The Avatar - The Last Airbender Appreciation Topic!

matbezlima

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We can't underrate how important the pair of episodes The Storm/The Blue Spirit is for the show's sucess!

Think about it. Nickelodeon only granted 13 episodes, not even a full season, to the creators. Time to properly develop and polishing the writing of characters and budget also were far from ideal. These are growing pains of almost any show's first season, but it's even worse in animated shows. And there is specially huge pressure for good ratings too. Some of the episodes from the first half of season 1 really suffer from some clunkiness in pacing, structure, writing and animation, and also overly childish humor that undercuts the drama, though a beautiful simplicity and charm was already there. It was at least a decent and enjoyable kids' show. Nickelodon is a kids' TV after all.

Mike and Bryan openly talk about how the overall quality of Season 1 ended up being inconsistent as a result, with "some episodes faring up better than others". They said in a recent podcast that The Great Divide is a truly terrible episode.

But they knew that they had to make the last episodes of those first 13 truly amazing. If the show was sucessful enough, Nickelodeon would allow them to finish the first season. Those two last episodes could be the difference between life or death for Avatar. They had to be truly AMAZING, SPECTACULAR! If I'm not mistaken, Mike and Bryan said that they wanted to leave the best last impression on the viewer before the series went to hiatus for a few months.

I wouldn't be surprised if far more time, attention, care and budget was given to these two episodes in comparison to all the ones that came before. I wouldn't be surprised if they painstakingly revised and polished every line of the script and supervised every draft of animation for countless times.

And these are the first episodes that truly showcase, in my opinion, the creators and writers' fully realized, mature, uncompromised, unadultared and polished vision for the entire series and what they really wanted it to be. No thoughts about having to please kids and network with poorly timed childish jokes. The best of the action and also very strong drama for both our main character, Aang, and our antagonist, Zuko. These episodes show Avatar being a masterpiece for the first time!

The Storm/The Blue Spirit were the creators' big statement of the show that they wanted to make, saying to the viewers why you really should stay watching the show despite some bumps on the road and why you can trust them that it'll truly be worthy it. To win over people with doubts about the series and if they should continue watching (specially after an episode as terrible as The Great Divide, which is at best just passable kids' entertainment).

And they are also an amazing way to grab viewers who did not watch the show before for some reason. Maybe they didn't hear about it, maybe the ads didn't give an impression (I remember the youtuber Schaffrillas saying in one of his videos that he hadn't given the show a chance when it originally aired because Nickelodeon's ads for it made it really seem very childish, banal and passable, he said that Nickelodeon's marketing was truly terrible and very misleading).

The Storm/The Blue Spirit is a very self-contained pair of episodes. You don't need to know much beyond maybe the very basics to not only understand everything going on, but to feel the force of the drama and get complete, rich characterization of our main protagonist, Aang, and our main antagonist, Zuko.

If anyone wants to see why they should watch Avatar, this pair of episodes is how I'll introduce the show. Episodes such as Zuko Alone are amazing, but far more reliant on the viewer's already well established attachment and understanding of the characters' natures and the plot to have great effect.


Book 1 has many flaws (maybe I'll someday make a post detailing all the flaws), but I think that both Avatar fans and non-fans can often be very over-critical of it. It's not like Avatar is the only TV show to have an uneven and sometimes rough first season. It happens with so many shows, so many masterpieces. Despite all the flaws, I still think Season 1 already showed lots of promise, characters you get attached to, amazing magic system and so on. The potential was there since the beginning, making clear the show was worthy to follow. And it has a unique simple charm too! A solid foundation for the immense heights reached in Seasons 2 and 3! Watching seasons 2 and 3 of Avatar is near uninterrupted bliss for me.

Overall, I don't think that the first season's issues are much of a big deal and negative for the show as a whole because there is nothing more common in TV shows than having clunky first seasons. It's totally understandable, and happened with countless amazing shows widely hailed as masterpieces, if not most of them. A show having an amazing first season is the exception. Making TV and a first season, specially in animation, is really tough. And even when the first season is amazing, it's not rare for the show to quickly burn itself out in the second season already. The first Avatar season also sucessfully mirrors the evolution of the characters. And it is a wonderful foundation for all that happened in Seasons 2 and 3. The fact that nearly every Season 1 episode has something that will come back later in the story really showcases how amazing it is as a foundation for the other seasons. Or at least how the other seasons really built upon it so wonderfully, almost nothing from Book 1 was wasted! This is amazing long-form storytelling. Highly recommend the video essay below.


