Reviews: Avatar The Last Air Bender
This Made Me Believe in American Animation Again
I grew up with Batman The Animated Series, Gargoyles, and other shows whose quality I thought I'd never see again in American works. Samurai Jack was perhaps the one exception, with Justice League also worth note, but these, I felt, were just the last embers of the glory days of early-to-mid-90's animation. Gone were the days of Doug, Rockos Modern Life, Ah Real Monsters, and all those other shows on Nickolodeon, and Cartoon Network had replaced Toonami with Miguzi. Ew. Everywhere I looked, I saw Tom Goes To The Mayor, or Spongebob Squarepants, or something else just as god-awful. Once Genndy Tartakovsky and BruceTimm retired, I figured, there'd never be a truly great American cartoon again. And then I watched Avatar. I then showed it to my roommatem. His reaction was, "this is on Nickelodeon!?" Friday's at 8 quickly became our hour of worhsip. Despite being visually modeled on Anime, it doesn't try to copy it. Instead, there's barely a hint of anime sight gags, characters act and move like westerners, and the animation is some of the smoothest on TV. The fight scenes, too, are a spectacle. Every one is its own Crowning Moment Of Awesome, and, like Samurai Jack, are not quick skirmishes - they take up a good portion of the final act of an episode usually. The final fight(s) in the finale (which are non-stop for a good 20 minutes, by the way, and not DBZ-style either - these are non-stop, hit-block-parry-block-thrust fights, for 20 MINUTES!) easily outranks even many of the best movie fight scenes. Beyond the visuals, the writing is some of the best we'd ever encountered in a series, animated or otherwise. We quickly became weary of watching for the most minute things, because we knew they'd become important later. We'd repeat one-liners, usually from the newest episode endlessly until the next episode the following week, and then-some. In all, the scope and eloquence of the story, the world, and the characters is comparable to Lord Of The Rings. This isn't just a well-done kids' show; this is on-par with shows like Lost and Heroes. Avatar has the perfect blend of drama, comedy, action, & romance that made Star Wars and Indiana Jones classics. Avatar is truly a landmark in animation. It's restored my faith in American Animation
An fine example of a kids' show done right.
Back when the show first started years ago, I loved it. It was an exciting, action-packed show with a great storyline that always kept you hooked. I somewhat followed the series through the first 2 seasons, but because of Nickelodeon's weird scheduling, I couldn't see most of the third. Thankfully, Netflix has all 3 seasons, so I finally sat down and watched it, beginning to end, during the Summer. And it was just as great as I remembered it. Granted, a few of the first season's episodes were silly, and some seemed like filler, but it was always animated well, interesting, and even the worst episodes had some funny parts. Watching it all at once helped me see how well linked together the plot was, and while Season 1 had filler episodes, things were always moving along, leading to a conclusion. (And I could go on and on about how amazing this series' conclusion was to me, but this is a review of the series, not the finale) Season 1 had silliness while moving along the plot and always keeping some degree of seriousness. Season 2 had a much more interesting plot with less filler, and Season 3 had a dark, entertaining plot that really showed off the depth of the characters while tying up some of the series' loose ends. The animation of the show was always good, and it just got better as the show went on. This is especially true for the bending techniques. Not only does the animation of the techniques improve, but the attacks themselves improve, making battles more epic as time went on. The characters were all expressive and fun to watch. The show also never shied away from darker themes than most children's shows, which made it more interesting to watch. This made it appealing, even outside of it's intended demographic. If you've got Netflix, I'd highly recommend you check out the series. It will be worth your time.
Good? Extremely. Great? Absolutely! All time classic? Eh...
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.
One of the best cartoons of the decade
I would definitely put this show in the top 10 list of best cartoons of the current decade.There are some many great things about this show.For one,the entire concept of bending is so great and original in my opinion.Pretty much everyone who's seen this series wants to be some type of bender of an element simply because it's just so cool and awesome.The characters are all great too.Each character has quite a bit of depth to them and you care for them and want them to succeed.The world the series takes place in is incredible to behold,the animators and artists truly deserve all the praise they get for the beautiful world they have constructed.The story is interesting,keeps you wondering how exactly it's all gonna end.I could go on and on as to why I greatly adore this show,but I'll spare you that.But I honestly believe this series deserves to be in a top 10 list of the best cartoons of the decade,not number one,but at least at number 8,7,or 5.Truly is great in ever sense of the word.If you haven't seen this series yet or would like to check it out,please do,you won't regret it.
