Saturday, January 3, 2009

Yip yip!

I have a confession.

The last three/four-ish days of break have been almost entirely devoted to watching all three seasons of Avatar: the Last Airbender.
I could have been productive: read a book, studied some animation, sketched or...I don't know, cleaned my room maybe?
But no, I devoured three years of Nickelodeon instead.
Turns out, once you start it's a bit difficult to stop.

And now, can I gush? THAT SHOW IS FREAKING AMAZING! As much as I distrust hyperboles - it is THE best, most gripping, most intense, completely fantastic show I have ever ever seen.

The corny sarcasm/American humor is sometimes out of place but I don't care.

The theme of the whole show is respect: Respect for self, respect for heritage, respect for friends, respect for the environment, and respect for life. It explores other areas too though: the duality of human nature, the importance of trust, the power of love, finding your destiny, the meaning of freedom - just to name a few.
The creators (Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino) obviously love their story. Character arcs are woven skillfully throughout the series. Each character has a different role to play and a different way of finding that role. Villains and heroes alike are rounded out beautifully and given real challenges and motivations that bring them to life.
They also did a ton of research! Each style of element bending is designed to corresponds with a different Martial Art that supports the element they're controlling. Hung Gar style Kung Fu for Earth, Tai Chi for Water, Northern Shaolin Kung Fu for Fire, and Ba Gua for Air. Each group of people is distinuished by different clothing and customs. Each culture has a unique set of teachings and characteristics that are apparent through their actions and speech. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Hayao Miyazaki and others influenced it a lot too. They did an excellent job of blending the legendary epic with magic and spirituality.
Bonus - it's so clean you could eat off it. This was especially apparent to me after watching several crime shows between my Avatar-sessions. Those were gross and seemed closer to horror than prime-time. Avatar went deeper into the human psyche, was funnier, taught me more memorable, valuable lessons AND looked better in only a third of the time. So eat it TNT. For all your shock-values passing as "drama", you still lose.

Anyway - this is grade A tv. I love love loved it and if you want, I'd be happy to nerd with you.

Funnily enough, I did a report/presentation on Avatar (and anime) all the way back in Fall '07. But mostly I just described parts of the characters and style and talked about the cross-pollination between the American and Japanese animation.
I never watched an episode though. Thought I didn't have time...

How absurd.

Thank you, Morgan Gibbons for showing me the light. least sending me the link.


The Rabidmilkman said...

Yet another Amen, sista! My wife and I went on the same "watch all three seasons in one fell swoop" kick this past summer. Apart from the few episodes that felt like fillers, I loved every bit of it. Where else would we get great phrases like "Sparky-sparky-boom-man" or "Avatar state! Yip yip!"?

Morgan said...

wow! honorable mention! :)

its a great show. very accessible, very fun, very meaningful. good story. interesting, well researched, with significance to the current political situations around the world. blah blah. good times.

a must see for anyone who will be involved in the industry in the next decade or two.

Rachel B said...

Absolutely agreed. This show just blew me away when I started it watching it halfway through sophomore year. It took most of the first season to do that (rather like Harry Potter, it had to gently introduce the world and characters while not a lot of plot happened) but in that first season finale, it turns on the Awesome, which only intensifies through the other two seasons. The occasional break from the plotline in stand-alone episodes didn't bother me too much because they tended to explore the characters and other aspects of the world we wouldn't have seen otherwise.

It was head and shoulders above anything Nickelodeon has ever aired, and that could explain why they had no clue how to handle it. The creators were dedicated to telling a good story, and the Miyazaki influences definitely don't hurt. Neither does great music or background art.

And as for the "anime" label... I think that Avatar is one that could truly fall in between labels. The overall style is pretty Eastern (and they love those comical anime "takes") but at the same time it's unique to itself. The lopsided mouth shapes are my favorite ever. The pacing is more like Western shows, where plot points don't need 5 episodes and hours of flashbacks to get across.

Of course, what with the many factors that are poised to ruin the upcoming movie before it even starts production, I fear that what the public (unfamiliar with the show) will see will give the show a bad name.

Or it could be a great movie. But its chances aren't looking good. Starting with how on earth are live-action bending effects not going to look retarded in CGI? :\


Marcelo Vignali said...

This show rocks! My kids love it.