"The complexity of the story is astonishing for any television series -- it is as involved and intertwined as the storyline of Lost, but without any of the confusion that marred that poorly planned if brilliantly executed series. Avatar: The Last Airbender is so well-conceived that even the digressions (with a few exceptions) are all woven into the intricate tapestry.
What sets Avatar apart from the run-of-the-mill fantasies is the characterization. Character is hardly the strong suit of animated film -- it's one of the things that set Pixar's movies apart from all others. Usually it's just nice vs. mean (it rarely rises to the level of "good vs. evil"), with each character having only one trait to distinguish him or her. Instead, most of Avatar's characters have a complicated story arc, learning and growing over time.
We did not watch the whole series in a row. For a while in the summer it was two episodes a night. Then, after long lapses because of travel, we watched the last seven episodes last Friday and Saturday. I was left ravaged by the experience, but also thrilled: The series exercised all my emotions, but also filled me with a sense of its rightness.
The benefit of its Nickelodeon origin is that it is completely watchable by families viewing together. Adults, you will not only stay awake, you will enjoy yourself and never once think that death might be better than watching one more moment (as many of us feel during Sponge Bob or other nauseating children's programming). It truly is a family bonding experience, and from then on will give you a shared culture. In-jokes from the series have already been cropping up within the family, and the moral dilemmas have led to serious discussion."
The point is: WATCH AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER. Watch it online. Buy it. Borrow it from a friend/the library. Get it on Netflix. Steal it. I don't care how you get it, but watch it.
Now, for you lucky souls who will just now be watching Avatar, you won't have to wait a million years for the sequel series like Nick and I have. The Legend of Korra takes place about 70 years after the first series. It debuted just over a month ago, but Nick and I wanted to wait till he was completely done with school for the year before diving in to the episodes. This weekend, we finally started watching.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh. We only watched 2 episodes, but there are already so many things I love.
The first Avatar series already had hardcore, fully-realized female characters. But this time, the title character is a young woman. I love her animation design. Korra is tall, visibly muscled. She's not white. She has a full figure but is proportional and clearly super fit. By proportional, I mean that unlike 99% of animated females, she does not have ridiculously big boobs, or an impossibly slender torso, or a nauseatingly narrow waistline. Her hips in particular are wide for an animated female, which I think is GREAT. She just looks so womanly and so strong. It's absolutely wonderful.
Obviously, I don't know Korra that well yet as we've only seen 2 episodes. So far, she seems funny, independent, and powerful, but with an intriguing sense of naivete. I like her, and I'm really excited to get to know her better.
It was also exhilarating to see some of the other main characters. A family with three young children and a fourth one on the way? AWESOME! The two older daughters (Maybe 9 and 6 years old?) both seem like intelligent and interesting children, and the young brother is a realistically wild toddler. The mama seems happy and confident in her pregnancy. The father has a prominent career, but is very involved with his children and clearly loves his wife. It's so hard to find a functional family in fiction, especially with more than two kids.
I could go on about the myriad things I'm already psyched out of my mind about--like the action, or the villain, or the steam-punk setting--but this will do for now. Creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko have an obvious talent for fresh, real characters. Nick and I can't wait to watch more today.
And if you aren't yet immersed in this world...you should be.