This is the Headscratchers page for the fanfiction Embers by Vathara.
Since a lot of things about the fanfic are up for debate, including the applicability of several tropes, in order to comply with site policy and keep discussion off of the main page please put arguments for and against here and link to this page from the trope in the main page.
Rooting for the Empire debate, moved here from main page; because it takes up a whole computer screen and that's against site policy.
Vathara's Fire Nation is the only one of the four nations with a formal legal code and sexual equality, and the root of the war is a horrific sneak attack by the Avatar. Also, she Ret Cons the Fire Nation's Kick the Dog moments to the acts of extremists (though Fire Lord Ozai is counted among them), and paints them as reasonable, fair conquerors. Sound familiar?
It was an accidental sneak attack. Someone deliberately did not pass on the notice to evacuate.
This is an incomplete explanation. Is it a 'sneak attack' to permit someone else to be devastated by an act of nature? It's certainly awfully foul, even evil, but I don't see how letting weather happen to someone you don't like counts as 'sneak attack'.
I believe what was meant by 'the root of the war' in the above remark was not the hurricane that the Fire Nation had no warning of, thanks the Sozin deliberately not passing on the Air Nomads' alert, just a few months before the Fire Nation attacked the Air Temples but instead the hurricane that Avatar Kyoshi caused when she wiped out the pirate clans that had killed her daughter—along with hundreds of thousands of innocent Fire Nation people.
The Earth Kingdom has a formal legal code as well. An exchange in early chapters indicates that while the Fire Nation has a legal code, in practice it does not cover everyone equally; Iroh and Zuko are pleasantly surprised and utterly baffled to find out the Guard stops fights and protects even those who have lost their honor/have no home/are just plain NEW to the area.
Given how the Earth Kingdom guards we see in the show act, I took Iroh and Zuko's shock to be much more local in nature.
The Northern Water Tribe is portrayed negatively in the show due to its sexism, but in Embers they're the only nation who kept their healing benders despite the Gambit Pileup that destroyed everyone else's, meaning that sexism becomes Fridge Brilliance, since it ensures more than half of all waterbenders not only know how to heal but are protected by non-combatant/civilian/'innocent women and children' status according to the rules of several cultures.
In canon, with the exception of Kyoshi Island, the Fire Nation is the only nation we see with female soldiers. Addmittedly we've only seen Ozai's angels, but they have been directly refrenced amongst a gathering of soliders by Zhao in Po Hai Strong Hold.
Actually, there's quite a few Mook female soldiers shown in book three.
Several of the earthbenders imprisoned on the barge were female. Admittedly, they weren't formal soldiers, but they were there for resisting the Fire Nation.
Perhaps in later chapters she'll paint the Geneva Convention-shattering bender prisons *
even ignoring the continuously torturous conditions of waterbender prisons, depriving a bender of their element is essentially sensory deprivation
]] as isolated Abu Ghraib-style incidents the heroes blundered into. I bet the Charles Dickens-esque poverty in the Fire Nation has been eliminated as well.
'Not only does Embers confirm the existence of the prisons but adds mind rape to the list of tortures: being away from their element 'kills something in a bender's spirit' and a bender's element dying within them is fatal, making it not just three kinds of torture but a lingering death by torture. Vathara basically upped the Nightmare Fuel Quotient. Zuko's letter to Katara indicates that war criminals are a problem in the Fire Nation; unfortunetly, Ozai is one too, so they aren't prosecuted. Iroh did during his seige, however.
Hell, she'll probably finish the fic by killing Aang, ending the Avatar cycle being along with the rule of the Fire Lords, and considering it a good thing.
While the show itself just made the Fire Nation give up its captured territories and put Zuko in charge, Embers goes one step further by calling for the complete destruction of the Fire Nation government and its conversion from an empire to small domains, on the order of the Earth Kingdom's city-states.
To whoever made around 4 edits to this trope on the main page, assuming you also read here: considering Auzla in chapter 33 also believes the Fire Nation's destiny is to conquer the world for "revenge, and yes, even the self-defense necessary to be certain the world would never, ever ravage the Fire Nation again. If they dared.", I strongly suspect Ozai's kids, if not most of Sozin's descendants, were indoctrinated with this belief, even though they interpret it differently.
Actually, the whole fact that 'Rooting for the Empire' made it onto this at all is edging into Nightmare Fuel. So, the Fire Nation is Always Chaotic Evil? Was Toph's take on the moral of The Avatar and the Firelord (Season 3, Episode 6)—"It's like they're born evil!"—the one most people took away? Is it time to propose a supertrope of All Germans Are Nazis for those who merely happen to be citizens of the Evil Empire, but are treated like they're Always Chaotic Evil merely due to an accident of birth and geography?
Except that they are stating "The Fire Nation" not "The Fire Nation Military." Further, uhm, did you miss Zuko and Iroh basically agreeing with you that The Fire Nation is going to be slaughtered by the Earth Kingdom and Water Tribes...and that they, Zuko and Iroh, think that it's a just thing that is within the rights of the other Nations to do? That doesn't mean they want it to happen, they don't, and Iroh seems to think that it will mess up the balance even more if all of the Fire Nation is destroyed as it should be. Of course the Fire Nation needs to keep on fighting to keep themselves safe. Imagine you are drunk and get into a fight with another guy, and you're winning. Then the sobriety fairy beats you over the head and you realize that either you're going to loose or that you made a mistake. If you try to break off there's no telling if the other guy will break off to. Well no, he probably won't because you ripped his favorite shirt. Disengaging is HARD without a third party. It doesn't mean that continuing to fight is a good thing, it's just that stopping is hard. If they say they want peace, the reparations come up and they get gutted.
Her exact words are that the empire conquering the world got a bum rap in the show - she's clearly Rooting for the Empire. Forget Firefly and canonizing the Anglo-Sino Alliance, I hope she never writes a Code Geass fic. Hell, I'm feeling stupid right now, so here's the Shmuck Bait - Vathara, have you ever heard of some charming folk known as The Draka?
The Fire Nation did do some terrible things, but they're as normal as empires come and go. The Air Nomads, on the other hand...well. Let's say the current Fire Nation within the fic are NOTHING compared to the White Wind, and this is just ONE faction of Air Nomads there were. Killing is bad, yes, thank you, Captain Obvious. But how is Getting Smilies Painted on Your Soul not mentioned as, if not worse than, terrible?
Bleh, I'm just going to point out here that the Fire Nation keeping existing law enforcment and even lower levels of the government in place is not unusual. Someone put up that the Romans did it. So did Those Wacky Nazis.
The Laws And Customs Of War - Codified by the Fire Nation: the Earth Kingdom obeys theirs (neither the Earth Generals nor Ozai have problems with going after civilians, even though that's a violation, among the many canon Fire Nation violations), the Water Tribes have their own, and the Air Nomads don't have any since they're pacifists (and there are hints they were Combat Pragmatists when they weren't.) Notable examples:
Among the Water Tribes, women and children don't fight and are therefore exempt from combat. Among the other countries, there is the more general category of civilian (especially since all Fire Nation women are combat-trained), which can include men. Attacking while disguised as a non-combatant is a war crime because it forces soldiers to treat the real innocents as potential threats and can get them killed. Zuko's ship, which was not part of the war, was attacked by some Southern Tribesmen and was forced to defend itself, in some cases lethally. So, the Water Tribes view the Fire Nation going after women as a violation (like Zuko thought Kanna was a valid threat in his introductory episode), and the Fire Nation have the same opinion of the Water Tribes going after civilian men.
It's a bit strange for anyone to suggest that Zuko's ship could be considered 'not part of the war', either to the Fire Nation or to people outside the Fire Nation. It appeared to be very much like a Fire Nation ship, it was filled with Fire Nation personnel - and royalty. And it was pursuing an incredibly important (as it turns out) military objective. Zuko's ship was not civilian, it was military by any reasonable definition.
For a bit of clarification miltiary-wise, you are correct, Zuko's vessel is /not/ considered civilian craft. However, it is 'not a part of the war' in the sense that it is specifically _not_ intended as a combat unit. It's in that hazy grey area between supply ship and independent objective. The trespass is in intentionally engaging in a non-combat unit. Which, until the beginnings of total warfare in the 19th century, was generally considered a not good thing. It's a violation of the unspoken trust/rule that 'this unit will not actively attack you, has no interest in attacking/engaging you, and indeed try to avoid you if at all possible, and you will kindly reciprocate in the same fashion'.
On the other hand, it's still a freaking warship in Water Tribe territory; the Water Tribe attacking it on sight is simply common sense, since —given that every other warship in the area is actively involved in the war and they've already lost most of their tribe to raids —they can't really afford to assume that a military ship is not there on military business. In addition to which, 'capture the Avatar' could be considered a military mission on the basis that the Avatar is extremely important to possible victory against the Fire Nation.
The Law Of Reprisal - the only law mentioned by name in Embers, but it's the one that really underlies all the other laws of war: '"Don't use what you don't want thrown back in your face." For instance, don't disguise your troops as civilians unless you want the other guys to do it to you, on top of having to kill some of your actual civilians in self-defense. And now you know what happened to the rest of Jet's guerrillas.
This is another rule which, in this story, applies mostly or exclusively to non-Fire Nation cultures. Or did some other nation inflict genocide on the Fire Nation first, making Fire Nation genocide against the Air Nomads tit for tat?
Well, Avatar Kyoshi DID annihilate a pretty big portion of the Fire Clans/whatever, and all the varied bending styles, making that the reason that there are a greater number of crazy people AND only one firebending style (that the Fire Nation knows of). And since the warnings weren't passed on by the Earth King at the time... Tat?
What Avatar Kyoshi did, though foul and evil, couldn't by any definition be considered 'genocide'. Likewise with what the airbenders *supposedly* did, permitting the hurricane to go on its way. So no, not tit for tat, but an ongoing pattern of Fire Nation escalation excused in the story by a lesser offense inflicted. But in any event, it is still another example of the Avatar being the root of awfulness in Embers, a very, VERY common theme in the story. The Avatar starts awful things, and the victimized Fire Nation reacts.
As 'genocide' may be reasonably said to be an attack or campaign for the purpose of eliminating a certain race/class/cultural group, I don't see how Kyoshi's attack can be seen as anything but genocide. In this particular fanon, she is quoted as saying something along the lines of 'they were all swamp dwelling vagabond, and swamp dwellers are the lowest of the low'. When this is coupled with the use of the Foggy Swamp people as the embarrassing branch of the family tree, in the Earth Kingdom, and it is accepted, this view is especially valid. Whilst the Avatar generated Typhoon is given by Vathara as a response to the death of Kyoshi's son at the hands of Waegu Pirates, there are some points which have not been discussed. What is the significance of Kyoshi giving the Earth King the warning to pass on to the Firelord et al? Given the timing of the attack during an eclipse, and given the pre-industrialisation level of communication technology, this warning must have been weeks, if not months in advance. Which makes the typhoon a deliberate and considered response, not a hasty and impulsive, Aang-like solution.
Also, consider that when Kyoshi stated that only scum and villains (paraphrased) lived in the swamps and lowlands, she had asked the Earth King to warn the Fire Nation and probably expected him to do it. So, to her mind, if the Fire Nation had been warned— and she did send a warning— then all of the innocent people had obviously been evacuated and so only the pirates were left in the marshes. And because she's the Avatar (and a very prideful one at that) of course she's right. Anyone else know that phrase about assuming and you and me...?
Not really. If they'd just been after vengeance, they would have gone after the Earth Kingdom in general and Kyoshi Island in specific first instead of last. And they would have damn well deserved it. The Earth King would have for being a bastard, Kyoshi for being too blind and gullible (listening to the Earth King when she knew what he was like) to be allowed to have that kind of power and the civilians for being happy that hundreds of thousands of innocent people got murdered. The Air Nomads, by contrast, not only didn't do anything wrong but they immedietely pitched in with relief efforts while the Earth Kingdom sat back and laughed. They're still telling jokes about the Hurricane Katrina-equivalent?
Given the canon purpose of the White Lotus, one has to wonder why they didn't off Kyoshi, unless they were hoping she'd grow a brain and take back her decree. Going after the Air Nomads, on the other hand, theoretically meant wiping the ability to throw around hurricanes from existence. Like, 'Those people have weaponized smallpox stored, and they won't get rid of it even after it killed hundreds of thousands of our civilians. Fuck, another smallpox outbreak just occurred! Those bastards!' Really, it was almost too easy for Sozin. And Koh.
