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Master of four elements
le 16 mai 2010
Most western animation for children is, to put it simply, really wretched. At best, it's tolerable.
But a shining exception would be the tale of the Avatar of all four elements, and to restore the balance in the world. "Avatar The Last Airbender - Book 1" serves as a solid first season to this series, with its colourful world, vivid action and complex characters. It may be aimed at kids, but it's a solid enough series to be enjoyed by any age.
South Pole Water Tribe siblings Katara and Sokka stumble across a glowing iceberg, with a young Airbender boy named Aang (and his flying bison) sealed inside. All Airbenders were killed long ago by the Fire Nation -- and Aang is the Avatar who mysteriously vanished a century ago, and is the only hope against the Fire Nation.
Unfortunately, a Fire Nation prince named Zuko has been wandering the world in search of Aang, and agrees to let the Water Tribe alone if Aang surrenders. Katara and Sokka manage to rescue their friend, and since Katara isn't experienced enough in waterbending to teach Aang, they set out for the North Pole to find a waterbending master -- with Zuko and his cruel rival Admiral Zhao in hot pursuit.
Along the way, they encounter hurricanes, woman warriors, a loopy old king who seems very familiar, a Spirit World Beast, pirates, teenage rebels, two tribes locked in an eternal feud, a mysterious blue masked man, fortunetellers, a rogue Firebender, and an Air Temple turned into a steampunk city. But when they arrive at the north pole, Aang and his friends find that their time is running out...
The highest compliment I can pay "Avatar: The Last Airbender" is that it's like a thoroughly solid action/fantasy anime. It's graced with good writing, excellent animation, and a general look drawn from Asian and Inuit cultures -- not to mention different civilizations clashing against the steampunky armored tanks and ships of the Fire Nation.
That isn't to say that it's all grim and serious -- it's quite the opposite. Lots of amusing dialogue ("I'm too young to die!" "I'm not, but I still don't wanna!"), slapstick, and flashy fights involving eruptions of fire, swirling water and blasts of air. It all culminates in a brilliantly epic clash, which wraps up the season nicely while leaving the way open for Aang's next lessons.
Aang is a kind and selfless kid, but still a kid -- plenty of turmoil over his role as the Avatar and his past mistakes, but he's still down-to-earth and sometime spacey. Katara and Sokka make good companions -- a sensible, short-fused girl with waterbending powers, and her reckless, courageous brother. And though he's technically a villain, the scarred, exiled prince Zuko is a brilliant anti-hero. And his lovably pervy uncle Iroh makes for good comic relief ("I'm certain you bathe regularly"), but there are hints that he's much more than that.
The special edition is being released in time for the live-action adaptation, and it adds a sleek blue "book" case with silver detailing. There are going to be seven discs instead of the usual six, with extra stuff -- an exclusive documentary, a paperback companion for artwork and designs, and so on. This could be worth it if you're just discovering "Avatar," but I wouldn't advise buying it if you already have the regular "Book 1."
"Avatar The Last Airbender: The Complete Book 1" has a few initial wobbles, but quickly blossoms into a brilliant little show. Definitely worth seeing.