Sunday, May 17, 2015

Toon Ninja Reviews - Avatar: The Last Airbender Part III: The Characters

Welcome back, Toonsters!

  In our last chapter, I talked about the three books that tied the story together in our story of our young, intrepid hero, Avatar Aang and his friends.  But now, I will give you the full details of the characters themselves, heroes, villains, supporting characters, all the jazz.  Let's get started, shall we?

Team Avatar

Aang: The hero of the story.  Aang was a Airbender who lived happily with his fellow Air Nomads, including his father figure, Monk Gyatso. Until one day, the monks officially made him the Avatar, the one being in this world who could bend the other elements.  Learning that he should be separated from Gyatso to learn to be the Avatar, Aang ran away from the Air Temple on his bison Appa.  When a storm ruined his flight path, he and Appa crashed into the ocean. And he would've drowned if not for the powers of the Avatar. And because of that, he ended up frozen for 100 years.  Fast forward to the present, Aang was found and freed by Sokka and Katara, only to learn that the Fire Nation destroyed all the Air Temples, just to prevent the Avatar lifecycle from continuing.  Realizing that he is truly the last Airbender, Aang must learn the other elements and embrace his destiny as the Avatar and end the reign of terror of the Fire Nation.  Even though destined to save the world, Aang is mostly a kid at heart, for he IS a kid, metaphorically speaking. He likes to have fun, play practical jokes, ride on penguins, and so on and so forth. His staff doubles as a glider, most Airbenders use a staff for gliding. He sometimes uses for battle sometimes, but Airbending is pretty much weapon enough.  Though he perfected his Airbending, he later learned the other elements, but it wasn't an easy task, I assure you. But Aang's true power lies from his ultimate form, the Avatar State.  Like all the other Avatar's before him, when in the Avatar State, Aang is like a God. When his eyes glow, and his tattoos, and he speaks in a celestial type of form, or in this case, speaking as all the past Avatars, if you are someone who is threatening to destroy the world, you are going to be in a world of hurt.  But only a fully realized Avatar can control the Avatar State, which Aang needs to learn.  However, although powerful, the Avatar is also vulnerable. If the Avatar is kill when using it, the lifecycle will destroyed and the Avatar will cease to exist. Overall, Aang is like the very world he is trying to save, well-balanced. He is mostly a nice kid, but you don't want to be on his bad side if you hurt his friends or destroy the world.

Katara: A Waterbender from the Southern Water Tribe. When we first meet her, she was completely inexperienced in her Waterbending. But by the end of Book One and into the other stories, she became a full-fledged Waterbending master. She is Team Avatar's mother hen.  Ever since her mother, Kya, died, she became the parental substitute to not only her brother, Sokka, but also the rest of the team, including Aang and Toph.  Although the live action movie portray her as a wimp, the one in the cartoon was always the strong one, whether it's rallying the imprisoned Earthbenders to holding her own against Zuko, Katara is one tough cookie. Like Aang, she is kind and gentle, but she does have her moments when she loses her cool, whether it's getting into friendly banter with Toph to getting back at those who killed her mother or those who betrayed her, including Zuko, who made the wrong choice at the time.  As a Waterbender, she has the power to manipulate water everywhere.  She can use it as a whip, a barrier, freezing in contact, especially making a bridge or an ice slide ala Iceman, or she can use it to heal.  Those methods of Waterbending are mostly light, in a spiritual kind of way.  But, the only form of Waterbending she rarely uses is the darkest form of Waterbending, which is the type of Waterbending that controls your fluids inside your body like a puppet. That darkest for is called Bloodbending, which was formed by Hama, who, like Katara, was a Waterbending, but embraced Bloodbending for it twisted her soul. Whether in battle, or cheering on the hero, or motivating other benders to rise up against the Fire Nation, Katara truly is the heart and soul of Team Avatar.  Did I forget to mention that she and Aang eventually become more than just...friends? :D

