AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water

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Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #150 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!

Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #151 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.

Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #152 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.
« Last Edit: May 11, 2017, 11:53:42 PM by Wordbender »

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Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #153 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!

Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #154 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.

 

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