Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Cartoon – A (Friendly) Comparison (= Not A Rant) – With The Movie – Book One – Water – Extra Dash

Avatar: The Last Airbender has replaced The Vampire Diaries as my current obsession, and thank gosh because the next TVD episode isn’t for another 33 days!

Did you read my epic-length post on the movie?  I did as I said I would, and checked out the animated television series that the film was based on. I’m about 37 episodes into the 60-episode series.The first movie corresponds to the first season of the TV show.

And if you’re interested in Zuko/Azula, then check out my in-depth guide to their relationship: Part 1; and my conclusion post including fan creation recommendations.

I’ll focus on comparing the movie with only the first season of the TV show.

My first post feels so naïve given what I now know.

I hate to see a movie that I like get picked on, even when some of its criticisms are well-deserved. And I hate to see a director I like (like M. Night Shyamalan) get picked on, especially when I liked The Happening even though no one else seemed to. So I may have been overly friendly. Having rewatched the movie several times, and being well-into watching the cartoon, I am now in a position to be a little less bright-eyed. Why am I even bothering to tell you this? Two reasons: 1) my duty to the fandom, and 2) so you won’t think that I can’t judge a movie properly.

My primary criticism was with the dialogue. I’ll restate that the dialogue is very poor. There really is no excuse. I can only hope that the movie was targeted towards children, and the speech was dumbed down for their benefit. I can admit that the person who first introduced me to the franchise was six years old. But he was a very smart little boy: he would say “explosives” instead of “bombs.” What kind of six year old can even pronounce that word?

I gave the actors a much bigger pass in my first post than I am now willing to do. I still like Noah Ringer as Aang (he just looks and sounds right), but they should have done a few more takes with a couple of his lines – I’m sure he had it in him to do them a little better. I like Jackson Rathbone a lot, and I was charmed by his Sokka, but I wouldn’t argue with someone who wanted to call his performance lackluster.

I think Nicola Peltz had the perfect look for the role, and I still can’t quite bring myself to say that she was a bad choice, but there was definitely something absent.

Seychelle Gabrielle, I think, was pretty bad. But I didn’t find cartoon Yue much better, so perhaps there isn’t much to be said on the matter.

Aasif Mandvi was kind of great and awful at the same time. I think he made up for a couple of poorly delivered lines with his special kind of screen presence.

I still really like everyone else (even Cliff Curtis, who was more harmed by the over-the-top dialogue than by his performance). Cartoon Ozai actually comes off as more scary, but the way in which this is done would hardly be imitable in a live-action film.

And I maintain that Summer Bishil acted the hell out of her less-than-a-minute of screen time, but having seen the cartoon, I’m not sure she’s right for Azula.

Azula has sharp edges, and Summer Bishil is much curvier (that is not a reference to body mass index, but rather the shape of her face, etc.).

Grey DeLisle does the voice of the animated Azula, and not only is she in her 30s, but she’s got a very special (read: wonderful) kind of voice that was an integral part of the character, and that is just not Summer Bishil’s voice.

Do you know who I think would be perfect for Azula? Selena Gomez. I think she has the right look and the right voice. Her character Alex on Wizards Of Waverly Place is more like Mai, but Selena is a great actress and its easy for me to imagine her doing menace. She would be sooooooooooooooooooo perfect! (Although I did come up with this on my own, I see through some internet research that I was not the first to come up with the idea.)

Of course, the only problem is that she doesn’t look anything like Dev Patel.  But I think it would be possible, depending upon who they chose to play Ursa.

But it’s all moot, since Summer Bishil is already playing Azula. I remain optimistic. She can play a great Azula, it just won’t be like the cartoon Azula.

The race thing still doesn’t bother me. Cartoon Katara has blue eyes, which is certainly not typical among people of Asian descent.

There are characters who do look typically Asian – like the native residents of Ba Sing Se – and they have Asian accents as well. It’s possible to differentiate them. And don’t forget: Jackson Rathbone is Asian– he was born in Singapore. Joke.

The cartoon does make larger references to Asian culture, such as the use of character writing systems like we see in Japanese and Mandarin, etc. But the way I see it, this is an entirely new world, it’s not a revised past like we see in many Chinese action-adventure fantasy films like The Promise.

