5 Things From Avatar I Wanted To See But Didn’t

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Gus is a good friend and a good writer. How is this quantified? Well, he was successful in convincing me, one of the most stubborn individuals you’ll ever meet, that I should give Avatar a chance. I refused and refused and refused, until I finally decided, “Hey, why not?” An intense marathon through the series proved that, yes, Gus is correct about pretty much everything that he says regarding Avatar. His Top 10 Misconceptions article even gets consistently more views than my counter article, meaning he can be declared the winner of that argument. However, he recently posted an article concerning 5 aspects of Avatar that everyone gets wrong, and I just couldn’t fully shut up. Therefore, I’m here today to give you a somewhat counter article to that, though in a different vein. Here are 5 Things From Avatar I Wanted To See But Didn’t.

5. An Explanation About Bending:

If I don't exit a series knowing how to perform the exact techniques in the real world, I consider that a disappointment.

I, like many nerds before me, am obsessed with continuity and specifically the lore of a specific world. I love being able to tell people that the entirety of the plot of Dragonball Z takes place during the late 700’s (it’s not our world or time). Therefore, I wanted Avatar to provide the same sort of outlet with some simple mythos beyond, “Well, Earth Nation citizens can typically bend rocks and stuff.” The series showed off some of the animals that taught the very first Benders how to do all the fancy “not-magic” with their kung fu, but we never got a formal explanation as to why it makes sense. If it means having to do away with some of the more “filler” episodes, then so be it. Heck, even if the entire episode was dedicated to telling the history via a poorly acted play, ala one of the last episodes (Gus, you’re on duty to give episode titles and such), I would have been ecstatic. Leaving some things open to interpretation is fine, but when leaving it up to interpretation also leaves potential plotholes, then I get disappointed. And speaking of…

4. Admission That Bending Is Magic:

Behold! By flexing my muscles the rock can float!

Yeah, in the first episode Katara tells Sokka that Bending isn’t magic. We know that it’s based off kung fu stances that can be performed in the real world. But there were far too many moments where Earthbenders were just hovering rocks or hurling stones through the air simply by twitching their faces (King Bumi’s escape is what I’m talking about yet again). And all of this is perfectly fine, but no one points out how Bending periodically breaks its own rules or why new forms of Bending (Bloodbending, Metalbending, etc) are discovered so rapidly. Avatar had a good sense of humor about itself, pointed out again by the episode The Ember Island Players (okay, I looked it up), but Bending itself was never mocked. I expected Sokka at some point to start pointing all the inconsistencies out at some point, but he never did, much to my disappointment. Just a simple, “Right, tell me again how face-fu isn’t magic?” That’s all I ask. But we can’t always get what we want, such as…

3. Zuko’s Mom:

Poor kid just wants his mom back!

Zuko turned out to be a pretty damned great character once he had the chance to get fleshed out a bit. No one can simply say he’s Avatar’s answer to Vegeta as his motivation is deeper and his place in the story is far more interesting. That said, there is a severe lack of resolution surrounding his mother. We learn in his backstory that she’s central to his entire character as his one stable and loving family member (before Iroh), yet by the time the series wraps up we don’t know whether she’s still alive somewhere or if she died long ago and from what. The last she’s mentioned is near the very end when Zuko asks his father where his mother is. We don’t hear the answer, nor do we really get a chance to see how Zuko really reacts to the knowledge of his mother’s whereabouts. As Gus points out, you can infer a number of things based on Zuko’s next scene, which has him laughing and smiling with his friends, but none of that makes sense. If we learn that Zuko’s mom is dead, then it’ll take him a good long while until he’s in a place where he can go back to laughing and smiling. If, however, we learn that his mother is alive and well somewhere, why keep that a secret from us? Plus, if that were true, Zuko would be dragging her everywhere so he wouldn’t lose sight of her. Even if the instance were that she’s still missing and implied to be untraceable, Zuko would be devastated. Zuko’s mom deserves resolution, even if it was a conscious decision to omit her Schrodinger status. And on the subject of characters I’d like to see…

2. More From The Lion Turtle:

Oh great and powerful Lion Turtle! Why did you never come to my birthday parties?

