve-year-old in all of fiction. He's stupid and goofy and can't keep still (when he's not doing his Monk thing) and likes having fun but in an instant he can realize that he has the weight of the world on his shoulders (in Aang's case it's literal, but for other kids it's more about homework and social obligations) and behave in a surprisingly mature and profound way. Even when serious, though, he talks like a kid, cutting straight to the heart of a matter in the exact way he sees is ("I never wanted to be."), before swerving back into attempts at humor in order to distract himself. However, it could be that I'm reading too much into things, or seeing profoundness where there's just the typical tweenie writing. We do have that line where he wonders about cleaning his room after a hundred years, which strikes me as more something a modern suburban kid would say over a monk who presumably lives in a sparse cell or dormitory. (Yes, tiny living spaces in monasteries and convents are called "cells." Read as much into that as you'd like. :D) So, what's the verdict? Is Aang realistically twelve or fictionally twelve at this point, or do you think his characterization doesn't hit the right age at all? Do you think he becomes more or less realistic as the series goes on?

Since this is the start of Aang's journey, it makes sense to compare it to where he ends things. In the finale, he symbolically achieves maturity (before the comics decide that no, he didn't) by mastering the Avatar State and adhering to his moral code in the face of easier, corrupting alternatives. Does everyone feel like that is what's being set up in the premiere episodes? I have my own opinions, but I'll wait to reveal them, since I have some strong opinions about the finale.

Aang as a pacifist: Another thing the finale goes big on is the idea that Aang doesn't kill, which Aang himself seems to consider the definition of a pacifist. If we take that definition as a given (although I think most people would say that pacifist is someone who won't fight at all), does he meet the criteria? In the Avatar State in this episode,  he pretty clearly knocks Zuko off the ship and into the Antarctic waters. However, that's the Avatar State, which Book Earth will later reveal does things with which Aang isn't comfortable. And I've never been clear on what's supposed to be lethal in this world; Zuko's swim at the North Pole is treated like it could be fatal, but earlier Sokka fell into a canal and lies down on a slab of ice in his soaked, freezing clothes with a smile on his face, and Katara gets soaked while fighting Pakku, and neither of those is treated how getting wet in frigid temperatures would be treated. So, did anyone walk away from the premiere two-parter with the impression that Aang was more pacifistic than Sokka or Zuko?

Appa is often credited as being the convenient transportation that actually feels like a character. Does that come across this early? Does it feel like Aang has a real friendship with his bison, does it feel (at this point) like Appa is merely a pet, or is he just a flying car with some personality?

Kataang! Does Aang love Katara at this point, or is it just a crush? I think this largely depends on your idea of love-at-first-sight, but I personally feel that right now Aang is just crushing on Katara, although I found his telling her to stay with her family while he goes into his banishment to be a surprisingly selfless moment for a crushing twelve-year-old.

How cool is the big arrow on Aang's bald, shiny head? I thought it looked stupid at first, but it's really grown on me. ;)
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: FartsOfNeil on September 09, 2016, 12:21:42 PM
Okay, I'll get to Aang in a later post.  Regarding Katnisstara:

Katara was vital as a POV character...for arguably the first three episodes.  After that, she very clearly becomes her own character and at first it's relatively easy to say it's a rather stolid one.  She's the emotional anchor of the group, the dreamer and the inspiration that motivates everyone to keep going and as character development goes it's not exactly an attention grabber.  Thing is, whether intentional or not, these aspects of her character were the building blocks to getting her into her proper role in the Gaang: The leader.

It's a looong time coming, but it does get confirmed in what I consider to be basically Katara's penultimate episode: The Desert.  Everyone kinda remembers it as the ep when Aang became Aangst, but in between his brief scowling was an episode devoted to a young girl struggling against impossible odds to lead four children out of a desert and succeeding.  There's a reason she's the one that talking to the generals at the end of the season.

(http://vignette2.wikia.nocookie.net/avatar/images/6/6c/Katara_at_the_Council_of_Five.png)
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: shorewall on September 09, 2016, 11:13:26 PM
I agree with FartsofNeil.  I think Katara gets typed as the heart and Aang as the leader, but those roles are really reversed.  (LOK ftw!  :D)

I love the dual nature of Aang.  Both mature and immature.  Wise and childlike.  I think he does a good job of going from avoidance of destiny, to acceptance of destiny, to ownership and shaping of his destiny.  (And by destiny here, I mean more like "the call".)

For Appa, I feel like he is so big, and so integral, that he always felt special.  And Aang always treated him like an equal, I feel.

For Kataang at this point, I feel he imprinted.  Maybe it was the emotional turmoil, the long freeze, the abrupt change to a peaceful environment, but I think he was linked to her upon first sight.  Now, that's no guarantee in my mind, but he would have had trouble getting over her.  She was also (most likely) his first love, which is unguarded and unrestrained.  Then again, love can mean different things.  This song explains it. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3GA5F7gx4k)   :'(  So I don't know.  I don't think it was destined, but he and she made it destined by their choices.

And Aang's tattoos are boss.  Especially because they glow.  :)
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on September 10, 2016, 02:56:26 PM
You know, I'd never considered Katara the leader. I know Aang isn't the leader, and never took Sokka's claims seriously since everyone rarely listens to him. And I'd even noted that it's Katara's agenda that drives most of the plots of the individual episodes, but I hadn't quite made the connection.

That makes me even more disappointed in LoK's portrayal of her. There's no leadership to be seen anywhere in her scenes or backstory.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: longman on September 14, 2016, 09:21:23 AM
Thing is, whether intentional or not, these aspects of her character were the building blocks to getting her into her proper role in the Gaang: The leader.

It's a looong time coming, but it does get confirmed in what I consider to be basically Katara's penultimate episode: The Desert.  Everyone kinda remembers it as the ep when Aang became Aangst, but in between his brief scowling was an episode devoted to a young girl struggling against impossible odds to lead four children out of a desert and succeeding.  There's a reason she's the one that talking to the generals at the end of the season.

http://vignette2.wikia.nocookie.net/avatar/images/6/6c/Katara_at_the_Council_of_Five.png
With the EK generals, Katara was actually taking the place of Sokka (who had naturally taken up that role since the Black Sun invasion was his idea) whom she had encouraged to go on ahead to Chameleon Bay instead and see their dad. This ties in to my take on the gAang's leadership, which I credit to the Water Tribe siblings jointly.

There is good evidence that Katara's and Sokka's caretaker roles in the SWT carried over into a custodianship over the gAang that sometimes had parental undertones:

1. The expressed conviction throughout Book 1 that Katara and Sokka were taking Aang to the North Pole, not just tagging on for the ride;
2. Sokka's abrupt assumption of the 'leader' title in Jet followed by a contest of wills with Katara throughout the episode, which Aang sits out as the acknowledged 'goofy kid';
3.The Katara-Toph feuds over the former's overbearing 'motherliness';
4. Katara and Sokka actually posing as Aang's parents briefly in Book 3's The Headband.

Katara gets more credit because the relationships work in a similar fashion to standard family sitcom archetypes, where the father (Sokka) is the quirky comic relief punching bag albeit loved and valued, while the mother (Katara) is the empathetic emotional center smoothing over the father's rough edges and keeping everyone together. She is thus more effective in the personal and micro-term, often having the decisive final say in episodic plots; but Sokka is perhaps more influential in the macro-term, as the brainchild and enforcer of the gAang's contribution to some of the major world events after Book 1.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: shorewall on September 14, 2016, 12:43:56 PM
Good points, Longman.  I like the delineation of micro and macro, each important in its own role.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: FartsOfNeil on September 14, 2016, 04:26:30 PM
Thing is, whether intentional or not, these aspects of her character were the building blocks to getting her into her proper role in the Gaang: The leader.

It's a looong time coming, but it does get confirmed in what I consider to be basically Katara's penultimate episode: The Desert.  Everyone kinda remembers it as the ep when Aang became Aangst, but in between his brief scowling was an episode devoted to a young girl struggling against impossible odds to lead four children out of a desert and succeeding.  There's a reason she's the one that talking to the generals at the end of the season.

http://vignette2.wikia.nocookie.net/avatar/images/6/6c/Katara_at_the_Council_of_Five.png
With the EK generals, Katara was actually taking the place of Sokka (who had naturally taken up that role since the Black Sun invasion was his idea) whom she had encouraged to go on ahead to Chameleon Bay instead and see their dad.

Except she didn't 'encourage' him.  She let him.  They even make a gag out of his gratitude.  That's what I was referring to when I said that...but I couldn't find an appropriate gif, so I went with the symbolic reference rather than the direct one.

I can't figure the paternal aspects for Sokka.  There's that one visual gag from the 3rd season - which is not the strongest one to reference when talking about character development he said under his breath - and some fallout from his upbringing that was already talked about, but I don't see how it coalesces into an actual motif in the series.  Like, the maternal aspects for Katara were...well to call them 'overt' would be an understatement, but to say the show presented Sokka as a father figure is a much shakier assumption in my eyes.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: longman on September 14, 2016, 09:50:24 PM
With the EK generals, Katara was actually taking the place of Sokka (who had naturally taken up that role since the Black Sun invasion was his idea) whom she had encouraged to go on ahead to Chameleon Bay instead and see their dad.

Except she didn't 'encourage' him.  She let him.  They even make a gag out of his gratitude.  That's what I was referring to when I said that...but I couldn't find an appropriate gif, so I went with the symbolic reference rather than the direct one.

Lets look at that scene again.  (http://atla.avatarspirit.net/transcripts.php?num=218)
Quote
Katara: I hate to say it, but...we have to split up.
Aang: Split up? We just found Appa and got the family back together. Now you want us to separate?
Katara: You have to meet this Guru, Aang. If we're gonna invade the Fire Nation, you need to be ready.
Aang: Well, if I'm going to the Eastern Air Temple, Appa and I can drop you at Chameleon Bay to see your Dad.
Sokka: Someone has to stay here with the Earth King and help him plan for the invasion. I guess that's me.
Katara: No Sokka, I know how badly you want to help Dad. You go to Chameleon Bay, I'll stay here with the king.

Sokka had already chosen to stay behind until Katara offered to take his place. She wasn't letting him go insofar as she didn't hold him back in the first place. Yes his reaction was turned into a gag but that's comic relief Sokka for you, as I explained before. The fact remains that it was natural for Sokka to stay behind, since the Black Sun invasion was his brainchild, the very reason he persuaded the gAang to come to Ba Sing Se in the first place, and which he played the lead role in convincing the Earth King to greenlight. Ergo, Sokka the leader.

I can't figure the paternal aspects for Sokka.  There's that one visual gag from the 3rd season - which is not the strongest one to reference when talking about character development he said under his breath - and some fallout from his upbringing that was already talked about, but I don't see how it coalesces into an actual motif in the series.  Like, the maternal aspects for Katara were...well to call them 'overt' would be an understatement, but to say the show presented Sokka as a father figure is a much shakier assumption in my eyes.

Likewise, yeah I definitely would not go as far as to call Sokka a 'father figure' either. My view is that he and Katara carried on from where they left off as caretaker of the SWT.  The family sitcom archetypes are perhaps useful in showing how their leadership qualitles are distilled in different ways and attract different responses.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on September 14, 2016, 10:11:35 PM
Good analysis, but I would say that the macro and micro difference are what separate High Command from local leadership, and while both make use of leadership skills, High Command is the one at the top of the hierarchy. Aang, in his own way, shows leadership skills as well, but only directed outside of the group. When they meet people, everyone gives their attention to the Avatar, and Aang is the one who usually speaks for the gAang. So I guess we could call him a leader in that he's a head diplomat.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: shorewall on September 15, 2016, 01:31:44 PM
Could we say that Sokka is a leader, in that he came up with the invasion and such macro type stuff, while Katara was the day to day manager, except without the negative connotations.  She manages the group, their feelings and spats, the stuff that needs to go right for the macro to happen.

Sokka as idea guy/visionary leader
Katara as team mom/personnel manager
Aang as avatar/team face
Toph as muscle
Zuko as weight around their necks/pragmatic voice
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: FartsOfNeil on September 15, 2016, 02:05:07 PM
Sokka had already chosen to stay behind until Katara offered to take his place. She wasn't letting him go insofar as she didn't hold him back in the first place. Yes his reaction was turned into a gag but that's comic relief Sokka for you, as I explained before. The fact remains that it was natural for Sokka to stay behind, since the Black Sun invasion was his brainchild, the very reason he persuaded the gAang to come to Ba Sing Se in the first place, and which he played the lead role in convincing the Earth King to greenlight. Ergo, Sokka the leader.

Not of the team, which is what I was referring to.  Check the dialogue again.  Katara's still the one making the calls, for both Aang and Sokka.  He announces he 'guesses' he'll stay, but she's the one that decides it and his response - even if it's played for laughs - is still in deference to that decision.  You call it management, but management didn't get them through that desert.  Katara's leadership did.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on September 16, 2016, 06:36:57 PM
I might have to delay doing the next episode until October, as I'm getting pretty busy trying to wrap up some fanfic projects and prepare for a trip. We'll see how it goes.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: shorewall on September 16, 2016, 09:45:55 PM
No prob, Bob.   ;D
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: FartsOfNeil on September 17, 2016, 02:18:44 AM
Just make sure you keep us...

(https://media3.giphy.com/media/e4ve7M8EGvjgI/200w.gif)

...in the Loop.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on October 18, 2016, 06:48:39 PM
We're LOOPING around again to finally get to episode 3 of the series over two months after I started this project! It's time to look at The Southern Air Temple:

Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: FartsOfNeil on October 19, 2016, 04:25:06 PM
Zhao's an odd duck.  He's a compelling character, but he had the wrong voice actor.  Now don't get me wrong, Jason Isaac is a fantastic actor who knows his way around juicy bad guy roles and his voice isn't bad at all, but he's all about a sort of internal intensity.  Just watch him try to out-eye Mel Gibson in The Patriot. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njFOIvoN9pc)  Zhao however, is grandiose and operatic in a way that Isaac can't really pull off when he's only got his voice to work with.  He doesn't sound bad he just sounds...flat.  This is most apparent during his 'Zhao the invincible' line.  Isaac's reading simply doesn't have the bombast necessary to make that line work as spoken by him.  In his favor I will say there is one thing he absolutely gets right and that's Zhao's arrogance.  Makes sense seeing as that's right in his wheelhouse.

Gyatso strikes me as the least air nomad like, at least with regards to ideals.  Their whole deal is about detachment from earthly desires and he's clearly got an attachment for Aa--

STOP!  Put your pens DOWN!  Close down your word processing programs and step away from the keyboard!

I'm not talking about that.  What I'm saying is that he cares.  He likes to laugh and make other people laugh.  Detached is not something I would use to describe him.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on October 19, 2016, 06:29:44 PM
Zhao's an odd duck.  He's a compelling character, but he had the wrong voice actor.  Now don't get me wrong, Jason Isaac is a fantastic actor who knows his way around juicy bad guy roles and his voice isn't bad at all, but he's all about a sort of internal intensity.  Just watch him try to out-eye Mel Gibson in The Patriot. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njFOIvoN9pc)  Zhao however, is grandiose and operatic in a way that Isaac can't really pull off when he's only got his voice to work with.  He doesn't sound bad he just sounds...flat.  This is most apparent during his 'Zhao the invincible' line.  Isaac's reading simply doesn't have the bombast necessary to make that line work as spoken by him.  In his favor I will say there is one thing he absolutely gets right and that's Zhao's arrogance.  Makes sense seeing as that's right in his wheelhouse.

Never seen this perspective before, but I can see where you're coming from. So, you would have liked Tim Curry?


Gyatso strikes me as the least air nomad like, at least with regards to ideals.  Their whole deal is about detachment from earthly desires and he's clearly got an attachment for Aa--

STOP!  Put your pens DOWN!  Close down your word processing programs and step away from the keyboard!

I'm not talking about that.  What I'm saying is that he cares.  He likes to laugh and make other people laugh.  Detached is not something I would use to describe him.

I'm not sure "detachment from earthly desires" is what you're actually describing, here. Gyatso's attachment to Aang is portrayed as positive, giving Aang a much needed break from the stifling role of the Avatar. And given his friends in the Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom, Gyatso didn't seem to shelter Aang, beyond the typical sheltering that most kids get. Gyatso isn't portrayed as clingy or jealous; he seems to have a pretty good idea about what's actually best for Aang, given the themes and messages of the wider story.

I think the Temple Leadership that wanted to turn Aang into a living weapon were actually the ones with the attachment. In their case, it was to their way of life, or to their own personal safety, to the point where they clutched it too tightly in the way they prepared Aang and as a result lost everything.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: FartsOfNeil on October 20, 2016, 03:56:34 PM
Positive attached is still attached.  *shrug*

I think the Temple Leadership that wanted to turn Aang into a living weapon were actually the ones with the attachment.

What?  Where is this coming from?  All that was said was they feared war was coming.  If this is something from the comics, you should know I haven't read them...because they're awful.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on October 20, 2016, 06:53:31 PM
Positive attached is still attached.  *shrug*

Is it? Again, I wonder if we're actually talking about an "attachment" or if we're just talking about a connection. I think Aang was attached to Gyatso, but I think Gyatso simply loved Aang with no evidence that kept him from enlightenment. The Guru is completely fine with love, so long as it doesn't inspire Aang to drop his training.


What?  Where is this coming from?  All that was said was they feared war was coming.  If this is something from the comics, you should know I haven't read them...because they're awful.

Nah, I'm just extrapolating. The head monks wanted Aang to train all day, every day, presumably with the intention of having him fight. They're not training him in diplomacy, or reaching enlightenment, or anything like that. It was all about Airbending forms from the scenes we saw. Gyatso, meanwhile, is all concerned that a preteen kid might not be able to emotionally handle that kind of thing and will react poorly if removed from a normal lifestyle.

And, well, after the other monks got their way, Aang proceeded to run away and abandon the world to 100 years of war.

So was Gyatso attached, or did he just have a basic understanding of how humans react to stuff?
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: FartsOfNeil on October 20, 2016, 07:33:08 PM
I think Aang was attached to Gyatso, but I think Gyatso simply loved Aang with no evidence that kept him from enlightenment. The Guru is completely fine with love, so long as it doesn't inspire Aang to drop his training.

Uh...

Quote
Aang: What? Why would I let go of Katara? I...I..I love her.
Guru Pathik: Learn to let her go, or you cannot let the pure cosmic energy flow in from the universe.

Quote
Aang: Katara is in danger! I have to go.

Guru Pathik: No Aang! By choosing attachment, you have locked the chakra!  If you leave now you won't be able to go into the Avatar State at all!

Guru's not leaving a lotta wiggle room here.  Love is attachment, pure 'n simple and if'n ya wan dat sweet Power Cosmic, ya gotta be able to drop love like iz hawt.  This is even reinforced in LOK's Book Change.  Zaheer wasn't able to fly until P'li gotta shave 'n a haircut (two bits...and some change).  What I'm saying is I find Gyatso as presented in the show would be the least likely to go through with that.


That aside, was this the first time the temples reacted to A-state Aang?  I guess it makes sense if so, since this is where all the avatars past seem to end up.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Wordbender on October 21, 2016, 12:44:48 AM
One of the major factors in this episode's story is Aang's denial about his people's obvious fate. Does it ring true?

Oh, definitely. The temple feels so empty and abandoned, yet Aang manages to stay optimistic that there are still airbenders lurking somewhere. It's gut-wrenching to see him introduce Gyatso as if he were still alive, walk down the empty hallways with Katara and Sokka, and then open up the locked room expecting someone inside.

This is the episode that introduces Zhao, effectively presenting a truly loathsome villain who could make Zuko look good in contrast. What are everyone's opinions of this guy? Hate him? Love to hate him?

I like Zhao and think he's an underrated villain. While Zuko is your typical incompetent cartoon enemy - not that he's stupid, just hot-headed, impulsive, etc. - Zhao is an intelligent leader who can get things done. Love the politics, and of course the Agni Kai, between him and Zuko in this episode. Zhao is the Grand Moff Tarkin of Book One, if you will - the classy military strategist who isn't particularly complex but poses a realistic and believable threat.

(Disclaimer: I only recently rewatched the original series and I've never seen Korra. I keep hearing about how much more "interesting" the LoK villains are.)

Aang's reaction to seeing Gyatso's skeleton is understandable, but how do you all feel about Katara and Sokka taking Aang into their family so quickly?

It feels natural, given that they've already agreed to leave home and travel across the world with him.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on October 21, 2016, 08:35:37 PM
Guru's not leaving a lotta wiggle room here.  Love is attachment, pure 'n simple and if'n ya wan dat sweet Power Cosmic, ya gotta be able to drop love like iz hawt.  This is even reinforced in LOK's Book Change.  Zaheer wasn't able to fly until P'li gotta shave 'n a haircut (two bits...and some change).  What I'm saying is I find Gyatso as presented in the show would be the least likely to go through with that.

Ah, but then we have these lines, which were part of a very positive treatment, including what sounded like fondness in the Guru's voice:

"You have indeed felt a great loss. But love is a form of energy, and it swirls all around us. The Air Nomads love for you has not left this world. It is still inside of your heart, and is reborn in the form of new love."

So I think love itself isn't the problem, it's just the kind of love that causes jealousy, possessiveness, controlling behavior, etc. If anything, it's the bad kind of love that the Temple Elders felt for their own people. The good kind of love is what Gyatso had for Aang, by all evidence.

That aside, was this the first time the temples reacted to A-state Aang?  I guess it makes sense if so, since this is where all the avatars past seem to end up.

Yeah, in the premiere, he uses the Avatar State to get out of the ocean after he gets knocked into it, and he comes out and takes out Zuko's crew with Waterbending. (Notably, that was a case of the Avatar State simply acting as the Emergency Lifesaving Measure.) This episode is the second time the Avatar State activates, from Aang's grief, and it's immediately followed by the sequence of all the temples lighting up. I have a few theories that could explain it, but I'm leaving it open for discussion for now.



I like Zhao and think he's an underrated villain. While Zuko is your typical incompetent cartoon enemy - not that he's stupid, just hot-headed, impulsive, etc. - Zhao is an intelligent leader who can get things done. Love the politics, and of course the Agni Kai, between him and Zuko in this episode. Zhao is the Grand Moff Tarkin of Book One, if you will - the classy military strategist who isn't particularly complex but poses a realistic and believable threat.

(Disclaimer: I only recently rewatched the original series and I've never seen Korra. I keep hearing about how much more "interesting" the LoK villains are.)

I think the Tarkin comparison is a good one, but I think you're perhaps exaggerating the differences between Zuko and Zhao. Zhao's intelligence is hampered by his ego and his temper, and he doesn't seem to be in any hurry to correct it. If anything, he's the embodiment of the Fire Nation's arrogance as a whole. Zuko, on the other hand, has some boneheaded moments, but he also shows a capability to adept and learn from failures.

So there's intellectual intelligence and emotional intelligence, I guess, and Zhao definitely lacks the latter.

I think the reason Zhao is "underrated" is that Azula is simply such a great character and villain. She's probably one of the greatest in all of animation, IMO. Ozai definitely suffers in comparison to her as well. Zhao had a nice rivalry with Zuko, but Azula had that as well. Zhao chased Aang and company, but Azula did that as well. Zhao nearly brought the Northern Water Tribe and world to its knees, but Azula conquered Ba Sing Se and won the whole war for the Fire Nation purely with speeches. In terms of function, she just outshines him.

It doesn't mean Zhao is bad at all, and I think he's even quite effective and enjoyable. But as a fandom, we're spoiled for villains. :D

As for LoK, I think it has some great villains, some poor villains, and some villains that are great or poor depending on how far into the season you've watched. Even better, the fandom will be in conflict about which is which until the end of time.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: FartsOfNeil on October 23, 2016, 09:55:41 AM
Never seen this perspective before, but I can see where you're coming from. So, you would have liked Tim Curry?

Difficult to say.  Him, Malcolm MacDowell, Jim Cummings...there's a lotta go-to 'bad guy voice actors' that would fit, but it does feel like some nuance would be lost if they weren't able to tone themselves down.  When I said Zhao was bombastic and operatic, it's important to I didn't mean outright camp.  It's possible to walk that razor's edge, it's just very difficult and I'm having a tough time thinking of a VA's that have good track record with that.  To be fair Zhao's a pretty slow burn character for most of the show and Isaac is nothing if not a master of that behavior, it's just that when he is all, "Stand aside everyone!  I take large steps!" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vN-ttCBHyx8) Isaac just can't sell it.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: longman on October 23, 2016, 06:02:45 PM
I think Zhao is underrated in the fandom because he lack two things: badass fighting skills and emotional depth. It's hard for some to take a villain seriously when he get owned in his first episode (and consistently afterwards) and the the victor himself was also consistently owned by the good guys throughout Book 1. Despite this I also agree that Zhao was a competent villain. Zhao's overweening ambition and vast resources made him a threat; while Zuko's never-say-die attitude also made him dangerous (to himself and his adversaries). LoK's villains, on  the other hand, are overrated largely on the basis of their idealogical definitions but are far more lacking in humanity. The gaping holes in characterization render them hi-then-bye villains, annoying itches that popped up and disappeared almost as quickly without their occurrence being properly justified.

On Gyatso, I like the idea of him being  an ideal. Maybe he was the inspiration for Aang's interpretation of air nomad values which weren't always shared by others. (Zaheer IMHO was one of LoK's few improvements on AtLA in that his character challenges the saintly image of the air nomads...well its actually not that bad but you get the point).

On the Avatar temples lighting up - my theory has always been that it occurred here for the first time because Aang entered the Avatar State on hallowed Avatar grounds (the Southern air temple). However, Zhao's strong suspicion that Zuko and Iroh had new Avatar intel gives one cause to wonder. Did other people witness the brilliant light column from Aang's iceberg, or did the incident trigger spidey senses in some other way?

Also, I would imagine that Avatar staring at Wan's statue would not elicit an automatic Beginnings download for the same reasons that Aang failed to extract further information from Roku's statue when he looked at it again towards the end of the episode. This spirital stuff doesn't quite work like that.

Finally the moment Katara admitted Aang into their family felt weak particularly because of Katara's speech delivery, which just fell flat flat for me. (Also Sokka gave her an quizzical glance at that precise moment, which is amuzing in context)

(http://piandao.org/screenshots/water/water3/water3-892.jpg)

Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: FartsOfNeil on October 24, 2016, 08:03:44 AM
I will say that scene kinda bugged me.  Not Katara, but Sokka.  He was clearly unsettled by the situation, when really he should have been absolutely terrified.  I know earlier I said Sokka is remarkable at adapting to unfamiliar situations, but there's a gradient to these things and him suggesting his sister go out and talk to the raging elemental hell ball not twenty yards away reeeally pushes that envelope past the breaking point for me.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on October 24, 2016, 06:46:21 PM
Hey, his blood-sugar level was all out of whack and he was just running around. You're lucky he was conscious. :P
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: longman on October 24, 2016, 11:30:12 PM
Yeah, but Katara wasn't all that terrified either. In fact calming Aang down was her suggestion, and Sokka went along with it.

And then there's Aang. So far everyone around has claimed that he is a 100 years out of place in a war-torn world and his people are extinct, and until now he has taken it rather well, even joking about it at the start of the last episode. To address one of Loopy's questions, being in denial does kinda work cuz ... well how else does anyone deal with such preposterous claims? However his attitude potentially seeps into the viewer - if he's not taking any of this seriously, then maybe its not a big deal, even if true? Hence I actually found this scene of his reaction to Gyatso's grisly fate immensely effective as a brutal dose of reality. Along with very last scene of the episode, this was probably one of the first moments I began to take Aang (and the show) seriously because the war and Aang's tragic situation now felt awfully real.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Wordbender on October 25, 2016, 03:26:51 AM
I think Zhao is underrated in the fandom because he lack two things: badass fighting skills and emotional depth. It's hard for some to take a villain seriously when he get owned in his first episode (and consistently afterwards) and the the victor himself was also consistently owned by the good guys throughout Book 1. Despite this I also agree that Zhao was a competent villain. Zhao's overweening ambition and vast resources made him a threat; while Zuko's never-say-die attitude also made him dangerous (to himself and his adversaries).

Good points; even if Zhao wasn't much of a fighter (he also lost to Aang in "The Deserter"), it's his resources and ambition, as you said, that makes him threatening.

I don't think his losses against Zuko and Aang detract too much from his character. As Loopy pointed out,

If anything, he's the embodiment of the Fire Nation's arrogance as a whole.

Arrogance is an integral part of his character, and being defeated by a couple of "kids" plays into that. Fortunately, this doesn't happen often enough that he's made into a joke.

Of course, Zhao has nothing on the royal family. Yet I always have an appreciation for well-written, "everyday" villains like Zhao and Tarkin. Not sure why, I guess I find them refreshingly believable and realistic compared to typical over-the-top cartoon bad guys.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on November 03, 2016, 09:21:47 PM
And now it's time for "The First Feminist Episode," as it's sometimes called! :D This is our retrospective of Warriors of Kyoshi:

Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Wordbender on November 04, 2016, 09:15:15 PM
So, Suki! The Mike and the Bryan says she was just meant to be a one-shot character, but she was brought back due to fan popularity. What does everyone here think of her? Like her? Find her bland beyond her colorful look? Wish she had never been paired with Sokka beyond the little kiss at the end of this episode? Like her but want more depth from her?

Like her as a side character. As with Yue, Sokka's romance is a little rushed, but it works given the pace of the story. Let's just say I'm grateful that her full-time stint with the Gaang only lasted for a couple of episodes. I think this speaks more of my gripes with Book Three, not with Suki specifically.

What do you think of Sokka's sexist attitudes here? We've discussed it a bit before, but do you think it comes together well with the way the Kyoshi Warriors' ambush wounded his pride? Do you think he learned his lesson too quickly?

I didn't participate in the earlier discussion, but I will say that Sokka's sexism strikes me as a trait that isn't really a natural part of his character. Rather, it's a plot device for Katarage. Therefore, I'm glad that it gets resolved quickly and satisfiably in this episode. I still wonder why it was in written in in the first place - to foreshadow the sexist attitudes in the Northern Water Tribe? But then why bring it up in the beginning of the show, and then never mention it again until "The Waterbending Master?"

This episode introduces Kyoshi Island and the Kyoshi Warriors and Avatar Kyoshis and Kyoshi Kyoshi Kyoshi Kyoshi Kyoshi. What are your general thoughts of what we see here? We see that fishing is part of their economy. The Art Book said that the concept behind the Kyoshi Warriors was that they patrol the docks and take care of troublemakers. Does that carry through enough that the whole thing feels like a believable culture?

Sure, it's as believable as any other microsociety we see in the series. It's like the air guys in the Northern Air Temple; we don't see every nook and cranny of their daily lives, but it just works. I can't explain why.

This episode also features one of the, IMO, most solid Kataang conflicts. Aang finally gets some pleasant attention for being the Avatar, and Katara calls out how it's going to his head. Did that work for you guys, or was it too My Little Pony?

I love this conflict because of how it ends:
Quote
Aang: Katara! You showed up!
Katara: I wanted to make sure you were safe. You really had me worried.
Aang: Back there you acted like you didn't care.
Katara: I'm sorry.
Aang: Me too. I did let all that attention go to my head. I was being a jerk.
Katara: Well, get out of the water before you catch a cold, you big jerk!
Aang: On my way!

It beautifully shows not only that Aang was in the wrong and does feel remorse, but also that he and Katara are able to get over their petty little argument and keep their relationship positive. Any ordinary "kiddie show" would have screwed this up. It's a testament to how well dialog is written in ATLA.

After defeating Zhao in the last episode, Zuko gets in another solid performance in here by defeating the Kyoshi Warriors. The comedic soaking at the end is supposed to keep him as a more lighthearted villain, I guess, but it seems like a token "kiddie show moment" that could have easily been cut. What do you guys think?

The same could be said of the jokes that you did like, Sokka in the dress:

How great was Sokka in a dress getting called out by Aang?

and Aang putting out the fire:

How goofballs is it that Aang rides the Unagi into dousing the fires in the vilage? :D

Zuko getting soaked reinforces his characterization as a hot-headed teenager who's a little too in over his head sometimes. So while it feels like a "kiddie show moment," it is appropriate, and certainly not the worst kind of cartoon humor.

In general, I'm very impressed with the sophistication of comedy in ATLA. It intelligently avoids the senseless violence, shock value, and ridiculous dialog that comprises much of the humor in most children's cartoons.

On a side note, I enjoyed the Kataang hug in the end. :)
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: FartsOfNeil on November 05, 2016, 03:16:51 PM
Quote
Sokka: I treated you like a girl when I should have treated you like a warrior.

(https://66.media.tumblr.com/6f1dce613dc2bfc79d60c6edeab8d631/tumblr_inline_mgpdf1N2Ha1qaezui.jpg)

Seriously, am I the only who thinks that 'apology' could have used a leeettle bit more time in the ol brain oven before he brought it out?
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on November 08, 2016, 09:53:09 PM
I didn't participate in the earlier discussion, but I will say that Sokka's sexism strikes me as a trait that isn't really a natural part of his character. Rather, it's a plot device for Katarage. Therefore, I'm glad that it gets resolved quickly and satisfiably in this episode. I still wonder why it was in written in in the first place - to foreshadow the sexist attitudes in the Northern Water Tribe? But then why bring it up in the beginning of the show, and then never mention it again until "The Waterbending Master?"

