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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.
Brief note — they're "seasons" in America. Or in Avatar's case, "books."
They are still "series", but not called that in America...if that makes sense. Although series means something different in the US, doesn't stop it from meaning "A subset of the episodes on an entire show" the same way season does.
Or in Avatar's case, books.
I agree wholeheartedly. This series is a prime example of why Tropes Are Not Bad: by putting plenty of care, attention, and detail into every aspect (especially the fight scenes) they managed to avoid many issues that other series deal with.
Avatar was well done I admit. And they'll only take from it by making it into a live action movie. Like many animes/cartoons, my only bother was the filler episodes. They're the curse to us who enjoy a good story. But at least it wasn't/isn't too long like Naruto and Bleach that have past the 200th episode. Any story that long is gonna make the viewer lose interest. But at least the filler episodes are not so numerous.
To the person above, I would say that not only is it good that there wasn't much filler, but that the quality of the filler was so high. Look at some of the filler episodes: the Kyoshi Warriors, Bumi, Haru, Jet, the Waterbending Scroll, The Cave of Two Lovers, etc. None of these episodes or characters have a direct impact on the plot (at least not immediately), but they're still fun to watch. Herein lies ATLA's genius.
Sure they seemed like filler initially (and all right, Cave of Two Lovers didn't seem to have any repercussions that I saw, at least) but at least one thing from each of those episodes showed up again. Kyoshi Warriors: Suki. King of Omashu: Pretty much every single thing that happens in Omashu has something to do with Bumi. Imprisoned: A whole bunch of characters that show up again. Jet: Well... Jet. He shows up again in S2 and plays a big part in the whole Dai Li thing. The Waterbending Scroll: The pirates. Remember them? From the S1 finale?
Now imagine if none of these episodes had happened. Yeah.
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