Puella Magi Madoka Magica – Season 1, Episode 8 – “I’m Such a Fool” – The Evil of Kyubey

Madoka Magica ep 8

          This is an episode leading up to some pretty big tragedy later. It was this episode where I think the most I can expect from this show is a bittersweet end, and that’s what I like since this show it fits the world and characters. Every Magical Girl is tragic and we learn the reasons behind that and why Kyubey manipulates and what it’s role is in everything and why it forms Contracts. Suffice to say, this episode was intense.

          “I’m Such a Fool,” was directed by Tomoyuki Matsumoto, Yuuji Kondou and Takashi Kawabata and written by Gen Urobuchi.

       This episode continues with Sayaka’s self destruction as we see her refuse the Grief Seed as she doesn’t want anything for herself. She is exhausted and drained and attacks Madoka for not becoming a Magical Girl too. Things come to a head when Homura attempts to kill her to protect Madoka. Kyubey also reveals his agenda and purpose to Homura when Homura attempts to kill him again after she kills him to prevent Madoka from making a Contract.

The Pros: Kyoko – Kyoko has become noble and saves Sayaka’s life when Homura tries to kill her and sticks by her when she transforms into a Witch when Sayaka’s Soul Gem goes black. She has become a truly good character now.

Madoka – Madoka is the one who feels pulled from all sides. Sayaka says she needs her to be a Magical Girl, Kyubey says she could become God if she becomes a Magical Girl and Homura fights for her soul knowing what could happen. Her decision is yet to come as she leaves when Homura cries before her as she feels overwhelmed and alone.

Homura – Homura truly cares for Madoka and it is implied she remembers the dream that kicked off “Madoka Magica.” She is driven to protect Madoka even if it is an impossible fight as Kyubey has many lives and every form she destroys does not end it. She is the one who learns his true nature too and that he is an Incubator (Kyubey) of Witches and that Magical Girls are that pre-form.

Sayaka – Sayaka is alone, refuses help from everyone as she doesn’t trust anyone and doesn’t feel human anymore and when her Soul Gem gets fully corrupted she is turned into a Witch. It is a tragedy that shows that she was always only a tool or food for Kyubey. He made the deal with her and many others before her just to make them Witches. Sayaka’s fall is that of nobility gone wrong and why taking things on alone and being self-righteous can lead to tragedy. You have to care for yourself and recognize those who care for you.

The Evil of Kyubey – Kyubey is a bastard and a great villain. The thing is an incubator of witches and a manipulator, evil in a nutshell as he uses innnocent girls as weapons against one another (since we see in this Witches were once Magical Girls) and that Kyubey cares nothing for what he does. Seriously, this character is one of the most cruel villains in anime. Most are openly cruel and don’t use innocents so.

The Cons: Scattered Narrative – At times the narrative was scattered but when it was focused on Homura and Sayaka it was really strong. Both of these characters really drive this episode and Madoka is the only one who really brings it down as her feeling torn makes the narrative feel scattered at time and takes the focus away from Sayaka’s decline and transformation.

  This episode continues the tragic bent of the show and has a powerful message on how important it is to recognize one’s own value so that bullies like Kyubey won’t manipulate you into hurting yourself. Homura cries before Madoka to recognize her value just as Kyoko and Madoka fight for Sayaka to find and discover her own self worth. This message is powerful and keeps me watching as characters continue to change and every action has consequences.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica – Season 1, Episode 7 – “Can You Face Your True Feelings?” – Forever Alone

Madoka Magica ep 7

     I really liked this episode. “Can You Face Your True Feelings?” Lives up to it’s name and we get to get Kyoko’s backstory and even get to know Hitomi, the one friend of Madoka’s not connected to Kyubey in some way. It’s a great episode that doesn’t forget the ripping of souls from the body of a Magical Girl to create the Soul Gems that we learned last episode and we see how each of the Magical Girls deal with this reality of their state.

     The episode was directed by Ryou Kobayashi, Tomoaki Kado and Satoaki Kidokoro and written by Gen Urobuchi.

      The story picks up where we left off where Kyubey defends his methods by explaining he trades in miracles and shows Sayaka that without her soul torn she would be destroyed by the Witches and feel nothing but pain. Later Kyoko meets up with Sayaka and tells her story about the deal she made as her Father was a preacher and and how the wish ended up leading to her father killing himself and their family with only her surviving. After Hitomi approaches Sayaka and confesses her feelings for Kamijou leaving Sayaka full of guilt and regret with her only friend she can be honest with being Madoka.

