Shows

A Fiery Finale to My Favorite Childhood Show

Airbender-CompleteBook3.jpg

Spoiler-Free Show Review:

Avatar: The Last Airbender Season 3

Rating: 9.8 out of 10

Intro

Avatar: The Last Airbender is my favorite childhood show, and Season 3 has always been my favorite season. I recently re-watched this show with my roommate and she really enjoyed it as well.

It includes my favorite episode of the whole show, Chapter 17: The Ember Island Players, when Team Avatar gets to see a play based on their own adventure.

It also includes my least favorite episode, Chapter Eight: The Puppetmaster, which is super creepy for a kid’s show. Nonetheless, it was a well-made episode that helped set up a concept that would later be important for The Legend of Korra.

Read on to find out why this is the best season yet.

(Quick warning–there are no spoilers for Season 3, but there are some minor spoilers for Seasons 1 and 2.)

Background

Avatar: The Last Airbender was created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The head writer was Aaron Ehasz. The genres it straddles include Fantasy, Action, Adventure, and Comedy. Season 3 was released in 2007.

The show won five Annie Awards, a Primetime Emmy Award, a Genesis Award, a Peabody Award and a Kid’s Choice Award.

It is a unique blend of anime style with the style of American cartoons. It draws from Inuit, Japanese, Chinese, and Tibetan culture.

Summary

The world of Avatar: The Last Airbender is made up of four nations which each are focused around a different element: water, earth, fire, and air. Each of these nations is made up of those who can “bend” (control) one of the elements.

Map from the series
The Four Nations from Avatar: The Last Airbender

The current Avatar, Aang, must master all four elements in order to stop a war that has been going on for a hundred years. The war was launched by the Fire Nation, which is bent on world domination.

Real-World Influences of Avatar Part 2: The Water Tribes - The More You  Know post - Imgur
Katara and Sokka

With the help of his friends Katara and Sokka, in Season 1 Aang seeks to master waterbending by traveling to the North Pole to find a waterbending teacher. Along the way, Katara is able to teach him basic waterbending and the team goes on various adventures.

Toph Beifong | Avatar Wiki | Fandom
Toph Beifong

In Season 2, the earthbender Toph joins Team Avatar, the Fire Nation grows in power and influence, the heroes reach Ba Sing Se, and Zuko tries to establish his own identity.

Avatar: The Last Airbender | Netflix

Season 3 begins with Aang waking up in a Fire Nation ship confused–and with a full head of hair! The main point of Season 3 is Aang’s attempts to find a firebending teacher and master all four elements in order to defeat Fire Lord Ozai and end the war.

Pros

  • Powerful character depth and development
  • Creative system of elements
  • Developed fictional cultures based on authentic cultures
  • Diversity
  • Balance of humor and tension, comedy and tragedy
  • Smart musical choices to create humor and tension
  • Range of expressions of characters
  • Entertaining for child and adult audience
  • Explores themes rarely touched upon by children’s shows
  • Intro orients the viewer to the story and is accessible to new viewers
  • Wonderful animation
  • Pacing is better than first season
  • Intense fight scenes
  • Lingering consequences/lasting wounds from last season

Cons

  • Chapter Nine: Nightmares and Daydreams is bizarre and over-the-top
  • Never learned how Hawky worked, but used him anyway

Review

Characters

Zuko | Avatar Wiki | Fandom

Zuko has the biggest identity crisis of all the characters, so it is natural he gets the most development. At this point, his uncle is imprisoned, so he has to decide on his own path without Iroh’s help. He is at home with the life he has always wanted–will he finally be satisfied?

Iroh | Avatar Wiki | Fandom

It is like this season is a reminder of who Iroh really is–a capable, wise man who is more than just a mentor to Zuko.

Azula | Avatar Wiki | Fandom

Azula is a truly terrifying character. Her callousness toward her own family and her intense ambition makes her especially frightening. This season also develops her as a person almost to the same degree as Zuko. We see her insecurities and her paranoia, ripples in the pool of her calm demeanor.

System of Elements

Map from the series

The elements of water, earth, fire, and air are controlled by movements mimicking Chinese martial arts. Because they are modeled off of different forms of martial arts, the bending looks authentic. Waterbending is graceful, earthbending is formidable, firebending is fierce, and airbending is elusive.

The variety of techniques that can be used within a single element mean that battles are never boring. Benders like Aang, Katara, and Toph continually find new and creative ways to use their bending.

