I wake up every morning at 5:30AM. That’s a good hour before I have to leave for work. I only need 30 min to let the pup out in the yard and to get ready… so why the extra half hour? Cause I like to watch my cartoons as I drink my coffee. Oh yeah… I’m 34 years old.
I’ve come to the realization that I’ll be a kid for the rest of my life. Not a kid at heart, but literally a kid; I love my cartoons and I love my video games. But I’m picky about my cartoons… it’s not your everyday “crap” the tv shoves at these little kids these days. I’m talking about the good stuff, like Wolverine and the X-Men, classic Transformers, or like HBO’s Spawn. The problem with this i that there are only a handful of them, so I end up watching them over and over again. Not that I’m complaining you see… when something is good, it’s good every time I watch it.
One of these cartoons… in fact, this is the greatest cartoon of all time, is Avatar The Last Airbender (ATLA). Heard of it? I hope so, cause if you haven’t, then it’s time you re-educate yourself in the world of animation. And please, don’t confuse this with the movie of the same name by M.Night Shyamalan; his movies have been downhill since Unbreakable, and his version of this great cartoon is an insult to it. I don’t get how they keep giving him money to make movies that are guaranteed to flop.
Created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, this show populated the Nickelodeon airwaves from 2005 to 2008. And for millions of fans, they gave us a story that is magical, heartfelt, comical and just simply amazing. I believe part of its secret is that 3 year period.
By this I mean, the show was separated into 3 seasons (or as they called it, 3 Books). The whole show is one extended story. Unlike many cartoons and shows that are “episodic” (each episode has its own story, unrelated to an overall theme), ATLA is all continuous. And even if the episodes themselves had their own scenario, they are still strongly tied into the overall epic story. Its one of those shows that, to help viewers remember whats going on, starts each episode with a “previously on Avatar” recap.
This creates a connection with the audience, as you are on this story with them, but it also gives each episode (and in turn, the story as a whole) an importance that is usually rare in cartoons. More importantly, with 3 seasons planned from the beginning, you avoid any redundant episodes. The creators are not just making episodes to keep the show going and spit out season after season. They’re not trying to extend the show as long as they can. The have the entire story in mind… they know what how it begins, what happens in between, and how it ends. Each season/book, specific arch within the story, building to an epic finale.
The story takes place in a fictional asian style world. The lands and cultures split into 4 kingdoms… Air, Water, Earth, and Fire. Each nation has these “martial artist” style characters that can manipulate one of these 4 elements – Benders. But these nations have been divided, as the Fire nation has tried to take over the entire world. And only the Avatar, the reincarnated spirit that can control all 4 elements can bring the balance to the world. Check out the very first pilot trailer that kind of describes exactly the story…
What makes the story amazing is how well it builds up. The character development is fantastic. The heartfelt scenes are heartfelt, the jokes are funny, the childlike characters have an innocent and believable value to them, and the drama is emotional and serious. And best of all, they have done an absolutely excellent job in tying in the “bending” of each element, to it’s form of martial arts; making the action scenes extremely entertaining and impresive.
The artwork itself is great – none of the Ed Edd Eddy or Cow and Chicken type of animation. And it all works wonderful in bringing the world, its cultures, its characters, its “bending”, and its atmosphere to life.
I’ve probably rambled enough about this as is, and trust me, this show is so good, I can write a post the size of a Ann Ryan book! If you read any of my articles to know about my “Top 5” obsession… this is one of them. My girl even loves this show (and she usually roles her eyes with the stuff I watch). In fact, most of the friends that I finally convinced to give this show a try, have now all admitted to how amazing this show is.
I cannot accentuate how worth it this show is… if I was rich, I would buy copies of this for whoever was interested. As I’m not, I can only suggest that you get this one way or another and watch it. You will not regret it!