The Pros: Kyubey – Kyubey is an alien. He doesn’t understand what it means for a person to be seperated from their soul and maybe this is because He isn’t human which Homura thinks, or maybe he chooses not to because it would break whatever illusions and agenda Kyubey has. Suffice to say though Kyubey is controlling, he puts Sayaka in pain in order to show her why what he did was right…not a good creature.

Hitomi – Hitomi shows that she has integrity. After Sayaka healed Kamijou she wants Sayaka to confess her feelings first since they are friends and she sees that Sayaka has watched him longer. She has good intentions but it breaks Sayaka as Sayaka realizes that now that she’s a “Zombie” she can never share that connection again.

Homura – Homura is the observer again and we see her check in with Kyoko who now is no longer trying to hurt Sayaka, and she defends Kyubey explaining that he is alien and that is why he doesn’t get that the tearing of souls from the body is bad.

Madoka – Madoka is also an observer this episode but she is active too. When Sayaka needs a friend she is there and is the one person taking on everyone else’s pain. I don’t see her becoming a Magical Girl anytime soon as we see at the end that becoming a Magical Girl has finally broke Sayaka just like it did to Mami and Kyoko.

Kyoko – Kyoko’s story is a tragedy and a powerful one at that. Kyoko’s father was in charge of a Church got other ideas and began preaching his own ideas which lead to them becoming homeless and alone before she made the deal with Kyubey for people to listen to her father. This lead to her Father becoming famous but going mad in the end when he finds out what Kyoko did and kills his family leaving only her alive, he labeled her a Witch before the end which she sees as ironic given her job as a Magical Girl. It’s a really tragic story and we see how caring she is of Sayaka. She pretends she doesn’t care but chooses to care even letting Sayaka fight a witch and only joining in at the end to save her. Sayaka’s pain and wish for another is something she can relate too. It’s why she does whatever she wants since she no longer has anyone.

Sayaka – Sayaka finds herself forever alone as she loses everything…she loses Kamijou when she knows she can’t be with him and her friend Hitomi wants to be with him, she loses the connection to herself too after Kyoko’s story and being hurt by Kyubey as we see her say detachment makes it so there isn’t any pain as she kills the Witch she was facing off against. It is in that moment she loses Madoka as Madoka cries knowing she can no longer reach her and the Sayaka who was around before exists no longer.

    This episode captures the tragedy of what it means to be a Magical Girl really well. From Kyoko’s tragic backstory, to Sayaka losing everyone and herself in the end. These are young girls put into combat and trauma through how they are created and what their job is…and the one who creates them is indifferent and thinks it is justified. This is the tragedy of it all and why Madoka resisting is a good thing. This episode really shows why Homura wants to keep others from making the Contract.

Final Score: 10 / 10. Perfect episode.

Gone Home – An Amazing Game of Love, Mystery and Relationships

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        I’ve never been one for games that are purely exploration. Often times I find them overly convoluted and confusing and the gameplay tiring. It’s one reason I could never get into the “Myst” series…Though I am willing to give that series another chance as one of my favorite games is an exploration game, “Journey.” “Gone Home” is also a favorite after playing it last night, though mostly because of how immerse the story is. Suffice to say, if you like a good mystery and powerful story, chances are you will like this game.

      The game was developed Fullbright, designed by Steve Gaynor and composed by Chris Remo. The game is in the style of a first person interactive story adventure game.

     The story involves Kaitlin Greenbriar who has returned home after being gone for a long time traveling and studying abroad in Europe. When she arrives to the home her family had recently moved into she finds that everyone in her family is missing and must piece together the mystery of what happened as well as the mystery surrounding her Uncle Oscar who owned the house before.

From here on there are spoilers.

The Pros: The Soundtrack – Chris Remo did a great job on the soundtrack! There is the haunting sounds in the house combined with punk rock music and jazz when you put cassette tapes into tape players around the house. It gives the mansion a lived in feel beyond the graphics and items you interact with.

The Graphics – The graphics are fantastic! The house is beautifu/l and it is haunting as you are trapped inside with no way to contact the outside world as the phones are down because of the storm. There are also tons of rooms that are really detailed. From the bedroom of your little Sister Samantha who is the character who learn the most about and your father’s study as well as your mother’s sewing room. Each room has a distinct personality that the graphics portray really well. This also includes the hidden rooms that have a really scary feel to them and feel like they’re out of “Silent Hill” at times.

