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Well...I'm late. (facepalm) But Minnichi signs in today in the midst of the Fourth Fanon Awards! Whoo, the pressure! Seeing as it is the first fanon awards I've witnessed, lemme just say that the system's been set up so AWESOME-LY. I just love seeing how the editors in the background periodically rearrange things in the page. Actually I think I pay more attention to the pretty page more than the actual nominees. Heh. Anyhoo, I'm happy to present today my commentary on Avatar: Shattered Balance by Kamigati, a fanon with many cool new concepts and cultural references.
Suzaku is one of the newest initiates into the Order, after finding his dragon's egg near his home in the woods. It having hatched to him, he has decided to help the world by becoming a member of the Order of the White Lotus. At the base of the White Lotus he has meet his best friend, a young Airbending girl named Seiryuu, who is also training to become a White Lotus Samurai. Though she hasnt found a beast companion yet, being her hyper optimistic self, has not given up.
However; what Suzaku and Seiryuu do not know is that they are part of a very powerful destiny. For enemies, long thought sealed and contained, are slowly but surely returning. And the only way they can be defeated is if Suzaku and Sieryuu embrace thier destiny...
This tale takes a nice spin off of the canon series by combining it with the concept of Samurai and other traditional tributes to Japanese anime. The unique ideas keep it fresh, and the new team of protagonists are very unlike any Team Avatar you've ever seen. I enjoyed the fact that both the good and bad guys had very interesting perspectives and...oh, just read it already.
- Plot - 8.8: I really liked the plot. There's really no other way to put it. The protagonists and antagonists were established very nicely, and there was deep exploration on both sides. The only thing I might point out here is that I noticed how there's a central problem that the plot centers around, outside of the kidnappings or prison breaks. It's the one that deals more with wordly issues, such as how a terrible darkness is approaching. I think that this could be addressed a little more clearly or be referenced more often, because it feels like a mysterious background detail as of now. It's alright to keep things mysterious, of course, but that approaching gloom problem should maybe be emphasized a little more. More elaboration on this would really establish that it is indeed a central conflict in this story. Other than that, nicely done!
- Organization - 8.8: A pretty easy read for me. Not much seemed out of place, and things flowed along just fine. The only part that confused me had more to do with strange appearances, such as the Avatar's. Sometimes new and important characters were introduced rather briefly, without much explanation of their place in the story or how they fit into this fanon world. Also, there could be more elaboration of how each of the four nations work as well, since they tend have some pretty unusual systems here. But those are the only things I can really think of.
- Creativity – 8.5: The Avatarverse with Japanese undertones was a really creative idea to build off of. But I still have to take some points off here simply because the Japanese concepts, after all, have already been created by someone else (or else they wouldn't be references). I was really impressed, though, by that huge list of different forms of firebending - I'd like to hear more about that!
- Writing – 8.0 (x3): Talented writer, no doubt. But a reviewer's gotta review. A very important thing to consider when writing is who's telling the story. If there's an established narrator, then the tone can be whatever fits said narrator. However, most authors play the background role, in which they themselves are the narrator but are not actually related to the plot in any way. That means we have to remember that the story is told exactly as our characters witness it, and them alone. In this case, some opinionated statements seemed out of place because the writer was beginning to voice his personal take on things. An example of this is as follows: "Lakona laughed at the ease of defense. That was her undoing." This is from Lakona's POV, meaning she doesn't know what leads to her undoing. That fact can't be established until it actually happens - when she herself figures it out. To put it short, the writer was beginning to slip into the fanon with these statements, and it's under my assumption that the story is supposed to be separate from him. I'm not saying that these kinds of sentences can't be used - they appear all the time in great stories. We've just got to be careful where we place them and know when they're appropriate. On another note, descriptions fell somewhat short in a few areas, such as dialogue (the exact nature of how things were spoken wasn't fully captured, and sometimes there were lone quotations). A lot of times the descriptions were skipped because of the naming issue that I might've mentioned once or twice (or more...heheh) in past reviews. Things like someone blocking "an attack" with "another attack" kind of left me in the dark for visuals; what exactly was the attack? Same goes for "fireblasts," "airblasts," and lots of blasts in general. The settings were somewhat named as well. If the descriptions are left at that, we don't actually know what they look like. These are the main issues I'm addressing, and the little grammar mistakes and other minor details don't do much to deter from the fanon. I was impressed overall with the quality of writing.
- Character Development - 7.5 (x2) Each of the characters have their own unique personality that I grew fond of, but development itself was somewhat lacking. I have not seen much growth in most of the protagonists, though I did see some nice reflection on one of the antagonists' part. They all have deep pasts and wonderful relationships to one another, but what they've learned from their experiences hasn't quite kicked in yet. There could be more elaboration on how each major event affects them. Also, their emotions don't appear much outside their dialogue, and I'd like to see some more literal description on that (such as how "a surprised face" could be specified with "eyes popping out of sockets" or "mouth hanging open"). I personally like the cast this story has thrown together, though, and I hope to hear more about them soon!
- Action - 8.0: This was one of my favorite parts of the fanon. The action scenes were very engaging and intense beyond belief, especially in the later chapters. But... (here's your cue to say "here she goes again -.-") I can't let any action scene pass through my evaluation without jumping on the infamous "he/she (insert element)bended" problem. Remember, guys! "He made the goal by playing soccer" is just as vague as using (insert element)bending to tell us what happened (forgive my overly repetitive example). I think I might have to make a note of this on my schedule page, because I feel bad about deducting for this reason almost every time...but yeah. We've got to take the time to explore the visuals, especially when it comes to bending. So remember, "(insert description how element looked like while it was bent)" > "(insert element)bended." My second and last point here is that there needs to be more elaboration on the visuals of shadowbending. Since it's such a new idea, we need more help picturing it in our heads. So far I don't see a distinct pattern in which shadows behave like how the show portrays the other elements. But the action was well-done nonetheless, really.
- Believability – 8.0: The idea of shadowbending is the main reason for deduction here. It's not an idea that shouldn't be believed, but it needs a lot more explanation in order to make it more realistic. It has no established nature yet (e.g. air = freedom, water = change), and the martial arts style and physical movements involved are almost skipped during descriptions. Belivability is hindered because of the blunt way this art is presented. Also, I would be careful with the choice of curse words used. "Hell" in particular is questionable, because spiritual beliefs in the world of Avatar can vary. Only use words that have a real reference to the Avatarverse, and if a hell actually exists then specify what it is (other fanons tend to use Koh's realm as the equivalent). Same goes for any mention of God, if they occur (I don't remember if there was a reference off the top of my head). Anddd that's pretty much it! I didn't have much of a problem overall.
Overall Score: 8.11
My advice for Kamigati: Basically watch out for odd things that can make a reader question your story. Keep things neutral, give a little kick to the visuals, and you're all set. Your fanon's a good one!
Who should read Avatar: Shattered Balance? Action lovers, suspense lovers, new idea-lovers, Japan/anime-lovers... This fanon appeals to many kinds of readers. I don't see why anyone shouldn't give it a try.