hymnia: (Avatar group hug)
I’m finally on the home stretch, with the first part of the four-part finale. Yay!

Chapter 18: Sozin’s Comet, Part 1: The Phoenix King )

Commentary track )

hymnia: (Avatar group hug)
Commentary track on “The Southern Raiders”, including Dante Basco )

Commentary track on “The Ember Island Players”, including Jack DeSena and Jessie Flower )


I don't have much to say about Ember Island Players, so I'm not going to post a separate review of it. I think it's clever that the creators managed to come up with a creative way to review the story before the finale, and I like the way they poke fun at their show, its genre, and fan reactions/expectations. But the best part of the episode is how the characters react to their own past actions and to each other's. My favorite examples of this are:
  • The awkward look Aang and Zuko give each other when the Blue Spirit “rescues” actor Aang, who pronounces him “my hero”. (In a bizarre twist, the play stages it as the Blue Spirit rescuing Aang from Prince Zuko.)
  • The pained look on Zuko's face when he watches his actor self betray his uncle in Ba Sing Se and Katara asks if he really said those horrible things to Iroh.
  • The horrified looks of all the characters when they watch their own defeat at the hands of Azula and Ozai.
In general I love Zuko's reactions the best in this episode. Of all the characters, he has the most to look back on with shame and regret, and the faces he makes as he watches the show range from priceless to heart-breaking. I like the way Toph cheers him up during the intermission, too. :)

All that's left now is the four-part finale. I haven't decided yet how I'm going to break up the posts, but right now I'm leaning toward one for parts 1-2, one for parts 3-4, and one for all the commentary tracks, so a total of three posts. I reserve the right to change my mind, though. :P

hymnia: (Katara bend not break)
I mentioned in my spoiler addendum to my review of “The Firebending Masters” that the set of episodes starting with that one and ending with this one is a series of “field trips” in which Zuko has an adventure with each of the original members of the Gaang—that is, the three that he chased across the globe in Season 1. Later, in “Sozin's Comet, part 1” Toph complains that she doesn't get a field trip—but she doesn't need one, since she has no real grudge against Zuko, no painful history with him that needs to be undone like the others had. It is the original three (and not Toph, Suki, or any of the auxilliary characters) that Zuko most needs to bond with. Or it might be more accurate to say that they need to bond with him. All three field trips serve to connect Zuko to one other member of the Gaang by exploring what they have in common and what they can learn from each other. Let's review!

Aang and Zuko's field trip )

Sokka and Zuko's field trip )

The most emotionally intense field trip is saved for last. Zuko's common ground with Katara is more complex than what he shared with Aang or Sokka. In this episode, we revisit the moment they bonded over the loss they share—having their mothers taken from them by the Fire Nation—but this time, the angle is shared anger rather than shared sorrow. Zuko, in an effort to prove his worth to Katara, offers her something the others can't. He not only offers inside knowledge about the Fire Nation that helps to identify her mother's murderer, but he also affirms her anger and her need for justice—or at the least, for closure.

Ever since Zuko came, Katara has been in an almost constant fury—her face set in a rough and cruel expression, her body language tense and hard. She casts her blame on him. Why does she do this? And why does she grieve for her mother in a way that Sokka does not?

Chapter 16: The Southern Raiders )

This review ended up being a bit long, so I'm going to save the commentary track highlights for my next post, which will probably be combined with my review of “The Ember Island Players”.

hymnia: (Mai waiting)
This story arc could be summarized: “Sokka and Zuko go on a bachelor's getaway to deal with manly stuff like lost honor and daddy issues—only to find that they need their girlfriends more than ever.” XD

Chapters 14 and 15: The Boiling Rock )

This episode didn't have a commentary track, so I'm not making a separate post for it. I also don't have any friends or family members I expect to read this that need to stay spoiler-free, so don't worry about posting spoilers in the comments section. (I've also dropped the kiss count; I decided it was kind of silly.)

hymnia: (This much)
I know I haven't been updating much—but I have been keeping up with my new blog, so if Japanese language and culture interests you, remember to keep checking Hymnia Monogatari for updates.

