Nate watches Avatar #1-4

After so many recommendations from friends and people whose opinions I respect, I have decided (and gained the ability) to watch Avatar: the Last Airbender.  Let’s check this out…

Episode Chapter 1:The Boy in the Iceberg

I will admit, the soundtrack just on the opening is spectacular.  I’m actually reminded of Batman: the animated series which had operatic scores that could rival many movies.

The opening info dump is a little annoying, especially since a lot of it is repeated later in the episode.  I disagree with Chuck (from SPN), I’ve often thought the beginning of a story is harder than the ending as you often have to invent a way to get everything in place without everything seeming highly contrived.  This wasn’t too bad except for Zuko being in range to spot Aang’s awakening.  However, since that is more in media res I’m willing to wait and see if this all starts tying together. (obviously I’ve been spoiled some by the movie and pop culture osmosis but I’m trying to keep that knowledge suppressed.

The character moments are pretty good, even if it makes the opening “kind of slow” for a “kid’s show”, if I had any complaints is that there is less mugging for the camera.  Not a great/perfect opening, but that gives a show a lot of room to grow and improve.

2: The Avatar Returns

Oh I see… the “opening info dump” is sort of like the “last time on” of other shows – a way to catch up new viewers.  Otherwise, a step up from 1 as a solid rhythm is established.

The fight choreography is beautiful, already I can see what drew the viewers in to this show.  Also I must give props to the voice acting, Zuko especially just from the sheer weight and emotion from a single line: “I’m going home”.  It says as much as any exposition we’ve had so far.

From a writing standpoint, this 2nd episode seems to have a few moments where airbending comes off as almost too powerful.  Already I’m wondering why he needs to learn the other elements, looks like he could pwn all challengers just with air.  I’m interested in seeing how the show kind of “balances” things out with Aang.

3: The Southern Air Temple

Mako was one of the best voice actors of all time, and it’s great to hear him have a larger role.  Three episodes in and I can already see why uncle Iroh is so beloved.

Cake-baking monk ftw – that flashback was awesome.  Aang’s emotional breakdown was just… I think that’s one part that shows how much the voice acting clashes.  Zuko and Iroh can pack a lot of depth into a single line, but Aange and Katara not as much.  I didn’t feel like she was really panicking (probably realizes she has main-character power) nor did I feel the crushing despair striking Aang after his brief cry.  We should have heard tears behind the line “we’re all that’s left”.

4: The Warriors of Kyoshi

Definitely the weaker of the episodes on this disk.  Sokka’s “lessons in equality” was just painful – and backfires once you realize that he was taught by a group that’s apparently equally sexist (they even say “we don’t train boys”).  Had both sides of that equation grown and learned something, it would have been stronger over all.

The main story with Aang’s and Katara’s relationship was… ok.  It comes off at this point that the universe itself has just decided Aang and Katara will be together and that’s that.  It would have been nice to see the two of them stumble over their feelings more than they did.  Aang, even though he’s surrounded by girls of all ages, finds his mind drifting to Katara, while she finds herself getting jealous without realizing the cause…  Not a bad episode over all but not great either.

All in all I give this show… 3 out of 5.  You can tell that its hunting for its exact… idiom.  Like Aang you can see the potential, but it hasn’t reached it yet.

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4 thoughts on “Nate watches Avatar #1-4

  1. Personally, I didn’t get really interested in the show until Book 2 (Earth). IMHO, that’s when the real intrigue and mayhem starts (AZULA!!!!!!).

  2. Definitely the latter. Season 2 is awesome!

    I guess I do agree that Book 2 is better than Book 1, but I’ve always liked Book 1 as well. There’s some really great episodes in it, especially toward the end. I guess it just needed some time to find its footing. But then we plunge into Book 2 and it’s just concentrated win. (well, there’s a few less-than-stellar episodes. But overall, it’s probably the best of the series, especially for character development.)

  3. Sorry I’m late to the party, but I’ll go ahead and throw in my 2c.

    Episodes 1 and 2 are basically a 2-parter, so I’ll judge them together. I actually thought this was a really great opening for the series, I just wish they’d spent a bit more time discussing Aang’s origins. As the audience, we are shown how Aang ended up in the iceberg, but it’s not really clear if Aang actually remembers and/or if he ever explains to the others. Also, why we was out there in the first place. I’m assuming we’ll learn more about why he ran away, and where he went, but this episode just kind of leaves that hanging and everyone just forgets about it. You’re right that the fight choreography was great, but I’ll go a step further and say that the animation in general is some of the best I’ve seen from a western production. This show REALLY needs a proper opening sequence though. It’s nice that they try to get people up to speed without showing every little detail about the previous episodes, but that’s one of things that bugs me about serial television. If I don’t know what happened last time, that’s MY fault. The director shouldn’t NEED to spend time telling me about it in the first place. It’s not like this is Japan where they don’t have reruns.

    Episode 3 was the high point of the disk for me. While the voice acting from Aang (ya, and Katara) could have been a bit better, it was more than sufficient. I actually don’t think I could imagine such a cheerful kid really breaking down emotionally any more than we are shown. Getting to learn more about Zuko and actually see a proper bender fight was really cool too. One thing bugs me about this episode that also bugged me in the movie is the idea that have all these statues of previous avatars. I get that they want to preserve their history, but the way the statues are arranged…well it just doesn’t leave room for very many more avatars. In the show, it even looks like the arrangement is spiraling towards the center of the room, like it’s counting down to something. But this is never addressed, in either the show or the movie.

    I’ll agree that the 4th episode was the weakest, but mostly just because it was so predictable. There were no real surprises in it, everything happened pretty much exactly as I thought it would. I was ALMOST surprised that Aang didn’t use the water monster to fight back against the fire nation before leaving, but then he jumped back into the water and did just that, as though the writers had just then remembered that he needed to do that. Also…Sokka in drag…no. Just no.

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