Chapter 5: the King of Omashu
I am going to go nuts trying to figure out who’s voice the front-gate guard (the cabbage merchant is the voice of Jackie Chan from Jackie Chan Adventures – man I watch way too many cartoons). All in all, this was a very well done comedy episode, funnier and better paced than the previous one. (Though am I alone in thinking it seems like the animation changes styles midways through the episode?) Of course, I’m sure any watching this should have figured out that Aang’s old friend was the king right away, but it was handled well having Aang learn about it slower. It really drives home just how long he’s been away, he’s undoubtedly forgetting that the faces he remembers should have a few more wrinkles. As a character, I like Bumi and his skirting the line between annoying and brilliant – perfectly handled between the script and voice actor. I hope I get to see him again (no spoilers please!). The city and landscape design was stunning and I’m still loving the action direction.
George Takei, doing a voice? And Kevin Michael Richardson? (it’s a shorter list of what you HAVEN’T heard him in, but to me he’ll always be the 2nd in command from Megas XLR) Squeeeeeeee
Excuse me – geek overload.
This episode is… rather infamous, (cracked and John C Wright both talk about it) and I can see why – if I had any complaint, it’s that I wish this had been split into two parts to deepen the emotional impact of everything. The humor over “that lemur is earth bending” I didn’t like as much as it kind of weakened the earlier horror, but the buffalo/bison routine with George Takei was priceless. That is how you do humor people – both in a comedic and narrative timing sense.
(I also notice that a lot of the comparative pics used in the so called “airbender white-washing” controversy came from this episode. What’s funny is watching it, you see Katara & Sokka get lighter and darker depending on the lighting so… I don’t know what any of it is supposed to prove.)
Part of me still wonders how a fight between fire and earth is decided with coal – it seems like quite the middle ground. I can also see why M. Night changed the movie so that fire benders had to have fire around to bend (just generating it from within is shown as a spectacular feat). Such a decision could have really heightened the climax as the earth benders seem to be wiping the floor against fire – until someone gets the coal lit, then the fire start holding their own. Then have Aang using his air (or Katara her water since it is kind of her episode) to put out the fire, deciding the fight and showing us just how much the group can tilt the scales. Oh well, still a great episode. Right here, you can see how this show became great and beloved.
7: the Spirit World (winter solstice, part 1)
This show following closely behind the other are interesting contrasts, as we can see the writers trying to get a handle on “beginning” the episodes. The previous first act was perfect in its execution and set up. This one was… almost a definition of contrived and poor beginnings.
Actually the entire narrative rhythm just felt off in this episode (like a bunch of white people trying to clap). Iroh’s and Zuko’s story – while awesome – felt really crammed in. You could tell by the end they were fighting to get 50 minutes of story into 30 minutes of screen time. I actually wish they had done the episode more in the style of the Good Guys (a great live-action show – watch it). Where we have Aang & Co running their plot, until it briefly intersects with Zuko, then we get a flashback showing how Zuko got to that point – right before he saves his uncle (then resume Aang’s story).
This episode also brings up a confusion of mine. So A:tLB takes place in a universe with reincarnation. Fair enough, but Aang is seeking to talk with the spirit of the previous avatar. But… earlier they talked about “Aang’s previous lives”. Doesn’t that mean that the spirit of the previous avatar is in Aang? Why does he have to travel somewhere to speak to himself? Can’t he just look at a mirror? I’m fuzzy on how reincarnation works.
8: Avatar Roku (winter solstice, part 2)
Argh, once again another episode with extremely poor narrative timing, though some parts where slightly improved over the previous one.
I was disappointed by only 1 pro-avatar sage instead of all of them being faithful. It would have allowed the story to be trimmed and given more time to parts that needed it had they streamlined that. Plus if you made all the sages faithful, you wouldn’t have to change the ending much.
My questions about reincarnation are not answered either. Speaking to the spirit of Roku just seems… cheap, somehow. I think it would have been stronger had, not only the sages been faithful, but they had been the ones to answer and teach Aang what he needed to learn about the comet. We got a bit of that in the cavern sequence but… they should have done more with it.
Also, while my suspension of disbelief can support a ten ton flying bison/buffalo, it can’t support that same one doing evasive maneuvers. They really should have given the chance for Aang to shine there, using his air bending to divert and deflect the projectiles around Appa, with his final “flying kick” used as the crowning moment of awesome (it was still awesome in the show but it made you wonder what took him so long to do something).
All in all this two parter was… ok, but definitely needed an extra few days for the director & editor to polish it. At least we have the previous two episodes to comfort us, and encourage us to keep watching for disc 3…