I think the anti-sexism was more due to it being a message the creators wanted in their story, rather than serving an actual plot function. AtLA started fairly blunt with the message, making it overt in this episode and the stuff with Pakku, while the later books just presented it in a more subtle manner with the inclusion of Azula and Toph. Of course, both of those characters were originally going to be boys in the original planning, but I think the Mike and the Bryan probably would have linked the suggestion to flip the genders with their desired anti-sexist themes.


The same could be said of the jokes that you did like, Sokka in the dress and Aang putting out the fire.

Zuko getting soaked reinforces his characterization as a hot-headed teenager who's a little too in over his head sometimes. So while it feels like a "kiddie show moment," it is appropriate, and certainly not the worst kind of cartoon humor.

Perhaps "kiddie" isn't the word I'm looking for, then. I guess it's more that it's a slapstick moment that isn't even particularly funny, it's just there because of convention. Sokka getting called our for wearing a dress has comedic timing behind it, and it's another deflation of his pride as part of what is already a well-established running gag. My complaint about Aang saving the village is that the sequence of events seems highly unlikely, and yet no one acts like it's improbable. But Zuko getting drenched is just a moment that's there, the shell of a joke that has a superficial resemblance to the moments when Zuko's pride gets deflated in a comedic manner, yet lacks any moment of punch like when he gets covered in snow by Aang's penguin-sledding or bopped in the head by Sokka's weapons. He's just drenched, visibly unhappy, and then we move on.

Unless I just don't get what kids find hilarious.

In general, I'm very impressed with the sophistication of comedy in ATLA. It intelligently avoids the senseless violence, shock value, and ridiculous dialog that comprises much of the humor in most children's cartoons.

Except for that particularly terrible attempt at humor in The Avatar in the Fire Lord, I agree that the jokes aren't tasteless, but nevertheless I found AtLA's humor to be an acquired taste.



Quote
Sokka: I treated you like a girl when I should have treated you like a warrior.

Seriously, am I the only who thinks that 'apology' could have used a leeettle bit more time in the ol brain oven before he brought it out?

So Suki's followup should have been, "You treat girls really sucky." :D
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Wordbender on November 11, 2016, 03:00:20 AM
I think the anti-sexism was more due to it being a message the creators wanted in their story, rather than serving an actual plot function. AtLA started fairly blunt with the message, making it overt in this episode and the stuff with Pakku, while the later books just presented it in a more subtle manner with the inclusion of Azula and Toph. Of course, both of those characters were originally going to be boys in the original planning, but I think the Mike and the Bryan probably would have linked the suggestion to flip the genders with their desired anti-sexist themes.

Good points. The subversion of gender stereotypes is indeed a theme throughout the show, what with Sokka's obsessions with fashion and shopping.

I would not give Bryan and Mike too much credit for Azula and Toph's strong female characterizations, given that they pushed really hard for male Toph and a silly Aang/Katara/Toph love triangle.

Perhaps "kiddie" isn't the word I'm looking for, then. I guess it's more that it's a slapstick moment that isn't even particularly funny, it's just there because of convention.

...

But Zuko getting drenched is just a moment that's there, the shell of a joke that has a superficial resemblance to the moments when Zuko's pride gets deflated in a comedic manner, yet lacks any moment of punch like when he gets covered in snow by Aang's penguin-sledding or bopped in the head by Sokka's weapons. He's just drenched, visibly unhappy, and then we move on.

I agree, it's convention - but this is not necessarily a bad thing. I think we, as superfans, often forget what ATLA is: an action-adventure children's cartoon. And being a children's cartoon confers certain expectations: largely self-contained episodes, slapstick humor, a simple storyline, and obvious good guys and bad guys. ATLA succeeds within these limitations because its writing, dialog, characters, setting, etc. are all put together so exceptionally well. Although episodes like "Warriors of Kyoshi" are often derided for being "boring" and "filler" and "juvenile," the fact is, they comprise the core of the show.

So when Zuko gets soaked by the Unagi, you smile and laugh because he's the bad guy getting what he deserves. Not particularly deep, but ATLA is not a sophisticated drama, and it never claimed to be one.

My complaint about Aang saving the village is that the sequence of events seems highly unlikely, and yet no one acts like it's improbable.

Having everyone react completely realistically - basically WTF's all around - would have marred the pacing, spoiled the action, and ruined the lighthearted mood. This is just a typical cartoon action sequence. I think it's done well enough to not ruin your suspension of disbelief.

Unless I just don't get what kids find hilarious.

...

Except for that particularly terrible attempt at humor in The Avatar in the Fire Lord, I agree that the jokes aren't tasteless, but nevertheless I found AtLA's humor to be an acquired taste.

We're spoiled for humor in ATLA. Watch 30 seconds of your average contemporary children's cartoon (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ahAvLiCx1Q) and you'll throw up. ATLA is so fresh and intelligent in comparison, there's simply no contest.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on November 11, 2016, 06:40:32 PM
I would not give Bryan and Mike too much credit for Azula and Toph's strong female characterizations, given that they pushed really hard for male Toph and a silly Aang/Katara/Toph love triangle.

Eh, I'll rag on their storytelling abilities all day long if you let me, but I haven't heard that they "pushed really hard" for male Toph or a love triangle. Those elements were in their original plans, and they accepted suggestions to replace them with something better; that's all we know, according to the interviews and commentaries I've seen. Most especially, I don't like to credit any specific writing elements to individuals unless there's a clear stylistic through-line (such as Elizabeth Welch Ehasz's episodes creating implications without explicit dialogue, or Katie Mattila's tendency to have her scripts climax with characters literally shouting their feelings at each other), since we know that a collaborative Writer's Room was at work and no one can even remember who came up with specific lines or jokes.

Suffice it to say that I think most people would hear "brassy blind super-fighter whose size reflects her heavily shielded emotional vulnerability" or "devil-like tactical genius who fights better than everyone else but is one failure away from having her entire worldview shattered" and jump at the chance to add such elements to their story. ;D


I agree, it's convention - but this is not necessarily a bad thing. I think we, as superfans, often forget what ATLA is: an action-adventure children's cartoon. And being a children's cartoon confers certain expectations: largely self-contained episodes, slapstick humor, a simple storyline, and obvious good guys and bad guys. ATLA succeeds within these limitations because its writing, dialog, characters, setting, etc. are all put together so exceptionally well. Although episodes like "Warriors of Kyoshi" are often derided for being "boring" and "filler" and "juvenile," the fact is, they comprise the core of the show.

So when Zuko gets soaked by the Unagi, you smile and laugh because he's the bad guy getting what he deserves. Not particularly deep, but ATLA is not a sophisticated drama, and it never claimed to be one.

Good explanation, and that was kind of what I was alluding to with my original discussion point. I see the moment as something that the storytellers used to fill an expectation, rather than something that anyone thought might be genuinely amusing.


Having everyone react completely realistically - basically WTF's all around - would have marred the pacing, spoiled the action, and ruined the lighthearted mood. This is just a typical cartoon action sequence. I think it's done well enough to not ruin your suspension of disbelief.

Eh, I'm not asking for the lack of realism to be acknowledged. I agree that it would ruin the moment's function, and the acknowledgement would serve no purpose. I guess I'm saying it's like the Drenched Zuko moment, something that someone came up with because, "Shoot, we need a way to have Aang save the village using the Unagi we set up, but now that I look at the storyboards, having the thing cause a tidal wave looks liked it'd knock those buildings over instead of saving them, and we need to ship the boards to the animators today. Maybe we can just have the thing spit water over the fires, and add a scene earlier where it spits water as foreshadowing. Yeah, that sounds a lot more workable. Stupid, but workable."

And I'm not saying this to be mean. My readers might be surprised how often I've said similar things about moments in my fanfic. ;D
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: FartsOfNeil on November 11, 2016, 07:20:40 PM
Perhaps "kiddie" isn't the word I'm looking for, then. I guess it's more that it's a slapstick moment that isn't even particularly funny, it's just there because of convention. Sokka getting called our for wearing a dress has comedic timing behind it, and it's another deflation of his pride as part of what is already a well-established running gag. My complaint about Aang saving the village is that the sequence of events seems highly unlikely, and yet no one acts like it's improbable. But Zuko getting drenched is just a moment that's there, the shell of a joke that has a superficial resemblance to the moments when Zuko's pride gets deflated in a comedic manner, yet lacks any moment of punch like when he gets covered in snow by Aang's penguin-sledding or bopped in the head by Sokka's weapons. He's just drenched, visibly unhappy, and then we move on.

Unless I just don't get what kids find hilarious.

No, it was just missing the proper sound cue. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8XTpCwicwE)

Quote
Sokka: I treated you like a girl when I should have treated you like a warrior.

Seriously, am I the only who thinks that 'apology' could have used a leeettle bit more time in the ol brain oven before he brought it out?

So Suki's followup should have been, "You treat girls really sucky." :D

At the very least a long sigh followed up with a, "We'll work on that..."
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Wordbender on November 14, 2016, 08:41:09 PM
Eh, I'll rag on their storytelling abilities all day long if you let me, but I haven't heard that they "pushed really hard" for male Toph or a love triangle. Those elements were in their original plans, and they accepted suggestions to replace them with something better; that's all we know, according to the interviews and commentaries I've seen.

I remember reading somewhere that either Bryan or Mike continued to push Ehasz and the writing team to make Toph male. I'll see if I can dig it up.

Eh, I'm not asking for the lack of realism to be acknowledged. I agree that it would ruin the moment's function, and the acknowledgement would serve no purpose. I guess I'm saying it's like the Drenched Zuko moment, something that someone came up with because, "Shoot, we need a way to have Aang save the village using the Unagi we set up, but now that I look at the storyboards, having the thing cause a tidal wave looks liked it'd knock those buildings over instead of saving them, and we need to ship the boards to the animators today. Maybe we can just have the thing spit water over the fires, and add a scene earlier where it spits water as foreshadowing. Yeah, that sounds a lot more workable. Stupid, but workable."

I see. I was also thinking along the lines of, "no way would Aang survive a 30-story fall into water without even airbending a cushion of air or anything." But it's a cartoon, so I can forgive such transgressions for the story. ;)

"Stupid and dangerous?" Try "impossible" and "guaranteed death." Some thing to have the hots for, Katara!
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on November 15, 2016, 05:53:50 PM
When you put it that way, I can see why people thought she might go for Zuko. ;D
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on November 29, 2016, 06:59:21 PM
When I went to watch the next episode, I was surprised to find that we weren't at "Imprisoned" yet. :D We've come to my least favorite episode featuring my third favorite character, as my retrospective reaches The King of Omashu:

Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Wordbender on December 05, 2016, 07:16:18 PM
We've come to my least favorite episode featuring my third favorite character

I agree on the quality of the episode. It's not bad, but it's not one of the series' highlights. Just "meh."

Assuming, as we discussed last time, that the early AtLA episodes were produced with little kids as their sole audience, is the reveal of Bumi's identity supposed to be a surprise? It's foreshadowed pretty heavily, with young and old Bumi having the same distinctive pop-eyed face, the same laugh, and even the same musical cue. I mean, I'd think a kid would have to be really young not to figure this one out. And yet the reveal is portrayed as a real reveal, and not an anti-climax or "we already know the answer" moment. So, what do you all think?

I think it's more subtle than you're letting on; the age difference is so large that young and old Bumi look and sound very different in some respects. And musical cues are easy to miss. "The reveal" is easy to predict, but still feels satisfying to me. It resolves the one contradiction that prevents you from connecting young and old Bumi immediately: if this is Aang's childhood friend, why is he putting him through deadly challenges?

Can anyone here type "Pipinpadaloxicopolis" from memory? I have to Copy+Paste.

*ctrl-t* *types avatar.wikia.com* :)

So, Omashu. This is a pretty great setting, showing how the presence of Earthbending produced a city-wide utility not seen in our world. (I want a whole RPG sourcebook devoted to Omashu.) Sadly, we don't get much history for it at any point. It looks very defensible, and we see guards screening who comes in the front gate, but there's no mention of the Fire Nation's attempts to get into the city. Do you think Bumi has been fighting the war for most of his life, or is this a case of extreme caution, and the Fire Nation only came with Mai's family?

Well, we do get the Oma and Shu legend. As cool as a more thorough backstory would be, Omashu is just a small part of the larger plot, so it really wouldn't be necessary. And to me, new settings should be introduced naturally, as if they always existed; over-explaining too much sort of dulls the magic. (If that makes sense.)

Personally, I'm curious as to Bumi's legal/political relationship with the Earth King and the greater Earth Kingdom government.

I'd say Omashu was simply far from the front lines, and/or the Fire Nation didn't see it as a valuable target. Obviously something changed between here and book two.

This is also the first appearance of the Cabbage Merchant! Opinions of that running gag?

It's done pretty well here. I love his rage at Aang at the palace and the "my cabbages" line at the end. I do wish the jokes were a little more subtle in subsequent episodes. For example, in "The Waterbending Scroll," the "this place is worse than Omashu" line was unnecessary. Perhaps I would have preferred simple visual gags of cabbage carts getting destroyed.

This episode is difficult for me to evaluate, because I love Bumi's character - his humor and tricky nature and trolling of Aang and his Earthbending skill/power - but I actually don't like this story at all. Bumi never feels dangerous, Katara and Sokka never really feel like they're in danger, and as I've noted, the final reveal isn't a reveal. But Bumi is great, and this is his episode! So, what do you think? Does Bumi save everything? Do you guys not like him? Do you want to hear my Bumi impression? (It's pretty good.)

Actually, that might be the point. If Bumi ever actually put Katara, Sokka, and Aang in mortal danger, he'd have a lot explaining to do following the reveal.

My opinion of Bumi is in line with my opinion of the episode - I don't dislike him, but he's not among my favorites. Sorry! He just isn't that important. His refusal to teach Aang earthbending in book two never made sense to me, either. I get it, it's Bumi, "mad genius," "neutral chi," etc., but I was never able to accept that. In my headcanon, there were implicit reasons - Bumi feared Fire Nation retaliation against his city if he escaped, or he felt unfit to teach Aang.

The fight with Bumi is our first look at Earthbending in the series, and I don't think it disappointed at all. I always wonder, though, why every Earthbender's first move isn't to go for their opponent's feet by sinking or tripping them, but I guess not all Earthbenders are strong or quick enough to do that. How did this depiction of Earthbending strike you?

Bumi is great. It would have been cool to see his soldiers earthbend at some point (not during the fight, that wouldn't make much sense), so we can see how the "average Joe" does it. Fortunately, we get that later in book one.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: FartsOfNeil on December 05, 2016, 08:49:44 PM
It's an episode that's very noticeable and frankly kind of impressive episode in the humor it's using.  Comedy and animation have always had a very close relationship owing to a high degree of comparability with a lot of their underlying mechanics, but there are certain styles of humor that animation tends to avoid - especially kids shows - that this episode fully embraces.  It's very dry and gets damn near Python-esque at times when Bumi's on screen* and while I think in the end it didn't fully come together, I give props just for the attempt.

*This wouldn't be the only time I've spotted them doing this mind, so this wasn't a one-off experiment it seems.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on December 06, 2016, 10:22:57 PM
I think it's more subtle than you're letting on; the age difference is so large that young and old Bumi look and sound very different in some respects. And musical cues are easy to miss. "The reveal" is easy to predict, but still feels satisfying to me. It resolves the one contradiction that prevents you from connecting young and old Bumi immediately: if this is Aang's childhood friend, why is he putting him through deadly challenges?

Normally, I'd agree about the musical cue, but in this case it's pretty distinctively a carnival-style calliope, standing out from the normal synthetic orchestration.

But fair point that the mystery may be more of "What's really going on with Aang's friend?" I focused on the name thing at the end, but now that I think about it, it's only introduced where the mystery around the general situation is pretty much solved. So the reveal probably wasn't supposed to be, "It's Aang's friend!" but rather, "He was teaching Aang all along!"

Still obvious to those of us who know about Master Yoda, but it would work well enough for kids, I imagine.


Well, we do get the Oma and Shu legend. As cool as a more thorough backstory would be, Omashu is just a small part of the larger plot, so it really wouldn't be necessary. And to me, new settings should be introduced naturally, as if they always existed; over-explaining too much sort of dulls the magic. (If that makes sense.)

I agree in terms of story, but I'm the type who will buy a tie-in RPG sourcebook even if I don't intend to run the game just to get the lore. (I mean, when I buy Star Wars sourcebooks, I tell myself that I'll get back to GM'ing one of these days and the book will contribute towards whatever campaign I wind up running, but I know it's a lie. :D)


Personally, I'm curious as to Bumi's legal/political relationship with the Earth King and the greater Earth Kingdom government.

I'd say Omashu was simply far from the front lines, and/or the Fire Nation didn't see it as a valuable target. Obviously something changed between here and book two.

Yeah. This is where an Expanded Universe would really shine, IMO. Fill those gaps for those of us who want to know, but do it in terms of a story that could work on its own.


Actually, that might be the point. If Bumi ever actually put Katara, Sokka, and Aang in mortal danger, he'd have a lot explaining to do following the reveal.

True, but the narrative could have worked harder to make us worry before revealing it as a sham. ;)


My opinion of Bumi is in line with my opinion of the episode - I don't dislike him, but he's not among my favorites. Sorry! He just isn't that important. His refusal to teach Aang earthbending in book two never made sense to me, either. I get it, it's Bumi, "mad genius," "neutral chi," etc., but I was never able to accept that. In my headcanon, there were implicit reasons - Bumi feared Fire Nation retaliation against his city if he escaped, or he felt unfit to teach Aang.

I'd like to revisit this when we get to that dedicated episode, but I agree that it's a moment that feels very artificial. "I can't train you, Aang!" "Why not?" "Because I'd do such a good job of it that you'd never wind up involved in Spirit Libraries and Ba Sing Se intrigue!" "Huh?"



It's an episode that's very noticeable and frankly kind of impressive episode in the humor it's using.  Comedy and animation have always had a very close relationship owing to a high degree of comparability with a lot of their underlying mechanics, but there are certain styles of humor that animation tends to avoid - especially kids shows - that this episode fully embraces.  It's very dry and gets damn near Python-esque at times when Bumi's on screen* and while I think in the end it didn't fully come together, I give props just for the attempt.

*This wouldn't be the only time I've spotted them doing this mind, so this wasn't a one-off experiment it seems.

Agreed. There's that "dry absurdity" that I enjoy in British comedy of the Python-type stuff, not just the pratfalling stuff we saw in earlier episodes. That said, I don't think they did a bad job with the physical humor in the earth-slide sequence, either.

It's part of why I think it's a very good description to say that AtLA was "finding itself" in the early episodes. They're not bad, they're not full-on kiddie stuff like... (looks at current Nickelodeon schedule...) let's say Miraculous Ladybug, and there's no point where you could say, "This is where the grown-ups should start watching." There's subtle ambition in these early episodes, and the show quickly finds the right mix.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: longman on December 08, 2016, 10:01:02 AM
So, Omashu. This is a pretty great setting, showing how the presence of Earthbending produced a city-wide utility not seen in our world. (I want a whole RPG sourcebook devoted to Omashu.) Sadly, we don't get much history for it at any point. It looks very defensible, and we see guards screening who comes in the front gate, but there's no mention of the Fire Nation's attempts to get into the city. Do you think Bumi has been fighting the war for most of his life, or is this a case of extreme caution, and the Fire Nation only came with Mai's family?
To answer your question, there was a brief scene of an army officer addressing troops headed for the front lines, which got interrupted by gAang slide shenanigans:

(http://piandao.org/screenshots/water/water5/water5-199.jpg)
(http://piandao.org/screenshots/water/water5/water5-201.jpg)

In Book 2 there are later revelations of the proximity to General Fong's base  on the edge of the western coast which regularly received casualties from the front. OTOH, Bumi's comments about his people feasting too much suggests that Omashu has been going through a peaceful period. My conclusion is that Omashu has probably been contributing to the war effort for a long time, but has been relatively shielded from its depredations.

The past two episodes have been great in terms of worldbuilding. In the previous episode we saw a isolated village community with EK and WT influences as well as its own quirks. Here, we visit Omashu, an EK stronghold and a very impressive spectacle. The mail delivery system is a nice touch suggesting bending's contributions to this world as being more integral than just fighting skills.

This episode is difficult for me to evaluate, because I love Bumi's character - his humor and tricky nature and trolling of Aang and his Earthbending skill/power - but I actually don't like this story at all. Bumi never feels dangerous, Katara and Sokka never really feel like they're in danger, and as I've noted, the final reveal isn't a reveal. But Bumi is great, and this is his episode! So, what do you think? Does Bumi save everything? Do you guys not like him? Do you want to hear my Bumi impression? (It's pretty good.)

Bumi works as an interesting character, but this episode seems to be a collection of thrills and fun hijinks that aren't really connected and ultimately feels inconsequential in the long term. There is a sense of childish contrivance, and I'm not just referring to the humor (which is fine) or even the level of suspense, but to the lack of an underlying theme or character exploration that binds everything. Aang's tests could have been the highlight of this, but the final duel is the only one that came close. Clearly this wasn't really the point of the episode despite Bumi's final words because the visit to Omashu ended the way it started: a fun slide on the mail delivery system. Had this episode been written in the context of Book 2, Aang's challenges would have been much more meaningful.*

The fight with Bumi is our first look at Earthbending in the series, and I don't think it disappointed at all. I always wonder, though, why every Earthbender's first move isn't to go for their opponent's feet by sinking or tripping them, but I guess not all Earthbenders are strong or quick enough to do that. How did this depiction of Earthbending strike you?
I thought it was pretty cool for a first demonstration.
-Sifu Kisu's involvement in AtLA was really a stroke of genius. The Hun gar style is so well suited to the earth element that one can almost envision this being possible in real life.
- Bumi uses a variety of moves and takes advantage of the full spectrum of the environment as much as possible. There's a freedom of expression here that LoK's fights often lacked.

My opinion of Bumi is in line with my opinion of the episode - I don't dislike him, but he's not among my favorites. Sorry! He just isn't that important. His refusal to teach Aang earthbending in book two never made sense to me, either. I get it, it's Bumi, "mad genius," "neutral chi," etc., but I was never able to accept that. In my headcanon, there were implicit reasons - Bumi feared Fire Nation retaliation against his city if he escaped, or he felt unfit to teach Aang.

I'd like to revisit this when we get to that dedicated episode, but I agree that it's a moment that feels very artificial. "I can't train you, Aang!" "Why not?" "Because I'd do such a good job of it that you'd never wind up involved in Spirit Libraries and Ba Sing Se intrigue!" "Huh?"
That should be an interesting discussion, because thinking on this made me realize that I gave AtLA a pass on certain things that LoK didn't get away with. :P

Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on December 08, 2016, 07:45:09 PM
In Book 2 there are later revelations of the proximity to General Fong's base  on the edge of the western coast which regularly received casualties from the front. OTOH, Bumi's comments about his people feasting too much suggests that Omashu has been going through a peaceful period. My conclusion is that Omashu has probably been contributing to the war effort for a long time, but has been relatively shielded from its depredations.

What's your source for Omashu being near Fong's base? Going by the old Nick site, I'd say that in terms of horizontal distance, Omashu is as close to the centerpoint of the whole Earth Kingdom as it is to Fong's base. So, if Fong's base is the starting point of a journey across the EK, then Omashu would be the 25% point.


The past two episodes have been great in terms of worldbuilding. In the previous episode we saw a isolated village community with EK and WT influences as well as its own quirks. Here, we visit Omashu, an EK stronghold and a very impressive spectacle. The mail delivery system is a nice touch suggesting bending's contributions to this world as being more integral than just fighting skills.

Yeah, the episode itself attempts to point out the sudden increase in scale with Sokka's line, "They have buildings here that don't melt!" We're going to have to assume that the wooden structures on Kyoshi Island didn't count for some reason. :P But I can accept him seeing the buildings made of earth as more akin to the ice buildings back home than something made of wood.


Bumi works as an interesting character, but this episode seems to be a collection of thrills and fun hijinks that aren't really connected and ultimately feels inconsequential in the long term. There is a sense of childish contrivance, and I'm not just referring to the humor (which is fine) or even the level of suspense, but to the lack of an underlying theme or character exploration that binds everything. Aang's tests could have been the highlight of this, but the final duel is the only one that came close. Clearly this wasn't really the point of the episode despite Bumi's final words because the visit to Omashu ended the way it started: a fun slide on the mail delivery system. Had this episode been written in the context of Book 2, Aang's challenges would have been much more meaningful.*

Very good point. The tests really just proved that Aang was already capable of thinking sideways, and didn't have anything to do with the specific challenges he'd be facing during his adventures.


I thought it was pretty cool for a first demonstration.
-Sifu Kisu's involvement in AtLA was really a stroke of genius. The Hun gar style is so well suited to the earth element that one can almost envision this being possible in real life.
- Bumi uses a variety of moves and takes advantage of the full spectrum of the environment as much as possible. There's a freedom of expression here that LoK's fights often lacked.

Yeah, I think Kisu's value is most felt in how notable his absence from LoK proved to be.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Wordbender on December 11, 2016, 03:07:33 AM
Bumi works as an interesting character, but this episode seems to be a collection of thrills and fun hijinks that aren't really connected and ultimately feels inconsequential in the long term. There is a sense of childish contrivance, and I'm not just referring to the humor (which is fine) or even the level of suspense, but to the lack of an underlying theme or character exploration that binds everything. Aang's tests could have been the highlight of this, but the final duel is the only one that came close. Clearly this wasn't really the point of the episode despite Bumi's final words because the visit to Omashu ended the way it started: a fun slide on the mail delivery system. Had this episode been written in the context of Book 2, Aang's challenges would have been much more meaningful.*

Very good point. The tests really just proved that Aang was already capable of thinking sideways, and didn't have anything to do with the specific challenges he'd be facing during his adventures.

To me, it also shows that Aang is starting to take his Avatar duties seriously. Kinda like his realization that he is indeed the last airbender in "The Southern Air Temple," though much less dramatic.

Also, the show is still very much in "serial cartoon" mode, so the writers are still keeping the stories standalone and only loosely connected.

That's an interesting thought - what if this episode had been held until Book Two, and we'd gotten an introduction to Bumi and his refusal to teach Aang simultaneously? I think it would have made Bumi's challenges more meaningful, as longman suggested, and would have also made "Return to Omashu" a stronger episode. I have some slight disappointments with its writing and plotting, which I will elaborate on when we get there. ;)
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on December 13, 2016, 10:54:13 PM
That's an interesting thought - what if this episode had been held until Book Two, and we'd gotten an introduction to Bumi and his refusal to teach Aang simultaneously? I think it would have made Bumi's challenges more meaningful, as longman suggested, and would have also made "Return to Omashu" a stronger episode. I have some slight disappointments with its writing and plotting, which I will elaborate on when we get there. ;)

Ooh, I'm looking forward to that! Considering that the real point of the episode was introducing Azula's Lackies, there's a lot to play with in the whole Omashu arc, so it should be a fun episode to rewrite.



However, before that, we have to get through the introduction and primary appearance of the most boring character in the franchise! Let's meet Haru and let Katara take the lead in Imprisoned:

Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: longman on December 14, 2016, 02:13:15 PM
What's your source for Omashu being near Fong's base? Going by the old Nick site, I'd say that in terms of horizontal distance, Omashu is as close to the centerpoint of the whole Earth Kingdom as it is to Fong's base. So, if Fong's base is the starting point of a journey across the EK, then Omashu would be the 25% point.

I have not seen the info from the Nick site, but I've looked at these in the past and I think they make sense. They are identical, but the one from the avatar wiki site requires a legend to read.

http://media.moddb.com/images/groups/1/19/18020/Avatar_-_map.jpg
http://vignette1.wikia.nocookie.net/avatar/images/5/5a/Map_of_the_Avatar_World.jpg/revision/20080816103243

Fong's base is right on the coast, and from there the gAang got to Omashu fairly quickly - and mostly on foot. They also travelled between Omashu and Kyoshi Island in generally the same amount of time that they did in Book 1. Alternatively, if the gAang just left Kyoshi Island off the EK southwestern coast and are generally heading northwards in Book 1, they probably wouldn't be too far inland unless the continent opened westwards above Kyoshi.

Admittedly I'm making a few assumptions, but this aspect of the worldbuilding was not AtLA's strong suit.

Quote
Very good point. The tests really just proved that Aang was already capable of thinking sideways, and didn't have anything to do with the specific challenges he'd be facing during his adventures.

I'd say it's more like the tests weren't shown to have relevance to Aang's specific needs and experiences - from either our perspective or Bumi's. They did not even have apparent relevance to Aang's antecedents in the episode itself. Bumi's treatment of the gAang could have been his quirky way of punishing juvenile delinquents, but instead he's just "messing with people". The tests were actually quite innovative in their design and could have been very interesting symbolically. For example, Flopsie could have been a metaphor for Zuko's significance; admittedly this is probably premature and too 'deep' at this stage in the series run.

Finally, on the subject of things to discuss for Return to Omashu, can we add the nature of the Bumi's character, and why/how it worked? I find that as a comic relief character he works in a way that LoK Bumi failed.



Episode 106, Imprisoned

So. Haru. Don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with the character at all. His daddy-issues and concern with legacy fit right in with the rest of the characters and themes, and he provides our second look at Earthbending. I even like his friendship with Katara. But when it comes down to it, there's a reason we only remember this guy for the mustache memes. I even think his parents are more memorable if just for their performances, and they're stock characters as well. He's just bland in a series with so much vividness. But am I wrong? Is there more to him than I'm seeing now? Have my failed attempts to write him into fanfics biased me against him?
Question is, does Haru need to be memorable? I'm not sure. Haru and his family are stock characters who function as a window into a FN-occupied territory. As such perhaps the real substance is in the worldbuilding, which is again pretty good.*

You are right about the parents being more memorable in their performances, and perhaps the reason is just that - their performances. Despite sharing just about the same level of pain, the parents convey theirs more effectively. Perhaps this has to do with Haru's voice actor - generally his lines didn't have much emotional range. Heck, his mother had far less lines , but in one silent tearful moment spoke more potently - granted Katara's reaction also helped. Speaking of which...


I think the scene where Katara looks at Haru's mother and finds out that he's been arrested is really well done, especially because it eschewed dialogue at first.
Indeed. There was a precursor to this at the end of The Southern Air Temple, where Aang looks on quietly as his former, now deserted home vanishes into the clouds, never to be seen again. This was the first indication for me that this was perhaps much more than a cute kids show, and that I should take it more seriously. This is also the kind of moment that the  sequel LoK eschewed for more action and redundant/tin-eared dialogue.

This is also a big episode for Katara, letting her be the main protagonist. Those who don't like her character often cite this episode, but I feel like this is where the story finally showcases her planned flaws, even as it celebrates her character. She scares Haru away with her forwardness, pushes him until he gets arrested, and then fails to save him until Aang and Sokka help out. Yes, her optimism and Hope provided the spark that ignited the rebellion, but the story shows that Hope ain't going to accomplish much without more practical foundations. Do you guys think this wound up balanced, or was the story too forgiving of her obnoxiousness?
This was the more balanced story, mostly because here it is crystal clear that hopeful optimism alone is insufficient, and practical options must be considered. Nevertheless the consistent trait still remains, which is that Katara herself doesn't acknowledge her flaws, doesn't have to change perspective, gets her own way eventually, and is commended by the narrative in the end. What was it that Haru said to Katara at the end? "It wasn't the coal Katara, it was you." Exactly.

This is also the episode where I began really enjoying Sokka in my initial watch, but where I also got his character really wrong. I amused myself by imagining that while Katara was doing her Hope Speech thing, Sokka hunted down and murdered the old man who turned in Haru. The show was kind of Kiddie for me, at this point, but I knew it got better, so this was just a bit of fun headcanoning for me. However, I think later episodes make this out-of-character.
This is possibly the first episode since the premiere where Sokka is not just a comic-relief tag-along and contributes substantially to the other characters and the plot. First he forages for food for the gAang, then convinces them to leave town after the FN's presence becomes known, then pulls out his first Idea Guy moments when Katara's stubborn idealism changes plans.  Furthermore, this episode is notable for clearly showing us how the gAang work things amongst themselves: Katara is the Will to Sokka's Way, and Aang the Avatar swings between the two poles.

Speaking of the old man, what do you guys think of that? A good look at the moral grays that emerge among the victims of this kind of occupation, or a hackneyed plot device?
I'll have to say it's in between, since nothing at all came out of that revelation. My headcanon is that the old man was gibbeted by the returning victorious earthbenders.  :o (Tyro apparently  drowned the prison officers; so why would he spare a traitor?)

George Takei is the bad guy! He was fun, but was he wasted in the hammy warden? Should he have been Zhao?
I think Zhao was well cast, but George Takei's performance really deserved a recurring role.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: FartsOfNeil on December 15, 2016, 09:48:43 PM
Speaking of the old man, what do you guys think of that? A good look at the moral grays that emerge among the victims of this kind of occupation, or a hackneyed plot device?

In-episode, it was a straight hack.  LIke, the guy shows up, gets saved, then tattles and that's it.  There's no context given to his behavior, so while yes, it establishes that there are moral greys, it doesn't bother to explore why, significantly undercutting that particular point.  That said, I understand there's an issue of efficiency to consider.  They only got 22 minutes to work with and it's an episode where they're going to be changing to a completely new location that they'll need to spend time establishing for the audience.   They can't waste it one this one side thing and while I think there were options that would have at least given the concept more texture behind it, I'll give 'em a certain amount of props for just bringing it up.

George Takei is the bad guy! He was fun, but was he wasted in the hammy warden? Should he have been Zhao?

He saved this episode for me.  His performance was...tres magnifique!

