Here's another review from Bomochu the Bombchu! For this one I had the pleasure of reading through a series of AvatarRokusGhost's one-shots collectively titled, ARG Presents. For easier reviewing, the eight one-shots will be reviewed in two parts of four, though there will be an overall score and advice section for each half, and one overall score for both parts. Let's take a look!
Set in between the events of The Chase, Team Avatar encounters a man known as 'The Consultant'. Exhausted after escaping Azula, the Consultant offers them advice which he claims will help them greatly in their battle with Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee. The hilarious thing about this one-shot is that the Consultant seems to think that Team Avatar are somehow in a video game, and the advice he gives is rather absurd. Anyone who played games like The Legend of Zelda or Pokemon will be sure to get the references in this story, and ARG does a great job at showing just how illogical video games can be.
Certainly a simple but interesting story. It is a parody, but the way that the Consultant randomly appears in the story without any explanation as to how he got there was a little jarring. There were a couple of comments made about 'helping many others in those kind of scenarios' which may have actually been quite funny to elaborate on, plus it would give the story a more well-rounded feel to it. Also, fleshing out the moments where Team Avatar would carry out the advice the Consultant gave would make the story feel not as rushed in terms of pacing. It is understandable that it is a dialogue-driven story and that is what is funny and great about it, but just with just a little more attention to those moments that are simply skimmed over would help the story feel more complete.
The main deduction here comes from the ending. It just kind of lacked some kind of 'resolution' for lack of a better word. Not that it necessarily had to be the kind of ending which would cause readers to have a 'great epiphany and vow never to play video games again because of their silly logic' kind of ending, but a slightly better conclusion to the story would help readers take away something from this story and feel more complete. Other than that this one-shot has been organised and planned out really well.
Only a couple mistakes found, none of them particularly distracting.
Writing Style: 7.5
One thing I noticed was that the longer paragraphs where characters did things were often written in a very 'factual' manner, for example "Aang did this. Toph did that," kind of sentences, which became a little dry at times. Obviously it still got the point across, though changing things up a bit and finding clever ways to express how characters did things would only improve the story. There was also a lack of description of the setting the characters were in, with only a few details mentioned about the town and woods.
The other issue comes from the overuse of dialogue. Now of course as mentioned before, this is a dialogue-driven story, but what was an issue was the fact that often conversations would only include spoken lines from characters and occasionally how things were said. Breaking up the spoken lines with small 'snippets' of narration or what characters are feeling or thinking would make the conversations not feel as empty or prescribed at times.
However, when comparing this one-shot to one of ARG's more recent fanons like Dragons, Sieges, and Volcanoes, one only has to look at the dates each were published to realize that ARG's writing style has improved a fair bit since when this one-shot was written. That's not to say that this story was written badly or anything, but just that it perhaps lacked a little of the 'flare' that can be seen in ARG's later work. For the sake of consistency it could be worth going back and rewriting some portions of this one-shot with that in mind.
It should also be noted that humor is a genre ARG can write really well; some of the Consultant's lines were brilliantly hilarious, and anyone who used to play (or still does) those sorts of games will surely appreciate and enjoy some of the comments made in this story.
The Consultant was certainly an entertaining character to read about, though as mentioned in the Plot section there was little mentioned about where he had come from. Many of the other characters simply appeared as a 'cohort' as Team Avatar rather than actually having their own kind of identity, but this and the aforementioned issue were not very major problems at all. The more important issue was with Aang feeling out-of-character for much of the story. Yes, Aang can see the best in people and be trusting of others, but to simply start telling a random man who appeared out of nowhere and they had never met everything they had just gone through felt a little strange. There was also the moment where the Consultant asked them to gain 'experience' by killing wild animals in the surrounding woods. Aang did show some uneasiness about killing other creatures for no apparent reason, but I would argue that even after the Consultant's insisting Aang would still refuse to kill them. It could have still been a funny scene; perhaps Aang would return back without having killed any animals and the Consultant could have had a big spiel about 'Aang not being able to level up without gaining experience' or something. That way, it could still carry the humorous aspect which makes the story really enjoyable and funny, but still stay true to Aang's character.
There were no really confusing movements or scenes, which was great. There could have been greater fleshing out of what Team Avatar did when they went away to complete the Consultant's tasks, though of course what the characters were doing was not the focus of the story but rather the advice the Consultant was giving and the character's reactions were. Even so, it could have been a little more exciting by perhaps including what each character did in some cases rather than talking about Team Avatar as a whole, and in other cases also fleshing out how the characters tried to complete the tasks given. There were times where this was done fine, but other times where it was more of an issue.