Sokka: Katara's brother. Unlike his sister, he is not a bender. What he lacks in bending, makes up in being a warrior and tactician, takes up after their father, Hakoda. Although a decent warrior, Sokka is not exactly the brightest bulb in Team Avatar. He is the comic relief of the show, known for his crazy antics and constant use of sarcasm, which the fans call it "Sok-casm." If this kid ends up in a remake of You Can't Do That on Television and says "I don't know," he will end up with slime in his face.  Aww, memories. Anyway, although funny, he can be a bit serious, too.  Whether it's protecting Katara, like all siblings do, to feeling saddened with the lost of love ones, from Kya, his mother to Princess Yue, who becomes one with the moon.  But, at least ended up with Suki, so all is not lost. Since Sokka is a warrior, initially he was armed with a club, a machete and of course, his trusty boomerang, it always comes back. But later in the story, he ends up with a sword, which was made from a meteorite. Overall, he may be a goofball, and an overprotective brother, Sokka is one teammate you can depend on when it comes to planning against the Fire Nation and bringing them down, whether with a boomerang or with a big book, like that Spirit Owl in Spirit Library found out the hard way.

Sokka: "That's called Sokka-style, LEARN IT!!"

Toph: The daughter of the wealthy Beifong family of the Earth Kingdom. She was born blind and her parents see her as weak and fragile. But little that they didn't know that when growing up and behind their backs, Toph became more than just small and fragile. Through the Badgermoles, she learned the art of Earthbending and since she is blind like the Badgermoles, she can "see", without seeing. Like most Earthbenders, she is one with the earth, meaning she doesn't wear shoes, which makes sense.  As her skills improved, she ended up competing the Earth Rumble tournaments against other Earthbenders who act like pro wrestlers.  It was like this until she met Aang and his friends. Initially she didn't get along with Aang, Toph ended up slowly became not just his friend, but his Earthbending teacher, thus leaving her family behind (but her father thinks the Avatar kidnapped her, what a maroon). Even though Toph is, well, tough, she can be bit arrogant and even more sarcastic as Sokka, whether it's being a nicknamer to her friends (e.g. Aang/Twinkle Toes, Katara/Sugar Queen, etc.) to getting into arguments with Katara. Despite her "hard" head, Toph is a nice gal once you get to know her. And when she hits your shoulder that hard, that is her way of showing affection. Not only she is a proud Earthbender, but she also developed another form of bending which was once impossible to do, Metalbending.

