The problem of the avatar state

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JJKHead

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In the original avatar series, Aangs avatar state simply scales above everyone else in the verse in raw power, speed and versatility. It's generally activated when the avatar is in a stressful situation, although it can be learned if the avatar is disciplined enough. The issue with the avatar state is that during this state, the character is pretty much invisible, so most characters cannot deal with them in a fight. This means that any avatar that masters this ability is almost invincible.

In The Last Airbender, it functions mostly as a defensive mechanism for Aang. He attempts to master this ability in season 2 but is opposed to what he must do in order to master the ability. While he's transforming into this state VS Azula, he's vulnerable and Azula is able to strike him with lightning while he's going into this state. This injury blocks his ability to go into this state, and he's unable to use it until the finale.

In Korra, her character is established as having spiritual issues. She struggles with air bending during season one and only unlocks the avatar state at the ending scene of S1. In S2, Vatuu, the evil equivalent of the Dark Avatar is introduced, and by the end of the season, Korra loses her connection to the past Avatars. In S3, the villian groups use hostages to force Korra to surrender herself and enchains her, and then forces poison in her. In S4, Korra is dealing with the past tramua.

As we can see in TLA, Aangs inexperience is used to justify him not being able to enter it at will for most of the series, and in S3 he suffers from an injury which restricts this ability until the finale. When he uses this ability in the S2 finale, its given the weakness of requiring a long time to focus and charge up before being unleashed, which the villian exploits with a powerful and quick attack.

In Korra, you can tell they wrote around this more. S1 was supposed to be a standalone, so Korra was introduced as an immature teenager who lacked experience, which justifies her not being able to use it until the end. In S2, characters who could match the Avatar in raw power were introduced, and the ability recieved a nerf by the end. In S3, the villains are able to force her into a situation where shes forced into chains(which massively reduces her ability to fight) and then uses a poison which forces her to fight in a near-death state. In S4, her PTSD massively nerfs how strong she is and Kurvira is forced to make an extremely powerful mech which forces the team to collaborate to get the Avatar inside the mech so she can stop it from the inside.

A new avatar series is being written, which means that the creators are going to have to think of new ways to add tension to the story. Should they introduce new characters or beings that can match the avatar in raw power? Should the MC have some sort of mental nerf that doesn't allow him to use the ability properly? Should new celestial events like the Sozins Comet introduced to justify villains getting power amps? Perhaps something like the day of black sun where avatars can't use the avatar state and/or all of their bending styles temporarily?

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JJKHead

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#2  Edited By JJKHead

This also reminds me of how AOT progressed with ways to fight titans. Generally fighting titans was nigh impossible unless you had a titan or was Levi/Misaka, but in S4, anti-titan technology was introduced due to technology progressing, and it allowed humans to combat titans with much more ease without using other titan shifters

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comicvinepoozer1

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@jjkhead: this is a great question

I’ll come back to this

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Stratospher

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#5  Edited By Stratospher

The writers shouldn't have made it so overpowered in the first place. The more they try to nerf the protagonist for tension the more he/she comes off as weak.

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kataraaaa

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Yeah, LOK did a good job at either nerfing Korra or making their villains ridiculously OP. The RL never fought Korra directly and Kuvira always fought a nerfed version.

ATLA was about Aang's journey so it makes sense he couldn't control it til EOS.

I'd say a new series should just continue to buff the villains, the spirit world could still get some more info on it which could justify something. Or maybe give the new avatar more political style villains instead of overpowered ones - like Long Feng couldn't fight any bender in the gaang, but they couldn't do anything to him because of his political power.

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arctika

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Nice post, I agree.

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Tektonic

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@jjkhead Okay Okay!

It's a simple process of escalation. Sequels almost always up the threat level in the verse. Look at Naruto>Shippuden>Boruto for an obvious example.

There WILL be more threats capable of taking on the Avatar State, if a third avatar series actually occurs.

Within the context of ATLA no one could challenge the AS in a direct fight but Aang hadn't mastered it until the finale(otherwise it was a heavy plot device). But once Avatar Aang's story progressed into the comics, even he needed credible threats to challenge him ergo the window that is the spirit world comes into play:

No Caption Provided

Even hundreds of years prior to Aang with Avatar Kuruk there was still a spirit capable of fighting him in the AS

Father Glowworm
Father Glowworm

Moving into the most recent era of Avatar Korra we already know that the threat level was taken further than the Avatar Universe has ever seen:

No Caption Provided
No Caption Provided

In the Next Avatar's era(if we indeed get a show about it) they have a few avenue's to explore. I'm not sure if they can spiritually top Harmonic Convergence, but they will very likely have a huge upgrade in technology, especially spirit energy fueled technology could have evolved even further.

No Caption Provided

The world of Avatar has not explored space. Are there aliens? We know that meteorites from outer space have incredible properties. Who knows what beings from space can possibly do if they explore this aspect of the universe. Are there other dimensions aside from the spirit and human world?

The space between the Spirit and Material world.
The space between the Spirit and Material world.

They have options, in addition to plot convenience and in story nerf's(if we ever see poison again...) if needed.

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Edgelord91

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#9  Edited By Edgelord91
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Starscream37

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As Tektonic pointed out, they’d either have to up the power scale a bunch or go the other (potentially more interesting if done right) direction of making the threat less of a physical but rather mental/psychological threat. A villain like The Riddler/Hugo Strange for Batman, one who challenges the main character in a way where their immense power like that of an Avatar is rendered ineffectual or isn’t the instant solution to the problem. This direction also give some leeway for the writers to show just how massively powerful stuff like the Avatar State is without it being the instant win condition that eliminates tension.

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deactivated-648a60c474283

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I like your points. The Avatar being overpowered was always something that bothered me when watching the original, even if you have story reasons that justify it. At the time, I just always felt the Avatar should be dealing with spiritual threats, not solely dealing with human threats who a fully powered avatar could ultimately stomp. And we got a little of the spiritual stuff in Korra. Guess we’ll see where the story goes from here.

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KillianDuclark

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So in conclusion Korra retroactively ruined another ATLA plot point/story element.

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WordsBeyondFic0

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So in conclusion Korra retroactively ruined another ATLA plot point/story element.

It all started when they changed how the main avatar got his bending in the spirit world. I enjoyed it more when they implied that all bending started with certain animals.

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Tektonic

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So in conclusion Korra retroactively ruined another ATLA plot point/story element.

How did you manage to blame Korra for something so standard? The Avatar State was already poorly written in ATLA, at least LOK tried to amend that.

@killianduclark said:

So in conclusion Korra retroactively ruined another ATLA plot point/story element.

It all started when they changed how the main avatar got his bending in the spirit world. I enjoyed it more when they implied that all bending started with certain animals.

They never implied the ability to bend was given to humans by Dragons, Badgermoles etc. Teaching them how to bend is different.

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JJKHead

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Interesting points from the people above. Bump

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Observer1

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Interesting read