I've been also following the YouTube channel Overanalyzing Avatar, an Avatar fan that makes entertaining videos with a healthy and fun mixture of praise, criticism and humorous nitpick, recommend the channel. He is analysing every episode of Avatar! His latest video was on City Of Walls And Secrets!

Overall, I would like to say what is easily my favorite aspect of Avatar, above even the awesome magic system, action and fantasy universe, above even the awesome blend of action, drama, light-hearted fun and comedy. It's the genuine, touching, poignant, heartwarming and beautiful sense of strong camaraderie, amazing chemistry, friendship and family that so smoothly develops in Team Avatar, and their most mundane interactions are so delightful and beautiful to see, like the ending of The Drill. And all the group hugs are earned and touching. And everyone from Team Avatar is a really distinctive character from each other, with very well-rounded personalities, flaws and qualities, they all feel so real. Avatar showcases the greatest triumph in serialized storytelling, which is developing and showcasing characters going through life, often in very mundane, low-key and small situations, and make the viewer attached to them as time goes on, in a way that films can't do really do to the same degree (this is not a knock on films!). The characters feel like real people. Zuko and Iroh are spectacular, they have the biggest amount of scenes showcasing the series' subtlest, most powerful, stunning, deepest and richest writing, and not only when they interact with each other (the entire conversation of Iroh with Toph in the episode The Chase is peak beautiful and delicate writing, it feels like a haiku in its simple poetic beauty). Avatar has lots of heart. It's truly one of the greatest animated shows ever made, my favorite animated show ever. Scratch that, it's one of the greatest TV shows ever made for me.

I would like to comment on the Avatar renaissance and new boom of popularity since it came to Netflix in the United States two or three years ago. I love this happened, and how the series gained so many new fans, active discussion and so on. And I love how the show's likeability means that it doesn't really get hate (aside from the odd knee-jerk reaction in Twitter, but it's Twitter). But there is always a inevitable problem with such huge booms of popularity happen. While Avatar was always regarded as a truly great show, though probably not gaining the same amount of attention as other animated shows, it's now currently being talked about EVERYWHERE in YouTube as the absolute greatest show ever. It isn't a problem to have such opinion, I myself have it as my favorite animated show ever, but it's clear that too many youtubers are getting into the Avatar hype just to get views and pander to the show's fans. I see how that's annoying for people who aren't mega fans of Avatar. But I, a mega Avatar fan, hate being pandered to. And I know when it's pandering. Vailskibum94 is the king of pandering overall. Avatar is, to a far lesser degree of course, being sadly victim of Citizen Kane and Sgt. Peppers syndrome right now. But it will cool down to reasonable and really nice levels, and Avatar will be talked about like a show such as BTAS: regarded as a masterpiece and one of the greatest animated shows ever made, but not shoved on our faces all the time. That's why I don't mind so much the inevitable pandering, and I think it's far outweighted by the positives I talked about early in this paragraph.

Channels that often talk about Avatar, and are truly sincere and thoughtful, are the already mentioned Overanalyzing Avatar, but also AirSpeed Prime, Hello Future Me, Joshua Fagan, Sage's Rain, Kato. There are many other great channels talking about Avatar, but these are the first ones that came to my mind.

I would also like to say that even though I'm a huge Avatar fan, I love it, I don't think it's flawless. Nothing is flawless. Constructive criticism, scrutinizing even what we love, can be fun and enlightening for a greater appreciation of the art work. And I believe that Avatar can fully resist my scrutiny, it's marvelously crafted as a whole, a 9/10. The show's many gigantic qualities and my pure enjoyment from it far overshadow any flaw. (Random thought: I love how in the first season, Katara and Aang, unlike Sokka, are shown as so gullible, naive, idealistic and trusting in episodes such as Imprisoned, which showcases the best of Katara's optimistic and heroic spirit of wanting to help everyone, and in the episode Jet, with the latter episode starting to break that innocence and show moral greyness in the world, it was also an awesome episode for Sokka).

The first season's roughness, mainly the first half of it, is the only thing that makes me not 100% sure of giving Avatar a 10/10 rating. Besides, it's not like we should only love flawless works (not only perfection doesn't exist, but I believe that art often can be flawed in very interesting and beautiful ways, I'll make someday a thread about such works).

