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Reviews Comments: Good? Extremely. Great? Absolutely! All time classic? Eh... Avatar The Last Airbender whole series review by Beatman 1

The term "all-time classic" in any medium is not one that can be used lightly. In order for one to qualify as such, it has to fundamentally change the medium in a profound way. Avatar: The Last Airbender doesn't really change anything in animation or storytelling. What it does do, however, is take a lot of basic storytelling elements and refines them incredibly well for a so called "Kids show" creating a very high quality series that the whole family can enjoy, an increasing rarity today.

The setup for Avatar is fairly stock when you think about it. An evil empire is out to Take Over the World (Of course!) and only a chosen one can master all four of the bending elements and stop them, bringing "balance" to the world. This is not a grand, original plot, the idea of evil empires and chosen ones taking from dozens of other stories. But that doesn't mean it's done poorly. Quite the opposite.

Just about everyone, hero and villain, is fleshed out. The action scenes are extremely well done (with some notable homages to anime series if you look hard enough) given the Y7 restrictions. The story is well told, but suffers from the traditional seasonal trap of filler and varying quality. Characters get an equal amount of development, avoiding the trap of obvious writer favorites.

Does that make it an all time great series? Well, nothing in its presentation hasn't been done before, from serial plots to ensemble casts to its themes. There are some filler episodes that range from pointless to outright atrocious. The traditional shounen love plot is present, and just as horribly dragged out here as it is elsewhere (with just as little care from the actual show in comparison to the fans) And the less said about the ending BTW, the better. I could rant for days about the copout it was to present a huge moral dilemma, and then have freaking Gamera appear out of nowhere with a magic whatsit to solve the issue. It just seems like a cheap way to keep the series at a Y7 rating.

So it's a great show, and highly recommended. But it's just not something that can be considered the greatest show of all time or any other grandiose title.

Comments

  • Wackd
  • 21st Sep 14
Why is "Absolutely" a question?
  • Beatman
  • 21st Sep 14
That may have been a fixed typo.
  • RyochiMayeabara
  • 21st Sep 14
Completely agree with you with most of the review except for three parts.

1. Some filler episodes help to flesh out the character's personalities. For example, imagine if they just went STRAIGHT to the North Water Tribe without seeing the destroyed Air Nomads, The Blue Spirit and etc. I feel that it would have been a lot weaker without them.

2. The energybending thing was foreshadowed but I completely agree with you about how the ending should have been.

3. The Love plot could have been worse. a {{Naruto}} lot {{Bleach}} worse.
  • RyochiMayeabara
  • 21st Sep 14
^Completely failed at hyperlinking right there.
  • McSomeguy
  • 22nd Sep 14
A classic does not need to be transformative of the medium. It is something that stands the test of time and is widely remembered even after generations have passed. Calling it a classic already is not correct but neither is saying that it won't be one.
  • Beatman1
  • 22nd Sep 14
Ryochi Mayeabara:

I think that there were ways you could have kept Energybending and not had it been such, well, such an Ass Pull. If Aang had even the faintest idea of what Energybending was, and sought out something to learn it from, even when everyone was telling him to kill, I would buy that. Because it would establish that he's willing to risk everything for the chance, however faint, that this might exist, because his ideals as the Avatar, as the last of the Air Nomads, are that important to him. The way it's written in the show is that he just HAPPENS to come across Gamera who just HAPPENS to teach him the technique that is the perfect fit to his moral dilemma. There's no exerted effort, the solution lands almost literally in his lap, and that's why to me, it's an Ass Pull. It's those little things, in the fillers, in the love story, that keep me from declaring it an all time great. At least right now.
  • xivxav
  • 22nd Sep 14
As funny as The Ember Island Players is, I do think I would have preferred if they had scrapped it and used the time to explore Aang's moral dilemma more and to have him find a solution to it himself. A lot of people try to defend the sudden appearance of energybending by pointing out that the Lion Turtles had been alluded to previously, but I think that misses the point. I agree with you that the problem isn't the sudden appearance of the turtle or of energybending itself, but of the way it resolves Aang's issues without him needing to work for it.
  • MiinU
  • 22nd Sep 14
"If Aang had the faintest idea what energybending was"

...he kinda did, since he and Guru Pathnik lightly discussed the subject during "The Guru" episode. Specifically, this bit a of dialogue:

Also think about who we knew that already had the ability to temporarily take someone's bending away. Ring any bells?

My point being, energybending was hardly an asspull since there was a precedence for it and enough foreshadowing that something of that nature was possible. Ty Lee took bending away temporarily, Aang could do it permanently, but the effect was still the same: the victim couldn't bend and they were left too weak to move afterward.