(http://i1.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/masonry/001/114/369/761.gif)

But that character of the warden as Zhoa would absolutely have not worked for the tone of the show.  That being said, George's voice has a presence that I think would have served a more dramatic role like Zhoa's reeeeally well and I have no doubt the guy has the chops to pull it off.  Also, not to get too tumblr, but it would have been nice to have a little more uh...'color' in the main cast considering this is supposed to be a world where white people don't exist.

(http://i1.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/list/001/038/940/eb3.jpg)[/list]
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on December 16, 2016, 07:33:48 PM
I have not seen the info from the Nick site, but I've looked at these in the past and I think they make sense. They are identical, but the one from the avatar wiki site requires a legend to read.

http://media.moddb.com/images/groups/1/19/18020/Avatar_-_map.jpg
http://vignette1.wikia.nocookie.net/avatar/images/5/5a/Map_of_the_Avatar_World.jpg/revision/20080816103243

Fong's base is right on the coast, and from there the gAang got to Omashu fairly quickly - and mostly on foot. They also travelled between Omashu and Kyoshi Island in generally the same amount of time that they did in Book 1. Alternatively, if the gAang just left Kyoshi Island off the EK southwestern coast and are generally heading northwards in Book 1, they probably wouldn't be too far inland unless the continent opened westwards above Kyoshi.

My problem with this logic is the assumption that the gAang traveled to Omashu mostly by foot. I don't think that's necessarily true. We know they had to do the last stretch on foot, underground, due to heavy Fire Nation defenses (a nice clue that Omashu had fallen), but otherwise we song them leave Fong's base on Appa, and there's no reason to think they didn't keep flying for a good while.

Appa's airspeed is pretty much a cheat as far as the cartoon's timeline is concerned, with the finale establishing that Appa can fly from Ember Island to Ba Sing Se in three days, and only that slow because they were following June on her land-based shirshu!

Looking at those maps, I still see Omashu and Fong's base as being far enough apart that they could very well be experiencing different war-fronts.


Finally, on the subject of things to discuss for Return to Omashu, can we add the nature of the Bumi's character, and why/how it worked? I find that as a comic relief character he works in a way that LoK Bumi failed.

Well, I actually kind of liked LoK Bumi. He had moments where he amused me, and I really got into Book Spirit's implication that he really did experience and survive (a version of) the wild stories he liked to tell. Really, aside from Bolin, LoK's humor worked better than AtLA's did for me.

And I think there are enough essays on why Bolin was such a failure as comic relief that we don't need to bring it in here until it's more relevant. (I predict it coming up as we see Sokka become more silly in later books.)



Question is, does Haru need to be memorable? I'm not sure. Haru and his family are stock characters who function as a window into a FN-occupied territory. As such perhaps the real substance is in the worldbuilding, which is again pretty good.*

You are right about the parents being more memorable in their performances, and perhaps the reason is just that - their performances. Despite sharing just about the same level of pain, the parents convey theirs more effectively. Perhaps this has to do with Haru's voice actor - generally his lines didn't have much emotional range. Heck, his mother had far less lines , but in one silent tearful moment spoke more potently - granted Katara's reaction also helped. Speaking of which...

Well, I'm once again comparing to Suki and Jet, who captured fan-attention to the point that they were brought back despite no prior plans. Plus, Haru stands out to me because I've attempted to write him in fanfic, and utterly failed; he either sucked all life out of the writing, or else I had to write him humorously out of character as a jerk-jock type obsessed with Katara. I can even write Teo, another character who returned only as part of the Second String group.


Indeed. There was a precursor to this at the end of The Southern Air Temple, where Aang looks on quietly as his former, now deserted home vanishes into the clouds, never to be seen again. This was the first indication for me that this was perhaps much more than a cute kids show, and that I should take it more seriously. This is also the kind of moment that the  sequel LoK eschewed for more action and redundant/tin-eared dialogue.

Good point. That was another good scene, but I didn't note it because a silent final scene didn't strike me as that unusual. That's my Star Wars fandom affecting me, I guess. :D


This was the more balanced story, mostly because here it is crystal clear that hopeful optimism alone is insufficient, and practical options must be considered. Nevertheless the consistent trait still remains, which is that Katara herself doesn't acknowledge her flaws, doesn't have to change perspective, gets her own way eventually, and is commended by the narrative in the end. What was it that Haru said to Katara at the end? "It wasn't the coal Katara, it was you." Exactly.

Good summary!


This is possibly the first episode since the premiere where Sokka is not just a comic-relief tag-along and contributes substantially to the other characters and the plot. First he forages for food for the gAang, then convinces them to leave town after the FN's presence becomes known, then pulls out his first Idea Guy moments when Katara's stubborn idealism changes plans.  Furthermore, this episode is notable for clearly showing us how the gAang work things amongst themselves: Katara is the Will to Sokka's Way, and Aang the Avatar swings between the two poles.

"Substantially" is subjective, as I noted he got Appa to fly in the premiere episodes. ;) But you're right that this is where we first see the dynamic of the Central Trinity at work.




I'll have to say it's in between, since nothing at all came out of that revelation. My headcanon is that the old man was gibbeted by the returning victorious earthbenders.  :o (Tyro apparently  drowned the prison officers; so why would he spare a traitor?)
In-episode, it was a straight hack.  LIke, the guy shows up, gets saved, then tattles and that's it.  There's no context given to his behavior, so while yes, it establishes that there are moral greys, it doesn't bother to explore why, significantly undercutting that particular point.  That said, I understand there's an issue of efficiency to consider.  They only got 22 minutes to work with and it's an episode where they're going to be changing to a completely new location that they'll need to spend time establishing for the audience.   They can't waste it one this one side thing and while I think there were options that would have at least given the concept more texture behind it, I'll give 'em a certain amount of props for just bringing it up.

You guys make similar points, which makes me wonder: was the version in M Nighty's movie, the one who got Ong captured at the Air Temple, a better implementation? :P


But that character of the warden as Zhoa would absolutely have not worked for the tone of the show.  That being said, George's voice has a presence that I think would have served a more dramatic role like Zhoa's reeeeally well and I have no doubt the guy has the chops to pull it off.  Also, not to get too tumblr, but it would have been nice to have a little more uh...'color' in the main cast considering this is supposed to be a world where white people don't exist.

Oh, definitely agreed that the Goofball Warden couldn't have been Zhao. But it's always struck me as odd that George Takei was used for just a one-shot Goofball Warden.

Interesting point about the cast's racial make-up, but that would have left the entire Fire Nation cast from Book Water as being of Asian descent, while the good guys are all voiced by white people. Shades of M Nighty, once again! :D
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: FartsOfNeil on December 16, 2016, 10:23:14 PM
Mark Hamill's asian?
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Wordbender on December 17, 2016, 06:35:25 AM
Oh boy, now I get to reply to all of you. :D



The opening scene, where Momo plays with the pebble and thinks he's causing earthquakes, made me think that when combined with the "Earthbending Lemur!" moment, he might actually steal this episode from the more human characters. He also paired with Sokka to steal spear-tips in the final battle. How great is Momo in this episode?

Another scene I appreciated was Momo overlooking the Earth village during its establishing shot. I can't say he stole the episode, but his moments were humorous, well-placed, and not at all gimmicky as in lesser cartoons with "cute" animals.

So. Haru. Don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with the character at all. His daddy-issues and concern with legacy fit right in with the rest of the characters and themes, and he provides our second look at Earthbending. I even like his friendship with Katara. But when it comes down to it, there's a reason we only remember this guy for the mustache memes. I even think his parents are more memorable if just for their performances, and they're stock characters as well. He's just bland in a series with so much vividness. But am I wrong? Is there more to him than I'm seeing now? Have my failed attempts to write him into fanfics biased me against him?

I think your assessment is correct. Haru is, on the outset, an ordinary stock character. He is, however, a compelling one in that his insecurity surrounding his earthbending mirrors Katara's initial insecurity over her waterbending. This also explains the friendship between the two characters more substantially, I hope, than shipping logic.

It does not help that Haru is a one-off character until a surprise reprisal in Book Three; he doesn't get nearly the amount of development that other recurring characters, such as Jet, get. To me, his voice acting also comes across as slightly flat.

This is also a big episode for Katara, letting her be the main protagonist. Those who don't like her character often cite this episode, but I feel like this is where the story finally showcases her planned flaws, even as it celebrates her character. She scares Haru away with her forwardness, pushes him until he gets arrested, and then fails to save him until Aang and Sokka help out. Yes, her optimism and Hope provided the spark that ignited the rebellion, but the story shows that Hope ain't going to accomplish much without more practical foundations. Do you guys think this wound up balanced, or was the story too forgiving of her obnoxiousness?

Your summary is good, and I think the story was well balanced between Katara as a flawed character and Katara as a source of hope. But I do disagree with your characterization of her flaws as "obnoxious." See my response to longman, below...

This is also the episode where I began really enjoying Sokka in my initial watch, but where I also got his character really wrong. I amused myself by imagining that while Katara was doing her Hope Speech thing, Sokka hunted down and murdered the old man who turned in Haru. The show was kind of Kiddie for me, at this point, but I knew it got better, so this was just a bit of fun headcanoning for me. However, I think later episodes make this out-of-character.

Yes. ;) Sokka may be cold and pragmatic at times, but in a lighthearted way; he always backs up Aang and Katara's idealism when push comes to shove. I enjoyed Sokka's character from the first episodes because I found him grounded and believable. He may not like what Aang and Katara have in mind, but he'll always figure out how to get it done. There's much more complexity to his character beyond "the jokes guy" and "the ideas guy." (Thanks, Book Three.)

Speaking of the old man, what do you guys think of that? A good look at the moral grays that emerge among the victims of this kind of occupation, or a hackneyed plot device?

My answer is somewhere in between. It wasn't a deep look, but it sufficed for the purposes of the show. We already know the village is under Fire Nation occupation and there are very strong incentives for its residents to be complicit, so the old man's betrayal is realistic. Elaborating on that motivation would have been unnecessary and detracted from the other stars. They didn't need to explain those moral grays, just acknowledge them.

Betrothal necklace sighting! This episode introduced the necklace, before we knew what it was, and revealed what happened to Katara and Sokka's unnamed (at this point) mom. Then the necklace shows up in Zuko's hands at the end, in his big return after last being scene having some shirtless fun with Zhao. Was this a big deal, back in the day when this stuff was first airing? I only saw AtLA in a binge after seeing a couple of random Book 2/3 episodes, so I already had a clue what it was about, but did people at the time see the series as kicking into high gear here?

Unfortunately, I can't say; by the time I saw this show, it was in syndication and I got all the episodes out of order.

I think the scene where Katara looks at Haru's mother and finds out that he's been arrested is really well done, especially because it eschewed dialogue at first.

Absolutely, one of the highlights of the episode. The soundtrack is also really well done here.

We discussed the humor in the last episode, and I think this episode is the first where the humor worked for me. As I mentioned, I like the gags around Momo, and Katara and Sokka's acting really amused me as well. And the "act natural" freeze frame where Aang ends up smacking his face into the barrel made me laugh out loud. Did it all work as well for you, and/or do you see this as part of a progression?

The humor is as solid as any other early ATLA episode, but there were no moments that stood out to me. Personally, I'm a sucker for cleverness, and I have a greater appreciation for subtle jokes that make me grin as opposed to those that make me "laugh out loud." ;)

George Takei is the bad guy! He was fun, but was he wasted in the hammy warden? Should he have been Zhao?

I identify a certain bombast and pompousness in the warden's character that perfectly fits Takei's voice acting, but wouldn't work well in Zhao, who, as previously discussed, is supposed to be the big and competent threat. :)



This was the more balanced story, mostly because here it is crystal clear that hopeful optimism alone is insufficient, and practical options must be considered. Nevertheless the consistent trait still remains, which is that Katara herself doesn't acknowledge her flaws, doesn't have to change perspective, gets her own way eventually, and is commended by the narrative in the end. What was it that Haru said to Katara at the end? "It wasn't the coal Katara, it was you." Exactly.

That "consistent trait" is a perceived issue with Katara's character that her detractors often harp about. I feel it is unjustified; Katara's will is rightly called "the heart of the show" and usually intersects with the narrative and authorial intent. In this case, the earthbenders are taught to believe in themselves and regain their will to fight the Fire Nation. Is that not deserving of commendation? Could the writers have written a children's cartoon any other way?

By accident, the show's narrative is conflated with a "Mary Sue" perception of Katara. However, she goes through plenty of struggles in this episode that Loopy has already observed. Also, Katara explicitly acknowledges that it was her fault Haru was imprisoned. Her subsequent drive to free Haru and the captured earthbenders is a consequence of that recognition, not of Katara being a flawless character to whom everything comes without difficulty. And by that look she gives Aang and Sokka while being captured by the Fire Nation, she also acknowledges the gravity of her decision.

(Now is a good time to disclose - Katara is my favorite character. :D )

This is possibly the first episode since the premiere where Sokka is not just a comic-relief tag-along and contributes substantially to the other characters and the plot. First he forages for food for the gAang, then convinces them to leave town after the FN's presence becomes known, then pulls out his first Idea Guy moments when Katara's stubborn idealism changes plans.  Furthermore, this episode is notable for clearly showing us how the gAang work things amongst themselves: Katara is the Will to Sokka's Way, and Aang the Avatar swings between the two poles.

Again, besides comic relief, he had some great moments in "The Southern Air Temple," too. I'm thinking of lines like,


Maybe he didn't contribute that substantially to the plot, but the writers were doing a lot more with his character than just cracking jokes.



In-episode, it was a straight hack.  LIke, the guy shows up, gets saved, then tattles and that's it.  There's no context given to his behavior, so while yes, it establishes that there are moral greys, it doesn't bother to explore why, significantly undercutting that particular point.  That said, I understand there's an issue of efficiency to consider.  They only got 22 minutes to work with and it's an episode where they're going to be changing to a completely new location that they'll need to spend time establishing for the audience.   They can't waste it one this one side thing and while I think there were options that would have at least given the concept more texture behind it, I'll give 'em a certain amount of props for just bringing it up.

I argue it was explained, though indirectly. When Katara talks to Haru's father, he says the earthbenders aren't willing to fight because "people's lives are at stake here." He has a point; why start a hopeless rebellion that would only leave them worse off? This same theme is visible in the actions of the old man. Falling in line with the Fire Nation occupiers is just the rational thing to do.

Also, not to get too tumblr, but it would have been nice to have a little more uh...'color' in the main cast considering this is supposed to be a world where white people don't exist.

Eh, pick the best actor/actress that sounds best for the role IMO. Voice has no correlation with skin color.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on December 17, 2016, 02:56:32 PM
Mark Hamill's asian?

I was counting the major characters. I have no idea if the one-line generals in the War Room flashback are Asian performers, either. :P



I think your assessment is correct. Haru is, on the outset, an ordinary stock character. He is, however, a compelling one in that his insecurity surrounding his earthbending mirrors Katara's initial insecurity over her waterbending. This also explains the friendship between the two characters more substantially, I hope, than shipping logic.

Yeah, I glossed over the Bending connection, but it works well without being a blatant copy. It also helps support the idea of Bending as a part of culture as Katara explained in the series opening, rather than just the magic superpowers that Sokka (and presumably what the Mike and the Bryan anticipated  to be the less insightful viewers) reduced it to.

As far as boring one-shot characters go, I prefer to crackship Katara with Teo. ;D


Unfortunately, I can't say; by the time I saw this show, it was in syndication and I got all the episodes out of order.

Yeah, my brother was stuck with out-of-order viewing, as well. Imagine hearing the hype around Zuko Alone but never finding it in reruns! I couldn't even find him a good online version for a little while.

Absolutely, one of the highlights of the episode. The soundtrack is also really well done here.

I love instrumental music and soundtracks, but I lack any ability to analyze it in an intelligent way. So if anyone wants to do a write-up on the Track Team's greatness, feel free; you won't be stepping on my toes.


By accident, the show's narrative is conflated with a "Mary Sue" perception of Katara. However, she goes through plenty of struggles in this episode that Loopy has already observed. Also, Katara explicitly acknowledges that it was her fault Haru was imprisoned. Her subsequent drive to free Haru and the captured earthbenders is a consequence of that recognition, not of Katara being a flawless character to whom everything comes without difficulty. And by that look she gives Aang and Sokka while being captured by the Fire Nation, she also acknowledges the gravity of her decision.

(Now is a good time to disclose - Katara is my favorite character. :D )

Ugh, "Mary Sue." I think the term had a use to describe the original 'narrative-hijacking self-insert' phenomenon, but at this point it's lost all meaning on the internet. I think the narrative can be a bit too forgiving with Katara at times (I anticipate a fun discussion when we get to The Waterbending Scroll), but the AtLA fandom's Katara-hatedom taught me a lot about some of the prejudices alive out there.


Eh, pick the best actor/actress that sounds best for the role IMO. Voice has no correlation with skin color.

I think it's a bit of a gray area, but the true big win is having the character themselves providing the diverse representation. That's what the kids see.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: FartsOfNeil on December 19, 2016, 08:03:21 PM
Eh, pick the best actor/actress that sounds best for the role IMO. Voice has no correlation with skin color.

Which is easy to say as theory, but when put in practice, you get Season 3 Iroh.  Once again...

(http://t05.deviantart.net/NrB_Ds0si5oXT5CXbM8DMZjsBCM=/fit-in/700x350/filters:fixed_height(100,100):origin()/pre13/472e/th/pre/f/2011/041/4/4/445df28a79f38376a016cbb233594f25-d399xn4.jpg)
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Wordbender on December 19, 2016, 09:17:53 PM
Eh, pick the best actor/actress that sounds best for the role IMO. Voice has no correlation with skin color.

Which is easy to say as theory, but when put in practice, you get Season 3 Iroh.  Once again...

(just saiyan)

Look, this is a legitimate concern, but you're taking Iroh's case out of context. According to the wikia (http://avatar.wikia.com/wiki/Greg_Baldwin#Trivia), Greg Baldwin was Mako's understudy, so he was able to reproduce his voice very accurately. Thus, he was the best choice to voice Iroh, and surely the best way to honor Mako.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: FartsOfNeil on December 19, 2016, 11:32:45 PM
He was the best choice yes.  I'm not arguing that.  Fact remains he was doing an imitation and it sounded like one.  That he was the most convincing they'd ever be able to logically get isn't the same as actually being convincing.  Make of that as you will.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on December 29, 2016, 11:44:05 PM
I'm going to guess that Wordbender meant "sounds best" in the manner of "pleasing to the ear," which would include Acting performance and stuff.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on January 06, 2017, 08:02:28 PM
So, after celebrating a religious holiday that's essentially a hijacking of a pagan solstice celebration, I'm back with my retrospective of the first part of the 'Winter Solstice' saga, The Spirit World:


Also, let me know if I'm hitting too many points with these things. I can break them up and post a few every other day or something if that would be better.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: NeeNee on January 11, 2017, 05:52:09 PM
  • We never do find out why the Fire Nation burned down that forest. It could have been part of an epic battle or just for the lulz, and as far as I've been able to tell, there's no hints in the cartoon. Yeah, it's just a plot device, but I like the feeling that the war and everything is happening elsewhere, and the gAang is really operating on the edges of it until they become the main event by dint of everyone else losing. Do you guys agree, or would you have liked the gAang to join with the main thrust of the conflict, at least for a little while?
Nah. General Whatshisname tried to force Aang into the Avatar State so he could go and join the frontlines, and we saw how well that worked out. I think it's pretty sensible of them to try and avoid facing the Fire Nation head on until Aang has learnt waterbending, and preferably the other elements too.

Quote
  • Anyone know if a forest fire would really leave acorns behind?
You wouldn't find the ground littered with them like in the cartoon, but apparently acorns buried under a layer of leaves can survive forest fires, and they might actually have a better chance at sprouting afterwards than they would without the fire.
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/257197736_Acorn_viability_following_prescribed_fire_in_upland_hardwood_forests

Quote
  • So how, exactly, did Aang end up in the Spirit World? It's not all that coincidental, since I guess the idea is that Spirity things are more likely to happen around the Solstice, so Hei Bai shows up and Roku needs to talk to Aang and Aang gets knocked out of his body, but it does all work out rather conveniently, doesn't it?
Indeed, it's a bit all too convenient. I always sort of assumed that Aang ending up in the Spirit World was somehow Roku's doing ('What? Your forest burnt down and now you want revenge? Well, how about dragging some people into the Spirit World? I hear it works great!' That should get the boy's attention), since we know he wanted to talk to him.

Quote
  • Speaking of the Spirit World, Aang explicitly says, "I'm in the Spirit World!" But he's kind of not? He's in our world, and his spirit just got separated from his body. Do you think intentions changed, or was this just an over-simplification to help introduce people to the whole magic system at work here?
Isn't that what being in the Spirit World means? Even Korra did it that way, until someone pointed out there was a front door.

I don't think Aang was aware of another possibility existing.

Quote
  • And we get to meet Fang (although he's not named in this episode)! But it occurred to me, is that really Fang? Implications about the afterlife in the Avatar universe are few and far between, but LoK portrayed Iroh as choosing to ghost out of his body just before his death so that he could go to the Spirit World as an alternative to death. So did Fang do the same thing in the moment between wrapping around Roku and the lava overtaking them? Do animals go to a different place than humans? Do animal Avatar companions just go with their respective Avatars? Or is 'Fang' here just a manifestation of Roku's spirit in some way? Were we ever meant to think about any of this?
... I'm still trying to figure out how Avatars can die and still reincarnate. Is Roku even dead?

Quote
  • In any event, after Fang sets up the plot for the next episode, Aang gets back into his body and figures out how to fix Hei Bai. What do you guys think of the showing of the acorn? Was it inadequate comfort? Too corny? Personally, I think it works because it's a moment of shared empathy, where Aang was identifying with Hei Bai through shared feelings, and kind of promising that the forest would grow back because Aang was going to fix the root problem of the Fire Nation.
I think so too. I seemed kind of sudden, but not Deus Ex Machina sudden, more like thinking-out-of-the-box sudden.

I was way more satisfying than beating the crap out of Hei Bai till he surrendered, that's for sure.

Quote
  • The forest was totally turned into a parking lot by Korra's time, wasn't it?
You had to ruin it, didn't you.

Quote
  • And then of course we have our subplot with Zuko and Iroh. There's not a whole lot to it, but it does do some very critical things - it establishes Iroh as an accomplished individual and shows his cleverness in action, sets up Ba Sing Se as important both in the war and to the main characters personally, and shows Zuko actually choosing Iroh over chasing Aang. It really does help this episode feel important, showing character growth for our "villains" even as Aang is taking some major steps in his "lot to learn" journey. Were you guys as impressed by it, or was naked Iroh just too much to handle?
I didn't care that much about Iroh's cleverness, but this is one of the episodes that convinced me that Zuko wasn't such a bad kid (along with The Storm and... something). Which in turn changed the way I look at the characters, so yeah.

Btw, the villagers totally murdered those soldiers, didn't they? I didn't catch that until I rewatched the episode years later.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on January 11, 2017, 06:39:10 PM
Nah. General Whatshisname tried to force Aang into the Avatar State so he could go and join the frontlines, and we saw how well that worked out. I think it's pretty sensible of them to try and avoid facing the Fire Nation head on until Aang has learnt waterbending, and preferably the other elements too.

Yeah, it definitely makes sense for the characters (although I could see Sokka arguing in favor of it at some point), but I was thinking more from the meta level, whether the narrative should have dragged the characters up to the frontlines.

Personally, I'd fine avoiding the main war. I wouldn't mind a military-focused spin-off story at some point just to explore how it would work in a Bending world, but the rest of the story is very much Heroic Adventure and that wouldn't have been served well by getting tied to a campaign narrative.


Indeed, it's a bit all too convenient. I always sort of assumed that Aang ending up in the Spirit World was somehow Roku's doing ('What? Your forest burnt down and now you want revenge? Well, how about dragging some people into the Spirit World? I hear it works great!' That should get the boy's attention), since we know he wanted to talk to him.
... I'm still trying to figure out how Avatars can die and still reincarnate. Is Roku even dead?

Now there's a question I hadn't thought about before. :D I'm not sure. I'm not even sure he's distinct from Aang; all of Aang's encounters with Roku could be living metaphors for talking to himself, or Roku could be a distinct entity wandering the Spirit World with an ability to impact reality.

I need this detailed in a spin-off, and I need an author with a deep understanding of Buddhism to do it.


Btw, the villagers totally murdered those soldiers, didn't they? I didn't catch that until I rewatched the episode years later.

Which soldiers? The ones who captured Iroh? I wasn't under the impression that they'd so anything but sleep off their beating and then slump back home to Ba Sing Se.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Wordbender on January 14, 2017, 03:22:57 AM
I like how pleasantly off-model the main characters are. Or am I just crazy for seeing a slight difference in the way they're drawn?

You're not; their designs tend to change between different episodes, and sometimes between different shots.

Even the marketing material seems confused. There's the soft style that resembles the show,

[ You must login or register to view this spoiler! ]

and the more vivid, comic-like style that also seems to have influenced the ATLA video games.

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We never do find out why the Fire Nation burned down that forest. It could have been part of an epic battle or just for the lulz, and as far as I've been able to tell, there's no hints in the cartoon. Yeah, it's just a plot device, but I like the feeling that the war and everything is happening elsewhere, and the gAang is really operating on the edges of it until they become the main event by dint of everyone else losing. Do you guys agree, or would you have liked the gAang to join with the main thrust of the conflict, at least for a little while?

I think keeping the kids away from the main conflict was a good choice. It places the focus on them, not the war, and maintains the lighthearted atmosphere of the show. But through evidence like the forest fire and through the perspectives of Iroh and Zuko, we also get appropriate glimpses of the wider conflict.

Anyone know if a forest fire would really leave acorns behind?

Yes, acorns can survive fires. (https://www.fs.fed.us/ne/newtown_square/publications/research_papers/pdfs/scanned/OCR/ne_rp678.pdf) In fact, forest fires are routine events and are sometimes set off intentionally to rebalance ecosystems. Surely this wasn't Hei Bai's first, so I wonder why he was so upset? Maybe the damage was so great that he thought the forest would never recover? Maybe he hated its misuse for war? Ah well, it's a cartoon.

I also like how the old man calls Aang "the Avatar child." It might seem incidental, but it sounds to me like something someone would say after hearing rumors. It's dialogue crafting like this that really makes me love AtLA. I also love the awkward moment when meeting the town's leader where Aang breaks the silence by getting all 'So do you have a side-quest for me or not?'

Exactly. The real star in this show is often the dialog. :)

Sokka immediately accepts the idea of a giant spirit monster attacking, with no skepticism or speculation that it was really Old Man Withers in a mask. Of course, he's pessimistic about their chances of surviving, but when it looks like Aang is in trouble, he jumps out to help anyway. These are actions that would seem to be contrary to Sokka's reputation with fans, but I consider this whole episode to be very important in showing the nuances of his true character. Do you guys agree with me, or do you feel that it's just plot contrivances at work to keep things moving?

Yes, I agree. Sokka's actions in this episode are completely consistent with the deadpan pragmatism we have seen of him so far. As Katara puts blind faith in Aang to "find a way" to connect with the spirit, Sokka's ready to jump out the window and fight it with him. As Aang and Katara nobly ride off into the sunset, Sokka asks for free stuff.

Moments like that are cleverly written and show nuance that average cartoons tend to neglect. And I have previously posited that Sokka's character is, at least initially, more complex than the fandom usually gives credit for.

Hei Bai: great creepy design or should he look more like a carrot pokemon?

Maybe the design is a little too Pokemon-ish, but I think the sudden reveal behind Aang is frightening and well done.

Anyone else notice that Aang is a CGI unmoving model when chasing Hei Bai and Sokka on his glider?

I actually noticed that Aang's side-to-side flying and tree dodging seemed unnecessary when Hei Bai was following a straight, wide open path. ;D

So how, exactly, did Aang end up in the Spirit World? It's not all that coincidental, since I guess the idea is that Spirity things are more likely to happen around the Solstice, so Hei Bai shows up and Roku needs to talk to Aang and Aang gets knocked out of his body, but it does all work out rather conveniently, doesn't it?

I might have an explanation: Hei Bai phases out just as Aang grabs onto Sokka's arm, so it's implied that he took Aang (and Sokka) into the Spirit World with him.

(https://drive.google.com/uc?id=0B65-TkokbH7HUUxWMTdWOEZ6ZjA)

Speaking of the Spirit World, Aang explicitly says, "I'm in the Spirit World!" But he's kind of not? He's in our world, and his spirit just got separated from his body. Do you think intentions changed, or was this just an over-simplification to help introduce people to the whole magic system at work here?

I believe this portrayal of the Spirit World is consistent throughout the show? I don't know if anything changed in Korra.

And we get to meet Fang (although he's not named in this episode)! But it occurred to me, is that really Fang? Implications about the afterlife in the Avatar universe are few and far between, but LoK portrayed Iroh as choosing to ghost out of his body just before his death so that he could go to the Spirit World as an alternative to death. So did Fang do the same thing in the moment between wrapping around Roku and the lava overtaking them? Do animals go to a different place than humans? Do animal Avatar companions just go with their respective Avatars? Or is 'Fang' here just a manifestation of Roku's spirit in some way? Were we ever meant to think about any of this?

No, I don't think so. :) But if I had to guess, animal companions just follow their Avatars into the Spirit World.

In any event, after Fang sets up the plot for the next episode, Aang gets back into his body and figures out how to fix Hei Bai. What do you guys think of the showing of the acorn? Was it inadequate comfort? Too corny? Personally, I think it works because it's a moment of shared empathy, where Aang was identifying with Hei Bai through shared feelings, and kind of promising that the forest would grow back because Aang was going to fix the root problem of the Fire Nation.

This ties into my earlier commentary on forest fires. While I do find the acorn showing a little corny and overly simplistic, I think that it works as a satisfying conclusion to the episode's plot.

The forest was totally turned into a parking lot by Korra's time, wasn't it? Varrick probably ordered it, or at least designed the giant buzz-saw tanks that were used.

You never know, maybe the Earth Empire was a big believer in Smart Growth?

Come to think of it, it appears that urban sprawl and deforestation are not significant issues in the Avatar world. The people of ATLA usually live in harmony with nature or in high-density, concentrated capital cities. From what I gather about LOK, Republic City is also a high-density metropolis. That's actually the most sustainable way to house a large population without wasting large amounts of land and needlessly destroying greenspace.

I have a minor in urban studies and geography, so perhaps when I finally get around to watching Korra, I should post an analysis of its treatment of cities. :D

And then of course we have our subplot with Zuko and Iroh. There's not a whole lot to it, but it does do some very critical things - it establishes Iroh as an accomplished individual and shows his cleverness in action, sets up Ba Sing Se as important both in the war and to the main characters personally, and shows Zuko actually choosing Iroh over chasing Aang. It really does help this episode feel important, showing character growth for our "villains" even as Aang is taking some major steps in his "lot to learn" journey. Were you guys as impressed by it, or was naked Iroh just too much to handle

As is usually the case for Iroh and Zuko subplots, I also thought this one did a good job developing the villains without feeling gratuitous. There's also a really nice juxtaposition between Katara watching Aang chase after Hei Bai and Sokka and Zuko discovering that Iroh is missing.

Also, let me know if I'm hitting too many points with these things. I can break them up and post a few every other day or something if that would be better.

Your current routine is just fine; we need to get faster at responding. ;)
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on January 15, 2017, 04:59:00 PM
Maybe the design is a little too Pokemon-ish, but I think the sudden reveal behind Aang is frightening and well done.

I should clarify that I didn't actually think Hei Bai looked like a Pokemon. I was getting snarky about the difference between Hei Bai's appearance and some of the spirits seen in LoK, the latter of which I've seen compared to both Pokemon and Miyazaki designs.


I actually noticed that Aang's side-to-side flying and tree dodging seemed unnecessary when Hei Bai was following a straight, wide open path. ;D

Maybe the trees moved aside for Hei Bai and weren't giving Aang the same courtesy. :D


I might have an explanation: Hei Bai phases out just as Aang grabs onto Sokka's arm, so it's implied that he took Aang (and Sokka) into the Spirit World with him.

Sure, that could work.


I believe this portrayal of the Spirit World is consistent throughout the show? I don't know if anything changed in Korra.

Nah, we don't even need to look as far as Korra. When Aang goes to the Spirit World to find Koh in the season finale, it's shown as being a separate world. Even in the next episode, Aang seems to transport somewhere else when talking to Roku. Here, Aang is walking around and flying above in our world, and he's just invisible and intangible. It's more like he shifted to another wavelength than moved to the different world we see in most other "Spirit World" appearances.


You never know, maybe the Earth Empire was a big believer in Smart Growth?

Come to think of it, it appears that urban sprawl and deforestation are not significant issues in the Avatar world. The people of ATLA usually live in harmony with nature or in high-density, concentrated capital cities. From what I gather about LOK, Republic City is also a high-density metropolis. That's actually the most sustainable way to house a large population without wasting large amounts of land and needlessly destroying greenspace.

I have a minor in urban studies and geography, so perhaps when I finally get around to watching Korra, I should post an analysis of its treatment of cities. :D

I'd be quite interested in that. For all that I've never been that enamored with the Republic City setting, I have to acknowledge that it feels and looks different from the other cities we see throughout the franchise, and LoK itself showcases a variety of cities. It could be cool to compare the "modern" cities with the older ones that had to make an effort to modernize.

As is usually the case for Iroh and Zuko subplots, I also thought this one did a good job developing the villains without feeling gratuitous. There's also a really nice juxtaposition between Katara watching Aang chase after Hei Bai and Sokka and Zuko discovering that Iroh is missing.

