Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Best Damn Show I've Seen in a Long While

Every once in a while a show, usually a cartoon, takes me for complete surprise after I've written it off sight unseen. It happened with Sailor Moon. I just rolled my eyes and mutter 'girlie crap'(not really) and went on my normal business. Then I caught the first episode with Sailor Jupiter and was surprised by the strong characterization for the series. Sailor Moon broke me truly into anime. Then there was Invader Zim. My brother told me of this wonderful new show on Nickelodeon. I then smacked him in the face for spreading vicious lies(he then pile drove me hard to the ground.). Turns out he was right. That show was hilarious. It happened when Kim Possible debuted. Cheerleader who saves the world? Who sold their soul to Satan to let this happen?' I said. Then I caught the Aviarious/She-Go origin episodes and was laughing really hard. So it happened again with a show that, after watching the first two seasons I can not find a single flaw in it. Avatar: the Last Air Bender.

When I finally set down and watched the series, four minutes in, I knew the show was going to be everything I want in a cartoon(well, comics too). It's about a fantasy world where the nations are built around an element theme. These nations have benders who can control the elements. The avatar is a being who keeps the balance by learning all the elements. A the avatar is reincarnation every lifetime as one kind of elemental bender. One generations avatar disappears before the fire nation declares war to try and conquor the planet. At the beginning of the first episode you learn that this avatar is only 12 years old, only knows air bending, and was frozen for a 100 years.

The series opens, and every subsequent episode, opens with a quick, basic run down of the central plot. In the first episode Sokka and Katara of the south pole water tribe find Aang the avatar whose been hunted by fire nation warriors for years. This time its Prince Zuko leading the hunt. Aang must master every element before confronting the Fire Lord and he must do them in order starting with Water. Him, Sokka, and Katara(an inexperienced water bender) look for a water master in the first season.

The series opens with the basics and within the first couple episodes its ZOOM right into an engrossing world of fantasy, highly developed characters, comedy, and some of the best action in American cartoons in years. Like a good show should it builds more and more tension as it progress'. This is a pretty dark show done well enough to be accessible to younger viewers but enjoyable to adults much like the amazing Batman: the Animated Series. The first season, Book 1: Water, is a flawless season. I can't say there were episodes I disliked just that there were episodes I loved. The two part season finale was sort of like Star Wars: New Hope in the since there's a victory in a battle but not the war, which season 2's finale gives a bit of an Empire Strikes back feeling to it. Season 2 was better then season 1 and that's hard to pull off. the ramifications in season 1 and the introduction of Zoku's younger sister Azula as well as 12-year-old earth bending master Toph give this show even more of an edge. Not to mention the continued focus on banished prince Zuko and his uncle General Iroh.

One thing I definitely want to point out is the Zuko/Iroh relationship. When the series started and I saw Zuko he never struck me as a legitimate villain. His attitude and relationship with his more wiser uncle who leaves the nation with him after being banished by his father really makes both these characters into characters that are just as entertaining as the main cast. Zuko is aggressive, impatient, and defiant while Iroh tries his hardest to impart wisdom on him and help him grow. It's a real strong, father/son type relationship. I'd hate to give away spoilers but I will here so you can stop reading. Iroh was to be the Fire lord but after his own son died on the battlefront and he abandoned his station Zukos father made his way into being the leader. These chain of events with his cousins death, the incident with his caring mother, and his own turbulent relationship with his gifted younger sister makes the story of Iroh and Zoku just as powerful as the relationship between Anng and his friends. The funny thing i find about this is we have yet to really see Zuko and Azulas father.

Season 2, which I finished yesterday, had a heavier tone then season 1 but kept the optimism and comedy to keep a great balance in the show. The final two episodes, like I stated, remind me of Empire Strikes Back which is my favorite Star Wars film. It was sad, a bit depressing, yet has me excited to see how it ends.

I just hope that after season 3, which would technically be the final season by all indications, remains the finale and Nickelodeon doesn't try to cash in with an unneeded new plot line. Season 3 is to start soon and I'm probably going to buy the box set for season 1 soon. Don't like watching shows on computer.

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