I recommend this video on how toxic our demand and scrutiny for perfection can be. The video is not only about Avatar (and I disagree on his criticisms on Aang, I love Aang's character in many levels, and the idealism he represents), it's about the whole topic on how perfection isn't really what makes art great and moving. And how flaws often enhance appeal, and make the art more human and fascinating. Consistency and lack of flaws aren't the be-all end-all of great art. Lots of widely beloved works are very flawed and inconsistent, but they have something special that transcends those flaws.


Cheers! I hope you guys liked this post!
 
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matbezlima

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I see this thread was moved to the Nicktoons' board. If it fits this thread better, ok! I'm new to the site, I'm still discovering the boards.

Anyway, I hope you guys love this post I made! I put lots of effort and time into it! I love Avatar!
 

matbezlima

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This is an "essay" about all the flaws in Season 1 of ATLA (a season that I still like a good deal, but it is clearly inferior to the other two, it is far rougher in all aspects, ATLA often masquerades itself as a lesser show in Season 1, though still nice and enjoyable, I recommend Kato's video about how Avatar went from good to great).

I love Avatar, and I scrutinize it too, because I believe it's amazing, deserves the scrutiny and can stand up to it, I don't think the show is perfect and that's ok, nothing is perfect. I think the first season of Avatar is fun, enjoyable and innocently charming, but also admitedly really flawed (not that I need to only love flawless works, I love Avatar as a whole, and Seasons 2 and 3 are near uninterrupted bliss for me, the show is a masterpiece, and I also intend to someday make a thread about artistic works that I consider flawed in beautiful, compelling and interesting ways), specially in comparison to the future ones, and I'm well aware of the flaws in individual episodes and the season as a whole. Like I said before, Avatar masquerades as a lesser show for at least half of the first season's episodes.

The first half of the season has animation, fights, writing, tone, comedy, editing and visuals that are clearly below the great and beautiful level reached by the series afterwards. Some early episodes feel really clunky to watch in rewatches after finishing the series. The second half of the season already showed a significant improvement in all aspects of the production, even in episodes often maligned such as The Fortuneteller (the overall animation and visuals, the character designs, the character writing and jokes here already feel so much sharper, the episode is still far from great, but I love it because of how amazing Sokka is in it), and Bato Of The Water Tribe (cool action, fights, animation, some poignant Sokka's flashbacks with a great serious dramatic tone).

I really dislike the episode The Great Divide. And I really dislike the episode King Of Omashu (and how Sokka is written as a total moron there, the whole episode also feels overly childish and also ugly to look at). The episode Spirit World is very meh, and it doesn't do a great job at making the audience really understand this Spirit World stuff (though it shows some nice development of Zuko's character, making clear how he loves his uncle to the point he is willing to put on hold even his immense obssession for finding the Avatar). Warriors Of Kyoshi is a meh episode too, a mixed bag of good elements (Sokka's development, the introduction of Suki and the Kyoshi Warriors as a whole, and Aang starting to realize his responsibilities and holding himself accountable for his mistakes, demonstrating that by saving the village at the end of the episode) with bad ones (the animation, and most of the scenes of Katara and Aang together in the episode). I don't like how Sokka's first confrontation with Zuko at the South Pole is entirely played for comedy undercutting the serious drama, and also undercutting Sokka's noble qualities of bravery and wanting to prove himself, though the first episodes are still decent and promising starts for the series. The episode Bato Of The Water Tribe has beautiful flashbacks to Sokka's past and showcasing the drama and noble qualities of his character and arc, a pity the episode overall suffers from being too short, drama not allowed to breathe, which shows how the far more episodic format of Season 1 suffocated it sometimes. It still has cool fight coreography in Zuko vs. Aang's fight, and the already mentioned amazing flashbacks to Sokka's past.

Sokka and Yue's romance at the end of the season is rushed, even though I still like all their scenes together, I like them. I think Mike and Bryan wanted two more episodes in the Northern Water Tribe to flesh out more everything about it, but couldn't due to money and budget (same reason also why they also said that the Southern Air Temple early in the series ended up disappointing in comparison to what they wanted to actually do). Another benefit from having two more episodes in the Northern Water Tribe is that it would make Katara becoming a master waterbender more believable. It's not a major issue for me that Katara became a master waterbender after training in the Northern Water Tribe, I actually like this. But I wish that we, the audience, had been shown significantly more of her training and quick evolution. I really love the idea of having her surpass Aang because of far greater discipline and commitment, something that Aang has more trouble at in this stage of the story, but it was sadly just barely shown, not enough time.