...Well, this was a particularly hard category to judge for obvious reasons! So I'll start by saying that no points were deducted for the Consultant randomly appearing with his out-of-universe advice, as that was the whole point of the story and it is a parody. There were some moments that did seem a little far-fetched, like the fact that Team Avatar managed to loot the villager's houses without much trouble, and as mentioned above it could have been better to flesh out these moments for the sake of believability as well as action. But for the most part the story felt realistic, and the few moments where it didn't did not detract from the story itself.
Overall Score: 8.29
Why Read This Fanon?: It is honestly a great read and hilariously funny. Anyone who has (or even those who haven't) played any video games will be sure to enjoy this one-shot.
Set in the same universe as ARG's first fanon series, Energy Saga, The Legend of Ong tells the story of Tenzin's latest obsession with a series called "The Legend of Ong and the Crystalbenders". It is a hilarious one-shot making fun of fandoms and shipping, and is sure to be an enjoyable read.
There's not too much to talk about here, as the story itself is rather simplistic and short. Though this isn't a problem in itself as it serves the story well. There were minor deductions for Aang's arrival at the beginning and the conversation afterwards both being a little rushed, though it wasn't a huge issue to the main storyline.
A pretty well put together fanon indeed. The ending in particular was a nice way to finish and in a rather ironic way was quite funny. The start of the one-shot needed a little bit of work as it didn't quite lead readers in easily to the story, though there will be more about that in the Writing Style section.
Only one grammar mistake I found.
Writing Style: 7.3
The dialogue in the first conversation was a little prescribed in a sense, though easy enough to follow. As was also the case in moments of the rest of the one-shot as well as the beginning, the conversation at times lacked moments of narration or breaks from the spoken lines and how they were spoken. Some interspersing of narration or what characters were feeling could help this. As was also the case with the previous one-shot, what was actually said by the characters was really funny and clever at times.
A couple of Aang's comments felt out-of-character, such as his initial greeting or his comment about Vameira needing to train harder in her airbending. Apart from that there weren't many other issues with what characters said or how they behaved, and Tenzin in particular was characterized really well. The larger deductions come from the fact that there simply isn't enough time to get to know the characters, which is partly due to the length of the one-shot. Obviously, the one-shot focuses on Tenzin and his obsession with the series he has subscribed to, but another important side to the story is the sibling rivalry with Tenzin against Kaddo and Vameira. This was only touched on briefly at times, and with more of these moments and a longer fanon in general it might have established Kaddo and Vameira's characters a little better. And it may not necessarily be related to fanon length, as shorter stories do work, it's just at times the characters didn't quite feel 'complete' and perhaps needed more fleshing out.
Most of the time the characters' movements were described clearly and it was easy to picture what was going on. As with the first few paragraphs, the actions had an almost 'stop-start' kind of feel to them, and perhaps linking them together a little more smoothly would help lead readers into the story a bit better. There were also some great moments of describing how characters moved, with Tenzin running into the main room sounding exactly how an over-excited airbending child would move.
As with the previous one-shot, no points were deducted for the out-of-universe references, as that was the point of the story. Apart from a couple moments where some reactions seemed a little odd, this was done really well in this one-shot.
Overall Score: 8.28
Why Read This Fanon?: It's a clever story which makes fun of shipping wars and fandoms, and is an easy and rather funny read. Anyone looking for something short and light-hearted will appreciate this one-shot.
How exactly would a story about getting your future told by Aunt Wu on Ember Island, with Master Pakku, because you were a bender actually play out? Well that's exactly what Life as I Know It is about. Why that combination? It was for a writing challenge where the month and date of your birthday, and the first letters of both your first and last name, decided what story you would write. With his combination, ARG managed to write a fairly humorous and entertaining one-shot which anyone will be sure to enjoy. Now for the scores:
Overall the story progressed pretty well. The beginning scene was written nicely, with clever insight into the narrator's world and their character, but from there until the end of the fanon the pacing was way off. Characters suddenly appeared or made rash decisions with very little thought, and overall the last half of the story moved way too fast. With a longer one-shot where more time could be taken to dwell on each moment, most of these problems would be solved. Although fast paced, the story was still fairly enjoyable.
Similar to above, the ending of the one-shot is what caused the biggest deduction here. The start of the story was actually pretty well written; the reader learnt a lot about the narrator of the story, and with the surfing incident it set the story up for an interesting progression. Unfortunately, the sudden ending to the one-shot missed the mark, and makes the story a little unsatisfying.
As per usual, only a handful of mistakes.
Writing Style: 8.3
There were some pretty neat moments in the beginning of the one-shot in regards to non-technical writing. The way the narrator describes his world was intriguing, and done well enough that readers can grasp quite quickly what sort of character they are. Deductions predominantly came from the dialogue at the end of the one-shot, which could have been fleshed out a lot more to make the whole conversation feel more natural and flow better.