Zuko: The crown prince of the Fire Nation and son of Firelord Ozai. Zuko was once a happy prince. Although he is Ozai's son, he was raised properly by his mother, Ursa. But things changed after the failed siege of Ba Sing Se. After Ozai became the firelord, it got worse. After talking in turn against one of the Fire Nation's top generals for using the Fire Nation troops as scapegoats for their conquests. For his questioning, he ended in a fire duel or Agni Kai. He was confidant to fight against one of the generals, but he was shocked when he ended up dueling his own father. By refusing to fight his own father, Zuko ended up getting burned by Ozai, leaving him the scar he has now.  For his refusal to fight in the Agni Kai, Zuko was banished from the Fire Nation. And in order to redeem himself to his father, he ended up traveling across the world to capture the Avatar, alongside his uncle, Iroh. Although his goal was to catch the Avatar, his quest was often sidetracked with other issues, including dealing with Zhao.  But when Zhao and his forces failed to conquer the North Pole, Zuko and Iroh went into hiding, but not before they ended up being pursued by Azula. While hiding, Zuko's character was slowly changing.  Not only remembering his mother, but also being trained by his uncle Iroh.  At Ba Sing Se, he was starting to feel happy and calm, thanks to Iroh.  But, when he was caught between loyalties, she sided with Azula and betrayed Iroh, after all the things his uncle taught him.  At first he did it because he felt that Iroh has gone soft. But after learning the truth about his great-grandfathers, Firelord Sozin (Ozai's grandfather) and Avatar Roku (Ursa's grandfather), Zuko's personality started to change, this time for good.  During the Day of Black Sun, where the Firebenders lose their bending due to the solar eclipse, Zuko confronted his father and told him what really happened at Ba Sing Se and telling him straight up that the Fire Nation is falling apart because of him and his forefathers.  Not only that, he convinced him that his uncle was more of a father to him that Ozai ever was. And on top of that, he ends his quest to capture the Avatar and vows to join him to end the Firelord's reign of terror. His defection wasn't easy for him, when Team Avatar didn't trust him at first.  Eventually, they gained his trust (most of them anyway, but Katara, at the time, still had bitter feelings towards him after his betrayal, but she eventually gained his trust after overcoming her demons). Zuko became not only a devoted friend, but he became Aang's Firebending teacher, which in turn, learned the real ways of Firebending down the way.  He eventually found peace with himself and reconcile his relationship with his uncle Iroh and on top of that, becoming the new Firelord and vowing to bring peace and balance back to the world with the Avatar's help.  Zuko is one of the most complex characters in all of animation.  Just like Piccolo, Sailor Saturn and Oni Masho Shuten Doji (Dark Warlord Anubis), he started off evil, but after a long and painful journey, he became good.  He went from, what Sokka described him as, "The Angry Jerk," to one of the most enlightened heroes in the story.  Not only he changed mentally, but at the course of the series, he changed physically, too. When we first see him, he had a bald head, with a ponytail.  But when he and Iroh went into hiding, he cuts it off and let's it grow, from a buzzcut, to a spikey-type style and finally into his finally hairstyle, which makes him look like the legendary martial artist, Bruce Lee.  Zuko's Firebending skills are second to none. Although he can't shoot lightning like Iroh, Azula and Ozai, thanks to his uncle, he can deflect it from a method Iroh learned when studying Waterbenders. Intially his Firebending was fueled by his anger.  But thanks to the Sun Warriors, his Firebending is powered by his determination and enlightment.  While not Firebending, Zuko is good with his dual broadswords.  So much so, to hide his Firebending and his identity, he disguises himself as the mysterious bandit known as The Blue Spirit. Overall, Zuko is one of my favorite characters who started evil, but ended up fighting for good and that's saying something. Now if only he learned how to use Nunchuks like Bruce Lee.  After all, he does look like him now. :D

Appa: Aang's flying bison. Very loyal to his master and his friends. All flying bisons like Appa are known for two things, their physical strength and their flying, when you say the command, "Yip-Yip" (and NO, it is not the command to summon your Avatar State. Thanks very much Ember Island Players!).

Momo: Aang's squirrel monkey.  Unlike Appa, who is big, strong and serious, Momo is the exact opposite.  He is small, and mischievous, which causes some problems with both the heroes and the villains, but mostly the villains.  And like Appa, Momo is a big eater, too, but moreso than Appa. Just saying.

Supporting Characters

Iroh: The uncle of Zuko and brother of Firelord Ozai. Known as the Dragon of the West, he was one of the Fire Nation's top generals, and a fierce one to boot.  All that changed, when his son, Lu Ten, died in battle.  Lu Ten's death had a profound change within Iroh. He went from a fierce general into the battle-hardened yet wise old man that we know today.  Although he is his uncle, Zuko sees Iroh as more of a father figure than Ozai ever was. Don't let his age and his eccentric behavior fool you, he is much stronger and wiser than you think. Unlike Ozai, Iroh is very compassionate and kind and wish to see the Fire Nation reformed from the past Firelords that want to take over the world and make it a decent place to live, where it co-exists with the other nations as it use to be.  Not only a great general and a powerful Firebender and one of the few who could bend lightning, he is also the founder of a group of old masters who fight for peace and balance known as the Order of the White Lotus. His favorite hobbies are drinking tea, playing the Tsungi Horn and playing Pai Sho.

