Sunday, September 23

Avatar: The Last Airbender 3.1

I've seen it! Thanks to the glorious Internet, I was able to watch the latest episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender a scant few hours after it was shown overseas. Well, what can I say? The episode picks up a few weeks after the final battle underneath Ba Sing Se- long enough for Aang to grow a full head of hair, and long enough for lots of stuff like the Fire Nation's occupation of Ba Sing Se to happen. The Avatar is in for a rude awakening in hostile-looking surroundings, as he finds himself on board a Fire Nation ship. Fortunately, it turns out the ship is under control of the Water Tribe and headed for the Fire Nation. Despite losing the Earth Kingdom's military might, plans are still underway for an invasion of sorts on the Day of Black Sun.

The Awakening is, to be blunt, mostly setup. We find out what happened since the last time we saw our beloved characters. Some are taken off the active board quite matter-of-factly, like the Earth King. For such an important character, he just goes off ala Kane in Kung Fu to 'travel the world' (with Bosco the Bear) instead of worrying about his occupied land (but I think he'll be back with reinforcements soon enough). Some familiar faces from the past show up, but sadly, not the ones I was hoping for. Aang has a bit of an angsty stage here, as he can't seem to accept that the world now thinks he's dead. Whereas Sokka and the others sees this as an advantage, Aang sees it as a dishonor- if everyone thinks he's dead, there's no more hope. He's failed in his duty and purpose as the Avatar.

On the other side of the equation, Zuko returns home to the Fire Nation to face a hero's welcome and a reunion with his father, the Fire Lord. Unfortunately for little Zuzu, Azula has made sure that his newfound redemption is a double-edged sword. My, my how does that scheming witch sleep at night? Very soundly, it seems!

The highlights and Pros of this episode? The new status quo is pretty cool. Katara and Toph get to show off their amazing powers. Sokka's still the fund for funny lines. Quite a few familiar faces return or make an appearance. Ozai's is finally revealed (not what I expected, really). Once again, great voice performances throughout. Finally we're getting into the Fire Nation. The ending scene made me gasp. WHOA.

Cons and Iffy Stuff... How the HECK did Zuko suddenly hitch up with Mai? Supposedly this happened in a side story, but such a thing should have been shown. No Iroh this week. No Suki or Kyoshi Warriors yet. Aang just flying off on his own was really pretty stupid, but what the heck- the kid's brain was frazzled. One thing about the episode- a lot of things are apparently taken up in the Avatar Nickelodeon Magazine (just out recently), such as Zuko and Mai going steady, and the gaang's adventures prior to capturing their present ride. I wish they didn't do this, but I guess with just 20 episodes to go, they have to cut corners somewhat.

Also, the animation style is the somewhat cutesy style from episode like Tales of Ba Sing Se, which is not bad (not as bad as in The Chase), but not my favorite quality in the series. But I think other episodes, like The Painted Lady will be done by the show's better animation teams.

I am really curious as to how the show will go on from here. As Aang is supposedly dead to the world, the gaang does have a bit more freedom to move in the sense that they're no longer being actively hunted. Aside from the overall plot of defeating Ozai on the Day of Black Sun, there's still Aang finding a Firebending Teacher (I'm still rooting for it to be Iroh) and Zuko's new life path to be followed. Well, at least we can be sure next week there will be another piece of the puzzle added to this fiery mix.

Next Episode: The Headband!