So the people can look however the movie makers want them to look. It’s not like casting Denzel Washington as the prince in Much Ado About Nothing. (But who really cares, because who doesn’t like Denzel Washington? No one? No, I didn’t think so.)

Can I just vent for a second about one thing that bothers me? In the cartoon, some of the characters have a typical anime look, while others don’t. I don’t understand the idea of mixing them. The anime-looking characters stand out – like Suki, the Kyoshi warrior (without her traditional make up and dress).

Ty Lee, Katara’s eyes,

and sometimes Toph. /end rant.

So, those are flaws of the movie as a movie (except what I said about Summer Bishil, and anime).

What about questions of adaptation?

Well, first of all, it’s an entirely different matter criticizing the movie for something it chose to do on purpose as opposed to something that just arose – adaptation collateral damage, and the like.

For starters: I read some complaints about the changes in pronunciation in characters names. In the cartoon series, Aang is pronounced like Ang, (angus, angle), whereas in the movie it’s pronounced like awng, or ong (thong, dong). Personally, the movie’s pronunciation is the one that seems more likely to be correct, to me. I think it was a bit odd that they changed the pronunciation, but it doesn’t bother me and I don’t think that it’s bad. The other difference in pronunciation was Sokka. In the cartoon it’s Sock-a, but in the movie it’s soak-a. I much prefer the movie’s pronunciation even though in terms of English it’s incorrect due to the double “k”, so again, no complaints here.

What else did the movie choose to do differently?

Well, this whole business about highest firebenders creating fire out of their own chi doesn’t exist in the animated series. Any firebender can create fire out of nothing in the series. On one hand I like that because it makes the firebenders more powerful. On the other hand, I like the way the movie did it because it made Uncle Iroh a BAMF, and it added to the frightening significance of Sozin’s comet. Anyway, I’m not getting angry about it. Especially since one thing I think they were smart to do in the movie was make the bending less powerful – all bending. So it doesn’t matter if the firebenders are less powerful, because all of the benders are less powerful, including Aang.

Speaking of Sozin’s comet, in the movie it’s coming in three years, but in the cartoon it’s coming in a matter of months. I think the longer schedule is much more realistic, and makes sense because the actors will be aging.

There were a few smaller things that played out a little bit differently than they did in the movie.

For example, when Zuko kidnaps Aang they head off into a blizzard and then take shelter. Aang escapes on his own, and decides to save Zuko instead of leaving him there to freeze to death. The movie version is friendlier to Zuko, so I favor it (being the mad Zuko-lover that I am).

In the cartoon, after Yue dies, she appears to Sokka as a sparkling apparition, and then sort of rises up and becomes the moon. That was a little corny. The movie version was better.

Also, when Aang defeats the Fire Nation navy, he takes the form of a giant water spirit, instead of bending the giant wave like in the movie. The movie version is a lot better.

The ghetto of earthbenders and their resurrection was much better handled in the cartoon. They are kept on a metal ship for slave labor where they cannot bend, which is smart. Katara goes undercover as a prisoner, and gives a much more rousing speech than Aang did in the movie, but she fails to motivate anyone. They liberate the slaves in the end. It would had to have been done differently in the movie to force Team Avatar into helping (in the movie they were arrested too, they had to get out), but it flowed better in the cartoon.

Now, I think the biggest difference of all was also done on purpose: the tone. The animated series has some very serious moments (I’ve cried…), but it’s first and foremost upbeat, humorous, with the good guys winning at the end/achieving their goal.

The movie is much more serious. The gravity of the reality of these characters is front and center the entire time. That’s not the case of the cartoon. I prefer the more serious tone (I’m not saying the cartoon isn’t hilarious – it often is), so I don’t fault Shyamalan or the producers for making that choice.

I think this is the problem that most fans of the television series had with the movie. It was too different. All of the events were almost exactly the same, but the tone was so different that it all felt off to them. I get it, I really do. But I think it was conscious decision, and not a bad one.

The change is tone resulted in many changes in character.

