AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water

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Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #120 on: February 27, 2017, 07:22:16 AM »
In The Siege of the North when Aang goes into and returns from the Spirit World to find that his body had been moved, we see the difference between projecting to the Spirit World and the physical world when they're not blurred together.

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

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

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

These ideas seem to support Loopy's working hypothesis that bending has spiritual and cultural elements (no pun intended), and is not just magical powers.

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



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

« Last Edit: February 27, 2017, 07:25:27 AM by longman »

Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #121 on: February 27, 2017, 10:26:57 AM »
Korra didn't even attempt to contact her past lives until halfway through the Book 2 (and that was involuntary on her part)

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

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

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

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

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

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Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #122 on: February 27, 2017, 06:49:33 PM »
Plus, Aang and Company were only in trouble because they were trying to contact Roku after his invitation. Roku just made up for the mess he caused, whereas Aang bailed Korra out of a mess that could only be attributed to Aang in a general "legacy"/"sins of the father" kind of way.

Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #123 on: February 27, 2017, 09:05:45 PM »
Korra didn't even attempt to contact her past lives until halfway through the Book 2 (and that was involuntary on her part)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LoK's pacing was complicit, but the unfocused narrative didn't help either. Aang's flashbacks shifted the goalposts and were only superficially connected to Korra's experiences. (Imagine if Korra had gotten the full flashback dump in episode 5 instead of episode 9. What would have changed, even if she immediately figured that Amon was a bloodbender? Heck if she fell asleep in the cage instead of meditating, what would have changed?) Roku's revelations OTOH gave the gAang and the narrative a sense of urgency, and AtLA was better for it.

Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #124 on: February 27, 2017, 09:46:32 PM »
Aang returning is still sketchy though? When he returns Momo doesn't react yet Katara sees a spirity thing moving across the sky and says it's Aang. So he could be seen but still not interact?
Probably something to talk about come that episode.

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

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

These ideas seem to support Loopy's working hypothesis that bending has spiritual and cultural elements (no pun intended), and is not just magical powers.

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

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

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

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

I buy it. If Aang wasn't entirely in the physical world--and I think this is what the writers were trying to emphasize with Momo's obliviousness--nobody could hear him shout. I might concede that he should have been awakened by the light from a bright, flaming spirit... thing?

Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #125 on: February 28, 2017, 04:31:53 AM »
I've been meaning to start writing my own reviews of the episodes we watch. I'm going to sneak this one in just before Loopy moves us onto "The Waterbending Scroll."



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8/10

Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #126 on: February 28, 2017, 05:18:16 AM »
Yeah, I agree with a lot of what you're saying, Longman. I have a lot to say about LoK (both good and bad), but I think I should save that for if/when LoK gets its own retrospective thread.

Anyway, back to discussing this episode: I think my favorite part is when they fail to open the door with "fake firebending" but Katara figures out how they can still use that to their advantage.

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Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #127 on: February 28, 2017, 06:53:54 PM »
"Avatar Roku" is first and foremost a plot and action episode. But there's some character interaction to go around, too, and as usual, it's charming and well-written. First, we see Sokka and Katara insist on accompanying Aang on his search for Roku. There's a sweet moment when Sokka says, "We got your back," and Momo lands reassuringly on Aang's arm. Then in the blockade running scene, Katara and Sokka make the decision to run the blockade, not Aang. For the villains, we finally see Zhao in action, a competent naval commander who is always one step ahead of Zuko. In particular, I enjoyed the scene in which Zuko's ship is on a collision course with Zhao's blockade. "We can make it," Zuko proclaims, unaware that Zhao's men were ready to board his ship before Zhao let him go on purpose. This perfectly captures the qualities of both characters.

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


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

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


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

I liked the lantern gag. :P


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

Yeah, this is something AtLA does well that most animation doesn't aspire to. Every scene has a tint to it that reflects both the setting and the mood, which works especially well with the boldly-colored world that the characters inhabit. It reminded me of the movie Hero, with both being in the wuxia genre probably helping me make that connection. In retrospect, expecting something like Hero in terms of looks was another blow against my ability to respect M Nighty's adaptation.

Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #128 on: March 01, 2017, 08:22:23 PM »
I liked the lantern gag. :P

It's subjective, of course. :)

(I tend to eschew phrases like "in my opinion" and "I think that" to strengthen my writing, but this can leave the impression that there's no room for nuance, when there is.)