The House – As described above, the house is wonderful and has so much personality to it. From the hidden rooms with abandoned crosses and a safe, to Sam’s rockstar room, to the ornate bedroom and study of the parents. The house feels real and mysterious and is pretty much a character all on it’s own. Wanting to learn more about what it revealed was a big part of what kept me playing.

The Story – The story is amazing! There are a few stories that you get in the overacing narrative. Your Mom has a crush on one of the Ranger’s she works with and is having marriage problems with the father who was possibly molested by Uncle Oscar and lives in shame of his father’s expectations of him as an author as he largely rights pulp…and Oscar’s store going under and his seeking redemption from his Sister for what he did.

The Prime story is that of Sam and her girlfriend Lonnie. The story involves Sam accepting she loves Lonnie and expressing that through her story of Captain Allegro and the First Mate who go on adventures together and are lovers. Her parents are religious though and they don’t believe her when she comes out to them and put her under house arrest. Later when they go to work on their relationship at a retreat, Lonnie leaves the military and runs away with Sam and you find the Journal entries that describe all of Sam’s experiences of learning how much she loves Lonnie, her being an outcast at school and her past friendship with Danny and making peace with herself enough to the point that she can leave home and make a life with the woman she loves. Katie is the one who learns all of this and we see and hear it through her experiences of discovering the mystery of why the house is empty.

The Characters – Uncle Oscar – His ghost haunts the house but it isn’t literal. He probably molested Terry (the Father of Sam and Katie) as we see Terry’s height measured throughout the years but stops at age 12 in 1963, which relates directly to the stories Terry writes about JFK and the assassination of him. He is not a good person and though he seeks redemption and has regret, we have no reason to trust him. I put this character as a pro because he reveals Terry to us in regards to Terry’s drinking and trust issues and also we see how Lonnie and Sam are ghost hunters as well as they try and get rid of what they see as his ghost haunting the house.

The Parents – Terry is insecure and drinks a lot and has a powerful artistic mind. His niche market even catches on with Time Travel and the Assassination of JFK. We don’t really know his relationship to his wife though and sadly his rejection of his daughter (whether from his experience with Uncle Oscar (not realizing that Pedophilia and Homosexuality are two very different things) or his insecurity in his marriage lead him rejecting Lonnie and Sam (or his religious belief, “Bibles” are all over the house). The Mom is pretty driven too as she gets promoted in Oregon in the Forest Service is maybe having an affair with Ranger Rick and sews and is in contact writing letters with one of her old friends. She’s also an immigrant from Canada. We see she’s supportive of her husband even though she is exploring another option. The marriage is complicated but I get her doubts given the amount her husband drinks and his doubts and we don’t know if he ever shared what happened when he was 12. They are off at a Marriage Retreat when Katie returns home though.

Sam and Lonnie – Sam and Lonnie are pretty distinct and awesome characters. Sam is quite and an artist who finds her voice both in coming out to her folks and when she runs away with Lonnie. Lonnie is tough and independent and is a singer in a band and is all about self improvement via her nearly joining the military. They are pulled apart at one point as Sam is looking at Reed College since she has a scholarship and Lonnie is joining the military. After Sam comes out to her parents though they choose each other. They are reckless but committed and it makes them very human and my favorite characters in this.

The Message – The message is one of equality and love and it is powerful. We see two people who are willing to risk everything for one another since who they are has been rejected by their parents. It’s powerful and shows just how rejected they were. The time period is the 90’s but in some families in the United States an LBGTQ relationship would still be seen as wrong and be rejected and not seen as love even when love is there. This message speaks to the affect that has on people. If Lonnie’s or Sam’s parents had accepted their relationship, they would not have run away as they’d feel they had a safe space to be together and themselves.

Okay/Pro: The  Gameplay – The gameplay is good but not great. There were many times I wish I could have explored more objects or learned more of what each object meant. For example, your father’s novels about the “JFK Assisination” where a Time Traveler goes back in time to stop it and later on wants to save himself was a story I wanted to read. This story is a glimpse into your Father’s life just as “Captain Allegro and the First Mate” are glimpses into who your sister Sam is. I also wish you could go outside so there would be more than just the feel of danger as you explore the house.