Two more episodes in the Northern Water Tribe would also give the show time to deal more with the issue of sexism in the Northern Water Tribe. I like how Pakku's sexism is mainly motivated by a sense of duty, order and respect to tradition (and there is something very honorable and respectable about his no non-sense approach and value of respect). He seems to perceive women fighting as immoral because it violates tradition. It's not so much a matter of him thinking that women aren't capable of being good fighterer (though there is that too), it's really about a terribly misguided and blind deference to tradition. And that's interesting. Pakku changes his mind and decides to train Katara not because Katara proved to be good (though she did), but when he was reminded again of how much his stubborn defense of traditions cost him, his loss of Kanna. I wish that had been shown and explored more. I wish that we had gotten to see Pakku in the show starting to train girls and rethink his ideals, maybe even a conversation of him with Katara on the matter. And we could see Pakku starting efforts to change the tribe as a whole, maybe the very beginning of change efforts, the seeds. I don't think that all this stuff would need to take too much time.

I believe the massive attack to the Northern Water Tribe is what truly completes Aang's Book 1 arc, when the reality and urgency of war finishes fully sinking for him, the final stepping stone for his character in the season (the revelation of the Air Nomad genocide, Kyoshi Island, the episode The Storm, the revelation of Sozin's Comet return, and Aang's firebending training with Jeong Jeong being the previous major stepping stones), he will face conflict far more head-on since that moment, and it was also when the Fire Nation at large will begin to finally see him as a gigantic threat rather than a powerful but very inexperienced kid mainly hunted simply by a prince in disgrace like Zuko, or a megalomaniac deluded general in a vanity project like Zhao.

I understand that Season 1 wants to make the point that Aang still is a goofy kid who understandably wants to escape from his Avatar responsibilities, and is yet to fully understand them. And the season is effective in making that point about Aang's arc (and making him a good character who feels real and isn't just a fun goofy hyper-active kid), I just think it could have been slightly shorter. No episodes like Great Divide and King Of Omashu. Imprisoned is a good and essential episode for Katara's character, but it suffers from tone problems, like out-of-place humor, specially in how all the Fire Nation soldiers, and their leader in the episode, are shown as so, so stupid. The show would mostly avoid that problem from then on.

Also, for good and for bad, almost nothing in Season 1 is wasted. Even the most seemingly inane detail comes back later. You would think that Iroh's Pai Sho tile search in Waterbending Scroll is only comedy, but no. I'm not complaining about that, but I wish that the worst episodes of the season (not the case of Waterbending Scroll) didn't also feel the need to introduce essential stuff, which makes skipping them impossible. The Great Divide is the only truly skippable episode (Mike and Bryan openly said in a recent podcast that the episode is terrible, and it is). Still, the fact that nearly every Season 1 episode has something that will come back later in the story really showcases how amazing it is as a foundation for the other seasons. Or at least how the other seasons really built upon it so wonderfully, almost nothing from Book 1 was wasted! This is amazing long-form storytelling. There is a good video on this topic, it's called "The Underrated Value Of Avatar Book One" by PhenomSage

Whenever I want to introduce someone to Avatar, I recommend watching the episodes The Storm and The Blue Spirit, which are episodes 12 and 13. These episodes are peak Avatar, as good as anything that comes out later. Everything clicks about them. Action is great, writing is great, drama is great, animation and visuals are great, they are truly beautiful. Nickelodeon had at first green-lighted only 13 episodes. Mike and Bryan really wanted to end that in the highest way possible, I'm sure they devoted most of their time and budget to polish those two episodes to near perfection and showcase their uncompromised vision for Avatar, and also showing to the viewers this was a story truly worthy following. These episodes are crucial for Avatar's success, as I explained in more detail in my first post in this thread.

I've been also following the YouTube channel Overanalyzing Avatar, an Avatar fan that makes entertaining videos with a healthy and fun mixture of praise, criticism and humorous nitpick, recommend the channel. He is going through every episode and analysing them.

Cheers! I hope you guys liked this post and my analysis of Season 1's flaws. I would like to make clear that despite my criticisms of Season 1, I still enjoy many of its episodes a lot. I always look to not be overcritical.
 
