Sunday, January 22, 2012

My Love Letter to Avatar

I am in love (hopelessly in love) - I just finished watching the complete series of Avatar: The Last Airbender for a second time, and I am just as dazzled and captivated as I was the first time. The series is practically flawless, boasting magnetizing characters, a thoroughly engaging storyline, gorgeous visual design and a witty script. This is a television series for the ages. Although it was conceived for a younger demographic, Avatar manages to transcend the usual restrictions and limitations of a cartoon, and manages to forge a notable series which is incredible experience.

The world where Avatar takes place in.
Avatar takes place in a world where human civilization originally co-existed in harmony, through the division of nations corresponding to Air, Water, Earth and Fire. Each nation has a distinct heritage and society, with trained people possessing the ability to manipulate the eponymous element that correspond to their nation. However, the balance of human existence in the universe has been disrupted by the relentless assaults of the supreme leader of the Fire Nation, Fire Lord Sozin. Obsessed with world dominance, Sozin wages a campaign to conquer all nations to bind them under the sole rule of the Fire Nation. The lone force that can oppose his malevolent regime is the Avatar, a supremely powerful figure who possesses the ability to control and master the four elements to keep the ultimate balance in the universe. However, when the world needed the Avatar to bring a stop to the Fire Nation, he disappeared. A century later, the Avatar, a 12 year old Airbender named Aang, is released from an iceberg where he was in suspended animation by Katara, a fourteen-year-old Waterbender girl, and her brother the fifteen-year-old warrior Sokka. With the aid of Katara, Sokka, an Earthbender named Toph and a few other regulars that join their team, the series revolves around Aang's mission to learn and master all four elements while evading the clutches of the Fire Nation.

That was a pretty brief overview of the plot, but it's original, striking and suspenseful in nature. Although Avatar is lighthearted, it's refreshing to have a series that also approaches its themes and concepts with more maturity and doesn't shy away from examining darker themes. The overall pacing of the drama of the series is excellent, rarely does a cartoon manage to be so entertaining while simultaneously developing and fleshing out intricate, multi-layered plots.
The main characters: Katara, Toph, Aang and Sokka (and Hokoda).

As one of the shows greatest features, each of the central characters are phenomenal, having vibrant attributes that make them extremely likeable but still have limitations and flaws to create a more believable and humane aspect. Essentially, the characters are what holds the series together - it's easy to be swept away in the magic and it's great that there has been so much dedication to developing strong figures. Each have distinct traits, such as Toph's callous and cracking one liners, Zuko's annoyingly relentless pursuit to find honour, and Sokka's 'jokes', which are crammed full of puns and similes that it's hard not to chuckle at how dreadful they are. Even the antagonists are interesting and are explored with their own sense of humour while acting deliciously evil. The voice acting is also wonderful, and perfectly compliments their character design (my picks for the most entertaining would be the spectacular Grey DeLisle as Azula and the wonderful late Mako as Iroh).

One of the only things that irritates me in the series is that the characters are so young. I don't have a problem with the show centering around kids, but the themes and concepts are so mature and the characters approach scenarios with such practicality and sensitivity that their behaviour more closely resembles to that of adults. I sat through the series this time pretending that all the characters were an extra two years older and it all seemed to make more sense (luckily I think the creators acknowledged this and in the sequel the characters are slightly older).

Appa, an artistic triumph.
The visual design for the series is gorgeous, the style is alien but ephemeral and so immersive. Pulling on influences from Asian styled graphics, Avatar is heavily inspired by Korean and Japanese anime and their cultures, and designs to craft its overall aesthetic. The result is gorgeous, with the series fusing cultures and eras of time to create their stand alone universe. The distinct style of series comes from animals which are created from a hybrid of species and locations which draw inspiration from cultures around the world.

The movie which is inspired by the series is a cataclysmic debacle that had no business being ever being created. It's best just to pretend it wasn't produced because M. Night Shyamalan is like King Midas, except rather than gold everything he touches turns to shit - an issue with his directing that will apparently never change since his attitude matches his style (retarded).

Avatar is my favourite television series ever. It's utterly charming, captivating, thrilling and intriguing. The series is unusually balanced, managing to maintain an exquisitely entertaining plot and character development with a level of sophistication that appeals to all ages with incredible visuals.

A montage of characters - from left to right: Sokka, Mai, Katara, Suki, Momo, Zuko, Toph, Aang and Iroh.

No comments:

Post a Comment