Review: Avatar The Last Airbender

Avatar: The Last Airbender is about a young boy named Aang who happens to be the last airbender in a world where the four elements (water, earth, fire, and air) can be manipulated in a technique called “bending”.

After being frozen in the ice for 100 years, Aang is found by two northern water tribe siblings Katara–a water bender and Saaka–a skilled warrior. Aang finds out that he is in fact the Avatar–someone capable of mastering all four elements–and that his absence has let the world fall victim to the fire nation in the 100 year war. The story follows  Aang, Katara and Saaka as they journey around the world training Aang in all 4 elements so that he can defeat FireLord Osai–the leader of the fire nation.

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The bending abilities of the characters are dazzling and mystical. There is something remarkable about a girl who can create a tital wave with a move of her hand or an old man lifting a 100 lb statue with his mind. It is fun to see that even two earth benders may have stark differences in style, approach and stance. Another subtle part of the show I enjoyed would be the respective personality traits that come with each element bender. To see how different the four nations can be from each other and yet so similar to the element they can bend. The fire benders tend to be aggressive, stern and on-edge. The air nomads are funny, peacful and swift. The water benders are diplomatic, adaptable, and fluid. The earth benders are rough, proud and creative. Aside from bending, Avatar naturally blends western and eastern ideology with its use of martial arts and the philosophies behind “bending” providing some insightful concepts without being preachy.

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Avatar is known for its high caliber screenplay and dialogue. Even though it was intended for an audience of 6-11, Avatar attracted adults up to 30 years of age. Not an easy feat to perform, Avatar was able to do it through the mixture of adult and childish themes.

The show includes adult themes and dark undertones. Characters deal with many intense emotions such as revenge, depression, and deep seeded regret. Avatar gains its content power from the inner turmoil each character faces when dealing with intensly traumatic events. For example, Prince Zuko of the fire nation must embrace the fact that his own country burned his face and banished him to hunt down the Avatar. As if that is not traumatic enough, several other characters in the story are personally affected by the death of loved ones and severe injury of close friends throughout the 100 year war and the Avatars journey.

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The pacing of Avatar is quite good. Every episode builds on the last as Aang and company hone their skills and get mixed up in other shenanigans. No matter what happens every person he meets and every skill he learns is in light of his final battle with FireLord Ozai. Seems everyone and their mother knows its coming and that is good news for a viewer. It’s nice to know that you are never going to get a “filler episode” in Avatar. This focus allows for excellent storytelling and increased suspense.

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Everything aside, the secret gem to Avatar and the part of the show that kept me crawling back for more, was its comedy. The main group of friends continually bash and jab at each other as the journey goes on and it makes for some very quotable lines. Their misadventures and unbearably awkward encounters can be very relatable at times.  For example, Kataras brother Saaka even calls himself “the joke master” and comes up with some really cheesy one liners that are often met by the sounds of groaning.

I personally like the relationship between Prince Zuko of the fire nation and his uncle General Iro. Prince Suko is hardheaded, obsessive and demanding. However, his uncle is carefree and silly. Their stark contrast in beliefs presented some hilarious conversation and quite meaningful lessons.

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If you are looking to get involved in a fantastic action/adventure story. Avatar: The Last Airbender is second to none.

review score

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