Also, it's easier to go after a bunch of peace-loving pacifists (who nobody likes because they are flighty liars with lousy people skills) than to take on a bunch of city-states with a combined standing army possibly greater than your entire population. Plus the stated bonus of breaking the Avatar cycle because there would be no one to teach airbending, and possibly no Avatar. "They came first for the Air Nomads, and I did not speak up...
Here's a scary idea: Kyoshi was not that bad as Avatars go. Abuse of power, even to screwing up a nation (subjective)— not bad enough to be removed. Handing the power of the Avatar over to a major spirit, not bad enough to be removed. ... I'm drawing a blank on what IS bad enough to be removed, and it terrifies me. A pattern of screwing up nations?! We are talking about some major power.
According to Embers!verse, the purpose of the White Lotus was to deal with Avatars who go completely off the rails. A mother, walking in grief and unleashing the World Spirit to make what happened to her child never happen again... Well. Overkill, perhaps, but she stopped after she laid down the decree. Compare with Avatar Kesuk, who had just as legitimate reasons with two exceptions: 1) Kyoshi only wanted respect from the world where Kesuk wanted domination, and 2) Kesukdidn't stop. While in the Avatar State. Lots of destruction comes to mind, not just because Asagitatsu was involved.
Weapon Of Mass Destruction: According to the Embers universe's equivalent of the Geneva Convention, a bender summoning a spirit to possess them and turning it loose is a serious war crime. This is because said spirit will not distinguish between one side and the other, soliders and civilians, combatants and those trying to surrender; they only recognize worship. (Yep, she noted that the Water Tribespeople might not have been spared/would not (since they'd failed to protect it) if they hadn't hit the ground.) They do not give quarter, which is in itself a war crime. Not to mention that the fates of those killed by spirits can often be A Fate Worse Than Death. Using one near a populated city is the equivalent of launching a nuke next to that city, since there's the well-known risk of the spirit deciding to destroy it as well. Aang's use of the Avatar Spirit doesn't qualify, since the Avatar is still a human and capable of making those distinctions. The way he unleashed the Ocean Spirit was. While he was undoubtably right to protect the city and clearly didn't know he was violating the Generva Convention equivalent, Aang still did it, and doesn't grasp that he needs to apologize and make it clear to everyone he won't do it again. Even Zuko admits Aang was right to protect the city; the trouble is that even if Aang hadn't had other means of doing so, using a nuke near a populated city for good reasons doesn't change the fact a nuke was used. To make the metaphor even more explicit, there's even a very deadly "residue" left behind: Chapter 31 both states this and starts to show some of the consequences. The Fire Nation might be a Japan-analogue, and using nukes on Japan may have ended that war, but it looks like it will only be making this one worse.
Aang did not turn the Ocean Spirit loose. He used it against a completely military target, and then it stopped.
The above is incorrect, due to the definition of weapons of mass destruction. See below.
Vathara has indeed constructed a universe where this action of the Avatar's is as destructive as described. It's another instance of events getting twisted to 'Avatar did something horrendous'. That's what I'm criticizing, this impulse in the story to lay all blame on the Avatar.
The Fire Nation does not give quarter, either.
As far as the fates of Fire Nation soldiers being destroyed by the Ocean Spirit, they have only themselves to blame for that. Any culpability Aang has in using a 'WMD' against them can only be reasonably measured in terms of possible damage to the NWT, not the aggressive would-be conquering soldiers.
The negative outcomes of using the Ocean Spirit are basically, as others have noted, inserts into the story Vathara made herself. They don't follow particularly logically from other instances-it's a one-off case that Vathara has created.
Of course, as Vathara has a fascination with the Fire Nation, Zhao's murder of the Moon Spirit to destroy waterbending is never thought of as something the Fire Nation has to answer for; it was the act of a "lone fanatic" who was already punished for it. Whereas Aang's use of the Ocean to avenge the Moon and save the crippled defenders broke the Nuclear Weapons Taboo so He Must Pay. To stretch the metaphor, the Fire Nation started the escalation with a "chemical weapon" that "crippled the defenders", and gas equals germs equals nukes so Aang yanked a shiny bomb out of his pocket.
Unfortunatly, the side effect of being the good guy is that you have to actually be the good guy. If Aang were to claim that it was ok because Zhao had done it first, that would lower him to Zhao's level, which would be a very bad idea when he has to be The Messiah and a shining example of good, right conduct, and the possibility of peace and a world where no one uses nukes or performs genocides anymore. (In the same way that Iroh can't defeat Ozai, because that would just be more brother killing brother instead of a real change).
The problem with claiming Aang must claim to be the good guy and then actually be the good guy was that his use of the Ocean Spirit was both unintentional and deeply regretted. And whose fault was it that he did not have the tools in hand to use other means which may, had he sufficient training and knowledge, been available? The Fire Nation, and people justifying them, cannot on the one hand criticize Aang for not behaving properly when the only route to correct behavior was cut off by the Fire Nation themselves.
And Hilter was never prosecuted for war crimes, simply because he was too dead at the time of the post-war trials. I might be wrong, but in Canon, it seemed like the entire Fire Nation fleet at the North Pole was wiped out, along with its commander. There is no one left to hold accountable but the Fire Nation government, and everyone hates them already.
It still has most people banging their heads against walls. Remember what the Fire Nation doing there. Being separated from one's element 'kills something in a bender's spirit', and a bender's element dying within them is fatal, so they weren't there to create a "colony" - a polar night would kill every Firebender.They were there to commit genocide so that the Avatar could not be reincarnated into the Water Tribe. They hit the place during the full moon, when the Waterbenders would be at their strongest, simply to take advantage of their overconfidence as part of the plot to kill the Moon. It worked. The city was left defenseless. The only reason the Moon was ressurected was because of Yue's Heroic Sacrifice. And even then, the attackers had pretty much taken the city while the waterbenders were depowered. If SOMETHING drastic hadn't been done immediately, the city would have fallen and the Spirit Oasis razed along with everything else - killing the Ocean along with the Moon! To put it simply, Aang Did What He Had To Do!
Explicitly mentioned in fic: The Northern Water Tribe is not as close to the pole as the Southern—They don't have a Polar Night. And there were other ways to take out the Fire Nation besides bringing out a God. Aang does air support, Water Tribe goes under water in ice tunnels and puts holes in the ships. Water Benders and Aang make some giant glaciers and Titanic the ships.
Except Embers points out repeatedly that Aang had other options. There were other tactics he could have used to annihilate that army. He was perfectly capable of doing it himself, he didn't need the Ocean Spirit. Or rather, he wouldn't have needed to use the Ocean Spirit if he knew what the fuck he was doing and could throw around the kind of power a normal avatar could. Kyoshi's storm destroyed all the ships in the entire Fire Nation. For Aang, dealing with a fleet that was all neat in one place should have been child's play. Forget using the Avatar State. Remember the huge wind wall to stop the lava in the Fortune Teller episode? That with water versus the fleet, as for the soldiers in the city, Aang moves faster than the Ocean spirit and the Ocean used relatively small waves, you know, things Aang could have done on his own, and probably better than the Ocean did? He was perfectly capable of destroying the Fleet without using the Ocean spirit. No one's arguing that he shouldn't have smashed the fleet. They're objecting to the use of the Ocean spirit. Either he used a nuke because he was incompetent, or he used a nuke because he didn't want to have to take personal responsibility for the deaths, or that's how people in-universe are going to see it. It would be like Superman using a nuke on them. What does he need a nuke for? He's bloody Superman. And it's bloody inconsiderate to use something that irradiates the home of the people you're there to save. Anyone want to bet that the Ocean Spirit is very pissed off at the Northern Water Tribe for failing to protect the moon?
What other tactics could he have used? You're speaking as though it would have been easy. 'Perfectly capable'? Aang performing superhuman feats of bending like you're describing, particularly outside his native element, was something that wasn't commonplace or simple for him until pretty late in the show. Kyoshi was an experienced and quite ruthless, even evil, warrior. Was Aang any of those things at the time of the invasion? Of course not. So pointing to Kyoshi and saying, "She could do it, why couldn't Aang?" is quite strange. As for your claims about the relative power, even the Ocean Spirit had to take a bit of time to wipe out a Fire Nation fleet that was floating completely in its own element. If the dang Ocean Spirit can't do it effortlessly, why could an inexperienced, reluctant, untrained Avatar? Your remarks about personal responsibility are odd, too. Aang doesn't just want not to have the blame for deaths, he doesn't want them to happen at all.
But there's never any indication at any point in canon that what Aang did is viewed as wrong by anyone. No one is disgusted or horrified by Aang calling up the vengeful Ocean Spirit to destroy the genocidal invaders; the Northern Water Tribe never gently brings up the potential dangers of what he did, Iroh never mentions it. The idea that calling up spirits is a horrific nuke equivalent is a bizarre and nonsensical thing that Vathara made up out of whole cloth that outright contradicts an awful lot of points in canon. And blaming Aang for not having the skills and power of a full-grown Avatar is ridiculous - under the normal pattern, he wouldn't even find out he was the Avatar until he was four years older.
In Embers, a lot of people find out things that they never find out about in canon. For instance, Zuko didn't say anything about Aang's I Surrender, Suckers in canon because he never found out that was what Aang had done. Embers actually shows how several characters viewed Aang as a hero for the North Pole, as in canon... until they learn how he did it. And Min doesn't see the problem with what Aang did, like many tropers, even quoting the reasons several tropers do. Of course, those people might not be satisfied with having their argument given screen time in the fic, due to the fact that Min is used as an ignorant mouthpiece to be given exposition for the sake of viewers on several occassions, so it may come across as This Loser Is You. Or technically, Xander.
Addressing this: "They were there to commit genocide so that the Avatar could not be reincarnated into the Water Tribe. They hit the place during the full moon, when the Waterbenders would be at their strongest, simply to take advantage of their overconfidence as part of the plot to kill the Moon. It worked. " Genocide on the Northern Tribe? Quite possibly. Hitting during the full moon as part of a plot to kill the Moon Spirit? Sorry, but no, series canon doesn't support that part. Firstly, hitting during the full moon was all due to Zhao, who was the authorized commander of the fleet; we even have Iroh there advising against it as strongly as he could without getting tossed into the brig. Second, the "plot" was all Zhao, no-one else - he makes that point so very clear in his rant about learning where the Spirit is; in-series, no-one else but Zhao knew of the scroll he'd found. Though the recent movie adaptation by M. Knight changes this, in the series the whole plan to kill the Moon Spirit was something Zhao put together.
It doesn't matter if the Fire Nation wasn't there to commit genocide. They were there to unjustly and aggressively attack, conquer, subjugate, and render into imperial lands, the Northern Water Tribe. Any one of those things, much less when taken altogether, give the NWT and its agents the moral, ethical, and practical right including by any laws of warfare to take whatever means are necessary to defend themselves against purely military targets. Comparisons to Hiroshima and Nagasaki are simply absurd: there were no civilians in the Fire Nation fleet. There is room for discussion about whether Aang should have used the Ocean Spirit because of its impact on the NWT, but there can be no grounds for the Fire Nation and those defending it to complain about it. They brought a spiritually tormented death on themselves.
Well, not really, because in Embers, no one in the Fire Nation except those at the very, very top are actually truly accountable for their actions-they're all slaves or at best under extreme almost infallibly lethal duress.
Slaves...that's a good one actually. Too much goddamn Godwinning around here, come to think of it the Fire Nation feels a lot more like an Islamic empire. While you are all slaves to those above you, you have a vast amount of freedom in how you handle your objective, comparable to how a slave could even become a general. The only big big avenue cut off from slaves was the people they could choose to marry and how far they could live from their 'master.' In effect the fire loyalty is this but with an added internal failsafe against rebellion.
There's no distinction between using WMDs on military and civilian targets. The reasons why not are underlined in Embers: effects can't be confined to the soldiers, serious check. To use a WMD is to use it on civilians: it's a weapon of MASS destruction. There are civilians dying as far away as Kyoshi Island. Speaking of which, anyone want to bet the carnage in the Northern Water Tribe makes what's happening to the islanders look like nothing? Before, they were getting attacked by Fire Nation soldiers. Now, they may be getting attacked by really fucking pissed off undead Fire Nation soldiers (see ch. 34 A/Ns), that are not only behind their walls but all over the area they get their food from on top of things like the leech killing their fish and such. Kyoshi Island, by contrast, just got attacked by an Ocean Spirit. Who would presumably be controlled by Ocean. Who should also have at least the right to give orders to the killer seahorse that showed up earlier. They're water tribe, and it's shown that the spirits can like spreading around their vengeance. Speaking of vengeance, the Northern Water Tribe? Just utterly failed at protecting the Ocean's wife. If spirits are getting deliberately sent after someone, it's going to be them. The seahorse was specifically going after Water Tribespeople in Ba Sing Se. Not Fire Nation, Water Tribe. Zhao's dead, and he's the only Fire Nation person who knew about and was responsible for his plan. The Water Tribes are a collective, meaning they were collectively responsible for failing at their job and letting La get killed. It's entirely possible that Katara won't be able to kick Pakku's ass for setting her up as a mind-controlling tykebomb because he's already dead.