But I had a couple of other things I wanted to write about, so...here I am. I've been in an Avatar: The Last Airbender mood lately, thanks mainly to the early online release of the opening episodes of The Legend of Korra on Korra Nation. And I've been re-watching the original series with my mom, so that she can watch Korra with me and be all up to date. We're now on the first couple episodes of Season 3. When we get to the place where I left off my long-abandoned re-watch posts, I will go ahead and finish those up. (Finally!) Also, I belatedly got my hands on The Promise: Part 1, which I read a day or two ago.

Thoughts on The Promise (spoilers for Part 1) )
The Legend of Korra (spoilers for first two episodes) )

The Good Friday media gap

The other thing I wanted to post about—and this may seem like a bit of a non-sequitur after rambling about ATLA, but it is Good Friday, after all—was John 19:38-42. I was reading this passage about Jesus' burial last night, and it occurred to me that most films or other media that deal with the story of Jesus (whether as the main story like in Jesus Christ Superstar, or a side story like in Ben-Hur) don't really deal with this part, AFAIR. They usually focus on Jesus' ministry and/or death, and the burial/waiting period is usually completely skipped, with the resurrection sometimes tacked on like an afterthought. I guess writers must find it all a bit anti-climatic to deal with the burial and resurrecion after the crucifixion, an emotionally intense scene with much more physical action. Anyway, I think somebody should pick up the slack and write a film that focuses on the post-crucifixion story—because there's actually quite a bit of material with all the post-resurrection appearances, not to mention room for embellishment on all the disciples' reactions to Jesus' death.

Hmm...did I just release a Bible fanfic plot bunny? 0_o

hymnia: (Aang dragon dance)
After a very long hiatus, I'm back to my Avatar re-watch project. The irony is that I've actually had two nearly-completed episode reviews sitting around on my hard drive for...um, over two years! But Mark Oshiro (of Mark Reads/Watches) has now passed me up with his ATLA reviews, so I thought I'd better get a move on, and finish what I started.

A couple of notes on the format:

1. In the home stretch, I've decided to do two episodes at a time, so that I can really dwell on all of my favorite moments from the series' dénouement.
2. I’m also going to write about each episode in the style of a review, rather than just doing a drive-by reaction the way I used to. (This is the main reason why this post has been held up for TWO YEARS.)
3. Just a reminder: I will do one spoiler-free review that only contains info through the current episode, and then I will do a second post with anything I may have to say that relates to later episodes. Please keep comments to *this* post spoiler-free.
4. I'll still include info from the commentary tracks, as appropriate, but I'm going to put all commentary info in the spoiler post.

Chapter 12: The Western Air Temple )
Chapter 13: The Firebending Masters )


P.S. Remember to keep comments to this post SPOILER-FREE. Spoiler-y comments can go on the next post.
hymnia: (Hotaru flies)
I just wanted to repost here a comment I made to [livejournal.com profile] spin1978 about anime-to-film adaptations. Of course, this line of thought flows partly from the general adaptation-fail (not just the racefail) of The Last Airbender, but it's largely inspired by an interesting point that Ebert--himself a fan of Hayao Miyazaki's anime films--brought up in his review of TLA. Here's the relevant quote:

The first fatal decision was to make a live-action film out of material that was born to be anime. The animation of the Nickelodeon TV series drew on the bright colors and "clear line" style of such masters as Miyazaki, and was a pleasure to observe. It's in the very nature of animation to make absurd visual sights more plausible.

Since "Airbender" involves the human manipulation of the forces of air, earth, water and fire, there is hardly an event that can be rendered plausibly in live action. That said, its special effects are atrocious. The first time the waterbender Katara summons a globe of water, which then splashes (offscreen) on her brother Sokka, he doesn't even get wet. Firebenders' flames don't seem to really burn, and so on.

I'm not sure if this is the sort of problem [livejournal.com profile] spin1978 had in mind when he made the offhand comment to me that "most [anime] would be better left as anime," but it's what I immediately thought of. So here is my response:

To me, that's kind of like saying since novels are almost always better than their respective film adaptations, they'd be "better left as books". I can't really fault people for wanting to try taking a good story and changing it from one medium to another. But changing media successfully is tough. Hollywood has had many years of practice at changing book-to-film, and so it has managed to eek out a fair number of successful adaptions (at the cost of a huge number of failures, of course). In recent years, it's also starting to get the hang of Western comics to film adaptations.

