Friday, December 21, 2012

Avatar: the Last Airbender (Television Series)





Plot: In this fantasy version of the world, everything is divided into four nations, each with their own sub-ethnicities, but still. Among the nations there are those born with the ability to bend, that is learn to control one of the four elements, via telekinesis and martial arts, from which each nation takes its name: water, earth, fire, air. The nations are supposed to coexist in balance just as humanity as a whole is meant to coexist with the spirits of nature and the earth, but it not always so.

The greatest war of conquest ever waged has been raging for over one hundred years between the industrial empire that is the Fire Nation and the rest of the earth. Only the avatar, the continually reincarnated spirit of the earth itself with the ability to bend all four elements and more, could rally the force to stop them, but the last avatar, a Fire Nation warrior died mysteriously before the start of the war, and nation which the avatar was supposed to be born into next, the Air Nomads, was the first attacked and wiped out by the Fire Nation.

One day on the edge of the south pole two siblings discover the reincarnation of the avatar a young twelve year old boy named Aang. Aang is reluctant to take up the mantle of chosen savior, but with the help the ethics he was given as a child and the new people who will become his friends, enemies, and everything in-between he becomes the hero not of the world, but rather the first among many.

Verdict: That long, but needed plot summary is nothing anyone has not heard before, but then this series is not a new idea. This series is literally the hero of a thousand faces put to the small screen. It is the epic fantasy coming of age story. It is Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Dragonball, Dragonball Z--actually if Star Wars's writing cross with Dragonball Z's magic is a pretty good analogy for the series a whole. What makes this one so great is just the way it is handled compared to all those others.

No one is overtly evil because good is dumb that's why, not even our final villain , and the cast is far more diverse and well rounded than any other out there telling this story. This is the hero's journey to start kids on bar none due to how it is generally humorous in tone, yet always manages to transition so well into drama (and there is some real drama--see below). It won't say anything new, but it does say something old in way that has been too long and coming. Buy it.

Facts: This series is three seasons of 20 half-hour episodes. There is some unfortunate filler, but not much. This was produced by Nickelodeon. It has a sequel series called Avatar: the Legend of Korra, which I have heard some good things about. That show is 12 half-hour episodes. There are also a set of  three sequel graphic novels called Avatar: the Promise, which are worth reading if you liked the series and the world. Do not see the live action films. They are garbage, even if they were not horribly racist, they would still be garbage.

In terms of voice cast this one got some great talent, Jason Isaacs, Mae Whitman, Jessie Flower, Mako, Mark Hamill, Clancy Brown, Dee Bradely Baker and more are in this cast.

Justice

Betchel-Sarkessian Test: Passed with flying colors. Everyone is capable of fighting regardless of race or sex, and the only time a women's fighting prowess gets questioned,  it never feels like pandering is happening, and the questioner gets smacked down for it, again never in a way that feels like pandering.

 (Katara and Toph do not always get along...)
(...However they are there for each other when it matters most.)
(They, along with the rest of the protagonists, also do make a pretty formidable team)
 (Of course they both also do well on their own throughout the series...)
(...and in the sequel comics.)

 (It is clear that our penultimate villian, Princess Azula of the Fire Nation, does care for here friends...)
(...they have to decide whether they like her, or merely fear her.)

 (This is Suki, leader of the warriors of Kiyoshi, all of whom are women, and the first elite force to join the avatar against the Fire Nation...)
(...While not benders, they get into a few of the fiercer battles.)

Better than Star Wars: This show is the definition of this. None of the main characters are Caucasian, and it makes sense. It is perhaps the only show, and especially one of the few fantasy shows--sadly--to ever do this, and do it in a way that makes sense given the world it has created.

 (Princess Azula of the Fire Nation, whose father said was born lucky and divinely chosen to rule.)

 (Sokka, the goofball who would be a warrior fromthe Southern Water Tribe. He may not be a bender, but he always was equal to them, just does not know it.)

 (Suki of Kiyoshi, ever optimistic but kurt.)

 (Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation, whose father told him he was lucky to have been born.)

 (Aang, the avatar and last Air Nomad, who never wanted to be)

 (Appa the sky bison and Momo the lemur-bat, they are awesome.)

 (Retired general and older brother to the Fire Lord, Iroh. There is a lot he does not tell others.)

 (Katara of the Southern Water Tribe, the waterbender who would be a master and see hope become realized.)

 (Mai a  Fire Nation knife expert seeking thrills, but she is not without humanity.)

(Jet, an Earth Kingdom "freedom fighter")

 (Toph bei Fong: blind, earthbending master, masculine, and proud)

(Ty Lee, a generally genial happy person, who fights for Azula; why...)

(Avatar Roku and Fire Lord Sozin, the avatar and fire lord from a hundred years past...)

(Fire Lord Ozai, the reigning fire lord who would rule the world)

Die Hard Test: Passed, because this test does not really apply here, so instead I am just going to say again, this show has real adult drama. The character deaths that do happen, happen off camera, but they hurt. If you have watched the show, and especially if you are a parent who has watched the show, this (SPOILER?) image below will remind you why.


Suck it Disney: Oh, yes indeed, as most all of the men in the show are capable of real emotions, but sadly no older women make up the main cast, there are plenty within the side characters though. If I had more time to make these reviews, I would show said characters here, but I do not unfortunately--main characters only.


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