Aang didn't have time to go off on a separate journey, since they were already cutting it close to the arrival of Sozin's Comet as it was. That's why he consulted with his past lives, hoping they would have an alternate solution. It was the best use of what little time they had left.
  • Beatman1
  • 22nd Sep 14
I still argue that, because all that establishes is that he has an idea of how the body works. He never makes the connection from A to B. Gamera just happens to conveniently show up to put together the pieces of the puzzle that he never bothered to start on. It's less of him actively seeking a third option so much as

What if Gamera doesn't show up? Aang has no idea what energybending is outside of really, REALLY abstract concepts that he (and the audience for that matter) completely forgot about. Which leads him back to his original two choices - Do nothing and watch the world burn, or kill Ozai and violate everything that he stands for as the last Air Nomad (and push the show into TV-PG territory). He never makes the active choice to seek this out, never asks the other lives if they knew of anything. The question was always "Is it right to kill Ozai?" And the answered appeared to be "The needs of the many outweight the needs of the few" until Gamera shows up. If he sought out this knowledge from any source, then you could argue he had at least had a proactive role in the story, rather than it being a full case of New Powers Asthe Plot Demands.
  • MiinU
  • 23rd Sep 14
"I still argue that, because all that establishes is he has an idea of how the body works. He never makes the connection from A to B."

Well, no, because he was preoccupied with 'gotta master the 4 elements + the Avatar state, before the comet arrives'. So he can hardly be blamed for not considering he could possibly do what Ty Lee did. As far as the gaang knew, that was an ability that was unique to her.

"What if Gamera didn't show up? Aang has no idea what energybending is outside of really, REALLY, abstract concepts that he (and the audience for that matter) completely forgot about."

Some of the audience forgot about that, but there those (including myself) who recalled it and were able to make the connection between Aang's discussion with Pathnik, Ty Lee's chi-blocking, and energybending.

As far as the Lion Turtle, we can only surmise that it appeared when it was meant to. If Avatar's taught us anything, it's: destiny doesn't shoot dice. Meaning, things happen when they're supposed to.

  • Think about how long Aang and Appa remained in that iceberg, until Katara (his future waterbending master and future bride) found him.
  • Think about what Bumi told Aang when he tried to save him from Azula: he said it wasn't time yet. Which is why he voluntarily returned himself to her custody and waited for the right moment to free himself and his city.
  • Toph couldn't bend metal when they faced "The Drill", because she thought it was impossible. But being trapped in Xin Fu's cage finally gave her the impetus to try, which is when she discovered she could do it.
  • After Jeong Jeong fled the FN and the gaang was wondering where Aang would find another firebending master, look who showed up right on cue and offered his assistance.

See my point? The Lion Turtle was no different. When it finally time for them to meet, Aang was compelled to go off on his own, which is how he wound up on the island.

"He never makes the active choice to seek this out, never asks the other lives if they knew of anything. The question was always "Is it right to kill Ozai?"

Aang asked Kiyoshi what she would've done in his place, she reminded him of how she handled the situation with Chin the Conqueror. Aang countered by pointing out that she hadn't killed him, Chin had basically done it to himself by refusing to back away from the cliff. Kiyoshi conceded the point, but said she would've done it had it been necessary.

When he spoke with Yangchen, he tried appealing to her as a fellow Air Nomad by mentioning the fact killing went against their principals, in hopes she'd offer an alternative solution. Which she didn't, but didn't say he had to kill Ozai either. A lot of people quote the part where she tells him:

  • "Selfless duty requires you to sacrifice your own spiritual needs and do whatever it takes to protect the world."

But they forget her parting words to him: "Whatever you do, you must be decisive." Aang decided he didn't want to kill Ozai and he stuck to that, even when his past lives had been ready to pronounce sentence. Aang shut all of them out and said, "No, it doesn't have to be this way."

Aang's will on that matter was unbendable, so was his energy, which is when he finally understood what the Lion Turtle meant and acted on it.

Similar to how Neo didn't understand what Morpheus meant about him not needing to dodge bullets, until after he'd been shot and killed by Smith in that hallway. So Neo stood back up and when Smith tried to shoot him again, he didn't dodge. He told them "no"... and those bullets stopped dead in mid-air.

  • Beatman1
  • 23rd Sep 14
This will be my last note on this, I promise.

Neo's whole quest was one of proactivity, at least in the first movie. He goes and seeks the Oracle out, and when he doesn't believe he's the One, he goes out and tries to rescue Morpheus, he willingly confronts Agent Smith in combat, and he pushes forward. Aang does not search for the answer. The answer comes to him in a way that's a little (actually, a LOT) too convenient given the moral struggle that they tried to present. It's not the tool that's the issue, at least to me. It's how he found it.

And again, it's not the only flaw of the show. The Aang/Katara relationship was always dull and completely unnecessary. That's not a shipping complaint BTW, the lack of focus on any romance was fine until the last few episodes made it a huge deal made the romance subplot clumsy and un-needed, and filler like the Great Divide is just as awful as any filler a shounen long runner like Fairy Tail will force out. I just find the ending to be my biggest problem with what is for the most part, a really great show.
  • MiinU
  • 23rd Sep 14
"Neo's whole quest was one of proactivity, at least in the first movie."

No it wasn't. Morpheus sought out Neo and came to him. Not the other way around. Likewise, Neo didn't choose to learn Kung-Fu, Morpheus had instructed Tank to drill him. That's why Tank woke him up that morning and said it was time to get started.

"He goes and seeks the Oracle out."

