Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

Avatar: The Last Airbender (Animated Series)

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender (Animated Series)

    I posted about this show before but figured I’d raise it again to see if it might attract more interest this time around. I may be flogging a dead horse here, but the forums do seem a tad more active now and we have some new members to boot!

    So here goes...

    Some time ago a friend recommended I watch Avatar: The Last Airbender. At the time, I quite wrongfully dismissed it as a kids show and didn’t give it the attention it deserved. I got maybe half way into the first episode, but that was it. I put it down and didn’t pick it up again. Thankfully, I came back to it recently as I noticed the whole thing was on Netflix. I had some time on my hands so I figured I’d give it another try. Three weeks later, I’d burned through all three seasons (presented as separate ‘books’).

    To give you a bit of background, the show is set in a world divided into four kingdoms, each aligned with one of the four elements (Fire, Earth, Wind, Water). Each nation has a distinct society and a subset of people who have the ability to manipulate and control the element of their nation, which is referred to as bending. The show's creators based each bending style on an existing martial art, leading to clear visual and physical differences in the techniques used by Waterbenders (T'ai chi ch'uan), Earthbenders (Hung Ga kung fu, for the most part), Firebenders (Northern Shaolin kung fu) and Airbenders (Baguazhang).

    The story focuses on Aang, who is said to be the re-incarnation of the Avatar. He awakens after 100 years of sleep (trapped in an iceberg), following his accidental discovery by two water tribe children. He finds himself in a changed world, his people wiped out by the Fire Nation; a war like faction who have waged a brutal war of expansion, suppressing the other kingdoms. In spite of the 100 year lapse the Fire Nation are still hunting the Avatar. Aang is said to be destined to master all four elements and bring balance to the world. He sets out on a journey with his new found water tribe companions to fulfil that destiny, which turns out to be a rocky path indeed. The past 100 years are slowly filled in by flashbacks and revelations about the Avatar’s ancestry.

    At its heart, this is astoundingly good kids TV, and like the best kids TV it understands that it has an adult audience as well, and shifts very adeptly between dark and light. It tackles serious issues and never talks down to its audience. The main characters have long, believable arcs that see each character change a great deal as the story progresses. There are also plenty of subtle political and religious references, Buddhism and eastern mysticism being a prominent theme. It all makes for a very rich world, with great characters you become quite attached to over time. It reminded me a lot of B5 because of its epic nature, it also deals with prophecy, and is executed with just the right amount of foreshadowing. There's even a bit of a B5 tribute, as the line "who are you? what do you want?" is used at a pivotal moment in season 2. There’s meaningful character development too, with twists and turns and shades of grey instead of straight down the line ‘good’ and ‘bad’.

    Visually, it’s absolutely gorgeous. There are shades of Studio Ghibli in the animation style, and it’s potentially one of the best looking animated series I’ve seen in recent years.

    If you haven't already checked it out, do give it a look. If you have kids, even better, watch it with them. You may need to bear with it for a few episodes before it fully kicks into gear, but once you hit season two you'll likely be hooked. Would be cool to discuss the show here if anyone else enjoys it, or might want to do an episode for episode look at it for the first time. I’d be up for a re-watch...

    *Please note, if you've had the distinct misfortune of seeing the M. Night Shyamalan live action film, please disregard that awful piece of film making entirely. It is not at all representative of quality of the animated series (that preceded the film).
    Captain John Sheridan: I really *hate* it when you do that.

    Kosh: Good!

  • #2
    Originally posted by Ubik View Post
    *Please note, if you've had the distinct misfortune of seeing the M. Night Shyamalan live action film, please disregard that awful piece of film making entirely. It is not at all representative of quality of the animated series (that preceded the film).
    I had quite another experience with the film. I knew nothing about Avatar. I had no idea it was a series, but the trailers for the film looked amazing. That scene towards the end, where the glowy kid makes the water rise up and the ship go boom? Yeah, that looked like it was going to be pretty spectacular.

    So I went to the film, and I enjoyed it. Enough so, that I checked out the film's information on imdb and found out it was based on a series, and that they had compressed the first season into the movie, with plans for two more sequels, one for each season. Hey, I liked the movie, so I might like the series it's based on, right?

    I bought the dvds, put them on a shelf, and promptly forgot all about them. I don't remember what it was, but for whatever reason, I was browsing through Netflix streaming and found the series. Being momentarily lazy, instead of grabbing the dvds, I just played the first episode through instant.

    It was a little jarring at first, since Aang's name is pronounced wrong in the movie, and certain characters share little more than a name and hairstyle between the two, but it didn't take long for me to pull the dvds out and go through the first season in about a day ... It's only about eight hours per season, so it goes by rather quickly.

