Avatar: TLA Re-Watch S1:E5 – “The King of Omashu”

The last two episodes had their moments of levity, but were otherwise pretty serious. The kids learn that Aang really is the last air-bender, and then the high price of staying in any one place too long.

This episode, on the other hand, has some brief moments of seriousness, but is otherwise pretty silly and fun. Especially from the perspective of the re-watch, when we know Bumi’s identity and understand that the kids are not in any real danger. On a first viewing, we’re given a few hints as to who the King might be, but we wouldn’t necessarily understand his real motivations. Even still, the rapid-fire jokes and silliness keep us from taking the threat very seriously.

The episode is also significant for giving us our first good look at an Earth Kingdom city and Earth-Benders. Kyoshi Island was, of course, named for Avatar Kyoshi, who was born an Earth-bender, but the village culture seemed to be a sort of hybrid between the Earth Kingdom and Water Tribes. (Interesting too, the complexity of having communities that don’t easily fit into any of the defined cultures.)

Omashu though, is a full-fledged Earth Kingdom city, and one that seems pretty distantly removed from the front lines of the war with the Fire Nation. The city bustles along, apparently content with the day-to-day routine. We are given a dramatic introduction to Earth-bending when the city guard lifts a boulder out of the ground to hold over Aang’s head. Then, the awesome bending-powered chute delivery system shows additional ways that the skills can be used. Then, of course, the climactic duel between Aang and Bumi shows us the moves of a really powerful bender.

I love that every culture in this world tends to have not only distinctive clothing and architecture, but even a unique color scheme in the animation! The land of the water tribes are all blue and white, the Fire Nations are red and black, The Air-nomads (shown in Aang’s clothing, and in the flashbacks) feature a lot of yellow and orange, and now, at last, the Earth Kingdom features lots of green and brown.

We get a bit of a lesson in lateral-thinking for Aang, but the episode’s real purpose in the narrative is to give us a mental picture of the Earth Kingdom, (We’ve now seen bits from all four of the world’s primary cultures). The rest is really just jokes, which is not to say that they aren’t plenty entertaining. Some of my particular favorites include:

* Aang’s disguise and phony name: “Bonzu Pippinpaddle-Oppsokopolis… the Third”

* “Kangaroo Island, eh? I hear that place is really hopping!”

* “Take them to the refurbished chamber that was once bad!”

* “There are no take-backsies in my kingdom!”

* “Rocky! Because of all the rocks!” … “We’re going to keep trying, but that’s a good backup.”

The actual challenges also feature some pretty impressive action, especially the duel between Aang and Bumi, a fight which shows us a few new insights about how bending-combat works. For example, Aang can use air to deflect fireballs pretty easily, but it doesn’t work as well for a giant boulder. Likewise, Earth-bending can block air-blasts. Aang only fought Bumi to a draw when he used the air to send Bumi’s own attacks back at him.

Additional Notes:

* Bumi provides a bit more confirmation of Aang’s claim to have friends all over the world.

* Flopsy, the giant goat-rabbit-gorilla thing, is my animal of the episode.

* Who needs doors or gates when you can just Earth-bend an opening wherever you want?

* “Nooo! My cabbages!” (Newbies, we have not seen the last of the Cabbage Merchant)

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