Toph is unique as a bender, as her bending is based off the Southern praying Mantis Style.

Season 3 is definitely Azula and Zuko’s time to shine with elaborate bending as well. Furthermore, fire as an element is reconsidered as representative of life, not just destruction.

Culture

This season of Avatar: The Last Airbender focuses on Fire Nation culture. This includes their mythology (The Painted Lady), their education system, their forms of entertainment, and their way of life more generally.

Nature - Transcendentalism

Small towns and larger cities are visited throughout the season. This one is a village on a polluted river. Most people wouldn’t have thought a Fire Nation village would be situated on the water–that’s kind of like an earth bending city high in the sky. But the creation of the elemental system does not categorize and simplify people. The cultures in this show are complex, just like cultures in the real world.

The Headband | Avatar Wiki | Fandom

In the Fire Nation, education is propaganda, painting their own society as a heroic force of good in the world. The fierce patriotism of Fire Nation citizens is fueled by a powerful set of lies.

What’s also interesting is the difference between what Aang remembers of Fire Nation culture, and what it is like now. His outdated slang and long-forgotten Fire Nation dances are a source of humor and an indication of how society changes over time, for better or for worse.

Diversity

Avatar: The Last Airbender has cultures based on various real-life cultures. Unlike in some shows, it mimics these cultures while honoring them and without making caricatures of them.

Katara and Sokka have light brown skin, so there is some diversity in skin color as well.

In Season 2, the show introduced Toph, who is blind. She remains a critical character in Season 3.

Balance

The balance of humor in this show with mature themes (war, imperialism, colonialism, corruption, propaganda) makes this show appropriate for children yet entertaining for adults–the perfect balance.

Music adds to the humor at some times, and adds to the tension at others. It isn’t like the show has phenomenal musical scores – it doesn’t, not even in the intro. But it uses music that supports the story and does it well. Season 3 has more epic music for its fight scenes in the final episodes.

The range of expressions on the characters’ faces also adds to the comedy.

Avatar's The Beach Is The Breakfast Club with Bending

Sometimes they are realistic, but occasionally they are way over the top.

Avatar: The Last Airbender / Radar - TV Tropes

Intro

Who is the Earth silhouette in the intro to Avatar: The Last Airbender? -  Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange

The intro neatly explains the system of elements, explains about the war, and introduces the Avatar all in about thirty seconds. It is followed by a “Previously on Avatar” montage that concisely gives more background.

This is good for two reasons. Viewers who watch episodes with large spaces of time between get a reminder of what is going on and the stakes. And new viewers who may have missed the first few episodes get a sense for where the show has been and where it is going.

It’s a smart choice on the part of the directors.

Animation

The animation is beautiful and attractive. I can definitely see both the influence of anime and of American cartoons in the art style.

Pacing

The pacing, which I mentioned as a potential shortcoming in the first season, is not really a problem in the second season. Sure, there are filler episodes, but not as many.

Fight Scenes

Wow. Just wow. The fight scenes in this season blew me away. I can say literally nothing about them without spoiling something, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

Consequences

History of Aang (Summer 100 AG) | Avatar Wiki | Fandom

The biggest consequence of Team Avatar’s failure in Season 2 is Aang’s lasting injury. I like that this is not something Aang just recovers from and everything is better. He has a permanent scar on his back and foot from the lightning strike.

Anyone know what the scar on aang's foot is? : TheLastAirbender

Bizarre Episode

Book 3, Chapter 9: "Nightmares and Daydreams" | Avatar airbender, Avatar  picture, Avatar images

Chapter Nine: Nightmares and Daydreams is basically about Aang trying to handle an immense amount of stress. It includes bizarre hallucinations and childish nightmares. It’s weird and unnecessary and doesn’t add much to the story.

The Last Airbender Book 3 Fire E09 Nightmares And Daydreams - video  Dailymotion

Hawky

Avatar Gave Sokka The Pet That Zuko Was Supposed To Have

None of the characters has any idea how to use Hawky, but by the end of the episode Hawky is sent to a deliver a message. There is no indication how it will get to its destination, it’s never shown how it’s done, and all they did was send it off. Sloppy, in my opinion, but it was most likely due to time constraint. Not a big deal, just disappointing.

Conclusion

This is my favorite season of my favorite show for a reason. This is not just some kid’s show. It’s worth watching if you are an adult. If you want to learn good storytelling, watching high-quality shows will teach you. This show can teach you something.