    I moved on to the second and third seasons straight away, then went back and watched the bonus features from each season. One of my favorites has the characters as "chibi" style (as in "adorably cutesy") all together in a school. Another has interviews with the voice cast, so you can see what the actors look like for a change.

    After all that was done, I thought I'd go back and re-watch the movie, since that is what got me hooked on this world. And holy crap. It's terrible. They tried to have at least one reference or scene lifted out of each episode of the first season, but they constantly got it wrong. Pretty much every character is "wrong" ... and then there's the race issue.

    In the series, people of every race live and work together. Black, brown, yellow, pink, blond, everyone. In the movie, there are only two characters played by non-whites. Not one extra of any color other than white.

    Uncle is OLD and moves slowly. In the movie, which was apparently cast by the people behind Beverly Hills 90210, he's about five years older than the main bad guy, who is practically a toddler himself.

    If you go into the movie not knowing anything about the series, it's a decent flick, and will make you want to see more. If you're a fan of the series first and then see the movie, you pretty much want to burn every print of the film and lock the director away in a tower ... on another planet.
    "Jan Schroeder is insane" - J. Michael Straczynski, March 2008

    The Station: A Babylon 5 Podcast

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Ubik View Post
      *Please note, if you've had the distinct misfortune of seeing the M. Night Shyamalan live action film, please disregard that awful piece of film making entirely. It is not at all representative of quality of the animated series (that preceded the film).
      LOL! I was waiting for that disclaimer. I havenÆt seen the film but IÆve seen *a lot* of grumbling about it from fans of the series.

      I havenÆt seen the series, either, but being on Netflix makes it very accessible. IÆll have to put it in my queue. Just out of curiosity, is it a Japanese-made series, American, or from another country?
      "You don't like it here, do you? You'd rather you were back in your quarters, asleep, dreaming dreams of glory."

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Sebastian View Post
        LOL! I was waiting for that disclaimer. I haven’t seen the film but I’ve seen *a lot* of grumbling about it from fans of the series.

        I haven’t seen the series, either, but being on Netflix makes it very accessible. I’ll have to put it in my queue. Just out of curiosity, is it a Japanese-made series, American, or from another country?
        American made, English language, so no shoddy voice actors. I think (Nikelodeon commissioned it), but it draws on a lot of eastern culture, myth and religion. I think you'll enjoy it, but like the first season of B5 you need to stick with it for it to pay off.
        Captain John Sheridan: I really *hate* it when you do that.

        Kosh: Good!

        Comment


        • #5
          Okay, thanks for the recommendation. Btw, have you seen the anime series Outlaw Star? If not and unless you have a strong aversion to anime, IÆd strongly urge you (and anyone else who may be interested) to check it out, preferably with Japanese subtitles. The English voice acting is passable at times butàwell, IÆm sure you know something is lost when these things are dubbed. That one grabs you from the first episode.

          ItÆs the best sci-fi cartoon IÆve ever seen, beating out even my nostalgia for Robotech (aka Macross). I really like the story, the characters, and itÆs a bit B5-esque in that the spacefaring future is not as utopian as we might have hoped.
          "You don't like it here, do you? You'd rather you were back in your quarters, asleep, dreaming dreams of glory."

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Sebastian View Post
            Okay, thanks for the recommendation. Btw, have you seen the anime series Outlaw Star? If not and unless you have a strong aversion to anime, IÆd strongly urge you (and anyone else who may be interested) to check it out, preferably with Japanese subtitles. The English voice acting is passable at times butàwell, IÆm sure you know something is lost when these things are dubbed. That one grabs you from the first episode.

            ItÆs the best sci-fi cartoon IÆve ever seen, beating out even my nostalgia for Robotech (aka Macross). I really like the story, the characters, and itÆs a bit B5-esque in that the spacefaring future is not as utopian as we might have hoped.
            I loved Cowboy Bebop, so I can imagine I'd dig this too.
            Captain John Sheridan: I really *hate* it when you do that.

            Kosh: Good!

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Ubik View Post
              I loved Cowboy Bebop, so I can imagine I'd dig this too.
              In that case, I feel about as confident as I can about anything that youÆd like Outlaw Star a lot. They have much in common. I liked Cowboy Bebop, too, but IMO O.S. edges it out due to its more pronounced story arc.
              "You don't like it here, do you? You'd rather you were back in your quarters, asleep, dreaming dreams of glory."

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Sebastian View Post
                In that case, I feel about as confident as I can about anything that youÆd like Outlaw Star a lot. They have much in common. I liked Cowboy Bebop, too, but IMO O.S. edges it out due to its more pronounced story arc.
                Ohhh, now that does sound good! I was shocked at how much Firefly had lifted from Cowboy Bebop, and any claims to the contrary seem a little thin! I shall track down some Outlaw Star episodes. Cheers for the tip!
                Captain John Sheridan: I really *hate* it when you do that.