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Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #129 on: March 02, 2017, 07:56:26 PM »
Ah, but the devil's in the nuance, or something like that. Which, in a perfect segue, is something that the next episode might trip over. Let's check out an exploration of Katara's flaws in The Waterbending Scroll:

  • Sokka starts this episode pretty salty, for him. I guess he's cranky after getting up early for journey to the Fire Nation and then flying all night again. Maybe that's why Katara winds up so cranky, too. :D Even though those are jokes on my part, I think it's notable how much this episode follows through on the momentum of the two-parter. The characters react directly to what they learned from Roku, Aang begins Waterbending, and Zuko returns for another go at Aang. It's not a Part 3, but the show is definitely making movements towards a real serial narrative.
  • This episode also introduces the concept of the "White Lotus," but only as a game piece in Pai Sho. So, was the secret multi-national organization a thing in the mind of the storytellers at this point, do you think, or was it just an element they later happened to recycle? I'm not sure, myself, but I definitely don't believe in the theories that Iroh here was purposefully waylaying Zuko for White Lotus reasons.
  • Actually, this is a good point to talk about Iroh again. How do you guys see his role at this point? Is he a Good Guy who is ready to liberate Aang from Zuko in the event that ol' Bacon Face actually succeeds, a stealth mentor trying lead Zuko to the Avatar's side, or something else? I have ideas, but I'll hold them back until I see yours.
  • I really like Mako's performance in this episode. Iroh is funny without being entirely buffoonish, IMO
  • So, onto the star of this episode: Katara! She gets two scenes where she gets to be jealous of Aang. The first limits her jealousy to being only in the audience's perception. The second scene is where it gets thrown in Aang's face. So, what do you guys think of Katara's reactions? Understandable, given her identity is wrapped up in being her tribe's lone Waterbender? Or was this off-putting to you? If so, was her earlier annoyance more understandable than her later tantrum? Are these specific actions condemned by the narrative? Did Aang forgive the tear-inducing outburst too easily?
  • And then we have her actions with the Waterbending scroll. First she stole it, putting the gAang in danger, then she gets possessive with it as a result of her hurt pride, and finally she steals again after trying to give it up once and thus gets the gAang captured by Zuko and the pirates. Again, what were your reactions to this stuff? Do you think the narrative condemned these actions, too? Did Aang forgive these actions too easily?
  • The bison whistle is acquired in this episode. It kind of comes out of nowhere, a specific bison-shaped whistle that Appa can hear and that he knows to respond to. Was it meant to be an Air Nomad thing, or did it all just coincidentally work out?
  • What do you think about the pirates? I love how the way they're implemented as real Asian pirates, in terms of costumes, weapons, fighting style, and their ship. Plus, the captain is voiced by Jack Angel, and I saw this rerun so many times, thinking that his voice sounded so familiar, until I realized that he was Ultra Magnus (and also a bunch of other Transformers).
  • I picked my avvie, came up with my username, and formulated my entire online persona the second time I saw this shot.
  • Hey, second cabbage merchant appearance.
  • So, about that whole "tying Katara to a tree and leering" thing that Zuko had going. Zutara aside, I saw a theory that Zuko was taking inspiration from Azula in his actions, here. I doubt that was intended, but I rather like it. Anyone have any thoughts about this? Anyone want to rant about Zutara?
  • I really like that Sokka had another smart moment when he tricked the pirates into turning on Zuko. And Aang didn't even understand what was happening!
  • This episode has a lot of great action in it, once the fighting starts. Pirates versus Fire Nation versus gAang across a beach across two stolen ships. It just keeps getting bigger, with lots of fun little moments, IMO. And Katara and Aang get a very natural moment, IMO, where they can work together on Waterbending and come to a reconciliation after their earlier conflict. It feels like Aang is specifically reaching out to Katara in this way, yet the opportunity feels like it came up organically. I like that specific combo.
  • Also, this episode might have some of my favorite animation it, from the Waterbending to Katara's tantrum to the fighting to just the expressions and movement of the characters.


Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #130 on: March 03, 2017, 10:45:24 AM »
I think The Waterbending Scroll is underappreciated. It's full of great character interactions, even if nothing particularly epic or even really important to the story happens. It's just fun. It even has Zuko's biggest laugh of the series. :)



I thought Katara blowing up at Aang was great. That scene highlights flaws for both characters (Katara's insecurity about her bending, and Aang's obliviousness and tendency to show off) and it's neither dragged out for too long nor completely forgotten about. I love how even after that, they show that Katara still hadn't really learned her lesson by having her sneak off to practice waterbending at night. Even by the end of the episode, she tries to justify her theft of the scroll. Katara really isn't always good and honest, despite being self-righteous most of the time. These moments of realistic selfishness make her relatable.

I thought it was fair that Katara was forgiven so easily. Aang's gotten them into trouble by being reckless too, like in The King of Omashu when they get arrested because he wanted to ride the mail system.

The pirates were ultimately just silly minor characters (although they do come back for the season finale), but it's always cool to see Team Aang fight bad guys that aren't just Fire Nation soldiers.

I agree about the animation being great in this episode. Jet, The Storm, The Fortuneteller, The Deserter, The Waterbending Master and The Siege of the North, Part 2 have the same animation style and quality. Despite its great animation though, I don't think this episode has many fight scenes that are visually memorable. You almost never see fight scene clips from this episode used in AMVs. In my opinion, the best-looking bending move in this episode is just Aang showing off.


Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #131 on: March 14, 2017, 08:48:05 PM »
This episode also introduces the concept of the "White Lotus," but only as a game piece in Pai Sho. So, was the secret multi-national organization a thing in the mind of the storytellers at this point, do you think, or was it just an element they later happened to recycle? I'm not sure, myself, but I definitely don't believe in the theories that Iroh here was purposefully waylaying Zuko for White Lotus reasons.
Like Katara's necklace, the lotus tile could have started as a trinket plot device without any special significance. Then again, the lotus symbol has cultural significance in Buddhism and East/South Asian cultures, which is possibly where the whole idea of a lotus game piece came from. And someone may have stumbled on this Wikipedia article and thought, "Ya don't say..."

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Actually, this is a good point to talk about Iroh again. How do you guys see his role at this point? Is he a Good Guy who is ready to liberate Aang from Zuko in the event that ol' Bacon Face actually succeeds, a stealth mentor trying lead Zuko to the Avatar's side, or something else? I have ideas, but I'll hold them back until I see yours.
At this point Iroh is sort of a neutral. He is done with waging wars and not particularly invested in finding the Avatar, but he is not directly opposing his fatherland either. He just wants to enjoy life, but his other main concern is Zuko, who is determined to capture the Avatar in order to redeem himself. To this end Iroh kinda walks a fine line balancing all of the above during this season, until the rash actions of Zuko and Zhao in the finale force his hand.

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I really like Mako's performance in this episode. Iroh is funny without being entirely buffoonish, IMO
Very true! I am probably in the minority here, but this is one area where I see a distinction with LoK, where the comedy was more bombastic, and the comic relief characters tilted on the bufoonish side as a result. AtLA had buffoons too but they were mostly one-shot characters like the schizoid Doc-Shu guy in Book 3, or the people of Chin City. We weren't watching them every episode and I think that made the rarity of their appearances either more enjoyable or at least more tolerable.

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  • So, onto the star of this episode: Katara! She gets two scenes where she gets to be jealous of Aang. The first limits her jealousy to being only in the audience's perception. The second scene is where it gets thrown in Aang's face. So, what do you guys think of Katara's reactions? Understandable, given her identity is wrapped up in being her tribe's lone Waterbender? Or was this off-putting to you? If so, was her earlier annoyance more understandable than her later tantrum? Are these specific actions condemned by the narrative? Did Aang forgive the tear-inducing outburst too easily?
  • And then we have her actions with the Waterbending scroll. First she stole it, putting the gAang in danger, then she gets possessive with it as a result of her hurt pride, and finally she steals again after trying to give it up once and thus gets the gAang captured by Zuko and the pirates. Again, what were your reactions to this stuff? Do you think the narrative condemned these actions, too? Did Aang forgive these actions too easily?
I think Aang and Katara's reactions are fairly natural. Concerning the narrative's handling of Katara's flaws, this is the pattern I described during the discussion on Imprisoned:
... Katara herself doesn't acknowledge her flaws, doesn't have to change perspective, gets her own way eventually, and is commended by the narrative in the end.
The one improvement here isthat Katara does own up to her mistakes, a couple of times in fact. But these admissions could be hollow since she immediately doubles downs on her errors afterwards. Everything else runs in place: she gets her way eventually, since Sokka somehow found the scroll amidst the chaos, and he doesn't even an apology from her despite being the most annoyed about the entire affair. Katara even gets the parting shot in the end, and in later episodes we see that she is the main beneficiary of the scroll, not Aang. The bottom line is that it's difficult to see this episode as proof of Katara actually learning a valuable moral lesson.

