Avatar isn’t anime. It’s just American animation that’s highly influenced by anime. However it was through the high reputation it had amongst anime fans that got me to check it out in the first place. Hence it still counts as something related to anime that happened to me this year. So yeah, that’s my justification out of the way. Onto the rest of the post!
I’ve only seen the first series of Avatar so far. It’s pretty good, not amazing or anything. I’ve heard IT GETS BETTER I SWEAR which is nice to hear. What’s interesting about it is, because it’s so similar to anime, the aspects where it’s different really stand out as aspects that Japanese culture don’t have. There’s no sarcasm in anime, for one, while Avatar has a character whose every single joke is sarcasm. Not a particularly good thing, as it’s the drawly, obvious American style sarcasm rather than the dry, British sarcasm that I’m a fan of. But I’m not here to give a full review or talk about what it doesn’t do well, that’s for when I’ve finished the entire series. For now, I just want to talk about dat final episode.
The episode in general was amazing. Without spoiling, it really ramped up the tension and the scale of the warfare, while also managing to wrap the plot up in fantastic fashion. All the important characters of the arc developed significantly in that final episode, bringing to a head all the development they had previously. It also had a very clever use of animation when the moon was blocked out and everything went monochrome, apart from the colours of the big fish monster. OK, this is sort of spoilerish, but good luck making sense of any of that without having any knowledge of the series in general.
But the absolute highlight of the episode was the Face Stealer. In order to find the spirit of the moon, Aang had to travel to the spirit realm and talk to the ancient being known as the Face Stealer. His gimmick was, as you can probably guess from the name, that he steals your face if you show any emotion while talking to him. Before he visited the Face Stealer, Aang was warned that it would try to draw a reaction from him. So I decided to play along. I’d also see how long I’d last without changing expressions. I figured it wouldn’t be too hard.
But in no way was I prepared for this creature. The jarringly quick swapping between faces, from previous Avatars to a baboons face, combined with the sickly slick rapist voice that he had, created this being that was a glorious combination of shocking, unsettling, creepy and just generally wrong. And yet, all through their conversation, Aang was able to keep the stoic face. I barely breathed throughout the scene, waiting for Aang’s face to slip just that once. I know I lost the challenge barely 15 seconds after the creature appeared. But Aang kept his face totally blank.
Until finally there it was.
One tiny slip.
One show of excitement. Aaaaaand
Gone. Just like that, Aang wiped his face before the creature could confront him again. Absolutely riveting, butt-cheek tightening, thrilling stuff, and one of the most frightening pieces of animation I have ever seen.