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Monday, July 12, 2010

Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Complete Book 1 Collector’s Edition DVD Impression

Forget the blue skinned version of Dancing with Wolves, this is the real Avatar. With the upcoming The Last Airbender set to hit theaters it’s time to take a look at the source material which is the true Avatar as seen on Nickelodeon. The right place to start is with the DVD collection Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Complete Book 1 Collector’s Edition (whew!). Don’t blow off Avatar as a kids show, something I was guilty of until the movie trailers made me realize ‘wow, there is some story for adults here.’ This series about the last Airbender and his role as Avatar is great for kids but should not be missed by anime fans with its Korean animation roots. Let’s take a look at a few pieces on why you need to check out Avatar on DVD before checking out the movie. 

The Story – Four elements, four tribes. Water, Earth, Fire and Air. Every generation one individual will inherit the power to control all four elements and be known as the Avatar. 100 years ago the fire nation declared war and the Avatar disappeared. Only the Avatar can bring an end to this war and set things right but where is he? Water tribe siblings Katara, a water bender, and her warrior brother Sokka discover the 12-year old Aang, an airbender and the missing Avatar. The only hitch is he’s been frozen for 100 years, is still 12-years old and still needs to master all the elements. Thus a journey begins to the North to learn from a true water bender while avoiding an honor seeking fire nation prince. Aang must come to terms with what is required of him while learning that the world he remembers is no longer around.

So the story seems very simple but is actually quite deep. The world of Avatar is alive with varieties of people within each of the four nations. War is ugly and this is shown many times even in a kid’s friendly show such as Avatar. This is actually the strength that will draw many adults to the series; it’s not just about kids. The action is great, pacing simple at times but hints to more, more history, depth and characters than expected. I was hooked, I am hooked and this has only increased my interest all the more for the movie, the games and the rest of the series. 

The Animation – Bright and vivid but not lacking in detail. This is not a US based series that has no true look and it’s not an anime, Japanese animation, that also has a handful of established looks, it’s a unique bird all its own. The animation shows Aang in all his childlike mannerisms and expressions but when the action gets fast Aang is intense in all his emotions. It’s a well delivered animation that again bridges the gap from the younger audience to the more mature anime/toon viewing fandom. The included book, a snipped/sample, of Dark Horse comics The Art of the Animated Series, really shows what my words are not allowing me to relay. This is a real world, one alive with hardship and life that’s faced with war and its harsh realities. These settings are married with one frozen for 100 years who is still a child and puts his air bending spin on what is going on. 

For Kids or … – I’ve touched on this a few times and it’s a point I truly want to drive home in that this is a great kids series but it’s not empty for adults. This is not SpongeBob where any episode can be watched in any order. It’s a story, a narrative about more than just the young airbender. It’s a world at war not unlike those seen with World War I and II. The Fire Nation is scary and for most of this first DVD set viewers are only shown pieces of the monster they truly are. Kids are spared most of the ravages, onscreen, but adults will find the workings of war intriguing. This is a series for kids, their parents, aunts, uncles and anyone else looking for a great way to spend 20 minutes or three hours. 

Compares to Movie Trailers – So tasty, oh so tasty to see Aang and crew brought to life, see scenes pulled right from the animation and some not (in this DVD collection). The movie looks very, very solid and brings to life the awesome action Avatar fans have known about for years. As long as Aang does not say he sees dead people then we should be good to go as fans. 

Korean Animation vs. Japanese Animation – I’ve watched a lot of anime and it’s rare when a unique series comes along in look and feel. No matter the anime watched there is almost always a predecessor, similar series. Same is true of manga but in that medium there is much more creative freedom. Avatar is animated by the Korean Animation Studios (Making of DVD included) and just like with the King of Hell manhwa (Korean manga) there are similarities to the Japanese cousins but it’s unique. Look at the cover of the Avatar art book and its inner pages and you will see a style, a subtle look in the face and clothing that speaks to the Korean animation style. It’s a style I’ve received limited exposure too but I’ve seen enough to spot the changes, the uniqueness.

Bottom line is its not cheap anime or a wanna-be anime series. It’s a solid animation and design quality that retains a simplicity and humor that most anime fans will enjoy. 

Overall, Avatar: The Last Airbender was created for a more tweener audience on Nickelodeon but it was built with a story and world that is worthy of the big screen treatment (which it’s getting). Kids will love the action, story and humor that’s mixed with unique cultures, characters and funny facial expressions while adults will enjoy the series with their kids, or alone, while seeing a larger world that’s more than a young adult on a quest. There is war, infighting, fights for survival and a rich history which Aang is tied to directly as the Avatar. How often can that be said about a show many must imagine is for kids.

Looking for more Avatar, more Avatar games?  Check out Avatar The Last Airbender Games now and get to playing.

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