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Reviews Comments: Nonsense Plot, Weirdly Pro-White Man's Burden Message Avatar The Last Airbender The Promise film/book review by Lavanya Six

This review covers the whole trilogy, unlike my last one.

My previous complaint about Aang struggling to kill Zuko still stands. It makes no sense given Aang's past actions, and feels contrived. That's a big problem because "the promise" is supposed to serve as the dramatic engine for the plot.

The other major plot thread, decolonization, starts off strong but quickly becomes sidelined and scattershot in message. By the end, the story seems to say that Zuko was right to defend colonialism (!) as a tide that lifted all boats in the previously under-developed Earth Kingdom. Aang and Katara's points about the racial inequality of the colonies are forgotten after Volume 1. Instead, Katara's POV on Yu Dao becomes a glimpse of her and Aang's future, and Aang himself turns into something of a strawman for total segregation of the Four Nations. Rather than Yu Dao being the complicated political issue it's presented as in Volume 1, with defensible if flawed viewpoints argued by both Zuko and Aang, by Volume 3 everyone involved in the story seems to come to view Yu Dao as a stand-in for an argument over multiculturalism. It's a jarring shift, and one that comes off as weirdly advocating the White Mans Burden: the Fire Nation was right to conquer and colonize the Earth Kingdom, and everything that flowed from that was not only good but the wave of the future. Never mind the extended set-up in Volume 1 that framed the issue along "needs of the many" verses "needs of the one" lines.

The shame is, Yu Dao is actually a neat setting with lots of interesting concepts. There's Fire-citizen earthbenders like Kori, the girls who became Air Acolytes being serious about living out the Air Nomad's philosophy, the colonists who joined the Freedom Fighters in protesting Yu Dao's continued existence, Toph's students, the racist firebender teacher whose school Toph takes over. There's also how some colonists, like Kori, are fiercely loyal Fire Nation citizens despite the colonists being referred to disdainfully by their countrymen in the cartoon. Or how Yu Dao is famous for its steel, and all we see them make are weapons — implying the city is rich because of arms dealing during the war.

The potential for a good story was there, it just either wasn't developed or was lost due to lack of focus. Overall? A lackluster sequel.


  • Korval
  • 5th Feb 13
I don't think the story is saying that the Fire Nation was right to attack them. It's more simply accepting the fact that the attack and colonization happened, and you can't just "Ctrl-Z" that. It's not fair to the people who are living here now to force that on them. Everyone who started the war is dead and buried. We have to confront this situation starting now, and we have to do what is in the best interest of these people here today.

The fact is, separating those people against their will is functionally no less wrong than Sozin forcing their forefathers to live together against their will. Two wrongs don't make a right.
  • fenrisulfur
  • 5th Feb 13
I agree with Korval. Nobody says Sozin was right, they just ask why is it different now to tell them to leave. If it were pro white man's burden, the Fire Nation would take over Yu Dao, or the Earth Kingdom would take over Yu Dao, as both cases involve one culture sublimates the other.
  • Sikon
  • 26th Oct 13
Yes, what Korval said was the message I got from the story.
  • gk3389127
  • 3rd Mar 17
Not to beat a dead horse, but I think the prior comments hit it on the nail. The series acknowledges in full that it wasn\'t right for Sozin to settle there in the first place, but you can\'t just go to the other extreme and scoop these people out of their homes either.

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