Neo didn't do that either. Morpheus told Neo he was taking him to finally see the Oracle, because Neo didn't even know where they were going (or why), until Morpheus told him.

The one proactive decision Neo ever made, was to try to save Morpheus, which was a decision the Oracle had told him he'd have to make. Remember?

"The Aang/Katara relationship was always dull and completely unnecessary."

That's subjective, 'cuz there were just as many who liked the way the pairing was handled.

"the lack of focus on any romance was fine until the last few episodes made it a huge deal"

The last few episodes? There was romance throughout the entire series.

  • In Book 1: Water we saw the first signs of Aang's affection for Katara, while Sokka had relationships with Suki and Princess Yue.
  • Book 2: Earth further developed the Kataang pairing, Sokka briefly hooked up with Suki again ("The Serpent's Pass"), Jin crushed on Zuko, and we saw the first indications that Mai and Zuko were an item in both the "Omashu" episode when Ty Lee insinuated it (note Mai's smirk), and in "Zuko Alone".
  • Book 3: Fire was the finishing touches that tied everything up, by making Kataang official and reaffirmed Maiko's status.

    "and filler like the Great Divide is just awful"

No arguments there. I always skip that episode in subsequent viewings and pretend it doesn't exist.
  • HeaG
  • 23rd Sep 14
@Miin U, Neo actually was searching for Morpheus before Morpheus found him, if you listen during the redpill, bluepill scene I think it says Neo was looking for a year or two.

I rather liked the Aang/Katara ship, if you got tired of the bending/fighting, which I didn't, it was still something a bit different. Plus, yeah the Aang/Katara was always part of the series, visible from nearly the first few episodes.

Also, I liked some of the filler episodes, like the one where Katara pretends to be the, I can't remember her name, but, the Lake/Healing lady.

Anyways, that's my two cents.
  • MiinU
  • 23rd Sep 14
"Also, I liked some of the filler episodes, like the one where Katara pretends to be the, I can't remember her name, but the Lake/Healing lady."

That's "The Painted Lady" episode. Yeah, I liked that one too.
  • HeaG
  • 23rd Sep 14
Oh, yeah, I remember now, thanks.

Hm, I don't know about anyone else, but I thought the episode with Aang at Fire-Nation school was pretty interesting. It's been a while since I've it, but, the episode when he and Katara teach the Fire-Nation kids to dance, can't remember if it's the same one, is cool too. Especially, the actual dancing, plus, you can see that Aang/Katara really do have quite a bit of UST.

Overall, I really like Avatar, it's a really good show and Momo's cute. Now, if only they'd show it more where I live.
  • MiinU
  • 23rd Sep 14
@HeaG : That's "The Headband" episode.
  • Beatman1
  • 24th Sep 14
@Hea G:

My issue with the romance wasn't the players in themselves, but rather how awkward the importance of it was stretched in the last few episodes. All of a sudden, Aang is terrified, not of Katara hating him (because there is absolutely nothing that would indicate hatred, implicitly or explicitly), but of being stuck in the Friend Zone for the rest of his life. Isn't stopping the Firelord from burning the entire Earth Kingdom to ash a bit more important? Given the stakes present, it was jarring to say the least, especially since the dread of Ozai's plan was built up so well in comparison, it made Aang's fear of being friendzoned all the more out of place.
  • MiinU
  • 24th Sep 14
"All of a sudden, Aang is terrified of being stuck in the Friend Zone the rest of his life. Isn't stopping tbe Firelord from burning the entire Earth Kingdom to ash a bit more important? It made Aang's fear of being friendzoned all the more out of place."

I condensed this part of your comment, since that was basically the gist of it.

Answer: Aang wasn't terrified of being 'friend zoned' the rest of his life, because as far as he knew, in the next few hours, his life might've been over. That's why he literally kissed Katara 'goodbye' before he left at the start of the invasion on "The Day of Black Sun" - because he might not have that chance again. So at the very least, he wanted her to know how he felt about her.

Cloud did the same thing with Tifa on the night before they were planning to set off for the Northern Crater. That's why he told Barret and the others to spend time with their families that night, because there was a very real possibility that they were gonna die the next day.

In short: no, what Aang did wasn't out of place. That was time to get it off his chest.
  • Beatman1
  • 24th Sep 14
@Miinu: I see what you're saying, but I was referring more to the Ember Island Players and Aang's subsequent feelings over the finale, where the thing that upsets him the most (even moreso than being played by a girl) was the implication that Katara only viewed him as a friend, and Katara flat says she doesn't know how she feels about him. That's what I mean. Again, everything else was just so well written, the dread, the increased hopelessness (prior to the Lion Turtle anyway) that it dwarfed the romance subplot in quality.

Still, if the worst problem of your show is that the main plot is so well written the subplots can't keep up, that's hardly the worst sin.
  • BrightLight
  • 9th Oct 17
Well, my only complaint was that the art style could get a bit deranged at times, with quite a few shots of the characters having some of the most RIDICULOUS expressions on their faces - which does bring down the show a bit for me.

That being said, the story and the characters are so legendary, that I rank this as the #2 show of all time. If only the animation didn\'t get too wild at times...

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