First: Aang. In the cartoon he stands up for the defenseless, and rises to the occasion, but he’s usually a joyful, carefree spirit who likes games and adventure. We’re told specifically that he’s 12, but he acts much younger than that in my opinion. He’s sometimes reckless, he often goofs off. I like animated Aang. But if you’re doing a movie with a serious tone, then weight-of-the-world-on-my-shoulders Aang is the better choice. And honestly, if you woke up after 100 years to learn that the world is in constant war and your entire people (including everyone you ever knew or loved) is dead, I think it would be a while before you smiled, let alone tried to ride wild sea creatures.

In the cartoon, Aang is a much more complicated character, as well. His relationship with Appa is more than master-pet, Appa is family to him. Aang also grows jealous of Katara and Sokka when they meet someone they know from home, and when he believes that Katara and Sokka are going to leave him to find their father (they aren’t, but he doesn’t stay to listen to the whole conversation), he withholds a message from their father. Of course, he feels bad at the end, etc. but still, he’s a flawed character, and not just good flaws like caring too much. That was nice, but I’m not sure I’m interested in Aang being a really layered character, and especially in how that would play into his relationship with Katara.

In the movie, Aang is unable to master waterbending until he faces and accepts what he has lost. That’s not so in the series. In the cartoon, Aang is quite good at waterbending from the start, but he goofs off in training, and so Katara gets to be better than him, and she continues to train him in waterbending well into the second season. I like the movie version better – the idea that Aang has an emotional block. It plays into the idea that the Avatar is not supposed to have a family. That gets addressed in the first episode of the second season, and another one later on, when Aang enters what is called “the avatar state” (which is what he’s in when his eyes and arrow glow) due to emotional responses to people he cares about in danger.

Next: Sokka. Animated Sokka is very sarcastic. On the one hand, he’s always coming up with the plans (indicated in the movie, but not hit hard) – he’s the idea man. And he’s a pretty awesome warrior for someone who can’t bend. But on the other hand, he’s kind of a buffoon. He’s the one who’s always making jokes, who’s always drinking the cactus juice, who’s always talking big but rarely backing it up. He’s also not nearly as protective of Katara. So, again, serious movie = serious characters. They couldn’t make movie Sokka one big joke, it just wouldn’t work. They might have spiced him up a little, but I think I’d rather just see animated Sokka and movie Sokka as two different, separately great characters.

The differences between movie Katara and cartoon Katara are a little bit harder to pinpoint. In the cartoon, Sokka says, “I hate to be a wetblanket, but Katara’s busy, so I’ll just say it  […]”. She’s pretty much the serious one. The caretaker. The peacemaker. The comforter. I think the only reason she really seems spunkier than the movie Katara is because she faced several situations where she had to stand up for herself, and those situations didn’t arise in the movie. Katara did have a slightly more layered personality in the series: she grows jealous of Aang’s aptitude for waterbending, for example. Or when they run across a fortuneteller, she becomes addicted to the fortunes.

These differences in character create a different relationship. I gushed about movie Katara and movie Sokka’s relationship – their exchanged glances, their ability to read and understand each other without speaking, often without communicating at all. Their unity.

Animated Sokka and animated Katara have a traditional banter sibling relationship. Also great, but different. It certainly resulted in more moments of Katara giving Sokka a dirty look for flirting with someone.

They also hug all of the time, which is kind of awesome. But this relationship is a bit more common than the one that movie Sokka and Katara have, so I’m intrigued by the one that’s rarer.

Now, as you may have realized from my first post, I love love love Uncle Iroh. I think he’s a great character, I think his relationship with Zuko is golden. Animated Iroh is magnificent, but he’s like Sokka – an entirely different character. He provides the comic relief. He’s a tea-junkie, a horndog, a fat, jolly man who drools after good food and makes Zuko go to port just so he can get a game piece. I love love love animated Uncle Iroh too, but that type of man just wouldn’t have been appropriate in the movie that Shyamalan decided to make. Animated Iroh is still a badass firebender, an infinitely wise man, with a quiet and understated but very powerful presence (and be broke my heart when he had a little picnic on his son’s birthday and sang to him and cried – almost as hard as I did).