Good point about the juxtaposition! One of the best things about AtLA is how it builds so many parallels, on so many levels, between the good guys and Zuko. Juxtaposing is a big part of that, and one of the things I really felt became a hallmark of storytelling.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Wordbender on January 16, 2017, 12:15:43 PM
Nah, we don't even need to look as far as Korra. When Aang goes to the Spirit World to find Koh in the season finale, it's shown as being a separate world. Even in the next episode, Aang seems to transport somewhere else when talking to Roku. Here, Aang is walking around and flying above in our world, and he's just invisible and intangible. It's more like he shifted to another wavelength than moved to the different world we see in most other "Spirit World" appearances.

Ah, I hadn't realized that. Maybe with the Solstice, it's possible to have one foot in the Spirit World and the other in ours. My headcanon says that his unintentional entrance via Hei Bai had something to do with it. Or maybe he just didn't believe hard enough.

I'd be quite interested in that. For all that I've never been that enamored with the Republic City setting, I have to acknowledge that it feels and looks different from the other cities we see throughout the franchise, and LoK itself showcases a variety of cities. It could be cool to compare the "modern" cities with the older ones that had to make an effort to modernize.

My main interest is in how plausibly cities are written and depicted, especially their transportation systems. I already have some nitpicks in mind for Ba Sing Se.

Good point about the juxtaposition! One of the best things about AtLA is how it builds so many parallels, on so many levels, between the good guys and Zuko. Juxtaposing is a big part of that, and one of the things I really felt became a hallmark of storytelling.

Sometimes I write them off as cheap hacks, but in this case, I think it's poignant and works well.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: NeeNee on January 17, 2017, 03:05:09 PM
Nah. General Whatshisname tried to force Aang into the Avatar State so he could go and join the frontlines, and we saw how well that worked out. I think it's pretty sensible of them to try and avoid facing the Fire Nation head on until Aang has learnt waterbending, and preferably the other elements too.

Yeah, it definitely makes sense for the characters (although I could see Sokka arguing in favor of it at some point), but I was thinking more from the meta level, whether the narrative should have dragged the characters up to the frontlines.

Personally, I'd fine avoiding the main war. I wouldn't mind a military-focused spin-off story at some point just to explore how it would work in a Bending world, but the rest of the story is very much Heroic Adventure and that wouldn't have been served well by getting tied to a campaign narrative.

Me too. Throwing a bunch of untrained kids into a full-on war situation would get either very unrealistic or very depressing very fast.

Plus, there's only so many frontline battles you can watch without feeling repetitive. The current scenario gave us the chance to see more of the world and its people, and that's what ultimately made the series.


Quote
Btw, the villagers totally murdered those soldiers, didn't they? I didn't catch that until I rewatched the episode years later.

Which soldiers? The ones who captured Iroh? I wasn't under the impression that they'd so anything but sleep off their beating and then slump back home to Ba Sing Se.

Apparently my memory has left me. I could have sworn there was a scene with a FN soldier saying "Sir, we found <disappeared soldiers who burned down the forest>'s clothes."

Did that happen in another episode or did my mind just completely make it up?
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on January 17, 2017, 07:35:51 PM
It's not ringing any bells for me. Maybe you saw the line in a fanfic?
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: longman on January 19, 2017, 02:03:13 PM
I like how pleasantly off-model the main characters are. Or am I just crazy for seeing a slight difference in the way they're drawn?

You're not; their designs tend to change between different episodes, and sometimes between different shots.
Yeah this was the result of
a) ATLA episodes being interchangeably animated by two different studios, JM Animation and Dr Movie (replaced in Book 3 by MOI Animation) and;
b) the inconsistent - within and between episodes - and IMO subpar end product of Dr Movie, who animated the current episode.

Personally I found the fluctuating quality in animation annoying. This is one of the reasons why I consider the previous episode Imprisoned (JM) as the first fully satisfactory episode - everything basically works on a technical and storytelling level - and the later infamous Great Divide (Dr Movie) as a near-total miss-step.

I also like how the old man calls Aang "the Avatar child." It might seem incidental, but it sounds to me like something someone would say after hearing rumors. It's dialogue crafting like this that really makes me love AtLA. I also love the awkward moment when meeting the town's leader where Aang breaks the silence by getting all 'So do you have a side-quest for me or not?'

Exactly. The real star in this show is often the dialog. :)
I always read the old man's statement as "are you the Avatar, child?" The other way works too though. ;D

Personally, I'd fine avoiding the main war. I wouldn't mind a military-focused spin-off story at some point just to explore how it would work in a Bending world, but the rest of the story is very much Heroic Adventure and that wouldn't have been served well by getting tied to a campaign narrative.

Me too. Throwing a bunch of untrained kids into a full-on war situation would get either very unrealistic or very depressing very fast.

Plus, there's only so many frontline battles you can watch without feeling repetitive. The current scenario gave us the chance to see more of the world and its people, and that's what ultimately made the series.
I agree with all this , but at the same time I'd have liked to see the gAang at the war front once or twice. As it stands, we never got a concrete sense of where the war fronts were, and this ambiguity lends itself to certain plot conveniences - like the gAang and Jun tracking Iroh across the entire width of the entire EK continent  in the series finale  :o .

A minor complaint, albeit. I very much cosign Loopy's suggestion for a spinoff show set in the war front. Non Avatar-centric storylines set in pre-modern times are perhaps the best way forward for this franchise besides rebooting everything after ATLA.

Maybe the design is a little too Pokemon-ish, but I think the sudden reveal behind Aang is frightening and well done.

I should clarify that I didn't actually think Hei Bai looked like a Pokemon. I was getting snarky about the difference between Hei Bai's appearance and some of the spirits seen in LoK, the latter of which I've seen compared to both Pokemon and Miyazaki designs.
Yeah, I got that part ;D. Hei Bai wins for me hands down. Creative and confusingly creepy monster design - the first time I saw it I thought  "What is that thing? Where are its eyes, what's with those shorter front legs, or are those arms?" - yet still possessing a rational link to its natural and more familiar panda form. LoK's 'carrot pokemons' ;D ONOH struck me as lazy implants from Miyazaki's Spirited Away that were still relatively generic and undermined the setting. They looked cute and childish, things meant to appeal to kids - and often sounded and acted childish - and thus were a marked departure from the precedence set by ATLA's spirits, which were anything but cute and childish.

P.S. It is interesting to note that the first spirits we meet in ATLA do not talk. Hei Bai and Fang don't verbalize their feelings; they show them. This is great in terms of setting a distinction between the mortal and spirit realms as well as engaging the viewers - showing vs telling.

I might have an explanation: Hei Bai phases out just as Aang grabs onto Sokka's arm, so it's implied that he took Aang (and Sokka) into the Spirit World with him.

Sure, that could work.
This is what I always thought was the case. Another clue is that Aang fell from the sky immediately Hei Bai and Sokka phased out, which supports the idea that he lost his airbending due to his inadvertent disembodiment at that moment.

Speaking of the Spirit World, Aang explicitly says, "I'm in the Spirit World!" But he's kind of not? He's in our world, and his spirit just got separated from his body. Do you think intentions changed, or was this just an over-simplification to help introduce people to the whole magic system at work here?
I think it works either way, but my view is difficult to explain in words. Basically the spirit world intersects the physical world, more so at this time when distinction between the two are even more blurred. (Moreover, the physical world itself was almost certainly borne out of the spiritual world, and humans themselves are embodied spirits.) So when Aang disembodies himself, he is now in the spirit realm in the sense that he is now governed more by spiritual laws, and concurrently certain physical laws are suspended. Not the best argument, but its all I can do right now.

And we get to meet Fang (although he's not named in this episode)! But it occurred to me, is that really Fang? Implications about the afterlife in the Avatar universe are few and far between, but LoK portrayed Iroh as choosing to ghost out of his body just before his death so that he could go to the Spirit World as an alternative to death. So did Fang do the same thing in the moment between wrapping around Roku and the lava overtaking them? Do animals go to a different place than humans? Do animal Avatar companions just go with their respective Avatars? Or is 'Fang' here just a manifestation of Roku's spirit in some way? Were we ever meant to think about any of this?
Lol, probably not. It's all so confusing. My thought when first watching this was that Roku is resident somewhere in the spirit world, as is Fang whom he sent to find Aang. But now it seems that Roku and the past lives are resident in Aang . Maybe its both? As for Fang, he is referred to as Roku's animal guide in this episode, and this is supposedly analagous Aang and Appa's relationship, which as the guru later informs us, also involves the intertwining of personal energies.The mixing of Fang and Roku's energies could explain why Fang transmuted to the spirit world after Roku's death. Perhaps Roku is resident within Fang in a similar way that he is in Aang?

In any event, after Fang sets up the plot for the next episode, Aang gets back into his body and figures out how to fix Hei Bai. What do you guys think of the showing of the acorn? Was it inadequate comfort? Too corny? Personally, I think it works because it's a moment of shared empathy, where Aang was identifying with Hei Bai through shared feelings, and kind of promising that the forest would grow back because Aang was going to fix the root problem of the Fire Nation.
My feelings about the A-plot of this episode have improved overtime. At first it struck me as a Smokey bear ad with too much convenience. But as you say, the key here is empathy. I propose that it was Hei Bai's distress that deeply bugged Aang at the start of the episode. He could sense it, although he didn't fully understand it; he felt that somehow this was personal to his role as the Avatar. (Otherwise, it is just a random damaged patch on a large forest in the middle of nowhere, andwhy should that make Aang so depressed? Wildfires occur naturally too. And how doesn't Hei Bai know that his forest will grow back? Why didn't the villagers know why Hei Bai was mad when they clearly knew who he was and lived next to his forest? Why didn't....)

And then of course we have our subplot with Zuko and Iroh. There's not a whole lot to it, but it does do some very critical things - it establishes Iroh as an accomplished individual and shows his cleverness in action, sets up Ba Sing Se as important both in the war and to the main characters personally, and shows Zuko actually choosing Iroh over chasing Aang. It really does help this episode feel important, showing character growth for our "villains" even as Aang is taking some major steps in his "lot to learn" journey. Were you guys as impressed by it, or was naked Iroh just too much to handle?
Another solid B-plot that picks up where episode 3 left off in developing the villains' characters: buttressing Zuko's honorable qualities and establishing Iroh as a man of repute, cunning and skill, which at the same time adds to the worldbuilding in terms of important locations and events in the history of the war. Top notch stuff.

P.S. I thought naked Iroh was good fun, and never ascribed to it the creepy sexual connotations that other viewers did.


Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on January 19, 2017, 06:56:02 PM
Yeah this was the result of
a) ATLA episodes being interchangeably animated by two different studios, JM Animation and Dr Movie (replaced in Book 3 by MOI Animation) and;
b) the inconsistent - within and between episodes - and IMO subpar end product of Dr Movie, who animated the current episode.

Personally I found the fluctuating quality in animation annoying. This is one of the reasons why I consider the previous episode Imprisoned (JM) as the first fully satisfactory episode - everything basically works on a technical and storytelling level - and the later infamous Great Divide (Dr Movie) as a near-total miss-step.

In Season 2 and 3, I can tell the difference between the different animation studios, but in this season it's a lot harder for me, and when I do notice the differences (like this episode) it doesn't match what I expect of either studio. But that's probably because the quirks I later notice haven't quite solidified yet, so I'm just seeing a slightly different flavor of "off-model."


I always read the old man's statement as "are you the Avatar, child?" The other way works too though. ;D

Could be! When we get to Book Earth, we can discuss if the White Lotus challenge is, "Who knocks at the guarded gate?" or "Who knocks at the garden gate?" :D (One of my fanfic readers pointed that one out for me.)


P.S. It is interesting to note that the first spirits we meet in ATLA do not talk. Hei Bai and Fang don't verbalize their feelings; they show them. This is great in terms of setting a distinction between the mortal and spirit realms as well as engaging the viewers - showing vs telling.

Good observation! It also has the effect of making Koh stand out even more when he shows up.


Lol, probably not. It's all so confusing. My thought when first watching this was that Roku is resident somewhere in the spirit world, as is Fang whom he sent to find Aang. But now it seems that Roku and the past lives are resident in Aang . Maybe its both? As for Fang, he is referred to as Roku's animal guide in this episode, and this is supposedly analagous Aang and Appa's relationship, which as the guru later informs us, also involves the intertwining of personal energies.The mixing of Fang and Roku's energies could explain why Fang transmuted to the spirit world after Roku's death. Perhaps Roku is resident within Fang in a similar way that he is in Aang?

Perhaps that intertwining makes the animals into a spirit similar to the Avatar, and they reincarnate as well! Fang is just a projection of Appa's past life!


My feelings about the A-plot of this episode have improved overtime. At first it struck me as a Smokey bear ad with too much convenience. But as you say, the key here is empathy. I propose that it was Hei Bai's distress that deeply bugged Aang at the start of the episode. He could sense it, although he didn't fully understand it; he felt that somehow this was personal to his role as the Avatar. (Otherwise, it is just a random damaged patch on a large forest in the middle of nowhere, andwhy should that make Aang so depressed? Wildfires occur naturally too. And how doesn't Hei Bai know that his forest will grow back? Why didn't the villagers know why Hei Bai was mad when they clearly knew who he was and lived next to his forest? Why didn't....)

Good points! I've done something similar to that in my current fanfic, where sites that have been damaged or destroyed due to maliciousness get their energy corrupted.


P.S. I thought naked Iroh was good fun, and never ascribed to it the creepy sexual connotations that other viewers did.

...I was not aware that people were ascribing creepy sexual connotations, although I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Wordbender on January 20, 2017, 10:28:20 AM
I agree with all this , but at the same time I'd have liked to see the gAang at the war front once or twice. As it stands, we never got a concrete sense of where the war fronts were, and this ambiguity lends itself to certain plot conveniences - like the gAang and Jun tracking Iroh across the entire width of the entire EK continent  in the series finale  :o .

It is slightly frustrating that the fronts are so fluid. The Fire Nation seems to be everywhere in the Earth Kingdom - right outside Fong's base, then right outside Ba Sing Se. You almost get the feeling that the Earth Kingdom's units are isolated.

But I think the plot convenience you pointed out speaks more to the writing issues with Book Three and especially the finale rather than the underdevelopment of the war, which is hard to notice because the rest of the show is so well fleshed out. Only when the writers do something totally jarring and disorienting, like sending everyone across the entire Earth Kingdom at the speed of plot, does it really become a problem.

My feelings about the A-plot of this episode have improved overtime. At first it struck me as a Smokey bear ad with too much convenience. But as you say, the key here is empathy. I propose that it was Hei Bai's distress that deeply bugged Aang at the start of the episode. He could sense it, although he didn't fully understand it; he felt that somehow this was personal to his role as the Avatar.

That's a very good point; we not only see Aang's struggle to learn how to be the Avatar but also what it means to be the Avatar, what kind of goals, morals, values, and quests it entails.

P.S. I thought naked Iroh was good fun, and never ascribed to it the creepy sexual connotations that other viewers did.

...I was not aware that people were ascribing creepy sexual connotations, although I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.

And so, a crackship was born. ;D
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: longman on January 23, 2017, 11:43:05 AM
Yeah this was the result of
a) ATLA episodes being interchangeably animated by two different studios, JM Animation and Dr Movie (replaced in Book 3 by MOI Animation) and;
b) the inconsistent - within and between episodes - and IMO subpar end product of Dr Movie, who animated the current episode.

Personally I found the fluctuating quality in animation annoying. This is one of the reasons why I consider the previous episode Imprisoned (JM) as the first fully satisfactory episode - everything basically works on a technical and storytelling level - and the later infamous Great Divide (Dr Movie) as a near-total miss-step.

In Season 2 and 3, I can tell the difference between the different animation studios, but in this season it's a lot harder for me, and when I do notice the differences (like this episode) it doesn't match what I expect of either studio. But that's probably because the quirks I later notice haven't quite solidified yet, so I'm just seeing a slightly different flavor of "off-model."

For me it was evident almost immediately with Dr Movie's first outing in The Southern Air Temple onwards. Mostly in the face shape, eyes and how mouth movements were sometimes animated. Dr Movie's gAang have a more rounded face and feminine eyes - they look younger in general. These qualities often fluctuated during the episode - for instance Katara's face changes throughout The Spirit World - and there are certain moments such as the first scene of this episode where the main characters are are sloppily drawn and look uglier. In addition, Zuko's scar sometimes looked uglier than normal.

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I always read the old man's statement as "are you the Avatar, child?" The other way works too though. ;D

Could be! When we get to Book Earth, we can discuss if the White Lotus challenge is, "Who knocks at the guarded gate?" or "Who knocks at the garden gate?" :D (One of my fanfic readers pointed that one out for me.)
I've already got my answer prepared for that question :)

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P.S. It is interesting to note that the first spirits we meet in ATLA do not talk. Hei Bai and Fang don't verbalize their feelings; they show them. This is great in terms of setting a distinction between the mortal and spirit realms as well as engaging the viewers - showing vs telling.

Good observation! It also has the effect of making Koh stand out even more when he shows up.
There are two other interesting observations to make about spirits in this episode:
1. Hei Bai kidnapped Sokka on sight, but treated Aang very diffferently; ignoring him for the most part after an initial and brief deferential moment. Is this because Hei Bai recognized who Aang really was from the start, and then continued its rampage when Aang did not properly reciprocate?

2. Hei Bai has a shrine dedicated to him in the forest. An it is by no means benign, being as Hei Bai's statue is a (temporary?) conduit between the mortal and spirit realms for himself and Fang. This is interesting in light of LoK's moral equivalency with humans and spirits living together, whereas this shrine suggests that the spirits are very much the rightful senior partners under whose good graces humans live reverently? What do you guys think?

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P.S. I thought naked Iroh was good fun, and never ascribed to it the creepy sexual connotations that other viewers did.

...I was not aware that people were ascribing creepy sexual connotations, although I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.
I think I spotted some of that in ASN. Might be wrong though.



I agree with all this , but at the same time I'd have liked to see the gAang at the war front once or twice. As it stands, we never got a concrete sense of where the war fronts were, and this ambiguity lends itself to certain plot conveniences - like the gAang and Jun tracking Iroh across the entire width of the entire EK continent  in the series finale  :o .

It is slightly frustrating that the fronts are so fluid. The Fire Nation seems to be everywhere in the Earth Kingdom - right outside Fong's base, then right outside Ba Sing Se. You almost get the feeling that the Earth Kingdom's units are isolated.
Yeah, well I suppose that is in line with Katara's line in the premiere prologue - backed up by Zhao in The Southern Air Temple  about the Fire Nation nearing final victory in the war.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on January 23, 2017, 07:32:26 PM
1. Hei Bai kidnapped Sokka on sight, but treated Aang very diffferently; ignoring him for the most part after an initial and brief deferential moment. Is this because Hei Bai recognized who Aang really was from the start, and then continued its rampage when Aang did not properly reciprocate?

My thought was that Hei Bai's perception of Aang was simply as not being entirely human. It somehow detected that Aang had an Avatar Spirit attached to him, or else was dangerous in some way even if Aang wasn't actively doing anything at the moment. That's just headcanon, though. We don't even know what the villagers originally tried when Hei Bai started attacking them, so we don't know what it might have been expecting.


2. Hei Bai has a shrine dedicated to him in the forest. An it is by no means benign, being as Hei Bai's statue is a (temporary?) conduit between the mortal and spirit realms for himself and Fang. This is interesting in light of LoK's moral equivalency with humans and spirits living together, whereas this shrine suggests that the spirits are very much the rightful senior partners under whose good graces humans live reverently? What do you guys think?

It's worth noting that LoK shows Benders as being the real danger to the Spirits, and we weren't shown that any of the villagers could Bend. The Earth Kingdom, in the background lore, is said to have the lowest percentage of Benders in its population. That could be why Hei Bai is more of a danger here, compared to Tui and La in the Northern Water Tribe or the dragons (if the dragons are spirits) in the Fire Nation.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: longman on January 24, 2017, 09:36:33 PM
It's worth noting that LoK shows Benders as being the real danger to the Spirits, and we weren't shown that any of the villagers could Bend. The Earth Kingdom, in the background lore, is said to have the lowest percentage of Benders in its population. That could be why Hei Bai is more of a danger here, compared to Tui and La in the Northern Water Tribe or the dragons (if the dragons are spirits) in the Fire Nation.

I dunno, Ran and Shaw's first appearance immediately disabused any previous notions of Aang and Zuko fighting their way out if things went wrong. As did Sokka's brief attempt to confront Hei Bai, which proved the old man right about the Avatar alone being worthy of the task. Even in LoK bending was at best a temporary reprieve for anyone who wasn't Unalaq or the Avatar. That said, maybe Hei Bai was just a big wuss, choosing to torment the hapless villagefolk over the ruthless Fire Nation culprits it may have been aware of. ;D

Now Tui and La and the dragon masters clearly enjoyed the deep devotion of their host communities. Hei Bai didn't have anything like that, but the shrine suggests that this wasn't always the case. As such, perhaps the villagers were suffering the reasonable consequences of failing to 'recognise', even though they were not the direct culprits.

The point is that humans in ATLA generally revered the spirits, exempting notable exceptions. In LoK this attitude is absent even in spirit-friendly people, and the spirits themselves didn't really command that kind of respect either - case in point the carrot 'Pokemons'. The spirits in LoK were almost like an alternate species claiming a stake the mortal realm with humans.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on January 27, 2017, 07:21:06 PM
Well, for the bigger and more powerful spirits, I expect you'd want more than just two Benders. LoK did show armies at work.

But yes, I see your larger point. There is the running theme in LoK, starting with the very first episode, that modern people are a bit out of balance. I'm not a fan of how it was handled, overall, but this lack of reverence could have been part of it. And considering that the ending of LoK had a city with a spirit portal in the center as a positive development, and showed people and spirits living without conflict before that, it could be that the reverence shown in AtLA was actually characterized (retroactively) as being part of the divide and conflict between spirits and humans. We're all just people, even if some of us are made of ectoplasm. :D
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on January 31, 2017, 07:31:11 PM
Well, we've kept Roku waiting long enough, I think. Let's get on with the second part of the 'Winter Solstice' saga, Avatar Roku:

Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: longman on February 01, 2017, 04:06:00 PM
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We're all just people, even if some of us are made of ectoplasm.
... and others are quasi nature gods. ;D

The whole deal with spirits and spirituality in LoK was ruined by a lack of clarity in ideas. The Smokey Bear framework may appear too simple at first, but the upside is that the fundamental ideas are easy to convey: humans respect nature because nature is powerful and humans depend on it, and since spirits are intimately connected to nature, humans respect spirits too, or risk adverse consequences. LoK dealt with the more complex issues of modernization but didn't properly qualify it in terms of clear causes and effects. While humans didn't seem to have any relationship with the spirits, that was only connected to their problems by Unalaq and Korra's proof by assertion fallacy, and the 'solution' is itself contradicted by Wan's backstory. None of it made any sense.



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I just want to start by saying that this episode is crackin'. After a quick recap, we start with that cool blockade-running sequence, get probably 25% of all the worldbuiling the Fire Nation receives in the series in the form of the Fire Temple and the corrupt sages, get on to Roku's big epic appearance where he sets out the big plot of the series, and then get an exploding volcano. All of it peppered with charming character moments, a confrontation with Zuko and Zhao, and great music. I dunno about you guys, but IMO this is about as good as it gets in 22 minutes.

Agree 100%. This episode converted me from an intrigued skeptic into a fan. I'll also give a shoutout to the ending, a cool and wordlessly poignant moment with the gAang flying off into the moon, giving us a chance to catch our collective breaths and join them in reflecting on the meaning of everything we've just seen, and remember that at the heart of all the noise and flash are three orphaned children struggling more than ever with adult responsibilities in a world at war.

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I love the blockade-running sequence, but that picture of the blockade itself always bugs me. It's literally a straight line of ships forming a wall across the ocean explicitly marking where Fire Nation waters begin. For one, how do they get the ships to line up like that? What's the point of putting that many ships there? Does it really stretch to surround the whole Fire Nation? How did Zhao end up posted there? Didn't Napoleon talk about how stupid it is to spread out one's forces equidistantly across a border? (He noted it was good for stopping smugglers, not military incursions.) Do the boats ever bump into each other, being so close? Everyone else, feel free to add to the questions. Let's get this up to maximum dumb.

I suppose it's a primitive blockade at best, though it works as a simple visual device for the TVY7 crowd. The gAang briefly considered circumventing it by flying north, so that means it does not infact surround the entire FN. As to why the blockade exists, I can only guess from the maps that it has something to do with the easternmost FN islands coming quite close to the EK's western coast.

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Zuko was seen breaking his banishment by the crews of two ships. Even if the sages' accounts aren't admissible, couldn't he be prosecuted with that many witnesses? Or was Zhao worried that bringing up charges would take keep him from grabbing the glory of capturing hte Avatar?
What I want to know is how Zuko's crew felt about the criminal action of breaching their own nation's blockade and going up against their own countrymen at great risk to themselves, considering Uncle Iroh's loud protestations to boot. They obeyed without question, but could this have been the the start of their disgruntlement with Zuko in Episode 12?

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Did the sages know Aang was coming? They seem very confident in attacking him even if they had taken a moment to get over their surprise at his walking into their home.
According to Shyu the sages figured that Aang would be headed their way eventually. Rather than attack on sight, they should have done what Shyu did - win the Avatar's trust, which he was initially ready to give anyways - only in their case it would've been a trap. That's what Azula would've done.

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For a temple, though, it's very fortressy. I wonder what they have there besides the big Roku Room, secret passages, and hallways.
Beautiful, beautiful design. Another thing that hooked me was the continuous unfolding of Asian-inspired cultures in this world, which was very unlike anything I had seen in western animation at this point.

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And here we get our only animated appearance of Shyu, the good Fire Sage. (Although we saw his ancestor in a flash short.) The comics reveal that this guy survived and got to be the Fire Nation equivalent of Pope. Personally, I was sure he was killed after this. Did anyone else have that impression, or do you think there's awesome secret backstory that could explain his survival? The short revealed that his grandfather was a sage in Roku's time; maybe he has family connections.
I never saw the flash short! Where is this?

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We only see male Sages. At this point, the show wasn't as good as showing women among the regular ranks of the Fire Nation, but do you think this case was more deliberate? Are there female Sages? At least one appeared in Korra, but was that a result of reforms?
Well the FN Sages at the capital were also men. I would not necessarily interpret LoK's female sage as the result of deliberate FN reforms, because in AtLA Ozai had no qualms about disowning his only son and leaving his daughter the presumptive heir for years -and later the official heir - so there were egalitarian notions already in the air.

At this point in the series however, all we've seen of the FN until now are the military personnel overseas, so  I'll cut AtLA some slack and play the verisimilitude card  ;D. Plus I'll also have to acknowledge my overwhelming preference for AtLA's Fire sages over LoK's for reasons other than gender: the former had names (well, a name), backstories and motivations, while the latter had none of either.

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The whole sequence with Sokka's plan to open the Magic Fire Door is Da Bomb. I love seeing Sokka's clever side, even if it didn't work, and I really appreciate how the results of the plan were still useful for tricking the sages into opening the door. Also, I appreciate that Sokak got compliments. Too often, the Complainer character is insulted even when not meriting it. And Katara gets a nice moment where she's the one to come up with the final solution, showing everyone's worth to the team.
You know, Sokka nearly died twice in the past two episodes, but you don't really feel it because upon rescue the narrative immediately shoves him into the comic relief role. The first two things he says after Hei Bai releases him are treated as jokes - even though the second statement was a perfectly reasonable request - and the only gag moment in the blockade run sequence is Sokka smacked in the face by a fish after nearly plummeting to his death.

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Roku's whole sequence is epic, and although it gets a lot of fandom snark, I personally love how Avatar's cosmology is all magic stuff with no correspondence to real world heavenly objects. I was actually really disappointed when LoK had a planetary alignment, because that ruled out the Avatar world being flat with a big sky-dome over it, in which the sun and moon and stars and stuff hang out, all at the center of the entire universe. It also works as a great plot device, giving Aang a time limit that still leaves room for the show to breathe.
Didn't AtLA adopt the round-earth theory with Aang's visions in The Guru? It was also consistent with LoK in connecting atmospheric spiritual energies to the movement of planetary bodies.

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People say that one of M Nighty's few good points in his TLA adaptation was increasing the length of time until the comet appears to three years, instead of less than a year, because it's more realistic. And I suppose that's right, to a degree, but most other Avatars had that long for each element, so it still makes Aang a Super-Learner, and I kind of like the idea of Aang managing something impossible. But eh, it's a small nitpick compared to the other failings. They somehow missed adapting the Roku scene, for one. That would have looked epic in live action, with a competent director, and a good cinematographer, and a special effects budget that wasn't wasted.
One of the first nitpicks I had watching this show was the youth of the main characters - I thought Aang and a few others were way too young - combined with the extraordinary burdens placed on them. It is a ridiculous stretch to ask an orphan boy with virtually no support system to accomplish in a matter of months what it took his far better adjusted forbears years to finish. I actually like that at the series finale the gAang acknowledged that Aang really only mastered waterbending within that time (Toph probably has a much stricter definition of earthbending mastery than others, but still.)

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Aang being able to channel the past Avatars to the point of transforming into them is a new power introduced here, and my impression was that this was a thing that could only really happen on a Solstice. Yet Aang later becomes Kyoshi on a plain day just by wearing her clothes. I like that they linked it to special circumstances of some kind, to keep it from either being over-used or a plot hole, but surely Aang could eventually learn to do it on command? I think an Avatar series where the Avatar just keeps transforming into past Avatars for every problem might be interesting.
I think the Roku scenes demonstrate how the Avatar concept excelled on a dramatic and narrative level. Aang in the Avatar State is always a visual treat because it is a sharp contrast from the playful non-confrontational boy monk, and AtLA does well in giving us only small doses so that it never gets boring. So every brief glimpse of the Avatar State reminds us of Aang's potential, and what he could become in terms or raw godlike power. But now in the person of Roku, we get a glimpse of Aang's human potential - standing tall, assured, and authoritative. Roku's introduction also makes clear that being the Avatar is not simply the mark of Aang's singular specialness; it is about the history and legacy of his world, and his obligation to it bound up in his very nature, and the juxtaposition of these surmounting responsibilities with his human needs help make him an interesting character.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Wordbender on February 04, 2017, 12:46:26 AM
I just want to start by saying that this episode is crackin'. After a quick recap, we start with that cool blockade-running sequence, get probably 25% of all the worldbuiling the Fire Nation receives in the series in the form of the Fire Temple and the corrupt sages, get on to Roku's big epic appearance where he sets out the big plot of the series, and then get an exploding volcano. All of it peppered with charming character moments, a confrontation with Zuko and Zhao, and great music. I dunno about you guys, but IMO this is about as good as it gets in 22 minutes.

I agree; the pacing, action, soundtrack, and dialog are all very well done, and they set a pretty serious tone for a cartoon. This two-parter doesn't top my favorite episodes list, but I feel that same combination of drama, adventure, and suspense that I remember from my viewings as a kid. This episode, in particular, constantly keeps on you on edge and wondering what happens next.

I'll also give a shoutout to the ending, a cool and wordlessly poignant moment with the gAang flying off into the moon, giving us a chance to catch our collective breaths and join them in reflecting on the meaning of everything we've just seen, and remember that at the heart of all the noise and flash are three orphaned children struggling more than ever with adult responsibilities in a world at war.

Yes, I really appreciated that ending. If you look closely, you can see Katara and then Sokka comforting Aang, which reminds us how anxious he must feel about the sudden need to master the elements in less than a year.

I love that Iroh is still naked in the background when Zuko shows up find out where the gAang is going. Zuko may be willing to give up a shot at returning home to save his uncle, but he can't wait long enough for Iroh to find some pants to put on. Or maybe Iroh was just enjoying the breeze.

Nice catch. :) Perhaps Zuko didn't have any spare clothes when he rescued Iroh, in which case, the writers did a good job maintaining the continuity.

I love the blockade-running sequence, but that picture of the blockade itself always bugs me. It's literally a straight line of ships forming a wall across the ocean explicitly marking where Fire Nation waters begin. For one, how do they get the ships to line up like that? What's the point of putting that many ships there? Does it really stretch to surround the whole Fire Nation? How did Zhao end up posted there? Didn't Napoleon talk about how stupid it is to spread out one's forces equidistantly across a border? (He noted it was good for stopping smugglers, not military incursions.) Do the boats ever bump into each other, being so close? Everyone else, feel free to add to the questions. Let's get this up to maximum dumb.

I also think that the blockade contains too many ships to be plausible; the formation looks impossible to maintain. Perhaps it was meant to act as a lookout, or a show of force. Zhao has not been seen since his encounter with Zuko at the shipyard in "The Southern Air Temple," so he hasn't begun chasing the Avatar yet. We can assume that he returned to his more mundane duties as a naval commander.

Other nitpicks I have: Why didn't Appa run the blockade as high as he could fly? The cloud cover could have given them cover against the fireballs. Why would they stop launching fireballs the moment Appa crossed into the Fire Nation? The kids are still military targets, regardless of which side of the invisible line they're on. How could the ships stop so quickly after Zhao ordered them to cut the engines? Large ships have lots of momentum and can't stop on a dime.

All of which are minor and mostly forgivable.

That said, I love how Aang destroyed that final projectile (don't worry about the physics of it). The show is pretty consistent about how he can take out something of that size and mass only if he gets a moment to line it up and gather his strength for a strong attack.