Yup, in Embers there really IS no difference. Aang once again did something unforgivably stupid and incredibly damaging. But in Vathara's authors notes, she *clearly* goes well beyond saying, "Aang should not have done this because it hurt the people he was trying to protect." She likened it very clearly to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks, comparing those two FAVORABLY to the use of the Ocean Spirit because the bombed people were warned. All of the things you've highlighted? They are reasons Aang should not have done what he did because of harm done to people non-Fire Nation. Vathara frames it as he should not have done it because it wasn't 'fair' to the Fire Nation! Look at the authors notes if you disagree, it's plain to see. And Zhao was *not* the only person who 'knew and was responsible' for his plan. He had help. Even if they weren't informed, they were STILL in the NWT for an unlawful, immoral, evil purpose. If you drive the car for someone who says, "Drive me here so I can kill this guy," and you comply, and then he goes and kills the guy, rapes his wife, and maims his children before killing them too, you don't get to claim to not have known and not be responsible. It would be one thing if Vathara's theme was, "This is an untrained Avatar which is incredibly dangerous." She's not. She routinely goes quite a bit further than that. She tries consistently to link that idea with the Fire Nation as victims idea.
Except that an ongoing theme is that there are reasons but no excuses. If you do something, then you've done it, and intentions don't matter to the dead. Kyoshi didn't intend to kill those people, but they ended up just as dead as they would have if Sozin killed them, the way Chin and Xiangchen killed their own people's healers. The problem comes down to 'necessary evil' not being the same as good. For instance, say that you have a choice between being burned to death and having a needle stuck in your eye. Is having the needle stuck in your eye the better option? Yes. Does this mean that going around sticking needles in people's eyes a good thing? No. Aang had valid reasons for using the Ocean Spirit. It may even have been the least bad option he had. Does this make it a good option? No. One option can be less bad than another option without being a good option. In the same way, a Fire Nation person might have the choice between fighting for Ozai and dying, but that doesn't make fighting for Ozai a good thing. They might have a reason for participating in the genocide, but that doesn't excuse their actions. They may be fighting to preserve their lives because Ozai is evil, yes, but so is everyone else, you know the innocent people that are being attacked? Who are entirely justified in killing them right back? Even genociding them right back? Zuko and Iroh both, several times, basically state that there would be absolutely nothing wrong with the Water Tribes and Earth Kingdom invading and massacring Fire Nation people. Well, there would be bad consequences, but this is a vengeance based culture and they both agree that the other nations have every reason to hold the Fire Nation at fault and commit vengeance on them, not the Avatar. People keep trying to paint Embers in black and white, when a theme in Vathara's work isn't just shades of gray but "when did the world come out in color?" The Fire Nation isn't pure black evil, in Embers or the series. That doesn't mean it's good.
Well, no, one of the ongoing themes of the story is that there are no excuses unless your name is Zuko or Iroh or your background is Fire Nation. The Fire Nation has *tons* of excuses. They're slaves, they were provoked, they were defending themselves, they didn't know, etc. etc. But when we look at Aang, the story's approach is, 'Doesn't matter what your excuse is, you still did it.' It's an incredibly frustrating and very blatant double-standard. Some of that is to be expected in many stories, but Embers takes it to an extreme. Furthermore, the difference between 'good and bad' is often, especially in war, much less important and relevant than the difference between 'bad' and 'worst'. Here's the problem with your analysis: the Fire Nation gets a helluva lot more shades of gray than any other culture in the entire story, and the higher up in the Fire Nation you are, the more grey things are. Not the Avatar or Katara, though. They're stupid and/or crazy schmucks.
Above: Missing the point. Reasons are not excuses because they do not serve the same purpose as excuses. An excuse is something that absolves a person of all blame. A reason is something that lets you understand why they did it - crucially, it's what makes you understand that they are like you - they are people. Normal people, who deserve to be treated as people are treated in general - that is, fairly and justly. It's perfectly possible to understand that, and still assign blame to someone, but it is not possible anymore to simply write off an entire nation as being evil, and being beneath moral consideration. And that's what reasons are for. Not to excuse someone, but to remind you that things like that don't happen in a vacuum, and under the right circumstances, they could happen to someone on your side, and therefore you're not inherently better than them, and the Fire Nation isn't all inherently unworthy of mercy or compassion.
Additionally, Aang and Katara are not depicted as stupid crazy schmucks. The fic offers a variety of perspectives on their actions, including their own. Their problem is that - understandably enough, for children - they do not grasp the idea of how another culture's values can be different, but equal. They judge by their own standards and condemn by them, without taking the time to learn of different sets of standards and more importantly how they came to be and why they do or do not work. Yes, a lot of the fic involves chewing them out for their irresponsible behaviour, but that can be seen as compensating for the extreme and illogical (aside from how it's a kid's series) coddling their prejudice got in the show. Additionally, one needs to remember one of the main points of the series: People act according to their personality, culture and experiences. They are inherently very biased, even if they try not to be. Yes, Toph acts angry about Aang's flightiness and cluelessness of other cultures - and it makes perfect sense, for her - she is a wealthy merchant's daughter. For hear, dealing with other cultures - at least being open to understanding them - as well as as focusing and calculating what consequences your hasty words and impulsiveness might have later - is as natural as breathing. So of course she's bewildered that they just don't seem to get it - she, too, is a child, even if more worldly than most, and does not yet have the patience to tolerate such obvious "incompetence" as a legitimate difference in personality ways of thinking. So you could see the fic as biased because of how many of its characters happen to be biased in Zuko's favour, or you could see it as expecting the reader to treat the material with the careful thought and consideration that is being asked of the characters in-story.
While Aang did have other options, didn't an authors note state that Koh ran out the clock so he wouldn't have time to look for those options. And Zhao honestly believed that he was destined to kill the moon. We know Koh has given visions to Skylord Subodei, Xiangchen and probably Chin. Any bets that he gave one to Zhao too? The moon is pro-human and probably was before Yue, since some humans became walking whales. So why wouldn't Koh want to get rid of the opposition? Zhao came up with the invasion of the North so he would have an excuse to be there and carry out his "destiny". He probably had planned out that invasion long before Aang got to the North Pole, maybe even before he got out of the iceberg. Aang's presence gave him the excuse to pull Fire Nation forces from other combat elsewhere to attacking a place where the people never left the poles or bothered helping anyone outside their tribe.
What's stupid is that Katara is inadvertently fostering Aang's attitude about firebending. She thinks that all firebenders are bad, Fire Nation = Root of all Evil? Well then, how's Aang supposed to become a complete Avatar, and therefore complete person in and of himself, if he does not learn about firebending, and the Fire Nation?
Addressing this : "And blaming Aang for not having the skills and power of a full-grown Avatar is ridiculous - under the normal pattern, he wouldn't even find out he was the Avatar until he was four years older." This is entirely true. Aang did not have the spiritual knowledge or cultural background to see why using the Ocean Spirit might be a bad idea. He didn't have the military knowledge and tactical skills to realise that it was possible for him to find other ways to prevent the Water Tribe's slaughter. However, that does not mean that (a) other characters cannot reasonably consider Aang at fault, (b) the characters that don't blame Aang are doing it for the right reasons or (c) people who object to one aspect of Aang's actions object to all of them. The characters react to what they know of what happened and according to their own beliefs, expectations and moral codes. (One of the most common misapprehensions is that the Avatar is supremely skilled in anything relating to spirits, fighting and bending by virtue of being the Avatar.)
A lot of what is talked about is public opinion. People think the Avatar is so great that they've been sitting around waiting for him to save their asses. The idea of the Avatar being a fallible mortal is totally alien to people showed up in a very early chapter, which featured Zuko yelling at someone for the idea of dumping everything on Aang when he was just a twelve-year-old kid and that was just ridiculous. Humans needing to solve their own problems is a theme in Embers, with Aang having the potential to fix things not because he's the avatar of the world spirit but because he's a human. Of course, Zuko doesn't act like that towards Aang, because regardless of the fact that what Aang is expected to do is ridiculous, he still needs to shut up and do it, just like expecting Zuko to catch Aang was ridiculous (and Ozai knew it), but Zuko still shut up and went to go get it done.
'lot of what is talked about is public opinion. People think the Avatar is so great that they've been sitting around waiting for him to save their asses.' This is another gross alteration to win the argument and make work criticism. Very VERY few people in Avatar are "waiting around" for the Avatar to save them. Most of s1 people respond with dismissal or aggression to Aang unless he's on or they are VERY desperate. Song was not "waiting around" for the Avatar she was doctoring travelers, offering rest, and trying to get at people's damage. BSS arc the war was thought to be endless and handled and the people safe. I know we love deconstructive holding out for a hero type tales but this is averted throughout Avatar from Sokka, to the Water Tribe, to random villages under oppression because they dared resist and are being oppressed. No one is 'just waiting around' and I'm pissed at the implications when we see with or without the Avatar there has been trouble and innovation and active heroing from anyone. No ones on hold for Aang, they, gAang included are constantly racing against the clock. This is Dead Unicorn territory, here.
This is flat out wrong. First of all, Zuko did not just 'shut up and go do it'. He had to be tortured horribly, maimed in fact, and put into an incredibly cruel deliberately damning (Ozai thought) position first. Second, Aang needs to 'shut up and do it'? Yeah, with that kind of burden, the most effective strategy is DEFINITELY to increase the pressure and start yelling. Very motivating.
Actually, Zuko did technically "shut up and go do it". Ozai had to manipulate Zuko into a position that justified Zuko's exile in public opinion. (At least, that portion of the public who's support he required.) Had Ozai had simply ordered him to go off on what was apparently a wild goose chase and not come back, Zuko would have done so, because Zuko was loyal to his father. When badly injured and sent off on an impossible task due to a blatantly ingenuous interpretation of Fire Nation custom by his father, Zuko remains loyal and does his best to acheive the task without complaint. (Though he finds plenty of other things to whine about.)
Zuko even with Embers!Zuko's trousers and new skills and the rampant historical revisions did NOT shut up about doing it. Or have the honor speeches been taken out as well as the rampant violence and sneering.
I'm fairly certain the honor speeches AND the sneering of S1!Zuko have remained in the timeline, mainly due to this quote from chapter 6: "And if it did not fit the mold of a loyal exile bent on capturing the Avatar - well. His nephew's reaction would not be helpful." This kind of implies that Zuko has been very strongly dedicated to playing, breathing, living the part of a loyal but exiled Prince of the Fire Nation. To a teenager carrying that much angst in him, that means ANY seeming slight to Zuko's "honor" has to be answered in negative, loudly and repeatedly. Embers seems to pick up the story just as Zuko begins to realize he doesn't need to play that part so loudly any more. Or at all, chapters later.
What you're saying doesn't make much sense. I was objecting to the notion that Zuko saw what needed to be done and went ahead and did it just because it was necessary. That's inaccurate. Enormous, devastating events had to be maneuvered into place before Zuko went ahead and did what 'needed' to be done. Furthermore, Zuko's loyalty to Ozai ought never be lauded. Except for strictly survival reasons.
Although I do think loyalty is always laudable, I did not mean to convey that Zuko's loyalty to Ozai was a good thing, that suffering in silence is the path Aang should be taking or that Zuko showed any great insight on what needed to be done. I was saying that Zuko was, at a reasonably young age, presented with a situation where he saw completing a near impossible task as the only moral option, given that Ozai had ordered him to do so, and the only option that would eventually give him a life which he would be happy with. He saw capturing Aang as necessary and so he did it, if not gracefully, then with a lack of criticism directed at his father or his mission. (This was probably much motivated by self-preservation as stoic acceptance of his lord's right to do whatever he pleased with him. However, for Zuko to recognise this he would have to accept Ozai's malice toward him.) Had Ozai simply ordered Zuko to find the Avatar out of the blue, Zuko would have been in much the same immediate situation, but Ozai would (presumably) have had public relations problems. Zuko didn't choose to search for Aang, because of the awful things that happened to him, but because it was his duty and his only way of going home.