Manga/anime to film adaptations, though, it has very little practice with, so of course it's understandable to be skeptical that they can pull it off. I prefer to be a little more hopeful. I realize that one of the trickiest challenges they will face (if they're smart enough to realize it) is how to translate fantastical and even absurd images that are easier to believe in animated form into something realistic-looking enough for live-action. I can only begin to guess how that problem might be solved, but I think it's worth a try. They might consider borrowing the approach of some of the better Western comics to film adaptions like the Batman Begins/Dark Knight series, since those were dealing with essentially the same problem. How, for example, can you take a character like The Joker and put him in "real life" and make him seem realistic rather than cartoony? Well, you cast a good actor who can play a nuanced villain, and put him in makeup that looks like the amateur job a real psychotic criminal would put on himself, rather than what a professional Hollywood makeup artist would put on an actor.

I've heard that Tolkien didn't want his books to be made into live-action films, either, for essentially the same reason. Well, he died before the technology that made it possible even existed. But technology alone is not enough--a successful adaption has to balance respect for the source material with a willingness to make changes where needed to make the story appropriate to the new medium. That's something Peter Jackson and his team did very well. The films weren't perfect, of course, but they were very good--and hugely successful as a result. I'd say most of the Potter franchise came close enough to the right balance, too.

Anyway, I'm not going to rule out the possibility that Hollywood can make good film adaptations of popular anime. Between technology and a few smart decisions--like The Joker's makeup job--and, of course, sensible casting (which means, in the vast majority of cases, that they're going to have to start grooming good Asain-American actors instead of whitewashing stories that are clearly steeped in East Asian culture), I do think it's possible.

[livejournal.com profile] peachespig also brought up the problem of squeezing a large amount of story (20 epsidoes, in the case of TLA) into one feature-length film. This is, of course, also a problem with novel-to-film, and even MORE of a problem with Western comics-to-film. Again, I don't think this problem is insurmountable, and I think considering how much broader of an audience can be reached by live action films compared to anime (which has grown over the past 20 years from a niche market to a larger but still not-quite-mainstream market in the US), I really can't blame Hollywood for wanting to try.


ETA: io9 has posted a hilarious satirical review of TLA. It's the funniest thing I've seen all day:

Later in the film, Katara says my favorite line ever, "We need to show them that we believe in our beliefs as much as they believe in their beliefs." It's as if Shyamalan had a cue card that he was planning to turn into an actual bit of dialog, but he forgot. There's a lot of cue-card writing in this film, and it feels like Shyamalan is leaving things as sign-posty as possible, in order to make fun of the by-the-numbers storytelling in so many Hollywood epics. The master has come to school us all.
hymnia: (Sparkly Sokka)
It's been a while since I've talked about Paramount Pictures shameful casting of The Last Airbender, but make no mistake: I'm just as angry as ever that characters of color are to be played by white actors in a film based on a story that I love. While it's certainly too late to save The Last Airbender from the mire of racefail, it's still not too late to raise awareness of the larger issues at work here.

I'm pleased to say that a major newspaper has now picked up the story of the protest, and I think the article does a very good job of explaining the issue of racebending. Please check it out.

Hero Complex: Hollywood whitewash? 'Airbender' and 'Prince of Persia' anger fans with ethnic casting

hymnia: (Mai is cooler than you)
I meant to share pics of this ages ago, but thanks to DA I have new motivation to dig up old projects. Ha!

Mai Kokeshi Doll
by ~hymnia7 on deviantART

Isn't she cute?

hymnia: (Default)
Here are a few more AFO pictures I just received from [livejournal.com profile] demonalchemist9. The first two are in a bit better lighting than the last batch I posted.

The Fire Nation Trio is so much cooler than you. )

Featuring the only thing that makes Mai smile... )

hymnia: (Default)
So it occurred to me today that I never posted pics of Anime Festival Orlando, which is really a shame, because, well…I think my costumes turned out really well this year and I want to show them off!

