So all in all, how was the good Avatar?
While I can’t quite put it at the heights of anything done in the DC comics Animated Universe (DCAU) nor the greatness that was Samurai Jack, it is nonetheless one of the best animated series I’ve seen in a long while. The DCAU had the advantage of decades of pre-made stories to draw from, where other writers had already experimented with what worked and what didn’t. Samurai Jack was nearly a constant tribute to various great shows and movies that comprise recent cultural history (across nations and cultures I might add). Avatar had none of this, working almost entirely from scratch and relying mostly on archetypes, rather than details in its tributes. Thus we see that each season has a rough, troubling start for the first half/third before settling upon the parts that work and ending said season with a very strong finish.
There are only two real faults I can hold against the show. The first is a rather schizophrenic attitude towards continuity with the storyline alternating between keeping track of elements to forgetting important details. What happened to the guys hunting Toph? What about some of Jet’s crew? All those benders and friends the group picked up for the day of eclipse and none of them could come help with taking out the air ships? All that time Bumi was trapped, he didn’t teach himself metal bending? Why didn’t Toph teach it to him?
The second is that sometimes the show became more concerned with telling a message than following what was logical to the plot & characters. No, I’m not going to go on another rant about the Painted Lady, instead let’s look at another episode that I liked to call back at random moments: the Waterbending Master. The message is largely one of “grrrl” power, but why? As we saw frequently throughout the rest of the show, knowing healing techniques can be very advantageous (several times it seemed to me Katara would have done better had she stayed in class) yet this episode seems to imply that healing techniques are less important than offensive techniques. But let’s set even that aside: why weren’t Aang & Katara switched? Especially in light of everything we learned about their characters later in the show, it would have made more logical sense for Katara to demonstrate more talent and interest in offensive water bending while Aang demonstrated more talent and interest in healing water bending. Then in that episode they can be put in the wrong classes because of the guy/girl thing. Until the end of the episode where the master learns about not shoehorning people into predetermined categories. Then it closes out with Katara attending the offense class while Aang attends the healing class (then as the show goes on, we see them share with each other what they learned).
But except for some minor tweaks, the show is nearly perfect – and at the end I think I hate the movie even more than I did when I finished season 1. Yeah there were some missteps in season 1 that could have been corrected but they weren’t severe enough to warrant a live action recreation of the series. Unless they overhauled the story completely to create an “alternate universe” type of Avatar (which they kind of did), the movie should have told something completely new (if not been animated as well). Like… how about the aftermath of the series? By the end of Sozin’s Comet part 4, there’s all sorts of things we’re dying to know. The movie could have started off with a brief outline of the series background, maybe recreate some of the best ending fights to get the audience hooked (I’d especially like to see more from the taking of Ba Sing Se), then go from there to show us all the stuff that came after. The deal with Zuko and his mom… Toph returning home… Rebuilding Ba Sing Se and the Southern water tribe…
…Meet everyone back here for reviews and adventures though the comics?