Tuesday, 5 July 2011
Television Review - Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Boy in the Iceberg
Not so long ago I was a massive anime fan, wasting hours of my life in front of the computer, back when things like Naruto and Bleach and Full Metal Alchemist were available on Youtube. Amongst my favourites has to be one that, technically, isn't really an anime. Avatar: The Last Airbender is a western cartoon made in the style of anime, inspired by the whole gamut of East Asian cinema on top of Japanese animation. A few days back I found the first series for cheap, so here goes a rewatch. I've no idea how many episodes I will blog about, but here are my thoughts on the first:
The title sequence is an expository affair. There are people called benders that can manipualte the four elements of this world: water, fire, earth and wind. To each element there is a corresponding society of people, and the Fire Nation are rather an unpleasant lot. There is one man, however, with complete mastery of all four elements, the Avatar, who is able to keep them in check. Unfortunately, nobody has seen the bugger in a century. Now, the Fire Nation has almost won the war.
We are introduced proper to the series with a squabbling brother and sister. Katara and Sokka, two out of our protagonist trio, are out hunting fish in the ice and sea of the South Pole. This is a tightly written scene, with a lot of exposition and characterisation being delivered at the same time. We learn a lot about the plot and the setting and the characters all in a manner that is fairly subtle. Unfortunately, there is one reason that this scene is not a good opening: it's slow and kinda flat. The actors have yet to really settle into their roles, so can't carry the scene, and nothing is really happening.
This trend carries on throughout the episode. What is going on here is good stuff, but needs to have had some action to hook the viewers in, or maybe a mystery or two. Everything, more or less, is put on the table. We know who these characters are and where they stand in relation to one another. Without any action or mystery, this episode doesn't work as a way to hook people in.
The humour, more often than not, doesn't really work. It's too predictable and cliche, and seems to be there out of a fear that children wouldn't like the series otherwise. Maybe that's me being a bit unfair on the series, but knowing how good this series is, it's a bit frustrating.
For all that's it's not a great hook episode, it is very effective in giving you a good feel for the characters and the world. Certainly, you get a good feeling of the fun that's to be had and the heart that the characters' possess. It's not a bad way to open the series, but it's not necessarily something that is gonna compel someone to watch on. If you come across the series, don't let this stop you. When the series finds its feet, it's really excellent.