Friday, August 14, 2009

Avatar: The Last Airbender

A friend a work loaned me the Avatar: The Last Airbender series (and this has nothing whatsoever to do with the upcoming Avatar movie by James Cameron). It's an a cartoon series that was produced by Nickelodeon that's in the anime style. I had heard some good things about the series, and this kept me from having to burn 15 disc rentals through Netflixs. Plus I hear they're making a live action movie version of this and I wanted to see the source material before I potentially watch the slimmed down version on the big screen.

After watching the series a couple things became appparent. One is it never really feels like they figure out the target audience. It's definitely geared for kids. Fights never end in a death and there's a lot of slapstick / physical humor. One of the main characters, Sokka, seems to have originally been in the show solely to provide comedic relief. But even though the show is geared towards kids it deals with larger issues (there is a war being fought throughout the show). But one of the other things that quickly became apparent is the show is good. It's entertaining and fun. And it really makes you want to start watching the next episode to see what happens.

There's also the requisite morale that seems to be embedded in a lot of the episodes. These aren't bad things, but just some of the stuff you would expect from a cartoon produced here in western culture. But while you have western aspects like that influencing the show there's obviously some eastern philosophies in play also (such as the idea of pseudo reincarnation for the Avatar and finding balance within oneself). Martial arts are also used extensively throughout the show.

It tasks place in a fictional world where people are divided up in different nations (represented by Air, Water, Earth and Fire). In case you're wondering, the fire guys are the bad guys who are out to conquer all the other nations.

The story is about Aang, who is the lost Avatar and the last of the Airbenders. All the other Airbenders were wiped out a century ago by the fire nation. Don't worry, I'm not spoiling anything, the story starts out by telling you that up front in title sequence.

The plots of the stories at time are advanced through overly simplistic elements. Apparently anyone dressed up as the enemy can easily infiltrate any enemy base (this happens pretty often throughout the show). I can understand why they did this since otherwise the story probably gets too complex for kids, so you just roll with it. Stories advance quickly and there's definitely a continuity to the storyline.

I don't see how they're possibly going to be able to do the live action movie and do the show justice. I've heard the movie is going to focus on the first season of the show (there were a total of three seasons to the show focusing on Water, Earth and Fire). But my problem with that is so much happens in each of these episodes I don't see how they can possibly get it all into a movie. There aren't a lot of fluff episodes, most of them deal with advancing the overall story. In fact, if anything I would say in season three there ended up being few more of these fluff type episodes than in the past, then they got themselves in trouble and had too much at the end of the series to wrap up in the remaining episodes. The end to the series is somewhat abrupt. Nothing nearly as bad as Evangelion which looked like it just ran out of money when producing their final episodes. But still, the big finish fight seemed to be resolved a lot faster than I was expecting.

Overall I lost a lot of sleep staying up way later than I should have watching this show. I even took it with me when we went on vacation and watched it down there. It's a fun series.

1 comment:

gaz said...

i've never caught the animated series of this. i dought the cameron movie will be up to much - all spectacle and no heart.
i'm currently enjoying watching the appleseed movies for the first time. man, i've been missing something big here - they're amazing.