Yup--when Aang's about to perform that attack, you know things just got real. Off the top of my head, he also uses it to down the buzzard wasp in "The Desert."

Zuko was seen breaking his banishment by the crews of two ships. Even if the sages' accounts aren't admissible, couldn't he be prosecuted with that many witnesses? Or was Zhao worried that bringing up charges would take keep him from grabbing the glory of capturing hte Avatar?

I'm not sure what you're asking here? Zhao let Zuko go so that he could lead him to Aang. Once he captured Zuko, he planned to turn him over to the Fire Lord, not an ordinary Fire Nation court or tribunal, so the usual legalese wouldn't apply.

There are some inconsistencies in this plot thread; Zuko's cruddy ship can apparently match Appa's near-maximum flying speed, so why wouldn't Zhao just arrest Zuko and order his ships to continue the chase? He could also interrogate Zuko and his crew if he really wanted to know where Aang was heading.

What I want to know is how Zuko's crew felt about the criminal action of breaching their own nation's blockade and going up against their own countrymen at great risk to themselves, considering Uncle Iroh's loud protestations to boot. They obeyed without question, but could this have been the the start of their disgruntlement with Zuko in Episode 12?

The crew might have been immune from arrest, like Iroh, since only Zuko was banished. Of course, they probably did not enjoy getting fired upon by the blockade. I like the idea that this led to their later clashes with Zuko.

Did the sages know Aang was coming? They seem very confident in attacking him even if they had taken a moment to get over their surprise at his walking into their home.

As longman noted, they knew from Avatar State activation in "The Southern Air Temple" that the Avatar had returned.

For a temple, though, it's very fortressy. I wonder what they have there besides the big Roku Room, secret passages, and hallways.

Perhaps some Fire Nation-style booby traps?

Beautiful, beautiful design. Another thing that hooked me was the continuous unfolding of Asian-inspired cultures in this world, which was very unlike anything I had seen in western animation at this point.

It never struck me as particularly unusual when I watched the show as a youth, but I now appreciate the special attention that the show paid to its Asian culture inspirations. Of course, I can think of contemporary cartoons with similar themes, such as Jackie Chan Adventures and American Dragon.

And here we get our only animated appearance of Shyu, the good Fire Sage. (Although we saw his ancestor in a flash short.) The comics reveal that this guy survived and got to be the Fire Nation equivalent of Pope. Personally, I was sure he was killed after this. Did anyone else have that impression, or do you think there's awesome secret backstory that could explain his survival? The short revealed that his grandfather was a sage in Roku's time; maybe he has family connections.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the Fire Nation is never portrayed as willing to execute their prisoners--not even the captured Southern waterbenders from Book Three or Aang himself when he's captured by Zhao. So the Sages were probably left to rot in prison until Ozai was overthrown.

Also, I like Shyu's voice.

I like how expressive his face is. It's a stark contrast with the villager at the beginning, who comes across as flat and emotionless.

We only see male Sages. At this point, the show wasn't as good as showing women among the regular ranks of the Fire Nation, but do you think this case was more deliberate? Are there female Sages? At least one appeared in Korra, but was that a result of reforms?

Perhaps it was a deliberate attempt to mold the Sages as monks. We get the nuns in the perfume makers from "Bato of the Water Tribe."

And as the gAang traverses the secret passages, I think we get our first case of lava only being dangerous if you touch it. Of course, it happens again later as the temple is destroyed. I'm not personally bugged by this, due to its prevalence in media, and so far it's consistent in depiction.

Agreed.

The whole sequence with Sokka's plan to open the Magic Fire Door is Da Bomb. I love seeing Sokka's clever side, even if it didn't work, and I really appreciate how the results of the plan were still useful for tricking the sages into opening the door. Also, I appreciate that Sokak got compliments. Too often, the Complainer character is insulted even when not meriting it. And Katara gets a nice moment where she's the one to come up with the final solution, showing everyone's worth to the team.

Yup, Sokka was great in this episode. I also appreciated Katara making the call to run the blockade, Katara and Aang agreeing to follow Shyu, Sokka trying to break out of the chains while Katara shouts "No, Aang!", and the "How is Aang gonna make it out of this? / How are we gonna make it out of this?" bit. The relationships between the characters are so subtle, yet rewarding. I constantly replay portions of the episodes as I watch them, because it's so easy to miss the little moments like these in a blink of the eye.

You know, Sokka nearly died twice in the past two episodes, but you don't really feel it because upon rescue the narrative immediately shoves him into the comic relief role. The first two things he says after Hei Bai releases him are treated as jokes - even though the second statement was a perfectly reasonable request - and the only gag moment in the blockade run sequence is Sokka smacked in the face by a fish after nearly plummeting to his death.

There is an interesting dualism between "comic relief" and "pragmatic, deadpan straight talk" in Sokka's character. One moment, he's getting hit by the fish, and the next, he seems to be the only character with a level head. In my opinion, the former became emphasized at the expense of the latter as the show progressed, and that's a real shame.

And just when it seems like everything will work out... Surprise Zuko! Who fails to keep Aang from getting through the door. I love how many twists they have piled up, here. Most other cartoons would have just stopped with Sokka's original plan working.

Just another reason why ATLA is so special, and why this particular episode is so tightly written.

Roku's whole sequence is epic, and although it gets a lot of fandom snark, I personally love how Avatar's cosmology is all magic stuff with no correspondence to real world heavenly objects.

I appreciate it too; it allows us to suspend disbelief. I really enjoy the hinted cosmology in "The Library." So mysterious and understated.

People say that one of M Nighty's few good points in his TLA adaptation was increasing the length of time until the comet appears to three years, instead of less than a year, because it's more realistic. And I suppose that's right, to a degree, but most other Avatars had that long for each element, so it still makes Aang a Super-Learner, and I kind of like the idea of Aang managing something impossible. But eh, it's a small nitpick compared to the other failings. They somehow missed adapting the Roku scene, for one. That would have looked epic in live action, with a competent director, and a good cinematographer, and a special effects budget that wasn't wasted.

I never saw the film either, am I missing something? ;D

The accelerated timeline works better, given the constraints of the cartoon medium--episodes can only feel hours, days, maybe a week apart.

One of the first nitpicks I had watching this show was the youth of the main characters - I thought Aang and a few others were way too young - combined with the extraordinary burdens placed on them. It is a ridiculous stretch to ask an orphan boy with virtually no support system to accomplish in a matter of months what it took his far better adjusted forbears years to finish. I actually like that at the series finale the gAang acknowledged that Aang really only mastered waterbending within that time (Toph probably has a much stricter definition of earthbending mastery than others, but still.)

The kids are believable throughout Book One, which is mostly lighthearted and avoids confronting the war. I started to echo the same criticism toward the end of Book Two--charging the Earth King's palace and outmaneuvering the Dai Li felt just a little too extraordinary. I will elaborate when we get there.

I too appreciated the acknowledgment of Aang's incomplete mastery of the elements. But don't get me started on Book Three.

However, Roku's head looks really high up from his body to me, with the beard and his Fire Nation robes. If they shaved this character model's beard, would his neck be a foot long?

Not a foot; that's a little dramatic. His chin seems to just touch the top of his shoulder pads.

Aang becoming Roku is epic, destruction of Fire Temple is epic, Momo coming to the rescue in a stolen Sage Hat is epic, everything is epic epic epic. I feel like I'm making redundant points here.

Yes; we finally get see what a fully realized Avatar can do. It always struck me that Roku was willing to destroy the temple indiscriminately even though there was no guarantee that Aang and his friends could safely escape. It comes across as reckless and frightening, yet precise and composed.

Aang being able to channel the past Avatars to the point of transforming into them is a new power introduced here, and my impression was that this was a thing that could only really happen on a Solstice. Yet Aang later becomes Kyoshi on a plain day just by wearing her clothes. I like that they linked it to special circumstances of some kind, to keep it from either being over-used or a plot hole, but surely Aang could eventually learn to do it on command? I think an Avatar series where the Avatar just keeps transforming into past Avatars for every problem might be interesting.

I believe those are the only two instances of this ability being used? Perhaps Kyoshi has a special connection with the place where she created Kyoshi Island, just as Roku has a special connection with his temple.

Seeing the past Avatars in the final fight against Ozai might have been intriguing; on the other hand, it would have detracted from the focus on Aang and his personal journey.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on February 07, 2017, 07:15:09 PM
I suppose it's a primitive blockade at best, though it works as a simple visual device for the TVY7 crowd. The gAang briefly considered circumventing it by flying north, so that means it does not infact surround the entire FN.

That's what Aang said, yes, but I'm not taking him as an authority on the subject. Plus I needed more questions to properly convey the ridiculousness.


According to Shyu the sages figured that Aang would be headed their way eventually. Rather than attack on sight, they should have done what Shyu did - win the Avatar's trust, which he was initially ready to give anyways - only in their case it would've been a trap. That's what Azula would've done.

Shout out to myself: in my current fanfic epic, I had Mai absolutely go off on Zuko for attacking Aang at their first meeting and not saying, "Hey, Avatar, I'm Prince Zuko and I want to be your friend. Want to come home with me for tea and cookies?" :D

Anyway, yeah, the sages knew the Avatar was active and may have even scene sketches based on the interrogation of Zuko's crew in 103, but I'm always surprised when family shows up on my doorstep.

I never saw the flash short! Where is this?

Here you go. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDBJGQodSHw&index=2&list=PL4F5A30DC763D2B44) It's also on the final Book Earth DVD.


Well the FN Sages at the capital were also men. I would not necessarily interpret LoK's female sage as the result of deliberate FN reforms, because in AtLA Ozai had no qualms about disowning his only son and leaving his daughter the presumptive heir for years -and later the official heir - so there were egalitarian notions already in the air.

At this point in the series however, all we've seen of the FN until now are the military personnel overseas, so  I'll cut AtLA some slack and play the verisimilitude card  ;D. Plus I'll also have to acknowledge my overwhelming preference for AtLA's Fire sages over LoK's for reasons other than gender: the former had names (well, a name), backstories and motivations, while the latter had none of either.

Well, the army and the royal rules of succession don't necessarily mean that the church is on the same level of progressiveness.

And yeah, I'm fine cutting slack and maybe assuming that some of the voiceless skull-masked Firebenders were pulling a Phasma, but it's just something that occurred to me considering how LoK went out of its way to use its one opportunity to show a female sage.


You know, Sokka nearly died twice in the past two episodes, but you don't really feel it because upon rescue the narrative immediately shoves him into the comic relief role. The first two things he says after Hei Bai releases him are treated as jokes - even though the second statement was a perfectly reasonable request - and the only gag moment in the blockade run sequence is Sokka smacked in the face by a fish after nearly plummeting to his death.

This isn't something I've noticed before, and I'll have to keep an eye out in the future. My own instincts would say that after a thrilling rescue, deflating the tension with a joke is a natural move (such as Toph obliviously kissing Suki after being saved from drowning) and since Aang and Katara rescuing each other would be romantic in nature, Sokka is left to do the humorous rescues in the current cast. But we'll see how it goes from here.


Didn't AtLA adopt the round-earth theory with Aang's visions in The Guru? It was also consistent with LoK in connecting atmospheric spiritual energies to the movement of planetary bodies.

Fans take thoes Guru scens that way, but I'm a stubborn holdout gripping any vestige of visual ambiguity.


One of the first nitpicks I had watching this show was the youth of the main characters - I thought Aang and a few others were way too young - combined with the extraordinary burdens placed on them. It is a ridiculous stretch to ask an orphan boy with virtually no support system to accomplish in a matter of months what it took his far better adjusted forbears years to finish. I actually like that at the series finale the gAang acknowledged that Aang really only mastered waterbending within that time (Toph probably has a much stricter definition of earthbending mastery than others, but still.)

Yeah, I'm usually down on protagonists this young, but as you noted, AtLA made it work. I liked how it even acknowledged Aang's ridiculous youth at points like during the Siege of the North. In fantasy, even just an acknowledging nod can be enough to get me to buy ridiculous stuff.


I think the Roku scenes demonstrate how the Avatar concept excelled on a dramatic and narrative level. Aang in the Avatar State is always a visual treat because it is a sharp contrast from the playful non-confrontational boy monk, and AtLA does well in giving us only small doses so that it never gets boring. So every brief glimpse of the Avatar State reminds us of Aang's potential, and what he could become in terms or raw godlike power. But now in the person of Roku, we get a glimpse of Aang's human potential - standing tall, assured, and authoritative. Roku's introduction also makes clear that being the Avatar is not simply the mark of Aang's singular specialness; it is about the history and legacy of his world, and his obligation to it bound up in his very nature, and the juxtaposition of these surmounting responsibilities with his human needs help make him an interesting character.

Good summary. Roku's visual design is very much meant to evoke the Ultimate Old Man archetype mixing Chinese gods with Santa Claus with Moses (among others, I'm sure), and AtLA really gets a lot out of the imagery.



I also think that the blockade contains too many ships to be plausible; the formation looks impossible to maintain. Perhaps it was meant to act as a lookout, or a show of force. Zhao has not been seen since his encounter with Zuko at the shipyard in "The Southern Air Temple," so he hasn't begun chasing the Avatar yet. We can assume that he returned to his more mundane duties as a naval commander.

Zhao hasn't been seen, but he was directing the beginnings of search efforts in 103. That's why he was detaining Zuko after the crew was interrogated; he wanted his own forces to have a head-start.

I've played with the background Fire Nation politics in my own fanfic, up to Zhao using obscure pretenses to keep himself in charge of the search for Aang for as long as possible, so I may just have an unusual interest in this type of thing.


Other nitpicks I have: Why didn't Appa run the blockade as high as he could fly? The cloud cover could have given them cover against the fireballs. Why would they stop launching fireballs the moment Appa crossed into the Fire Nation? The kids are still military targets, regardless of which side of the invisible line they're on. How could the ships stop so quickly after Zhao ordered them to cut the engines? Large ships have lots of momentum and can't stop on a dime.

All of which are minor and mostly forgivable.

For Appa, I've wondered if he needs to use more Airbending power to achieve more height; it would tire him out too much to go that high.

For why the Fire Nation ships don't continue firing, maybe their launchers are on fixed mounts and can't turn around. :D

But yeah, good questions that don't do much to hurt an exciting scene.


I'm not sure what you're asking here? Zhao let Zuko go so that he could lead him to Aang. Once he captured Zuko, he planned to turn him over to the Fire Lord, not an ordinary Fire Nation court or tribunal, so the usual legalese wouldn't apply.

Right, but I meant that afterward, Zhao could go tattling that Zuko broke his banishment. The sages aren't reliable witnesses if he wants to prosecute them as traitors, but my point was that there were other witnesses. I guess Zhao just didn't consider it worth his time, or Zuko to be a real threat, until he made the Blue Spirit connection.


There are some inconsistencies in this plot thread; Zuko's cruddy ship can apparently match Appa's near-maximum flying speed, so why wouldn't Zhao just arrest Zuko and order his ships to continue the chase? He could also interrogate Zuko and his crew if he really wanted to know where Aang was heading.

Perhaps Zuko's smaller ship is faster than those under Zhao's command, and Zhao doesn't want to risk a delay if Zuko and/or his crew resist.


The crew might have been immune from arrest, like Iroh, since only Zuko was banished. Of course, they probably did not enjoy getting fired upon by the blockade. I like the idea that this led to their later clashes with Zuko.

Yeah, they're not banished from the Fire Nation, and it's not their fault if Zuko wants to stand on the deck while they sail into the Fire Nation. But also yes, I can see them getting mad about not having expected real military action. On the other hand, I see lots of fanfics that like to portray Zuko's crew as not liking Zhao at all and siding with the prince when the two come into conflict if just for the sake of the rivalry.


It never struck me as particularly unusual when I watched the show as a youth, but I now appreciate the special attention that the show paid to its Asian culture inspirations. Of course, I can think of contemporary cartoons with similar themes, such as Jackie Chan Adventures and American Dragon.

I had actually grown consciously weary of the typical Ye Olde Englishe look of most fantasy, to the point of speculating out loud that someone should make a fantasy epic based on Russian culture if just for the cool domes on top of towers. I discovered AtLA at a great time, because while I was aware of the martial arts fantasy that Chinese cinema produces, I get easily frustrated by obvious "wire fu."


Correct me if I'm wrong, but the Fire Nation is never portrayed as willing to execute their prisoners--not even the captured Southern waterbenders from Book Three or Aang himself when he's captured by Zhao. So the Sages were probably left to rot in prison until Ozai was overthrown.

Good point. I can't think of a counter-example, aside from Kya (in what was clearly a deviation from policy on Yon Rha's part) and the rumors that the EarthSoldier bullies spread about the Fire Nation putting prisoners on the front lines with no weapons and opposite uniforms.


Perhaps it was a deliberate attempt to mold the Sages as monks. We get the nuns in the perfume makers from "Bato of the Water Tribe."

It's possible, and of course the Air Nomads had separate temples for the sexes.


I never saw the film either, am I missing something? ;D

You jest, but it's a fair question. Some portions of the fandom consider it a laugh-riot in terribleness, but I just found it boring.


Yes; we finally get see what a fully realized Avatar can do. It always struck me that Roku was willing to destroy the temple indiscriminately even though there was no guarantee that Aang and his friends could safely escape. It comes across as reckless and frightening, yet precise and composed.

I liked that Roku put the gAang in danger, actually. It was a real Wrath of God moment, similar to Koizilla.


I believe those are the only two instances of this ability being used? Perhaps Kyoshi has a special connection with the place where she created Kyoshi Island, just as Roku has a special connection with his temple.

Seeing the past Avatars in the final fight against Ozai might have been intriguing; on the other hand, it would have detracted from the focus on Aang and his personal journey.

Yeah, it was definitely right to let Aang handle his own stuff. I'm just curious if the ability could perhaps make for enough of a twist on Aang's journey to be the basis of a new sequel/prequel series. LoK seemed to struggle to find ways to keep Korra from just using Aang's solutions, IMO, and maybe leaning into that could be a shot of needed creativity.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: GoEnzoGo on February 13, 2017, 06:42:49 AM
  • Speaking of the Spirit World, Aang explicitly says, "I'm in the Spirit World!" But he's kind of not? He's in our world, and his spirit just got separated from his body. Do you think intentions changed, or was this just an over-simplification to help introduce people to the whole magic system at work here?

I'm a little late, but I'm pretty sure that the Winter Solstice is the reason why the Spirit World shown in this episode is weird and different from all its other appearances. During the Winter Solstice, "the natural world and the Spirit World grow closer and closer until the line between them is blurred completely", which is why Aang's being in the Spirit World just looked like spiritual projection. I think going into the Spirit World is basically projecting your spirit into the Spirit World, while regular spiritual projection is projecting your spirit around the physical world (like Jinora does in LoK). When the two worlds blur together during the Solstice, using spiritual projection lets your spirit be (or at least appear to be) in both the Spirit World and physical world simultaneously. In The Siege of the North when Aang goes into and returns from the Spirit World to find that his body had been moved, we see the difference between projecting to the Spirit World and the physical world when they're not blurred together.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on February 13, 2017, 06:35:34 PM
That could very well be! I hadn't considered the full implication of the "blurred" line, just figuring that it meant spirity stuff was more likely to show up, but your logic definitely holds up.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: longman on February 23, 2017, 01:27:54 PM
Well, the army and the royal rules of succession don't necessarily mean that the church is on the same level of progressiveness.

And yeah, I'm fine cutting slack and maybe assuming that some of the voiceless skull-masked Firebenders were pulling a Phasma, but it's just something that occurred to me considering how LoK went out of its way to use its one opportunity to show a female sage.
Now that I think about it, Shyu's grandfather also being a sage might suggest patrilineality at work.

One of the first nitpicks I had watching this show was the youth of the main characters - I thought Aang and a few others were way too young - combined with the extraordinary burdens placed on them. It is a ridiculous stretch to ask an orphan boy with virtually no support system to accomplish in a matter of months what it took his far better adjusted forbears years to finish. I actually like that at the series finale the gAang acknowledged that Aang really only mastered waterbending within that time (Toph probably has a much stricter definition of earthbending mastery than others, but still.)

Yeah, I'm usually down on protagonists this young, but as you noted, AtLA made it work. I liked how it even acknowledged Aang's ridiculous youth at points like during the Siege of the North. In fantasy, even just an acknowledging nod can be enough to get me to buy ridiculous stuff.
AtLA made it work in part because it didn't fall too easily into the power trip fantasy that action-adventure kid shows sometimes do. (This is an issue I have with the comics, with gAang still running around doing hero work and Nutha's "we didn't get to buddy up with the Avatar and leave home like you, Katara"  ::) line. )  This is also why some Aang's sillier moments were endearing, and why some of the humor which was otherwise hit-and-miss got a pass from me.
But back to the original point, yes I think AtLA sometimes had issues with its depiction of the passage of time:
- Aang being required to complete his training in nine months when it took his predecessor 12 years in far better circumstances;
- Firelord genealogy. Only three generations (Azulon, Ozai/Iroh, Zuko) in the space of 100 years? So what Sozin/Azulon were still making babies in old age?
- The Black Sun invasion. This massive undertaking was premised on a solar eclipse that lasted for only ten minutes. Ten freaking minutes? No wonder it failed.

It never struck me as particularly unusual when I watched the show as a youth, but I now appreciate the special attention that the show paid to its Asian culture inspirations. Of course, I can think of contemporary cartoons with similar themes, such as Jackie Chan Adventures and American Dragon.

I had actually grown consciously weary of the typical Ye Olde Englishe look of most fantasy, to the point of speculating out loud that someone should make a fantasy epic based on Russian culture if just for the cool domes on top of towers. I discovered AtLA at a great time, because while I was aware of the martial arts fantasy that Chinese cinema produces, I get easily frustrated by obvious "wire fu."
Yeah the Asian martial arts fantasy was a big draw for me, and I was really disappointed at the way this was discarded in the sequel.

I believe those are the only two instances of this ability being used? Perhaps Kyoshi has a special connection with the place where she created Kyoshi Island, just as Roku has a special connection with his temple.

Seeing the past Avatars in the final fight against Ozai might have been intriguing; on the other hand, it would have detracted from the focus on Aang and his personal journey.

Yeah, it was definitely right to let Aang handle his own stuff. I'm just curious if the ability could perhaps make for enough of a twist on Aang's journey to be the basis of a new sequel/prequel series. LoK seemed to struggle to find ways to keep Korra from just using Aang's solutions, IMO, and maybe leaning into that could be a shot of needed creativity.
This is an interesting point. Aang's solutions hung rather hollow for Korra because she didn't have the same challenges. Her problem wasn't so much a lack of power wrt her adversaries as it was a lack of wisdom. She needed a coherent framework for approaching the changing world and the Avatar's role  it. As such, I feel that at the very least, Korra could have spent much more time actually talking with her past lives as a means of addressing this. But this would also run into other difficulties like the expectations of an action-adventure serial.

In some ways LoK was just a combo of different ideas that didn't complement each other.

Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: ahintoflime on February 24, 2017, 11:37:22 AM
This is an interesting point. Aang's solutions hung rather hollow for Korra because she didn't have the same challenges. Her problem wasn't so much a lack of power wrt her adversaries as it was a lack of wisdom. She needed a coherent framework for approaching the changing world and the Avatar's role  it. As such, I feel that at the very least, Korra could have spent much more time actually talking with her past lives as a means of addressing this. But this would also run into other difficulties like the expectations of an action-adventure serial.

The problem that would arise from having Korra manage to talk with the past lives would make the plot they forced on her to be null.

Korra: "Aang, why did you want everyone - and I mean everyone - to lock me up until I learned to be a mediator and keeper of balance for the world I'm not allowed to see? Even your own wife, Katara?"

Aang: "I did what now?"

There, now Books 1 - 4 don't happen.

In The Siege of the North when Aang goes into and returns from the Spirit World to find that his body had been moved, we see the difference between projecting to the Spirit World and the physical world when they're not blurred together.

Aang returning is still sketchy though? When he returns Momo doesn't react yet Katara sees a spirity thing moving across the sky and says it's Aang. So he could be seen but still not interact?
Probably something to talk about come that episode.

As for Avatars taking over their current incarnation, I thought it would be linked to the Solstice but - as it is pointed out - Kyoshi appears on what appears to be an average day to speak her piece. So are the Avatars always watching and ready to pop out? Roku's was more of a "let me help now" and Kyoshi's was more "Objection, who cares if I did it? Which I did." Then again you could have the possibility of the dead getting character development.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on February 24, 2017, 07:23:33 PM
Well, Kyoshi appears on the day after dual holidays celebrating/condemning her actions, while Aang is dressed is her holy relics. (Granted, the latter has more to do with her appearance than the former.)  So at least there's some spirity-esque justification in play.

I'm thinking I'm going to do the next episode early next week. Last call!
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: longman on February 26, 2017, 02:27:39 PM
This is an interesting point. Aang's solutions hung rather hollow for Korra because she didn't have the same challenges. Her problem wasn't so much a lack of power wrt her adversaries as it was a lack of wisdom. She needed a coherent framework for approaching the changing world and the Avatar's role  it. As such, I feel that at the very least, Korra could have spent much more time actually talking with her past lives as a means of addressing this. But this would also run into other difficulties like the expectations of an action-adventure serial.

The problem that would arise from having Korra manage to talk with the past lives would make the plot they forced on her to be null.

Korra: "Aang, why did you want everyone - and I mean everyone - to lock me up until I learned to be a mediator and keeper of balance for the world I'm not allowed to see? Even your own wife, Katara?"

Aang: "I did what now?"

There, now Books 1 - 4 don't happen.

Haha yeah, tbh only Books 2-4 are under threat, since Korra was spiritually inert until the Book 1 finale. That said, what you're talking about has less to do with the past Avatars and more to do with with the plot itself. It should not fall apart with a simple conversation or other event that should naturally arise from the environment and isn't clearly obstructed by any logic we know of. Korra didn't even attempt to contact her past lives until halfway through the Book 2 (and that was involuntary on her part) and the revelations that ensued invalidated almost all the melodrama that came before it. So the plot felt artificial anyway, and Korra's irrational behavior contributed to it.

However, using the past lives risks making the story redundant, but look how AtLA handled it. In the current episode Roku gave Aang valuable information about Sozin's Comet, but also imposed the extraordinary burden of fasttracking Aang's training in very difficult circumstances. That's kinda how the relationship worked; the past lives were never a carte-blanche remedy. (If this scene was written in LoK mode Roku would have energybent the keys to Avatar State mastery into Aang and the series would be over in 10 episodes.)
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Wordbender on February 27, 2017, 05:03:47 AM
In The Siege of the North when Aang goes into and returns from the Spirit World to find that his body had been moved, we see the difference between projecting to the Spirit World and the physical world when they're not blurred together.

Aang returning is still sketchy though? When he returns Momo doesn't react yet Katara sees a spirity thing moving across the sky and says it's Aang. So he could be seen but still not interact?
Probably something to talk about come that episode.

Momo is fast asleep, so it is plausible that he didn't see Aang, or perhaps didn't react until the camera cuts away. But my guess: the writers wanted to emphasize that Katara is the first one to witness Aang's return.

I find it interesting that neither Yue nor Sokka sees Aang. Is there another dimension to Katara's connection with Aang besides subtle romantic attraction, something spiritual or related to bending? Putting that aside, she happens to be the only bender present. Can she sense spirit things that the others cannot?

These ideas seem to support Loopy's (http://atla.fans/index.php?topic=19.msg474#msg474) working hypothesis that bending has spiritual and cultural elements (no pun intended), and is not just magical powers.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: longman on February 27, 2017, 07:22:16 AM
In The Siege of the North when Aang goes into and returns from the Spirit World to find that his body had been moved, we see the difference between projecting to the Spirit World and the physical world when they're not blurred together.

Aang returning is still sketchy though? When he returns Momo doesn't react yet Katara sees a spirity thing moving across the sky and says it's Aang. So he could be seen but still not interact?
Probably something to talk about come that episode.

Momo is fast asleep, so it is plausible that he didn't see Aang, or perhaps didn't react until the camera cuts away. But my guess: the writers wanted to emphasize that Katara is the first one to witness Aang's return.

I find it interesting that neither Yue nor Sokka sees Aang. Is there another dimension to Katara's connection with Aang besides subtle romantic attraction, something spiritual or related to bending? Putting that aside, she happens to be the only bender present. Can she sense spirit things that the others cannot?

These ideas seem to support Loopy's (http://atla.fans/index.php?topic=19.msg474#msg474) working hypothesis that bending has spiritual and cultural elements (no pun intended), and is not just magical powers.

I think Yue also saw Aang's spirit. The camera focused on Katara initially - probably due to the romantic connection - but when it pans out it showed the two girls looking in the same direction that Aang went.

(http://piandao.org/screenshots/water/water20/water20-620.jpg)

That moment was a bit of a retcon though. Aang wasn't even able to get Momo's attention by yelling at him, yet the others saw him?  I think it would have made more sense for Yue to be the only one able to see Aang; at least she has moon spirit life in her to explain that.

Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: GoEnzoGo on February 27, 2017, 10:26:57 AM
Korra didn't even attempt to contact her past lives until halfway through the Book 2 (and that was involuntary on her part)

Actually, she spends almost the entirety of Book 1 Episode 9: Out of the Past trying to make a connection with Aang (and succeeding, in a way, too!).

However, using the past lives risks making the story redundant, but look how AtLA handled it. In the current episode Roku gave Aang valuable information about Sozin's Comet, but also imposed the extraordinary burden of fasttracking Aang's training in very difficult circumstances. That's kinda how the relationship worked; the past lives were never a carte-blanche remedy. (If this scene was written in LoK mode Roku would have energybent the keys to Avatar State mastery into Aang and the series would be over in 10 episodes.)

Roku kind of did give Aang an easy solution though, at least to the Zhao situation in the episode. Roku didn't just give Aang valuable information and advice, he took control of Aang's body and did some really impressive feats of firebending to defeat Zhao and his men.

I actually think the ending to this episode parallels the ending to the LoK Book 1 finale in some interesting ways. Both of these episodes show the current Avatar talking to the previous one for the first time. Both episodes have the previous Avatar help the current one in a significant way.

I do still think LoK Book 1's energybending scene is worse, but that's mainly because of its timing and lack of buildup. I actually don't think the scene is necessarily bad, I just don't like that it's how LoK Book 1's story ends. LoK Book 1's story is kind of oddly paced in general. This episode, on the other hand, fits into ATLA's story better by still being part of ATLA's relatively slow start. Even if Roku does save Aang and friends in the end, this episode isn't as important as a season finale or anything like that, so it doesn't hurt the story like LoK Book 1's ending does.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on February 27, 2017, 06:49:33 PM
Plus, Aang and Company were only in trouble because they were trying to contact Roku after his invitation. Roku just made up for the mess he caused, whereas Aang bailed Korra out of a mess that could only be attributed to Aang in a general "legacy"/"sins of the father" kind of way.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: longman on February 27, 2017, 09:05:45 PM
Korra didn't even attempt to contact her past lives until halfway through the Book 2 (and that was involuntary on her part)

Actually, she spends almost the entirety of Book 1 Episode 9: Out of the Past trying to make a connection with Aang (and succeeding, in a way, too!).

Yes, and the next meeting with Aang in the finale supposedly solidified that part of her development. But she didn't use this connection next season despite being confronted by a host of complex issues in the SWT and quarelling/unreliable mentors. Other characters, Unalaq in particular, made even strangers decisions, allowing the narrative to devolve into a couple of spinning wheel subplots until Avatar Wan informed us that a giant spirit of evil was the only thing that mattered. We could have jumped straight from the premiere to Harmonic Convergence, and that is not good.

However, using the past lives risks making the story redundant, but look how AtLA handled it. In the current episode Roku gave Aang valuable information about Sozin's Comet, but also imposed the extraordinary burden of fasttracking Aang's training in very difficult circumstances. That's kinda how the relationship worked; the past lives were never a carte-blanche remedy. (If this scene was written in LoK mode Roku would have energybent the keys to Avatar State mastery into Aang and the series would be over in 10 episodes.)

Roku kind of did give Aang an easy solution though, at least to the Zhao situation in the episode. Roku didn't just give Aang valuable information and advice, he took control of Aang's body and did some really impressive feats of firebending to defeat Zhao and his men.

I actually think the ending to this episode parallels the ending to the LoK Book 1 finale in some interesting ways. Both of these episodes show the current Avatar talking to the previous one for the first time. Both episodes have the previous Avatar help the current one in a significant way.

I do still think LoK Book 1's energybending scene is worse, but that's mainly because of its timing and lack of buildup. I actually don't think the scene is necessarily bad, I just don't like that it's how LoK Book 1's story ends. LoK Book 1's story is kind of oddly paced in general. This episode, on the other hand, fits into ATLA's story better by still being part of ATLA's relatively slow start. Even if Roku does save Aang and friends in the end, this episode isn't as important as a season finale or anything like that, so it doesn't hurt the story like LoK Book 1's ending does.

In addition to Loopy's post above, the point of the meeting with Roku was to explain the comet vision as well as gain advice on the subject of Aang's Avatar duties which was set up at the start of the two-part episodes. Roku's answers left Aang more desperate than before, and the episode ended on a poignant note. The next time Aang consulted Roku for spiritual info, he was sent to a face-eating demon for answers. See what I'm getting at? Roku's help had a touch of 'monkey's paw' about it; Aang always got aid, but there were always obstacles in the way, and the aid only  made him aware ofother difficulties or introduced tough choices. There's no clean sweep like what Aang handed Korra at the Book Air finale, which is the sort of story-killing device that ahintoflime is wary of.

