I rarely watch cartoons, let alone follow and entire series of it. However, when I was a kid, there was always one cartoon that I thought was an anime: Avatar. Due to the art style and the amount of chinese characters involved, I always thought it was an anime, but obviously I later found out that it wasn’t. Similar to Digimon, except it was the other way around.
Today marks the day which I officially finish re-watching the entire series of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Now I will proceed to continue and watch the next one, The Legend of Korra. I say re-watch, but to be honest, it was actually sort of a re-cap. I’d forgotten most of the story and missed a few episodes here and there, so it was almost as if I was watching it for the first time.
I call it a cartoon epic because none other cartoon that I’ve watched actually holds a storyline and tells it so well, albeit a little rushed in between. This is probably the cartoon closest to matching the quality of anime from Japan. Compare it to other cartoons like Spongebob or Disney cartoons, Avatar has substance, action, romance, comedy and a ENDING. I believe I’ve mentioned how much I hate things that don’t ever end, though sometimes I wish certain things had no end.
The story itself is pretty shounen-ish. A 12 year old kid is born as the Avatar, he has the mission of mastering all 4 bendings: Air, Water, Earth and Fire. After mastering all of that, he then proceeds to maintain peace in the world. It so happens this very kid doesn’t want to be the Avatar and he runs away from home. While running away on his flying bison, they meet with a bad storm and he ends up using his powers and froze himself in an ice-ball for a 100 year, during which the fire nation starts a war and proceeds to attempt to rule the entire world. After Katara finds Aang in the ice-ball and wakes him, his destiny catches up with him and all hope is placed on him to deliver the world from the fire nation’s warring violence.
While traveling the world to learn the various bending, he must also run from Zuko, the banished fire prince. To be honest, although the protagonist is supposed to be Aang, I’m more focused on Zuko and his warring emotions. He keeps insisting that he lost his honour and he has to regain it by capturing the Avatar. His uncle, Iroh, stays by him and continuously nudges him to find his own path instead of getting his father to accept him. His story of struggles and defining ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ is the reason why this cartoon is good. No other cartoon develops an internal struggle as well as what happened to Zuko. (I haven’t watched other plot-filled cartoons, so I could be very biased.)
While I wouldn’t say that it’s a masterpiece, Avatar is pretty darn good. Bending the four ‘elements’ adds to the cool factor of the show. I mean, as a kid, everyone’s wanted to have superpowers. The moral of the show really captures the usage of their powers. They don’t just use it to fight, they use it in their everyday lives. It’s a very realistic approach to the ‘superpower’ genre, instead of something like X-Men where they pretty much use their powers for general violence and not day-to-day lives.
The final confrontation also delivers a powerful message: violence is not the answer and never will be. Something that kids should learn from a young age. While the storyline may not seem rushed, being a hefty 61 episodes, the storytelling in each of the episodes seemed to be rushed. There are rarely times where it is left at a cliffhanger end, staying true to the style of cartoons. Cartoons rarely carry any story because if they do, you can’t miss a single episode in case you miss an important plot progression. However, due to the style in Avatar, you won’t be too lost even if you miss a few episodes here and there. That really helps when your target audience is children who’s schedules are undefined and randomly watch when they feel like it.
All in all a pretty decent show. I mean, I definitely liked it better than some horrible anime I’ve watched (*cough Symphogear cough*). I’d recommend it to those who are hesitant to watch anime but like to watch cartoons. It’s a good starter, although not being an anime, the style is similar and the storytelling is good.
P.S: For those who are wondering why there’s no aniime-related post today, it’s because some of the anime are on break, and those that aren’t don’t have the subs out yet.