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The bison whistle is acquired in this episode. It kind of comes out of nowhere, a specific bison-shaped whistle that Appa can hear and that he knows to respond to. Was it meant to be an Air Nomad thing, or did it all just coincidentally work out?
I've imagined that there's a missing scene after the gAang first ditched the pirates, where Aang 'calibrated' the whistle by blowing it in Appa's presence. Otherwise it's pure luck for Appa to show up at the waterfall when he didn't respond to the whistle the first time Aang used it in the market.

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What do you think about the pirates? I love how the way they're implemented as real Asian pirates, in terms of costumes, weapons, fighting style, and their ship. Plus, the captain is voiced by Jack Angel, and I saw this rerun so many times, thinking that his voice sounded so familiar, until I realized that he was Ultra Magnus (and also a bunch of other Transformers).
The pirates were great. I think this is the first (and possibly only?) group of people who are not characterized by either side of of the war's divide. They sometimes strike me as more silly than truly dangerous, but we got great sitcom-level comedy out of it. WRT their design and presentation, the writers were clearly conscious of their Western audience's sensibilities, including things like the pet reptile bird, and Aang lines like "Arrr, we be casting off!" and "I used to look up to pirates.."  ;D

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I picked my avvie, came up with my username, and formulated my entire online persona the second time I saw this shot.
What was so to confusing about the monkey statue to Katara anyway?

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So, about that whole "tying Katara to a tree and leering" thing that Zuko had going. Zutara aside, I saw a theory that Zuko was taking inspiration from Azula in his actions, here. I doubt that was intended, but I rather like it. Anyone have any thoughts about this? Anyone want to rant about Zutara?
That's a good theory. What's more, Zuko reveals a bit more of his moral compass, in that he really isn't into sadism anyways. He'd rather manipulate the pirates into searching the woods than torture a confession out of Katara, who for here part shows courage in her defiant rebuttals.

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This episode has a lot of great action in it, once the fighting starts. Pirates versus Fire Nation versus gAang across a beach across two stolen ships. It just keeps getting bigger, with lots of fun little moments, IMO. And Katara and Aang get a very natural moment, IMO, where they can work together on Waterbending and come to a reconciliation after their earlier conflict. It feels like Aang is specifically reaching out to Katara in this way, yet the opportunity feels like it came up organically. I like that specific combo.

Yeah the action build up is similar to that of the previous episode, with different groups going after one another and coming together in a big explosion at the end. This episode also demonstrates how AtLA takes advantage of the animation medium to produce great action and comedy. For example, I don't see the smoke bomb scenes working as well in a live action format. M Nighty's shortcomings aside, some people have questioned the suitability of live action for AtLA and not completely without merit IMO.
« Last Edit: March 15, 2017, 11:20:56 AM by longman »

Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #132 on: March 17, 2017, 11:19:27 AM »
The bottom line is that it's difficult to see this episode as proof of Katara actually learning a valuable moral lesson.



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What do you think about the pirates? I love how the way they're implemented as real Asian pirates, in terms of costumes, weapons, fighting style, and their ship. Plus, the captain is voiced by Jack Angel, and I saw this rerun so many times, thinking that his voice sounded so familiar, until I realized that he was Ultra Magnus (and also a bunch of other Transformers).
The pirates were great. I think this is the first (and possibly only?) group of people who are not characterized by either side of of the war's divide. They sometimes strike me as more silly than truly dangerous, but we got great sitcom-level comedy out of it. WRT their design and presentation, the writers were clearly conscious of their Western audience's sensibilities, including things like the pet reptile bird, and Aang lines like "Arrr, we be casting off!" and "I used to look up to pirates.."  ;D

I'd take it as more of a character study. Not everyone needs to learn a lesson and perhaps some things don't teach you anything, but they make you something and you have to wait a while and see what comes of it.