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate shows, check out my rating system.

Links

Shows

This Fairy Tale Retelling Shouldn’t Be Rated PG

Once Upon a Time Season 1.jpg

Spoiler-Free Show Review:

Once Upon A Time Season 1

Rating: 9.8 out of 10 stars

Intro

I watched Once Upon A Time for the first time with my sisters, and it was so good I was happy to watch it a second time with my roommate and suitemate. Most fairy tale retellings don’t impress me, but Once Upon A Time, especially Season 1, was able to tell the stories in a way that celebrated the old and emphasized the new.

After watching several episodes, I was shocked that anyone would rate this show PG. It is not appropriate for children–read on to find out why.

Background

Season 1 of Once Upon A Time first aired in 2011 and concluded in 2012. It was created by Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, and is an ABC television series now offered on Disney Plus.

Season 1 stars Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parilla, Josh Dallas, Jared S. Gilmore, Raphael Sbarge, Jamie Dornan, Robert Carlyle, and Eion Bailey.

Summary

On her 28th birthday, Emma Swan is unexpectedly reunited with the 10-year-old son she had given up for adoption. After driving him back to his adoptive mother in Storybrooke, Maine, Emma’s concern for him makes her hesitant to leave.

Her son, Henry Mills, believes that the stories in his book of fairy tales are real. He thinks that the people of Storybrooke are fairy tale characters trapped by a curse and have lost their memories of their past lives.

Henry tells Emma that she is their only hope for breaking the curse, but Emma does not believe him.

Season 1 tells the stories of various characters, alternating between their pasts in a fairy tale world and their current lives in Storybrooke. It also follows the struggles of Emma and Henry against Regina, Henry’s manipulative adoptive mother.

Pros

  • Clever foreshadowing
  • Consistent, well-crafted structure
  • Great acting
  • Subverting viewer expectations
  • Clever ways of connecting various fairy tales
  • Likeable, realistic characters
  • Impressive character development
  • In-depth backstories
  • Character names in Storybrooke chosen for meaning
  • Costume design reflects character personality

Cons

  • Occasionally overdramatic
  • The graphics in Wonderland were shoddy

Review

Foreshadowing

The title sequences always has a different shadowy sneak peak of what the episode is going to be about. Look for dark woods in the title screen to see the foreshadowing.

Structure

The structure of each episode includes flashbacks to a character’s past in the fairy tale world as well as glimpses of the character’s present-day life in Storybrooke.

The story that has happened in the past is usually linked strongly to what is happening in the present in any given episode.

Viewer Expectations

Viewers have certain expectations based on their knowledge of the fairy tales. However, the creators of Once Upon A Time use this to their advantage by making stories seem familiar before repeatedly subverting viewer expectations.

These are not the bedtime stories kids everywhere grew up with. These are new, refurbished, refined and stunning.

The way that fairy tales intertwine is particularly clever, especially the way the Beauty and the Beast tale works.

Characters

Red Riding Hood | Once Upon a Time Wiki | Fandom

Almost every single character has an in-depth back story, and many begin in Season 1. The story of Snow White and Prince Charming take center stage, but my personal favorite is the story of Red Riding Hood.

The characters develop both in the past and in the present. The most development is seen in Emma Swan, Mary Margaret Blanchard, and David Nolan.

The characters act realistically considering their personalities, and even though it is dramatic, the reactions of the characters are often reasonable considering their circumstances.

Once Upon a Time Favorite Character Moments: Snow White/Mary Margaret  Blanchard | The Girly Nerd

Character names in present-day Maine were chosen carefully for their meaning. For example, the name Mary Margaret Blanchard was chosen for Snow White because Blanchard is a French name meaning “white” and Mary and Margaret were names Snow used in her fairy tale past to conceal her identity.

Costume Design

7 Easy Halloween Costumes from Once Upon a Time | Once Upon A Time

The costume design fits the characters’ personalities perfectly. For example, Regina’s hair styles and costumes particularly reflect her flamboyant style and dark personality.

Drama

The drama is reasonable and understandable most of the time, but sometimes it is over-the-top. For example, when something terrible happens, the camera will often switch rapidly from shocked expression to expression in a way that seems overly contrived. People can be shocked, but not every character needs a close-up.

Conclusion

Overall, I really enjoyed Season 1 of Once Upon A Time. I would recommend this series for teens and adults.

