24 CommentsTwelve Days / By Scamp /

12 Days of Anime #10: Avatar’s Face Stealer

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.

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  1. Posted December 16, 2011 at 12:20 am | Permalink

    Aang is a very mature protagonist so it makes sense that he could pull this off. I remember trying to do the same thing you did when this scene started but I cracked around the same time Aang did.

  2. fathomlessblue
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 12:23 am | Permalink

    Although parts of S3 devolve into emo teenage drama and the whole final battle being a huge disappointment, I do think the show improves after the first series. Maybe I just became more invested in it, but the humour and drama definitely seemed to ramp up in my eyes. Plus the S3 ep, The Ember Island Players, is one of the few examples doing self-referential humour well. I couldn’t stop laughing.

    Sadly, I don’t think there was another creature in show which made as much impact as the face-stealer (most others were chimeras of pre-existing creatures). I know I also tried the self-imposed challenge and didn’t fare much better. Damn thing was just too creepy!

    • alexvoda
      Posted December 16, 2011 at 2:30 am | Permalink

      Why do you consider the ending a disapointment?
      Because he used you know what thought to him by you know who?
      Given the options the creators had I’d say it was the best they could do.
      It could of had some more forshadowing (there is some but deffenetly neaded more), but it’s not as if it was unexpected.

      However please elaborate.

      Also, indeed Koh the face stealer is so wrong on so many levels.
      But if you are talking about impact I would say Appa really leaves a mark after the episode dedicated to him.

      • fathomlessblue
        Posted December 16, 2011 at 3:50 am | Permalink

        Ok spoilers here; read on at your own risk.

        It wasn’t the ending, but the final battle that irked me. For one, it was so excessive and overblown that the fight lacked any real tension or style, especially compared to the other battle that was taking place at the palace. It was a glorified fireworks display. The fact that Ozai devolved from an unsympathetic, but rational and coherent antagonist, into a cliché batshit crazy power-hungry villain didn’t help either.

        The main problem was the manner in which Ozai was subdued. Normally it wouldn’t have bothered me, but so much time and drama was invested on Aang’s personal dilemma, having a ludicrous deus ex machina in the form of a the giant lion-turtle, come in at the last moment and provide a magically convenient solution just felt silly and cheap. It’s not like I demand blood for the ending to be a success, but a better solution should have been thought out. What we received was something of a lazy cop-out, one that prevented Aang from having his character-defining moment. With rest of the series being tightly written, more effort should have gone into the resolution.

        Oh, and re: Appa; I considered him a member of the main cast as opposed to a random creature. His story was great though.

      • Lathrin
        Posted December 16, 2011 at 11:44 am | Permalink

        Actually, the thing that would be that much awesome (and creepier) that my brother and I thought would happen, is that Aang will throw Ozai into the spirit world, where a) you cant use your benders power b) Koh would make a quick end to Ozai.
        But since children also watched this serie, my brother and I decided it was too cruel to happen..

      • mcm38
        Posted December 16, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

        About that final battle.


        The whole series is based on prophecys and Aang being the chosen one to bring peace to the world. I found it totaly normal for him to get a new power at the end before he confronts the final boss. He is the avatar and avatars bring peace to the world. If he failed he wouldn’t be worthy to become the avatar.

        Btw, dat flying trough long pillar rocks and destroying everything while fighting, shooting compiled rocks like bullets, flooding the whole place CANNOT BE CONSIDERED A DISAPPOINTMENT!

  3. Posted December 16, 2011 at 1:11 am | Permalink

    First season of Avatar is meh. Second season is slightly better, but only when Toph is onscreen. Third season is worse than the first. Overall, an average show that, although unusually ambitious for an American animated series, doesn’t really bring anything new or innovative to the table.

    And stay the hell away from the M. Night Shyamalan movie.

    • Karry
      Posted December 16, 2011 at 1:46 am | Permalink

      “doesn’t really bring any­thing new or innov­at­ive to the table.”

      Well, what else was there, in that time ? Absolute most of Nick stuff is, generally speaking, utter trash, relying on snot and fart jokes, or not even that. Ben10 had a good first season and then crashed into mediocrity, the rest of the good stuff was comic-based properties. Thats it.

    • alexvoda
      Posted December 16, 2011 at 2:14 am | Permalink

      What movie? There is no Avatar: TLA movie.
      I am sure Hollywood would not dare do to this franchise something worse than they did to the dragonball franchise.
      And who is this M. Night guy you speak of?
      If a movie would ever be made it would shurely be directed by the original creators, Bryan and Mike, and be animated.Right? RIGHT??


      • Posted December 16, 2011 at 6:32 am | Permalink

        ^ Lol I don’t know if you’re serious or too sarcastic.