Suki: A member of a group of female warriors on Kyoshi Island, named after the Avatar before Roku. She later joined up with Team Avatar and became the love interest of Sokka after his short-lived relationship with Princess Yue. Don't let her girlish nature fool you, she will have your butt handed to you. Tell that to the warden of Fire Nation prison, known as the Boiling Rock.

Roku: The Avatar before Aang. Before that, he was originally part of the Fire Nation and was once best friends with the soon to be Firelord, Sozin, before he betrayed him. He serves as the spirit guide to Aang during his adventures. He is also Zuko's great grandfather, which in turn, is his mother's grandfather.

Bumi: Aang's old friend from the past, and I do mean "old." Aang remembered him as a kid, riding the carts at the Earth Kingdom city of Omashu. Years later, Bumi not only became old, but he also became king of Omashu. But don't let his age, and his childlike innocence fool you. Bumi is one of the most powerful Earthbenders in the world, which rivals that of Toph. A mad genius as Aang calls him. Did I forget to mention he has a thing for Rock Candy? :D

Pakku: A master Waterbender from the Northern Water Tribe, who initially didn't want to teach Katara because of her gender. But had a change of heart when he noticed the choker on Katara's neck, which was once a gift to his one time betroth, Kana (That's right, Kana is Katara and Sokka's Gran-Gran). He later reunites with Kana and became Katara and Sokka's grandfather (Don't call him Gramp-Gramp or Grandpa-Ku, by the way).

Jeong-Jeong: A Firebending master who once served Zhao in the Fire Nation army. But defected after learning that Zhao and all of the Fire Nation have distorted the art of Firebending.

Piandao: A master swordsman from the Fire Nation, who taught Sokka the way of the sword. His likeness is based on the fight chorographer who did most of the martial arts moves for the show, which I will talk about next chapter.

Hakoda: Sokka and Katara's father. Like his son, Hakoda is a great warrior and tactician from the Southern Water Tribe. He left his home to fight against the Fire Nation. He later assisted Team Avatar in the Day of Black Sun, but failed, due to the Fire Nation's awareness of the eclipse, thanks to Azula. He was captured and sent to the Boiling Rock. Only to escape, thanks to Sokka, Zuko and Suki. Not only a great warrior, but a great father, too. He raised his kids well.

The Villains

Fire Lord Ozai: The fire lord of the Fire Nation itself. He is the son of Azulon and grandson to Sozin. Like his predecessors, he craves power by seizing control of every part of the world, in his brutal ways. He was not only brutal towards the world, but was brutal towards his family, including his son, Zuko. Ozai is the one who gave Zuko his scar on his face for refusing to fight him in an Agni Kai or Fire Duel. Later near the end, he crowned himself as "The Phoenix King," and plans to burn the entire world and rebuilt it under the Fire Nation's banner. He is the one the Avatar must defeat in order to restore peace and balance to the world.

Azula: The crown princess of the Fire Nation and a Firebending prodigy. She is the daughter of Ozai and the sister to Zuko. If Zuko is Abel, then Azula must be Cain. Unlike Zuko, Azula has no redeeming features. She is like her father, cold, calculating and ruthless. Where most of the Firebenders' flames are their standard orange and red, Azula's flames are all blue. She and her grandfather Azulon, their names were from the Spanish word, Azul, which means blue.

Zhao: The commander, then later admiral, of the Fire Nation army. He was the main villain of Book 1. Not only going after the Avatar, but also having a rivalry of sorts with Zuko. His greatest (or lack thereof) achievement near the end of Book 1, when he plans to "destroy" the moon, by stealing one of the fishes that resembles the spirit of the Moon. Fortunately, his victory was short-lived by both the Avatar and Princess Yue sacrificing her life to become the Moon Spirit. Zhao ended being consumed by the water after the Aang used his Avatar powers to merge with the Moon Spirit and devastated the Fire Nation army.