Season 3 - Mostly good, with a slightly iffy resolution
For the most part, the final season of this show is on par with season 2. All of the characters get moments of development, and the overarching plot really starts to come together. However, I have to say that overall, it falls slightly below S3 for for one reason: the finale. While for the most part the finale was well executed (Zuko and Katara's showdown with Azula was awesome, and Sokka, Suki, and Toph's destruction of the Fire Nation air fleet was amazing), Aang's showdown with Ozai, while well-choreographed and fun to watch, wasn't quite as satisfying as it could've been. There are three main reasons for this: 1. Aang's aversion to killing Ozai appears out of nowhere. There was an entire episode dedicated to Aang mulling over the eventual confrontation leading up to the Black Sun invasion, yet the whole "I don't want to kill him" dilemma isn't mentioned. It's in-character for Aang, but it was weird to see it show up so late rather than be built up over the season. 2. There isn't quite as much emotional torque in the battle because Aang has zero personal interaction with Ozai before their confrontation. There is an emotional victory in Aang's defeat of Ozai, but it's primarily a moral victory for Aang, and as per point 1, that particular element was too recently introduced. The battle feels impersonal for Aang; no "You screwed up Zuko's life" or "You killed my friends' parents" or anything like that. The fact that it's Ozai he's fighting isn't important. 3. I know this is one of those issues in the fandom, but I felt like Aang didn't really earn his victory. I have no issues with Energybending existing or being introduced so late in the series. What bugs me is that the emotional drive of the fight rests on Aang's moral dilemma, yet he himself never puts any effort in solving it; the answer is just given to him. Similarly, the fight itself, while awesome, is won by luck rather than skill. Aang won the battle not because of his training or wisdom, but because Ozai accidentally unlocked his chakra, allowing the Avatar State to kick in. The strategy attempted way back in "The Avatar State" works. Turn on the Avatar, instant win. Now, this isn't to say that the ending ruins the series or anything. The finale is still 90% awesome. It's just annoying to know that it could've been better.
Season 1 - A Rough but Promising Start
Given that this is considered the arc-based action cartoon of recent years, I was really curious to see how well it lived up to the hype. Going by the first season... it sort of does. The production values and technical elements of the animation are all top notch. The art style is good, the animation is expressive and fits the content of the story well, and in general the writers and designers clearly did their homework in Asian culture and martial arts. They've most definitely Shown Their Work. The real question is how well they've incorporated that research into a story and characters. The answer is, again, sort of. On paper all the elements are there. Most of the time it works, but it isn't until near the end of the season that the show really finds its feet. The main issue is the protagonist trio; it feels like the writers hadn't quite smoothed out the dynamic and couldn't decide which characters fill which roles. Zuko and Iroh fare better, which is good in that the dynamic is interesting, and bad in that it's more interesting than that of the actual protagonists. Initially, I found Zuko's quest for honor and Iroh's attempts to temper Zuko's attitude more interesting than what the Gaang was up to. Additionally, this season has Zhao as a recurring villain, and unfortunately I didn't find him particularly threatening. His introduction features him getting his butt kicked by Zuko, and for the rest of the season he relies on his troops to actually accomplish things. Zuko would've made a more interesting arc-long villain, because Zhao just doesn't feel dangerous or competent enough on his own merits. The overall plot of the season is good, but the pacing leaves something to be desired. There are maybe ten episodes in the season that directly involve "get to the north pole" and the rest are just the cast farting around rather than trying to actually achieve their goal. And as a side note, the general treatment of romance is... odd. Suki starts macking on Sokka in the first episode she's introduced, and Sokka considered Yue his girlfriend even though he's only known her a short time and she doesn't seem to reciprocate. Now, all of this isn't to say that the season is bad. A lot of it is strong. But still, the show is still finding itself. It's very good, but hasn't hit "greatness" yet.