Most of the deductions here were related to the length of the one-shot; there simply wasn't enough time to explore characters in adequate depth. As mentioned in the previous sections, there were some nice moments where we got to know the narrator, though some of his choices and reactions later on seem strange and too rushed. Pakku on the other hand acted quite similar to how you would expect. The more major issues are in relation to the three minor characters in the story, Sung, Dung, and Aunt Wu, who seem to just appear and disappear whenever convenient for the plot. Sung nearly drowned yet both him and Dung simply disappear after Master Pakku arrives, which is also strange since Pakku just appears out of nowhere with no explanation as to why he was even on Ember Island. Aunt Wu's presence did have some explanation, but for the most part it seemed as though the characters didn't have a whole lot of purpose to the overarching story, and were only included when it suited the plot. A longer one-shot may have helped with this, as it would give more time to develop characters and introduce them, but also making sure minor characters don't simply disappear for no good reason could make the story feel more complete.
The moment in the beginning with the surfing was described pretty well, though with further fleshing out it could become a tenser and more exciting scene. Overall the characters' movements were described clearly and a large variety of language used to describe movements.
The sudden appearance of Master Pakku was a major issue for this category. Part of the interesting nature of a writing challenge like this one-shot was entered for I imagine would be the believability aspect; trying to explain why all the pieces of the prompt can be put together in a believable way. There was some explanation for why Aunt Wu was on the island, and even a sentence or two about Master Pakku's presence would have boosted the score here a lot. There were also some rash decisions made by the narrator and reactions that were hard to believe. Though the initial events of the surfing scene and the overall plot worked well and were realistic.
Overall Score: 8.16
Why Read This Fanon?: I found the whole idea of putting together random elements to form a nonsensical prompt for a story rather interesting, and seeing how ARG would work them together was great. The story hooks you in from the beginning, and despite a couple of pacing and character issues it is an enjoyable read.
And just when you thought it couldn't get any better, The Legend of Ong has a sequel! This time, Aang and his three children are in Ba Sing Se, home of the Jasmine Dragon and Earth King Kuei. But more importantly for Tenzin, Ba Sing Se also houses The Legend of Ong Global Infodex, an encyclopedia that parodies our very own Avatar Wiki. Anyone who liked the first one-shot will be sure to enjoy this one.
Like in its prequel, this one-shot has quite a simple yet easy to follow plot. Perhaps having Aang and his other two kids getting a little more time to themselves in the tea shop would have made the pacing seem a little more natural, but for the most part the plot flowed nicely. One thing I did enjoy was the more unexpected development with what happens to Tenzin when he is at the Global Infodex.
The story follows on nicely from the prequel, and the ending in particular was done well.
Only a couple of mistakes in this story.
Writing Style: 9.0
The main issue here was once again, a couple moments in the conversations feeling a little prescribed at times, and not quite detailing enough of what was going on besides the spoken lines. Much less of an issue in this one-shot as it has been in others might I add, and in the beginning of the fanon this was done very well.
Once again, Tenzin is the main focus on this story, and for the most part his character was described well and entertaining to read about. The fact that he so quickly mentioned that what he wanted to go and do in Ba Sing Se was related to The Legend of Ong was a little surprising, given how things escalated the last time he brought it up, but apart from that there weren't any real issues with his character. Taking a bit more time to explore Kaddo and Vameira's characters would also help the story feel more complete. Even taking advantage of the moment when Tenzin is still away and the others are in the tea shop would help, as fleshing out this scene would not only help with the minor pacing issue but could also help the other characters have moments where we can get to know them more.
The way characters moved was described well and clearly. There was also a good variety of language used to describe how characters spoke, which made the conversations more enjoyable and sound less repetitive. Perhaps breaking up the dialogue more often with what characters are doing and how would diversify the writing, and make for a more enjoyable story overall, but for the most part there weren't many issues for this category at all.
Overall this was done pretty well in this one-shot. Aside from the occasional line from Aang and Tenzin that seemed out of place, it was a very realistic story.
Overall Score: 9.27
Why Read This Fanon?: If you enjoyed the prequel then this one-shot will surely impress. Anyone looking for a short and sweet humorous fanon will enjoy this one.
Overall Score for Part 1: 8.5
Overall Advice: As an avid fan of Dragons, Sieges, and Volcanoes, I can say that these points mentioned above are definitely areas that have improved in your writing, and to go back and revise these one-shots would be only for a matter of consistency across all your fanons rather than improving your writing skill. I should also mention that the comedy genre is something you are particularly good at; some of the scores for Writing Style and Characterisation could have been lower if not for the funny characters and clever lines said by characters which were hilarious and memorable, which helped counteract the deductions. I have to say I am excited to read through the remaining one-shots and any others you may write in the future. Great work!
So that's the first instalment of the ARG Presents review. Thank you for reading, and you can expect the next part sometime soon!