Image credit - Avatar: The Last Airbender - Nickelodeon
Avatar: The Last Airbender
From Amazon Video
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Review of the Series (Spoiler)
THE best show on TV ever (from the Acupuncturist-Qigong Mom)
By Lori Gilbert
As a fan of anime since the 1980's, and that being said, I'm also an almost 40-year old mom of three boys age 3 to 12, and a licensed acupuncturist and Medical Qigong practitioner in my home state of California, so I was completely blown away by the Avatar series. Not only is it better than my previous favorites, namely Robotech, and the wonderful Miyazaki classics like Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle, etc., but it is just amazing to me the kind of culture and spiritual essence of truth that it is spreading to the masses, and to our children especially.
I have had to watch the whole series over and over again and each time I have gotten more out of it. The animation and artistry is spectacular, the music dramatic and inspiring, and the depth of the story ranges from themes of suspense, comedy, tragedy, respect, heart-break, and love. The main characters develop and grow up through their journey, and in this third series, we find them having to face all their fears and transformations, in order to save the world.
There was a whole lot of authenticity to Chinese and eastern cultures that really impressed me. Also, the spirituality from Daoism, Zen, Buddhism, and Hinduism is apparent in the wisdom shared by Aang, Uncle Iroh, and the Lion-Turtle. The concepts of qi (chi) blockage and energy medicine are portrayed here in ways I've never seen before--the writers really know their stuff, not only in the martial-arts way.
It blew my mind seeing what the Lion-Turtle did to Aang, lighting up his heart chakra and third-eye chakra, giving Aang a new "power" he had not had in any of his previous Avatar lives. The reason I was so blown away was that I had been shown this spiritual technique, just like that one the Lion-Turtle did to Aang, when I was learning to channel back in 1994--but it was Spirit that showed me, not a person (or strange animal, for that matter!) To see this thing happening on an animated TV show--I could hardly believe my eyes!
Then Aang used the same pose in his final defeat of the Fire Lord, and when he straightened his own head and spine (aligning the Qi in Qigong pose) the energy flowed the righteous way. I just could almost not even believe they could show something like this for real, but with animation is comes out so clear...where did they get this information? I wonder how they knew how much of this is real in Medical Qigong? Kudos to all of them.
Review of the Series
Flat out the best cartoon in America
By VINE VOICE
This is literally the best serialized cartoon made by Americans in the past 10 years. Michael Dimartino & Bryan Konietzko have created a fantasy world modeled after Asian nations and culture, full of martial arts magic.
Aang is the Avatar, the last of his race (the Airbenders). As Avatar he is capable of harnessing the four elements that govern their world and keep the peace between the four races (one per element) that populate the world. Shortly after learning his destiny as Avatar, Aang runs away from the responsiblity. Near to death after a becoming lost in a sea storm, Aang becomes sealed in ice for a hundred years.
He is set free by Katara and Sokka, who eventually become his traveling companions. Katara is a young untrained water bender that is a driving force for Aang's change towards responsibility. In turn, Aang helps Katara to have more fun. After a time, Katara becomes his waterbending master. Sokka is responsible in his own way as well, but ends up as almost comic relief for some of the more emotionally charged scenes.
Additional characters appear and stay with the series. Prince Zuko is almost a foil for Aang at first before being shown as a more parallel character. He travels with his Uncle, Iroh. Zuko's sister and father, Fire Lord Ozai, tend to be the antagonists in the second book. All are fire nation (the bad guys) but we see in both Zuko and Iroh that that fact does not automatically make them evil heartless killers.
In book two we meet Toph, a blind earth bender girl who doesn't want her family to know that she's a capable bender. She becomes Aang's earth bending master, and is quite a tough teacher despite her apparent handicap of blindness.
The characters are memorable and well-developed. The plot line is terrific with many different possibilities of how things could turn out. This is not a cartoon that cops out on sadness or death. Avatar is not like some of the magical girl cartoons from Japan where people die and then in the next season or episode are right back up and kicking. Avatar is a better reflection of real life. When people die (and it's not always bad guys doing the dying) they do not come back. And sometimes the good guys do bad things either because they didn't have all the information or because there didn't seem to be any other alternative. Hard lessons like truth, justice and good triumphant aren't always learned the first time.
It's really a great cartoon for people of all ages and every stage of life.
Review of Season 1
The Best Show on TV
In a world where the airways seem to be ruled by uninspired and badly dubbed anime, Nickledeon has created something truley amazing. A show that both kids and adults can enjoy, complete with tremendous voice acting, fantastic animation, good music, and awesome execution.
Season One of Avatar begins with a war going on between nations who control different elements through techniques called 'bending'. There's the Fire Nation, which, under Fire Lord Ozai, is attempting to take over the rest of the world. The Avatar, the only one who can control all four elements, is supposed to stop power imbalances between the nations, but the war started 100 years ago and the Avatar hasn't been seen since. And with the airbenders already wiped out and the water tribes being composed of tiny populations, only the great Earth Kingdom remains intact.