One issue I have is about Azula. In canon, Azula isn't a walking DSM-IV entry. She's actually written as a foil for Zuko once he developed enough. Given that The Beach shows that as long as Azula feels like she's in control, she and Zuko can get along no more disfuctionally that your average sitcom family. The same episode shows that outside politically manipulating people, she as competent at social interaction as Zuko. And last few episodes showed that her character was as much built around making Dad proud as Zuko, but she thought she was the favourite, and didn't have Iroh around to help her realise Ozai couldn't care less. None of which meshes with how Vathara shows her. You can argue that a lot of her actions are that of a sociopath, but that's not how her character was actually written.
This AU is written before the stuff from The Beach even comes into play, based on the prior characterization displayed in the series. It goes AU early/mid season 2, when everything we saw was that she was a manipulative sociopath. And the thing about the doll still stands. Brrr.
The doll may seem disturbingly symbolic, but it's not actually particularly disturbing behaviour for a person to display. Especially a child.
Treatment of dolls is still considered a decent stand-in for one's view of people, once you're not an infant. Azula going from "I burn dolls, threaten my friends' lives and families and abuse animals" to "I'm awkward with guys I can't kill and have mommy issues" still makes me go "huh?"
Azula craved her father's approval. Ozai aprroved on cruelty so she commited cruel actions. Daddy praises, Azula commits more cruelties to get more praise, rinse, repeat. The awkward with guys thing makes sense since she has virtually no interaction with guys near her age (that are not related), and she is expected to someday produce an heir so failure is not an option, resulting in her trying to hard. (This is just my thoughts. I could be wrong.)
I don't understand why so many people have commented negatively on the Air Nomads seperating children from their mothers. It may not be a cultural quirk we share, but every other nation has already had more disturbing quirks mentioned. (eg. Killing everyone entering the village on Avatar Day, deciding arguments with duels to the death, championing community members over outsiders regardless of the issue, accepting that the strong kill the weak, killing the mentally ill and all their relatives, the Dai Li.) It is rather similar to the Fire Nation custom of letting other families adopt children unsuited to the family trade, which hasn't raised any comment. The reason for the custom is fairly obvious and, despite the "baby-stealers" desciption in the 'Broken Base' Section of the main page, there no reason to think this was ever against the parents' wishes.
It's possibly that not having parents is a pretty big stigma in most societies. Not just not having foster or adopted parents, but the communal raising style sounds very alien to everyone. And they're not being adopted and given a family name; there IS no family name, just the title of Air Nomad. It's kind of the equivalent of boarding school or an orphanage, except you don't have a home to go to over the summer, or a family, and you don't know that most of the rest of the world does have a home and parents/grandparents/families in some way, shape or form.
I'm not sure this CAN be explained to someone who doesn't have a strong family base. There is a difference between folks who have a family, and folks who have... those legally required to care for them. I could walk up to anyone who shares my great-grandparents, identify myself, and know that I would get help back to my parents, or a place to stay for a week or two, or a ticket home. Even if it was cross country. I know the grandson of my great-grandfather's best friend, and could ask for help if I was stranded in the UK. The notion of an entire culture without that safety net... it's mind-blowing. Dealing with folks from China is mildly mind-blowing, given the non-existance of aunts, uncles, or great aunts and uncles. (mostly) as a new mom? Familiar with other moms? And most dads? The idea that EVERYONE would be peachy-keen on giving up a child of my daughter's age (about a year—old enough to be on solids and thus technically to be away from me) is flatly nonsensical. The amount of pressure that would be required to make me think giving up my daughte is the RIGHT thing, let alone doing it, is incredible.
Except they're not without that safety net, it's just based on something other than genetics. I don't see how saying what you just said here is any different from saying that adopted children don't really "count." How is being able to depend on those gentically related to you and different from depending on, say, World of Warcraft friends?
Friend-based safety nets depend on them staying your friends. While it's POSSIBLE to be disowned, it usually takes a heck of a lot. (Side note, World of Warcraft friends sometimes aren't who you thought— after two years of raiding with a guild, my husband and I figured out that they were emotionally abusing the beaten wife guild member; when confronted, they said she was "just a chick" so it didn't matter. Family is much more likely to share your basic morals, and world-view.... which ties right back into a major theme of the fic. ^.^ )
And cultural-based safety nets aren't strong? Airbender culture isn't likely to share basic morals and world-view? People supposedly stop being air nomads? Well, other than dying, of course, but that applies to family as well. (yes, I know dead people are still family, but they can't be counted on to support you) I'd say that they would have had the same safety net you're talking about, just not based on who's sleeping with who or whose womb you came out of.
There are many ways to leave a culture— a major worry with the US military, for example, is helping people transition back into military life. Things based on changeable things change. If the root of your support structure is that you act as a proper member of that culture or subculture.... hm, sounds like high school.
But your family is, in itself, a subculture. What happens if you or some other member stops valuing blood relations as much as they do now? At the very least, they stop being family you rely on. This value you place on family is just as likely to change as any other value out there, and family is only reliable for you because the culture of your family considers it so. Your family-based safety net is a cultural-based safety net, you just don't recognize it as such.
Everyone (including Vathara) seems to be assuming that the nuns give up the babies after they've already had a chance to form attachment, and that forming that attachment is inevitable. But, historically, LOTS of people gave up their children for others to raise - consider, for example, that the upper classes basically saw their kids at formal suppers and special events for a large part of history, and the kids were otherwise raised by servants. This does not appear to have caused most aristocratic women to wail and gnash their teeth. Why? Because for them, it was NORMAL. Cultural norms play a HUGE part in what is and isn't traumatic to someone. Furthermore, there's no reason why an airbender nun would raise her baby at all, especially if the monks visit a couple times a year, meaning that the babies probably are born all around the same time. Communal nurseries, anyone? Baby goes into nursery, babies are all nursed alike by all nursing mothers, and no one but whoever's keeping the records to make sure there isn't completely rampant inbreeding ever needs to know which kid belongs to which mother. In short, I don't think there's much reason to believe that most or even many nuns would need to be mind-bent into giving up the kids. I doubt the author agrees with me, but that's for me to grumble over.
I disagree. I read the letter as saying that the pregnant/nursing/younger Nuns were getting upset at the deaths wrought by Kyoshi's hurricane. Gayate didn't have a child with her.
Modern society is fairly broken in a lot of ways. A lot of America has flat-out lost the skills necessary for someone to live with their parents. Parents say things like 'you'll always be my baby' and think this is a good opinion to have, something sweet, instead of dehumanizing and just not how it works at all. Since parents won't acknowledge their children as adults, those children then are essentially forced to get away from them in order to avoid being stifled and ending up living in a basement and being constantly looked down on for the rest of their lives. And let's not even go into the latchkey kid phenomenon. The first time this troper saw parents treat an adult child as a responsible adult and listen to their opinion, it was seriously brain-breaking, and the idea of parents crying when a son moved out, since they had the cultural assumption that he'd stay and eventually take over as head of the household? When there's an unbridgable generation gap, then people do end up more emotionally tied to actual mentors and wouldn't see anything wrong by being raised by competant professionals all along. In a society where your family actually ends up your friends instead of people you're stuck with until you turn... twenty-six is adulthood these days, as of Obama's new health insurance law, that's something entirely different. Family bonds as something unbreakable really only gets discussed in bad contexts in American media, for instance child abuse victims still loving the abuser because they're family. In many ways, a lot of us end up like Aang, viewing family bonds as whatever degree of inevitable/necessary evil instead of a good thing.
"Not against the parents' wishes"? Maybe not against the father's wishes. There are normal chemical reactions in the human brain, that form an emotional bond from the mother to her child after the child is born. Later this bond becomes stronger. It was a natural reation for the nuns to want to keep their children. But the Air Monks' rule was: "No attachment to the world." Some of them had to be brainwashed to behave. Another thing is that in the other three nations, family and comunity bonds are strong, they built society. Firebenders have clans with their loyalty, earthbenders their village and deals, and waterbenders community as whole. Because Aang does not know these bonds, he does not understand these three nations. The Air Monks' way of life was not normal even for them. Ty Lee is terrified that she could be separated from people she cares about (even if one of them is psycho like Azula), and she is an airbender.
For someone like me, who is very attached emotionally to my family, the idea of giving up my future children IS horrifying. Moreover, I get attached to things I raise- even just giving up the kittens I foster for a few weeks makes me sad- and I don't even have the physiological attachments of a real mother or the spiritual attachments of the earth, water, and fire peoples. For them, giving up children must be Nightmare Fuel. Of course, given the need for 'harmonious accord,' even some Nuns seem to have had this problem. Personally, I think another part of that letter is even scarier though. The monk flat out states that compassion and caring on are attachments and must be eliminated. A whole race of people that didn't care for one another? At All?!?! THAT'S High Octane Nightmare Fuel. It also makes the other nation's historical interactions (at least in the last thousand years) much more understandable.
Ditto. We're now on kid #2, with the youngest at five months— and both of us are very attached to her, even if her personality isn't anything like that of a post-reason person. I bring this up because she's way too young to survive without nursing— from memory, you have to be at least a year old to have a good chance of metabolizing non-human milk well, and I have trouble seeing the monks as shown in cannon dealing with anything below a two year old/toddler age baby. Going off of my upbringing on a ranch, and how most of the people I knew growing up had animals they'd raised, people do get attached to anything they nurture. I suspect the dear author has a plan.
I'm one of the younger children of a fairly large extended family with a twist- my father was adopted. Yet I know that even though my family isn't particularly close, or even related to me by blood on some parts- they're mine, and I'm theirs. And if I *needed* them, they'd be there. Even though most of them have only seen me a few times in my life, due to living elsewhere. My Granny J may not have been related to me, but she was family, and the woman who got me into reading. Similiarly, I take a great deal of amusement in the fact my brother and I take after our mother's side- to the point that in my job at the local shop, people who are strangers to me instantly realize who I am, based on said family resemblance. The idea that this would be abnormal in another place- even considered unnatural is so strange I can't even think about it. It's an intergral part of my life, being his sister, being their daughter- and I can't imagine not having this. Thus I can really sympathize with the G Aang and Xiu's reaction to Aang explaining the Air nomads- that they should be happy to give up their children, and their claim on their family. I know a woman named Jean managed it- which is why I had Granny Joan. But I also know she mourned the decision every birthday, every christmas. It's our culture- a family belongs to each other, even if they don't belong together.
Thank you everyone who answered this. It makes it a lot easier to see why people reacted the way they did. The mix of priorities and comparisons to young adults leaving home were especially informative. (Past tense, because the later developments are presented in a way that encourages reacting emotionally.) If anyone's curious about the perspective I was asking from, I have immediate family who I love dearly, including younger siblings, but I don't really see babies as people. Also, I assumed a bigger cultural influence than most people: I expected everyone in the Air culture to interpret the Nun's desire to keep their children as selfish and taking the infants despite those feelings to be the right thing to do - essentially for it to be an unquestioned cultural norm - and saw the use of something like emotion-based brainwashing as a separate issue.
I'm low on the clique pole here. but. . . "Honor in the Fire Nation is like being part of the Tribe in the Water Tribes" Stop. I'm not disagreeing with the sentiment, most of it, that's made by the full statement but this fragment takes as base fact something that I think infects the fanon BAD.
Okay here's the thing. Zuko works because he's a thorough deconstruction of the "honorable antagonist" through and through down through his Freudian Excuses and Morality Pets/Love Redemption and even sophistication being so prevalent as to offer no real distinction (everyone's life sucks, Why are you such a brat) or not present to avoid easy outs.
His redemption, for the most part, goes the long way and he NEEDS to be redeemed not just switch sides or had the traits to fix the conflict all along without growth and change nor did he accomplish it guided by some internal star or good-mcawesomeness but with a lot of pressure, pushing, and failure.
Zuko in fans' minds, especially when he's main charactered in a fiction keep projecting too much of specific worth on him and blindness of his now-plot-fortified-FE on his opponents OR they are blind to anything else and YES I know Zuko can be and is a good guy and had good traits. Honorable, especially in the specific Japan-ish way that unfortunately gets attached inaccurately and inappropriately to the boy (CHINESE and Korean swords and court, names and stuff but damnit we're all weeaboos in fandom) is not one of them.
