Jach Discusses: Avatar: The Last Airbender 1.01 & 1.02

Posted: October 4, 2015 by Jachelle in animated, Avatar, Jach, Reviews, Television
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From 2005 to 2008, Nickelodeon was home to a series called Avatar: The Last Airbender.  The series was critically acclaimed and was nominated for (and won!) several awards. Critics and viewers alike seemed to adore the series, and yet… I never did get around to watching it.

Thankfully, this changes now. I am currently in possession of the entire series of A:TLA, and its spinoff series, The Legend of Korra. With all this animated goodness at my fingertips, I’m setting off on a quest to watch the entire thing and chronicle the journey. If for no other reason than I think it’ll be fun and just maybe I’ll entertain a few people along the way.

Before I started the first episode, I wrote down a list of things I knew about this series.

1. It’s animated! 😀
2. Almost all of my friends adore it and yell at me to watch it. (See, guys? Yelling at me DOES solve problems!)
3. It’s set in a world where characters can manipulate the elements: Air, Earth, Fire, Water.
4. The Avatar is the person that can manipulate all of the elements? (I think. I could be totally wrong here.)
5. There was some sort of civil war between the nations of this world.
6. The live-action movie was really terrible.

That’s it. That’s all I had. With all that in mind, I jumped into the two episode pilot of Avatar.

Chapter One: The Boy In The Iceberg.

We start the story out with Katara and her brother, Sokka. Katara is a water-bender, and Sokka, as with most siblings, is not impressed, at all. Their relationship is automatically endearing to me as they bicker with and tease one another. I’m such a sucker for sibling relationships in media of any kind. After a callous comment about her waterbending from Sokka, Katara looses it and clearly her bending is tied to her emotions, as the water surrounding the siblings reacts to her pent up frustration and anger. The iceberg behind her splits in half and as Katara marvels at her own abilities, she and Sokka find themselves face to face with a little boy encased in ice. Katara realizes he’s still alive and rushes to free him. His release is accompanied by  blinding light that can be seen miles away by Prince Zuko of the fire nation, who insists the light means that the Avatar has returned and he must capture him.

The little boy turns out to be Aang, an airbender, and he offers to give Katara and Sokka a lift home. Back at their village, the rest of the villagers react strongly to Aang, because no one has seen anyone from the air nation in 100 years. Aang does some exploring and spends time with Katara, and the two realize that Aang was trapped in the iceberg since before the civil war began 100 years earlier. He trips a booby trap in an old Fire Navy ship, and is spotted by Prince Zuko.

Book Two: The Avatar Returns.

Sokka and the rest of Katara’s tribe are furious that Aang set off the flare that would signal the Fire Navy and amid some not very subtle xenophobia, “the foreigner” is banished. Hurt and furious, Katara tries to leave along with Aang. The Airbender won’t let her leave her family however, and encourages her to stay while he plans to return to the air nation to look for whatever remains of his tribe. Trouble ensues, however, when Zuko attacks Katara’s village in search of the Avatar. Aang, having seen Zuko’s forces, swoops in atop a penguin to try and save the day. It’s revealed that he’s the Avatar, and he volunteers to go with Zuko to save Katara and her tribe. Obviously Katara embarks on a rescue mission along with Sokka. The arrive via flying bison and swoop in to help Aang escape from Zuko and his ship. However, Aang falls overboard and suddenly displays some very impressive waterbending to save himself before momentarily passing out.


The kids manage to escape atop Appa, and we see Aang’s fear about being the Avatar. He never wanted that responsibility. And who could blame him? He’s just a kid, after all. But whether he wanted it or not, it’s clear that he really has to accept it now. The world needs him. And Katara and Sokka will help him along the way. First stop: Waterbending in the North Pole. Where I imagine absolutely no hijinks will occur whatsoever.

Review.

Clearly anyone who ever recommend this series to me knows me pretty damn well. Two episodes into the series and I already adore it. Yes, it’s very clear that these episodes were definitely aimed at a younger demographic. This is undoubtedly a series made for kids. But to be honest, I don’t mind that one bit. Yeah, I may be thirty now, but I’m still young at heart. And honestly? With all the negativity and ickiness I’m faced with out in the world every day, I like kicking back and watching cartoons. It makes me happy.

That’s not to say that serious issues aren’t going to be addressed in this series, because that is clearly not the case at all. This isn’t a perfect, happy world. This is a world that has been ripped apart by civil war and is colored by anger and distrust. Our intrepid little heroes are going to do what they can to fix that, however. And that hope and determination is what makes me so very happy.

The animation itself was lovely and I’m incredibly interested in the world that was created for this series. I’m looking forward to getting more background on how things were before the war and to see more of how things are now. I’d love to find out more about the history of bending itself. Are these abilities something that came about after a series of events in this world? Or have benders simply always been around? Is there something special about benders that ties them to their specific abilities? Just the concept of bending is endlessly fascinating to me and I can’t wait to explore it further. Not to mention I’m excited to watch the characters grow and master their abilities. There’s so much to look forward to here, and I can’t wait to watch how it all plays out.

The characters are lovely. We’ve only got a small handful of main characters at this point, but I’m aware that others will be joining the group soon. Currently Katara is holding court as my favorite. I love her kindness and her spunk. She’s a resourceful kid and I’m already rooting for her. Aang brings about a much needed sense of fun, but I can see it becoming an issue in the future if his childishness gets in the way of more serious and important missions. I always have a soft spot in my heart for the funny characters too, and because of that, Sokka earns my seal of approval as well.

As one final thought, Appa may in fact be the most adorable creature I have ever laid eyes on and I would very much like to live in a world populated by adorable flying fluffy creatures and elemental magic. Sign me up, please, and on to episode three!

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