Saturday, 13 April 2013

Review: Avatar: The Last Airbender

This is my first review on this site that isn't about a book, but it was just so amazing that I just had to review it. I'll keep this in a similar format to how I review my books. Keep in mind I am reviewing the TV show, not the crap movie (especially not that James Cameron one). This show is just so mind-blowingly amazing and I can't recommend it enough, my review is long and since its for a TV show the categories are going to be different. If you want Avatar related discussion with me just comment, unless it is about shipping, I don't particularly want to discuss/argue about that, come on people were all fans of the same show here! Also, Legend of Korra is here, its pretty great but doesn't quite reach the high standards that The Last Airbender set, and I'll miss the original gang.

General Info:
Title: Avatar: The Last Airbender
Creator/Director: Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino
Date of Completion: 19/1/2012
Rating: 5 stars! Must see!

Why I Watched It:  Well, I was 10 (not exaggerating, 7 years ago) when I started watching Avatar when it premiered on TV. Well I loved it, but then it stopped airing where I live (because I don't have Nick and it got taken of ABC). I kept my love for Avatar alive with the first two Playstation 2 games for it (the first game is better). Then about two years after it stopped airing I realised the local library had a copy the first season, and only a few months ago I found out that the library had the whole series on DVD, so I went and reserved the whole thing, and now the great journey has pretty much ended for me, but I now own all the book collections on DVD (best present ever, no?) and I still enjoy them each holidays.

Summary: The unique world of Avatar is split into four nations: Earth, Air, Fire and Water and in each there are benders able to control these elements, but only one person can bend all four elements, the Avatar - the bridge to the spirit world, whose job is to bring peace to the world. Fire Nation waged war against the rest of the world but the current avatar disappeared, 100 years later, Katara , the last waterbender in the Southern Water Tribe, and her brother Sokka find Aang, the new Avatar and the last airbender, trapped in an iceberg. Together they travel around the world to find Aang some teachers for the other 3 elements, so that they can defeat the Fire Lord and end the war. They get into many adventures, meet new friends all the while avoiding Prince Zuko and Princess Azula. This is just like the basic gist of it, I feel like my summary can't convey the plot of Avatar without a) spoiling or b) being essay length, so guys who are unsure it is much more than this.

The Characters:
Aang - When Aang was told that he was the next Avatar, his life at the Southern Air Temple was turned upside down, deciding to run away he and his Sky Bison, Appa, get caught in a storm near the South Pole and unleashing the defense mechanism, the Avatar State he locks himself and Appa in an iceberg, only to be reawakened 100 years later. He finds himself in a new war-stricken world with all of the other airbenders wiped out, and the pressure is on him to master all four elements and defeat the Fire Lord before next summer. Aang is a great hero, he is resourceful, humourous, powerful, brave, a total goofball he values all life and sees the best in people and always tries to help he also surprisingly mature for a 12 yr old. He is no Gary Stu as he worries a fair bit, messes up, is a bit silly and awkward, and sometimes interprets things wrong, but he's so lovable.

Katara - A budding young waterbender chooses to leave behind all she knows (besides her brother) to accompany Aang around the world. She is compassionate, caring, passionate, empathetic, strong-willed, motherly, organised and hates to see people oppressed. On the other hand she is very stubborn, has a temper and a bit too motherly which sometimes makes her annoying and some people hate her because she is annoying, but I don't because really, if she didn't have these annoying qualities she would be a Mary-Sue, and annoying is always better than Mary Sue, unless it is an annoying Mary Sue (I am looking at you, Clary Fray). Also, hair loopies are awesome, why aren't they a fashion trend? (I've tried them)

Sokka - Oh my gosh, guys Sokka is just too funny. He is hilarious using all different types of humour too (because in a lengthy series, if a character is only funny with one type of humour they stop being funny), he uses physical comedy, sarcasm, just plain sillyness, exagerration, cactus juice (high-ness) and more to the max. His voice actor is amazing too, he just brings so much to the character, and his voice is unique especially his awkward Sokka laugh. Seriously, if I met Jack DeSena in real life I would probably hug him, but I actually have no clue what he looks like.  And Sokka isn't just Mr Comic Relief he is a valuable member to the team, he is smart, strategic, and good with weapons (his space sword is pretty neat) and is sometimes the voice of reason who doesn't let their emotions get in the way (sometimes). Really, Avatar would be so much less awesome without him.

