cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (Default)
Or, in which Aang stuffs up. Apologies for the delay in posting this to anyone who had gotten all optimistic about my more rapid posting schedule; my main excuses this time are visiting family, and a total power blackout for three days (a substation caught fire). The latter meant moving to stay at the much warmer but not wi-fi equipped house of a friend til the power was (hopefully - we've been warned about more outages during peak times) restored.

Bato of the Water Tribe The group run into a friend of Katara and Sokka's father's who, injured, is waiting for a message to rejoin their father and the rest of the men. I take it as a bad sign that we haven't heard about any great victories on their parts. Aang feels left out and when the overly trusting messenger (who appears to be riding a chocobo) gives him the location details, Aang conceals it from Katara and Sokka, until the guilt overwhelms him during a slightly unlikely staged Water tribe initiation ritual that sees him being described as a loyal friend. Katara and Sokka, furious, leave him briefly to go with Bato but then decide Aang's mission is more important; this is intercut with the B plot, in which Zuko hires a bounty hunter with a monstrous beast that can track scents to find Aang using Katara's necklace.

Vague ponderings. )

The Deserter. Aang, Katara and Sokka head to a Fire Nation town holding a festival, because Aang wants to see firebenders in action (I presume ones other than those who routinely try and capture/kill him). There is a slightly embarrassing sequence where Aang's identity gets revealed when he intervenes to save Katara during what looks like a very stagy demonstration of firebending, and then their escape is aided by a deserter who takes them to Jeong Jeong, the first man to desert the Fire army and survive – as well as the firebender who trained Zhao (who, in this episode, I discover is voiced by Jason Isaacs, a discovery which ensures I will be saying hello to him in all relevant subsequent episodes).

More detail. )
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (Default)
The Blue Spirit – Sokka and Katara are down with bad colds after the storm of the previous episode, so Aang sets out to find help from a nearby herbalist. The herbalist is unhelpful (ish) and Aang's travel there gets him noticed and, on his departure, captured by the famous and deadly Yuu Yan archers, now under the control of the just promoted Admiral Zhao. Aang is swiftly spirited away to a castle with a complex series of siege walls that reminds me of the occasional nightmare I have about trying to get outside and having every window/door etc open on a new enclosed area, and the highly efficient Admiral is already giving speeches to his troops about how now the Fire Nation's only obstacle has been removed, when a mysterious figure with a blue stylised mask finally completes its break-in, frees Aang, and starts trying to break him out.

The reveal! )

The fortuneteller. A chance encounter leads Aang and the others to a village where Madame Wu, a fortune teller who is always right, guides pretty much everyone's decisions, to the extent that the village no longer indulges in its previous sensible if infrequent yearly custom of sending someone up to check the activity of the local volcano. I am sure you can hear the thuds of the plot from here, and I was left wondering whether these characters are going to come up again, because it's an odd story – is Madame Wu really that powerful? Why doesn't the village use her the way Katara does? Is this in fact some sort of brutally suppressive anti-free will dystopia in disguise, rather than a rather pleasant if unhelpful peaceful village?

Not really spoilery. )
cyphomandra: fluffy snowy mountains (painting) (snowcone)
The Great Divide. Aang + others reach a giant canyon, which can only be crossed with the aid of an Earth bender (or, one assumes, a flying bison). Two Earth tribes fleeing the Fire Nation arrive at the same time, but they have a hundred year feud and each refuses to let the other go first. Aang, practising his Avatar peace-keeping abilities, sends the sick and wounded over on Appa, and then he and the Earth bender guide monitor the groups as they move in parallel through the canyon. Both groups smuggle in food despite the guide's warnings, and when they are attacked by canyon crawlers (the design of which is successfully creepy) as a result, the guide is disabled.

Slightly more specific discussion. )
The Storm. This is a flashback heavy episode in which we see a) why Zuko is exiled, driven to hunt the Avatar and has what turns out to be a burn scar on his face and b) how Aang left the airbenders to end up in that iceberg, interspersed with a storm that sees Sokka endangered on a fishing boat, the captain of which has accused Aang of turning his back on the world when they needed him (thus triggering Aang's flashback sequence).