In the pics that follow, I am dressed as Mai from Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Arisa Uotani from Fruits Basket. I worked hard on the costume for Mai, and I feel this costume shows how far my sewing skills have come. The Uo costume was simpler in terms of what I had to sew, since I just modified store-bought items, but I'm pleased with how it turned out, too. (I think I make a pretty good Uo in terms of facial expressions/body language, too.) Well, see what you think:

Avatar: The Dangerous Ladies + Suki )

Fruits Basket: The Class 1-D Gang )


Mar. 23rd, 2009 11:20 pm
hymnia: (Default)
I've had a couple of interesting dreams lately that I wanted to record here.

Two nights ago: This "Bonnie and Clyde" couple was pulling off a clever heist. I think I was "Bonnie", or maybe I was just watching. They were very clever and good at getting what they wanted. They were totally conning the lady at the bank into letting them just walk right in. Then it turned out they weren't robbing a real bank, but an embryo bank where fertility clinics sent extra embryos to be used for research. This was a sci-fi world where these embyos were being grown into human babies and experimented on. "Bonnie and Clyde" were heroes who were trying to rescue the embryos and babies.

Last night: I dreamed I was a wizard teacher, but not like at Hogwarts—more like in some D&D-type fantasy world. I had a class of wizards, made up of some of my real-life students and former students. The task of the day was to dive down to an underwater cavern. Inside the cavern, which I knew to be a beautiful place with brilliant peach seashell walls, and a magical ceiling of swirling water overhead, were some of the deep secrets of life, the universe, and God. My students dove down into the water, but they were having trouble diving deep enough to penetrate the swirling ceiling and enter the cavern. A friend of mine sat nearby watching, nodding to me as if he understood: Yes, it's hard to get them to dive deep, but it's worth it for what they'll learn when they get down there.


P.S. Re: Avatar castingfail: This cracked me up. (As sad as the situation is, I try to keep my sense of humor.)
hymnia: (Default)
This post is for commentary with SPOILERS for episodes beyond Book 3, Ep. 11.

I don't have much more to say at this point, though, probably because there are only a few episodes left in the series, and therefore not very many spoilers if you've watched up to this point. There was just one little thing on episode 11:

Chapter 11: The Day of Black Sun, part 2: The Eclipse – SPOILERS )

hymnia: (Default)
Finally, I've got some time (and energy) to do another Avatar re-watch post. From here on out, I'll be doing two episodes at a time, because there's just so much good stuff from here until the end, and I don't want these posts to be TL;DR.

Info from the commentary tracks will be marked with a "C".

Chapter 10: The Day of Black Sun, part 1: The Invasion )

Chapter 11: The Day of Black Sun, part 2: The Eclipse )


P.S. Remember to keep comments here spoiler-free! If you have something spoiler-y to say, even if it's in response to this post, please comment in the next post instead. Thanks!
hymnia: (Default)
What follows is the form letter provided by racebending.com. I've already given my own words on the subject here.

Hi, I just signed the petition protesting the discriminatory casting practices of Paramount's The Last Airbender. This 2010 M. Night Shyamalan children's film, adapted from the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender, will star white actors playing ethnically Asian characters. In this day and age, casting white actors to play Asian characters--even going so far as to "whitewash" the Asian fantasy setting—is simply ignorant and unacceptable. You can learn more about the film's discriminatory practices at www.racebending.com.

The production made a choice. That choice sent a clear message:
"Children of Color: You are not good enough to play the hero, even if that hero shares your ethnicity."

Please join me by signing the petition protesting The Last Airbender, to be presented to the producers of the film: Sign the petition!

Filming is supposed to be starting this week in Greenland, so time is of the essence. Please sign the petition today. Also, if you do decide to sign it, I'd appreciate if you'd leave a comment here to let me know. Thanks.

hymnia: (Default)
I've been meaning to post these pics for over a week now. My brother and one of my friends ([livejournal.com profile] demonalchemist9) and I did an Avatar cosplay group at Megacon weekend before last, and I thought the Avatar fans on my flist might enjoy seeing them. My bro and I dressed as Sokka and Katara (both costumes made by me, with a little help from [livejournal.com profile] demonalchemist9 and [livejournal.com profile] nessabutterfly), and [livejournal.com profile] demonalchemist9 dressed as Toph.