Cooking up a brand new (and supernatural that's often one too) cause for Zuko's and the Fire Nation's behavior to act as a salve for the fact they are that terrible and NEED HELP. Zuko being an armed bandit in S2 wasn't a dark turn, it was a progression of his behavior in Waterbending Scroll, Bato of the Water Tribe (where he didn't even want to pay Jun because he was entitled) and he even stated WHY in S2 he behaved that way.
People way too often expect the common shonen early antagonist twist or chubby-bunnifying so out of this anecdotal experience see it on the character when it explicitly isn't there. Zuko isn't honorable. He is trying to live up to his father's expectations and WANTS to accomplish them as he has integrated them with his own. It just bugs me this is the default and start because it really starts on a broken base for me. Zuko's hilarious amount of fail while wearing the tropes and demeanor of what looks like an honorable/noble/great person with the attendant doom that brings is why he succeeds whereas Kurama and Hiei and Sesshomaru and other monstrous sadists who are suddenly only coldly dispassionate noble and wise and honorable pros fails. Those are redeemed by retcon and lying and forgetting due to character polls and not character arcs (Sessh=One Shot Who Wouldn't Die). Zuko explicitly isn't them until around Southern Raiders and even then is still got issues (Fatherlord anyone, beating up a Fire Nation Officer to Make Katara Like Him, Koan Failure). Its why I'm apprehensive about the fanfiction and the author's interpretation. She like a lot of pre-Co D speculators just seems to have it wrong but are too invested to really pull out.
Ditto Zuko being 'smart enough' or, in other words, just somehow deep down good enough he never intended or tried to hurt people all the times he was and totally did (his main characterization and flaw s1 is how inconsiderate he is. We have canon statement of this fact that he does this to people near and far).
The last gets on my nerves due to the lionization by retcon abuse. Zuko was deliberately NOT so badass he could make everyone run on his own threat or so competent everyone else in the room were amateurs. This was a massive breath of fresh air about the series. Aang kicked his ass in a straight out fight shortly after he surrendered in due consideration of the people around him being threatened and revealing himself to come to their rescue (a move I think the character never gets enough props for I know he's mostly a stereotypical bratty half pint and chosen one which can annoy even me and those wanting a slightly more darker and complexly constructed historical drama , but admit it this gambit is something usually anyone BUT the main hero does let alone on his second episode with full conscious and CAPABLE thought and capacity on his own in Aang's character type. Its why all Luke as by Timothy Zahn portrayals annoy. From the outset Aang is well into the competence zone with some flaws and gets BETTER from there).
Zuko gets written by George Martin after uncovering all that complex history and culture and cut to Aang and he's behaving like a more simplistic and broad version of himself that lacks awareness or maturity and self-control. Though I appreciate an attempt to avoid the mud of the shipping war
With Tenzin announced its started so the authors who pull this are coming off less graceful and more "outgrown such silly superstitions" level of smug or denial
Aang's relationship to and with Katara is nothing minor, inconvenient, warped, or extraneous. It is a core of the characters' identity and the narrative of the show, moreso than Zuko's honor fixation (eliminated end of S2 and STILL we retain the character and make him better to boot). It is really REALLY critical to making the characters' naturally move (I speak with assumed authority here). Their interactivity. Alteration or perversion or darkening of this isn't so much "alternate interpretation" so much as sandbagging. See canon where in the last half of S3 Aang's barely interacting with the cast and it REALLY torques the fans. Or in other words, deal with your problems with it, as an author, but struggling with the difficult aspects not tricks, especially if you hated swerves like Crossroads of Destiny or Aang being able to manipulate spirit energy to seal bending.(Why none of the equal incredulous at Metalbending? much MUCH less foreshadowed Toph just does it)
In Zuko center'ed fic this can erupt into worse than Ron the Death Eater. Aang stops being even half of what Zuko was to Aang as focus goes on making Zuko so awesome as he trumps over all those who'd make him look or feel bad. Without variation he beats in person, proxy, or challenge sister, Daddy Dearest, and so on and by doing so the Avatar, by becoming the narrative focus of this world guest starring some twelve year old by more or less being Mara "You're Doing it Wrong Farmboy" Jade to Aang's "Durr how do I deal with a kingpin smuggler and use the force, I'm so scared and in-confident without Obiwan now" Luke (and yes I have EU issues, does it show?)
Out of sheer curiosity, it seems like it must be asked how many people quite get the difference between 'reasons/explanations' and 'excuses' & insist upon the idea that if Zuko/the Fire Nation is not evil, the Avatar must be? From what information we get as of chapter 35, it seems like neither is evil—the balance is very disturbed, and everything is the result of this.
Part of the problem some of the audience has with 'reasons are not excuses' may be that arguments in the real world about real events rarely work that way. Unless it is a very detached and academic venue, people almost never offer reasons for something without also intending for those reasons to be excuses. Additionally, Vathara's writing tends to pull people into her world and make them emotionally enganged, which makes them less able or willing to look at things with the detachment needed to accept the 'reasons are not excuses' form of argument.
Part of the reason why reasons have the tone of excuses, outside of academic or other deliberately-ignoring-emotion venues, is because people tend to project guilt or motives rather than describe an action— thus, any response is a justification, rather than just more information. (ie, "Bob tackled a 9 year old girl, breaking her rib." Explanation/justification: "the girl was trying to shoot Bob's sister.") It's a human thing— the ability to make judgments and act on them with the least amount of information possible can be very important to survival, and over-reaction is generally not bad for survival. Nobody dies because they mistakenly assume oak trees are deadly.
Avatar Kyoshi did not have her advisors; as a result, she made a mistake that, if Aang's actions are any indication, she could not possibly have known better than to do. This does not excuse what she did, it's simply a reason for it—and from what we are told of the Earth Kingdom, she probably thought it would work, and she'd not known that the Earth King of the time would not pass along her warning (nor that the Fire Nation would not know she did try to warn them so the Wave Clans would have been evacuated). The Fire Nation being tied to the Fire Lord is not their fault. This does not excuse what they have done; it explains why they've not simply overthrown the Fire Lord, cut their losses, and settled for what territory they've been able to gain. (This is what history says happens when somebody attempts what the Fire Lords since Sozin have done: they get deposed.) If it was not for the fact that there clearly areBig Bads, Rousseau Was Right would be popping up here—and Aang, for all that he does not think about consequences (something he is, canonically, prone to doing), would be the white.
In fact, there is a term for what's being outlined in Embers in military jargon: the clusterf*ck, which could be defined with depressing accuracy in troper terms as "when people play catch with Idiot Ball," and while Vathara says that she's dipping farther back in history than the World Wars, the best-documented example is World War I which quite possibly was one from start to finish. One of the major reasons we don't see more works set during it is because all sides were functionally Pinball Protagonists: with only a few exceptions, countries took the sides of countries they were obligated by treaty to take. (The exceptions opted to ignore their treaty obligations & take bids.)
Possibly, some of this problem may simply be readers joining in the Values Dissonance/Culture Clash party, and forgetting that there are no reliable narrators in this story. For example: Aang is a very young monk, assuming that he is past 'initiate.' When he claims that the Air Nomads had no bad people, that may simply be because they would not tell an idealistic 12-year-old exactly what they do with such; given what we know of their ability to identify such people, they might well have been dealt with via automatic shunning, and perhaps ultimately, if that wasn't enough to get the person to change their behavior, the Elders quietly doing what the Water Tribes did—and if Aang is a good example of what young Air Nomads are like...the most the kids likely noticed was that the person they'd been shunning just stopped turning up one day. If the person responsible for raising the Air Nomad is responsible for making this choice and following through with it, then it even makes sense that you'd have the children fostered out—at least that way you'd never have to face the possibility of having to do this to your own flesh & blood. (It is quite possible that Air Nomads would be told whom their parents were upon reaching adulthood; once again, we only have Aang's word on how their culture worked, and he was not an adult when he got himself frozen in an ice burg.)
Of course, Vathara might take it an entirely different direction—for example, we may end up having later (36-and-up) chapters reveal that the Air Nomads have been screwed over as badly as the Fire Nation, just in a different way, and that Aang is only a good source of information about Late Air Nomad civilization. All us poor readers have to work from is incomplete knowledge of the reasons.
Another thing which seems to be getting forgotten in all of this is that Aang is—this bears repeating—a twelve-year-old, and a generally sheltered one at that. He's being treated just as cruely by Fate as Zuko has been, just in a different way: he's being forced to mature fast, to face a situation where he is going to have to do what is something required of adults—to prioritize his ideals, to decide which of them he will give up if necessary to maintain the rest. He's being dragged out of where he ought to be getting to happily reside in a mental world running on Black and White Morality—while he's at the age where normally this would be fine—and being forced to deal with a world that suddenly has not just grey but blue and orange. This is not a nice thing to do to somebody his age; he's simply not mentally ready for it. He also has no choice. He's not evil, he's not bad, he's been saddled with a really sucky job.
The canon's solution lets Aang have more time to grow up; it puts off for at least one generation the problem of what will happen if a later Fire Lord like takes more after Sozin than Roku. Embers, by making Zuko no longer an option, means that Aang doesn't get the grace of putting that off, and removes the potential gentler solution via reforms by Fire Lord Zuko—and the only way we will know if something more long-term was done is if the recently-announced spin-off about Aang's successor feels this is worth mentioning. Aang no longer can buy time, like he did in the canon.
When you get down to it, neither Zuko nor Aang are having a good time—though, since much of the story so far has been told through the eyes of people who are either from the Fire Nation or are closer to Zuko than Aang, and all of the narrators are biased, we've gotten an understandibly lesser glimpse of what Aang and his companions are being subjected to, and it did not help that for a large percentage of the story so far the 'wave' of changes from the canon had not hit them. It's only in the last two chapters (34 and 35) that Aang has had to face responsibility—at a much sooner date, in many ways, than he had to in canon, and certainly in a more vicious manner.
It does not help that this is an unfinished work; we do not know yet how character development will take Aang & company as the ripple effects of the changes spread. Zuko has already made a major decision: the Fire Nation cannot keep its current direction, now. Aang is going to have to decide what his priorities are, and that's a major piece of character development—just as his efforts to find a solution to his ethical problem at the end of the 3rd season was. (It seems quite possible that he would not have been given what he needed to Take a Third Option if he had not done what he did.)
The canon, to put it flatly, did not deal with the aftermath of the war, and the efforts to rebuild. The spin-off will be set far enough into the future that we might hear about it—but only if the writers deem information about the gap between the two series as something worth sharing.
Given the ages of the intended target audience of the canon, this is reasonable. Cleaning up after a war is sometimes messier than the war itself; as is pointed out in Embers, there will be people whose ancestors were from a different nation than their current one, who will consider where they currently live as their home. Just because that isn't in itself bad enough, if you've got enough people who believe that the Fire Nation as a whole are Always Chaotic Evil or mostly so—which we know exist canonically—it's going to be hell preventing ethnic cleansing. Does what their soldiers did on Sozin's orders to the Air Nomads justify that? (For historical parallels? Try Africa, Ireland, and the Balkans in the past century or two. Or if you don't mind Nightmare Fuel, what little we know of what the Red Army did when it reached Germany; unlike examples where discipline broke down, the political officers encouraged the Red Army to go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. There is a reason people rarely give why Germans would go to such effort to )
No show for the preteen demographic like Avatar was is going to address the utter mess that can result without resorting to oversimplification and ignoring the unfortunates who are caught between the two. You simply could not get thatpast the radar otherwise, and the result would be Unfortunate Implication that genocide is OK if you're wiping out the right people—and missing this would take everybody involved in making it clinging to a planet-sized Idiot Ball.
"Avatar Kyoshi did not have her advisors;" A position and need the story made up and made necessary to direct a grown woman who, as precursor to assuming power, would have to learn the central spiritual beliefs and lifestyles of four major peoples. But her son died and so she goes mad with rage and power and condemns the Fire Nation to a path of evil. They just can't stray from the Bushido and now her thoughtless invasion has corrupted it to evil masters the fool. You see the problem with this? Kyoshi is violent and ignorant and tyrannical because she lacked a made up group of Vathara's that would grant her well-reasoned capacity, and without whom was emotionally out of balance. A group that exclusively includes characters made up or following Vathara's characterization or she favors. Moreover it washes too much culpability and capacity to form intent or be held accountable from the Fire Nation. Again who the story centers on and favors and characterizes in the most elaborate and civilized light. It is Fire Nation actions and harms that center in this story, constantly, being key and true and the rest superfluous or there to make the 'Fire Nation' cool. If there is an evil action and Fire Nation is involved its explained as part of some elaborate cultural feature that somehow in story people will give a damned about. And this is inconsistently written (Loyalty disease, as implied elsewhere on this page being a generic badass lone character trait for resisting as to the horrifically lethal matter that failed to flare up when Zuko attacked his own countrymen and freed Aang its constantly harped on and Kyoshi and Aang must be responsible for). This is followed up by Author's Notes criticizing Kyoshi's canon conduct in battle (making the world's most grandiose fighting retreat) by inventing further victims and, AGAIN, removing malice and culpability from the Fire Nation. Moreover this is usually delivered, forcefully, by favored characters to sounding boards who are written less able, intelligent, and so forth. Anyone not Fire Nation is playing checkers, they chess. Aang's age is emphasized as some catchall explanation on how he's characterized and portrayed. Zuko's is not with background used to justify all manner of improbable amounts of knowledge and altered to include super special powers that grant him higher moral action and authority.