But movie Iroh has a dignity and grace and also frightening power to him that I really appreciated. I just can’t say that one is better than the other because they really are two different, separately awesome characters.

Animated Iroh has some sort of spiritual ability, and has communed with the spirits, or something, so I totally called that he was more than just a wise man.

Zuko is probably the least different between the cartoon and the movie. It’s really hard for me to even know what to say, because I am so totally in love with animated Zuko that thinking of Dev Patel as Zuko is actually kind of hard.

Dante Basco does the voice of Zuko (he’s of Filipino descent), and he’s got such a specific voice (like Grey DeLisle) that it really creates the character. Funny enough, Grey DeLisle is two years older than Dante Basco, just like Summer Bishil is two years older than Dev Patel, but the voice actors are a whole decade older than the movie actors. Azula, then, is two years younger than Zuko.

Do you know what else is funnily enough? Dante Basco played Rufio in Hook. You remember Rufio, right? I never liked Rufio. He was a punk, and I was glad he died. Even as a sweet little girl I felt that way, and I loved that movie as a kid and watched it all the time. Oh, how I hated Rufio, and oh how I love Zuko. The irony! Great – now all I’m going to hear when Zuko speaks is stupid effing Rufio.

I can’t say enough good things about animated Zuko. The funny thing is that while all of the extra screen time did flesh him out a little, he’s still essentially exactly the same person. All of the new things that he does, all of the new stuff that we learn about him – none of it changes the character that the film created. So, good on Shyamalan and Dev Patel, I suppose.

There is a scene in the cartoon where General Zhao and Zuko have an Agni Kai duel, and Zuko wins definitively. Zuko spares his life (because that’s what good guys do), and then Zhao pulls a Prince Nuada and attacks Zuko while his back his turned. Iroh saves the day, and rips Zhao a new one, shaming him wonderfully. Iroh says: “Even in exile my nephew is more honorable than you.”

While I’m speaking of Dev Patel, I read the most hilarious thing: apparently in Britain, “bender” is slang for a male homosexual. You know, not straight – bender – get it? I know some British slang, but not enough. Anyway, you can imagine that led to some great dialogue for our viewers across the Atlantic, such as “Watch out! He’s a bender!” The little blurb I read about it said that Shyamalan wasn’t aware of that particular usage, and Dev Patel never told him, because he thought that not using the word “bender” would be drifting too far from the source material. Awwww. I agree, Dev, and I’m glad that you think so.

I watched the movie the most recent time with the French subtitles on, and the term in French is maître, which means master. Watermaster, airmaster, etc. That’s fine – it gets the point across, but the term bender is kind of special because we never use that word that way, so it really gives it an otherworldly effect.

The essential characteristic of Zuko is that he has no sense of humor, but it’s delightful. It’s delightful to see his personality bounce off of animated uncle Iroh, who is very, very funny. Zuko still achieves humor by just being himself.

For example: Uncle Iroh forces Zuko out on a date in an episode in the middle of the second season. She asks him what he likes to do for fun, and he replies “Nothing.” He doesn’t know what fun is. I love it!

Of course, Zuko’s other defining characteristic is perseverance in the face of adversity. His speech in the movie was slightly truncated; here’s what he says to an unconscious Aang in the cartoon: “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 has made me strong. That’s made me who I am.”

It’s a glorious moment. “I don’t need luck, though. I don’t want it.” Awwww. That poor boy. His age has not been clarified, only that he’s a teenager, and he was expelled from the Fire Nation three years ago.

There were some great moments between Zuko and his uncle that were in the animated series that weren’t in the movie. At one point, Iroh is kidnapped by the Earth Kingdom, and Zuko spots Appa. He has to decide whether to rescue his uncle or chase the Avatar. You find out later that he chose to go after Iroh. Awwwww.

Then Zuko’s crew on his ship is getting mutinous when Zuko wants to keep pressing forward after the Avatar even though it’s storming. Iroh explains to them what happened in Zuko’s past and how he was exiled, and he got all of their sympathy. Then Zuko backs down on his own, and decides that the risk to the crew isn’t worth it.

