Friday, October 27, 2023

Friday Creature Feature - Face Stealer

I would like to introduce you to Koh. He’s a spirit about as ancient as they come, he’s got a voice as deep and velvety as a pocket full of stars, and a great memory.

Also, he collects faces. People, animals, all of the faces are fair game. Let’s spend some time with our creepy friend,  because it’s SPOOKY season, and there’s plenty spookiness in the one they call the Face Stealer.

Avatar Aang enters the spirit world for the second time in Season 1 of ATLA on a mission to speak to Koh, the ancient spirit. He learns that Koh is the one… person… who can reveal where the moon and ocean spirits’ physical forms reside. With this information, Aang will be able to thwart Admiral Zhao’s plan to subjugate the northern water tribe.

And so Aang finds Koh. It turns out that Koh is one of the creepiest beings in the Avatar universe. And, thankfully, Aang learns about Koh’s odd habit before they meet. He has a very specific formula for stealing faces. He allows mortals to come to him for requests of all kinds. Those mortals foolish enough to allow him to see displays of emotion on their face lose it. 

Koh greets Aang, and indicates he has met the Avatar before, and has kept the face of the past Avatar’s lover as a trophy.

Koh is in the approximate shape of a giant centipede, and if your skin isn’t crawling yet you may be totally dead inside. Since you obviously require more unseemly details, Koh proudly swaps out faces he has stolen by “blinking” through them. Any creature that uses eyelids in weird ways like this is, scientifically speaking, is unrefined nightmare fuel. It's not really clear whether Koh believes in testing mortals, punishing them, or using them for a wildly violent form of entertainment.

One of the most brilliant parts of Koh testing Aang is that the ever-whimsical Avatar wears his emotions on his sleeve. Aang’s childlike playfulness and exaggerated exuberance show in so many goofy expressions you can't watch this scene without being on the edge of your seat. Koh challenges Aang to manage his spontaneity and impulsivity, and does not pull any punches in terms of trying to catch Aang with his guard down.

This character was so deliciously and maliciously portrayed I’ve been waiting for ATLA to reintroduce him since that single episode. Researching for this post led me to discover that Koh and Aang do have further encounters featured in a web-based game, which you can watch as a video without interruptions from pesky gameplay mechanics. The game itself is called “Escape from the Spirit World.” It takes place in between seasons two and three of ATLA. Koh returns several times through this game with riddles that bars Aang’s progress toward returning to the physical realm.

Bizarre and spine-tingling character design chills our bones around Halloween time. But you can enjoy the weirdness of Koh any time of the year! Whether it’s in the original series, or through some other incarnation, watch out. Keep your face blank, or Koh will add it to his bank. 

Happy Halloween!

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