Despite its PG rating, I would not recommend Once Upon A Time for children due to violence, suggestive content, and dark themes. Seriously. Hearts get ripped out and crushed, there is an affair, people get turned into animals and stepped on, a person is mauled and eaten, etc.

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate shows, check out my rating system.

Anime, Shows

A Quirky Anime Worth Watching

Spoiler-Free Anime Review:

My Hero Academia Season 1

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Intro

I actually heard about this from one of those YouTube videos that show people’s reactions to stuff. I learned that one of the characters has explosive sweat, and I was intrigued. There is nothing cliché about explosive sweat.

Even if it was this weird little fact that got me start watching the show, it was the amazing characters that hooked me. And it was the story that convinced me to watch it again, with my dad this time.

Read on to discover more about the first season of my favorite anime.

Background

Season 1 was created by Bones and MBS and the director is Kenji Nagasaki. The series is based on the manga series of the same name by Kōhei Horikoshi.

The series can be watched on Funimation and CrunchyRoll.

Summary

In a world where almost everyone has superpowers called quirks, Izuku Midoriya is one of the few quirkless. In this superhuman society, the profession of the hero has emerged. Despite being quirkless, Midoriya strives to be accepted into UA, the top high school for budding heroes.

Pros

  • Superb worldbuilding
  • Likeable characters with diverse personalities
  • Intimidating villains
  • Creative quirks
  • Balanced plot with light-heartedness and darker aspects
  • Original art style
  • Intro and Outro well-constructed
  • Music fits the anime

Cons

  • Predictable at first
  • Some childhood scenes are poorly drawn

Review

Worldbuilding

Once, the world in My Hero Academia was one of regular human beings. Then, one day in Qing Qing City, a child was born who glowed. After that, quirks began to become more and more common.

At first, this led to fear and protests. Regular humans attempted to segregate and put restrictions on those with quirks. Eventually, the situation stabilized and society adapted.

Their world, like ours, is inherently unfair. Those with weaker quirks or no quirks are helpless against those with stronger quirks. This is a world in which heroes are common, but so are villains.

Being a hero is an actual profession in this world, and it is illegal to harm anyone with your quirk unless you are a certified hero. Because to be a hero is just a job, it is not always synonymous with being a good person.

Police still exist in this world and do the work of cleaning up and making arrests after the heroes are done.

Characters

Watch My Hero Academia Season 1 Episode 1 Sub & Dub | Anime Uncut |  Funimation

Izuku Midoriya is an underdog character who is easy to empathize with. He’s definitely a fanboy, but his knowledge of pro heroes and villains come in handy. He is brave, kind, and selfless.

Best Bakugo Moments – But Why Tho? A Geek Community

Katsuki Bakugo is pretty much a prideful jerk, but he makes a good rival for Midoriya. He actually wants to be a hero, but for all the wrong reasons. He has some depth to him, because even he is capable of doubting himself.

He also has the best expressions. Period.

What's The Deal With Bakugou Katsuki? | by Anime Motivation | Where Anime &  Motivation Collide | Medium

See what I mean? Just watching him the whole show added to the comedy. And guess what? He’s the explosive sweat guy.

Best of Tenya Iida [S1-S3] [Dub] - YouTube

Tenya Iida is a rule-following, order-loving guy with real skills. He has a lot of growing to do as a hero, but he is loyal to his friends and he’s my favorite character. His quirk is that he has engines in his calves, and he uses them for speed and devastating kicks.

My opinion on mha characters #1: Uraraka Ochaco/uravity | My Hero Academia  Amino

Ochaco Uraraka wants to be a hero for what most would see as a selfish reason, but she is a kind and caring person. She seems feeble, but has real guts and a tough side. Her quirk is Zero Gravity, the ability to make people and objects float.

There are many teenage characters with diverse powers and personalities, but there are also villains that are ridiculously strong.

The 20+ Best My Hero Academia Villains
My Hero Academia: All Villains Ranked From Weakest To Strongest

Plot

The plot, while predicable at first, becomes less predicable near the end when tensions escalate beyond belief. The plot strikes a balance between light-hearted humor and a darker tone.

Art Style

All Might Highlights Boku no Hero Academia My Hero Academia

According to IMDb, the animation was done by Studio Bones, which also did the style of Fullmetal Alchemist, another of my favorite anime.

The style is different from Fullmetal Alchemist because it uses bold, bright colors and deep shadows for contrast. The pupils of characters are much smaller than in most anime.