Okay: Katie – Katie is a cipher and we don’t get much of her personality beyond her love of adventure and her family. I wish we could have got her thoughts about Sam and Lonnie running away and if she accepted them and loved them the way her parents never could. Still we get some characterization, I just wanted more.

   I played the game in full with my partner playing a few places in it. She had played it earlier and I am extremely grateful she introduced this game to me and that I got to play and discuss it with her. It was a story we could relate to in many ways and the characters were so real. When I started to play it was hard for me to put down, which is one reason I consider it a favorite game. The gameplay was good enough that it didn’t interfere with the story and it was still a puzzle and discovery game rather than an interactive movie. I highly recommend this game and not because of the story message, it is a great game and one of the beset I’ve finished in a while.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10

Puella Magi Madoka Magica – Season 1, Episode 6 – “This Just Isn’t Right” – A Matter of the Soul

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     “This Just Isn’t Right” is a great episode at showing the limitations of Magical Girls, the complexities of their relationship to one another and the nature of their Soul Gem and what it means in regards to who they are before they are killed. It’s a good episode, though I wouldn’t call it great. It is more concerned with worldbuilding than the overall plot it feels like. But I’ll get into more of that later in the review.

    The episode was directed by Fujiaki Asari, Jun’ichi Fukunaga and Hitoshi Miyashima and written by Gen Urobuchi.

      The story picks up where we left off with Kyoko stopped by Homura where Homura knocks out Sayaka and berates Madoka for being a fool. Later Homura visits Kyoko when she sees Kyoko as the best bet for the arrival of “Walpurgisnacht.” Things come to a head later on when Kyoko acts on her own to egg Sayaka into a fight and is only stopped by the arrival of Madoka and later Homura where Kyubey than reveals the nature of the Soul Gems.

The Pros: Kyoko – Kyoko is actually really good in this one. We see that she is crazy but in control of herself and it is that control that she is not willing to give up. When Madoka throws away Sayaka’s Soul Gem which leads to Sayaka appearing dead Kyubey says that Sayaka is the Soul Gem which is how they fight witches which leads to Kyoko turning on Kyubey realizing that her soul was torn from her body.

Homura – Homura reveals herself to once again be good as she saves Sayaka’s life by recovering her Soul Gem before leaving. Her agenda is met too as now all of them distrust Kyubey minus Sayaka.

Sayaka – Sayaka begins under pressure as Kyubey says she needs to get more Grief Seeds to get stronger and that should be her aim. This promotes the selfishness of the Magical Girls but Sayaka’s is firmly Kyubey’s currently. We later see her stalking the boy she saved wit her wish before Kyoko eggs her into a fight. We learn this episode that Sayaka stands as a protector for all and against all enemies of humanity be they Witch, Familiar or Magical Girl. When she loses her Soul Gem she is knocked out and when she has it again does not know what happened.

Madoka – Madoka learns from her Mom that people drink because of pain and that’s the nature of being grown up so Madoka should make mistakes earlier, especially if it protects the people she loves like Sayaka. It’s a powerful scene and you see just how deep their relationship is with Madoka’s mother telling her to hurry and grow up than so they can drink together. Madoka is reckless we see as she doesn’t know what throwing away a Soul Gem does and nearly kills her friend in trying to stop her friend from being killed. When she realizes what the Soul Gem is we see her crying in surprise and pain.

Kyubey – Don’t trust Kyubey, he’ll tear your soul out of your body and make you a weapon of his will. Even the insane Kyoko doesn’t trust him now. This scene made me happy as the sooner Kyubey is out of the picture, the better. Kyubey is just like a Witch in almost every way and that scene of a large Kyubey like force facing off against Homura is troubling to say the least.

The Cons: The Narrative – The narrative is all over the place this episode and I wish it would have focused on Homura or Sayaka. Because it is split it brings the episode’s quality down and makes it harder to focus on the story.

     This episode like the last one is mostly setup, but it does a good job of it. It is because it is a setup that it is brought down though. It can’t focus on a single character or point so there are a few throughout which takes away from it’s overall power. Still, great to see an episode with Magical Girls outside of Homura turning on Kyubey.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10.

Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 1 “Water,” Retrospect – The Losses That Drive Us

 Book_1_-_Volume_2

“Avatar: The Last Airbender” had a great Book 1. There was only one episode that I considered weak was “The Great Divide.” The rest of the episodes were at the very least good even if there were some things that could have been explored more. What made Book 1 “Water,” so great were the characters and their arcs and the themes that certain episodes explored as well as the overarching theme of the Book.