In the scene that’s also in the movie when Zuko is leaving on the dingy to sneak into the Northern Water Tribe City, Iroh tells him that Zuko has been like a son to him, ever since he lost his own son, and Zuko says, “I know, Uncle,” in a very sweet and understanding way. Dev Patel does a great job in that scene too.

So, those are some of the differences in the characters between the film and the animated series.

Here’s my WTF, though: why make such a short movie? There was so much more material to work with. Granted, like I mentioned before, geared towards kids = 90 minute movie. But honestly, they could have done so much with that extra 30 minutes.

Honestly, though, I can’t think of anything from the first season that I am disappointed wasn’t included in the movie. A lot of what was cut out had a very episodic nature to it, very much filler in a loose sense. It was all good, but not really necessary. Some of the plotlines that weren’t in the film include Katara being refused waterbending tutoring by Master Pakku in the Northern Water Tribe City because she’s a girl, Princess Yue’s political marriage engagement, several run-ins between Zuko and team Avatar,

Let me say that I only watch cartoons that are funny – Phineas and Ferb, The Penguins of Madagascar, The Simpsons – and they are all episodic. Status Quo is God. Nothing changes, no one advances, no one grows. Characters don’t change, and relationships don’t change. But Avatar: The Last Airbender is not like that. We even get previouslies before some of the episodes. They all begin where the last episode left off, with more than just plot arcs, but an actual episode-to-episode flow, like The Vampire Diaries, and True Blood, two primary examples of this form.

Oh, just to clarify, I have seen some anime. My friend was really into it, so I would watch it with her so she wouldn’t think that I was judging her for liking anime. I never really got into it, but I did make it through a couple of series, so I am not totally unfamiliar with the genre. They did have some episode flow, but still not quite like you find with Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Now, I’ll finally deal with the question of Katara and Aang. I wasn’t the only one who noticed absolutely nothing romantic between them in the movie. In fact, the comment I read was something in the general vicinity of “ […] and [Shyamalan] completely ignored any romantic tension between Aang and Katara.” Now, I think the term “romantic tension” might be a little too…I don’t know. A little too intense, a little too romantic.

It’s true, in the cartoon, there are references to the two of them as potential mates. Katara gets a little jealous when Aang spends every day with a group of adoring fangirls, but I think her indignation was more to do with him getting a big head than jealousy over the girls. Aang makes it pretty clear in more than one instance that he has a crush on Katara, though it’s still something that’s only referred to here and there, and not in every episode. I’m trying to think of things that only happened in the first season.

Katara as a brief flirtation with a guy named Jet, who turns out to be a little bit too ruthless for the gang’s tastes, so that doesn’t work out, but I don’t recall Aang ever getting jealous. In fact, Sokka was the one who never liked the guy.

At one point, Team Avatar comes across a fortuneteller whose predictions always come true. As an audience it’s never clear to us whether she’s for real or not. But Katara asks about her love life, and she is told that she will fall in love with a very powerful bender (and I assume she doesn’t mean gay guy). Aang overhears and gets very excited. Then he asks the fortuneteller about his own love life, and she essentially tells him that there is no love in his future, but that he makes his own future, so what the hell does she know. Then, later on, Sokka says to Katara that Aang is a pretty powerful bender, and she gets a significant, realizing look in her eye. There’s one other pretty big thing in the second season, but I’ll hold off on talking about that.

Anyway, I don’t know. The cartoon is pretty great – I totally love it – but the Katara/Aang thing feels a little bit forced. It just feels like they like each other out of obligation. I don’t know if she’s supposed to be older than him in the cartoon, but she is taller than him. Why do that? I mean, it’s realistic, because girls grow and mature faster than boys, but it’s not aesthetically pleasing, and this is TV we’re talking about. And I really like the idea of the Avatar having this burden that he has to carry alone. It’s sad, but it’s good drama.

My brother is such a loser…but he doesn’t look too bad without his shirt on

For the first season, there is exactly the same amount of things to be known/seen about Zuko and Azula. Although Fire Lord Ozai saying that he should “bring out your sister to beat you” (to Zuko) is a welcome innovation of the film. Azula is present during that scene, but she is not mentioned. Such foresight by the show’s writers! They really thought and planned out everything, and I admire nothing so much as I admire that. Lost tried, and failed.