Season 2 - A Great Improvement
So, the bad news is that season one was a bit on the shaky side. The good news is that season 2 fixes the bulk of the problems. The season's overarching plot is much more consistent and relevant to the individual episodes, and it builds to an epic conclusion rather than being a bunch of loosely connected episodes. Furthermore, the cast dynamics are a lot more fun and interesting once Toph is introduced. Aside from shaking up the existing relationships, the original cast begins to settle into consistent roles, with Katara as the motherly Action Girl, Sokka as the pragmatic strategist, and Aang as the groups spiritually attuned but naive heart. With the characters clearly defined, they can truly begin to grow in a consistent fashion over the season. Zuko and Iroh's interactions also get a major kick in the pants; it's this season where Zuko really begins to grow out of his "angsty teenager" persona and into one of the show's most complex characters. There's also a massive amount of much-needed worldbuilding. The first season established the setting, but this season gives it more color and creates the sense of an interconnected world rather than just a series of independent villages. Previous plot points begin popping up and snowballing, connecting the seasons together. The bending itself is also further developed; while most fights in S1 were mostly "shoot [element] at enemy", the show starts really digging into the more versatile applications (metalbending, lightningbending, etc.). Finally, the show introduces Azula, who's a superior villain (and character) to Zhao in pretty much every way. She's competent, dangerous, more entertaining, and serves as a vehicle for Zuko's development. In general, she's just more well developed, and is the first real sign of just what the Gaang is really up against. The season isn't quite perfect, but the flaws are pretty minor. Mai and Ty Lee, while fun, don't really get a whole lot of development. And the pro-wrestling styled earthbending is funny, but it's a little too spot on and doesn't quite fit in with the more archaic culture that the world is based on. But as I said, those are minor, and don't detract a great deal. The second season is, for the most part, stellar, and is likely the strongest season of the show.
Not the best cartoon/TV show/anything ever. In fact, it's pretty awful.
Normally, I don't find action shows to be very interesting, but I can understand why people like them. They may be fine shows in their own right; they're just not my cup of tea. This, however... I have no idea why anyone likes this, much less thinks it's the best thing Nickelodeon has ever put out. In fact, it's one of the worst cartoons Nick has ever produced, if not THE worst. Where do I begin with where this show failed? The characters whose development, even, was clichéd? The hero's journey plot we've heard a million times before? The attempts at humor that fall flat 98% of the time?... But my main problem with this show is that it was BLAND. Ungodly so. In most Nicktoons, being creator-driven stuff, you usually find an interesting art style inspired by something, or an interesting score. Here, however, the art style was directly ripped off from anime with nothing to suggest inspiration, and the musical score was pretty generic itself. And, as I stated, it was incredibly clichéd. Everything in this show, I felt like I'd already seen before... and done better. Normally, I don't mind clichés. But this show was just cliché after cliché after cliché. Even the subversions were cliché! I will concede that the animation and voice acting was good. They managed to get some good actors - Mark Hamill, Mae Whitman, Mako, and Grey Delisle among them (although their best roles were in other, better shows). The problem is, though, that the writing just SUCKED. And it's writing that makes or breaks a show. If the writing of a show isn't good, why would you want to watch it? Bad animation can be saved by good writing, but good animation cannot save bad writing no matter how you try. So this show is ungodly bland. For a Nicktoon, that's pretty awful. I mean, this is the company that gave us "Stimpy's Invention," "Wacky Delly," "Band Geeks" - all near-perfect examples of animation. Nothing can live up to that. Thing is, though, every other Nicktoon is at least somewhat interesting. I don't think the creators are bad people, either. I mean, they seem like nice guys in their entry in Not Just Cartoons - Nicktoons!, and they seemed like they wanted to make a good show. But they failed at it. They put too little effort into the writing and too much into animation, and that is where it failed.
The best show to ever have aired on television, ever.