I thought Kyoshi was portrayed as making two or three major mistakes, because she had little knowledge of other cultures than the one she was born to, even those within the Earth Kingdom. And while that was shown as partly her fault (she didn't seek the knowledge or even accept that there could be anything relevant to being Avatar that she didn't already know), it was in large part due to the failures of the system intended to support her. She didn't need special powerful people to tell her what to think, but she did need the knowledge that yaoren traditionally provided to the Avatar. Also, isn't it simple logic that when Avatars cause minor natural disasters in populated areas people are killed?
When is the last time Embers!Zuko has made an actual mistake. An action born of flaws that denied him his goals or actually harmed him as to just vaguely but impermanently hurt him to give him a chance to show off his implacability, badassness, or hint at his destiny a woobie smack or "Good Thing you can heal" sort of jab metaphorically. His previous failure with his three year crew is retconed out and revised from pissing off Jee and them so much they all but mutiny twice and permanently leave him as he REFUSES to see them off, participate in events or hold respectful conversation and insults them as traitors now being just slightly misinformed guys who were converted by his noble spirit after 'a few months' and were 'forced' away by Zhao while undermining Ozai's excesses. Meanwhile Aang "abandons" (of course AZULA IS JUST THINKING THAT, the author dodges) Katara midbattle to earn his electrical coma and Zuko resumes channeling the Author's frustrations at Aang's presence afterwards and puts in more violations and flaws for Aang to be responsible for but seeing Zuko's actions in the most absurdly positive light (Zuko deliberately avoids collateral damage, is educated in statecraft but never practiced, loved by the refuges who fled his people so much they don't mind breaking loyalty to the Earth King because fuck the guy who's currently feeding us, Zuko is a tactical and strategic genius, Zuko's lack of excessive violence equals laudable nobility etc). The story is desperate to NOT have Zuko bow his fool head so "failing" at not following the canon vs the Fire Lord plot as its being excessively discredited as irrelevant or even misguided as to the 'realistic' whatever-Zuko's-plans-are also don't count. That's assuming, unlike in canon, Day of Black Sun succeeds.
But what REALLY bugs me? The best person to tell you about any aspect of your own arts and culture and capability isn't a master of it or practitioner but someone Fire Nation or sympathetic to them. Pakku's lightspeeded updates on Aang's flaws for Iroh's assessment (once again diminishing his role as he's an unknowing target for greater all powerful conspiracy that can't stop the war but "needs" to judge Aang and can pinpoint him at anytime) are beyond the impossible but goddamn he can't teach any basic features of his own art or know anything about spirits or share this information. The only real culture is Fire Nation culture that must bend all to it or else evil invasions, demonic uprisings, dead innoecents Who Were Just Following Orders And Couldn't Do Better, or you're being an ignorant racist.
I wouldn't go that far. Keep in mind, all of the exposition has to come from characters we know- and, yes, most of those are Fire Nation, because that's where the action is usually focused, around people from the Fire Nation. However, most of that information is coming from people who were deliberately in a position to use anything, no matter how unorthodox, to study the way other cultures do things- and the ways they used to do them. Also, the dragons' method of sharing stories by sharing the memory itself probably lends itself well to oral tradition- and oral tradition cannot be wiped out*
or is at least very hard to wipe out
if a) records are hidden/burned, or b) someone who knows the story is still alive to tell it. But, that's not where all the information is coming from. Tingzhe Wen and King Kuei are Earth, and they have read enough unusual sources to have a clue of what's possible. Katara had her vision from Yue, where she learned how all benders once healed. Tao is Earth Kingdom as well, even if he gets some things wrong. Langxue has information to share. Yes, most exposition comes from Fire Nationals, because Zuko is the central character, but don't discount those from other cultures just because there are fewer of them.
The author is currently rubbing her hands together in the characteristic way of stock villains, cackling diabolically as she reads and trolls this page.
If Zuko can be held accountable for his (nation's) actions, then so can Aang. Those who say he's innocent, say that to Ty Lee's face. Her, as well as the non-Byakko survivors, the yamabushi, Kuei's line of whom come from Si Wong desert, and all those remnants of Air peoples who survived Xiangchen's world-wide hunt for those of Air Nomad blood. Aang isn't Xiangchen, and he's not at fault for what Kyoshi and Roku did (and did not do). However, ignorance does not make you innocent; it makes you liable. (The California driving handbook sums this up quite nicely.) Aang just happens to be the only known Air Monk in the world; what makes things worse is that he is of the faction that won out over the other different Air Nomad people, and he still thinks that Xiangchen is a hero.
The Fire Nation clan structure: Seriously. Despite not being hinted at in the series (along with about 3/4 of everything Vathra's made up to make the Fire Nation woobies) it's capable of creating an almost fanatical devotion to the clan's head or lord or whatever and if it's broken, it kills the person who broke their loyalty more often than not. This doesn't make any sense.
Why do people keep discussing the fic as if it lives in the same universe as canon? It's so AU from the very ground up that it has to be approached as a separate entity from the cartoon. The Avatar system is fundamentally fucked up in this world because the real purpose of the Avatar has been lost: Not just to be someone who can throw all kinds of power around, but someone who can understand the fundamental differences of the Four Nations, carved soul-deep into them by their bending. And for several turns around the wheel, that's not been happening. Avatar Kyoshi did a terrible thing to the Fire Nation in forcing them to live like they were Earth Nation because she had no real understanding them. Doesn't excuse what she did, but it gives a solid reason for it. Just like Aang allowing himself to be used by the Ocean Spirit at the North Pole. Just like the Fire Nation soldiers following their leaders into a horrifyingly genocidal war. Everyone has blood on their hands, here. Everyone has to take responsibility if things are to become right again. Why is this so hard for people to grasp?
This. Had it been billed as an "Everything in ATLA was wrong, including the name" from the beginning it wouldn't receive as much flak from people who started reading about a story that diverged from canon when Zuko learned that Fire could heal. Instead we were roped along into thinking that this story only diverged from canon after this point only to be shown (or in some cases simply told) that the fic diverged from canon in the backstory in seemingly random and nonsensical ways (the dragon issue the Clan structure of the Fire Nation the whole Every element has mind-control powers thing) many of which are poorly foreshadowed or dropped on us with no foreshadowing.
In the first chapter, Firehealing is introduced. If this doesn't immediately tell you that you're not in Kansas anymore, then you aren't paying attention.
There are plenty of stories that introduce a lost technique or technology or form of magic in the early chapters that are also single point of departure stories, with the discovery being the point change. Embers is more of an everything-you-thought-you-knew-about-At LA-world-is-wrong story that initially masquerades as a Want-of-a-Nail story.
All the events of Book One and all the events of Book Two that don't directly involve Zuko are considered to be canon for this story. The gAang makes all the same choices and takes all the same actions that we see in the cartoon, which indicates they should be the same characters we got to know in the canon when they get to Ba Sing Se. Yet some of them don't seem to be. The reasons given for this have to do with the detailed but non-canon historical, sociological, and psycological backstory Vathara cooked up, which somehow doesn't have an effect on their actions up to that point.
As of chapter 37, Word Of God is that it wasn't supposed to be this much of an Alternate Universe when Vathara started out, but the backstory she developed kept snowballing on her.
Embers actually shades more into the realistic side of war than the canon as it departs from it — one thing that needs to be remembered about the canon was that it was intended for the pre-teen audience and, while it certainly does touch on topics not normally done so for that age range...there is no way you're going to slip past the Moral Guardians some things like what happens when the older, ''nastier'' versions of Jet are loose. And in case you're wondering how nasty it gets—it usually gets skipped in accounts (news and historical) intended for adult audiences.
Chapter three has an Honor Killing. (of an unwilling, no less) If that doesn't signal "darker and more realistic," I don't know what does.
What honor killing in chapter three? Who got killed?
Ping. It doesn't happen onscreen, but they find her body and discuss it.
Something that bugs me: A sense (at least in some plot arcs) that Vathara is writing the characters and many people of the world as inflexibly programmed robots. She puts together detailed psychological profiles based on real-world cultures and pivotal or traumatic events in the character’s backstory to justify why characters act a given way, but then seems to treat what happens in her story as the only possible reaction on the part of that character in that situation. Sometimes, this just doesn't mesh with the choices made by that character elsewhere in the material that is canon both to the series and this story. Beyond that, each of the elements has some principle that going against is literally unthinkable upon pain of near-certain death, especially for the benders of those elements. That's Nightmare Fuel territory in my book.
Pretty sure it's supposed to be Nightmare Fuel - the Emberverse is horribly, horribly broken. Bending modifies the human soul on a very deep level, forcing them to act in ways that are in line with their element. With no healers available, acting against those taboos is a death sentence, rather than the painful but nonfatal last resort that it should be. This ties into what the Avatar was supposed to be, but isn't anymore: the neutral arbiter able to balance the four nations, understanding all points of view but bound to none.
Chapter 38 - Did anyone see this as a Take That against a particular crowd of readers?
"It could even be an advantage," Azula murmured, mind racing. "The airbender's such a naive little boy. He wants to believe not everyone's guilty. That someone can be saved."
Katara's blind faith in the Spirits as shown when the gAang meets Tao. Seriously, girl, after what Yue has shown you, and what Wan Shi Tong has tried to do to you, not all spirits like you. You'd think she'd catch a clue after Sokka, her own brother, said so. What really ticks me off is how she reacts when Tao tells her how the Earth Kingdom bury their dead. "You bury them? How can you not give them back to the Ocean? That's wrong!" I know that she's a naive, hot-blooded and passionate girl bent on saving the world and helping Aang achieve his destiny, but really, how about showing some respect for others? She not only insulted Tao, but Toph and the way her parents lay their dead to rest. And this is after Toph explained to Katara about Roku being to Aang what Kanna is to Katara. Seriously, What the Hell, Hero??
One of Katara's major issues in this fic is her inability to accept cultural differences as they relate to morality and spirituality. She condemns evil where she finds it, which is her duty as a spiritual leader. However, her expectations in these areas are so deeply ingrained that she doesn't even consider the possibility of relativity in ethics. When she sees something wrong occuring, she tries to stop it. In this case, that means informing Tao that he's acting wrongly. There's no insult intended- If anything she's doing him a kindness.
Spiritual leader? Is that what she thinks she is? If being more spiritually inclined is what is required in being a spiritual leader, then wouldn't Aang be the leader? He is the Avatar, after all. Katara may not have meant to be insulting, but her words implied it nonetheless. The saying goes "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions". It's not enough JUST to mean well.
Actually, that comes across as more surprise than anything -her gut reaction is 'This is wrong'. Not a conscious thought, just an emotional reaction -to be expected, since dealing with the dead is important -and she doesn't immediately try to demonise Tao, or berate him for it; she simply states her feelings and then listens to what he has to say about it.
Would it hurt to try to respect other people's cultures? If she can't understand, it's fine. Like Sokka told Aang about hunting, if you don't respect what it is you're hunting, you're in for a world of hurt. She and Langxue are definitely not going to get along well.
After Tao explains, she DOES respect it. If she doesn't understand something and it feels wrong to her on a gut level, that's fine; it's what she does after the explanation that matters, and in this case at least, she respects the difference and moves on.
