Saturday, October 6

Hanging with the Avatar

Things get a bit hotter...

This is actually a double-review of two episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender, since I managed to not watch episode 3.2 last week. Instead, I watched both The Headband and The Painted Lady tonight, back-to-back. Now I'm kinda regretting it (it's a long wait to 3.4 next week)... maybe I should just gather episodes en masse like I'm doing with anime. Anyways, here's what's happening in Avatar World.
The Headband has Aang and company arriving in the Fire Nation and donning disguises to travel through enemy territory. Predictably, Aang attracts attention despite wearing a headband to cover his arrow, and finds himself smack dab in the middle of a Fire Nation classroom. Soon he's fighting school bullies, getting a new girlfriend and setting up a dance party. Wait a minute... a DANCE PARTY? Yep, even though the freedom of the world is at stake, Aang still has time to get down and boogie. On the other hand, he does raise a good point that it's a fine chance to get into the minds of the next generation of Fire Nation-ites. On the other side of the fence, all is not well with Zuko. Struck with the fear of his newfound life being ruined if the Avatar is, as he suspects, indeed alive, he visits the imprisoned Iroh for some advice. But when Uncle refuses to even look at the Prince, Zuko takes another move that further distances him from the ranks of the good guys...

I didn't expect to like The Headband too much- but despite the weird premise, I enjoyed this second chapter of Book 3. The Gaang's new looks are pretty cool (even though Toph's soleless shoes don't seem consistent throughout), and the characters' interactions are as funny and entertaining as always. The highlights of the episode includes the moments where Aang refers to little tidbits into the past and the dance party itself- Aang and Katara's dance number (them actually doing their katas, I think) was wonderful and quite well-animated. In fact, I'd say this episode is a nice return to quality animation as opposed to the previous episode. Overall, a bit slow-paced but worth watching.

The Painted Lady is a Katara-centric episode, for the most part. The Gaang arrives at a fishing village in dire straights, thanks to pollution from a nearby factory. Katara finds herself unable to let the suffering villagers go without aid, and so the legend of the Painted Lady- a local magical spirit- is revived. Like the Headband before it, the premise seems wild- Katara's impulse to aid some Fire Nation citizens when they should be worried about their present quest seems ridiculous (at least Sokka voices this out more than once). But Katara isn't an ordinary, rational-thinking person. Once again, she shows that she's a hero, probably even more than Aang at this point, and that she's not one to turn her back on someone who needs help.
A little bit of action (one-sided anyway) at the end, some special effects and a fair bit of humor involving a schizophrenic villager and some mud-filled fish round out this episode. Still a 'filler' episode since it's not really about the main quest, The Painted Lady is again an entertaining installment in the series.

For both episode 2 and 3, Aang and Katara got the most exposure. Katara showed off how capable she has become as a waterbender and as a martial artist (hopefully this will continue to be consistent) in her graceful dance with Aang and her performance in The Painted Lady. Unfortunately, Sokka and Toph get relegated a bit to the background- hopefully this will be remedied in the next couple of installments. Next week's episode, Sokka's Master looks to steer the Gaang back on serious matters, as Boomerang Guy tries to make himself more useful by taking up sword lessons. But will he survive his crash course?

Till next time, Avatar Rules!

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