Why I hate Avatar the Last Airbender

Archetypical, barely relatable characters with offset development: This is an objective and subjective point. Subjectively, none of the main characters resonate with me. I could better identify the characters through their archetypes alone. The free-spirited to plain jane one, girl with a temper and a dead mom, comic relief, blind rich girl who manages to adapt to new horizons within the course of one episode and Tomoki from Watamote if he were a democrat in 2017. Personally, I can’t find a single endearing character. What kind of characters do I like? In many shows I often root for the divas, the bullies, the cynics, the deadpan snarkers, the sarcastic ones and the goths/emos/moody ones. I like them because they tend to be the most expressive and open-ended when it comes to the other characters. It’s fun seeing them act over the top, and in the face of a breakdown I could really feel the weight of the world crushing them. Even then, I find it easier to assess their situations as to why they became who they were today. The world isn’t this beautiful place where everyone sings Michael Jackson, the character types I mention give a strong implication they know the world they live in isn’t a beautiful place, but they express it in the worst possible places. Compare that to near-archetypal characters in Avatar and you’ll get the idea. Now onto objectivity. The upbringing of the characters, particularly the first introduced, could be summed up like this. Their parents/guardians died. That’s the driving force behind the more integral characters. Dead parents are one of the most relied upon cliches in storytelling, especially in anime, hint hint. I could live with this, but the show hardly tried to break any barriers. Their close ones died, they became embittered, they’re driven to take down the force responsible, let’s stop at the bar a job well done. It’s hard to emphasize with characters that could hardly be distinguished from other characters of similar upbringings. Even without these bogging the characters down, the personalities will still spoil the meat. Aang is the free-spirited one who frequently switches between having basic to no personality at all. Sokka’s the comic relief, with any dimension breaks being far in between and offset by new introductions. For example, during the first season when he fell for Princess Yui (don’t know how it’s spelled, don’t really care) and she died, it could’ve been a good way to liven his character up, but this is forgotten when he gets interested in Sukki (again, not sure if it’s spelled as such.), he finds a girl, loses the girl, finds another girl, all is hunky dory even in what should be the most dramatic season. Katara is as bland as butterless toast, let’s face it. She goes through the serious anime girl checklist throughout the series, and I can’t truly feel bad for her. Toph could be summarized like this, she’s a rich girl with a tomboyish personality who did wrestling, so she had no problem ditching her family to join our adventuring heroes. Her mind could change on the flip of a dime, that’s not endearing. I’ll end it with Zuko, since I’m starting to ramble. Admittedly, he’s slightly more interesting than the others, and it’s not because of his upbringing, in fact most of his upbringing (scarring at the hands of his father and his ultimately edgy violent personality personality) is more anime cliches rolled into one. What sets him apart from others to me is his personality later in the season, when he breaks the show’s overly-serious (with very tiny dashes of humor) tone through some clever comedic moments. That’s it.
Very poor progression: This one always bugged me. This is noticeable in the first season, when Aang discovers he’s the last of his kind… in the third episode. I get that with a title so blatant the news had to be dropped right away, at least according to the writers I guess, but so soon? This is a major turning point for Aang, he discovers the death of people he held dear for years. He abandoned them because he felt he wasn’t prepared to give up the life he once had before becoming the chosen one. He had no idea about the conflict that would change his world forever, and it all comes crashing down right after the introduction duology. Now I know what you’re thinking “OH CHANNELEVEN DO YOU HAVE A BETTER IDEA FOR WHEN SUCH AN EPISODE SHOULD AIR?! BET YOU CAN’T BECAUSE YOU LOVE MEAN SPIRITED CANADIAN AND AUSTRALIAN CARTOONZ!!11!1!” Actually yes. For any series that contains an overarching storyline, the more dramatic instances should be saved for closer to the end of the season. Why not have the first season go with Aang exploring the world around him, being naive to the war aspects that occur, being shat on by people who consider him a traitor and a coward as well as being oblivious to the fact that he’s the last of his kind. Have the first season follow an action-comedic dynamic, with the action being in the fight scenes and the comedy being in the confusion as to the root of why everything is happening and then just as the season ends, Aang decides to take his friends to the Air Temple to see his brethren, paying no mind to the disarray its in until he discovers the damage, the corpses of fire nation soldiers and his mentor Kiatso. From that point on, Aang realizes that he is the last Air Bender, he takes his responsibilities more seriously and it molds him into the figure he was meant to be, and if this serves as a season finale, viewers would remain in suspense over how the revelation would affect Aang. The episodes closer to the end of season one affected Sokka more, and even then he moved on upon discovering Sukki. This might sound like a nitpick, but trust me, if it went the way I theorized, Avatar would’ve held a bigger impact.
The Big Bads Are Letdowns: Azula and the Fire Lord withstanding. The latter comes off as more of a hype man than anything else, and no, it’s not some ignorant stretch. He is kept in the shadows until the final season, and what was the turn out? A guy who looked mildly intimidating while maintaining traits from the anime big bad checklist. Corrupted by his own power, making an enemy out of his weakest herald, no sympathetic traits and is the reason all the bad shit is happening. He’s a hype-man, and said hype-man is a block of wood drenched in intimidating varnish. Good for the action scenes, but on his own, not so endearing. Azula is a whole other kettle of fish. It’s like the writers did everything they could to make her as unlikeable as possible. She’s like this in every single one of her appearances, even in her childhood years. Why is this such a bad thing? Three words. No. Character. Development. She could’ve easily been made into an interesting character had their been a convincing drive for her current personality. But no, she’s just born that way, and that’s good enough for the mouth breathers that ate this show up. Now I know what you’re thinking, do I have an example of better villains in a similar league? No, I have two. First example, Trina Riffin from Grojband. Her drive is that she hates her brother and his band and wants to destroy them. They exploit her emotional intensity which she puts into her diary, which they steal to make songs out of. She was a nice girl during her childhood, but developed into a cruel teenager, and her brother may be a contributing force behind that which is why she persists in her fruitless attempts at destroying him and his band. Beyond that, she’s the most expressive out of all the characters, having the strongest emotional expressions and an endearing personality. Not enough? Let’s go for a much tamer Azula. Heather from Total Drama Island. She’s a manipulative girl who’s not interested in making friends. Her drive is that cash prize that only the last inhabitant shall receive, and she’ll do anything to receive it. She parodies the mean girl archetype found in various drama shows, during one moment she has an emotional breakdown that shows she’s not nothing but mean (giving a strong implication of how she is off the show, even if it turns out to just be another diva archetype) and yeah, her motives are convincing especially for a show of such a crazy calibre. Two characters from Canadian cartoons are more endearing and have better motives and drives than Azula. Think about it. Before I move on, here’s a tip to the writer provided he touches anything new, you could make your villains unlikeable, but at least provide some redeeming qualities especially when they hold as much focus as the protagonists. We have to sit through their scenes if we bother to follow the plot, and if the villains act irredeemable throughout all their appearances, chances are people with sense would think “Holy shit how long will this go on, can we just move to the protagonists already?”

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