Also I would think the people of Chin's Village were not necessarily characterized by the war? Even if they were the cream of the crop of the Earth Kingdom they'd still blame Kyoshi (and the Avatar) for something.

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Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #133 on: March 17, 2017, 08:10:23 PM »
I think Aang and Katara's reactions are fairly natural. Concerning the narrative's handling of Katara's flaws, this is the pattern I described during the discussion on Imprisoned:
... Katara herself doesn't acknowledge her flaws, doesn't have to change perspective, gets her own way eventually, and is commended by the narrative in the end.
The one improvement here isthat Katara does own up to her mistakes, a couple of times in fact. But these admissions could be hollow since she immediately doubles downs on her errors afterwards. Everything else runs in place: she gets her way eventually, since Sokka somehow found the scroll amidst the chaos, and he doesn't even an apology from her despite being the most annoyed about the entire affair. Katara even gets the parting shot in the end, and in later episodes we see that she is the main beneficiary of the scroll, not Aang. The bottom line is that it's difficult to see this episode as proof of Katara actually learning a valuable moral lesson.
I'd take it as more of a character study. Not everyone needs to learn a lesson and perhaps some things don't teach you anything, but they make you something and you have to wait a while and see what comes of it.

I'm going to split the difference. Katara's jealousy doesn't come up again in the series, so I don't think it was meant to be the focus of a character study. It's possible the study was meant to be her pride as a Waterbender, but then why add the initial negative component? It's Katara's protectiveness that leads to negative actions in future episodes, so I would expect that to get a study.

No, I think Katara being jealous and then getting over that into a kind of healthy pride in her Waterbending was meant to show her learning a lesson, and the storytellers just kind of botched it. Katara gets the dreaded and meaningless "Mary Sue" label for such results, but I really don't think it comes from any special regard on the storytellers' part. They just wanted to use Sokka as the butt monkey for the final scene as usual, wanted to do a little humor with subverting the notion of a Lesson Learned plot, and thought they gave Katara enough negative consequences already, without thinking about how the whole presentation comes together for this nugget of a story. The jealousy doesn't come back, so I think in the long term it functions as desired, but this episode alone kind of suffers for the blunders.

It's possible, too, that they didn't want to be too hard on her because she's a female character. The storytellers had really good, truly feminist intentions with AtLA, but it is possible to overthink these things and veer too much in the other direction. The soft ending with Katara getting the parting shot over Sokka could have been an attempt to avoid the appearance of letting the boys 1-up the girl.



Like Katara's necklace, the lotus tile could have started as a trinket plot device without any special significance. Then again, the lotus symbol has cultural significance in Buddhism and East/South Asian cultures, which is possibly where the whole idea of a lotus game piece came from. And someone may have stumbled on this Wikipedia article and thought, "Ya don't say..."

Ah, I either didn't know the name's origins, or forgot them. Yes, that's a good indication that there were definite plans for something connected with Iroh. I doubt that all of the old people in the show were meant to be part of the organization at this point in time (Pakku especially strikes me as a really unnatural candidate for the White Lotus), but we can discuss that point later.


At this point Iroh is sort of a neutral. He is done with waging wars and not particularly invested in finding the Avatar, but he is not directly opposing his fatherland either. He just wants to enjoy life, but his other main concern is Zuko, who is determined to capture the Avatar in order to redeem himself. To this end Iroh kinda walks a fine line balancing all of the above during this season, until the rash actions of Zuko and Zhao in the finale force his hand.

Cosigned! One retcon I'm glad never got is that Iroh was manipulating everything.


I've imagined that there's a missing scene after the gAang first ditched the pirates, where Aang 'calibrated' the whistle by blowing it in Appa's presence. Otherwise it's pure luck for Appa to show up at the waterfall when he didn't respond to the whistle the first time Aang used it in the market.

It would have been funny if the initial blowing brought only Momo, and then later Aang blows it and Sokka asks what Momo is going to do to help them, and then Appa shows up to help. Leave it implied that Momo taught Appa. :D


The pirates were great. I think this is the first (and possibly only?) group of people who are not characterized by either side of of the war's divide.

Swampbenders! :) And, technically, Wan Shi Tong declared himself neutral.


What was so to confusing about the monkey statue to Katara anyway?