One thing the animated series did a better job of during that scene was indicating why Zuko was fighting his father and not the general he had spoken out of turn to. It’s because it happened in Ozai’s war room, so the insulting behavior was towards him. The actual scene where Zuko speaks out is shown, and it’s rather disappointing. Zuko convinces Iroh that if he is going to be his father’s heir, he needs to start learning how to lead the army and whatnot, so Iroh invites him in and tells him to be quiet. The unnamed general (it’s not Zhao) is explaining how a division of new recruits is going to be sacrificed as a diversion. Zuko objects not because they’re his friends, but because he thinks it’s wrong.

Zuko and Katara have a few great moments, and the show explains that fire and water are opposites, like air and earth, so they are diametrically opposed in a way, sort of reluctant enemies.

“Oh, Zuko, you shouldn’t have! It’s beautiful.”

Zuko finds Katara’s necklace that her mother gave her after it fell off of her neck, and he carries it around, using it. They find an animal, whose handler is a lovely young lady that Zuko shows zero sexual interest in (note!) unlike his uncle, hee!

She keeps calling Katara his girlfriend, because he’s trying to find her, but really he’s trying to find Aang, of course. They face off more than once. But I definitely don’t see that headed towards romantic territory.

Well, the cartoon is sophisticated, with fantastic continuity, and I would totally recommend it to anyone who thought they could get into it. It is still a kids cartoon, with silliness, and cleanish endings, and comic characters, and animals with impossible intelligence. But it’s great! Also, there’s a lot less clothing as a general rule. Too bad they’re animated… Turns out, Agni Kai duels are done shirtless. See, the Fire Nation isn’t all bad.

Movie Questions Answered: (some factual spoilers for season 2)

Mommy Fire Lady? Alive. But not around.

Fire Royal Family Succession? Iroh is the oldest, but Ozai usurped his birthright.

Uncle Iroh’s son? Older than Zuko, died while Zuko was still a boy, so Zuko didn’t intervene to save his life the way I was hoping. Iroh lost heart after his son died, and that’s why he ended the siege on Ba Sing Se.

Zuko’s allegiance? As the second season of the cartoon begins, Zuko is still trying to capture the Avatar and still wants to return home as his father’s heir, but he and Iroh are fugitives on the run.

Katara and Sokka’s Mom? No news.

Zhao and Zuko’s rivalry? Never explained. If Zhao wanted the throne, it’s no clearer in the cartoon.

Fun Quotes From Book One

Sokka (to Katara): “You just love taking me out of my comfort zone, don’t ya?”

Aang (to Sokka): “Relax, Sokka, where we’re going, you won’t need any pants.”

Zuko (to Iroh): “My troubles cannot be soaked away!”

Sokka (to Aang, about Katara): “Why don’t you ask Miss Know-it-all, Queen of the Twigs.”

Sokka (to Katara): “I only took their side because they fed me.”

Aang (to the Zuko as the Blue Spirit): “Wait! My friends need to suck on those frogs.”

Sokka (to Aang and Katara, while feverish): “Do you know what my favorite thing about Appa is? His sense of humor.” Appa growls. “Ha! Classic Appa.”

Sokka (to Katara, while still feverish, and after Katara has put on a crown that Momo brought to her instead of the water she asked for) “Who is this Aang person you keep talking about, Your Highness?”

Iroh (to Zuko): “Where were you, Zuko? You missed music night. Lieutenant Gi sang a stirring love song.”

 Yue (to Sokka): “Is it always this cold in the sky?”

Sokka (in return): “Not when you’re with someone.”

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8 Responses to Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Cartoon – A (Friendly) Comparison (= Not A Rant) – With The Movie – Book One – Water – Extra Dash

  1. paige says:

    i think sam from icarly would be perfact for the part of Toph.

