Avatar: The Last Airbender: animated series review (part 2)

Team Avatar: Sokka, Aang, Toph and Katara

I am so tired these days from work that I hardly go online which explain my late comment response and my lack of appearance on other blogs. When I am free, I’ll just bury myself in the sofa and watch anime like crazy and then fall asleep. But enough of personal rants, this second part of my Avatar review will focus on the setting, the characters and the production. (also make sure you read the first part before proceeding)

Northern Water Tribe

Earth Kingdom capital; Ba Sing Se

World building: Asian-flavored high fantasy

Avatar’s brilliant and refreshing fantasy world is one of the big reasons the show is so fascinating. It is not very hard to come up with strange cloths, fancy buildings, bizarre looking city or outlandish landscapes. Any fantasy flick does conjure its own unique set of production design. What matters more is the context behind the settings and their interactions with the events and characters. The context makes the setting real and the interaction gets the viewer involved with it. Every place introduced in the series has background story and its distinguished quality. For example, the Northern Water Tribe city is entirely made of ice and the city gate can only be opened using waterbending. The people here have strong belief in guardian spirits of the Moon and Ocean which live in the center oasis. One of the tribe’s traditions is that women cannot practice offensive waterbending, only healing is allowed to them. This rule infuriates Katara who intends to use her skills for more than just healing and leads to her challenging Pakku the water master. All these details add layers and depth to the world of Avatar.

Amber Island reminds me of Thai style building

Another interesting feature about this show’s world building is the Asian inspiration. And I am not merely talking about the looks but also the way of living and thinking as well. In fact, the entire foundation of this series is built on Asian beliefs of reincarnation, elements and multiple deities.

Avatar or not, Aang is just a kid

The characters: dynamic and relatable

Avatar The Last Airbender introduces large group of characters. Fortunately, the show also has more than sixty episodes of runtime to fully work on them. Greatest attention is paid on the five main characters; Aang, Katara, Sokka, Toph and Zuko. Since these characters are more or less teenagers, their evolution and changes revolve around self-discovery and learning about one’s purpose. In short, it is a coming-of-age story set in Asian fantasy setting. I like how the show does not try to make these people too mature for their actual age. Despite his being the all powerful Avatar, Aang still acts as any normal kid would; he plays around, he seeks attention, he can be jealous and he sometimes runs away and hides from problems.

Zuko is probably the most dynamic character in the show.

But the one that is most interesting is probably Zuko, the exiled teenage prince with family and personality issues. He starts off as a villain in the first season. He becomes morally ambiguous in the second and finally redeems himself in the last. Another thing worth noting is the racial diversity of the people in Avatar. One thing for sure, they are no Caucasians despite their extremely fluent English speaking.

Does this scene look kind of 'chibified' to you?

Crossover Production

Avatar’s animation is not especially outstanding but considering its length, the show keeps the production quality consistently up to the standard. As befit its demographic audience, the drawing and design is clean and simple. But the most distinguished thing about the animation is how similar to anime it is especially the eyes. There are few scenes that can almost be considered ‘chibi’ scenes but so far, Avatar manages to refrain from using any animation style characteristic to anime such as large sweat drop or cross shaped vain. Maybe I am biased because I am anime fan? Or the animators deliberately try to make the show look more Asian?

The third and final part of my review will be mostly about my personal reaction to this series and, of course, my overall rating will be announced.

10 responses to “Avatar: The Last Airbender: animated series review (part 2)

  1. “exiled teenage prince” … yea, that’s bound to be a complex issue there.

    Seems like the scale of this series is one of the strong points… although I haven’t followed the story for a long time, Naruto was another one that had this large palette of places and characters. I think that would easily be a reason for me to watch this series. Good to know ^_^

  2. I think another really important character was Zuko’s Uncle Iro. His wise, collected, and easygoing demeanor balanced Zuko’s more combustible personality when they were together and he was the catalyst to Zuko’s character growth. I also enjoyed his lectures in the second season about the strengths of the four elements and the balance between them.

    Like the original Star Wars, Avatar’s strength in storytelling is its close adherence to the mythological hero’s quest (read Joseph Cambell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces). Characters play the roles we expect them all to, but its also original, well-crafted, and genuine about telling its own story.

    • Iroh’s lecture in the second season was really gripping. I even used the screencap in which he drew the symbols of the four elements on the sand in my last post. Without him, the firebenders would look like…really villainous.

  3. Zuko is hot!

    Wait, I’m distracted. Where was I?

    Oh yeah, Zuko is the only character who turned a complete 180. He keeps me glued to the screen.

    • Lots of people seem to feel the same since I notice an unusually large amount of Zuko’s fanarts in like everywhere.

      • Yeah. The other characters that I feel grow with the series is Sokka. He was pretty much useless at the beginning but at the end of the series, he was pretty cool and matured though still silly. Not to mention that he can be very charming when he wanted to be.

  4. Pingback: Avatar: The Last Airbender: animated series review (part 3) | Canne's anime review blog

  5. I agree. I totally noticed the asian theme of this cartoon-anime. And it’s not just from one asian country like most animes, but from different places in Asia. I even saw in one episode the korean national costume, it was so cute!

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