I watched the ep where Aang get's possessed by the Ocean... Only he didn't get possessed by the Ocean. The Avatar Spirit pushed Aang aside and then merged with the Ocean Spirit on it's own. Please Recall, by Word of God (And I think the Avatar Extra version of the show), The Spirit of The World and Aang are NOT actually the same people like everyone in the Avatar verse thinks, Aang is just the human soul that was reincarnating at the time that the Spirit chose as it's vessel. And The Spirit of The World decided that the best plan was to join with the Moon Spirit and crush the Fire Nation Fleet. Which means that anyone who insults that decision is insulting the Spirit of The World, not Aang. It also means that Aang technically isn't the reincarnation of Roku, since he's just the random human soul the Spirit of The World decided looked like a good apartment, but that's splitting hairs and doesn't really matter. Or there COULD be some law or another in the Spirit World that Zhao, and by extension, the Fire Nation, broke and he was just punishing them for it.
So? Did you miss the part about how Vathara is expounding on Spirit's Blue and Orange Morality? The idea that you can't insult the Avatar, spirit or human, is part of the problem that Kyoshi had. And, forgive me if I'm wrong, but isn't the Avatar Spirit joining with humans in order to LEARN TO UNDERSTAND HUMANS? Oh, also, going by your train of logic, I wonder what we should do to the Air Temples. Because of how The Spirit of The World came out and was getting all destructive before Katara reminded it and Aang that there were innocent people near by. It's said in the fic, and we see it in canon, The Avatar Spirit is ANGRY.
The Air Nomads being a homogenous collective void of individuality. Well, we all know who to thank for that. But really, how hard is it to look up the word "nomad" in the dictionary? Not all Air Nomads are monks! Think about it!
Have you been paying attention? There were lots of other Air Nomads about in the world, right up until Skylord Subodei and Xiangchen killed and/or mind-bent most of them. The other Nomad tribes, what's left of them, are currently scattered and hidden away.
Wow, I really feel sorry for the Gaang now, Aang specifically. I've just read chapter 39, and the "renegades" mentioned in chapter 31? Looks like not everyone really liked the Temple Monks. And it really bothered me that people that are land-locked in a monastery were called Air Nomads to begin with. I mean, nomads travel and are in constant motion, right? What's going to happen when Aang finds out about the Byakko-airbending inhabitants? If he does, will Aang be able to find allies amongst them? Because the Onmitsu are out, obviously. And the other Nomads may or may not help Aang, judging how the Temple Monks used to treat their ancestors. They may go as far as to say "The only good Air Monk is a dead Air Monk", but definitely stay away from Aang and their other kin (Onmitsu).
Confirmed in this latest chapter. Toph meets a Yamabushi, a Byakko inhabitant named Hitomi. However, she's not an airbender. Not all the Yamabushi are airbenders. To Toph, she staes: "So long as Monk Aang lives, the Temple lives". I always thought the Yamabushi weren't afraid of the Temple airbenders, but looks like I'm wrong.
What bugs me is the complaints about the author painting the Fire Nation as being good guys with excuses for bad behaviour. Yes, reasons CAN be implied to be excuses, but come on. Wars don't just start, and once started, they don't just persist. Few people are genuinely evil, yet nearly everyone can be rather careless and self-absorbed and fail to understand other people. I see nothing wrong with a fic that tries to make the background for the war more realistic and less one-dimensional. The firebenders' "loyalty sickness" isn't an excuse for them not betraying their lord, it's a reason for why the measure Kyoshi recklessly introduced could have the consequences it did. One of the story's main themes is that power must be used responsibly and wisely, and for wisdom, you need understanding and acceptance of other cultures. The "loyalty sickness" is just one of many cultural quirks. Which means that if it had been a different measure, under different circumstances, it could've been the Earth Kingdom, or the Water Tribe, or even the Air Nomads that developed into an all-conquering Empire. And that is a much more interesting Aesop than "the Fire Nation are inherently evil and ambitious and it was just a matter of time".
Actually, since you're on the subject of the all-conquering Empire, the Air Nomads had their time in the sun 1,000 years ago. Skylord Subodei's clan, the White Wind, really did "own the skies". Xiangchen let slip that little prophecy for his own gain, and with the Avatar under his thumb, allowed Subodei and his family to Rape, Pillage, and Burn all around the world. Definitely the cause of why there is airbender blood in people who are not Air Nomads. The Water Tribes, in the past, had been known to hide their loot on Kyoshi Island, so it is certain that they've plundered and killed wherever they went. The Earth Kingdom...Kuei knows who and what his ancestors have been and done; he's studied histories. What the detractors don't see is that the past is the basis for the present, and it is best always to be honest about one's flaws (Zuko, Kuei, Toph) rather than denying anything bad or wrong about oneself.
Ok, I'm a bit confused. The Touzaikaze have been introduced, and Eshe and Amisi are sent to ally themselves to the Earth King via marriage. Eshe is an airbender, and an air-healer. What about Amisi? Her eyes are green, so that means she's an earthbender, er, sandbender, right? The Touzaikaze are Air Nomads, and yet Amisi said some of them are sandbenders. Could it just be that Amisi was using airbending to sift sand?
The Touzaikaze are Air Nomads who have been pretending to be Earth Kingdom and marrying Earth Kingdom people for so long that they're a mix, the same way half the Wen kids are Earth and the other half Fire. Eshe would have been using airbending to blow sand around, but I don't see any reason to think Amisi's doing the same thing. If she wasn't Earth, why should she keep pretending to be after Eshe's known to be an Airbender?
Does anyone understand where Vathara is aiming with her whole Four Gods thing? Byakko is clearly, well Byakko, the White Tiger. But where do all the others come off? And why can I not shake the feeling that Azula has to be the Azure Dragon, even though it doesn't make a lot of sense?
The Four Gods are a pretty common theme within Chinese and Japanese mythology. Vathara is using them, however, in a way that makes up the Fire Nation's most deadliest volcanoes. Asagitatsu (Seiryuu, the Azure Dragon) is the domain of Makoto, Zuko's and Azula's great-grandmother, which is very fitting. As for Azula, in canon, she was shown in Zuko's dream as a blue dragon (Iroh was the red one), due to her ability to produce blue flame.
Wow. That's... pretty weak. Unless they're going to erupt, or people are going to learn from their guardians at some point.
Have you been paying attention? Asagitatsu is the volcano that killed Avatar Yangchen and her yaoren allies. Makoto likely convinced the volcano to erupt, and allied with Koh, is waiting to do so again. This is where Zuko and his group are heading, and so is Aang.
I still say it's weak. Since Zuko is obviously of Byakko, and the people of Byakko control Shirotora, Makoto and Asagitatsu can't be defeated by Zuko. The only way I'd accept Makoto letting someone stop Asagitatsu was if Azula was doing it, or at least helping them. And how does Aang know to go there?
In the preview, Sokka tells Aang that they're going to be chasing Zuko. You're right that Zuko and Iroh, even together, cannot tame Asagitatsu - what they are going to do is try to pacify it (or even Makoto). The other two yaoren, Shirong and Langxue, are there to help once the volcano goes off, and don't forget that some of Zuko's crew are firebenders. Their purpose is to minimize the damage as much as possible. Against Koh and Makoto, though, of course there will be casualties, but hopefully it won't end the way it did with Avatar Yangchen.
Sorry, but I still don't see how Zuko, Iroh, Shirong and Langxue (along with additional benders) can defeat (or even hold off) Koh and Makoto while pacifying Asagitatsu at the same time. It's 100 years overdue, and it's implied that that's because Makoto has been holding it in check. I doubt any part of this plan will survive contact with the enemy, since it basically relies on Makoto being cooperative ("If she's [Makoto] willing to hear us out, if she'll let us soothe the magma down... "). The only one I can see tricking/convincing Makoto is Azula, who's a dark dragon in addition to being her great-granddaughter.
The "If she's willing to hear us out" refers to Asagitatsu herself, and she might listen to Zuko and Iroh because they're descendants of her guardian clan. That's the plan, anyway: Have the mountain listen long enough to allow earthbenders and waterbenders to let the pressure out. So far they don't seem to have any plan to deal with Makoto simultaneously, though...
Why would Asagitatsu listen to descendants of her guardian clan over Makoto herself? They're obviously planning to keep the Avatar out of the loop on this, so he (and Sokka with a plan) can't help. I just don't see how the can do it, especially as they'll need the Earth and Water benders to fight Makoto... Let me quote Shidan on Makoto: "Makoto has never forgiven my kin for that. Nor will she. Ever. Yet even if she cared nothing for us - and she has very good reasons to hone her thoughts on us, young warriors - she, too, remembers the yāorén. Better than you can, young one, no matter how La has meddled. Far better than I, who was not even hatched when the last yāorén walked this earth. She knows you are her enemy. She knows you will move against her". So the moment she realizes she's dealing with Shidan, or yaoren... countdown. For some reason, I can totally see Mai going back to rescue Ty Lee, telling her everything, getting captured by Ty Lee who then tells Azula everything, and Azula going to Byakko to get people who know how to work with volcanoes and chasing after Zuko.
Because they plan to stay there, while Makoto keeps on leaving Asagitatsu alone?
Not to mention that "Makoto leaned on stolen fire too often." Fire that Zuko took from her and gave to Asagitatsu, implying that it was stolen from the volcano itself. So, a member of her clan that keeps leaving her alone and stole from her or the new kid who is also from the clan, just showed up, looks as though he's gonna hang around and not leave her alone and returned her property (is Asagitatsu a she?). I don't think a human would have gonna for the new guy but Asagitatsu isn't human. Meaning Asagitatsu sees things differently, has different vaules and may very well vaule the new guy over the familar face.
Just in general, does anyone understand what Vathara wants with Azula? Zuko says she's insane, Vathara notes she's a psychopath, but not a sociopath (which makes no sense, because some researchers think there's no difference, and those who do - well, their definition of sociopathy makes it seem much likelier Azula is one, but not a psychopath). But Zuko still loves her, and tries to save her. But for what, if all of the above is true? So when she dies she'll be fulfilling Zukos' purpose? It makes no sense.
At a guess, Azula remaining alive means Ozai has a living heir and the Dragon Throne functions as a holder for loyalty. If Ozai did not have a living heir it would mean that Sozin's line is legally in danger of perishing without heirs. Remember that Iroh has been decreed (and legally IS, for trying to stop the Invasion) a traitor; Zuko is banished and has been DECLARED a traitor. Neither of them can take the Throne. The Dragon Throne is bad for the Fire Nation and needs to be abolished for Zuko and company's plan to work, but until Aang actually DOES that, its continued existence means that the Fire Nation is at least semi-united and not engaged in a bloody civil war that would give its enemies the perfect excuse to come in and slaughter everyone.
And Azula holding the throne for any amount of time seems like a good idea because... what, she's only a psychopath and not a sociopath?
But it seems she is getting better. And that her non-traitor status may not hold out very long if her father has anything to say about it.
What really bugs me about Azula is not that Zuko loves her, but that people don't realize why she is what she is. The idea of her being a dark dragon and a psychopath means she was born evil. That is, she's always been evil, and will always be so, unless people get her some medication. And since she's been taught by Ozai that she should keep being evil... I personally don't see how she can be 'good'.
People seem to agree with you now, as of Chapter 48 in the reviews. Azula is being "Good" therefore she's not really a Dark Dragon. I'm flabergasted. Being a Dark Dragon doesn't mean you were born evil. Not for humans and definitely not for Dragons. Being a Dark Dragon means you don't feel kin ties like normal people/dragons. You don't feel guilt like normal. But do you not steal or kill people because you'll feel guilty? Or because it's the wrong thing to do?
The water-healing may have had an effect something like what medication would have here, altering the brain's chemistry to a more normal form. It sounded like she's picked up a barrier to Ozai's goading—- no way to know as of yet if the other part of her evil will also be altered. It sort of makes sense that the opposite of a Dragon's element would be able to mute the dark side of the element.
Moreover, spirit healing has been gone for what, 500 years? Anyways, between that being gone and Kyoshi's decree basically keeping them from weeding the dark dragons out, I'd say yes, people would believe evil/crazy had no cure (like they believed yaorens would all die, etc). If we use that idea to account for unreliable narrator in regards to dark dragons... yeah. Amaya's healing totally could have 'healed' he into a regular person. Actually, now that I think about the comment above, it specifically mentions Amaya 'going deeper' to show 'Zuko loves [Axula]' and protecting her from the 'pit' that would swallow her for failing her father. Sounds like someone on meds/that's been healed if you ask me.
What bugs me is that Toph knows more about the Fire Nation from overhearing dinner conversation than Aang does, when he's actually been there and had friends there. This is the same Fire Nation that she portrays as unwilling to talk to outsiders about anything important, yet Toph knows all about loyalty? For that matter, the twisting to Toph's character really bugs me; it's like she has to be set up to be better than Aang at cultural stuff, when in canon he was the one most willing to listen and understand.