  2. Anonymous says:

    i can say that sokka and kataras mother is dead

  3. A fan says:

    Hello!
    I’m not sure if you’ll see this post but there are some things I thought to let you know. I’m telling you this not because of any self righteous defense for the anime but because your explanation of the director’s thoughts behind changing the viewpoint of the whole story made me actually “get” the movie (finally!).
    First, you know the anime came before the movie (way way before) right? I agree that it’s more comedy flavoured but anime tends to exaggerate all of human emotions. So when the characters were in their good natured self, it portrayed as very goofy.

    The anime is more layered because a person has many dimensions in him/herself and the characters coming out of the image they usually like to portray and showing their other, more deeper sides just somehow satisfies me. While I know the movie doesn’t have that many oppurtunities, but the essence should have been there. When I think about adaptations, I always compare them to Lord of The Rings and how much they could do.

    About Aang acting younger for his age, I think he is just trying to get the weight of the reality out of him that way. Something like stage of denial. Because otherwise he enters the Avatar state where he doesn’t have control over himself and is dangerous to others (see Book One, Episode three – Southern Air Temple). It’s more understood partly in the second book (when he looses Appa, thought that Katara was dead etc.) and in the third book.

    The Katara/Aaang thing is not forced at all if you think about it. Aang has lost everyone he knew and the only person who truly shows compassion is Katara. She has also just found out her father is missing so she knows where Aang is coming from. There’s no real romance at all in the first book. She see’s herself as Aang’s mother/older sister, and so does he. Sometimes like deep bonding tends to, it gradually evolved into romantic love. The shifting relationships are also shown throughout the anime for example – multiple love interests of the characters like Sokka and Zuko.

    Finally, as the original idea was for the anime, I think the anime pronunciations are the right ones as the creator meant it to be. I like them better too! And lots of anime are in “flow” episodes. If you like incest, check out Vampire Knight.

    Cheers! Your writing is awsome. Keep going!

    • Shipcestuous says:

      Thanks for your comment!!! It’s really wonderful to me to know that you read what I wrote and thought about it so in-depth. I’m really pleased that you’re sharing your thoughts and engaging me in discussion about it.

      I’m glad to hear that some of my ideas about why Shyamalan made the changes he did for the movie made sense to you.

      All of this isn’t quite as fresh in my mind as I would like it to be, let me say that first. And also: Did you see what I wrote four entries on the animated series? Because I do want it to be clear to you that I am a big fan of the animated series, I love the characters and the way they are depicted in the animated series. I just happen to also like the movie.

      You make a good point about The Lord of the Rings, and what a good job they did with the adaptation for the screen. I completely agree. But I guess the way I see it is that Shyamalan wasn’t trying to make a faithful adaptation like Peter Jackson was with LOTR. He was trying to do something slightly different, and so to say that it failed is fine, but it’s not totally fair to say it failed because it wasn’t a good adaptation because it was never really trying to be? I mean obviously he didn’t change the main points of the plot, so we can’t say it was a complete revamp. But the changes he made to the personalities of the characters (esp. Sokka and Aang) are so blaring and obvious that I truly can’t believe it wasn’t on purpose.

      Although any critique on the acting in the film or the sharpness of the dialogue I will fully agree with. I love the actors for this film but they delivered some truly awful lines in some truly awful ways.

      One thing you really did make me realize is that I shouldn’t have been so hard on the Aang/Katara love story. (I don’t ship it for the animated series either, but that’s just my personal preference.) It’s mostly a friendly, motherly (on Katara’s part), and platonic relationship during the first book, and I should have taken that into consideration when critiquing Aang and Katara’s chemistry in the movie. And of course I had a very strong Sokka/Katara bias. And I do think that Aang and Katara make sense – I do think it’s natural that they would grow to have romantic feelings for each other. I can’t argue with that. I never should have described their relationship as “forced”, even if I don’t necessarily believe that they should have ended up together, or at least even though that wasn’t what I wanted. That was definitely the Sokka/Katara bias speaking.

      I agree that changing the pronunciations of the names was a strange choice, although I stand by some of the possible explanations I suggested. I definitely think that the pronunciation handed down by the creators the characters should be considered the “correct” pronunciation.

      Thanks for the recommendation of Vampire Knight. I’ll have to check it out. And I’m glad you enjoyed my entry. Thanks again for commenting, I love it!

