AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water

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Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #75 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

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Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #76 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:

  • Well, let's start by taking the bull by the horns. 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?
  • Can anyone here type "Pipinpadaloxicopolis" from memory? I have to Copy+Paste.
  • 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?
  • This is also the first appearance of the Cabbage Merchant! Opinions of that running gag?
  • 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.)
  • Anyone know of any fanart or fanfic for the two other fighters Bumi offered to let Aang battle in the third trial? They're modeled on the Mike and the Bryan themselves, so I'd be shocked if they've never been in fanart, at least.
  • 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?

Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #77 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.

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Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #78 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.

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Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #79 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.

Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #80 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:




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


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Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #81 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.

Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #82 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. ;)

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Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #83 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:

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

Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #84 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.

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Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #85 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!



    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.

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    « Last Edit: December 15, 2016, 09:56:22 PM by FartsOfNeil »

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    Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
    « Reply #86 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

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    Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
    « Reply #87 on: December 16, 2016, 10:23:14 PM »
    Mark Hamill's asian?

    Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
    « Reply #88 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,

    • "You know, you can't protect him forever."
    • "Come on, Aang. Everything will be all right. Let's get out of here."
    • "Katara and I aren't going to let anything happen to you. Promise."

    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.

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    Loopy

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    Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
    « Reply #89 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.

     

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