Joie (hymnia) wrote,

Avatar Book 1, Disc 5 – spoiler-free reaction post

So I finished my re-watch of Season 1 today. I will do one more post on the special features bonus disc, then move on to Season 2.

(Thanks to the audio commentary on every single episode on this disc, this post turned out to be really long.)

Chapter 17: The Northern Air Temple

Katara: Do you think we'll really find airbenders?
Sokka: Do you want me to be like you, or totally honest?
Katara: Are you saying I'm a liar?
Sokka: I'm saying you're an optimist. Same thing, basically.

afdkjakdjslkjalkdfj If only Sokka had said, "Isn't that the same thing as an optimist?" then this would be just like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's game. Sokka is pretty awesome in this episode. I mean, more so than usual. Too bad the work he and Teo's father did on the war balloon was hijacked by the Fire Nation.

Chapter 17 Audio Commentary:
Dee Bradley Baker – Appa/Momo
Benjamin Wynn – Avatar Sound Effects

I like Baker's commentary. He just seems like a cool guy. He says his Momo sounds are partly ape-like, but that he also added a purr to give him something a little softer.

Wynn says at one point that his mom had been giving him funny little toys for Christmas, and that he ended up using them to make a lot of sound effects in the show.

The popping sounds on the candles that Teo's dad uses to keep track of time were made with those firecrackers that you throw on the ground.

A lot of fire and explosion sounds, as well as some of Aang's air-bending sounds are created vocally. Wynn and Baker comment on the wide range of sounds that can be made with the voice. Baker: "I'll probably asphyxiate someday just making some stupid sound."

Chapter 18: The Waterbending Master

Point of interest for the shippy-minded: 16 is "marrying age" in the Northern Water Tribe; it's probably comparable in the other nations as well. It always drives me nuts when fanfic writers artificially delay the marriage of characters who live in a society where people get married at 16, due to modern prejudices against teen marriage. I am by no means suggesting I think teen marriage in our society is a good idea; just saying that when you're dealing with a fictional universe where it is the norm it seems silly to impose a modern mindset on the characters.

Princess Yue is the coolest girl ever for getting all excited about being asked to "do an activity" with Sokka. <333

For a pre-industrial society, the world of Avatar seems unusually egalitarian. But I suppose the show had to address the issue of gender roles at some point. I admit this episode came across as too heavy-handed to me. "You have disrespected me, my teachings, and my entire culture!" Um…who talks like that?! And Pakku's repentance at the end is a bit hard to believe.

This episode has the first on-the-lips kiss in the series: Sokka and Yue.

Chapter 18 Audio Commentary:
Bryan Konietzko – Co-Creator
Michael Dante DiMartino – Co-Creator
Aaron Ehasz – Head Writer

Unlike some other episodes in season 1, the storyline for this episode was planned from the beginning: that Katara would arrive believing she would realize her dream of learning waterbending, only to be shot down by the old master.

They talk about how lucky they were to get Jason Isaacs to voice Zhao.

Aaron insisted on Princess Yue having silvery-white hair to foreshadow her connection to the moon.

Mako (Iroh's VA) hates singing, but "he's great at it", so they kept giving Iroh songs to sing in the show, which he would complain about. The melody of the love song he sings in the "music night" scene early in the episode later becomes the leit motif for Sokka and Yue's romance. <333

Jon Polito, known for his work in some of the Coen brothers' films, voices the chief of the Northern Water Tribe.

All the pirates' character designs are based on the Korean animators. One of them is voiced by Bryan.

Pakku is the waterbender shown in the opening sequence of the show.

Lucille Bliss, aka "Smurfette", voices the healing-waterbending teacher.

A lot of care went into the martial arts references for the Katara vs. Pakku fight. They wanted to make it look like Pakku's fighting was very refined, whereas Katara's was passion-driven "street-fighting".

The ice cage that Pakku uses to immobilize Katara was inspired by a bamboo cage in House of Flying Daggers.

They comment on Zuko's battle damage and point out that if you toggle through the earlier explosion scene, you'll see him form a protective fire shield around himself just before the explosion hits him. I had wondered about this, because none of the damage to his face looks like it was caused by fire—it's all cuts and bruises, as if he just got roughed up falling out of the ship. So that would explain it.

Some back story that didn't make it into the show: Because they were closer to the Fire Nation, the Southern Water Tribe took much more damage from the war than the Northern Water Tribe. The war basically wiped out their culture, which is why there is such a disparity between the two.

The closing theme of Avatar is based on a style of Balinese chant called Kecak.

Chapter 19: The Siege of the North, Part 1

Wah! Sokka and Yue! It's so tragical.

The Northern Water Tribe's walls and battlements are so beautiful. It's sad to watch them being destroyed.