Prince Zuko - Has had a pretty harsh life, for trying to help he was scarred and banished by his father, having to capture the Avatar is his only chance to regain his honour. My gosh, the character development with this guy is just BRILLIANT!!! All of the characters grow and develop throughout the series but Zuko has so much character development, I love it (seriously guys, if you want to win me over make sure there is character development and relateability). His character is just so deep, and he has his strengths and weaknesses, his ups and downs and sometimes I just feel so sorry for him. His father has always seen Azula as the better one and his mother (whom he lost) and his uncle Iroh have been his real parents. At first I loved Zuko and Iroh together, not just Zuko alone (see what I did there?), Iroh just balanced Zuko out completely, toward the later parts of the series I adored Zuko on his own, and with his uncle. I'm pretty sure most of the fans, at the end of book 2 were like "Why Zuko?! WHY?!" and in Day of the Black Sun "Yay!". And his speech in the Western Air Temple was just insanely adorkable, and the "Why am I so bad at being good", and it's funny how he thinks he isn't humourless and angry. His voice actor is brilliant, also, Zuko's pretty hot when his hair is all shaggy. I may be a Maiko fan but we all know Zuko's true love is honor. And don't we all just want to go on a life changing field trip with Zuko?

Toph - What a kicka**.  The Blind Bandit was the last episode I ever saw broadcasted on TV, I and I was like "WOW!!! So much bada**, Omg I want to know this girl more!!" and then it stopped. This girl is pro, I love her rebelliousness and how she doesn't let her disability stop her. There's already a word invented for people like her - handicapable! (it was actually invented for Teo but it applies to her too). Her blindness was and aspect that was handled really well. With most disabled characters in literature/screen, everyone is always aware of their disability and treat them differently, and they either fade into the background personality-wise and plot-wise because of their disability (Iggy from Maximum Ride) or are constantly spotlighted and get super-extra powers to make up for their disabilty, but with Toph this doesn't happen and her blindness is still an integral part of her character. The way she uses Earthbending to see is really neat and clever, and it's funny how in the Ember Island Players they make her large buff guy actor see through echolocation. She's pretty funny as well, and its great how she can make fun of her own blindness. On the other hand she can be quite stubborn and pushy. She is the world's greatest Earthbender and she's only twelve. A funny 12 yr old blind little girl, who is a kicka**, whats not to like?

Appa and Momo - Our awesome animal buddies, I shall have more on the awesome animals of the Avatarverse in The World section. Momo's just so cute, playful, curious and hilarious, he's kind of like a animal version of Sokka except he can't speak and he's more into fruit than meat. Appa is strong (physically and mentally), caring, patient, cute and the bond between him and Aang is strong and sweet. I want a flying bison so bad (except I would have nowhere to keep him/her). I have this tendency to just call all flying bison, Appa even though I know not all flying bison are Appa (eg. Me in Appa's Lost Days flashback, Aww look its Appa, SQUEEEE!! Lot's of little Appas, so much cutes!!! So I guess the big one must be the mum?! Kya!! so much cute little Appas!!!, *Aang gives Appa apple*, oh so that ones Appa).  How cute was Appa when he was little?! He wasn't that much taller then Aang (and he was pretty young then).

Princess Azula - The Head of  formidable trio (Ozai's Angels, yes?) who together are practically impossible to beat (even if it is the whole gang fighting them). Azula has always been a fire bending prodigy, able to produce deadly blue fire and lightning. She has always been manipulative, cunning and cruel, and because of this her mother has always seen her as a monster and her father has seen her as the next Fire Lord. She is smart, deadly and always looks out for any advantages for her and uses fear to manipulate others. She was an exceptionally well crafted villain, and I wanted a bit more closure on her after the end. I actually got all teary when I found out her age, I knew she was Zuko's younger sister but she always seemed like she was 17-16, but fourteen guys, is it not sad that a 14 year old ended up like she did? ...and who new she would be such a klutz when it came to the opposite sex.

