Friday, August 12, 2022

Toph’s Bending Style Was Accidentally Perfect, 'Avatar: The Last Airbender' Co-Creators Reveal

Avatar: The Last Airbender's Toph had a bending style that was created by a blind woman, with co-creator Bryan Konietzko saying it was a coincidence.

Avatar: The Last Airbender co-creator Bryan Konietzko talks about the origin of Toph's fighting style, learning that it was invented by a blind woman. Avatar ran for three seasons on Nickelodeon from 2005-2008, with the series recently experiencing a resurgence in popularity due to its addition to Netflix. Netflix is slated to release a live-action remake of the same name, currently in post-production for its first season, and Avatar Studios is planning a series of movies set in the Avatarverse.

Avatar: The Last Airbender follows Aang, the titular Avatar as he must travel across the land to master the fighting styles of all four elements. His earthbending teacher, Toph, was introduced in the second season and joins Aang on his journey, notably becoming one of the few main characters on a TV series with a disability through her blindness. Toph went on to become a favorite of Avatar: The Last Airbender fans, with many complimenting her personality and role in the story.

According to the Avatar: Braving the Elements podcast, Konietzko talks about Toph's fighting style, officially known as Southern Praying Mantis, a rare form of Kung Fu. After he and Michael Dante DiMartino decided on the style, the pair met with a martial arts coordinator who informed them that the style was invented by a blind woman according to legend. Konietzko admits they had no idea of the synchronicity and saw how perfect it was in depicting Toph's fights. Read his quote below:

"And then there was, you know, the really neat synchronicity when we picked Southern Praying Mantis, this rare style, for Toph. And we met with Sifu Manuel [Rodriguez], and he was like, ‘You know the legend is this style was created by a blind woman.’ And we were like, ‘We had no idea.’"

With Avatar heavily borrowing from East Asian mythology and culture, it's interesting how Konietzko would unintentionally make such a connection between the legend and Toph. The lack of representation in the cast and creative team is one of Avatar: The Last Airbender's most common criticisms, with the Netflix series set to change that precedent. The coincidence seems to lightly echo that criticism, where the creators didn't understand the cultural origin of a fighting style before deciding to implement it in the series.

Nevertheless, Avatar remains one of the most critically acclaimed shows of all time, with its story, characters, themes, and animation often cited as some of the best in television history. Toph is a perfect representation of how the show stood apart, giving a character with a disability motivation that broke stereotypes and added to the world-building. With Toph's fighting style accidentally suiting the character so well, it just adds another reason why Avatar: The Last Airbender stands at the height of animated storytelling and is one of the most beloved shows of its age.
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Originally published: August 12, 2022.

Original source: ScreenRant.

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