                Kosh: Good!

                Comment


                • #9
                  I didn't catch Avatar until it was finishing up it's run on Nick. I had long passed their target demo, and since I'm not a parent I saw no reason to watch anything on the network. I am glad I did give Avatar a shot after being told of it from a co-worker back then.

                  The creators knew that parents (honestly the responsible ones) were going to watch the show with their kids, and has elements that appeal to both groups. While it has great lessons for kids, it never got preachy with it's morals, and I love it when shows don't do that. I didn't notice any so-called "reset buttons", and I agree completely that the foreshadowing was the right amount.

                  This was the first series where right after watching a couple episodes on TV, I bought the DVDs the same day. At least the first season. I then bought the second season set the next day. I do have something embarrassing about those DVDs. When I first popped it in, I tried to switch the Japanese audio and English subtitles on. The animation style really blurred the line between West and East animation.
                  RIP Coach Larry Finch
                  Thank you Memphis Grizzlies for a great season.
                  Play like your fake girlfriend died today - new Notre Dame motivational sign

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by David Panzer View Post
                    When I first popped it in, I tried to switch the Japanese audio and English subtitles on. The animation style really blurred the line between West and East animation.
                    Ha! Absolutely, the animation definitely blends the best of both schools. It's a very nice east / west cross over.


                    Originally posted by David Panzer View Post
                    While it has great lessons for kids, it never got preachy with it's morals, and I love it when shows don't do that. I didn't notice any so-called "reset buttons", and I agree completely that the foreshadowing was the right amount.
                    And that's exactly why I brought it up, it really does transcend any 'age' barriers. I think that's true for all good fiction for children / young adults, it shouldn't be watered down or condescending in any way. I love that it's on a very even keel morally and intellectually speaking. The arc is also very well realised.
                    Last edited by Ubik; 02-01-2013, 02:03 AM.
                    Captain John Sheridan: I really *hate* it when you do that.

                    Kosh: Good!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      How is the sequel series BTW?
                      RIP Coach Larry Finch
                      Thank you Memphis Grizzlies for a great season.
                      Play like your fake girlfriend died today - new Notre Dame motivational sign

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by David Panzer View Post
                        How is the sequel series BTW?
                        I like it. As with the original, they have an ongoing story arc. Korra, the new Avatar, has known from when she was a toddler that she was the Avatar, which was a complete 180 from Aang. It's many decades later, and most everyone we knew from the first series is gone. There are a few who are still around, but not many.

                        In the new series, instead of exploring a new location every few episodes, the adventure is mainly set in Republic City, which was founded by Avatar Aang. We do see the original gang at times, via flashbacks, but flashbacks to when they were adults, not youths as we knew them.
                        "Jan Schroeder is insane" - J. Michael Straczynski, March 2008

                        The Station: A Babylon 5 Podcast

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by David Panzer View Post
                          How is the sequel series BTW?
                          I've seen the first season and I liked it plenty. Again, beautiful design, and the steampunk elements are great. It has a slightly different vibe to Avatar, perhaps not as cutesy and more overtly futuristic and serious.
                          Captain John Sheridan: I really *hate* it when you do that.

                          Kosh: Good!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Sebastian View Post
                            Okay, thanks for the recommendation. Btw, have you seen the anime series Outlaw Star? If not and unless you have a strong aversion to anime, I’d strongly urge you (and anyone else who may be interested) to check it out, preferably with Japanese subtitles. The English voice acting is passable at times but…well, I’m sure you know something is lost when these things are dubbed. That one grabs you from the first episode.

                            It’s the best sci-fi cartoon I’ve ever seen, beating out even my nostalgia for Robotech (aka Macross). I really like the story, the characters, and it’s a bit B5-esque in that the spacefaring future is not as utopian as we might have hoped.
                            Just a quick reply to say I got hold of Outlaw star (original Japanese with English subs). The first episode was superb, with great animation, instantly likable characters and a good does of humour to balance out the gritty SF setting. I think I'm going to love this show!
                            Captain John Sheridan: I really *hate* it when you do that.

                            Kosh: Good!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I was going to place an order at an anime site I haven't shopped at for a while. Outlaw Star sold out. I went to Bandai's website, nothing. Then I saw "Bandai Entertainment to Discontinue Home Video, Manga, Novel Sales" dated August last year.

                              I find it funny that unless money is involved (paycheck or the flipside paying what I owe), I'm late for everything else.
                              RIP Coach Larry Finch
                              Thank you Memphis Grizzlies for a great season.
                              Play like your fake girlfriend died today - new Notre Dame motivational sign

                              Comment

                              Working...
                              X