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Friday, August 13, 2010

Avatar: The Last Airbender Book 2: Earth Impression

Book 1: Water, the first season of Avatar: The Last Airbender surprised with its hidden depth and fluid animation but it’s Book 2: Earth that takes the series and moves it to new levels. The same great animation is present but emotions are taken to new levels as are conspiracies. How to explain without ruining the collection and possibly the second Airbender movie? Let’s try...

Aang looks to continue his elemental training by seeking out his old friend King Bumi in order to master Earth bending only to find Omashu has fallen to the Fire Nation. Bumi grants Aang sound advice in seeking out the master he needs, the master he is destined for, advice which leads the travelling trio to a very insightful swamp. A new enemy presents herself in the form of Princess Azula, Zuko’s cruel and calculating sister. She will dog Aang’s steps every step of their journey. Soon Aang finds his Earth bending instructor in a most peculiar and amusing way and she soon joins the trio. Her name is Toph, a blind and headstrong brilliant Earth bender who is just what Aang needs. As the group takes knowledge gained from a hidden library so too is Appa taken and lost to Aang. Finding themselves in the walled city of Ba Sing Se the group must now deal with political cover ups, a fire princess in disguise, Zuko and his uncle serving tea and a plan that soon falls apart. Just when things were looking up they quickly being to fall apart.

Animation is just as bright and vibrant, smooth and flowing as in Book 1 but it’s the story, the emotional hooks, ebb and flow that really takes flight in Book 2. Some of the highlights include Appa being take, Aang dealing with more loss, Zuko confronting his desired and real destiny and a city that choose to hide from the war thanks in large part to political conspiracies. Aang continues his training and finds a master Earth bender in the blind, headstrong Toph. Toph is not the only new fame-fatale to join the story as Zuko’s sister, Azula, is now on the hunt for both Zuko and the Avatar and she is deadly. Seeing both Aang and Zuko having to confront their inner turmoil and hardships gives these two … heroes … a more human side, that they must and are growing. Seeing the betrayals and political aspects of Ba Sing Se shows just how real and gray this war really is. It’s not good versus bad, it’s a ton of in-between.

There were times while watching Book 2 that I was expecting Vader to walk out and announce he’s Aang’s father. There are plenty of ways that Book 2 compares to Empire Strikes Back from revelations, training, loss and even the ending, it’s quite good. With Book 2, Avatar goes from being a good, solid show with aspects adults and kids will both dig to being an emotionally charged tale that’s larger than the main characters. Good stuff, cannot wait to see how Book 3: Fire goes.

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