Even though this show's "intended" audience is technically 10-12 year olds, this show is right for viewers of all ages. This show is supreme in every aspect; the plot, characters, there is no aspect of this show that was overlooked. Other than the plot, which is by far the most captivating aspect of the show, here are just a few other reasons explaining why the show is unbeatable. (Caution! Spoilers past this point! Skip to last paragraph to avoid spoilers.) First, the wide span of emotions touched by the show is relatable to the whole audience. In "Tales of Ba Sing Se", we (yes, every single college man in the room) cried with Iroh as he mourns the loss of his son. Of course, there's great humor as well! Beyond the upfront "silly" humor intended for children, as displayed in the intro where Aang crashes into the idol, there is a level of comedy intended for more mature audiences. For instance, there were 3 (at least 3 that I have found) chapters based off of classic Hollywood films("The Deserter"="The Karate Kid", "Zuko Alone"="The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly", and "The Headband"="Footloose"). Second, everything in the show is realistic (aside from bending obviously). From the struggles in morality (Aang struggles to find a way not to kill Ozai), to the fighting techniques, everything is based off of real world scenarios. For instance, water bending comes from Tai Chi, air bending comes form Ba Gua, earth bending comes from Hung Gar, and fire bending comes from Northern Shaolin. Lastly, you develop a genuine love of the characters. (Using Prince Zuko as an example) "The Storm" gives the audience insight to his past with his father as well as giving constant parallelism between him and Aang. In "Zuko Alone" the lonely prince stumbles into a earth kingdom village and sees firsthand the effects of the war, and yet helps protect the village from an oppressive band of earth bending "thugs". Yet at "The Cross-Roads of Destiny" Zuko betrays his uncle and attacks the avatar. Finally, in "The Day of Black Sun, Part 2: The Eclipse" Zuko confronts Ozai and explains that his destiny is to help Aang learn fire bending. I have shown this show to my skeptical parents (age 50), who admittedly watched it at first simply to "humor" me, and they grew to appreciate every level of depth in the show as much as I do.
Good, but not God's gift to western animation
On the whole, it's an average series. Was it good? Sure. Was it great? No. It wasn't perfect, and that's fine, nothing is. Good humor, good action, great animation and pretty good voice acting. I'm told they did their work on asian cultures reference in the series. There's lots of padding and unnecessary episodes (The Great Divide), main characters swing in and out of likeability (Katara). Many plot elements plainly exist solely for the sake of the characters they relate to and contribute nothing to the setting or the story, which is just as well because they completely disappear without a trace once they serve their purpose (Katara vs "NO GURLZ ALOUD! D=<") and alot of characters that really have no reason for or logic behind existing (Hama). But over all a decent series. 6/10 But the resolution of the series forced and unnecessary. Aang dithered. And that's not a word I often use, but it's oddly appropriate. Confronted with the harsh reality that not everything can be magically solved at the end (Pffahahahahahaha), Aang tries to consult the preceding Avatars on how to rationalize the need for violence with his airbender upbringing. But they don't tell him what he wants to hear so asks a lion turtle that's there for some reason instead. The lion turtle spouts some BS or other that would have counted as foreshadowing if it hadn't been brought up in the eleventh hour. Middle middle middle. Aang beats Ozai. Now, if they wanted to a point of violence not being the only answer (never mind that it was for the entire rest of the series including right up until the actual resolution in question), that would have been fine. Maybe Ozai doesn't need to die to be stopped. Fine, I can get that. Problem is, they didn't do that. They actually made a point of promoting Aang's use of violence as a final solution and went out of their way to reinforce that message, explicitly calling him selfish for not wanting to do so. Then they turn around and have Aang spare him. Because...reasons. And it's all good. Before this they don't even try supporting Aang's position. They're against him at every turn right up until he spares Ozai and then all of a sudden he's totally in the right. Grey area? No. It's just "Ozai needs to die. Period." then "Aang's right for unspecified reasons! Ozai doesn't need to die!"
Balance is the name of the game
Typically, shows, especially cartoons and anime, have one or several things that they do exceptionally well and are lacking in other areas. Basically, they stand out for very specific reasons. Avatar: The Lost Airbender is not like that. Everything Avatar does it does extremely well. The plot may not be as good as Death Note's, the action not as good as Bleach, the humor not as good as The Simpsons, ect. But while it may not be #1 in any specific category, being #2 or 3 is still very good, and being #2 or 3 in practically every category is an incredible achievement. While there are things to nitpick over the 61 episodes, Avatar is a show with only strengths and no weaknesses. The plot is epic, the characters are great, the humor works. It all comes together to create one of the most balanced works ever put to any screen, which is fitting for a show about restoring balance to the world. Having this balance makes Avatar be more than the some of its parts and makes it deserve to be mentioned alongside the great cartoons and animes of all time. Even the great epic/mythical works like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings did not achieve the near-perfect balance of Avatar: The Last Airbender. It is a true classic and one of the best works to ever follow Joseph Campbell's 'hero's journey.'