Everything seemed to thankfully wrap up for the kids without them being forced to needlessly murder Firelord Ozai, and it was all thanks to the great Lion Turtle. Wait, the what now? Oh yes, the creature/character that appeared at virtually the last possible second to bestow the fifth secret Bending style, that of Soulbending, or something like that. Throwing in the deus ex machina isn’t the worst thing that could have happened, but what startles me the most is how little forewarning we have that such a creature even exists at all. True, Gus will be quick to point out that the Lion Turtle is sprinkled throughout the series in the background as statues and the like, maybe referenced in a poetic fashion when the time arises, but it never feels like anything more than showing a fantasy creature that has no relevance to the plot. It’s like if I’m trying to get my car fixed at a mechanic’s and he has some pictures of dragons in the background and someone tells me that I’ve got the thick skin of a dragon, but when the bill is too high for me to pay suddenly a real dragon bursts from my car and eats the entire auto shop. If that happened, yeah, I’d be pretty freaked out. Okay, so they see freaky stuff like that all the time, sure. Then just a normal animal, like a stray cat, pops out of my car and resolves everything for me. No matter how used to these things I become, I’m still going to ask some basic questions such as “Why did you help me” and “What are you doing in my car?” Getting blindsided by the Lion Turtle bugged me because it didn’t feel like it was ever a part of the larger picture, just some strange way to wrap things up. I guess getting things wrapped up is better than no resolution at all though…

1. The Return of Airbenders:

Poor creepy old men just want their moms back!

Are Airbenders just gone now? To my knowledge, Aang is the last remaining Airbender (as the title of the show would suggest), meaning that very likely all Airbenders will now be extinct in about three more generations, if even that. The Legend of Korra gives Aang an Airbending offspring, but then we’re still left with just one last Airbender. The whole concept of the show revolves around the importance of balancing the four elements and learning to live in harmony with one another, but with the Airbenders completely wiped out, such a notion seems to be an impossibility. Perhaps the colonists living in the Northern Air Temple will learning Airbending? Even then, how will they learn how to Airbend without Flying Bison to lead through example? Appa is the last of his kind, so those are definitely extinct. Perhaps something to acknowledge the eventual return of the Airbenders, or someone just outwardly giving the depressing truth to the kids: “Sorry, you’ve done a great thing, but Airbenders are gone and because we haven’t clearly outlined the rules of the world and how Bending works, there will be no more Airbenders unless Aang gets really busy. Oh, he’s dead and just has one child? Then that child better get really busy instead.” I’m a stickler for tying up every single loose end from a writing standpoint, and not just taking the time to let the depressing truth, or fantastic miracle, wash over the audience is a severely missed moment in time. The series made me laugh and got me excited a handful of times, but this moment could have potentially pushed me to the edge of my emotions and back. Such a shame it never happened, at least not yet.

So there you have it, a few simple things I wanted to see more of while watching Avatar. But enough out of me. Did any of you have a thing or two that Avatar omitted that you really wanted to see? Or is the show perfect? Leave a comment and let me know. In the meanwhile, I have to practice my Airbending. Those Air Nomads aren’t bringing themselves back!

Want more lists? Check some of these out:

5 Aspects of Dragonball Z Everyone Gets Wrong

5 Things From DBZ I Wanted To See But Didn’t

5 Aspects of Pokemon That Make No Sense

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About Author

Chris was the former Head Writer/Editor of Toy-TMA. He did a great job overseeing the site and getting new content published regularly. Always more than willing to respond to a comment or two, but pitiless with trolls! He has since moved on from TMA, and we wish him the best.

5 Comments

  1. Just to clear things up, “Soulbending” is called, “Energybending.” Although I agree with on you on the Lion Turtle portion, Aang does mention them in 2.10 (Library ep.) so besides statues and such, the writers didn’t completely just throw in the character to help smoothly rap up the series.

  2. MacFluffers on

    I have a few thoughts on point four. First off, we have to realize two things: “magic” is a western word; and “magic”, while not having a very strict definition, does have traditions and concepts.

    This is largely semantic, but it’s worth mentioning that there’s no word that’s the exact equivalent to “magic” in eastern languages. One could argue that Shinto ofuda (paper talismans) are magic, but one can argue that it’s not, and that it’s just giving local kami polite instructions to heal a person or protect a home.

    Ultimately, whether something’s “magic” depends on your definition of the word. Since Avatar draws on eastern ideas, we can’t be sure what exactly it meant when Katara said bending wasn’t “magic”. Perhaps “magic” refers to illusion, perhaps it refers to spirits, or maybe rituals, or whatever. If they did go into greater detail into how bending worked, I suppose we could try to investigate, but alas, this is what we have to work with.

    In the west, where the word has its origins, the word used to mean something more specific than it does now. There’s geometric magic, which spawned Hermeticism; there’s lingual magic, as old as words themselves; there’s spiritual channeling, (which the Catholic Church accepted as the official definition of magic, along with claiming that all channeling involved demons); and lastly, there’s prayer and blessing, which can be considered magic under the right definition.

