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Avatar: The Last Airbender. Book One: Water

Children's shows change with each generation.

In my generation, it was The Transformers. The generation before me had Voltes V. The kids of the new millenium are quite lucky. They have Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Rarely does a post-2000 cartoon series dwell on some serious stuff like this. We actually have a postmodern mix of Eastern and Western influences. First of all is the style. This cartoon series is produced by Nickelodeon, but the animation style is unmistakably derived from Japanese anime.The reason for that is because this series involves a lot of fighting. And when I say a lot, I mean a lot. Almost every episode (and Book One has twenty episodes) has at least one action sequence. And of course, no one can do animated fight scenes better than the Japanese. Although the fights are not as rough and tumble as that in, say, Dragon Ball Z, Avatar's fight scenes are more toned down (from the influence of Zen Buddhism and Tai Chi), but they still retain the beauty of the moves. Just imagine them in a sort of dance, with fire and water being thrown around, and with a lot of people getting hurt.

The concept of having the four elements (Earth, Wind, Fire, and Air) dates back farther than Captain Planet and the Planeteers, and even farther back than the 70s band called Earth, Wind and Fire. This is a popular motif in storytelling, where the mere mention of the four elements conjures up a world of magic and wonder. And the magical world of Avatar is also a mix of different world cultures. The Water Tribes look like Eskimos and Native Americans, the Earth Kingdoms look like Chinese peasants, the Air Nomads look like Buddhist monks, and the Fire Nation looks like the mighty Japanese Imperial Army. And almost everyone in this mythical world speaks in an American accent (but that shouldn't really bother anyone).

In this TV series, an entire season is called a "book," and each episode is called a "chapter." This of course adds again to the mysticism and the feel of the huge epic narrative that the producers intend this show to be. Now I myself never thought I'd be watching this. I used to sneer at this series, thinking to myself "Oh, it's just another one of those trying-to-be-Japanese-but-unmistakably-American shows." But once I got to watch the first episode, I was hooked. So let me warn you, if you are a really busy person, do not even attempt to watch this, because it might hook you as well.

Rating: Five stars.


tina said...

you know, i never thought you'd do a post on this series, but i'm glad that you've gotten started :D yes, the action sequences are a joy to behold, aren't they? ^^ i'd love to know your thoughts on the story's ending (two books away! keep at it! :D)... i dunno, the resolution felt a little abrupt for me. anyway, overall it's a much better series to watch than the other stuff on nickelodeon... if only for the fight scenes XD

Yes I will. My pirated DVD only plays half of the second book, so I'll try to find another copy first. :-)

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