In the midst of having to wait for some DVDs to arrive, I finally got some momentum going on watching Avatar: The Last Airbender. Well, that and one night of letter folding plus a second night of envelope stuffing equaled a fair amount of time sitting in front of the TV. And thus, last night I finished up the series.

The show represents a mix of East and West in a lot of different ways. The form of the story is obviously based on Anime and much of the setting and cultures are meant to be familiar as eastern cultures. However the story and characters are still very obviously of western design. It plays to the audience that watches Anime, but it has western sensibilities. However, the worldview espousal is where things get especially hairy. Although I suppose at this point it is fairly standard of a Western interpretation of Eastern thought. You can see the fissure between the desire for empowering the self Western thought and, I suppose it could be called, the destroying of the self in Eastern thought. But as we love to do with all of these disparate ideas we just throw them together and ignore their discrepancies.

Ben, don't watch this.

I wish there was a better video to add, but this is just what I could find.

Anyways, worldview problems (and there were more than just that one problem) aside the show was entertaining. And this was primarily founded on entertaining characters, as is usual, especially for serial sagas of the fantasy sort. But they also build the series off quality animation on the action side, again taking it's cue from Anime (one of the final battles was straight out of a DBZ set, but thankfully that fight didn't take 12 episodes). They had a strong run of humor throughout, almost distractingly so at times, but most of the time it kept a good balance. And of course as the series goes along and as things get darker, the comedic moments became a bit more sparse, but not entirely absent. Mostly you lose some of the jokes built off of the two animal characters as the focus comes to rely on the more important characters.

Probably the storyline that most compelled me was, I suppose, the second most important story to the show, not the primary. But it took a little while for it to grow on me. And then it took a bit longer to develop than I expected. Which actually made for a bit of a rough patch through the first half of the third season. Not that their unexpected turn was bad, it just gave them some episodes to kinda waste, well waste is the wrong word, but at the same time is not entirely the wrong word.

The voice acting is mostly good. I had my faults with it at times, and some of the direction (which was done by Andrea Romano whom I recognized from Batman the Animated Series, yay!) but for the most part it was good for an animated kids' tv show. I think certain characters would bug me until the show drew me in more and I came to accept their voices. It was funny to hear the voice of the guy who does Robin in Teen Titans (and loads of other voices) come in just about every other episode to be an "additional voices" actor, though I can pick him out because his voice annoys me a little, heh. Jennifer Hale made a couple appearances... err I suppose those shouldn't be considered appearances... as well.

Of the main cast of characters the one that probably moved me the least was actually the main character, unfortunately. However this is a fairly common malady for me. I have not completely solved why, but main characters are usually the more boring of the bunch in most stories, for me. It probably has to do with the limits that a main character generally has. They have pretty strict boundaries that most creators are bound to when they make their main character. The secondary characters are given a bit more freedom and perhaps more unpredictability. I don't know that this sums up my common boredom with main characters, but I am hazarding at least a partial guess.

Still, the show was good and entertaining. And by the end I felt I had been on a journey that leaves you walking around kinda lost (in a good way. This is actually something I should pursue a greater explanation on. May be some other day. Some of it just comes from experiencing it in large doses at a time and then it suddenly is over.) once it has come to an end. I would call out my favorite character, but I think it would give away certain directions the show takes too early for anyone who would go on to pursue this series. Do I think anyone reading this will do such a thing that isn't already at the very least halfway through Book 2? No. But still, I can't ruin these things.

One thing I appreciated is how much they thought out their world at times. For example, they schemed up new approaches to actions and technology that fit the world that they created. You could tell they would just sit around and scheme how people would do some of these things if they had the powers that their world allots. Another episode that impressed me was late in the series they got a little metatextual and had a play within the show about the show. Now the episode itself I did not necessarily like, excepting perhaps the meta joke about the vagueness surrounding some characters ends, but they choreographed the stuff that occurred on stage as if it was real. They literally thought out how they would do certain stunts and special effects with the limitations of a normal stage even though the medium of animation could have easily let them skimp on these details. It was enjoyable to watch them put the time in to their design work in things like this. It showed that they enjoyed this world, it was not just another job for them.

As for the movie that is coming out in less than a month. I will probably try to avoid watching trailers from now on. I tried to pay little attention to the ones I had already seen. I can't say it will be an easy adaptation. Part of the show was growing these characters over a duration of time, but it is a hard task to do this with multiple characters in such a limited amount of time. It also seems that they are mostly gonna have time for the beginning and end of season one. Little for the middle parts. So what Mr. Shyamalan chooses to put in these parts will be interesting. I am glad that Shyamalan is stepping away from doing his own stories and adapting someone else's. He had gotten himself way too tied up in his own "greatness" and couldn't take a step back and see how bad his art was going. He also seriously lacks subtlety which Avatar was not especially keen on either (which is fine it being a kids' show and all). Shyamalan can still direct a movie, it was his Story that had gotten awry, regardless of how great he proposed it to be in Lady in the Water... So a movie like this could be a great fit for him. Do I expect it to surpass the show? No. I am not expecting greatness. But I am willing to see it and am interested to see how they handle the adaptation.

1 comment:

Skip said...

Air bendy!