Avatar: The Last Airbender Book 1 Review

Avatar .The .Last .Airbender Avatar: The Last Airbender Book 1 Review

Since Legend of Korra finished its first season a month ago, I decided to revisit one of the best animated series of all time once more after more than 2 years of last seeing it. And boy it’s still as great as I remember it back then. I was initially hesitant to watch Avatar TLA again, I watched it so many times 2 years ago and have such fond memories of it.

I thought now that I’m older I wouldn’t like it as much. However now that I’ve watched Book 1: Water again, I must say this is a way better show if you watch it as a teenager or adult then if you watch it as a kid. For those of you who haven’t watched the show, I’ll just give a brief summary.

Avatar TLA takes places on an alternate version of our own Earth where people known as benders can manipulate the 4 elements, fire, earth, air and water. The world is also divided into 4 nations each of which specialize in a certain element. You have the southern and northern water tribes, the fire nation, the earth kingdom and the air nomads.

However the fire nation started a century long war, through this long conflict they destroyed the air nomads, cripple the water tribes and conquered most of the earth kingdom. This is when a brother and sister from the southern water tribe, Sokka and Katara, find a 12 year old boy frozen in an iceberg.  This boy is revealed to be the Avatar, the only person who can bend all 4 elements and restore balance to the world. The first season primarily focuses on the Avatar/last airbender Aang, a 12 year old boy who seems goofy and carefree on the outside, but has deep guilt about failing the world and letting his people be killed.  Katara, the only remaining water bender from the southern tribe and her brother Sokka, a brash and accident prone warrior who has a knack for inventing things.

Then there are the pets Appa, the flying sky bison who also acts as the teams primary means of transportation and Momo, a tailed lemur who oddly reminds me of King Julian from the Madagascar series (except he doesn’t talk and is genuinely likeable). All of these characters have their own unique personalities and are completely three dimensional, no one is under developed and its amazing what the creators did with just 25 minute episodes.

Everyone at first seems like they just have one personality trait. Aang is goofy, Katara is the motherly figure and Sokka is the incompetent guy who’s just cannon fodder. However as the season goes on, every one of them is developed further and the person who does the most growing up is Sokka. He starts out as a completely useless imbecile who just thinks guys are better than girls in everything. However throughout the whole season we find out that he is skilled in tracking, inventing, hunting and is the official strategist for the group by the end, he genuinely becomes a better person and an interesting character.

I also must applaud the use of filler episodes. It’s hard to say which one episode exactly is filler, since they are traveling to the north pole so that Katara and Aang can master water bending, there aren’t too many episodes that are completely focused on driving the plot forward. Filler episodes in most shows are just story arcs/episodes that show up once and then are immediately forgotten about after they’re done and generally don’t do anything to develop the characters.

However in Avatar TLA, every filler episode is used to give us more back story on the characters and most if not all of them play a big role in the third season or they are used to give us more back story on this universe. For example, in one of the later episodes, Team Avatar visits the northern air temple and meet the inventor, the consequences of this episode are: The inventors balloon is stolen and later used as a blue print for the fire nations war balloons and the inventor himself plays a pivotal role in invasion of the fire nation in season 3.

Then there’s the other side, what I mean by this is the other characters who we follow from the fire nation perspective. These are Zuko, a banished prince of the fire nation who has to capture the Avatar so he can return to his home land and his uncle Iroh a wise old man who seems goofy on the outside, but is one of the most powerful firebenders in the world.

Iroh is the only apparently good firebender, most of them are dedicated to destroying the other nations and just come off as the cliché bad guys. Iroh however is much more complex than that, true he is a firebender, but he thinks that destruction of the other nations would bring in balance to the world and ultimately destroy it, where other firebenders see waterbending or earthbending as savagery, Iroh used these other arts and studied them to become a better man and general.

Zuko isn’t as developed as he is in later seasons, but he still has a very tragic back story that shows us just how messed up his family really is as his own father burned his face because Zuko tried to stop a general from sacrificing fire nation army recruits just so a battle could be won.

The creators also made the 4 bending elements very different and unique. Airbending is the most defensive of the arts as it relies on dodging and/or blocking your opponents moves but has few deadly moves (due to the pacifist nature of the air nomads). Firebending is the most offensive of the arts, it relies on using quick attacks to overwhelm your opponent but has few defensive moves. Although neither of these two elements require a natural resource to use.

Waterbending is probably the most diverse in terms of abilities, it relies on using your hands to manipulate the water and can be used to create anything from whips, to water octopuses to even ice projectiles but requires a natural resource to use. Eartnbending is the sturdiest of the arts, it relies on the user using his/her lower body to manipulate the ground beneath them, this can be used to create spikes, giant stone walls or even cause entire earthquakes but it also has the weakness of relying on a natural resource.

Many people think this is an anime and I can totally see why. However this is the perfect blend of American and Japanese animation, the world is very asian inspired and takes ques from buddhism and other eastern cultures. However unlike in animes, there isn’t any BS melodrama or weak female characters who’s sole purpose is to cry episode after episode and this is a trait of the whole series and LoK.

That said the animation isn’t as good in this season as it is later on, some stuff does feel a little unimpressive, even more so for me because I watched Legend of Korra then went straight to this and I can definitely see it took the creators time to really nail how the want the characters to look.

Also the final 3 episodes have one of the most rushed romances I’ve ever seen.  Seriously after suffering the horror that was Makorra in Legend of Korra, the romance between Yue and Sokka literally lasts 3 episodes and they’re already in love with each other, ugh some one shoot me. At least this never happens again in the entire series.

But despite my small issues with season one, I can tell you now it only gets better as it goes on. Its unique, it has a deep, fully fleshed out universe with completely three dimensional characters and some of the best actions scenes ive ever seen anywhere. It’s not as good as I remember it being but still, if you’re tired of the same old super hero shows going on now and want something different, check this out.


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