Aang knows stuff about the Fire Nation...which was, what, 100 years ago? By virtue of being a Nomad, Aang ought to know more from travelling all over the world, but the fact of the matter is, he's an Air Monk. That, and Gyatso was said to have chosen their rest spots very carefully. Toph, on the other hand, whose family are very affluent, have some pretty good relations with some of the Fire Nation to make deals with them. Of course, she'd have to observe and listen very carefully to hear what's going on inside the world, even if it's just to practice her Earthbending. Aang does not have Toph's keen sense of pragmatism or objectivity. He doesn't understand why the Water Tribes would push their "bad" people off the ice, why the Fire Nation would distrust him so much, or why Toph's parents would send bounty-hunters after their own daughter. He's from a very different world where fighting doesn't happen and everyone gets along.
Oh, I'm familiar with the rationale behind it, even if I find it somewhat unconvincing. It still gets on my nerves.
The canon show is for kids, and requires a certain Willing Suspension of Disbelief. Yes, in the show, Aang is open-minded and pacifistic and willing to listen, and Toph is pretty stubborn. However, if these people were real, they would not be like that. To put it bluntly, an Aang who grows up as an Air Monk will view other cultures through the lens of an Air Monk, and that would severely impair his abilities or willingness to truly understand other ways of life. In the show, the characters are basically reskinned normal modern-day kids with a modern education of values and customs, but on closer examination, that does not make sense in the Avatar world. The fic is trying to explore how these people would act and would be shaped by their culture and conditions of life if they were real, and then going along with that. In a nutshell: Yes, the canon does things differently, but that's because the canon (necessarily) simplified them. Vathara's fic, on the other hand, offers some (much-needed, for some people) depth.
To read the reviews to chapter 49, you'd think that Katara had deliberately desecrated a Fire Nation shrine and expected to get away with it. What did she actually do? She saw that a group of Fire Nation people (the Fire Nation that, in story, she hates far more than she did in canon) were in trouble, and she immediately and selflessly attempted to help them, willingly delaying her own chance at vengeance so that she could heal and feed the people of a Nation she's at war with. In order to do this, she disguised herself as a spirit she wasn't even sure existed. And yet, to read the reviews, a lot of people think she would have deserved being torn apart by the Painted Lady. Apparently, veneration of all things Fire Nation and precisely correct responses are a lot more important than common humanity.
Here's my take on it. The beginning of the chapter is from the Painted Lady's point of view, which is far FAR from human. What care does she have for some foreign invader who stole her name? For one, Katara tread on the Painted Lady's territory. To the Painted Lady, that's not nice. And then, Katara had the gall to use the guise of the Painted Lady not once, but three times. Katara's reasoning was that the Fire Nation is evil, so how can they have spirits? Of course she thought that they wouldn't have spirits, and nor would the people believe in them as the Water Tribes do. The Painted Lady even heard Katara express her opinion, and to her, that only served to irritate her further. Katara took liberties on what is not her territory, no matter what the reason.
And my point is, most people seem to be agreeing that Katara would have deserved punishment, despite the fact that she was manifestly acting in a manner that was beneficial to people she had no reason to care for and with no intention to disrespect or trespass on a spirit's territory. Katara's kindness and attempts at assistance are pushed aside in favour of once again harping on her and Aang's supposed ignorance of the spirits.
Had the Painted Lady been any less kind, worst things would have happened. One of the themes of the fic is that actions have consequences, both good and bad. It doesn't matter that Aang didn't mean to kill the Fire Navy at the North Pole via Ocean, or that Toph was just there when the spider-octopus thing attacked though she didn't mean anything by it, or that Sokka attempted to do the world good by stealing from Wan Shi Tong's library. Spirits don't see things that way. There is a huge disparity of understanding between both humans and spirits, and it is the Avatar's duty to balance both. Why wouldn't there be consequences to pretending to be someone/thing you're not?
Thank you for illustrating my point.
It seems one can't see the forest for the trees. The Painted Lady let Katara live, since she helped her people, but she didn't appreciate the theft of her identity. The thing with Katara, and what some readers believe that the Painted Lady had every right to want to drown her, is that she thought she could land on the Fire Nation, the place where she and the others mean to invade later, and thereby steal from the country that is hosting her. At no time did Katara think about there being any other inhabitants that would care, which they (Painted Lady) obviously do. It's like in Disney's Pocahontas, the where the English think of the land there as being some non-living piece of soil they can just mine for gold. At the risk of sounding like a basher, it was arrogant, careless and insensitive.
I'm sorry? Endevouring to help the enemy, whose own authorities evidently don't care about them, is somehow arrogant and insensitive?
No, it's Katara's attitude towards those she considers non-entities (ie Fire Nation, their spirits). No one is saying she shouldn't have helped the villagers, but she did not take into consideration the spirit whose name she was invoking. Thinking that a Fire Nation spirit can't be real was a rather insensitive and callous response, seeing as the Painted Lady just possessed her body and can do quite a many dangerous things to her. More than that, Katara was invoking Hero Insurance. I think this is what some of the reviewers have noticed about her.
I think anyone who'd just been possessed by a spirit while trying to help others would be upset and angry, but my point was that most people seem to be paying a disproportionate amount of attention to this (accidental) insult to the Painted Lady, while ignoring the fact that Katara's actions can also be judged by human standards -under which, her decision to stop and render aid to people she has no connection to is nothing but laudable. There's a lot of shooting down Katara while ignoring that she did a good thing (up until the spirit possession).
To the OP, calling out parts of the ficdom will only wear you out. There will always be those dissatisfied with seeing teir favorite characters not getting the attention they deserve or being more 'badass' or whatever. I actually want to see Sokka take the leadership role of the group, because he's the only one (besides Toph) with any common sense. At least he doesn't use the "we're going to save the world!" spiel as a Plot Coupon and expect things to go his way.
Okay, to start with: Katara's attitude to Fire Nation citizens in need has been covered previously - she's happy to drop her grudge if she gets to be the gracious saviour, even if it's only in her mind (that is, even when she is not recieving recognition from those she's rescuing). Also, Fire Nation civillians Vs. Fire Nation military? Not a hard choice.
Secondly: (I've just come from studying Shinto and Shamanism for an exam, so I may become verbose. *Deep breath*) When dealing with gods and spirits, intent matters very, very little. Actions are what work for supernatural beings. And, to the Painted Lady, Katara was rude. She took the Painted Lady's face and name without permission, without asking, and without respect. Respect is very important to spirits. In scenarios where shamans make contact with spirits by posession, there is a long process of careful invitation, generally in the context of a well-established relationship between the shaman and either a specific god/spirit or the spirit world in general. It's a serious business, which Katara (who should have known better) undertook lightly, and then when sprung responded with "rage... demanding... Affronted outrage..." rather than the appropriate grovelling. Even when the Painted Lady told her what she'd done, she responded with "Fear. Disbelief. And again, fury."
What bugs me is how completely different that plays out in Embers. Yeah, it's a massively AU fic, but in canon the Painted Lady was not only not mad, she was grateful. So what changed, other than Vathara's take on the entire universe? That ep was one of the major arguments in favor of Katara's having a more open mind, and it should have been an opportunity for her to show she was learning things, in the Embers-verse. Instead she seems to have take three steps back, and I don't get it.
Katara has made progress. But she still has a ways to go, before she loses the belief that, as one of the good guys, she is exempt from the consequences that normal people face.
Concerning "Katara hates the Fire Nation a lot more than in the canon" - well, no, not really. Read between the lines, the hatred is there. Katara's problem is that she equates antagonism with evil, i.e. anyone who's working against her is evil and a horrible person and deserves to die. Look at her and Zuko in the crystal cavern. He shows signs of humanity and not being evil, which she immediately interprets as him changing sides, and considers it a betrayal when he shows that he hasn't changed sides later. In the Western Air Temple later, she is convinced that, because he still attacked her, he must have been faking when he talked about his mother - calculatedly deceiving her into thinking that he's not evil. Because somebody can't be a normal, not-evil person and still be working at cross-purposes with her and Aang. Additionally, even in canon it's stated that she hates Zuko because of what the Fire Nation did to her mother - by extension, she hates the whole Fire Nation for what they did to her mother. Vathara simply tries to give this attitude some decent psychological/sociological context by tying it into the whole "close community/tribe/all held accountable for the actions of one" thing.
Latest chapter is up, and Katara FINALLY gets why the Painted Lady was so pissed off at her. If Katara was told that much about spirits and their names, then she should have never taken the Painted Lady's name at all to begin with.
Makes perfect sense if you assume that Katara didn't really think Fire Nation spirits were REALLY spirits like those she'd been taught about. Alternatively, she might have listened to the spirit and learned what she now preaches.
It may be worth noting that Embers!Katara is a rather less sympathetic character than either her canon counterpart or several other Embers characters.
To put what has been stated simply; Spirits see things differently. From a humans perspective, the reaction would be Whoa, over-reaction much? From a Spirits persecptive, the reaction would be, Dude, you let the uppity, disrespectful brat off way too easy!
How exactly was Toph able to bend the smoke of a campfire? Campfire's use wood as fuel, wood =/= earth, thus the ash in the smoke she was bending is not earth. Had it be smoke from burning coal it would make sense, the series showed coal = earth so smoke from a coal fire would still contain earth, but wood smoke doesn't, so again how can Toph bend smoke from burning wood?
Ashes have a lot of carbon in them; makes sense when you go from the show start of Toph being able to metal-bend by finding "bits of earth" in metal, and know that steel is made by adding carbon to iron. Earth benders not being able to bend metal as a matter of course always made me confused, but can't change that big of a plot point....
Ooohhhh, okay that makes more sense.
Coal is formed out of plant matter, e.g. wood, as it accumulates and condenses under certain anaerobic conditions (i.e. few bacteria to break it down, little oxygen to oxidise it). For the intents and purposes of bending, wood is coal. Which offers interesting bending possibilities of its own, but that's where it goes a little overboard, doesn't it?
Pretty sure the symbolic change involved would quash that; the smoke-ashes work symbolically because ash is a large part of dirt, same way lightning works symbolically as part of fire.
Why the hell does the midnight sun protect the Southern Water Tribe from Fire Nation Zombies/dead on the summer solstice? It's explicitly stated that Fire Nation ghosts don't fear the sun. If Vathara had said that it was lack of sunset/sunrises (the inbetween times) that protected them from them I would have been okay. She could have even handwaved Water Tribe Dead showing up during the winter in spite of the lack of in between times due to the phases of the moon and such plus it being their 'season' and their land.
Could there be a difference between a ghost/zombie and a in-the-spirit-world spirit?
I am incredibly bugged by two things, one is a simple research fail that could be solved within minutes (but hasn't been) and the other is in regards to continuity. Research: The Moon's name is not La. La is the name of The Ocean. The Moon's name is Tui. Please stop getting it wrong. Continuity error: Early in the story, way back before Iroh and Zuko has even made it to Ba Sing Se, Katara and Toph are talking. Katara says that she didn't even know she could heal before Jeong Jeong told her, just like in canon. However, at the beach, Bato tells Hakoda how Kanna talked all about how real waterbenders can heal during a few dangerous births. What?
Okay so Tui and La are named wrong in the fic, at least that's been consistent through out the fic (personally I prefer La being the moon, it sounds better). Bato said that Kanna came close to talking about how all the real waterbenders could heal, but didn't actually say it. Also, Katara was untrained at that point so she may have thought she wasn't a "real" waterbender and thus did not know she could heal.
I'll concede on the second part, I checked it again and realised I read it wrong. Thank you for correcting me, at least that something that can be put to rest. On the names, though? "It sounds better" is a bad excuse for not minding an author getting characters' names wrong (especially when they have a greater role in the fic than they did in canon). It doesn't matter if it "sounds better", it's still wrong. Yeah, she's consistent with it, but she's being consistently wrong.
Okay, and? I would like to point out that I was not aware that Tui was the Moon and La was the Ocean, until quiet awhile after reading Embers for the first time. Yes she's wrong and I guess I can see how that could be annoying but this is a fanfiction and Tui and La's names were mention all of once and it wasn't clarified who was which fish, I think we can let it slide under creative license.
It seems like to me that Vathara is correcting the canon's mistake. Tui means push, La means pull. The Moon doesn't push the ocean, it pulls on it. Hence, La.
If you go into orbital mechanics, they both push and pull on each other. The barycenter of the Earth/Moon system is inside the Earth. It's academic. The point is that they interact, and either one could be "push" or "pull".