Assorted ponderings. )

Anyway. I have been languishing with a cold, so the opening of the next episode (in which, post-storm, both Sokka and Katara have colds) was all too appropriate. Next write-up also likely to be delayed by the election, other commitments etc, but The Blue Spirit advance review – arrgh! Awww.
cyphomandra: fluffy snowy mountains (painting) (snowcone)
Both Aang's group and Zuko's stop at the same town for supplies (in Zuko's case, a very reluctant stop due to the apparently less plot relevant need for Iroh to replace the lotus tile he's lost from his game) and run into the same group of pirates, a group who have in their possession a scroll of water-bending techniques. Katara's resentment of the ease with which Aang acquires water-bending drives a lot of the action, and ties into her short temper and tendency to act first and think later. Meanwhile, Aang is pretty impressive. I assume only the Avatar can learn bending of more than one element? I did wonder about the loose thread of whoever was buying the water bending scroll the pirates had. Meanwhile, Iroh comes up with an inadvertent proverb about unwatched boats escaping that amused me greatly, and I chuckle happily at the thought of Zuko being subjected to similar actual proverbs throughout their journey.

In the second episode, the Jet of the title turns out to be a straw-chewing cool kid who leads a gang of kids from their hideout in the forest against the Fire Nation. He invites Aang and the others to help; Katara is impressed, Sokka less so, despite Jet's attempts to include him, and is even less impressed when it turns out that Jet's hatred of the Fire Nation means he'll target civilians of both Earth and Fire Nations in order to eliminate troops.

Giving away the episode ending. )

There's a bit of a lack of female characters at the moment – we see the silhouetted back views of some children at Jet's camp who might be female, given hair styles, but that's it. I am pretty sure this is going to even up, so am just noting it. I still don't think we've seen any other female benders beside Katara (oh, wait – the previous Avatar whose statue was on Kyoshi?). None in the present day yet, anyway.
cyphomandra: (balcony)
A two-parter in which Aang's mission becomes clearer and rather more urgent. Sokka gets kidnapped when he goes out to help Aang fight a spirit creature who is attacking an Earth village (the spirit creature reminded me strongly of the polluted river spirit in Spirited Away, and like them it is a basically good spirit that has been turned bad by the actions of humans). When Aang pursues the spirit, it sends him into the spirit world to tell him Avatar Roku has a message for him, but can only give it at a certain time – the winter solstice – in a temple in the Fire Nation. I am not all that fond of messages about messages but am prepared to mostly buy this one, especially as the message itself – that Aang has until next summer to master all four elements before the Fire Lord gains unstoppable power from the return of the comet used to initially trigger the war – is admirably clear.

The sequence from the blockade run (Appa!) to the temple and its destruction was where I realised I was hooked; I like the complication of the Fire Sages and their variable loyalty, I enjoyed Sokka's attempt to break in and Katara's using its failure as a trick was particularly nifty. I also feel very, very sorry for Zuko, who firstly has to rescue his mostly naked uncle from a bunch of Earth benders and then runs a blockade back into the Fire Nation (from whence he is banned etc) only to miss Aang yet again. I am curious about Iroh's past.

I note that having this be winter solstice with them travelling between poles is only confusing me further about the geography of this world.
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (Default)
Okay, fine. Now I'm hooked.

(more comments later! But, basically, great tension, great reverses, adequate amounts of flying bison, and I am reluctantly growing fond of Prince Zuko)
cyphomandra: Painting of a bare tree, by Rita Angus (tree)
Possibly I should investigate icons. Anyway, Aang, Katara and Sokka visit an Earth kingdom city that is not ruled by the Fire Nation, inflict a certain amount of wanton property damage (I am actually on the side of the cabbage owner here) and then have to solve the king's trials or be progressively frozen in rock crystal candy. The identity of the king is pretty obvious to the audience, and it's hard to know how hard it is for Aang to solve - there's not enough backstory visible for us to find it out - but I do like the hug.

