Avatar: The Last Airbender was a show that I used to watch a lot as a kid, and was one of my favourites on ABC. Recently I decided to watch the whole series and now I will review the first season. Warning that this post may contain spoilers.
Avatar was created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, who served as executive producers along with Aaron Ehasz, and was shown on Nickelodeon. In Europe it’s known as Avatar: The Legend of Aang. It was released in 2005. For those who don’t know, unlike other series, it is organised into books and chapters instead of seasons and episodes. The first book (or season) is called water.
Avatar is set in a different world to our own, one where particular people can manipulate air, water, earth or fire. This manipulation of the elements is called ‘bending’. The Avatar is an individual who is continually reincarnated who can bend all four elements. The title sequence before each episode sets out the story pretty well.
“Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony. Then everything changed when the fire nation attacked. Only the avatar, master of all four elements, can stop them. But when the world needed him most, he vanished. A hundred years past and my brother and I discovered the new avatar, an airbender named Aang. And although his airbending skills are great, he has a lot to learn before he’s ready to save anyone. But I believe, Aang can save the world.”
The show starts off like most other shows. It introduces the characters, the world and the story. Each episode in the season tends to be a stand-alone story, although there are several back-stories that continue throughout the season and episodes that are referred to in others. The main heroes of the season are Aang (the Avatar), Katara and Sokka.
One of the things that I really like about this show is the complexity of the characters. For example, in most children’s shows the bad guy is a completely evil, mad lunatic who the viewer is meant to despise as much as the hero. But in Avatar, the main villain, Zuko, is really humanised. We are shown why he is doing what he is doing and can understand the suffering and pain that he has gone through to reach this point. The viewer pities him, and may even like him or other characters that are the ‘bad guys’.
It is also unlike most children’s shows in that, if there is a lesson to me learned from the episode, they don’t say it in a cliché sing-song way at the end (unless it’s for humour) and actually assume that the audience is smart enough to be able to figure it out for itself.
You’ve probably figured out by now that what I’m trying to say is that it isn’t really a children’s show at all, although it is aimed towards them. It tackles complex issues such as arranged marriage, war, maintaining one’s honour and traditional values vs. modern values. It also has a fair amount of violence (even if it is cartoon) in it. It takes an older understanding to be able to comprehend some of the storylines in it.
The show has a lot of themes in it; adventure, romance, humour and fantasy are just some of them.
The soundtrack is produced by the Track Team. The music used is very unique and has a very clear Eastern influence that suits the show very well. I think the soundtrack really helps to make some of the scenes so funny or so sad. It’s so different to most modern-day TV show and movie soundtracks. The Avatar theme song is here:
Favourite character: General Iroh (but I also love Appa and Momo)
Least favourite character: Jet
Favourite scene/episode: The Blue Spirit (but it’s very close to the final and pilot)
Least favourite scene/episode: Bato of the Water Tribe (I still like the episode, just not as much as the others)