Long Feng: The main villain of Book 2. He is the head of the secret police in Ba Sing Se, known as the Dai Li. He may look civilized, but at the same time, he is ruthless. His Dai Li keep Ba Sing Se in the dark about the Fire Nation and the war itself. But, his plans were foiled by Team Avatar and exposed his treachery to the Earth King. He later formed an alliance to Azula, which ultimately was short-lived, when the Dai Li betrayed him and aligned themselves to Azula.

Firelord Sozin: The firelord before Azulon. He was once best friends with Avatar Roku. But his lust for power broken up that friendship when he became the Firelord. After Roku's death, Sozin launched an attack on the Airbenders, ensuring that the Avatar lifecycle would be broken. After his passing, the people of the Fire Nation named a comet after him, which gives the Firebenders more fire power, so to speak. Like Roku, Sozin was also the great grandfather of Zuko, which also means that he is the grandfather of Ozai, his father. That is one messed up family. At least Zuko and Iroh are not all evil, thank goodness.

Other Characters

Jet: Neither hero or villain, he is what we call a neutral type character. He is the leader of a small band of freedom fighters, who want to rid the world of the Fire Nation. His family died when he was young and he had a profound hatred with the Fire Nation ever since. His heart was in the right place, but he disregard the fate of innocent people, even if they are from the Fire Nation. Long after that, Jet went to Ba Sing Se, to start over. But his peace was short-lived, when he discovered that Zuko and Iroh were part of the Fire Nation. He was later captured by the Dai Li and brainwashed him, thinking that he is enjoying his life peacefully. Thanks to Team Avatar, he was freed from the brainwashing, only to be killed off by Long Feng. His skill with the sword, especially with his Hookswords, makes him an equal to Zuko.

Mai: Her name is pronounced "May" not "Mai," in case M. Night Shamylon has other ideas. She is the daughter of a local Fire Nation governor, who once conquered Omashu and she's the niece of a warden of the Fire Nation prison, known as the Boiling Rock. She is mostly emo and gloomy, but she is deadly with her daggers and stilettos. But she does have a soft spot for Zuko. She once pledged her allegiance to her childhood friend Azula until she broke down in insanity.

Ty Lee: A wily, but adorkable circus acrobat. Unlike Mai, Ty Lee is often a free spirit and often says corky lines along the way (e.g. "Look at the clouds. They are so poofy. POOF!). But don't let her innocence and free spirited nature fool you. She can pinpoint your pressure points in your body and paralyzes you, that means the Benders can't use their bending. That is called Chi-Blocking. She is the first of many to come. Like Mai, she aligned herself with Azula until her insanity ended their friendship for good. After the war, she later joined Suki and the Kyoshi warriors and give them a few pointers in Chi-Blocking.

Shi Fu: An Earthbender, who acts like a wrestling promoter. He was the organizer of the Earth Rumble competition. But when Toph left with Team Avatar, her father sent him to bring her back, claiming that she was kidnapped. He succeeded, only to be outsmarted by Toph, by means of Metalbending.

June: A bounty hunter, neither good or evil, just doing it for the big pay. She often flirts with Zuko and calls Iroh a "Creepy Grandpa". She rides a Shirshu named Nyla. Shirshus are known for their strong sense of smell and their tongues can paralyze you.

Gran-Gran: Sokka and Katara's grandmother. Her real name is Kana. She raised the siblings after their mother died and their father left for the war. Although she didn't appear much, but she encouraged Katara and Sokka to help the Avatar bring balance back to the world. She was once engaged by Pakku, but turned down her engagement. But, later she had a change of heart and she and Pakku got engaged and Pakku became their grandfather.

Well, that's it for the characters. Time for me to take a break. But next time, we will talk about the inspirations, the music and the voice actors. My brain hurts. Until next time.

(Avatar: The Last Airbender End Credits theme play)

*Fade Out

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