Saturday, January 17, 2009

Avatar: The Last Airbender - Season 1

When I heard about Avatar, I was pretty skeptical. Another action show for kids that seems to completely bite anime's style doesn't sound like the best thing over. But after being surprised to hear from many people online that it was actually quite good, I decided to give it a try, and wasn't disappointed. For all intents and purposes, Avatar's first season basically IS a good anime series. It does a lot of things better than most actual anime, using what works and ignoring some of the more tired elements. The animation, especially during action scenes, is smoother than what you usually ever see in a weekly show like this, and the art design is reminiscent of some great things, like the works of Hayao Miyazaki - if you're going to borrow, borrow from the best.

My one problem with it is an unavoidable one - being a show made for kids, it does some things only kids would like. It's generally a serious fantasy story, but it has a strong emphasis on humor, humor that succeeds about as often as it doesn't. It has some witty lines, but a lot of stuff kids might find clever just falls flat at this point. It never becomes a big problem, although it makes some episodes harder to watch than others. Looking past that though, Avatar is a very well done series. After the opening episodes that establish the world and what's going on, there's a nice balance of interesting one-off episodes and plot progression to keep it enjoyable throughout, as it moves steadily towards the season one finale, which is suitably climactic. It's not quite the most original story ever, but there's enough to it to keep you moving forward. And the fights are really about as good as could be hoped for. They do some really creative stuff with the various elemental powers, and the mix of music and animation is always extremely satisfying. Even if you need a kid to justify watching it, it's a pretty cool series.

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