LoK's pacing was complicit, but the unfocused narrative didn't help either. Aang's flashbacks shifted the goalposts and were only superficially connected to Korra's experiences. (Imagine if Korra had gotten the full flashback dump in episode 5 instead of episode 9. What would have changed, even if she immediately figured that Amon was a bloodbender? Heck if she fell asleep in the cage instead of meditating, what would have changed?) Roku's revelations OTOH gave the gAang and the narrative a sense of urgency, and AtLA was better for it.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Wordbender on February 27, 2017, 09:46:32 PM
Aang returning is still sketchy though? When he returns Momo doesn't react yet Katara sees a spirity thing moving across the sky and says it's Aang. So he could be seen but still not interact?
Probably something to talk about come that episode.

Momo is fast asleep, so it is plausible that he didn't see Aang, or perhaps didn't react until the camera cuts away. But my guess: the writers wanted to emphasize that Katara is the first one to witness Aang's return.

I find it interesting that neither Yue nor Sokka sees Aang. Is there another dimension to Katara's connection with Aang besides subtle romantic attraction, something spiritual or related to bending? Putting that aside, she happens to be the only bender present. Can she sense spirit things that the others cannot?

These ideas seem to support Loopy's (http://atla.fans/index.php?topic=19.msg474#msg474) working hypothesis that bending has spiritual and cultural elements (no pun intended), and is not just magical powers.

I think Yue also saw Aang's spirit. The camera focused on Katara initially - probably due to the romantic connection - but when it pans out it showed the two girls looking in the same direction that Aang went.

On second thought, the others must have seen him too. As you noted, Yue was looking in the right direction, although it bothers me that she looks emotionless--this wouldn't be the first time the animators neglected (https://docs.google.com/uc?id=0B65-TkokbH7HcVBDM3VmSlRyVEU) the third-wheeling background character. And Sokka would have no idea where to steer Appa if he couldn't steer Aang. I think I got ahead of myself there.

Furthermore, this analysis is a bit much for an episode we haven't covered yet. ;)

That moment was a bit of a retcon though. Aang wasn't even able to get Momo's attention by yelling at him, yet the others saw him?  I think it would have made more sense for Yue to be the only one able to see Aang; at least she has moon spirit life in her to explain that.

I buy it. If Aang wasn't entirely in the physical world--and I think this is what the writers were trying to emphasize with Momo's obliviousness--nobody could hear him shout. I might concede that he should have been awakened by the light from a bright, flaming spirit... thing?
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Wordbender on February 28, 2017, 04:31:53 AM
I've been meaning to start writing my own reviews of the episodes we watch. I'm going to sneak this one in just before Loopy moves us onto "The Waterbending Scroll."



Hei Bai the rampaging forest spirit has been stopped, but there's hardly a moment to rest before Aang sets off to contact his former self, Roku.

"Avatar Roku" is first and foremost a plot and action episode. But there's some character interaction to go around, too, and as usual, it's charming and well-written. First, we see Sokka and Katara insist on accompanying Aang on his search for Roku. There's a sweet moment when Sokka says, "We got your back," and Momo lands reassuringly on Aang's arm. Then in the blockade running scene, Katara and Sokka make the decision to run the blockade, not Aang. For the villains, we finally see Zhao in action, a competent naval commander who is always one step ahead of Zuko. In particular, I enjoyed the scene in which Zuko's ship is on a collision course with Zhao's blockade. "We can make it," Zuko proclaims, unaware that Zhao's men were ready to board his ship before Zhao let him go on purpose. This perfectly captures the qualities of both characters.

Aang gets a lot of character development when he confesses to Roku what we all know: he's a kid with a heavy burden on his shoulders who has no idea what he's doing. But make no mistake: Aang's up to the task. He immediately grasps the importance of Roku's revelation that in just nine months, Sozin's Comet will enable a complete Fire Nation victory. When Aang declares "I'm ready" before accepting Roku's help, he declares that he is ready to become a full-fledged Avatar, both mentally and physically.

The humor in this episode is also well executed. There are a few moments that feel flat or cliche, such as the "idea" lantern over Sokka and Aang's "definition of genius" gag, but the sophistication remains very high for a children's show. Sokka is great; his snide remarks are deadpan but appropriate, lines like "Come on Aang, let her dream" and "How are we gonna make it out of this?" Yes, we all know Sokka as the complainer, the comic relief, the "girly" guy, and the "plans" guy, but he's more than that--he's believable. He's the counterpoint to his two whimsical companions with magical powers, and he represents how we might respond to the strange situations they find themselves in.

Atmosphere plays a big role in this episode; this is our first trip to the Fire Nation, a marked departure from the desolate South Pole and the warm, inviting Earth Kingdom. There's a fiery, red aura everywhere, especially in Roku's temple, the metal hallways of which feel so foreign, desolate, and sterile. One gets the sense that the kids have ventured into the "belly of the beast" of the Fire Nation.

Naturally, the action is great, intense and relentless but never gratuitous. We run a blockade, destroy a temple, and see a fully realized Avatar in action. What's not to like?

"Avatar Roku" is a well made episode that is central to the overall story. It's competent and action-packed, but it also lacks some of the Avatar charm. The kids have their moments, but they're secondary to the plot--and they're the heart of the series, not the war and lore that surround them. This episode may be epic, but it is not particularly memorable.

8/10
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: GoEnzoGo on February 28, 2017, 05:18:16 AM
Yeah, I agree with a lot of what you're saying, Longman. I have a lot to say about LoK (both good and bad), but I think I should save that for if/when LoK gets its own retrospective thread.

Anyway, back to discussing this episode: I think my favorite part is when they fail to open the door with "fake firebending" but Katara figures out how they can still use that to their advantage.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on February 28, 2017, 06:53:54 PM
"Avatar Roku" is first and foremost a plot and action episode. But there's some character interaction to go around, too, and as usual, it's charming and well-written. First, we see Sokka and Katara insist on accompanying Aang on his search for Roku. There's a sweet moment when Sokka says, "We got your back," and Momo lands reassuringly on Aang's arm. Then in the blockade running scene, Katara and Sokka make the decision to run the blockade, not Aang. For the villains, we finally see Zhao in action, a competent naval commander who is always one step ahead of Zuko. In particular, I enjoyed the scene in which Zuko's ship is on a collision course with Zhao's blockade. "We can make it," Zuko proclaims, unaware that Zhao's men were ready to board his ship before Zhao let him go on purpose. This perfectly captures the qualities of both characters.

This really encapsulates what makes AtlA such a great action show: the action all serves to highlight the characterizations.


Aang gets a lot of character development when he confesses to Roku what we all know: he's a kid with a heavy burden on his shoulders who has no idea what he's doing. But make no mistake: Aang's up to the task. He immediately grasps the importance of Roku's revelation that in just nine months, Sozin's Comet will enable a complete Fire Nation victory. When Aang declares "I'm ready" before accepting Roku's help, he declares that he is ready to become a full-fledged Avatar, both mentally and physically.

Great point! Aang wavers along the way, as anyone would, never mind the age he's at, but his conscious choices are born from a real sense of responsibility.


The humor in this episode is also well executed. There are a few moments that feel flat or cliche, such as the "idea" lantern over Sokka and Aang's "definition of genius" gag, but the sophistication remains very high for a children's show. Sokka is great; his snide remarks are deadpan but appropriate, lines like "Come on Aang, let her dream" and "How are we gonna make it out of this?" Yes, we all know Sokka as the complainer, the comic relief, the "girly" guy, and the "plans" guy, but he's more than that--he's believable. He's the counterpoint to his two whimsical companions with magical powers, and he represents how we might respond to the strange situations they find themselves in.

I liked the lantern gag. :P


Atmosphere plays a big role in this episode; this is our first trip to the Fire Nation, a marked departure from the desolate South Pole and the warm, inviting Earth Kingdom. There's a fiery, red aura everywhere, especially in Roku's temple, the metal hallways of which feel so foreign, desolate, and sterile. One gets the sense that the kids have ventured into the "belly of the beast" of the Fire Nation.

Yeah, this is something AtLA does well that most animation doesn't aspire to. Every scene has a tint to it that reflects both the setting and the mood, which works especially well with the boldly-colored world that the characters inhabit. It reminded me of the movie Hero (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hero_(2002_film)), with both being in the wuxia genre probably helping me make that connection. In retrospect, expecting something like Hero in terms of looks was another blow against my ability to respect M Nighty's adaptation.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Wordbender on March 01, 2017, 08:22:23 PM
I liked the lantern gag. :P

It's subjective, of course. :)

(I tend to eschew phrases like "in my opinion" and "I think that" to strengthen my writing, but this can leave the impression that there's no room for nuance, when there is.)
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on March 02, 2017, 07:56:26 PM
Ah, but the devil's in the nuance, or something like that. Which, in a perfect segue, is something that the next episode might trip over. Let's check out an exploration of Katara's flaws in The Waterbending Scroll:


(http://piandao.org/screenshots/water/water9/water9-272.jpg)
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: GoEnzoGo on March 03, 2017, 10:45:24 AM
I think The Waterbending Scroll is underappreciated. It's full of great character interactions, even if nothing particularly epic or even really important to the story happens. It's just fun. It even has Zuko's biggest laugh of the series. :)

(http://i.imgur.com/8uRJE2y.png)

I thought Katara blowing up at Aang was great. That scene highlights flaws for both characters (Katara's insecurity about her bending, and Aang's obliviousness and tendency to show off) and it's neither dragged out for too long nor completely forgotten about. I love how even after that, they show that Katara still hadn't really learned her lesson by having her sneak off to practice waterbending at night. Even by the end of the episode, she tries to justify her theft of the scroll. Katara really isn't always good and honest, despite being self-righteous most of the time. These moments of realistic selfishness make her relatable.

I thought it was fair that Katara was forgiven so easily. Aang's gotten them into trouble by being reckless too, like in The King of Omashu when they get arrested because he wanted to ride the mail system.

The pirates were ultimately just silly minor characters (although they do come back for the season finale), but it's always cool to see Team Aang fight bad guys that aren't just Fire Nation soldiers.

I agree about the animation being great in this episode. Jet, The Storm, The Fortuneteller, The Deserter, The Waterbending Master and The Siege of the North, Part 2 have the same animation style and quality. Despite its great animation though, I don't think this episode has many fight scenes that are visually memorable. You almost never see fight scene clips from this episode used in AMVs. In my opinion, the best-looking bending move in this episode is just Aang showing off.

(http://i.imgur.com/RJ1MWOX.png)
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: longman on March 14, 2017, 08:48:05 PM
This episode also introduces the concept of the "White Lotus," but only as a game piece in Pai Sho. So, was the secret multi-national organization a thing in the mind of the storytellers at this point, do you think, or was it just an element they later happened to recycle? I'm not sure, myself, but I definitely don't believe in the theories that Iroh here was purposefully waylaying Zuko for White Lotus reasons.
Like Katara's necklace, the lotus tile could have started as a trinket plot device without any special significance. Then again, the lotus symbol has cultural significance in Buddhism and East/South Asian cultures, which is possibly where the whole idea of a lotus game piece came from. And someone may have stumbled on this Wikipedia article (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Lotus) and thought, "Ya don't say..."

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Actually, this is a good point to talk about Iroh again. How do you guys see his role at this point? Is he a Good Guy who is ready to liberate Aang from Zuko in the event that ol' Bacon Face actually succeeds, a stealth mentor trying lead Zuko to the Avatar's side, or something else? I have ideas, but I'll hold them back until I see yours.
At this point Iroh is sort of a neutral. He is done with waging wars and not particularly invested in finding the Avatar, but he is not directly opposing his fatherland either. He just wants to enjoy life, but his other main concern is Zuko, who is determined to capture the Avatar in order to redeem himself. To this end Iroh kinda walks a fine line balancing all of the above during this season, until the rash actions of Zuko and Zhao in the finale force his hand.

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I really like Mako's performance in this episode. Iroh is funny without being entirely buffoonish, IMO
Very true! I am probably in the minority here, but this is one area where I see a distinction with LoK, where the comedy was more bombastic, and the comic relief characters tilted on the bufoonish side as a result. AtLA had buffoons too but they were mostly one-shot characters like the schizoid Doc-Shu guy in Book 3, or the people of Chin City. We weren't watching them every episode and I think that made the rarity of their appearances either more enjoyable or at least more tolerable.

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  • So, onto the star of this episode: Katara! She gets two scenes where she gets to be jealous of Aang. The first limits her jealousy to being only in the audience's perception. The second scene is where it gets thrown in Aang's face. So, what do you guys think of Katara's reactions? Understandable, given her identity is wrapped up in being her tribe's lone Waterbender? Or was this off-putting to you? If so, was her earlier annoyance more understandable than her later tantrum? Are these specific actions condemned by the narrative? Did Aang forgive the tear-inducing outburst too easily?
  • And then we have her actions with the Waterbending scroll. First she stole it, putting the gAang in danger, then she gets possessive with it as a result of her hurt pride, and finally she steals again after trying to give it up once and thus gets the gAang captured by Zuko and the pirates. Again, what were your reactions to this stuff? Do you think the narrative condemned these actions, too? Did Aang forgive these actions too easily?
I think Aang and Katara's reactions are fairly natural. Concerning the narrative's handling of Katara's flaws, this is the pattern I described during the discussion on Imprisoned:
... Katara herself doesn't acknowledge her flaws, doesn't have to change perspective, gets her own way eventually, and is commended by the narrative in the end.
The one improvement here isthat Katara does own up to her mistakes, a couple of times in fact. But these admissions could be hollow since she immediately doubles downs on her errors afterwards. Everything else runs in place: she gets her way eventually, since Sokka somehow found the scroll amidst the chaos, and he doesn't even an apology from her despite being the most annoyed about the entire affair. Katara even gets the parting shot in the end, and in later episodes we see that she is the main beneficiary of the scroll, not Aang. The bottom line is that it's difficult to see this episode as proof of Katara actually learning a valuable moral lesson.

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The bison whistle is acquired in this episode. It kind of comes out of nowhere, a specific bison-shaped whistle that Appa can hear and that he knows to respond to. Was it meant to be an Air Nomad thing, or did it all just coincidentally work out?
I've imagined that there's a missing scene after the gAang first ditched the pirates, where Aang 'calibrated' the whistle by blowing it in Appa's presence. Otherwise it's pure luck for Appa to show up at the waterfall when he didn't respond to the whistle the first time Aang used it in the market.

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What do you think about the pirates? I love how the way they're implemented as real Asian pirates, in terms of costumes, weapons, fighting style, and their ship. Plus, the captain is voiced by Jack Angel, and I saw this rerun so many times, thinking that his voice sounded so familiar, until I realized that he was Ultra Magnus (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSTK85o4EQ0) (and also a bunch of other Transformers).
The pirates were great. I think this is the first (and possibly only?) group of people who are not characterized by either side of of the war's divide. They sometimes strike me as more silly than truly dangerous, but we got great sitcom-level comedy out of it. WRT their design and presentation, the writers were clearly conscious of their Western audience's sensibilities, including things like the pet reptile bird, and Aang lines like "Arrr, we be casting off!" and "I used to look up to pirates.."  ;D

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I picked my avvie, came up with my username, and formulated my entire online persona the second time I saw this shot. (http://piandao.org/screenshots/water/water9/water9-272.jpg)
What was so to confusing about the monkey statue to Katara anyway?

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So, about that whole "tying Katara to a tree and leering" thing that Zuko had going. Zutara aside, I saw a theory that Zuko was taking inspiration from Azula in his actions, here. I doubt that was intended, but I rather like it. Anyone have any thoughts about this? Anyone want to rant about Zutara?
That's a good theory. What's more, Zuko reveals a bit more of his moral compass, in that he really isn't into sadism anyways. He'd rather manipulate the pirates into searching the woods than torture a confession out of Katara, who for here part shows courage in her defiant rebuttals.

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This episode has a lot of great action in it, once the fighting starts. Pirates versus Fire Nation versus gAang across a beach across two stolen ships. It just keeps getting bigger, with lots of fun little moments, IMO. And Katara and Aang get a very natural moment, IMO, where they can work together on Waterbending and come to a reconciliation after their earlier conflict. It feels like Aang is specifically reaching out to Katara in this way, yet the opportunity feels like it came up organically. I like that specific combo.

Yeah the action build up is similar to that of the previous episode, with different groups going after one another and coming together in a big explosion at the end. This episode also demonstrates how AtLA takes advantage of the animation medium to produce great action and comedy. For example, I don't see the smoke bomb scenes working as well in a live action format. M Nighty's shortcomings aside, some people have questioned the suitability of live action for AtLA and not completely without merit IMO.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: ahintoflime on March 17, 2017, 11:19:27 AM
The bottom line is that it's difficult to see this episode as proof of Katara actually learning a valuable moral lesson.



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What do you think about the pirates? I love how the way they're implemented as real Asian pirates, in terms of costumes, weapons, fighting style, and their ship. Plus, the captain is voiced by Jack Angel, and I saw this rerun so many times, thinking that his voice sounded so familiar, until I realized that he was Ultra Magnus (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSTK85o4EQ0) (and also a bunch of other Transformers).
The pirates were great. I think this is the first (and possibly only?) group of people who are not characterized by either side of of the war's divide. They sometimes strike me as more silly than truly dangerous, but we got great sitcom-level comedy out of it. WRT their design and presentation, the writers were clearly conscious of their Western audience's sensibilities, including things like the pet reptile bird, and Aang lines like "Arrr, we be casting off!" and "I used to look up to pirates.."  ;D

I'd take it as more of a character study. Not everyone needs to learn a lesson and perhaps some things don't teach you anything, but they make you something and you have to wait a while and see what comes of it.

Also I would think the people of Chin's Village were not necessarily characterized by the war? Even if they were the cream of the crop of the Earth Kingdom they'd still blame Kyoshi (and the Avatar) for something.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on March 17, 2017, 08:10:23 PM
I think Aang and Katara's reactions are fairly natural. Concerning the narrative's handling of Katara's flaws, this is the pattern I described during the discussion on Imprisoned:
... Katara herself doesn't acknowledge her flaws, doesn't have to change perspective, gets her own way eventually, and is commended by the narrative in the end.
The one improvement here isthat Katara does own up to her mistakes, a couple of times in fact. But these admissions could be hollow since she immediately doubles downs on her errors afterwards. Everything else runs in place: she gets her way eventually, since Sokka somehow found the scroll amidst the chaos, and he doesn't even an apology from her despite being the most annoyed about the entire affair. Katara even gets the parting shot in the end, and in later episodes we see that she is the main beneficiary of the scroll, not Aang. The bottom line is that it's difficult to see this episode as proof of Katara actually learning a valuable moral lesson.
I'd take it as more of a character study. Not everyone needs to learn a lesson and perhaps some things don't teach you anything, but they make you something and you have to wait a while and see what comes of it.

I'm going to split the difference. Katara's jealousy doesn't come up again in the series, so I don't think it was meant to be the focus of a character study. It's possible the study was meant to be her pride as a Waterbender, but then why add the initial negative component? It's Katara's protectiveness that leads to negative actions in future episodes, so I would expect that to get a study.

No, I think Katara being jealous and then getting over that into a kind of healthy pride in her Waterbending was meant to show her learning a lesson, and the storytellers just kind of botched it. Katara gets the dreaded and meaningless "Mary Sue" label for such results, but I really don't think it comes from any special regard on the storytellers' part. They just wanted to use Sokka as the butt monkey for the final scene as usual, wanted to do a little humor with subverting the notion of a Lesson Learned plot, and thought they gave Katara enough negative consequences already, without thinking about how the whole presentation comes together for this nugget of a story. The jealousy doesn't come back, so I think in the long term it functions as desired, but this episode alone kind of suffers for the blunders.

It's possible, too, that they didn't want to be too hard on her because she's a female character. The storytellers had really good, truly feminist intentions with AtLA, but it is possible to overthink these things and veer too much in the other direction. The soft ending with Katara getting the parting shot over Sokka could have been an attempt to avoid the appearance of letting the boys 1-up the girl.



Like Katara's necklace, the lotus tile could have started as a trinket plot device without any special significance. Then again, the lotus symbol has cultural significance in Buddhism and East/South Asian cultures, which is possibly where the whole idea of a lotus game piece came from. And someone may have stumbled on this Wikipedia article (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Lotus) and thought, "Ya don't say..."

Ah, I either didn't know the name's origins, or forgot them. Yes, that's a good indication that there were definite plans for something connected with Iroh. I doubt that all of the old people in the show were meant to be part of the organization at this point in time (Pakku especially strikes me as a really unnatural candidate for the White Lotus), but we can discuss that point later.


At this point Iroh is sort of a neutral. He is done with waging wars and not particularly invested in finding the Avatar, but he is not directly opposing his fatherland either. He just wants to enjoy life, but his other main concern is Zuko, who is determined to capture the Avatar in order to redeem himself. To this end Iroh kinda walks a fine line balancing all of the above during this season, until the rash actions of Zuko and Zhao in the finale force his hand.

Cosigned! One retcon I'm glad never got is that Iroh was manipulating everything.


I've imagined that there's a missing scene after the gAang first ditched the pirates, where Aang 'calibrated' the whistle by blowing it in Appa's presence. Otherwise it's pure luck for Appa to show up at the waterfall when he didn't respond to the whistle the first time Aang used it in the market.

It would have been funny if the initial blowing brought only Momo, and then later Aang blows it and Sokka asks what Momo is going to do to help them, and then Appa shows up to help. Leave it implied that Momo taught Appa. :D


The pirates were great. I think this is the first (and possibly only?) group of people who are not characterized by either side of of the war's divide.

Swampbenders! :) And, technically, Wan Shi Tong declared himself neutral.


What was so to confusing about the monkey statue to Katara anyway?

I still think it was a Sun Warrior relic imprisoning a demon. ;)


That's a good theory. What's more, Zuko reveals a bit more of his moral compass, in that he really isn't into sadism anyways. He'd rather manipulate the pirates into searching the woods than torture a confession out of Katara, who for here part shows courage in her defiant rebuttals.

Good point! Zuko was more than happy to bribe her, but that's as far as it goes.


Yeah the action build up is similar to that of the previous episode, with different groups going after one another and coming together in a big explosion at the end. This episode also demonstrates how AtLA takes advantage of the animation medium to produce great action and comedy. For example, I don't see the smoke bomb scenes working as well in a live action format. M Nighty's shortcomings aside, some people have questioned the suitability of live action for AtLA and not completely without merit IMO.

Hm, I agree that M Nighty wouldn't have been able to make it work, but the original live-action TMNT movie did a fairly effective scene with sewer steam functioning as a smokescreen while the turtles took out some attackers, but that was a quick scene. I think a skilled filmmaker could probably do something like we got here (without CGI), but not as easily and perhaps with more zoomed-in shots.

I'll have to ask around if there any good Hong Kong action flicks that pull off a good smokebomb scene.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: longman on March 18, 2017, 10:13:25 PM
I'm going to split the difference. Katara's jealousy doesn't come up again in the series, so I don't think it was meant to be the focus of a character study. It's possible the study was meant to be her pride as a Waterbender, but then why add the initial negative component? It's Katara's protectiveness that leads to negative actions in future episodes, so I would expect that to get a study.

No, I think Katara being jealous and then getting over that into a kind of healthy pride in her Waterbending was meant to show her learning a lesson, and the storytellers just kind of botched it. Katara gets the dreaded and meaningless "Mary Sue" label for such results, but I really don't think it comes from any special regard on the storytellers' part. They just wanted to use Sokka as the butt monkey for the final scene as usual, wanted to do a little humor with subverting the notion of a Lesson Learned plot, and thought they gave Katara enough negative consequences already, without thinking about how the whole presentation comes together for this nugget of a story. The jealousy doesn't come back, so I think in the long term it functions as desired, but this episode alone kind of suffers for the blunders.

It's possible, too, that they didn't want to be too hard on her because she's a female character. The storytellers had really good, truly feminist intentions with AtLA, but it is possible to overthink these things and veer too much in the other direction. The soft ending with Katara getting the parting shot over Sokka could have been an attempt to avoid the appearance of letting the boys 1-up the girl.

Good points.

Katara's jealousy here is a symptom of a deeper flaw we've seen elsewhere, in the book premiere and Imprisoned, and later on in The Waterbending Master. Basically, Katara is prone to Zuko-esque decisions (right down to challenging bending masters to duels) in situations where her sense of idealism or waterbender identity appear to be on the line. That is what ought to be addressed, if anything. Much later in Book 3 Toph commits the same error in beating shady dealers at their own game for a greater good, but endangering the gAang as a result. However, the deeper psychological reasons for her behaviour are addressed, and Ironically Katara is instrumental in that process. I think that is why Katara gets some flack; some people get the impression of a character that loves preaching to others but is often shielded from taking her own medicine.

The points about the writers' feminist intentions brings up a trend I've noticed with increasing concern in the current media, where strange narrative decisions are taken ostensibly to further progressive ideals. I meant to say this when we were on The Warriors of Kyoshi, but I think that AtLA generally handled its egalitarian themes best as a matter of course rather than a matter of necessity. Of course the latter is fine, but that requires a certain maturity and nuance in the storytelling which may not be available especially for what was intended as a kids' show. The message runs the risk of being contrived, or bringing up unfortunate implications, and we will see this in The Waterbending Master when we get there. AtLA's feminist successes IMO were engaging female characters like Katara, Azula, and Toph, and a world in which women as well as men could be the titular hero, not the time Sokka was whooped by geisha chicks and made to wear a dress in penance. The same is true for AtLA's environmentalism. In a show where the characters (and thus the viewers) spend a lot of time out in the open, surrounded by the beauty of nature and possessing a magical connection to nature in the form of bending, and with other parts of nature personified by godlike beings, are overt statements really necessary? In short, to quote Plinkett, "You may not have noticed it - but your brain did."
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Wordbender on March 31, 2017, 06:00:53 AM
Alright, I'm way late, but better late than never.



...Even though those are jokes on my part, I think it's notable how much this episode follows through on the momentum of the two-parter. The characters react directly to what they learned from Roku, Aang begins Waterbending, and Zuko returns for another go at Aang. It's not a Part 3, but the show is definitely making movements towards a real serial narrative.

It's a nice nod, but the subsequent episodes don't really acknowledge the narrative until it picks back up at the North Pole. We're just transitioning back into standalone plotlines. Also, the "real serial narrative" isn't exactly novel -- we already got that in the introduction. In summary, we have:


and lots of (I dread the word, but it's apt) "filler" adventures in between. I think this format gives Book One a sense of charm and simplicity, particularly compared to the last arts of the show.

This episode also introduces the concept of the "White Lotus," but only as a game piece in Pai Sho. So, was the secret multi-national organization a thing in the mind of the storytellers at this point, do you think, or was it just an element they later happened to recycle? I'm not sure, myself, but I definitely don't believe in the theories that Iroh here was purposefully waylaying Zuko for White Lotus reasons.

Good question. I hesitate to say the writers planned the White Lotus that far in advance, but Iroh's line strikes me: "Most people think the lotus tile insignificant, but it is essential for the unusual strategy that I employ." Maybe they hadn't conceived of a secret society at this point, but they were intentionally making that association between Iroh and his lotus tile.

Actually, this is a good point to talk about Iroh again. How do you guys see his role at this point? Is he a Good Guy who is ready to liberate Aang from Zuko in the event that ol' Bacon Face actually succeeds, a stealth mentor trying lead Zuko to the Avatar's side, or something else? I have ideas, but I'll hold them back until I see yours.

I never bought the idea that Iroh was secretly on the Avatar's side; he seemed to be written entirely too (as you say) buffoonish and he seemed too invested in Zuko's firebending. Nonetheless, he clearly has a respect for Aang's role that we see in the North Pole confrontation. I think Iroh was motivated by a concern for Zuko's well-being more than anything, and he didn't think Zuko would possibly succeed on his quest for the Avatar. Remember the intro, when Iroh cautioned him not to get his hopes up?

I really like Mako's performance in this episode. Iroh is funny without being entirely buffoonish, IMO

Mako's performance is always a treat. :)

So, onto the star of this episode: Katara! She gets two scenes where she gets to be jealous of Aang. The first limits her jealousy to being only in the audience's perception. The second scene is where it gets thrown in Aang's face. So, what do you guys think of Katara's reactions? Understandable, given her identity is wrapped up in being her tribe's lone Waterbender? Or was this off-putting to you? If so, was her earlier annoyance more understandable than her later tantrum? Are these specific actions condemned by the narrative? Did Aang forgive the tear-inducing outburst too easily?

I argue Katara's frustration is understandable given that her waterbending is such a huge part of her personal identity. Her whole life, her abilities have been the one thing that makes her special and "weird," the one thing she defended constantly as "an ancient art unique to our culture" -- and now Aang learns everything she knows within 30 seconds. Perhaps we'd frown on Katara's second temper tantrum, but I think that's just what makes her such a strong and compelling character.

Aang's reactions to all of these events are perfectly written. First, he shows off with his new waterbending moves without realizing it. Then, he's on the verge of tears when Katara, of all people, gets upset at him. Finally, he's all too willing to forgive and forget. Can't get any more Aang than that -- happy-go-lucky, if slightly naive.

I also argue that yes, the narrative did appropriately condemn Katara for her actions. This leads me to your next point...

And then we have her actions with the Waterbending scroll. First she stole it, putting the gAang in danger, then she gets possessive with it as a result of her hurt pride, and finally she steals again after trying to give it up once and thus gets the gAang captured by Zuko and the pirates. Again, what were your reactions to this stuff? Do you think the narrative condemned these actions, too? Did Aang forgive these actions too easily?

Many who analyze this episode's message focus on the "stealing is wrong" bit, which seems natural, given that Katara admits exactly that in the end. But that isn't supposed to be the key takeaway, which is why we see Katara make the "unless it's from pirates" joke at Sokka's expense. Selfishness aside, I'd say Katara's motivations for stealing the scroll were somewhat sound. The fate of the world rested on acquiring waterbending instruction for Aang -- she just thought she could keep a leg up on him by hogging the scroll for herself, which of course, backfired spectacularly. In all likelihood, she was also right about the pirates' stealing the scroll. Where else could they have gotten it for "a most reasonable price" of "free"?

Katara's real lesson is to work together to solve problems instead of putting her pride between herself and her friends. That's illustrated quite well in the final act of the episode. She and Aang cooperate beautifully when launching the boat, defeating the pirates, and stalling at the waterfall. Meanwhile, Zuko and the pirates fight each other and let the kids get away -- a very nice juxtaposition. This episode isn't about "thou shall not steal" -- which is muddled by circumstance anyway -- it's about the value of teamwork.

Aang, again, would rather forgive and forget. He's more inclined to poke fun at their situation rather than dwell on the past, in obvious contrast to Sokka.

The bison whistle is acquired in this episode. It kind of comes out of nowhere, a specific bison-shaped whistle that Appa can hear and that he knows to respond to. Was it meant to be an Air Nomad thing, or did it all just coincidentally work out?

No idea, but since the Air Nomads are long gone, I'd say it's just a coincidence.

What do you think about the pirates? I love how the way they're implemented as real Asian pirates, in terms of costumes, weapons, fighting style, and their ship. Plus, the captain is voiced by Jack Angel, and I saw this rerun so many times, thinking that his voice sounded so familiar, until I realized that he was Ultra Magnus (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSTK85o4EQ0) (and also a bunch of other Transformers).

The pirates are terrific characters, and knowing they're also Asian-inspired makes them that much cooler. The captain's swordsmanship going toe-to-toe with Zuko's firebending was fantastic. So was the chaotic smokescreen brawl between the other pirates and the Fire Nation soldiers.

I picked my avvie, came up with my username, and formulated my entire online persona the second time I saw this shot. (http://piandao.org/screenshots/water/water9/water9-272.jpg)

My avatar (at press time) also comes from this episode. ;)

Hey, second cabbage merchant appearance.

I enjoyed the irony of Aang soaring acrobatically through the cabbage stand, only for him to destroy it a moment later with an airbending strike. I thought the gag could have done without the "this place is worse than Omashu" line, though.

So, about that whole "tying Katara to a tree and leering" thing that Zuko had going. Zutara aside, I saw a theory that Zuko was taking inspiration from Azula in his actions, here. I doubt that was intended, but I rather like it. Anyone have any thoughts about this? Anyone want to rant about Zutara?

Fun idea, but I'm skeptical the writers had that aspect of Azula fleshed out, if they had even conceived of her at all.

Now, as for Zutara, stay tuned...

I really like that Sokka had another smart moment when he tricked the pirates into turning on Zuko. And Aang didn't even understand what was happening!

I grinned at "I'm just sayin', it's bad business sense!"

This episode has a lot of great action in it, once the fighting starts. Pirates versus Fire Nation versus gAang across a beach across two stolen ships. It just keeps getting bigger, with lots of fun little moments, IMO. And Katara and Aang get a very natural moment, IMO, where they can work together on Waterbending and come to a reconciliation after their earlier conflict. It feels like Aang is specifically reaching out to Katara in this way, yet the opportunity feels like it came up organically. I like that specific combo.

Totally agree, it's all great (in addition to my above points).

Also, this episode might have some of my favorite animation it, from the Waterbending to Katara's tantrum to the fighting to just the expressions and movement of the characters.

Yes, the facial expressions are superbly detailed in this episode -- it's just a pity they can be missed in the blink of an eye, among other small but neat details.