Mai and Ty Lee - Azula's sidekicks, and friends since childhood. Ty Lees a cheery, super-flexible, optimistic acrobat, who moves fast and can chi-block (pretty dangerous stuff), and Mai on the other hand is a pessimistic, bored teen who is skilled with throwing daggers. Both of these skills Azula begins to pick up from the girls (as seen in Day of the Black Sun). Mai is kind of boring on her own, but the chemistry between her and Zuko is great, they're adorable in the emo, lets-hate-the-world-together way, and they were  childhood sweethearts (come on people "You miscalculated. I love Zuko more than I fear you" "Saving the jerk who dumped me" and "I don't hate you" "I don't hate you either", way cute!). And I can't believe Ty Lee is only 14, just look at her figure people, she's gotta be at least 16.

Ozai - The fatherlord, I mean, firelord (that bit cracks me up). Dude's pretty evil, I mean he wants to take over the world, he scars and banishes his son and makes him fight for his honor, he encourages Azula's manipulative evil side. So pretty much, he causes most of the evil throughout the show, but he's in the shadows of it all, so I don't really have as much to say about him, I wish he was less in the shadows.

Iroh - The Great Dragon of the West. This heir lost the throne because his son died under the siege he was conducting and he slowly started to lose his power. Who doesn't love a warlord turned fat, old, tea-loving funny uncle with a flair for wisdom and philosophy. He's wise, gentle, non-judgmental and knows what real honor is. And he wasn't like this all the time, he was almost as bad as his brother but he changed, and he shows everyone that people can change for the better. He is so wise, but it's not overwhelming or anything, and everything he says is right. His personality balances out Zuko's so well too, and he's like the dad Zuko lost, and Zuko's like the son that Iroh lost (feels, feels everywhere).

Suki - is a kick-butt awesome girl, I like her and I wanted to see more of her (I didn't like how Suki was in the opening of Korra, sure she helped end the war but she wasn't as much a part of Team Avatar as the rest ) regardless she is so ninja (did you see her in the Boiling Rock, she was like running on peoples heads, and scaling the walls, kicking some a**, flipping around and 82h3guw&$ it was AWESOME!) and she's smart and determined too. She and Sokka make a great couple, but the creators were hinting at something not-so-kid-friendly in The Southern Raiders, but dang it was hilarious when Zuko walked into the tent instead of Suki, someone should make a gif *hint, hint* of that, so funny!

The White Lotus Society - Our favourite group of old awesome people. At first Pakku was a sexist jerk, but he changed his way - and also Pakku and Kanna :3 old people love is so cute. Jeong Jeong, such an angsty old guy, but he has that whole old wise master who is aware of all the dangers of his art thing down pat. Bumi, so crazy and quirky, he is just so random and weird, its great and he thinks outside the box. Piandao is also awesome, and I like how he was based on Sifu Kisu (martial arts director) and had the wise master style, and how he accepted Sokka even though was a bit quirky, besides if it wasn't for him there would be no space sword **SPOILER AHEAD** I was quite sad when Sokka lost the space sword, but it's not like he could have gone after it because that would mean dropping Toph **END SPOILER**.

