Fantasist & Futurist
- Nov 23, 2002
You know how Pixar do great films, with clever plotting, characters, and appeal to both kids and adults?
That's what Nickelodeon achieved with their Avatar: The Last Air Bender.
On the surface, it's just a kid's cartoon series, superficially touching on traditional Far Eastern tales, such as Monkey or The Water Margin. That in itself might have been enough to make it unique and interesting.
But there's a real depth to this series, and a dedication to detail that goes way beyond the norm.
There's also humour, drama, seriously well-developed characters, clever plot developments, and some of the best subversion of tropes I've seen. The people behind the series show a clear devotion that makes Avatar: The Last Air Bender something special.
Yet at it's heart, it's a simple story - I'll let the introduction explain it:
Three seasons of Avatar: The Last Air Bender were made, all part of the same developing story arc, and ends after a satisfying climax.
What's really interesting isn't simply that everything is rooted in Asian analogues, but also that there's a serious diversity of roles. Many could have been lazily assigned to males, but there's clearly been some clever thinking in terms of challenging gender stereotypes.
This is made immediately clear in episode 3 of the first season, when we discover the Avatar is a continuous reincarnation where gender is irrelevant. Additionally, that's the same episode where the subject of "fight like a girl" is wonderfully tackled with the Kyoshi warriors.
This becomes underlined in season 2, when Zuko's sister and two of her deadly girl friends become the lead antagonists - and the powerful earth-bending master turns out to be a 12-year old blind girl. Oh, yeah - did I mention there's also diversity on disability issues?
Intelligent, clever, and inspired, Avatar: The Last Airbender is an animated series well-worth watching, no matter how old you are. It's also a great example of how the intelligent use of diversity can make characters and story much more interesting.
Just stay away from the travesty of the film. It's by M Night Shyamalan - need I say more?