Greatest Cartoon of all time,....
Avatar: The Last Airbender Year: 2005 Voices of: Zach Tyler Eisen, Mae Whitman, Jack De Sena, Dante Basco, Mako,Grey De Lisle, and Jessie Flower Grade: A+ Or at least damn close,between some of the most brilliant characterizations,and two very nicely melded plots concerning two of these characters,but best of all was the sense of,...balance. There was overall a nice balance between the spiritual,the dark,serious,and complicated, the relaxed and sweet, and the downright hilarious. The main plot being that Aang who is the Avatar who has the ability to bend the four elements,can and must learn the other three elements (he already knows airbending and for some Tear Jerker y goodness,he is revealed to be the last one) in order to stop the Fire Lord from using a comet to commit genocide,and the other plot being that son of said (Zuko) Fire Lord has been banished and must capture the Avatar to get back in his good graces. And I must say that they nicely combined them,to the point of one episode explaining how they really are Not So Different. Once that gets going,the writers nicely start to put heroes and villains on both sides and deconstruct the usual ways of the fantasy genre (Book 2 especially I mean really 4 kids topple a government? And you really don't expect the opposition to come back? Alongside that good writing stuff is the top notch animation and effects,all from excellent research on various martial arts forms. Said research also extends to ensuring that proper writing is used,and so they hired a calligrapher. All this adds to a very pleasant atmosphere,even during the most intense scenes. Now for my top 3 favorite parts which really help make this an A+ - The whole character of Toph - Great sense of balance - Brilliant inside jokes And the bottom 3 which ultimately are ruled out - The character derailing of Katara - The three episodes called "The Great Divide"," Avatar Day", and "The Painted Lady" - The resolution of the conflict is an Ass Pull But other than those 3,and especially the top 3,this series is a classic.
Not for everyone. The impressions from season I
The story seems to have been very important for somebody, you can tell by the detail. The art is pleasing to the eye, especially the backgrounds. The structure of an epic adventure! And yet it leaves me cold at the best of times. Partly this is due to Hype Aversion, I first saw the M.Night creation (which is bad even from an Avatar-virgin's point of view) and after reading up about what could/should have happened decided to see for myself the original. The thing is, it's done in the French pseudo-anime style (same as Totally Spies!), where the (to my mind) excessive amount of twitching is distracting and only serves to remind me of every bad incarnation of anime. Point number two is the Fan Dumb, when all the fans of the show bashed the pronunciation in the film, which to a non-native English speaker raised on Bollywood films and an anime dubhater sounds much more accurate. A side note is that while in the film we can suppose that Nations/Clans are made of (slightly?) different ethnicities and form a Clan on gods know what basis, in the cartoon all the representatives of one Clan look the same so the different accents of the voice actors (most notably Iroh) are more than distracting. Point number three is this: everything comes off as very bright and happy and clean, which makes one wonder if this is not a simple case of white man's Oriental Fetish Fuel, then again YMMV. This is a solid story and good animation (be the art style your thing or not), if everything else distracts you then it simply wasn't meant to be. I will not bring up my quarrel with the characters and the feminism, since I haven't seen more than the first season. I do recommend it, just don't go into it waiting for your world to be changed. A review on this page praised it equal if not better than the classics of the 90's with which I can't agree, but again, it's a personal view.
A Truly Marvelous Masterpiece
This is one of the best shows, animated or otherwise, that I've ever seen. I love the character development and how incredibly realistic it is. All the changes and growth mean that there's never a dull moment but it's all believable and relate-able. Had this been a novel, Mike and Bryan would be right up there with William Shakespeare. It's so good, it almost doesn't seem like just a kid's show; it's one of the most beautiful things ever created. One of my favorite things about this show is the complexity. It presents the heroes and villains as real people with emotions, motives, and loved ones. It shows that not everything can be solved with a clever scheme in 30 minutes or less and provides lessons that actually have basis is the real world. But what seals the deal for me is the fact it completely subverts the usual Blackand White Morality. I appreciate that it presents both side of the war and shows that no one should be judged because of their nationality-and I mean that in a positive or negative light. Jet and Hama (from the Earth Kingdom and Water Tribe, respectively)aren't portrayed in a positive light just because they're fighting the nation that wronged them. The Fire Nation schoolchildren and villagers from early in season three aren't portrayed in a negative light just because of their Royal Family's crimes. The heroes are allowed to make mistakes and do the wrong thing and the villains are allowed to redeem themselves and fight for what's right. I think it's such a profound message, that anyone is capable of great good or great evil, that Avatar the Last Airbender will always have a special place in my heart.