Avatar cosplay at Megacon 2009 )

And here are a few other pics of me and my friends at Megacon:

More Megacon 2009 )

Also, we finally got access to pictures form a photo shoot we did at JACON last year done by Wasabi Anime. The photographer was fantastic, and these turned out to be some of my favorite cosplay pictures I've ever had taken:

Risa Harada from DN Angel )

Rozen Maiden )

Sailor Moon )

Also, some quick notes about my Avatar re-watch posts and Furuba chapter discussions:

I have not forgotten my Avatar re-watch posts! I've been very busy, and it's sort of ended up on the back burner, but I have another post 90% done and should be posting in the next few days, and I do plan to finish up the rest of the series (and the season 3 bonus features).

Also, I wanted to let my friends from RandomFandom.com know that I've pretty much given up on the Furuba chapter discussions. However, when I finish my Avatar re-watch, I do plan to make similar Furuba chapter reaction posts on my own LJ (picking up where we left off, with "Sorta Cinderella"), and I hope that the Furuba fans on my flist will read them and leave comments, so in some way the discussion will go on. I just don't see the point in continuing at RF.com anymore, when it seems like no one besides me and [livejournal.com profile] umadoshi and maybe one or two other sporadic visitors was even reading the threads, much less commenting.

hymnia: (Default)
If there's a day to think about social justice and racial fairness, this is it. This year, not only are we celebrating the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr., but we are also anticipating tomorrow's inauguration of the first African-American president in United States history. It's good to bask in the glow of progress, to consider how much has changed for the better since the days of the Montgomery bus boycott. But it's also important to consider what still needs to be done to ensure that freedom rings from every mountainside, and from every corner of life—even one as trivial as our entertainment media.

So I think it appropriate to bring up a topic today that has been brewing in my mind the past month or so. Although this injustice pales in comparison to the injustices that King struggled against in his time—and pales in comparison to many injustices that take place today—I still think it's worth speaking out against.

Early last month there came some distressing news in the [livejournal.com profile] avatar_fans community, and the playground we know as "fandom" was dealt a harsh blow by "real life". The blog for Entertainment Weekly broke the news that four teens were either already signed or in negotiations for the starring roles in The Last Airbender, a live-action adaptation of Nickelodeon's hit animated show Avatar: The Last Airbender. Even though the fantasy settings of the animated show are clearly based on East Asian cultures (or in one case on Inuit culture), the four teens named in the EW report are all white.

Fans and non-fans alike were outraged at the news, and hundreds have so far taken part in a letter-writing campaign to let the producers know their disappointment. I count myself as one of those who is outraged. The decision to cast white actors in these roles is not only unjust, it is also foolish. It fails on three levels: aesthetically, commercially, and ethically. It simply does not make sense.

First, whitewashed casting is a poor aesthetic choice. Read more... )

Second, whitewashed casting is a poor commercial choice. Read more... )

Finally, whitewashed casting is a poor ethical choice. Read more... )

While there is little chance that the producers will change their minds in time to change the casting of The Last Airbender (though I confess I'm still holding out hope they'll hire an Asian actor to play Zuko instead of Jesse McCartney), protesting the casting is not a waste of time. The more attention we draw to this issue, the better chance there is that other studios will take notice and that future productions will be handled more sensibly. Whether or not you are a fan of the original series, I hope that you will join me in protesting this racist casting. Please visit [livejournal.com profile] aang_aint_white for more information on how you can help.


ETA: my letter to the producers
hymnia: (Default)
This disc has audio commentary on chapter 6. Info from the commentary tracks will be marked with a "C". (There is also commentary on Chapter 10, but I'm doing that on the next post.)

Chapter 6: The Avatar and the Firelord )

Chapter 7: The Runaway )

Chapter 8: The Puppetmaster )

Chapter 9: Nightmares and Daydreams )

I'm going to save the first part of "The Day of Black Sun" for the Disc 3 commentary, so I can do the two-part storyline in one go. What a bad place to break the discs up, you know?


P.S. Remember to keep comments here spoiler-free! If you have something spoiler-y to say, even if it's in response to this post, please comment in the next post instead. Thanks!


hymnia: (Default)

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