Monday, March 14, 2005

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usYeah, I know, I said I'd have my final Spawn of Frankenstein overview up over the weekend, but I didn't get around to it. Kinda took the day off from blogging yesterday. I'll get it done eventually, I promise. One thing I did yesterday afternoon after I was done playing ringmaster at the Holy Roller Circus at the radio station was catch Nickelodeon's Nicktoons marathon of a new show that I had seen a few minutes of on Friday, and was curious about, Avatar-The Last Airbender.

Avatar is an anime-style show which chronicles the exploits of Aang, who appears to be 12 but is actually at least a hundred years older. He lives in a world in which people have the ability to manipulate the basic elements of fire, air and water, hence the "bender" part. They're divided into tribes, each named after their sphere of influence. There's a fourth- the metal benders, the leader of which is a gray robot and their battle cry is "Bite my shiny metal ass!" Aw, I'm kidding. Anyway, as the prologue tells us, for centuries the tribes were kept in balance by one being, who could master every element, called "the Avatar". Our boy Aang is, by all appearances, the current avatar and the last surviving Airbender- but disappeared over a hundred years prior, enabling the Fire tribe to become aggressive and branch out, waging war on the other tribes. Aang was actually in a huge ball of ice that he created when he fell into the ocean during a battle, where he has slept for that whole duration. Two young Water tribespeople named Katara and Sokka accidentally discover and awaken him, along with his flying bison, Aapa. Meanwhile, Firebender Prince Zuko (no, his first name's not Danny) has been on a quest to find the Avatar, like his father and his father before him, to prevent his reappearance and further the goals of the warmongering Firebenders. After they realize what Aang is and how he could restore the balance to the land, Sokka and Katara offer to journey with Aang and help him out. The first four episodes have mostly dealt with the company trying to evade Zuko while Aang finds out what has happened to his people and how he can come to terms with his destiny.

First off, I realize that this isn't true anime but is done by Western animators in an anime style, so perhaps it's not as "legitimate" in some way, but that doesn't matter to me at all. Avatar is a heck of a lot of fun, and is well written, clever and imaginative, and well animated, too. It often reminds me of much of Studio Ghibli's output, even though it's not that well animated- but the Ghibli vibe is indeed strong. The scripts are written for a younger audience, true, but it doesn't condescend. Each episode has had wonderful visual depictions of the powers that these characters use, from Aang using his staff to guide air currents and slam Zuko into a mattress on his wall, then when they both hit the floor he gestures upwards and slams them both into the ceiling, and the waterbending abilities of Katara, as she creates twisting geysers of water to fend off attackers. The Warriors of Kyoshi Island, in episode four, were wonderfully realized- a group of young girls who gracefully fight using fans, all dressed up in traditional warrior armor and white makeup. They run between the huts of their village as blurs, as they move to confront the Firebender's invading troop. Which is not to make this sound like a Dragonball-whatever type constant-fighting cartoon; there's plenty of character stuff here as well, and it's nicely done with humor and pathos, when necessary.

Is you can probably tell, I was very impressed with this relatively new show. It usually airs on Friday nights at 7 central, so you might want to give it a look and see if you agree!

I couldn't find a lot of images and such with a Google search (I was really hoping for a screen cap or something of the Kyoshi Warriors, whom I loved), but here's the official site.

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