  4. Some Guy says:

    Wow, this was a really long article. But to my surprise, I somehow got through it all with minor fascination in your opinion be it in the form of disagreement and annoyance or agreement and joy. I’ll say, I agree with you on most of the things you have written. Aang is over a 100 years old, technically(biologically speaking he’s 12) and Katara is 14 by the way. I thought it was a bit immature of you to say Aang being shorter than Katara bothered you so much, maybe not so much immature just a little closed minded(There relationship was also never forced). I also think Iroh has a great sense of humor. He’s very possibly my favorite character. Your hard on for Zuko is also pretty funny – he is one of my favorite characters in the series.

    I never thought Uncle Iroh was ever a horn dog, at least, no more than your average adult. Maybe I’ll have to look back at that and see what you mean. Everything aside, it was a fine write up.

    • Shipcestuous says:

      Thank you! I really appreciate your honest and thoughtful opinion and I also appreciate you taking the time to comment. I obviously write very informally on this blog – including plenty of joking around and exaggeration – so nothing I’ve written should be considered an academic assertion. I’m thinking particularly of what I said about Iroh lusting after the ladies – if I remember right it was really only the one time and it was all very good-natured and humorous and probably just meant to be him admiring her beauty in a kindly way. I do have an extremely soft spot/hard on for Book I Zuko.

      It’s extremely shallow of me to be affected by the height difference between Aang and Katara – I agree 100% about that. I shared that because I wanted to be honest about the fact that I wasn’t unbiased against their romantic relationship. Also, the fact that I ship Sokka and Katara was a factor as well. I do think the two year age difference is significant when it’s 12 and 14, especially since girls enter and finish puberty at a much younger age than boys do. But I wouldn’t care if they were 15+ years apart if they were older so I can’t honestly say that bothers me.

      When I call their relationship forced, I don’t mean to say that it was constantly stuffed down on throats. I actually think it was done with a very light touch. And I certainly don’t mean to say that it didn’t make sense. I only mean that I, personally, did not feel it. It’s hard to talk about not having chemistry in a cartoon but that’s the best way I can think to describe my personal opinion about the romantic aspect of their relationship. I say forced because it was never written in a way that made me care about it or root for them to be together. It was just what happened in this sort of suffocatingly inevitable way. But I’m extremely particular about what kind of conflict I like between love interests and Aang/Katara just didn’t do it for me. I also tend to side with the Zuko/Katara shippers (even though I ship both Katara and Zuko with other characters) that Zuko/Katara is narratively more compelling – fire and water, honor and revenge, nurturer and warrior, etc. I would never say that it’s not a matter of opinion and personal taste.

      Thanks again. I really did love reading your thoughts.

  5. Paul davis says:

    I appreciate the way you wrote this . I like the tone you set and the obvious love you have for the creation comes through.

    I recognize how old this post is but since I’m currently watching the series for about the 6th or 7th time I just wanted to add one comment about the movie.

    Over the past few years since the film came out I’ve read many, many reviews by both “professional” critics and audiences and in both cases (and in the subsequent comments of these posts) people that disliked the film point out the change in name pronunciation as their number one gripe.

    The arrogance and disregard MNS showed for the source material was stunning. To think he believed himself to he the final arbitrator of how the names should be pronounced shows a breathtaking ego.
    Rather than rely on the pronunciations that the creators of the show, and the actors and every fan around the world accept as correct, he took it on himself to “correct” ALL of them. Wow.
    Until this film I was a fan of his movies but this was a slap in the face for me.

    Anyway, thanks for writing this. It’s nice to see a more level headed comparison of the film and cartoon than I’d be able to make. Cheers.

    • shipcestuous says:

      Thank you for your comments! I’m so glad you enjoyed reading this. It sounds like you are a true fan of the show, I’m honored you found it interesting to read.

      I am a big fan of Shyamalan, but I agree that it was a mistake to change the pronunciation of the names. I haven’t read up on the topic so I’m not sure what he has said about it, but I’m sure he had good reasons at the time, however it’s clear that was not well-received by the fandom and it was a bit of a bewildering change.

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