M: well even with nearly a year leave of absence I am still one of the top reviews on the site, now that I am proud of, however I hope I can make up for that however by pissing off all the anime purest and reviewing Avatar the last air bender. I decided to watch it due to pressure from my friends and the fact that I had never seen it during its popularity due to my general distaste for nickelodeon.
M:Avatar as a production is in of itself a complete left field move for Nickelodeon at the time, if I was to stipulate, which I will, I would say Avatar itself is a reaction to nickelodeons biggest competitor, Cartoon networks insanely successful Toonami broadcast that capitalized on the action cartoon market by bringing forth the highest quality ones available, the ones being made in Japan. Hoping to break into this Avatar was released with the idea of matching the quality and depth of its competitor while remaining original and in spirit still nickelodeon. Although not as successful as Toonami being so influential it changed the entire social outlook towards visual media for an entire generation, avatar was still an instant hit a sparked the one of the biggest debates in anime over simply, what is anime? Is it a style or a piece of national identity that could only belong to the Japanese?
M:Perhaps I’ll get into that debate later but for now the question is still a much defined one, is it even good? Well to start that we need to see what its core components are and whether that would even interest whoever reads this drabble of mine. Condensed into a paragraph the world is basically divided into 4 cultures and four spiritual and martial disciplines called bending, The Water tribes (Inuit peoples) who do water bending (power to control water a move for move identical martial art to Wing Chun),The Earth kingdoms (feudal china) Who do earth bending (power to control earth move for move is iron fist and iron chest) The Fire nation (steam punk Japan) who do fire bending (Thai Chi and Muay Thai) and lastly the Air Nomads (Tibetan monks who do air bending…I have no personal experience with the martial art they perform) And well all these nations are kept in peace by the avatar who can do all four styles and is reborn in a pattern so he’s always present, well 100 years before the show takes place the Avatar disappeared and the fire nation invaded everyone and f’d up most of the other nations. Now a hundred years in the future some water bender (katara and her none bending brother sokka) find this avatar (Aang) frozen in ice that happens to have been 12 and only knows air bending, so basically he’s got to learn the other three and then fight the fire nation while they are being hunted by the banished prince of the fire nation (Zuko).
M:Well that’s shockingly well thought out and mature for a nickelodeon show, but still is it good? Well the answer is unsurprisingly yes as its popularity suggests, but now why is it good and why is it not great? Don’t worry I haven’t forgotten my job yet.
M:Well normally I go bad then good but as time goes on I feel like that set up doesn’t play as well, so in that I’m going to flip it and start with where Avatar proves its worth. I feel the biggest and most memorable element of Avatar is the perfect application of real world martial art, their philosophies and cultures with unreal superpowers in such a way that it felt just right at every moment. The moves do what they should all seem natural and performable while all being familiar human and different, such attention to detail makes each wonderfully choreographed scene seem just well beautiful, this is especially true with the fire benders leaving me to personally believe the director has more than a little experience with the martial arts. It’s this master of knowing what to be fast and what slow and more so what movements should bring about the elements that make it kind of breathtaking, I actually was taken aback during the final fight between Zuko and Azula (his sister) by simply how perfect the martial arts were, but perhaps this is do to my own experience with the thai martial arts that is the primary arts in fire bending. The world and story has established and strong rule sets as well as cultural and political ideas that show a interesting re-imagination of established cultures. The format makes each bending art have their own time to be explored and are the given entire seasons devoted to them. These make the exploration meaningful and give the world and the events of it scope. The characters are at best fun and loveable and at worst are just mediocre, the voice acting goes from okay to actually really good and while the main three characters are just okay important side characters like Toph and the oh so wonderful Iroh make for some of my all time favorite characters to date. The fact that one scene of a nickelodeon show actually made me tear up is something that kind of goes as far as disturbs me. While the show is American it captures the spirit and quality of a anime very well and I would argue is the one memorable thing that nickelodeon has brought to the fray that wasn’t just okay at best, and again uncle Iroh is the shit and I cannot begin to explain how much better he makes it.
M:However Avatar is not ANYWHERE near perfect, some issues are just there, the main three characters are far from the best, Aang is often annoying more than fun but his age helps explain that, and plot points constantly are started and then kind of just left In the wind I.E. zukos mom, Irohs connection to the spirit world, the blue spirit, the hunt for Toph, The white lotus, The face stealer, blood bending, and Aangs propensity to be a total wuss…wait never mind. watching it through to the end however I noticed every issue aside from a few scattered ones could be blamed almost exclusively on the fact that it’s nickelodeon and OF COURSE they would chose to do some idiotic kid friendly bull. The humor is just as childlike and completely stupid half the time as it is funny and clever mostly due to fantastic blind jokes from the blind air bender Toph. Its attempts to be silly and zany are weak and out of place causing the sense of seriousness to become cracked and fragile. While the fighting is good it pulls the G.I.Joe thing of not letting death on screen happen unless its magic, but the fact that nickelodeon let death on at all is a shocker, it gives this impression of a continues struggle for the show to break the bonds of its network and be something bigger and more impressive. This forces it to remain childlike instead of evolving into something mature that could have possibly even maybe get kind of close to something like Full metal without changing any of the Characters personalities or views, just allowing things like death on screen. The fact that a broad sword user fights near 100 men and only breaks their weapons is stupid, the fact that people get out of tanks before they explode is ridiculous. I don’t want gore everywhere or cursing, I just want sense, I want the humor to be cleverer and less zany, I want fire to burn and blood bending to kill. I want war to seem like war not a arm wrestling competition. I want concepts to be fully explored like the white lotus and the blue spirit then just blatantly shown and dropped to avoid complexity I suppose this is greed but I want this amazing idea and very talented writers to not be wasted on a nickelodeon show.
M: This hold back is the main sticking point and for the series and keeps it from really investing me in the world as much as it should be, this shattering of my suspension of disbelief and pulling me away from the experience. Maybe this just shows that I’m too old for the series to be as effective, or perhaps they are real issues. Either way my gut gives it a very generous 4 platypusbears out of 5. Well now I’m off again I hope you enjoy it, I might post a review of something else later if times allow it and sorry if I’m rusty.
I leave you with the comedic styles of a blind girl