Iroh: I just nag you because, well, ever since I lost my son…
Zuko: Uncle, you don't have to say it.
Iroh: I think of you as my own.
Zuko: I know, Uncle. We'll meet again. After I have the Avatar.

I <333 that scene.

Yay! Zuko gets to be a NINJA again in this episode. This time not anonymously. But does anyone else besides me think his outfit in this episode looks like an astronaut's suit? LOL, way to be prepared, Zuko. You really took Uncle's nagging about staying warm to heart, didn't you?

Zuko vs. Katara (with newly-learned master waterbender tricks!) = awesome!

Chapter 19 Audio Commentary:
Bryan Konietzko – Co-Creator
Michael Dante DiMartino – Co-Creator
Aaron Ehasz – Head Writer

The firebender in the opening sequence is Azula and the Avatar is Roku. Now we just need to know who the earthbender and the airbender are, or if they have specific identities. I'm guessing the earthbender is Haru's father, and the airbender is Gyatso (both at an earlier age than how they are shown in the show).

They comment on how Azula quickly generated a response on the online fan communities after her cameo in "The Storm".

This episode takes place a couple of weeks after the last one.

The Fire Nation represents the Industrial Revolution; the need for resources fuels their conquering spirit. The polluted snow in this episode represents this theme, as does the burnt forest in "The Winter Solstice".

In the scene where Iroh sends Zuko off, they mention a musical theme that was introduced in "The Blue Spirit" to represent some of Zuko's more emotional scenes. It uses an Armenian woodwind instrument called the duduk.

The "breath of fire" that Zuko uses to warm himself up comes from the Yoga technique of the same name.

Chapter 20: The Siege of the North, Part 2

I finally have you. But I can't get you home because of this blizzard. There's always something. Not that you would understand. You're like my sister. Everything always came easy to her. She's a firebending prodigy and everyone adores her. My father says she was born lucky. He says I was lucky to be born. I don't need luck, though. I don’t want it. I've always had to struggle and fight, and that's made me strong. It's made me who I am.

I love this monologue. First, I think the lines about luck and struggling describe exactly what makes Zuko my favorite character. Second, it sets up one of the most interesting relationships in the series: the rivalry between Zuko and Azula (so far only seen in a tiny, anonymous cameo in "The Storm"). This is an interesting twist on classic sibling rivalry, since it's a bit unusual for rival siblings to be different genders. I will reiterate my love for how this series explores the largely ignored territory of brother-sister relationships. <3

Koh is fantastically creepy. He's different from the other Avatar villains in that he's not human and therefore allowed to be more deeply and more consistently evil.

And Aang saves Zuko's life for the second time in the series. Zuko pays it forward and tries to save Zhao from the Ocean Spirit. Interesting how they both are the type to save an enemy, ne?

The climax of the season finale is well-executed. I love the role Iroh plays, telling Zhao off for not understanding how all the nations rely on the moon, standing with the kids like an ally, and having the wisdom to see the solution to the problem of the Moon Spirit's death, despite its high price. And Yue's sacrifice is duly heartbreaking.

And kiss #2—Sokka and Yue, again. I'm going to keep a running tally, because it amuses me. :)

So far:
Sokka: Cheek kisses: 1, Lip kisses: 2
Aang: Cheek kisses: 1, Lip kisses: 0
Katara: Cheek kisses: 1, Lip kisses: 0
Suki: Cheek kisses: 1, Lip kisses: 0
Yue: Cheek kisses: 0, Lip kisses: 2

Chapter 20 Audio Commentary:
Bryan Konietzko – Co-Creator
Michael Dante DiMartino – Co-Creator
Aaron Ehasz – Head Writer

Aaron talks about the writing process and how collaborative it is; this resonates with me, because I've been working on a script with a group of friends for the theatre program at my church. Well, I say "working on", but we just started. I worked on another script with the same group last year.

Mark Hamill voices the mean "go away" spirit that Aang meets first in the spirit world (Hamill also voices Fire Lord Ozai in later episodes).

They talk about the casting of Dante Basco (Zuko), saying they wanted someone who could say a single word and fill it with a lifetime of tension. They also give rave reviews of Zach Tyler Eisen's (Aang) professionalism and normality.

All the written characters in Avatar are classic Chinese.

"Destiny is a recurring them in Avatar." (This from Zhao's statement that it is his destiny to destroy the moon.) There's also a message of choice, that your destiny is something you shape yourself, which goes back to "The Fortuneteller."

The Ocean Spirit's physical manifestation is called "Koizilla".

"Even though Sokka's the goofball, we get to see this other side of him. All the characters are like that." (This from Sokka cradling Yue's lifeless body.)


P.S. Remember to keep comments here spoiler-free! If you have something spoiler-y to say, even if it's in response to this post, please comment in the next post instead. Thanks!
Tags: avatar, avatar re-watch

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