A Favorite of Many that Deserves the Love
Even though seven years have passed by this point, there's still no question that a lot of teens and kids today declare Avatar: The Last Airbender their #1 cartoon, and the same applies for me as well. But I guess my personal experiences with it were pretty unique in that I actually dismissed it when I saw the promos and no one was telling me this was "TEH BEST THING EVAHRGH." I only got around to it by Book 2's "The Blind Bandit" episode, mainly because I was shocked that a show for kids my age had a blind main character. And really, I think that was an excellent gateway point for me because the show is unlike anything out there, cartoon or anime. Probably the most striking thing about ATLA is how compact the story is. The creators put their all into creating an epic that would stand on its own, with little to no filler due to how most every incident, every conversation, every bit of something relates to the characters and their fantastical world. It's certainly one of the most atmospheric shows out there, with beautiful music and backgrounds setting the Avatar world as dynamic and wondrous, helped with loads of creative world-building. This leads us to another striking point of the show: the art and animation. From the characters' subtle expressions to the fluid choreography of the benders to the quirky yet oddly familiar mannerisms of the show's menagerie of strange critters, the animation alone deserves a gold star. Still, be warned that the really tight storytelling of ATLA does make it hard for newcomers to squeeze through at any point they like. The series is literally a book trilogy; you have to see it from start to end, and the juiciest parts are left for you to hunt since not everything will be spelled out for you. But that's just nit-picking because I know a number of us don't mind re-watching what's consistently a high-quality production. It's no wonder people of so many different demographics attached to it: it can be silly yet mature and dark but inspiring. It's simple enough for a child to understand, but layered so as to warrant attention from teens and adults. Even if you don't buy the hype the around this show, feel free to check this one out: it's a passionate project and a modern classic that'll probably ring true for generations to come.
The best fantasy you'll ever see on television - for young and old
There is much to praise about this series and I will do so in a moment, but let me first tell you this. I only discovered this series after it had already finished its run. I was able to watch all episodes in a row, never having to wait for the next one. So I watched the entire series in a single week. Really, is there anything I can add to that? Well, if you insist: the art is gorgeous. The music is great. The worldbuilding is fantastic. It's really cool to have something different than your average Standard Fantasy Setting. You can really feel the effort that went into creating this Asian-inspired world, the result being much more interesting than "fantasy with added nijas". As for the storyline itself, well, it's not the most original story in the world, but a band of kids who have to save the world never really gets old. The series true strength lies in its characters. Rather than the often simplstic morality of kids' shows, Avatar The Last Airbender gives us interesting and often morally conflicted characters. We may initially have come for Aang and his pals, but we stayed for Zuko, a character with so much depth that many shows for adults could take him as an example of how to do moral complexity right. Any flaws? Well, it's still a kids' show, so it's occasionaly limited in what it can do. Despite dealing with war and epic battles, there is surprisngly little bloodshed - or character deaths. But that's only to be expected. This is a surpremely enjoyable slice of fantasy that only gets better as the series goes on. I am eagerly awaiting The Legend Of Korra.
