AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water

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FartsOfNeil

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Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #90 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...


Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #91 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, 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.

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Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #92 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.

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Loopy

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Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #93 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.

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Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #94 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:

  • 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?
  • 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?
  • Anyone know if a forest fire would really leave acorns behind?
  • 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?'
  • 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?
  • Hei Bai: great creepy design or should he look more like a carrot pokemon?
  • Anyone else notice that Aang is a CGI unmoving model when chasing Hei Bai and Sokka on his glider?
  • 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?
  • 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?
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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?

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.

Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #95 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.

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Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #96 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.

Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #97 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. 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.



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. ;)
« Last Edit: January 14, 2017, 03:28:18 AM by Wordbender »

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Loopy

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Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #98 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.

Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #99 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.

Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #100 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?

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Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #101 on: January 17, 2017, 07:35:51 PM »
It's not ringing any bells for me. Maybe you saw the line in a fanfic?

Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #102 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.



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Loopy

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Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #103 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.

Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #104 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

 

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