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matbezlima

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I would like to comment on the Avatar renaissance and new boom of popularity since it came to Netflix in the United States two or three years ago. I love this happened, and how the series gained so many new fans, active discussion and so on. But there is always a inevitable problem with such huge booms of popularity happen. While Avatar was always regarded as a truly great show, though probably not gaining the same amount of attention as other animated shows, it's now currently being talked about EVERYWHERE in YouTube as the absolute greatest show ever. It isn't a problem to have such opinion, I myself have it as my favorite animated show ever, but it's clear that too many youtubers are getting into the Avatar hype just to get views and pander to the show's fans. I see how that's annoying for people who aren't mega fans of Avatar. But I, a mega Avatar fan, hate being pandered to. And I know when it's pandering. Vailskibum94 is the king of pandering overall. Avatar is, to a far lesser degree of course, being sadly victim of Citizen Kane and Sgt. Peppers syndrome right now. But it will cool down to reasonable and really nice levels, and Avatar will be talked about like a show such as BTAS: regarded as a masterpiece and one of the greatest animated shows ever made, but not shoved on our faces all the time. That's why I don't mind so much the inevitable pandering, and I think it's far outweighted by the positives I talked about early in this paragraph.

Channels that often talk about Avatar, and are truly sincere and thoughtful, are the already mentioned Overanalyzing Avatar, but also Airspeed Prime, Hello Future Me, Joshua Fagan, Sage's Rain, Kato. There are many other great channels talking about Avatar, but these are the first ones that came to my mind.
 
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matbezlima

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I love this video essay by Hello Future Me! I don't get why some people still think that Toph doesn't have a character arc! She has! If there is any problem, it's that her character development doesn't get a full conclusion like Aang, Katara and Sokka. Toph never gets a final resolution with her parents. She remains well written in Season 3 with some great moments (like her conversation with Zuko in the episode Ember Island Players, the way Toph gives emotional support and good advice to Zuko shows how far she has come), but (aside from episodes such as The Runaway), Toph doesn't get the same level of focus that Aang, Katara and Sokka got. Some might even argue that some of the focus on Katara and Sokka (such as Painted Lady and Sokka's Master) wasn't really needed. And I don't like how in the finale, when Toph opens up to Zuko about all her struggles with her parents, Zuko just ignores her and the whole scene is treated as a joke. Poor Toph just wanted a life-changing field trip with Zuko...
 
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matbezlima

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The Free Comic Book Day Avatar and Korra comics have been available digitally since August 25! I forgot to notify that here!
 

matbezlima

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I hate how Sokka is characterized in the episode King Of Omashu. He seems no smarter than the hippies from The Cave Of Two Lovers. Sokka in the episode King Of Omashu is by far his worst characterization in the show. He's just a moron, he wonders why the houses aren't melting, and also guesses "Rocky" as Bumi's name in a serious context. Sokka is clumsy and goofy, but him in that episode was just being a moron. Thankfully, the problem doesn't go much beyond that episode. Ever since episode 8, when the Gaang goes to Roku's temple, Sokka is consistently show as a smart, pragmatic, if clumsy and over his head, guy with promising qualities, and who can and will evolve his skills and leadership. Even before episode 8, I liked how Sokka was portrayed in The Warriors Of Kyoshi. I also liked how his pragmatic thinking was showcased in Imprisoned, in contrast with Aang and Katara's naiveté. I liked how he didn't like Katara being too protective of Aang and too understanding of him goofing off (as showcased in The Warriors Of Kyoshi and The Southern Air Temple, though the latter episode has too many "Sokka loves meat" jokes, the only flaw in his characterization there). I also liked how Sokka's pragmatism, but also bravery and honor, were shown in the first two episodes of the show, and it is no shame, for the viewer, that Sokka loses so badly to Zuko, though I think the tone should be more serious and less goofy (which is also the same problem of when Sokka faces Hei Bai in episode 7, a honorable and brave moment for the character, but being treated almost as a joke). The writers fully ironed out all kinks with his character by episode 8 in my opinion.
 

aegisrawks

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Who said that? Also Adrenalinerush posted.

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Its in the rules, or at least those are the rules on every single forum I've been. And matbezlima posted like five times without any other new posts.

EDIT: I dont know if the mods merged the posts and I am the only one who cant see that but to me it looks like they posted five times after Adrenalinerush and didnt wait for any more new posts.
 

the greenman

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the point of no return
Its in the rules, or at least those are the rules on every single forum I've been. And matbezlima posted like five times without any other new posts.

EDIT: I dont know if the mods merged the posts and I am the only one who cant see that but to me it looks like they posted five times after Adrenalinerush and didnt wait for any more new posts.
Okay. I suggest if you really have an issue with it, then bring it up with mod team. If no one responds, you can not fault the OP. There are some threads like that unfortunately.

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aegisrawks

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Look, I dont have any issue with it. I just didnt want our new member to be banned for breaking the rules. If it is fine by the mods it is fine by me. Just advice.
 

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