Review – Avatar: The Last Airbender

I don’t usually post reviews of television shows here, mostly because I don’t like dissecting individual episodes and I watch so many that I’d be bogged down. But I recently watched Avatar: The Last Airbender and I’m so enthused by it that I wanted to share it with you, and recommend it so that if you either haven’t watched it yet, or you’ve been thinking about it but have been unsure, this review might help sway you because it’s a fantastic series that I honestly struggle to find fault with.

I first decided to watch it mostly as research. I’m beginning a new Dungeons & Dragons campaign as a Monk and one of the paths I can take is to gain mastery over the elements. The series has also had high praise so I thought I’d give it a go. I thought the first episode was decent but after the second I knew I was hooked. The first season is more juvenile than the later two as it focuses on simple morality tales and does not play into the larger arc until the end of the season. However, I believe that the end of the first season remains my favourite. It’s beautiful, epic, and tinged with tragedy and regret. Having said that, the following two seasons are filled with consistently excellent storytelling and introduce some memorable characters. The plot develops superbly and it all comes to a head in the third season, and there’s a long stretch of episodes where I found it an impossible task to stop watching. Each one fed into the next, crafting an excellent story where I just wanted to immerse myself in this world.

It does what all the best tv series do, it’s not simply a distraction, rather it’s a captivating activity that draws you in and makes you feel part of the story. While it’s marketed as a children’s show I think there’s a lot for adults here too. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever seen and I can’t remember another show that has had such a run of excellent episodes. The animation is superb with beautiful backgrounds, weird and wonderful creatures, and a great landscape. The history of the world is given great weight and on occasion we’re thrust into the rich tapestry that the world is built upon. The characters are all engaging and interesting, and my favourite is clearly Zuko, but there were none I actively disliked. I feel they all got their moments to shine and even the villains were given rounded personalities. A great many of the characters are recurring as well, showing us how the main characters affect the world around them.

I love the concept of elemental bending and it lends itself to some great action set-pieces, some of which are truly epic. I loved how the writers of the show found unique ways to use these abilities as well, meaning that seeing them in action never felt stale. There were even different disciplines within each elemental faction as well, so everything felt rich and layered.

While some of the plot points are predictable it’s still a joy watching them unfold, and the character work is so great that at points I was moved to the edge off my emotions. I became fully invested in the quest and it’s been a long time since a tv show has done that for me, especially on such a consistent basis. I can’t rave about this enough and I’m even thinking about getting the DVDs so I can watch it again and again, and I don’t even buy DVDs anymore!

I know of the film but I haven’t seen it yet. I probably will watch it at some point but it’s not high on my list of priorities since I’ve heard how bad it is. I am, however, very interested in checking out the comic books as well as The Legend of Korra, and also using the show to influence my character in D&D. If you haven’t checked out Avatar: The Last Airbender yet then I urge you to because it is superb on so many levels and it easily leaps to be one of my favourite shows ever.

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