Others - Oh heck, this is going to be heaps long, but Avatar has some awesome side characters as well as main characters and they deserve some love too. First up, the Cabbage Merchant, so hilarious, I love that guy (and he has his own statue in Republic City! WOOT!), next Chong, I love the secret tunnel song and his totally spaced-out style, and the Foamy Mouth Guy from Kyoshi Island, I present you with the award for the most enthusiastic (I wonder how many enthusopascals he would get?). Speaking of Kyoshi Island, Avatar Kyoshi is pretty grooving too, I wish we got to see more of her, not that Roku isn't an awesome and wise past life (and Fang's dedication to him is feels). Teo was really sweet and I loved his carefree airbender attitude (Idea for fan pairing, Toph and Teo anyone? There both same age, awesome, sweet, handicapable, cute, and their personalities and ideals don't are pretty similar, and they would have stuff to talk about, wouldn't they be cute together?). Haru and Jet are well-rounded characters considering the amount of time they were present, and they're pretty good-looking too (except when Haru gets that stache) (who knew a guy with such long hair could be so good-looking? Who knew someone with eyebrows like Jet could be so good-looking? Who knew guys with eyebrows like Jet even existed???). Jet's hook-swords are really cool, they win the best weapon in Avatar **SPOILER AHEAD:** I was really disappointed when Jet died, I mean he was starting to change **END SPOILER**. Princess Yue next, she is lovely, really she is, she was sweet, caring, kind, beautiful and she wanted what was best for her people. I like Sokka and Suki a little more, but I would have no problems with Sokka and Yue, but even if Yue hadn't changed I don't believe that the relationship could continue properly, because she probably wouldn't join Sokka on their journeys, because she loves her tribe more. I wish we got some more screen time of her, we only see her like twice after the Seige of the North, it's nice how Sokka still clearly cares for her. June is also totally bada**, she can own a bunch of men while drunk and not drop her drink, and Toph approves of her. Why does Jin have to have a totally cute date with Zuko and then disappear into the Avatarverse never to be seen again? I liked her, and don't you think Korra's mum looks like her? or at least the hair does and Pema's face looks like her too. Guru Pathik is pretty cool too, so wise and calm but still a bit quirky, and wow is he old (older than Bumi is pretty damn old).

The Plot: It's well thought out, adventurous and rich and complex as well. Events and characters that don't seem so significant (and kind of filler-ish) are brought back all the time (therefore rendering them un-fillers). Some episodes were just made of awesome action and adventure-ness (assonance :D) like both Seige of the Norths, both Day of Black Suns, and all four Sozin's Comets, and some are hilarious like Daydreams and Nightmares, Ember Island Players and the Desert and some were intense like Crossroads of Destiny, but most were combinations of all of the above and more. There were plenty of twists and turns throughout so it wasn't predictable, but twists and turns that made sense and added to the story. It had adventure, loss, friendship, bada**ery, betrayal, action, love, humour and all that cool jazz. And if it makes me cry I know it's a good movie/book/tv show, and there were so many times I felt like tearbending in this show and a few moments where I actually did.

The Music: Let's all hug the Track Team, because the music he does for this show is just phenomenal. Also its a long show, and there are so many different pieces of music in there (there is at least, 61 different pieces, as there is a different piece for each title part at the start of the episode and there is a theme for most main characters, even Momo has his own theme) I can't even remember them all, but they all sounded great. Most of the main cast has their own theme music. Also, the few songs that do have vocals are funny too (except for Leaves from the Vine, that was sad) Secret Tunnel, Chakras song, anyone? Also, for the last Agni Kai, that scene was beautiful, instead of the usual and expected flighty battle music/sound effects it is just got this incredible music that really brings out the beauty in the large deadly clashes of blue and orange fire, and gives a sense of calm in the intense battle. I was actual sitting there in awe of the beauty of the brother sister showdown, it's just the opposite of what you expect but it works so well. It was even featured in the Olympics!

The World: Have all the points for world building! a) it was engaging, b) it was unique, c) it made sense and d) it was really well researched. I love things which are well researched, Avatar: The Last Airbender world takes elements from Chinese, Tibetan, Japanese, Indian, Thai, Malaysian, Greek cultures and many more and fits them into the show smoothly. The combination animals are so quirky and unique (no part-lions or part-horses here). Bending, I don't know how the genetics behind it work, but Bryke have nailed having elemental powers down, I also like how they have restrictions on them as well as extensions (eg. ice and healing for waterbenders). Each nation is given their own full-on culture including food, customs, geography, clothing, history, mythology, political systems and architecture. It's these little things that keep me interested in series' when I come back.

The Visuals: This is probably the let-down, and it's not even that bad. It's just got the anime look, which may be a little worse than your average anime, but for me it really can't take away from the wide array of amazing things in this show, so this show shouldn't be skipped out on because of it's kid-friendly anime look because it is so much more. The landscapes are gorgeous though, and the character design is great. The visuals for Zuko are all good. The Legend of Korra improves and fixes up on animation while still retaining its look.

Other: Look at this amazing tribute if you aren't convinced or already love the show

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