Coming soon: responses to everyone else, my own take, and a Zutara rant.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Wordbender on April 01, 2017, 01:12:38 AM
I thought Katara blowing up at Aang was great. That scene highlights flaws for both characters (Katara's insecurity about her bending, and Aang's obliviousness and tendency to show off) and it's neither dragged out for too long nor completely forgotten about. I love how even after that, they show that Katara still hadn't really learned her lesson by having her sneak off to practice waterbending at night. Even by the end of the episode, she tries to justify her theft of the scroll. Katara really isn't always good and honest, despite being self-righteous most of the time. These moments of realistic selfishness make her relatable.

Agreed. It's a blast to watch Katara in this episode, and you'll find yourself cheering her on from the moment she tells Zuko to "go jump in the river" to her first use of the water whip against the pirates. I think "The Waterbending Scroll" acknowledged Katara's flaws and put her through an engaging dilemma in a way that "Imprisoned" did not, which made the latter slightly less interesting to me even though it also revolved around Katara.

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I really like Mako's performance in this episode. Iroh is funny without being entirely buffoonish, IMO
Very true! I am probably in the minority here, but this is one area where I see a distinction with LoK, where the comedy was more bombastic, and the comic relief characters tilted on the bufoonish side as a result. AtLA had buffoons too but they were mostly one-shot characters like the schizoid Doc-Shu guy in Book 3, or the people of Chin City. We weren't watching them every episode and I think that made the rarity of their appearances either more enjoyable or at least more tolerable.

I'm in the camp that hates the cartoony, buffoon characters like Doc-Shu -- so the fact that they're confined to single episodes makes them more tolerable, not enjoyable. If that's the direction that LoK took things, I'd be quite disappointed.

Also, as I understand it, the consensus is that less sophisticated comedy was indeed one of LoK's disappointments, so your view isn't so unusual after all. (Then again, "too much toilet humor" is a criticism frequently leveled at ATLA Book One, unjustly so.)

I think Aang and Katara's reactions are fairly natural. Concerning the narrative's handling of Katara's flaws, this is the pattern I described during the discussion on Imprisoned:
... Katara herself doesn't acknowledge her flaws, doesn't have to change perspective, gets her own way eventually, and is commended by the narrative in the end.
The one improvement here isthat Katara does own up to her mistakes, a couple of times in fact. But these admissions could be hollow since she immediately doubles downs on her errors afterwards. Everything else runs in place: she gets her way eventually, since Sokka somehow found the scroll amidst the chaos, and he doesn't even an apology from her despite being the most annoyed about the entire affair. Katara even gets the parting shot in the end, and in later episodes we see that she is the main beneficiary of the scroll, not Aang. The bottom line is that it's difficult to see this episode as proof of Katara actually learning a valuable moral lesson.

Again, I take some issue with your interpretation of both narratives. In "Imprisoned," Katara does acknowledge that her no-compromise, take-no-prisoners sense of heroism landed Haru in trouble: "The old man turned him in to the Fire Nation. It's all my fault, I forced him into earthbending!" Her prison break quest comes from that acknowledgment of her responsibility. I will concede that Katara doesn't have to really rethink her perspective, but her immense drive to right her wrong is admirable, and she believes that her "few inspirational words" of hope will lead to the liberation of everyone on the rig. And in the end, she's right. That's what the narrative commends her for.

(Come to think of it, whether or not it was smart for Katara and Haru to save the old man presents a very thorny ethics question for a kid's show. I think it's very easy to argue they were victims of unfortunate circumstance and Katara's stubbornness played a very minor role, if at all.)

Now, as you noted, Katara does own up to her mistakes in "The Waterbending Scroll." I think the fact that she "doubles down" on them is just a believable flaw in a character that sees an opportunity to have it both ways, as GoEnzoGo suggests (http://atla.fans/index.php?topic=19.msg572#msg572). As for the apology to Aang but the apparent lack of an apology to Sokka, Sokka's is there, but it's implicit -- sibling dynamics dictate that apologies are rarely given directly. It's a blink-and-you-miss-it moment, but Sokka smiles contentedly after Katara admits that "stealing is wrong":

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I contend that Katara did learn a valuable lesson: to learn waterbending by cooperation and mutual benefit as opposed to competition and jealousy. That's the part of her mindset that changes, not the silly pun about "stealing from pirates." If the narrative didn't deconstruct Katara and her flaws, it at least developed her character and illustrated how she improves. Just look how happy she is bending with Aang:

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My argument also addresses Loopy's interpretation of this episode's narrative.

No, I think Katara being jealous and then getting over that into a kind of healthy pride in her Waterbending was meant to show her learning a lesson, and the storytellers just kind of botched it. Katara gets the dreaded and meaningless "Mary Sue" label for such results, but I really don't think it comes from any special regard on the storytellers' part. They just wanted to use Sokka as the butt monkey for the final scene as usual, wanted to do a little humor with subverting the notion of a Lesson Learned plot, and thought they gave Katara enough negative consequences already, without thinking about how the whole presentation comes together for this nugget of a story. The jealousy doesn't come back, so I think in the long term it functions as desired, but this episode alone kind of suffers for the blunders.

As in "Imprisoned," I think there's more sophistication to Katara in "The Waterbending Scroll" than we realize. We focus on Katara's jealousy and mischief, but we lose sight of how she makes up for it. The jealousy doesn't come back because it's neatly resolved. (Although Katara allegedly surpasses Aang in waterbending ability anyway, so maybe it's a moot point.)

It's possible, too, that they didn't want to be too hard on her because she's a female character. The storytellers had really good, truly feminist intentions with AtLA, but it is possible to overthink these things and veer too much in the other direction. The soft ending with Katara getting the parting shot over Sokka could have been an attempt to avoid the appearance of letting the boys 1-up the girl.

I disagree that that was the intent. In general, I find the show's feminist messages fairly balanced once past the initial jabs at Sokka.

The points about the writers' feminist intentions brings up a trend I've noticed with increasing concern in the current media, where strange narrative decisions are taken ostensibly to further progressive ideals. I meant to say this when we were on The Warriors of Kyoshi, but I think that AtLA generally handled its egalitarian themes best as a matter of course rather than a matter of necessity. Of course the latter is fine, but that requires a certain maturity and nuance in the storytelling which may not be available especially for what was intended as a kids' show. The message runs the risk of being contrived, or bringing up unfortunate implications, and we will see this in The Waterbending Master when we get there. AtLA's feminist successes IMO were engaging female characters like Katara, Azula, and Toph, and a world in which women as well as men could be the titular hero, not the time Sokka was whooped by geisha chicks and made to wear a dress in penance ... In short, to quote Plinkett, "You may not have noticed it - but your brain did."

Hmm, I'm having trouble understanding your concepts of "a matter of course" and "a matter of necessity," but it seems to me that they're both sides of the same coin. If you want to allude to feminism, you not only have to have strong women, you also have to portray the obstacles and the contradictory world they face. Avatar has its strong women in Suki and Katara, but it also needs misogyny-lite Sokka and Pakku to drive the point home.

About Toph, however, I will say...

Basically, Katara is prone to Zuko-esque decisions (right down to challenging bending masters to duels) in situations where her sense of idealism or waterbender identity appear to be on the line. That is what ought to be addressed, if anything. Much later in Book 3 Toph commits the same error in beating shady dealers at their own game for a greater good, but endangering the gAang as a result.

I would caution against equating Katara's and Toph's situations. Katara acted rash because she fought for what she thought was right, whereas Toph seemed more interested in showing off and making money under the guise of "getting back" at the scammers. I can see the comparison, but I don't think they're quite on the same level. This is among the reasons I find Toph a significantly less compelling character.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: longman on April 03, 2017, 05:00:08 PM

Very true! I am probably in the minority here, but this is one area where I see a distinction with LoK, where the comedy was more bombastic, and the comic relief characters tilted on the bufoonish side as a result. AtLA had buffoons too but they were mostly one-shot characters like the schizoid Doc-Shu guy in Book 3, or the people of Chin City. We weren't watching them every episode and I think that made the rarity of their appearances either more enjoyable or at least more tolerable.

I'm in the camp that hates the cartoony, buffoon characters like Doc-Shu -- so the fact that they're confined to single episodes makes them more tolerable, not enjoyable. If that's the direction that LoK took things, I'd be quite disappointed.

Also, as I understand it, the consensus is that less sophisticated comedy was indeed one of LoK's disappointments, so your view isn't so unusual after all. (Then again, "too much toilet humor" is a criticism frequently leveled at ATLA Book One, unjustly so.)

I'm a bit of a harsh critic so don't take my word for it. That said, I put LoK on the same level as the SW prequels wrt its balance of comedy and drama. When we get to The Deserter I'll compare a tricky situation the gAang which was played for laughs to a similar situation with Korra and friends to demonstrate the differences.

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Again, I take some issue with your interpretation of both narratives. In "Imprisoned," Katara does acknowledge that her no-compromise, take-no-prisoners sense of heroism landed Haru in trouble: "The old man turned him in to the Fire Nation. It's all my fault, I forced him into earthbending!" Her prison break quest comes from that acknowledgment of her responsibility. I will concede that Katara doesn't have to really rethink her perspective, but her immense drive to right her wrong is admirable, and she believes that her "few inspirational words" of hope will lead to the liberation of everyone on the rig. And in the end, she's right. That's what the narrative commends her for.

Katara readily admitted her role in Haru's arrest (and I agree with your interpretation of the ethics of that situation), but this is not the same as recognizing a potential flaw in her thinking. That may be our interpretation of her actions, but there is no evidence that it was hers, especially judging by her subsequent actions which were more of the same. Yes, her sense of idealism is admirable, and the catalyst for the good things that followed, but those things are not in question. The point is that, as I said before, inspirational words in themselves were demonstrably insufficient. Katara arguably needs to add some 'coal' or practical thinking to her hopeful optimism, or at least gain appreciation for the former. Instead she is told 'it wasn't the coal, it was you.'

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The points about the writers' feminist intentions brings up a trend I've noticed with increasing concern in the current media, where strange narrative decisions are taken ostensibly to further progressive ideals. I meant to say this when we were on The Warriors of Kyoshi, but I think that AtLA generally handled its egalitarian themes best as a matter of course rather than a matter of necessity. Of course the latter is fine, but that requires a certain maturity and nuance in the storytelling which may not be available especially for what was intended as a kids' show. The message runs the risk of being contrived, or bringing up unfortunate implications, and we will see this in The Waterbending Master when we get there. AtLA's feminist successes IMO were engaging female characters like Katara, Azula, and Toph, and a world in which women as well as men could be the titular hero, not the time Sokka was whooped by geisha chicks and made to wear a dress in penance ... In short, to quote Plinkett, "You may not have noticed it - but your brain did."

Hmm, I'm having trouble understanding your concepts of "a matter of course" and "a matter of necessity," but it seems to me that they're both sides of the same coin. If you want to allude to feminism, you not only have to have strong women, you also have to portray the obstacles and the contradictory world they face. Avatar has its strong women in Suki and Katara, but it also needs misogyny-lite Sokka and Pakku to drive the point home.

When you're engrossed in a fictional universe, you think on its own terms. When you meet Avatar Kyoshi for the first time, having just met Avatar Roku in the previous episode, you realize even if just at the subconscious level that the Avatar does not have to be male, and women can be the titular hero of this universe just as much as men. This is what I mean by 'matter of course' feminism - it's built into the the way the world works. Now you can make feminist themes part of the actual story - Katara vs Pakku, Sokka vs Kyoshi Warriors - that's 'necessary' feminism. You can do both at the same time, and I'm not saying that AtLA should not have done the latter, but that it did the former better. Misogyny-lite Sokka is a bit glaring in its idiocy compared to the rest of his practical outlook, and strikes me as an anti-sexism message the writers deliberately inserted rather than something that arose naturally from the setting. Pakku also was consistently portrayed in an unfavorable light before his sexist views were revealed, and it remained that way until he changed his mind. That's fine for the original demographic, but older viewers will catch some of the flaws.

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Basically, Katara is prone to Zuko-esque decisions (right down to challenging bending masters to duels) in situations where her sense of idealism or waterbender identity appear to be on the line. That is what ought to be addressed, if anything. Much later in Book 3 Toph commits the same error in beating shady dealers at their own game for a greater good, but endangering the gAang as a result.

I would caution against equating Katara's and Toph's situations. Katara acted rash because she fought for what she thought was right, whereas Toph seemed more interested in showing off and making money under the guise of "getting back" at the scammers. I can see the comparison, but I don't think they're quite on the same level. This is among the reasons I find Toph a significantly less compelling character.

Yes Katara and Toph have different motivations for their actions, but as I went on to say, the key point is that Toph's motives are actually addressed, and Katara's aren't. Or are we saying that Katara's motives deserve a pass without further examination because of her relatively innocuous motives? The ends do not necessarily justify the means.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Wordbender on April 09, 2017, 07:27:41 AM
That may be our interpretation of her actions, but there is no evidence that it was hers, especially judging by her subsequent actions which were more of the same.

You kind of lost me at "more of the same." If by "more of the same" you mean "Katara never has to change her way of thinking," then we'll have to agree to disagree, because I claim she does (see below). If you mean "Katara stays eternally idealistic and never has to be more down-to-earth," then that's not something you can readily conclude from this episode -- her dilemma concerns jealousy and hurt pride, not foolish optimism.

Actually, her actions following "Imprisoned" strike me as quite pragmatic compared to her demeanor at the beginning of Book One. Rather than convince the pirates how important it is for Aang/the Avatar to learn waterbending (in the vein of the "we have to go after that ship Sokka" speech), Katara steals their scroll. Rather than give Pakku an overemotional speech about how unfair the North's customs are, she threatens to kick his ass.

The point is that, as I said before, inspirational words in themselves were demonstrably insufficient. Katara arguably needs to add some 'coal' or practical thinking to her hopeful optimism, or at least gain appreciation for the former. Instead she is told 'it wasn't the coal, it was you.'

But going back to "Imprisoned," Katara does. She tries her speech about hope twice and fails both times. After the first attempt, she says, "I tried talking the earthbenders into fighting back but, it didn't work! If there was just a way to help them help themselves," after which Sokka suggests releasing the coal. After the second attempt, the warden dissects her situation quite bluntly:

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Foolish girl. You thought a few inspirational words and some coal would change these people? Look at these blank, hopeless faces. Their spirits were broken a long time ago. Oh, but you still believe in them. How sweet. They're a waste of your energy little girl. You failed.

Yes, the good guys win in the end. But the narrative did explore the limits of Katara's thinking, and she was forced to change her game plan.

You also brought up Haru's "wasn't the coal" line; remember what Katara said right before it: "All it took was a little coal." She also blushes after Haru's compliment, and again when they reunite in Book Three. Clearly, she's flattered, possibly because she believes the praise is a little unwarranted. There's multiple perspectives on display here, not just the view that Katara is perfect because she gives everyone hope.

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Hmm, I'm having trouble understanding your concepts of "a matter of course" and "a matter of necessity," but it seems to me that they're both sides of the same coin. If you want to allude to feminism, you not only have to have strong women, you also have to portray the obstacles and the contradictory world they face. Avatar has its strong women in Suki and Katara, but it also needs misogyny-lite Sokka and Pakku to drive the point home.

When you're engrossed in a fictional universe, you think on its own terms. When you meet Avatar Kyoshi for the first time, having just met Avatar Roku in the previous episode, you realize even if just at the subconscious level that the Avatar does not have to be male, and women can be the titular hero of this universe just as much as men. This is what I mean by 'matter of course' feminism - it's built into the the way the world works. Now you can make feminist themes part of the actual story - Katara vs Pakku, Sokka vs Kyoshi Warriors - that's 'necessary' feminism. You can do both at the same time, and I'm not saying that AtLA should not have done the latter, but that it did the former better. Misogyny-lite Sokka is a bit glaring in its idiocy compared to the rest of his practical outlook, and strikes me as an anti-sexism message the writers deliberately inserted rather than something that arose naturally from the setting. Pakku also was consistently portrayed in an unfavorable light before his sexist views were revealed, and it remained that way until he changed his mind. That's fine for the original demographic, but older viewers will catch some of the flaws.

Sure, but Sokka and Pakku's misogynistic beliefs aren't confined to their characters. The Southern Water Tribe is on the verge of extinction and the women we see never do more than child rearing and housekeeping -- the men were sent off to the war. That's the worldview that was imprinted on Sokka, and Katara is strange not just because she is a waterbender but also because she, like Suki, defies Sokka's gender norms. Pakku, of course, cites tribe customs. Sokka and Pakku's misogyny is an expression of the status quo around them; they aren't just being mean to women because the plot said so or they were jerks (well, Pakku is, but that's not why he refused to teach Katara).

I agree that Sokka's misogyny comes across as out-of-place at first (and noted so in our discussion on "The Warriors of Kyoshi"), but it makes sense in hindsight. As for Pakku, he's not let off completely after his feminist squabble with Katara in "The Waterbending Master." His deadpan snark remains a consistent trait, even through the comics.

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I would caution against equating Katara's and Toph's situations. Katara acted rash because she fought for what she thought was right, whereas Toph seemed more interested in showing off and making money under the guise of "getting back" at the scammers. I can see the comparison, but I don't think they're quite on the same level. This is among the reasons I find Toph a significantly less compelling character.

Yes Katara and Toph have different motivations for their actions, but as I went on to say, the key point is that Toph's motives are actually addressed, and Katara's aren't. Or are we saying that Katara's motives deserve a pass without further examination because of her relatively innocuous motives? The ends do not necessarily justify the means.

Not at all. I suppose what I was trying to get at was that Toph's recklessness was not written nearly as well as Katara's.

The idea that Toph misses her parents was only brought up in two episodes. In "The Earth King," Toph says, "My mom's in the city. And from her letter it sounds like she finally understands me." She also hesitates to open the door behind which she thinks her mom is waiting. From this, we might glean that Toph felt misunderstood by her parents, but nonetheless missed them...

...Then it doesn't come up for another several episodes until "The Runaway." And suddenly, out of nowhere, Toph is dealing with her feelings toward her parents by making "easy money" with her earthbending. Even if you accept this subplot, it's very much a "problem of the week" confined to this episode. Toph's parents never come up again; we don't even see them reunited with Toph in the finale.

Meanwhile, we see Katara's stubbornness at work throughout the whole series. We see her overcome obstacles, solve her dilemmas, and change her ways of thinking. So whatever happens concerning that trait of Katara's is much more profound than anything involving Toph's parenting issues. Nobody ever psychoanalyzes Katara, but we know her well enough to accept her more rash actions as natural and in line with her personality.

Yes, Toph's motives are "addressed," but the whole thing feels superficial and bolted on. As you might say, a "matter of course," not a "matter of necessity."
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: longman on April 12, 2017, 06:18:24 PM
That may be our interpretation of her actions, but there is no evidence that it was hers, especially judging by her subsequent actions which were more of the same.

You kind of lost me at "more of the same." If by "more of the same" you mean "Katara never has to change her way of thinking," then we'll have to agree to disagree, because I claim she does (see below). If you mean "Katara stays eternally idealistic and never has to be more down-to-earth," then that's not something you can readily conclude from this episode -- her dilemma concerns jealousy and hurt pride, not foolish optimism.

By 'more of the same' I am referring to her passionate idealism without much consideration for practical application, which was evident throughout Imprisoned. She didn't so much change her way of thinking as much as her stubbornness forced Aang and Sokka to adapt in order to achieve her goals. Her hurt pride in The Waterbending Scroll arguably comes from the same root of idealism. She see herself as a Waterbender that has worked hard on her own to learn a few tricks, so Aang mastering and superseding those skills in a matter of minutes damaged her sense of identity. That's where the jealousy came from.

Actually, her actions following "Imprisoned" strike me as quite pragmatic compared to her demeanor at the beginning of Book One. Rather than convince the pirates how important it is for Aang/the Avatar to learn waterbending (in the vein of the "we have to go after that ship Sokka" speech), Katara steals their scroll. Rather than give Pakku an overemotional speech about how unfair the North's customs are, she threatens to kick his ass.

'Pragmatic' is the last word I'd use to describe those actions. Pragmatism involves a rational and realistic approach to life situations, as opposed to an ideological one. That's Sokka, not Katara. Stealing a highly prized item from pirates right under their nose and failing to agree on a price is not rational. A bending novice threatening to kick a bending master's ass is not rational. That's an emotional decision, not a rational one.

The point is that, as I said before, inspirational words in themselves were demonstrably insufficient. Katara arguably needs to add some 'coal' or practical thinking to her hopeful optimism, or at least gain appreciation for the former. Instead she is told 'it wasn't the coal, it was you.'

But going back to "Imprisoned," Katara does. She tries her speech about hope twice and fails both times. After the first attempt, she says, "I tried talking the earthbenders into fighting back but, it didn't work! If there was just a way to help them help themselves," after which Sokka suggests releasing the coal. After the second attempt, the warden dissects her situation quite bluntly:

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Foolish girl. You thought a few inspirational words and some coal would change these people? Look at these blank, hopeless faces. Their spirits were broken a long time ago. Oh, but you still believe in them. How sweet. They're a waste of your energy little girl. You failed.

Yes, the good guys win in the end. But the narrative did explore the limits of Katara's thinking, and she was forced to change her game plan.

You also brought up Haru's "wasn't the coal" line; remember what Katara said right before it: "All it took was a little coal." She also blushes after Haru's compliment, and again when they reunite in Book Three. Clearly, she's flattered, possibly because she believes the praise is a little unwarranted. There's multiple perspectives on display here, not just the view that Katara is perfect because she gives everyone hope.

But that is the message the narrative left with us at the end of the episode. Haru corrected Katara, and was immediately backed up by Tyro. Those lines of dialogue were scripted that way for a reason. It was meant to leave a certain impression on the viewer of the primacy of Katara's hope, despite the previous exploration of hopelessness and despair in a war-weary people which I also commend the episode for. Just so we're clear, I said the same when we discussed Imprisoned: this episode handled that aspect quite well.

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Sure, but Sokka and Pakku's misogynistic beliefs aren't confined to their characters. The Southern Water Tribe is on the verge of extinction and the women we see never do more than child rearing and housekeeping -- the men were sent off to the war. That's the worldview that was imprinted on Sokka, and Katara is strange not just because she is a waterbender but also because she, like Suki, defies Sokka's gender norms. Pakku, of course, cites tribe customs. Sokka and Pakku's misogyny is an expression of the status quo around them; they aren't just being mean to women because the plot said so or they were jerks (well, Pakku is, but that's not why he refused to teach Katara).

I agree that Sokka's misogyny comes across as out-of-place at first (and noted so in our discussion on "The Warriors of Kyoshi"), but it makes sense in hindsight. As for Pakku, he's not let off completely after his feminist squabble with Katara in "The Waterbending Master." His deadpan snark remains a consistent trait, even through the comics.

I can agree with most of this. My point is that the presentation of Pakku's and some of Sokka's sexist moments conditions the viewer to view them as jerks in those storylines, which is arguably not a nuanced way to discuss this subject. Pakku's snark never leaves him, but his first interactions with the gAang are initially dismissive and rude. We're not meant to like him, and when he declares scowly-faced "in our tribe, it is forbidden for women to learn waterbending" we find confirmation for why we really don't like him. When he changed his mind, he became more pleasant all-round. That's a narrative sleight of hand.  ;)

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I would caution against equating Katara's and Toph's situations. Katara acted rash because she fought for what she thought was right, whereas Toph seemed more interested in showing off and making money under the guise of "getting back" at the scammers. I can see the comparison, but I don't think they're quite on the same level. This is among the reasons I find Toph a significantly less compelling character.

Yes Katara and Toph have different motivations for their actions, but as I went on to say, the key point is that Toph's motives are actually addressed, and Katara's aren't. Or are we saying that Katara's motives deserve a pass without further examination because of her relatively innocuous motives? The ends do not necessarily justify the means.

Not at all. I suppose what I was trying to get at was that Toph's recklessness was not written nearly as well as Katara's.
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Yes, Toph's motives are "addressed," but the whole thing feels superficial and bolted on. As you might say, a "matter of course," not a "matter of necessity."

This is true, but it was addressed, all the same. (And while the matter of Toph's parents was brought up in a hamfisted way, we've seen enough beforehand to know that Toph's independent streak and and somewhat cavalier attitude is the product of her repressive childhood, so it isn't really that far-fetched.) What's more, Toph showed a change of direction by penning a letter to her parents at the end of the episode. What's more, Katara's previous attempt to give in to Toph by doing a scam together ended disastrously when they were both captured by Combustion Man. This would be akin to Aang and Sokka agreeing to stay behind on the rig with Katara only for them to be promptly arrested by the Warden. Or Katara not getting back the scroll back.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on April 12, 2017, 06:38:07 PM
I think it's worth asking how Katara should have acted in regards to stealing the Waterbending scroll. She's not wrong that it would be a useful thing for both her and Aang, and there was no way they were going to get together the money to purchase it legitimately. And the pirates did steal it in the first place.

Myself, I think a theft was indeed in order, but Katara should have left the ship with the boys without lifting the scroll, and then talk the matter over with them later. Then they could come up with a plan to steal it without getting caught.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Wordbender on April 12, 2017, 11:44:05 PM
By 'more of the same' I am referring to her passionate idealism without much consideration for practical application, which was evident throughout Imprisoned. She didn't so much change her way of thinking as much as her stubbornness forced Aang and Sokka to adapt in order to achieve her goals. Her hurt pride in The Waterbending Scroll arguably comes from the same root of idealism. She see herself as a Waterbender that has worked hard on her own to learn a few tricks, so Aang mastering and superseding those skills in a matter of minutes damaged her sense of identity. That's where the jealousy came from.

Actually, her actions following "Imprisoned" strike me as quite pragmatic compared to her demeanor at the beginning of Book One. Rather than convince the pirates how important it is for Aang/the Avatar to learn waterbending (in the vein of the "we have to go after that ship Sokka" speech), Katara steals their scroll. Rather than give Pakku an overemotional speech about how unfair the North's customs are, she threatens to kick his ass.

'Pragmatic' is the last word I'd use to describe those actions. Pragmatism involves a rational and realistic approach to life situations, as opposed to an ideological one. That's Sokka, not Katara. Stealing a highly prized item from pirates right under their nose and failing to agree on a price is not rational. A bending novice threatening to kick a bending master's ass is not rational. That's an emotional decision, not a rational one.

You're right; I had the wrong word. I suppose what I meant was "practical" or "goal-oriented."

Katara may not fundamentally change her idealistic outlook, but that's just fine. There's nonetheless a clear sense of progression from idle talk to action that backs up her words. She goes from giving naive speeches to Sokka (about helping Aang) and the earthbenders (about fighting back) to undertaking practical steps to accomplish her goals.

Katara is interesting because she becomes more confident in herself despite gaining a more realistic sense of what it takes to bring about change.

But that is the message the narrative left with us at the end of the episode. Haru corrected Katara, and was immediately backed up by Tyro. Those lines of dialogue were scripted that way for a reason. It was meant to leave a certain impression on the viewer of the primacy of Katara's hope, despite the previous exploration of hopelessness and despair in a war-weary people which I also commend the episode for. Just so we're clear, I said the same when we discussed Imprisoned: this episode handled that aspect quite well.

But that's not the sole message. If the supremacy of Katara's hope was all the writers wanted to convey, why not just drop Katara's failures and the warden's speech altogether? Her hope and idealism only succeeded in combination with a more practical point of view.

I can agree with most of this. My point is that the presentation of Pakku's and some of Sokka's sexist moments conditions the viewer to view them as jerks in those storylines, which is arguably not a nuanced way to discuss this subject. Pakku's snark never leaves him, but his first interactions with the gAang are initially dismissive and rude. We're not meant to like him, and when he declares scowly-faced "in our tribe, it is forbidden for women to learn waterbending" we find confirmation for why we really don't like him. When he changed his mind, he became more pleasant all-round. That's a narrative sleight of hand.  ;)

I would also agree it's not a nuanced discussion. It seems you're contending that the series did a better job portraying its pro-feminist characters (Suki, Kyoshi) than its anti-feminist characters (early Sokka, Pakku), not that its misogny was completely out of place and unjustified. I will note, however, that any feminist virtues Kyoshi could have had took a backseat to her characterization as a gruff, decisive earthbender. She's an Avatar with a proud but murky legacy that contradicts Aang's peaceful nature. We're not shown how feminist qualities could have made her a better Avatar or what misogynistic obstacles she had to overcome.

This is true, but it was addressed, all the same. (And while the matter of Toph's parents was brought up in a hamfisted way, we've seen enough beforehand to know that Toph's independent streak and and somewhat cavalier attitude is the product of her repressive childhood, so it isn't really that far-fetched.) What's more, Toph showed a change of direction by penning a letter to her parents at the end of the episode. What's more, Katara's previous attempt to give in to Toph by doing a scam together ended disastrously when they were both captured by Combustion Man. This would be akin to Aang and Sokka agreeing to stay behind on the rig with Katara only for them to be promptly arrested by the Warden. Or Katara not getting back the scroll back.

Even if it was addressed, in the shallowest sense -- we're not told why Toph likes to scam others so much as why she doesn't like being told what not to do -- I'll take Katara's meaningful progression over Toph's disconnected vignette any day.

That scam did end disastrously, but in the end, Katara and Toph did escape. Meanwhile, Katara's plan to incite a rebellion on the prison rig looked perilously close to failing before Haru intervened, and her jealousy got everyone captured by the pirates. Katara and Toph both have faults that lead to bad consequences. The difference is that Katara's stems from a key part of her identity, visible over and over again, while Toph's comes across as something added for padding. I feel invested in one but not the other.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: longman on April 13, 2017, 10:25:02 PM
I think it's worth asking how Katara should have acted in regards to stealing the Waterbending scroll. She's not wrong that it would be a useful thing for both her and Aang, and there was no way they were going to get together the money to purchase it legitimately. And the pirates did steal it in the first place.

Myself, I think a theft was indeed in order, but Katara should have left the ship with the boys without lifting the scroll, and then talk the matter over with them later. Then they could come up with a plan to steal it without getting caught.
I'd take that, at least it addresses the impulsive aspect of Katara's behavior.

But that is the message the narrative left with us at the end of the episode. Haru corrected Katara, and was immediately backed up by Tyro. Those lines of dialogue were scripted that way for a reason. It was meant to leave a certain impression on the viewer of the primacy of Katara's hope, despite the previous exploration of hopelessness and despair in a war-weary people which I also commend the episode for. Just so we're clear, I said the same when we discussed Imprisoned: this episode handled that aspect quite well.

But that's not the sole message. If the supremacy of Katara's hope was all the writers wanted to convey, why not just drop Katara's failures and the warden's speech altogether? Her hope and idealism only succeeded in combination with a more practical point of view.

It's not about the supremacy of Katara's hope being ALL the writers wanted to convey, it's about the supremacy of Katara's hope being A message, and infact the final takeaway, the conclusive 'moral of the story'. Sokka also could've been standing there at the end and getting props for his contribution. That didn't happen for a reason.

I can agree with most of this. My point is that the presentation of Pakku's and some of Sokka's sexist moments conditions the viewer to view them as jerks in those storylines, which is arguably not a nuanced way to discuss this subject. Pakku's snark never leaves him, but his first interactions with the gAang are initially dismissive and rude. We're not meant to like him, and when he declares scowly-faced "in our tribe, it is forbidden for women to learn waterbending" we find confirmation for why we really don't like him. When he changed his mind, he became more pleasant all-round. That's a narrative sleight of hand.  ;)

I would also agree it's not a nuanced discussion. It seems you're contending that the series did a better job portraying its pro-feminist characters (Suki, Kyoshi) than its anti-feminist characters (early Sokka, Pakku), not that its misogny was completely out of place and unjustified. I will note, however, that any feminist virtues Kyoshi could have had took a backseat to her characterization as a gruff, decisive earthbender. She's an Avatar with a proud but murky legacy that contradicts Aang's peaceful nature. We're not shown how feminist qualities could have made her a better Avatar or what misogynistic obstacles she had to overcome.
Perhaps I can now make my views clear: I don't think Kyoshi needs to overcome misogynistic obstacles or be an overt feminist in order to enhance AtLA's feminist values. (There is actually a canon mini-comic released sometime ago about the origin of the Kyoshi Warriors where Avatar Kyoshi does just that. I did not read it, but the impression I got from others' take on it was absolutely cringe-worthy, and the sort of on-the-nose exploration of gender relations that I'm wary of.) I suppose this comes down to one's definition of feminism, which I prefer to set aside until we get toThe Waterbending Master. For now, I'll say that I'm an 'equal opportunities' kinda guy. It's enough that Avatar Kyoshi exists as a dignified personality worthy of respect in-universe, and her matter-of-fact introduction without anyone questioning her legitimacy is reflective of the real life values the writers want to convey. And it does get conveyed - as I said before, 'you might not have noticed it - but your brain did.'

This is true, but it was addressed, all the same. (And while the matter of Toph's parents was brought up in a hamfisted way, we've seen enough beforehand to know that Toph's independent streak and and somewhat cavalier attitude is the product of her repressive childhood, so it isn't really that far-fetched.) What's more, Toph showed a change of direction by penning a letter to her parents at the end of the episode. What's more, Katara's previous attempt to give in to Toph by doing a scam together ended disastrously when they were both captured by Combustion Man. This would be akin to Aang and Sokka agreeing to stay behind on the rig with Katara only for them to be promptly arrested by the Warden. Or Katara not getting back the scroll back.

Even if it was addressed, in the shallowest sense -- we're not told why Toph likes to scam others so much as why she doesn't like being told what not to do -- I'll take Katara's meaningful progression over Toph's disconnected vignette any day.