        And for not bringing something new to the table comment, PLEASE ELABORATE how it did not bring anything to the table. Besides being something totally different from anything Nickelodeon has done before, when you compare Avatar to other anime, it still stands on its own as something very unique. It has a very interesting setting, ingenious and thrilling plot, the ideas are well researched, something that anyone would be crazy to say it didn’t bring anything new.

      • mcm38
        Posted December 16, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

        I do not blame him for denying the existence of the movie. They sucked at summarizing a whole season of 20 episodes (400 minutes) in just one movie of 90 minutes.

        If I had not watched the series I wouldn’t have known wtf was going on the whole movie.

  4. Posted December 16, 2011 at 1:17 am | Permalink

    Oh yes, the face Face Stealer that scene is glorious.

    In my opinion, the best part of avatar is Book II: Earth.

  5. Karry
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 1:37 am | Permalink

    Toph singlefeetedly saves the show with her two small feet.
    Also final battle is quite epic, something to look forward to.

  6. Posted December 16, 2011 at 1:51 am | Permalink

    The second season rocks due to Toph and Ozai’s Angels.

  7. dyxlisa
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 3:33 am | Permalink

    Save for the finale, the first season was my least favorite. If I hadn’t been impressed by what I saw of the second season while channel surfing, I probably wouldn’t have stuck with the first. (IT GETS BETTER I SWEAR indeed.) But that first season finale, wow; Koh and the whole sequence after the moon were blocked out were definitely stand out moments.

  8. Someone Else
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 3:44 am | Permalink

    I liked this show very much, dubbed not in english but in my mother language. Unfortunately I couldn’t finish it because they changed the time slot to an early morning show where I have to go to school. The fight scenes were cool since it uses martial arts to control elements. The jokes were kind of funny but the problem with this show is whenever they do a drama scene, the sequence of events becomes weird and a pain to watch. Overall its an average show that lets you become excited at times but sometimes you just don’t care at what’s going on.

    Also the coloring style reminds me of Read or Die and lol they are like paper benders of that show, no spells, just raise your hands and your element follows.

    Another thing that’s probably Japanese animation inspired is probably Martin Mystery. It’s also an average show but can be fun at times. Totally Spies sucks

  9. Posted December 16, 2011 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    You haven’t seen Azula yet :). Or the Ba-Sing-Sei madness.

    I liked the first season since everything was pretty mellow in terms of drama; in a way light-hearted. The second season was my favorite since it totally changed one character from an asshole to probably my favorite character in the series. It also brought forth one of my most favorite female cartoon character of all time, which was evil, manipulative in a screwed up way and you slowly see how screwed up she really is as the cartoon really conveys it. Also the second season is when Aang and his gang experience more dramatic experiences (Ba-Sing-Sei madness).

    The third season wraps everything nicely except for that stupid finale which I would love to forget. Besides the finale, there’s a lot of things in the third season, especially the second part which just screams awesome plot twists!

    I guess I’m one of those anime fans who fucking love Avatar the Last Airbender to death. Just don’t watch the movie because that never happened.

  10. Erif
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    Although I never actually finished the entire series (think I stopped around season three), this show really grew on me. I do agree that it progressively got better of in the course of its showing, but by no means would I say it was mediocre. First season was solid, and it got better and better as the story and characters developed. Season Two was truly impressive.

    I need to pick this up again.

  11. DarkEnergy
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    AVATAR, YESS!!! God, I love that series. It’s almost as good as Aria *winkwinknudgeScampyoubetterwatchthisokaythisisn’tsubtleanymore*

    Also, what is with these comments? I thoroughly enjoyed the series and the ending. Anyways, they’re making the sequel right now so I’m super-excited for that.

  12. Ty-chama
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Man, I love you for writing a post about Avatar…

  13. Lathrin
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    Be forewarned, I really like this serie and find it quite good, but on the third one there are some slipups, and a few too emo\childish events.
    But I still believe you should watch it :)

    But as far as I remember, nothing left quite the impact as Koh~

  14. Posted December 16, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    I love Avatar. The animation is great, the characters grew on me, and almost every episode has some epic shit happening. And season two has Toph. She’s probably my favorite character.

  15. Posted December 16, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    You have 2 more seasons of greatness awaits you. Reading this makes me want to watch Avatar all over again (have done so countless of times before).

    Aang is good for stuff like that. Stuff like the face stealer scenes what separate this show than the other wannabe shit produced by the west.

  16. blackice85
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 4:51 am | Permalink

    I think they did a nice job with the show considering that in America cartoons are mostly aimed at kids and generally aren’t taken seriously by anyone older. I kind of agree about Avatar’s ending (the final battle), but I think that has a bit to do with it being a children’s show, so they’re limited on what they can show regarding death/violence.

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