In the next episode we're in a small town controlled by the Fire Nation, and the Earth benders are imprisoned on a metal ship so they can't earthbend. Katara initiates all the action here - she talks a young Earthbender, Haru, into using his skills, then deliberately gets captured to track him when he is caught as a result, and then gives all the inspiring speeches on the ship. The end scene - Zuko picking up Katara's necklace - was not something I expected at all and sent appropriate chills down my spine.

Worldbuilding comments - three episodes in the Earth kingdom, and we've seen an independent city, a neutral one, and one controlled by the Fire Nation. I need to stare harder at the map in the opening credits, although this may not help! All the Earth benders we see are male, but there's no problem with Katara pretending to earthbend. The captured Earth benders are not killed - but also not used? Initially I thought they were working on the ship, but then apparently not. Omashu (the city with the mad king) did not appear to be at war, but presumably is - but just distant from any Fire nation troops? How did the troops get to the Air city anyway? (questions largely rhetorical!)

I am also totally with the fire nation henchpeople on the lack of need to distinguish between a flying bison and a flying buffalo, not least because I can't tell the difference either.(Hmm. A flying buffalo would presumably be useful for making very special mozzarella).
cyphomandra: Endo Kanna from Urasawa's 20th century boys reading a volume of manga (manga)
I felt I should go back and make some more coherent notes! So; in episode one, Aang is discovered inside an iceberg by Katara and Sokka, of the Water Tribe of the South Pole, and they set out together to find the water benders of the North Pole to train Katara (who has some water bending power, but no one to train her) and Aang, who needs to master all four elements as the Avatar.

I mentioned that I liked that this doesn't waste time generating suspense with the obvious. It also leaves things unexplained - Katara and Sokka's tribe is small, and Sokka is the closest to an adult male they have (and later, it appears that the Fire Nation may have wiped out the air benders solely to prevent the Avatar from reincarnating, so things may not be too good for the tribe's future).

I do wonder how close the poles are.

Meanwhile, Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation is determined to find the avatar in order to redeem himself from an as yet unspecified disgrace, and Aang conveniently sends up a flare from an abandoned Fire Nation ship he insists on exploring. Prince Zuko has Uncle Iroh, of whom I am already unreasonably fond.

Zuko attacks the water tribe, but leaves in exchange for Aang (who promptly escapes, leaving Zuko disgraced again and vulnerable to Commander Zhao, who is not only bad but dishonorable as well); they attack again with substantial collateral damage when the group visit Kyoshi, a town that has avoided trouble previously. In between Aang visits his Air city in to discover it empty, all its inhabitants killed by the Fire nation, despite being apparently accessible only by very cuddly flying bison. I do hope there are more flying bison to come; they remind me of the Catbus/Nekobasu in My Neighbour Totoro.

(while on the subject of likenesses - the unagi Aang is desperate to ride at Kyoshi reminded me so strongly of the zolomb in FFVII that I almost saw tiny action bars on the bottom of the screen :-) )

Next up, Earth benders and cabbages.

Watching

Sep. 3rd, 2014 09:06 pm
cyphomandra: boats in Auckland Harbour. Blue, blocky, cheerful (boats)
I am slowly working my way through Avatar: The Last Airbender, and am on episode 5 of book 1. This is the furtherest I've gotten into a nonreality TV series since Person of Interest (made it to series 2). So far, I like it a lot, with the only caveat being that I am unfond of scenes of (mis) treatment of animals (Aang's fondness for penguin sledding, koi riding etc, Momo the lemur getting stuck in an air vent) and property damage (spree riding through the Earth bender mail tubes) being played as comical, but it's early enough and there's enough other stuff going on that I will see where it goes. On the plus side, they have not delayed at all in revealing that Aang is the Avatar, thus saving me and the characters scenes in which people drop heavy hints about Avatar like figures and airbenders while Aang stares thoughtfully at his hands or similar (there was a terrible scene in the movie Troy where a bunch of Greeks talk loudly about the difficulty of sacking Troy, while Odysseus stares at a guy carving a small wooden horse in a painfully obvious close-up), and they have also made me feel ambivalently sorry for Zuko (the antagonist, so far), which is also promising.

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