    My point is that none of the traditional definitions are elemental manipulation. That form of “magic” is very contemporary, and so it shouldn’t be surprising if it isn’t accepted as a type of magic in a fictional setting.

    I know your point was simply that it would have been nice to have some sort of admission of the silliness of it all, but still felt like giving my take on the “bending vs magic” deal.

  3. I forget the name of it, but there is a book out there written by the creators of the show that gives all the in’s and out’s of the things not explained in the show. One of those things is the genetics of airbenders. the air nation was dif than the others. With others some were benders some were not, where as in the air nation all of them were benders. It was a highly dominant gene. So therefor, any of Aang’s children would be air benders and all of their children would be air benders and so on. I have heard that in Korras time there is around 110 air benders. So while it’s taking a while for them to build back up they are growing. Hope that helps out.

  4. The difference is that in DBZ, there is plenty of explanation about how everything is done while still being a show that’s meant to be parody, spoofing Chinese epics and mythology and such. X-Men, over the course of all of Marvel, have done a stellar job explanation everything about the series and why people can or can’t do what they do. Avatar kept a surprisingly straight face about the central aspect of the show. And no, it doesn’t make me happy that the creators said it was magic. What’s the rule? “If we didn’t see it in the show, it didn’t happen.”

    After all Zuko’s struggling, what I wanted to see what consistency with his character, so yes, if that means he mopes for a few weeks about his mother’s permanent death, so be it. Anyone, no matter who they are, is going to be sad after losing a loved-one, at least for a month or two. The same is true for extreme joy, such as finding a long-lost mother after so many years. None of the resolution or lack-there-of concerning Zuko’s mother felt true to the character.

    True, crazy things have happened in the story, but consistency is critical if you’re going to introduce the “and now I’ve solve the plot” final aspect called the deus ex machina. Nothing suggested the Lion Turtle would be relevant, so when it appeared it just felt off, as if Aang had been running to fight Firelord Ozai and tripped over a rock, only to discover it was actually a magical stone that took away a person’s ability to bend. I’m a stickler for consistency, I just am.

    And the Airbenders not returning, sure, not critical, but no one seemed to acknowledge that it means the world is changing significantly and that the Avatar is soon going to be something of the past/that new airbenders are going to start appearing somehow. There’s story there, backstory and history of the world sort of stuff, and I hope The Legend of Korra deals with it.

  5. Fair enough Chris. Here’s my two cents

    5-4: I’m not really sure where you are going with this. I don’t really see how the way this show approached people’s powers any different than humans who can shoot laser beams from their hands in DBZ, or where powers come from in series like X-Men or Harry Potter. Some are born with these abilities. Others aren’t. The only difference is Avatar tried really hard to make the execution of those powers as physical as possible. So of course Bumi would be able to Earthbend by just twitching his face. Bending is a spiritual application body has adapted to through 112 years of practice.

    If it really bugs you that much, yes, the creators Mike and Bryan admitted in a commentary that the characters in this show are in fact magic. Happy now?

    3. So, after all of Zuko’s struggling and suffering, after all that development, after finding peace, ending a war, making friends, and finally realizing what an awesome father figure he has in Uncle Iroh, you’re saying you WANTED him to continue to being a moopy little ***** like he was for the whole first two/thirds of the series because he never found his mommy?

    “Zuko would be dragging her everywhere so he wouldn’t lose sight of her”

    I don’t agree with this in the slightest. Zuko’s a big boy who’s survived without seeing his mother for almost 7 years, at least. I think he could stand to be away from her for a day to hang out with his friends. Besides, how would it look to the Fire Nation if their Firelord was so insecure that he had to drag his mother along everywhere he went?

    2. Since at that point in the series we’ve already ran into Dragons, Giant Snow Owls, Sea Serpents, and Face-Stealing Centipedes, No, the sudden arrival of the Lion Turtle did not startle me in the slightest.

    1. That’s like complaining about the Saiyan Race never being resolved at the end of Dragon Ball. Sometimes it’s nice to have some mysteries left unsolved. It keeps them intrigued and coming back to the series, as well as encouraging the creators to come back and continue the story, which they are.

    Now, if there was one thing I wanted to see in Avatar but didn’t, it was Haru, Teo, and The Duke given some more depth and an actual purpose when they joined the Gaang after the invasion failed. What was the point of having them join the group if they were going to do absolutely nothing with them? These three characters already have enough backstory and personality that we know them pretty well, so it was quite insulting and out-of-place when the creators decided to just make them play dumb and run off so the main four who we’ve spent the entire show with don’t have to share any of their precious screen time.

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