I still think it was a Sun Warrior relic imprisoning a demon. ;)


That's a good theory. What's more, Zuko reveals a bit more of his moral compass, in that he really isn't into sadism anyways. He'd rather manipulate the pirates into searching the woods than torture a confession out of Katara, who for here part shows courage in her defiant rebuttals.

Good point! Zuko was more than happy to bribe her, but that's as far as it goes.


Yeah the action build up is similar to that of the previous episode, with different groups going after one another and coming together in a big explosion at the end. This episode also demonstrates how AtLA takes advantage of the animation medium to produce great action and comedy. For example, I don't see the smoke bomb scenes working as well in a live action format. M Nighty's shortcomings aside, some people have questioned the suitability of live action for AtLA and not completely without merit IMO.

Hm, I agree that M Nighty wouldn't have been able to make it work, but the original live-action TMNT movie did a fairly effective scene with sewer steam functioning as a smokescreen while the turtles took out some attackers, but that was a quick scene. I think a skilled filmmaker could probably do something like we got here (without CGI), but not as easily and perhaps with more zoomed-in shots.

I'll have to ask around if there any good Hong Kong action flicks that pull off a good smokebomb scene.

Re: AtLA Episodes Retrospective Thread - Book Water
« Reply #134 on: March 18, 2017, 10:13:25 PM »
I'm going to split the difference. Katara's jealousy doesn't come up again in the series, so I don't think it was meant to be the focus of a character study. It's possible the study was meant to be her pride as a Waterbender, but then why add the initial negative component? It's Katara's protectiveness that leads to negative actions in future episodes, so I would expect that to get a study.

No, I think Katara being jealous and then getting over that into a kind of healthy pride in her Waterbending was meant to show her learning a lesson, and the storytellers just kind of botched it. Katara gets the dreaded and meaningless "Mary Sue" label for such results, but I really don't think it comes from any special regard on the storytellers' part. They just wanted to use Sokka as the butt monkey for the final scene as usual, wanted to do a little humor with subverting the notion of a Lesson Learned plot, and thought they gave Katara enough negative consequences already, without thinking about how the whole presentation comes together for this nugget of a story. The jealousy doesn't come back, so I think in the long term it functions as desired, but this episode alone kind of suffers for the blunders.

It's possible, too, that they didn't want to be too hard on her because she's a female character. The storytellers had really good, truly feminist intentions with AtLA, but it is possible to overthink these things and veer too much in the other direction. The soft ending with Katara getting the parting shot over Sokka could have been an attempt to avoid the appearance of letting the boys 1-up the girl.

Good points.

Katara's jealousy here is a symptom of a deeper flaw we've seen elsewhere, in the book premiere and Imprisoned, and later on in The Waterbending Master. Basically, Katara is prone to Zuko-esque decisions (right down to challenging bending masters to duels) in situations where her sense of idealism or waterbender identity appear to be on the line. That is what ought to be addressed, if anything. Much later in Book 3 Toph commits the same error in beating shady dealers at their own game for a greater good, but endangering the gAang as a result. However, the deeper psychological reasons for her behaviour are addressed, and Ironically Katara is instrumental in that process. I think that is why Katara gets some flack; some people get the impression of a character that loves preaching to others but is often shielded from taking her own medicine.

The points about the writers' feminist intentions brings up a trend I've noticed with increasing concern in the current media, where strange narrative decisions are taken ostensibly to further progressive ideals. I meant to say this when we were on The Warriors of Kyoshi, but I think that AtLA generally handled its egalitarian themes best as a matter of course rather than a matter of necessity. Of course the latter is fine, but that requires a certain maturity and nuance in the storytelling which may not be available especially for what was intended as a kids' show. The message runs the risk of being contrived, or bringing up unfortunate implications, and we will see this in The Waterbending Master when we get there. AtLA's feminist successes IMO were engaging female characters like Katara, Azula, and Toph, and a world in which women as well as men could be the titular hero, not the time Sokka was whooped by geisha chicks and made to wear a dress in penance. The same is true for AtLA's environmentalism. In a show where the characters (and thus the viewers) spend a lot of time out in the open, surrounded by the beauty of nature and possessing a magical connection to nature in the form of bending, and with other parts of nature personified by godlike beings, are overt statements really necessary? In short, to quote Plinkett, "You may not have noticed it - but your brain did."

 

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