Opinionated Guide to Avatar: The Last Airbender
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Book 1: Water
The show's seasons are called "books." For some reason. I don't get it either; books do not prominently figure prominently within the show's overall theme or general milieu. Indeed, one main character is completely illiterate. In any case, season one is called Book 1: Water. Normally, for the introduction to a season, I will do a look back at what transpired and a look forward, with some detailed analysis. My goal in such sections is to make some particular point about the show that you may not have thought about. But, since there is no prior season as of yet, instead, I will go over the general concepts behind this world. That way, I don't have to clog up the episodes themselves with such minutiae. The world of Avatar: The Last Airbender consists of several cultures, most of them drawn from Asian influences. In this world, there are elemental manipulators known as "benders:" Airbenders, Firebenders, Waterbenders, and Earthbenders. Bending, to varying degrees, relies on movements based on real-world martial arts. So when a firebender throws a karate-like punch, a fireball emerges from his fist. There are a number of large nations that have arisen around bending forms. The Earth Kingdom occupies the largest landmass in the world. There are two Water Tribes, one in the North Pole and one in the South Pole. The Air Nomads occupied 4 hidden air temples in the north, south, east, and west (four winds. Get it?) of the Earth Kingdom's landmass. And the Fire Nation is on a large island to the west of the Earth Kingdom. Each nation has a loose basis in some real-world culture. The Earth Kingdom bears a striking resemblance to Imperial China. The Water Tribes are Inuits as they live on the ice. The Air Nomads seem very typically Buddhist monk-ish. And the Fire Nation is some kind of hybrid between Imperial Japan and China with some Indian (India-Indian) influences thrown in. The nations are also color coded. The Water Tribes wear blue, the Earth Kingdom wears greens, the Fire Nation wears reds, and the Air Nomads wear tans and browns. This extends to just about everyone's dress in these nations; rare is the person who dresses out of color for their nation. The titular Avatar is a perpetually reincarnated being. He/She is the only individual capable of bending all four elements (or even just more than one), and he/she is charged with defending the world and maintaining the "balance". Exactly what that means is never really explained, but it generally means that each nation stays where it is and doesn't invade another. Or something.
I think the reasons they use "books" instead of "seasons" is to fit with the setting, where books are the primary means of storing information. Maybe they were trying to make it look like an adaptation of an old story written down ages ago, like "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" were supposedly translations of ancient documents. As for the balance thing, the Avatar exists to make sure none of the four elements (through their respective nations) overpower the others. A recurring theme is that no element is evil in and of itself. All four can be used for good. I think there's something of an environmental theme as well.
Glad to see this liveblog. Any flaws that Atla may have, it's still a great series and a wonderful addition to Western Animation.
Thank you for a more in depth review of ATLA. I will do the same for myself but seeing other opinions is fun.
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