One of the best animated series I've ever seen
Avatar: The Last Airbender is one of those very, very rare shows that gets everything right. The writing, the animation, the plot, the characters, it's all done so well and the final product is beautiful. It's definately one of the greatest animated shows around, and that's no overstatement. At a first glance, I took it as a typical anime-knockoff with some generic plot. But as I got around to watching it, I found my initial estimate WAY off. The writing is GREAT. The balance between comedy and drama is absolutely perfect. The characters have levels of complexity that's even rare for shows aimed at older audiences, let alone shows aimed at children. They're all very enjoyable, and when people ask for good examples of characterization, I always point to this show. The characters all have their own conflicts to deal with, while at the same time contributing to the main storyline and furthering it along. (even the female characters are done very well, which is rare to say for a show aimed at boys or a gender-neutral audience) The characters aren't the only things that are complex: the plot is, as well. Like the characters, the plot is surprisingly deep even for the shows aimed at older audiences. I love the setting the world takes place in. It's based off areas in Asia with cultures based off real-life Asian cultures. (though a few others have been snuck in. Swamp-benders and hippie nomads, anyone?) The world is populated with both original animals and Mix And Match Critters, which I found pretty creative. The setting is enhanced by the wonderful animation. Boy, don't get me started on the animation! It's wonderful in the first season and only gets better from there. It not only enhances the setting, it enhances the bending movements used by the characters. (which, for the record, are based off real martial arts)) The animation, combined with the choreography, make the fight scenes absolutely stunning. I'd recommend this show to ANYONE. Give it a chance, you won't be sorry.
Basically, believe the hype
Avatar the Last Airbender had been strongly recommended to me for some time. I had been told by friends that it was just as good, if not better, than the animated classics of the 90s, like the animated series of Batman, Superman or the X-Men. Naturally, a degree of hype aversion set in. I assumed this was typical nerd hyperbole, obsession leading directly into exaggeration. And then I watched it. Quite simply, Avatar matches the hype. Yes, it is a children's cartoon and has limitations, but like all great children's programmes, it doesn't treat the audience like they are idiots. The amount of effort and detail that has gone into the artwork and the story is commendable. All of the main characters have depth that you just don't see outside of the very best television programmes. For example, at first glance, Aang may appear to be just yet another generic goofy super-strong chosen one type, but as the series unfolds we see how he labours under the expectations of the Avatar, he has doubts, regrets. He is a far more rounded character than, say, Goku. The humour is typical kid's show fare, but it works. When Avatar is funny, its very funny. Likewise, when more heartfelt moments come up, they work, because of the aforementioned depth of the characters. When lessons are learned, generally the show sticks to them-the characters are different, better people when the show ends from when it begun. And hey, the fight scenes kick ass. What more could you ask for? Don't let the hype from fans put you off, Avatar the Last Airbender is genuinely up there with the likes of Bt AS or Samurai Jack as the best animated programmes the west has to offer. Check it out.
One of America's best TV exports
Take all the good parts of anime while dropping some of the more questionable elements, add all that was good about American 90s cartoons, add a dash of French animation, and you've got Avatar. The plot isn't exactly groundbreaking - young kid is the chosen one with magic powers and has to save the world from the Evil Overlord. What makes is the fantastic spectacle it is, is that it's simply really well done. The art style looks rather Japanese at first, and many subsequent, glances. However, when you see it in motion, it utterly lacks the Limited Animation common to anime, and the characters instead move in a fluid manner reminiscent of Disney. All the characters are supremely well-designed and written. Aang really seems like a happy kid faced with the burden of saving the world, Azula is believably vicious, Ozai is an honestly fearsome Evil Overlord, and it's easy to see why Zuko has so many fangirls. Not only that, but the writers actually remember that there's a war going on. Regularly throughout the show, the characters come across some wreckage or damaged ground left by an army. Fire Nation plots interfere with the journey on numerous occasions, and to the writers' credit, these can't always be solved by four kids with plucky determination. We also get to see the human cost of the war. Only one character actually dies (off screen), but a big chunk of the second series involves refugees fleeing the fighting, and we see all the hunger and desperation that entails. Still, the writers go on to deliberately avoid Always Chaotic Evil in the third series, when they show how most Fire Nation citizens are decent folks who just want to make a living. Unfortunately, the third series suffers from some Pacing Problems. In order to get a counterattack by the good guys to occur exactly halfway through, the writers resorted to Wacky Wayside Tribes in order to stretch the plot. To their immense credit, these episodes were still very interesting and well written. After the battle, the sequence of events leading up to the end felt somewhat rushed, though it was still decent. And then the Grand Finale itself blew everyone away with its epic awesomeness. In closing, this is easily one of the best American cartoons ever made. Watch it and you won't be disappointed.