That scam did end disastrously, but in the end, Katara and Toph did escape. Meanwhile, Katara's plan to incite a rebellion on the prison rig looked perilously close to failing before Haru intervened, and her jealousy got everyone captured by the pirates. Katara and Toph both have faults that lead to bad consequences. The difference is that Katara's stems from a key part of her identity, visible over and over again, while Toph's comes across as something added for padding. I feel invested in one but not the other.

To be clear, this isn't about which character had the better overall development. For my part at least, this is about pointing out trends in certain Katara-centric episodes that rub some viewers the wrong way, trends which btw are not as prevalent in other character arcs. I said previously that Katara makes Zuko-esque decisions when her sense of identity or idealism is on the line. Now Zuko is THE poster-child for impulsively chasing his goals with reckless abandon. We all know how that comes from his identity issues, but he is frustrated in his pursuit and it slowly becomes increasingly doubtful that capturing Aang is truly what he needs. It may be unfair to compare Katara to such an epic series-wide character arc in the show, but I can point out a similar pattern in episodic arcs of other characters (like I just did for Toph) that do not exist with Book 1 Katara in particular. Again, that doesn't tarnish her character development overall, but it is there, and its even more glaring when Katara is often the channel for dishing out moral lessons to other characters.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Wordbender on April 25, 2017, 01:55:03 AM
I think it's worth asking how Katara should have acted in regards to stealing the Waterbending scroll. She's not wrong that it would be a useful thing for both her and Aang, and there was no way they were going to get together the money to purchase it legitimately. And the pirates did steal it in the first place.

Myself, I think a theft was indeed in order, but Katara should have left the ship with the boys without lifting the scroll, and then talk the matter over with them later. Then they could come up with a plan to steal it without getting caught.

That may sound like the rational thing for Katara to do, but hindsight is 20/20. She had no idea when the pirates were going to leave port and decided to steal the scroll in the heat of the moment. (I believe we've discussed her impulsiveness fairly extensively at this point.) From a broader perspective, it would not have made for a nearly as compelling storyline.

Perhaps I can now make my views clear: I don't think Kyoshi needs to overcome misogynistic obstacles or be an overt feminist in order to enhance AtLA's feminist values. (There is actually a canon mini-comic released sometime ago about the origin of the Kyoshi Warriors where Avatar Kyoshi does just that. I did not read it, but the impression I got from others' take on it was absolutely cringe-worthy, and the sort of on-the-nose exploration of gender relations that I'm wary of.) I suppose this comes down to one's definition of feminism, which I prefer to set aside until we get toThe Waterbending Master. For now, I'll say that I'm an 'equal opportunities' kinda guy. It's enough that Avatar Kyoshi exists as a dignified personality worthy of respect in-universe, and her matter-of-fact introduction without anyone questioning her legitimacy is reflective of the real life values the writers want to convey. And it does get conveyed - as I said before, 'you might not have noticed it - but your brain did.'

Just to make myself clear, I largely agree with your notion of feminism. Nonetheless, I can't help but feel there were missed opportunities for the show to drive home its points in its portrayal of Avatar Kyoshi and its other attempts at explicating feminism. I think we can both agree that the references to misogyny (early Sokka, Pakku) sometimes felt forced and unnecessary, but while you think the show could have done better without them, I believe those moments could have expanded upon the show's themes of feminism and gender equality with some additional development and care.

To be clear, this isn't about which character had the better overall development. For my part at least, this is about pointing out trends in certain Katara-centric episodes that rub some viewers the wrong way, trends which btw are not as prevalent in other character arcs. I said previously that Katara makes Zuko-esque decisions when her sense of identity or idealism is on the line. Now Zuko is THE poster-child for impulsively chasing his goals with reckless abandon. We all know how that comes from his identity issues, but he is frustrated in his pursuit and it slowly becomes increasingly doubtful that capturing Aang is truly what he needs. It may be unfair to compare Katara to such an epic series-wide character arc in the show, but I can point out a similar pattern in episodic arcs of other characters (like I just did for Toph) that do not exist with Book 1 Katara in particular. Again, that doesn't tarnish her character development overall, but it is there, and its even more glaring when Katara is often the channel for dishing out moral lessons to other characters.

In closing, I think the flaws you point out have some merit, but they’re not enough to derail Katara’s legitimacy for me when I consider her characterization from the very beginning of the show.

I think Katara can be hard to analyze because, much like Aang, there aren’t any moments one can readily identify as sea-changes in her way of thinking. In contrast to Zuko’s shouting "I’m angry at myself!" or Toph’s decision to send a letter to her parents (however insignificant a gesture), Katara and Aang change much more subtly and gradually. As I noted, Katara in particular learns to become more confident in herself throughout Book One. Their behaviors evolve in small ways from arc to arc that aren’t immediately obvious without retrospection.

Perhaps this is why Katara is often written off as a "Mary Sue" and Aang a "Goku clone," because on the outset, they could be interpreted as perfect characters for whom everything always works out. (Certain commentators predisposed against Bryan and Mike have even accused (http://araeph.tumblr.com/post/146381577855/yeah-i-dont-ship-anything-or-particularly-care-for) them of writing a narcissistic, idealized version of themselves into Aang.)
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Wordbender on April 25, 2017, 04:35:08 PM
Book One: The Waterbending Scroll

We now arrive at one of my personal favorite episodes, "The Waterbending Scroll."

The atmosphere of "The Waterbending Scroll" atmosphere is a marked departure from the somber tone of "Avatar Roku." This episode shifts the setting from a dark and claustrophobic Fire Nation temple to a peaceful river and bustling port town. Bright, colorful, and lighthearted, it gives us a breather after Roku's unsettling revelation that Fire Lord Ozai is expected to conquer the world in just a few months.

True to its name, water features prominently in "The Waterbending Scroll." In fact, I can't recall a single scene -- excluding the travel scenes on Appa -- that doesn't include water nearby. Water is of course a material for bending, but it is also a facility for trade (and pirateering), a means of pursuit, and a means of escape. In Book Two's "Bitter Work," Iroh tells us that "water is the element of change." In this episode, water is indeed an unreliable ally; sometimes a blessing, and sometimes a curse.

The humor in this episode gets off to a slow start. Some of the earlier jokes work well, such as Sokka's snide remark about Aang's progress mastering the four elements, but others come across as unsophisticated and juvenile, especially Sokka's complaining about cleaning Appa, the "what are curios?" bit between Aang and the pirate crew member, and the cabbage merchant redux. Again, this sort of humor is an order of magnitude better than what is typical for a children's cartoon, but it's still a noticeable weak area in an otherwise tightly written show. In contrast, the action-oriented second act features many enjoyable comedic moments. Highlights include Zuko's "I didn't steal [Katara's necklace], if that's what you're asking" and Iroh's "it's no proverb!"

The characters are the real stars of this episode. The writers treat us with intriguing interactions and entertaining scenes that feel so natural and are so well-writen. Nothing's forced or ham-fisted; they unleash the heroes and villains we know and love -- along with a new faction, the pirates -- and take a figurative step back to allow the chaos to unfold.

On the protagonists' side, we have Sokka, the deadpan pragmatist who tricks the villains into a battle royale, and Aang, sheltered and ever-naive, who "[looks] up to pirates" and nearly cries in a fight with Katara. Katara, of course, is this episode's chief focus. Her incessant drive to learn waterbending by stealing and then hogging the titular waterbending scroll, which kicks off the main plot thread, has stirred much controversy and discussion among fans. To me, Katara's actions are the natural result of the Katara we know and love. Katara, the idealist who will fight for what is right, even if she can be a little too hard-headed and hasty.

Katara also gets the bulk of character development in this episode. She changes from a state of irritation and competition with Aang -- which is what gets everyone into trouble -- to a positive one of cooperation and mutual benefit. And in the end, that's what saves the day. The moral of the story is no dissertation, but it suits a children's show, and it's wholeheartedly entertaining. You can't help but grin when Aang reassures Katara by saying "a team of rhinos… or two waterbenders." Perhaps it's true that Katara was too reckless and her motivations are left unexplained. If so, I never notice. She's just too much fun to watch.

On the antagonists' side, we have Zuko and Iroh. Zuko, for once, is a fairly competent adversary. He immediately recognizes Aang when the pirates speak of a "water tribe girl and the bald monk she was traveling with," efficiently leads the search for the kids, cunningly attempts to bribe Katara with her missing necklace, and then successfully blackmails the pirates using the scroll as collateral. Still, Zuko remains a villain who isn't menacing like Zhao. After all, he isn't much older than the Avatar his friends he's chasing. He doesn't have the resources of a full Fire Nation armada and he's beholden to the whims of Iroh, who serves as an excellent foil and comic relief. I enjoy the way Zuko and Iroh were written in this episode; they strike a fine balance between being proper threats and being lighthearted.

We are also introduced to the pirates. While they're not particularly deep characters, they are certainly entertaining. I was struck by Aang's first meeting with the pirate captain in which in which Momo and the parrot(?) sit on opposing shoulders, igniting an instant rivalry. The best moment involving the pirates is the captain's duel with Zuko. Seeing a swordsmen go toe-to-toe with a royal firebender makes us realize that benders aren't untouchable. Somehow, that makes the fight all the more thrilling.

Overall, this episode is just plain fun. The characters are all great and the action in the second half is excellent. It's everything Avatar should be. Being a "filler" episode doesn't hurt "The Waterbending Scroll" one bit. Still, besides the pirates, there's not much that makes this episode memorable. There's no underlying theme or distinctive setting I can point to when I think of "The Waterbending Scroll." It's a well-executed episode, but in a show chock full of those, that's not enough to set it apart from the rest.

8/10
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: longman on April 25, 2017, 08:59:34 PM
Just to make myself clear, I largely agree with your notion of feminism. Nonetheless, I can't help but feel there were missed opportunities for the show to drive home its points in its portrayal of Avatar Kyoshi and its other attempts at explicating feminism. I think we can both agree that the references to misogyny (early Sokka, Pakku) sometimes felt forced and unnecessary, but while you think the show could have done better without them, I believe those moments could have expanded upon the show's themes of feminism and gender equality with some additional development and care.

Actually I agree with your conclusions, with the addition that it helps if those themes play to the strengths of the writing team. To put it bluntly, you need to know what you're talking about, or you'll run into LoK's problems and bungle the story.

I am curious as to how you think Avatar Kyoshi could have been used better in this regard. As it is, AtlA has just about enough space for the little we know about her. I think the main missed oportunity was The Waterbending Master.

In closing, I think the flaws you point out have some merit, but they’re not enough to derail Katara’s legitimacy for me when I consider her characterization from the very beginning of the show.
Fine by me, I also feel the same way. In fact I never noticed those things when first watching  the show, and I was initially quite surprised to find Katara 'hate' among a small section of the fandom. Looking at their arguments I still disagreed with their conclusions but could see where they were coming from.

True to its name, water features prominently in "The Waterbending Scroll." In fact, I can't recall a single scene -- excluding the travel scenes on Appa -- that doesn't include water nearby. Water is of course a material for bending, but it is also a facility for trade (and pirateering), a means of pursuit, and a means of escape. In Book Two's "Bitter Work," Iroh tells us that "water is the element of change." In this episode, water is indeed an unreliable ally; sometimes a blessing, and sometimes a curse.

This is an interesting observation. Actually I think most episodes in this season put the main characters in close proximity to the ocean or a large body of water, which is congruent with the book title and overarching themes. As I mentioned before, AtLA's pro-environmentalism was seamlessly and subtly worked into the universe via the cinematography and fantastical aspects. This episode starts off ostensibly about Aang's immediate need to start his training with waterbending. But before any bending training starts, we joined the characters in taking in the beauty of the waterfall scenery. The characters spent time bonding with water before bending it to their will. That really is what bending is about.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Wordbender on April 28, 2017, 04:54:41 AM
I am curious as to how you think Avatar Kyoshi could have been used better in this regard. As it is, AtlA has just about enough space for the little we know about her. I think the main missed oportunity was The Waterbending Master.

I think my issue is not with Kyoshi specifically, but the lack of a more compelling female Avatar. Kyoshi is "strong" in the sense that she's a no-nonsense earthbender who kicks butt, but that doesn't make her a strong and interesting character. In both respects, she's like Toph, not Katara. And there is no past Avatar like Katara.

As another Avatar fan put it (http://thekorraconnection.com/index.php?topic=56.msg19616#msg19616),

Quote from: ShineyDragons
I've always seen Katara as one of the strongest characters - and definitely the strongest female. I'd even say she's stronger than characters like Mai or Toph, because despite what other people may think, I don't see a harsh "I don't really care one way or the either"-attitude as strength. It hurts to care, and it's hard to show your feelings - you risk getting hurt or let down. Katara, despite having lost so much, never stops believing, hoping or caring.

As for Kyoshi herself? She's so apathetic that Aang nearly  regrets taking advice from her about Ozai. That's appropriate for her characterization, but it's also disappointing that she's the only female Avatar we get to see.

Furthermore, the women around Avatars tend to be underdeveloped and one-dimensional. When Roku tells Aang about meeting his wife, we hear a lot about his perspective but nothing about how she came around. "I was persistent. When love is real, it finds a way. And being the Avatar doesn't hurt your chances with the ladies, either," he says. Similarly, Kuruk's (waterbender guy's) wife is merely someone he makes out with and then loses to Koh the face-stealer.

The writers played it safe. That's not a fatal flaw for a children's cartoon, but modern audiences may be more critical of the lack of a female Avatar or female companion to an Avatar with better development. As it stands, the best we have is the relationship between Aang and Katara. And a long shadow (http://araeph.tumblr.com/post/144077016475/gender-double-standards-and-mk0) has been cast over that by the weaknesses in the writing of the show's female characters I pointed out.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: longman on April 28, 2017, 12:30:16 PM
First of all,Kyoshi's 'no-nonsense kick-butt' persona is mostly a function of her reputation in the fandom. I don't think we got enough sense of her personality to make definite comparisons with AtLA's more established female characters. If all we saw of Katara was the fight scene at the end of The Painted Lady she wouldn't be far off from Kyoshi.

Secondly, the level of development given to the past Avatars, male and female, is a function of their collective role in the narrative as mirrors and goalposts for Aang. Roku obviously is the prime mirror, and his past with Ta-min is meant to reflect Aang's present with Katara. The other Avatars get enough incidental info to strengthen the Avatar mythos and the worldbuilding, and Kyoshi plays a prominent role here with her epic record. Considering that Roku himself only managed a handful of appearances, there isn't much room for further exploration.

AtLA did play it safe, and therein lies one of its strengths; it started with a relatively simple premise , gradually added depth and complexity to it, and left room for speculation. LoK OTOH took on the task of a female Avatar protagonist and a host of grand ideas, only to fall flat on its face with an end product more immature than the original show. Bryke would have been better off sticking to what they know, or finding other writers who could handle those ideas. It's great to have progressive intentions but that only works if you know what you're talking about; and better yet, how to talk about it.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Wordbender on April 29, 2017, 04:35:19 PM
First of all,Kyoshi's 'no-nonsense kick-butt' persona is mostly a function of her reputation in the fandom. I don't think we got enough sense of her personality to make definite comparisons with AtLA's more established female characters. If all we saw of Katara was the fight scene at the end of The Painted Lady she wouldn't be far off from Kyoshi.

It's true that Kyoshi is no main character, but I'd say we see enough of her and her legacy to draw some conclusions. Consider the heavy-handed way she dealt with Chin the Conqueror and what Aang thought after asking her for advice: "I knew I shouldn't have asked Kyoshi." Also, what organizations did she leave behind? The Kyoshi Warriors and the Dai Li -- both elite paramilitary self-defense forces. Now, the Kyoshi Warriors are pretty cool and I'm not saying they're anything like the monsters in the Dai Li, but in the end, both factions serve similar functions.

Anyway, that's beside the point -- I think I focused too hard on character development. So, to clarify myself: my real concern (albeit minor) is that the only female Avatar we get to see is a rash hardliner whose first instinct is to achieve justice with force. This might suggest that the way to be a good female Avatar is to be "strong" and always resort to force. Now, we know that's not true, but what impression might that leave on the show's target audience?

Secondly, the level of development given to the past Avatars, male and female, is a function of their collective role in the narrative as mirrors and goalposts for Aang. Roku obviously is the prime mirror, and his past with Ta-min is meant to reflect Aang's present with Katara. The other Avatars get enough incidental info to strengthen the Avatar mythos and the worldbuilding, and Kyoshi plays a prominent role here with her epic record. Considering that Roku himself only managed a handful of appearances, there isn't much room for further exploration.

Of course. But there's no reason we couldn't have had another female Avatar with a different perspective. They didn't have to get bogged down in particulars to communicate a more balanced conception of a female Avatar.

AtLA did play it safe, and therein lies one of its strengths; it started with a relatively simple premise , gradually added depth and complexity to it, and left room for speculation. LoK OTOH took on the task of a female Avatar protagonist and a host of grand ideas, only to fall flat on its face with an end product more immature than the original show. Bryke would have been better off sticking to what they know, or finding other writers who could handle those ideas. It's great to have progressive intentions but that only works if you know what you're talking about; and better yet, how to talk about it.

I agree that less is more when it comes to fiction, and from what I can tell about LOK, it seems it had far too much fan service and ideas that sounded great on paper but flopped when rendered. And I think we all know Bryan and Mike are in the habit of harebrained progressivism given the controversies that LOK spawned, like the Korra-Asami relationship that (I heard) came out of nowhere. But that doesn't mean they along with their fellow writers shouldn't have tried. They could have made the feminism in ATLA work better with some small tweaks.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on May 01, 2017, 06:00:53 PM
I have to disagree that Kyoshi dealt with Chin in a heavy-handed way. She did nothing to oppose his conquest of the EK until he came to her little home-town, a peninsula with strategic importance. To me, that says his only intention there was to exert his authority over the Avatar. Even then, Kyoshi didn't fight him. She broke off the peninsula from the mainland and pushed it out to see, and while she endangered him and was pleased to see him dead, I really do think his own choice not to take a step back are what led to his death.

So yes, Kyoshi fought him to a fatal end with neutral jing, but neutral jing requires two to tango.

Aang's saying "I knew I should haven't have asked Kyoshi" came more from her seeing Chin's death as a happy ending, I feel, rather than Kyoshi herself being the DEATH AVENGER that the fandom has turned her into.

At this point, if we include the comics, we've seen just as much of Avatar Yangchen as he have of Kyoshi. The Rift has a flashback to one of Yangchen's adventures that is at least as long and involved as Kyoshi's encounter with Chin, and of course both of them gave Aang advice about Ozai.

(The fandom's view of Yangchen is another big disagreement I have with the majority. Lots of people seem to have accepted her advice as the truth, that Aang was prizing his own purity over the good of the world, rather than questioning what kind of holy person thinks that spiritual purity is for the benefit of the holder only. Most holy people consider their beliefs to be good for the entire world. Sadly, nothing about this has been addressed in the additional material with Yangchen.)



Also, good review!

True to its name, water features prominently in "The Waterbending Scroll." In fact, I can't recall a single scene -- excluding the travel scenes on Appa -- that doesn't include water nearby. Water is of course a material for bending, but it is also a facility for trade (and pirateering), a means of pursuit, and a means of escape. In Book Two's "Bitter Work," Iroh tells us that "water is the element of change." In this episode, water is indeed an unreliable ally; sometimes a blessing, and sometimes a curse.

Good catch!


The humor in this episode gets off to a slow start. Some of the earlier jokes work well, such as Sokka's snide remark about Aang's progress mastering the four elements, but others come across as unsophisticated and juvenile, especially Sokka's complaining about cleaning Appa, the "what are curios?" bit between Aang and the pirate crew member, and the cabbage merchant redux. Again, this sort of humor is an order of magnitude better than what is typical for a children's cartoon, but it's still a noticeable weak area in an otherwise tightly written show. In contrast, the action-oriented second act features many enjoyable comedic moments. Highlights include Zuko's "I didn't steal [Katara's necklace], if that's what you're asking" and Iroh's "it's no proverb!"

Of course, what discussion of the humor would be complete without mentioning the quick cut that prevents the viewer from seeing that one pirate mooning Zuko and Iroh. Although that's a fairly crass source of humor, I actually found it to be presented in a sophisticated way, with the dropping of the pants just being part of a mass of activity from the mocking pirates, then the cut, and then no major reaction from Zuko or Iroh. It's a far cry from the way Meelo's potty humor wound up being presented.


We are also introduced to the pirates. While they're not particularly deep characters, they are certainly entertaining. I was struck by Aang's first meeting with the pirate captain in which in which Momo and the parrot(?) sit on opposing shoulders, igniting an instant rivalry. The best moment involving the pirates is the captain's duel with Zuko. Seeing a swordsmen go toe-to-toe with a royal firebender makes us realize that benders aren't untouchable. Somehow, that makes the fight all the more thrilling.

Another good point. The pirate captain even fights with a jian, the same weapon Piandao uses. It's known as the "Gentleman of Weapons" because it's a stabbing weapon with two sides, requiring more training and more involved construction than something like a heavy dao blade that only has one sharpened side and so is more of a chopping weapon. Most of the swordsmen we see in Avatar are using dao blades, which reflects real life, and The Pirate Captain stands out as an interesting exception.


Overall, this episode is just plain fun. The characters are all great and the action in the second half is excellent. It's everything Avatar should be. Being a "filler" episode doesn't hurt "The Waterbending Scroll" one bit. Still, besides the pirates, there's not much that makes this episode memorable. There's no underlying theme or distinctive setting I can point to when I think of "The Waterbending Scroll." It's a well-executed episode, but in a show chock full of those, that's not enough to set it apart from the rest.

If anything, this episode shows just how much that "filler" can enhance the whole.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Wordbender on May 03, 2017, 08:31:22 PM
I have to disagree that Kyoshi dealt with Chin in a heavy-handed way. She did nothing to oppose his conquest of the EK until he came to her little home-town, a peninsula with strategic importance. To me, that says his only intention there was to exert his authority over the Avatar. Even then, Kyoshi didn't fight him. She broke off the peninsula from the mainland and pushed it out to see, and while she endangered him and was pleased to see him dead, I really do think his own choice not to take a step back are what led to his death.

So yes, Kyoshi fought him to a fatal end with neutral jing, but neutral jing requires two to tango.

Aang's saying "I knew I should haven't have asked Kyoshi" came more from her seeing Chin's death as a happy ending, I feel, rather than Kyoshi herself being the DEATH AVENGER that the fandom has turned her into.

True, I'm reminded of the conversation between Aang and Kyoshi in Sozin's Comet, in which he acknowledged this himself. I don't agree with the fandom's characterization of Kyoshi as a murder machine either, but she's certainly an Avatar whose disposition and decision-making starkly contrasts with Aang's pacifism.

At this point, if we include the comics, we've seen just as much of Avatar Yangchen as he have of Kyoshi. The Rift has a flashback to one of Yangchen's adventures that is at least as long and involved as Kyoshi's encounter with Chin, and of course both of them gave Aang advice about Ozai.

(The fandom's view of Yangchen is another big disagreement I have with the majority. Lots of people seem to have accepted her advice as the truth, that Aang was prizing his own purity over the good of the world, rather than questioning what kind of holy person thinks that spiritual purity is for the benefit of the holder only. Most holy people consider their beliefs to be good for the entire world. Sadly, nothing about this has been addressed in the additional material with Yangchen.)

Oh man -- I totally forgot about Yangchen, whom we also see a little bit of in Sozin's Comet. It always struck me that none of Aang's predecessors seemed especially sympathetic toward his moral dilemma. Yangchen should've been the perfect candidate given that she was also an Air Nomad, but rather than delve into any particular teachings or experience she gained from the monks, she calls on him to sacrifice his spiritual needs for the world's. It seems to me that the writers didn't need an Air Nomad to get that across, but perhaps I'm expecting too much given time constraints.

The humor in this episode gets off to a slow start. Some of the earlier jokes work well, such as Sokka's snide remark about Aang's progress mastering the four elements, but others come across as unsophisticated and juvenile, especially Sokka's complaining about cleaning Appa, the "what are curios?" bit between Aang and the pirate crew member, and the cabbage merchant redux. Again, this sort of humor is an order of magnitude better than what is typical for a children's cartoon, but it's still a noticeable weak area in an otherwise tightly written show. In contrast, the action-oriented second act features many enjoyable comedic moments. Highlights include Zuko's "I didn't steal [Katara's necklace], if that's what you're asking" and Iroh's "it's no proverb!"

Of course, what discussion of the humor would be complete without mentioning the quick cut that prevents the viewer from seeing that one pirate mooning Zuko and Iroh. Although that's a fairly crass source of humor, I actually found it to be presented in a sophisticated way, with the dropping of the pants just being part of a mass of activity from the mocking pirates, then the cut, and then no major reaction from Zuko or Iroh. It's a far cry from the way Meelo's potty humor wound up being presented.

Ha, I forgot about the mooning. That was wholly entertaining, too, and fit well.

Ugh... I haven't actually seen Meelo in action, but the moment a toddler character gets involved with the humor, I get suspicious -- the quality of the writing almost always tanks. As we will see in "Return to Omashu."

We are also introduced to the pirates. While they're not particularly deep characters, they are certainly entertaining. I was struck by Aang's first meeting with the pirate captain in which in which Momo and the parrot(?) sit on opposing shoulders, igniting an instant rivalry. The best moment involving the pirates is the captain's duel with Zuko. Seeing a swordsmen go toe-to-toe with a royal firebender makes us realize that benders aren't untouchable. Somehow, that makes the fight all the more thrilling.

Another good point. The pirate captain even fights with a jian, the same weapon Piandao uses. It's known as the "Gentleman of Weapons" because it's a stabbing weapon with two sides, requiring more training and more involved construction than something like a heavy dao blade that only has one sharpened side and so is more of a chopping weapon. Most of the swordsmen we see in Avatar are using dao blades, which reflects real life, and The Pirate Captain stands out as an interesting exception.

Wow, I had no idea Piandao uses the same kind of sword. That's such a cool connection that emphasizes the cool and collected, almost wise nature of the pirate captain. I suppose, minus the pirate stuff, it wouldn't be unreasonable for Aang and the audience to look up to him.

Also, I bet you could get some interesting fanfics out of an imaginary history between Piandao and the captain...

Overall, this episode is just plain fun. The characters are all great and the action in the second half is excellent. It's everything Avatar should be. Being a "filler" episode doesn't hurt "The Waterbending Scroll" one bit. Still, besides the pirates, there's not much that makes this episode memorable. There's no underlying theme or distinctive setting I can point to when I think of "The Waterbending Scroll." It's a well-executed episode, but in a show chock full of those, that's not enough to set it apart from the rest.

If anything, this episode shows just how much that "filler" can enhance the whole.

B-b-but Book One is trash and filler episodes are boring Absolutely!
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: longman on May 05, 2017, 03:30:21 PM
my real concern (albeit minor) is that the only female Avatar we get to see is a rash hardliner whose first instinct is to achieve justice with force. This might suggest that the way to be a good female Avatar is to be "strong" and always resort to force. Now, we know that's not true, but what impression might that leave on the show's target audience?
IMO, no impression apart from the idea that Avatars had better be resolute, no-nonsense balls of awesomeness in order to do their job properly. The female Avatars of AtLA do not and are not meant to tell us anything about female Avatars besides the fact that there are female Avatars. There isn't enough material to go beyond that.

Quote
Of course. But there's no reason we couldn't have had another female Avatar with a different perspective. They didn't have to get bogged down in particulars to communicate a more balanced conception of a female Avatar.
As Loopy mentioned, there is also Yangchen. Arguably she did offer a different perspective;  while she may have reached similar conclusion to the other Avatars, she got there from the starting point of air nomad values. Speaking of which...

At this point, if we include the comics, we've seen just as much of Avatar Yangchen as he have of Kyoshi. The Rift has a flashback to one of Yangchen's adventures that is at least as long and involved as Kyoshi's encounter with Chin, and of course both of them gave Aang advice about Ozai.

(The fandom's view of Yangchen is another big disagreement I have with the majority. Lots of people seem to have accepted her advice as the truth, that Aang was prizing his own purity over the good of the world, rather than questioning what kind of holy person thinks that spiritual purity is for the benefit of the holder only. Most holy people consider their beliefs to be good for the entire world. Sadly, nothing about this has been addressed in the additional material with Yangchen.)

Oh man -- I totally forgot about Yangchen, whom we also see a little bit of in Sozin's Comet. It always struck me that none of Aang's predecessors seemed especially sympathetic toward his moral dilemma. Yangchen should've been the perfect candidate given that she was also an Air Nomad, but rather than delve into any particular teachings or experience she gained from the monks, she calls on him to sacrifice his spiritual needs for the world's. It seems to me that the writers didn't need an Air Nomad to get that across, but perhaps I'm expecting too much given time constraints.
I take a slightly nuanced view of Yangchen's wisdom, which is that there is a limit to which Aang could pursue worldly detachment toward nirvana - past the level needed to unlock the Avatar State, of course - and still do right by the Avatar standards of keeping balance. Aang could well go all the way and achieve nirvana and be very happy with the results, but he may not be much different from Zaheer. Another way of looking at Yangchen's advice is that what Aang sought was intrinsically impossible; he could never truly 'free' his spirit from the world because the Avatar spirit is tethered to the world by definition.

I also found Yangchen quite sympathetic in her delivery and demeanor. Nevertheless, let's not forget what was at stake here. This was last chance saloon with the arrival of Sozin's comet, and the previous occurrence had caught the Avatar literally napping with disastrous consequences albeit through no fault of his. There was no more room for error, and it doesn't help that Aang's motivations were rather question-begging.

I agree that less is more when it comes to fiction, and from what I can tell about LOK, it seems it had far too much fan service and ideas that sounded great on paper but flopped when rendered. And I think we all know Bryan and Mike are in the habit of harebrained progressivism given the controversies that LOK spawned, like the Korra-Asami relationship that (I heard) came out of nowhere. But that doesn't mean they along with their fellow writers shouldn't have tried. They could have made the feminism in ATLA work better with some small tweaks.

As Yoda would say, try not! Do! Or do not! haha but seriously, when Bryke fail so woefully as LoK did with some of its ambitious themes, it logically begs the question of why they tried at all. I think AtLA did a pretty good job with feminism, all things considered, by keeping it simple and subtle and knowing its limits. And, not to make a trite point, but it had pretty good storytellers. The flaws in the overtly feminist plotlines are the usual consequences of writers being a bit too eager to showcase their progressive values when given the opportunity.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Wordbender on May 09, 2017, 05:32:31 AM
Quote
Of course. But there's no reason we couldn't have had another female Avatar with a different perspective. They didn't have to get bogged down in particulars to communicate a more balanced conception of a female Avatar.
As Loopy mentioned, there is also Yangchen. Arguably she did offer a different perspective;  while she may have reached similar conclusion to the other Avatars, she got there from the starting point of air nomad values.

Yangchen comes close, but the Air Nomad values were another missed opportunity here. If Yangchen were half as devout as Aang, then she would have had to resolve her Avatar duties with the monks' spiritual teachings at some point. She addresses why Aang cannot completely detach himself from the world but not his contradictory beliefs on the sacredness of life. Her bit of wisdom, "selfless duty calls [Aang] to sacrifice [his] own spiritual needs," was given in the context of the former. Expanding on the latter conflict would have been a nice way to flesh out not just Yangchen, but the extinct Air Nomad culture, too.

I also found Yangchen quite sympathetic in her delivery and demeanor. Nevertheless, let's not forget what was at stake here. This was last chance saloon with the arrival of Sozin's comet, and the previous occurrence had caught the Avatar literally napping with disastrous consequences albeit through no fault of his. There was no more room for error, and it doesn't help that Aang's motivations were rather question-begging.

Good point; I would buy this explanation.

As Yoda would say, try not! Do! Or do not! haha but seriously, when Bryke fail so woefully as LoK did with some of its ambitious themes, it logically begs the question of why they tried at all. I think AtLA did a pretty good job with feminism, all things considered, by keeping it simple and subtle and knowing its limits. And, not to make a trite point, but it had pretty good storytellers. The flaws in the overtly feminist plotlines are the usual consequences of writers being a bit too eager to showcase their progressive values when given the opportunity.

I'll have to take your word on LOK's failings. Isn't it true there were many more writers working regularly on ATLA? Bryan and Mike weren't the only ones running the show.
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Loopy on May 10, 2017, 07:32:50 PM
Yeah, there was a large team of writers for AtLA, along with Aaron Ehasz as a story supervisor, and the Mike and the Bryan are quite up-front in their commentary that the whole team worked closely to hash out all the stories, with them not even remembering who was responsible for individual lines of dialogue.

LoK started out with just the Mike and the Bryan writing, and all of the first Book even had the same director if I recall correctly, but some of the writers from AtLA were brought back for Books 3 and 4. I haven't seen an indication on whether the old "Writer's Room" dynamic was able to be brought back, and something that a lot of LoK critics point is Aaron Ehasz's absence, as well as his wife Elizabeth Ehasz's role as a popular contributing writer.

Also, just a head's up to everyone: I'm quite busy right now, so that's why there's been no new retrospectives. I'll do one as soon as I get a chance, but don't be alarmed if that takes a couple of weeks. Sorry, but I'm glad to see such a great discussion continuing!
Title: Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
Post by: Wordbender on May 19, 2017, 08:07:10 PM
I've also been busy, and it took me several weeks longer than I had hoped to prepare that Zutara post. It snowballed into something that had little to do with "The Waterbending Scroll," so I've opted to make it a new thread (http://atla.fans/index.php?topic=98.0).