What makes this show great is a combination of character and plot. The characters aren't stereotypical. They act in predictable ways sometimes, but then there are episodes that really show their deeper sides (The Storm, The Fortune Teller, and The Blue Spirit are all examples of this.) The story focuses around the main characters Sokka, Katara, and Aang, the Avatar (returning to the world after being incased in an iceberg for 100 years.) There's also the Fire Nation's General Iroh, Price Zuko (a banished prince trying to regain his honor by capturing the Avatar) and Admiral Zhao. However out of these characters only Admiral Zhao seems truley evil. Zuko and Iroh however are in the gray.
There's some fantastic fight scenes in this series. The Blue Spirit, Jet, and Bato of the Water Tribe are all episodes with incredible choreography. Animation is top notch. There was only one episode where it went down a little. And finally the Season Finale is really well done and filled with mythology about the spirit world which the Avatar must learn to communicate, as well as he must learn to master the four elements to defeat the Fire Lord.
As good as Season One is, it's inferior to Season 2. If you thought that the Earth Kingdom was portrayed as the good guys and the Fire Nation are the only ones with bad leadership, Season 2 may change your mind. However as a first season of a show Avatar succeeds incredibly well. Recommended to people of all ages. There's some corniness in a few episodes, but the series does a great job of catering to all ages.
Review of Season 1
Great Start to a Better Show!
By Potter Loveron
Avatar: The Last Airbender is, quite possibly, the best animated series ever created, for children or otherwise. However, it’s important to note that it was indeed created for a children’s programming network. Nowhere is this clearer than in Book 1, a season which, while not quite transcendent the way later seasons are, still provides a great start to this absolutely stunning adventure.
The world of Avatar is a mastercraft of fantasy. There are four nations, each representing one of the ancient Chinese elements: earth, fire, water, and air. In every nation, some people are born with the ability to control, or “bend” their respective elements. Only the avatar has the ability to bend all four of these elements, and is thus has the potential to be the most powerful bender in the world and is tasked with keeping the world in balance. When the avatar dies, they are reincarnated as a baby in the next nation in the cycle.
The Last Airbender tells the story of Aang, who is, you guessed it, an Airbender. He’s also the avatar, so he’ll eventually have to master all the other elements as well. Sounds dandy, right? Well, not so much. That’s because he’s found frozen in a block of ice after being missing for a hundred years. The world he wakes up to is very different from the one he knew: the Fire Nation has royally screwed over everyone, having invaded the Earth Kingdom and destroyed the Air Nomads. He’s discovered by Katara, a young waterbender from the Southern Water Tribe, and Sokka, her older brother. After a run-in with the banished prince of the Fire Nation, Zuko, the three kids set out to turn Aang into a fully-fledged avatar so he can take down the Fire Lord and restore balance to the world. And that’s how our adventure begins.
And what an adventure it is! Book 1 has the Gaang (and yes, that pun is as bad as you think it is) traveling to the Northern Water Tribe so Aang (and Katara!) can learn waterbending. They travel to a huge variety of exciting and fantastic locations along the way, and meet a cast of amazing characters. The stellar art and animation bring this world to life. This world is so full of amazing things and interesting people, you can’t wait to see what or who the Gaang comes across next, whether it be koi fish the size of whales or a firebending master who hopes to right the wrongs of his nation. There’s a sense of exploration and discovery that comes along with watching this show; you’re traveling around the world with these characters, taking in the sights along with them.
For some reason, many children’s shows stray away from long narratives and mature themes. This show is not one them: it handles real conflict and intense character drama with all the aplomb of any show on primetime. For example, Katara and Sokka lost their mother when they were very young, and this season explores some of the baggage they carry as a result of that. Aang has to confront what it means to be the avatar, someone he never wanted to be. And then there’s Zuko, who spends the season desperately hunting the avatar to please a father who threw his own son out of his country. The writers give these characters room to breathe, and over time they become real people. That isn’t to say that the show doesn’t have a lighter side; on the contrary, it’s downright hilarious! Sokka especially is constantly getting himself into trouble, but the whole group shares in the wackiness. Watching this season again, I’m surprised at how funny it is, even now that I’m older.
And then there’s the action: this show has some of the best animated action around. Its martial arts are exciting to watch, the thrill of watching someone create a tornado or bend a tidal wave never fades away, and the fight choreography is crisp and creative. There’s simply nothing else like it on television. Still, Book 1 definitely has the weakest action in the series. The kids aren’t as experienced at this point in their careers, so their bending isn’t as powerful. This leads to fight scenes that just don’t quite reach the jaw-dropping spectacle of later seasons, though there are several stand-out battles, especially towards the tail end of the book.
In fact, that same criticism could be applied to the season as a whole: it just doesn’t reach the heights of later ones. Its beginning is rather slow, and though it does a good job of world-building, it feels very “kids go here, and this happens, then they go here, and this happens.” Of course, that’s what a plot is: but it shouldn’t feel like that. It’s probably a simple matter of confidence; the showrunners started off very safe, keeping the show very light and adventure-y without paying much attention to the ongoing narrative. But even comparing the beginning to the end of the season, it’s clear that the last few episodes are much more comfortable in their own skin. Bonds are broken, huge decisions are made, and the fights are the best of the season. Unfortunately, the slow, kiddy-feeling beginning drags the season down slightly, and keeps it from being quite as excellent as the later ones. Still, as far as starts go, this is a darn good one.