Yes that’s right, this series ended 2-3 years ago and I only just watched it for the first time this past month. Many bloggers have probably already posted about this series to death ages ago. But I’ve accepted it, I’m just the type of person that rarely seems to be watching/reading/playing something while it’s “new” and at its peak of popularity. I tend to be too preoccupied with looking to the past and wondering what I’ve missed, and in doing so I just don’t stay up to date with the present. But at the very least it means whatever I watch I can see it marathon style when I first start. A few years ago I read a good article on Avatar (in Otaku USA I think?) that made me throw away my false initial impressions of this series and give it a try. But I didn’t pull the trigger on it until an old friend of mine told me that all three seasons were streaming on Netflix.
In the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender there are 4 nations, and each nation represents an element. Many people born in each nation have the ability to manipulate that element as a part of the martial arts fighting style. In this world a single Avatar is born into each generation, the Avatar is the only individual that can use all 4 elements and is the bridge between the human world and the spirit world. The purpose of the Avatar is to ensure that the world remains in balance. The Avatar suddenly disappeared one day, and afterward the fire nation began the process of taking over the world in a 100 year war. A water nation brother and sister (Katara and Sokka) are out fishing one day and accidentally discover the Avatar Aang. Now they’re set on a mission to travel the world to teach Aang the 4 elements and defeat the Fire Lord before he permanently disrupts the balance of the world.
The way the story is told is wonderful, the plot has a simple beginning and builds while weaving many well thought out characters and back stories into it. The charactes’ relationships with one another feel appropriately complex and accurate to their situation, without being over dramatic. As a result their personalities feel realistic to me, and it makes their interactions and battles all the more touching. But perhaps most importantly of all is the humor in this series. Despite having to achieve the impossible Aang and crew still try to enjoy life. I love that a lot of the humor has a bit of sarcasm to it and isn’t afraid to push the envelope of what’s appropriate for younger kids.
The action is wonderful, it’s creative and has wonderful flow. I wasn’t expecting nearly so many invigorating and beautiful fights when I first started this series. Battles aren’t over dramatized either, the opponents see each other, and there is no need for long lasting close-ups before the battle begins. At one point I turned to my boyfriend and exclaimed that all of the fighting that just took place in Avatar in the last 10 minutes would have been stretched out to about 5 episodes in Naruto.
When I was younger I really appreciated the few childrens stories that I felt treated me a bit more like an adult. The stories where not all the good guys get the perfect happily every after ending, but the characters try to live their lives despite this. Avatar is still available for streaming on Netflix (at the time of this post) and the 2nd Avatar series will air in 2011. Usually I’m a pessimist when it comes to sequels but…I have a lot of faith in the team that put Avatar: The Last Airbender together. They created my childhood TV dream show and they absolutely deserve my optimism for at least that. I only wish this series existed 10 years ago, as much as I love it now I would have been absolutely obsessed over it back then. But I’m happy this series was made at all, recommended for adults and children alike.