Zuko_begs

The Pros: The Soundtrack – The Track Team did a fantastic job with the soundtrack to the series of Book 1. From the ending theme, to the haunting sound whenever loss or death was faced or the drum beats during chase sequences…the music only ever added to the story.

The Animation – I really liked the animation for this show, it was one of the first things that drew me in as each character has a distinct style and the world is all the richer because of it. Bryan Konietzko and his team really did a great job on this series and Book 1 highlights this.

The Action – From the first fight with Zuko and Aang to the Siege of the North and all the smaller fights and duels inbetween. Every fight Zuko was in was one to see and seeing Katara become a Master Waterbender was great too as she continued to get the point of besting her enemies.

The Writing – The writing was amazing, this is a kids show and the characters were real as well as whether they were complex or static…the reasons behind what they did or believed were mostly explained. There was also so much showing rather than telling which made it so great.

The Characters – The characters of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” are amazing and we see that all of them are complex in different ways or at the very least compelling on their own. Whether it’s the strength of Suki, the wisdom of Iroh or the pride of Zhao we see characters who may not change but who give us so much in how they interact with Team Avatar. This even goes for the minor characters as well like Jet, Chief Amook and Master Pakku as well.

The Character Arcs – The character arcs of Book 1 are powerful and mean something. So much of it is dealing with trauma and growing from the loss. Whether it’s Aang’s abandoning his role to embracing it over the course of the Book and his learning responsibility, Sokka learning compassion, Zuko learning to depend on more than anger and Katara learning humility. These are just some of the changes that happen in our characters and their arcs.

The Themes – There are quite a few themes that Book 1 covers, genocide in the destruction of the Air Nation, colonization Earth Nation’s relationship to Fire Nation cities upon their land, equality and justice and the fight for it in relationship to Kanna and Katara in regards to the Northern Water Tribe and countless others in regards to justice and war and what it means to be good. This themes go throughout the series but are introduced really strongly here.

Gan_Jin_vs._Zhang

The Cons: Simplifying Cultures or Characters – “The Great Divide” was the worst at this which is why I used the image from it above, though the non-existent Northern Water Tribe politics and the existence of the character Hahn also fit this description. This was the only thing that really brought down this season.

ATLA 1 19

        The first season of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” ends strong and is solid all the way through. Throughout the drive from loss humanizes the characters as we see Aang deal with the loss of his people, Katara and Sokka with the loss of their mother and so much of their tribe and Zuko with the loss of his Nation. All of them are driven by these losses to try and write the wrongs as best they see fit, all the while striving towards good. They lose more in the process and all the while grow. The ending of Book 1 is one of the more tragic endings in any animated series and really captures what makes this series so great. Loss is never seen as something to be avoided when it is tackled and the important themes like genocide are at the forefront of the series and the First Book. If you like great animated shows, you won’t be disappointed by “Water.”

Final Score: 9 / 10. Solidly great even with the weaker episodes.

Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 1 “Water,” Episode 20 – “The Siege of the North Part 2″ – Imbalance and Sacrifice

Koizilla_destroys_the_Navy

   I really liked the Finale of Book 1, “Water.” The Finale episode to be precise as the questions surrounding the invisible Northern Water Tribe politics were pushed to the side and the Spirit World was brought to the forefront and we got to see the loyalties of all our characters displayed, and where those loyalties came together. We also get Kaiju Aang when we see that you shouldn’t underestimate the power of a pissed of Spirit Fish.

    “The Siege of the North Part 2″ was directed by Dave Filoni and written by Aaron Ehasz.

      The story picks up where we left off with Zuko running off with Aang’s body which leads to Team Avatar (including Yue) going to search for where Zuko took him. At the same time Zhao attacks and talks about his plan to kill the Moon to end the threat of Waterbending for good, and to fulfill his own pride….as all this is going on and the Siege continues Aang journey’s into the Spirit World where he meets Roku who tells him he must seek out Koh who is older than the Spirit and Ocean and will know how to find them.

