Hey folks, Valkor here. This weekend Director M. Night Shyamalan will give fans of "Avatar: The Last Air Bender" a wondrous treat (hopefully without a twist ending) when the live action version is released onto the big screen. But I'm one of the many who are unfamiliar with the series, however the folks at Paramount Home have the remedy and have also made a fan out of me. Check out "Avatar: The Last Air Bender Book 1", which is a 7 disc set that contains 5 discs of the series, a bonus disc of extras, and a special collector's disc. On top of that you get some great box art and a book on the art of the animated series.
The Nations of Fire, Wind, Water, and Earth have lived in harmony for centuries. Usually when things go out of balance between the elements, an Avatar is chosen who encompasses the power of all the elements and brings back that balance. But the current Avatar, Aang, goes missing… for 100 years. Turns out he was caught up in some ice and stuck there until he was thawed out by brother and sister, Sokka and Katara from the Southern Water village. But the find doesn't go unnoticed as Zuko of the Fire nation spots the light and makes a beeline straight for it. Zuko is the son of the Fire Nation Lord, but had been banished because he refused to fight his father (and he has the scar to prove it). Zuko is not allowed to return to the Fire Nation kingdom until he finds the Avatar, so you know he's hell-bent on finding this guy. Because Aang must master all the elements, he must first travel to the North Pole where he will begin his training as a Water Bender. And with the help of Sokka and Katara, they'll make new acquaintances, meet with old friends, try to stay one step ahead of the Fire Nation… and ride a giant animal when and if time permits. But in Aang's case, he doesn't care; he just wants to have fun. Some highlight episodes:
Episodes one and two "The Boy in the Iceberg" and "The Avatar Returns" – Essentially I summed it up above, at least the first episode. The second is when Zuko finds Aang and wants to bring him back to the Fire Nation; also it's where the quest to the North Pole begins.
The Warriors of Kyoshi – Aang, who is continuing his quest to not only reach the north, but also to ride animals, wants to conquer and ride a giant Elephant Koi. Soon after our trio is captured by female warriors of Kyoshi, but Aang is able to earn their trust by speaking of the past Avatar named Kyoshi. But Zuko is literally hot on their trail; he finds the village and begins burning it to the ground unless they give up the Avatar. But our trio is able to lead Zuko and his crew away from the village.
The Blue Spirit – Sokka and Katara are suddenly ill and now it's up to Aang to find medicine for the two. However he's captured by Admiral Zhao's archers. But a masked figure comes to his rescue. But is he friend… or foe?
The Waterbending Scroll – Since they're a ways off from the North Pole, Katara begins teaching Aang what she has learned of Waterbending – and Aang catches on quick… really quick. They meet with a bunch of pirates, who have "acquired" a Waterbending scroll, which Katara steals so that she and Aang can learn the technique. Zuko, in need of supplies meet up with the pirates who mention the monk who stole their scroll. The pirates agree to help Zuko, but when the pirates capture Aang, they decide to keep him for themselves, which causes a rift between them and Zuko. And through the fighting our trio makes their escape.
The Northern Air Temple – After hearing a story of people who travel through the air, Aang and his group head out to visit. But Aang is disappointed that the people who fly through the air, were not using airbending techniques. They meet with Teo whose father is an inventor and makes weapons for the Fire Nation. When the Fire Nation come to collect their latest weapon, a fight ensues, our trio is able to escape and the Fire Nation retrieves their weapon.
The series itself is heavily influenced on Asian culture – from the designs of the villages and outfits, the names of the characters, the music in the background and especially the moves of the benders, which are all based on real martial arts. And on each disc as an extra you'll get some insight into the series, including the voice acting, which martial arts is for which bender, and so forth. The collector's disc is all about the series creators Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko.
And now on with the show!
I've been told time and time again that as a lover of fantasy, I need to watch this series. And while I never gave it a chance when it was on television, I'm totally into this series thanks to this complete collection of the first book. The animation is above the norm of most shows aired at that time, which you can see the anime influence. But hmmm… Since it was drawn by Koreans, I guess you would consider this Korean-anime? The level of details is pretty amazing; usually shows produced for the US are crude and lackluster, but Avatar stands out as a true testament that not all shows for the US have to lack detail. The first two episodes were quick paced, but as the series progresses you can see how a balance in the pacing is achieved. Nothing is really rushed and things don't get to slow. The voice acting is spot on perfect for every character, big ups to Zach Tyler Eisen for bringing the perfect voice of Aang. Dante Brasco is another favorite and makes the perfect voice of Zuko, Mae Mae Whitman deserves big ups as Katara and Jack DeSena was another sound choice for Sokka. But HUGE Kudos goes to Mako (Who also does the voice of Splinter in the CGI animated Ninja Turtles movie, may he rest in peace) as Uncle Iroh; I wasn't expecting him to be in the series and the character he voices fits his voice style perfectly as Iroh is just a laid-back, retired general who'd rather rest in a hot spring and drink tea than to get involved with war and such. Finally the series itself is darker than most kid shows, especially in the feel. The characters talk about death moreso than most cartoons and impending doom from the Fire Nation is always around the bend for our trio. But you never see anything too disturbing, however things do get "edgy" (Definitely not a negative in my book). Overall the show is pretty awesome.
The fact that the series isn't as deep as I've been made to believe; I thought Aang was this complex kid wrought with the complexities of being the next Avatar, but hmmm… he's just a goofy kid that likes riding stuff. That's more along the lines of nitpicking than anything, but definitely out of left field.
I'm not sure what to expect from the live-action film, though early reports are coming in and it's not looking pleasant. However "Avatar: The Last Airbender Book 1" is one series you don't wanna miss and I'm glad I had the pleasure of checking it out. So out of TOV 5 stars, I give Book One of the Airbender series 4.5 stars and it's been Valkor tested, TOV Approved!