Intro and Outro

The intro is the perfect sneak peak into the characters that will be introduced. It even gives a little insight into who Midoriya is as a character. The outro shows how Midoriya was as a kid. Both are well-made and I watched them the whole way through with each episode.

Music

The theme and sound of the music is fits the anime so well. The songs became a permanent part of my Spotify playlist. My sister, who I permitted to become my “coach” makes me exercise during any part of the episode with music. Ugh…

But even high-speed exercise does not ruin the music for me.

Childhood Scenes

The Effect Of Bullying On Deku (Now With Spoilers) - YouTube

The childhood scenes appear to be chunkier in animation and less detailed. This does not take away much from the story, but it certainly could have been better.

Childhood Moments of Izuku Midoriya and Bakugo | My Hero Academia - YouTube

Conclusion

My Hero Academia is one of those shows that gets better in time. Even if you aren’t thrilled by the first season, hang in there. This anime is worth it.

I would recommend this show for teens and adults due to violence, serious injuries, and a perverted character.

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate shows, check out my rating system.

Life

Surviving a College Semester (Pandemic Edition)

brown green and white textile

So much has changed with the rise of COVID-19. Everyday life is so different with all the social distancing, masks, and quarantine. Being a college student during a pandemic is…interesting.

As a student at Grove City College (GCC), I had the privilege of attending in-person classes and living on campus this semester. While many other colleges were resorting to Zoom, GCC decided to be stubborn and bring everyone back.

Even though we were all on campus, nothing was normal. From the beginning, it was established that we had to wear masks basically everywhere, even outside.

Anyone who visited my room had to wear a mask, but I didn’t have to wear a mask in my room even if someone was visiting. That doesn’t really make sense, but I guess they were trying to be lenient in some ways so people would be more obedient.

Some teachers said it was okay to eat or drink in their classroom, taking off masks temporarily to do so, other teachers forbade it. I sat as far away from everyone as possible in all of my classes, so I would eat a snack occasionally in the classes that permitted it.

The food at GCC has never been good. In fact, there are Instagram channels devoted entirely to showing pictures of terrible food served at GCC.

Although it was possible to dine in the cafeterias for most of the semester, all the food was made take-out style, in plastic or foam containers. These containers leaked and occasionally burst.

The portions of food given were determined by the staff.

For instance, I would say, “Can I have a few vegetables?”

The food worker would then give me a generous scoop of them. And then another. And then a third. It’s like they were so happy someone asked for a healthy food that they got a little overexcited.

The biggest consequence to there being all take-out was that there was so much garbage that the college resorted to dumpsters instead of trash cans. My roommate and I had a trash can in our room, and we had to take out our garbage every day because of the clunky, oversized take-out containers.

It’s sad, really. At some point the cafeterias stopped offering straws the same way they once did to reduce waste. It was laughable–students were throwing away hundreds of plastic containers per day, but at least straws were not part of the problem.

The cafeterias were also open almost the entire day to encourage smaller crowds. This meant they had less time for food prep, so they would copy a lot of the meals from day to day.

On some occasions, they would get creative, however. See that picture below? That’s Pumpkin Cheesecake pizza. Looks appealing, no?

If you go to GCC, don’t taste Pumpkin Cheesecake Pizza. If you avoid it, your taste buds will thank you.

It was actually kind of nice that they cleaned the tables after each use, though.

Events were cancelled the whole semester, and the gym was closed at different times.

I remember those first few weeks when there were a few COVID cases and many students, including myself, thought we would be sent home. Every week there were a few more.

black and white smartphone on white table

Students were frequently put in isolation. That meant they could only leave their room for food and had to take classes virtually until they were told they could leave isolation.

At one point, my class of 20 diminished to 5 because so many students were in isolation.

Quarantine was much worse. Then you couldn’t leave your room and just had food delivered. Some of the quarantined students had to be put in hotel rooms because the quarantine rooms at college filled up.

Students who were quarantined had to make lists of people they were in contact with for even a short duration of time. Those people were put in isolation. This was called contact tracing.

Near the end, the cases skyrocketed. We began to have about 20 cases every three days. The students were given an option to go home before Thanksgiving break, and I was one of those who did so.

My sister stayed as long as she could, but that was only until Thanksgiving break. No one came back after break. As planned, we all stayed home for the last week of classes and finals.

So, that was how my semester went. I was lucky enough never to go into isolation or quarantine. I was so happy to be on campus, and I hope I will be headed back to school in the spring.

Feel free to share your own quarantine experience in the comments!