The Pros:

ATLA 1 20

Koh – Koh is one of my favorite characters in the Avatar Universe. Koh doesn’t care about anything but stealing faces and no doubt the power that comes with it, but Koh has rules. If you show no emotion, Koh can’t steal your face. Koh tries to frighten Aang and tells about how a past Avatar tried to kill him because Koh stole the face of his girlfriend but Aang doesn’t flinch so Koh describes how the Spirits took the form of Fish swimming in the form of Yin and Yang. After Aang leaves he ominously promises that they will meet again. Koh has a great design, looking like a centipede and constantly changing faces of all the faces that have been stolen. I had high hopes for Koh appearing and playing a major role in Korra, which I’ll go into when I do my “How I would have done “Legend of Korra” if I’d been the showrunner.”

The Spirit World – We see a Baboon spirit meditating and Roku’s spirit tells Aang to seek Koh for answers. The area is like a giant forest and the dark tree where Koh is looks very dark and threatening. The Spirit World is really well done, it is easy to get lost and the Spirits are like animals but not completely.

Admiral Zhao – Zhao found a library long ago where he learned that the Ocean and Moon spirits had physical bodies and could be destroyed, it was this reason that he knew victory was possible over the Northern Water Tribe and he nearly succeeds too. If he had killed the Ocean Spirit as well Aang could not have been possessed by it, but before that he is victorious for a while. He also loses to Zuko again showing that in the end his pride and hubris are what defeats him as the Ocean Spirit pulls him into the Spirit World for what he did to the Moon.

Zuko – Zuko finds some level of balance at the end. The story ends with him being tired after Katara soundly defeats him and they rescue Aang. Aang later rescues Zuko so he doesn’t freeze and after Zuko defeats Zhao again he leaves with Iroh, no longer obsessed with the Avatar and only feeling tired after how battered and abused he has become and seeing Zhao’s life as a warning sign of what he could become.

Iroh – Iroh has crossed into the Spirit World we learn in this episode, which says a lot about Iroh’s character. This is a man who has so much balance he can pass into a world that is extremes and chaos where your worst enemy is yourself or spirits far more ancient than the Ocean and Moon. Iroh also tries to stop Zhao after Zhao kills the Moon following up on his word of whatever Zhao did to the Spirits, he would do to him much worse. We also see him at peace knowing Zuko, at least for now will not be consumed.

Minor Character Moments – Chief Amook tells Sokka of his dream and how he saw this day coming and how much he misses his daughter, even though he is proud of her. Pakku’s moments where he makes Katara a Master is also a great moment too, worthy of comment.

The Siege of the North – The Siege of the North is revealed in all it’s glory this episode. We see Fire Nation tanks, Master Pakku going full Master with a tornado of water around him, we see legions of troops breaking through the Ice Walls and with the rise of the Moon the Fire Nation fought back, until the Moon is destroyed and the Fire Nation rises again…until Kaiju Aang who is possessed by the angry Ocean Spirit annihilates them all. It’s a powerful battle and so much happens.

Team Avatar – We see Team Avatar be pretty active in this. From Sokka active on the battlfield, to his sorrow at his good-bye to Yue and the moment of hope where Sokka, Aang, Momo and Katara pose looking at the Moon after Zhao is defeated. Pakku says that Katara is now a Waterbending Master now and that she will be the one to train Aang while Sokka has truly come into his own as the leader of the group.

The Tragedy of Princess Yue – Princess Yue saves her people, but ceases to be human in the process. In doing so she loses the man she loves for an event that was going to happen if Chief Amook’s dream is to be believed. This is her tragedy that in trying to find a way to break destiny, it was taken from her. She had no choice because no else had been touched by the Moon and could give the Moon life again. The Spirits aren’t very good at contingency plans. Her people live, Zhao’s defeated, but a young girl loses the life she could have lived and the man she loved (Sokka).

Fire Lord’s Command – The last scene we see related to the Fire Nation is the Fire Lord Ozai telling his daughter Azula that Iroh is a traitor and that Zuko has failed in his task leaving the unspoken task up to her. It has so much threat behind it and is a great set up of things to come.

   The theme of this episode is how imbalance consumes (Zhao loses everything in the end and is condemned to the Spirit World in the process as well as Zuko’s constant loss everytime he gets Aang) the other theme of sacrifice is strong too. It is Yue’s sacrifice that really saves the day as it establishes balance again and her people can protect themselves once more from threats like the Fire Nation. It’s great and the theme of balance that is so strong in this Universe really comes through, as well as the sign of the battle not being over yet with the Fire Lord’s ominous order.

Final Score: 10 / 10. Perfect episode.

Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 1 “Water,” Episode 19 – “The Siege of the North Part 1″ – Songs of Ice and Fire

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        “Avatar: The Last Airbender” does Finales really well. In the 1st Part of this 2 Part Finale we get the building of relationships, specifically of Princess Yue and Sokka as well as Aang’s relationship to his Team and establishing the threat of Admiral Zhao and the Fire Nation really well. The build is constant and doesn’t stop until the end in the Finale Part. This is the review of the First Part though so I will focus on that.

     “The Siege of the North Part 1″ was directed by Lauren MacMullan and written by John O’Bryan.

     The episode begins with Yue and Sokka dating and getting to know one another better when all that is interrupted with the arrival of Admiral Zhao’s fleet. Aang attacks and manages to destroy 12 ships but not before he realizes just how outmatched he is and that he needs to find another way if he is going to win, which leads to him seeking out the Spirit World for help. Elsewhere Zuko infiltrates the the Northern Water Tribe to capture Aang and Sokka meets Yue’s betrothed.

The Pros: Iroh – Iroh is the word of warning to Zhao as Zhao sees them as making history and ending Water Nation culture for good after this battle. Iroh treats Zhao with empathy though as he remembers all he has lost and that history is not always kind to it’s subjects.

Admiral Zhao – Zhao does a good job in his attack and we see his arrogance on full display when he is attacking. His true colors and depths he’s willing to go for victory are not witnessed until next episode though.

Master Pakku – The guy has calmed down a lot and considers Katara his best pupil. We see him congratulate her and this plays a part later in Part 2 as in Part 1 she is largely shown to be the focused one to Aang’s crazy which deeply annoys Master Pakku.

Chief Amook – We never get why he likes Hahn but he continues to trust Sokka, both having him prep his troops for infiltrating the Fire Nation’s army and also when he asks Sokka to protect Yue.

Sokka – Sokka is shown to have class as he stands up to Hahn’s objectification of Yue and only seeing her for the benefits he’ll get from the relationship and his sensitivity whenever he is with Yue. They are friends who became very quickly more than friends by sharing one another’s worlds.

Princess Yue – Princess Yue is the woman trying to make her own path in a world where most of her decisions have already been made for her. Sokka is that freedom to take a different path and it puts so much conflict on her. Her focus on having a different path that still looks after her people is in becoming a member of Team Avatar too, as she brings Aang to the Spirit Oasis where Tui and La are and tells the story of how the Ocean and Moon Spirits are Yin and Yang and keep the world in balance as they are constantly pulling and pushing against each other as well as the story of how the Moon was the first Waterbender and taught it to the Northern Water Tribe.

Katara – Katara is the cool headed one to Aang’s lack of focus and energy and we see her treated with the respect she’s earned as Pakku’s best pupil. We also see her being Aang’s protector and defeating Zuko until the sun rises and Zuko’s bending, which is now stronger, knocks her out.

Zuko – We see Zuko’s drive and intelligence again when he infiltrates the North. For one he notices that the Turtle Seals need air when they went into a cave so follows them which eventually leads him to the North. He then manages to defeat Katara showing how much he has advanced, and we see his Pride when he describes his people as the Sun before he takes Aang who has passed into the Spirit World.

Aang – Aang feels pretty powerless this episode. He defeats 12 ships but Zhao’s fleet is so large he feels like there is nothing he can do. This leads to Yue taking him and Katara to the Spirit Oasis, where he meditates into the Spirit World when he is the Yin and Yang in the Fish swimming in unison.

The Cons: Hahn – Yue’s betrothed is a dick, there is nothing to like this guy which I see as bad writing. He can be imperfect without making Sokka look good by default. The guy is a tool and is a character who no one is rooting for. He’s arrogant, doesn’t listen to anyone and we never get the reasons why he was betrothed. What does Yue’s family get out of this? They’re already the leaders of the Northern Water Tribe.

Northern Water Tribe Politics – See Hahn, Yue keeps saying that Sokka doesn’t understand, but we aren’t given any reasons to understand either. It just makes the drama feel contrived, especially since Yue has a much bigger destiny in store.

  This was a really good episode, except for how Hahn is a needlessly shallow antagonist and that the politics behind his character’s existence are never explained. The ominous ending is wonderful though with Zuko leaving into the snow carrying Aang who has left his body and is still in the Spirit World. The moments with Sokka and Yue are great too, as well as the Zuko moments where we see just how much of a threat he really is.

Final Score: 8.6 / 10.