Avatar: The Last Airbender – a spoiler-free review

The series finale to Avatar: The Last Airbender is one of the finest pieces of animation, emotional storytelling, and closure I’ve seen in years.

My only regret…that I don’t know other people here in Atlanta who watch the show. I had a few friends in Japan who also kept up with the show (hey, Kiet/Julie/Brian/Kam!), so we had a viewing party for the hourlong Book 2 finale, but this was a solo event for me today.

Well, actually, there are several other regrets I have that relate specifically to the show (finding one character very hard to understand, being turned off by a bit of necessary kid-friendly silliness at the beginning, and wondering why half of season 3 has now ended up becoming fluff and filler episodes with occasional character development)…the ToonZone.net review sums them up exquisitely and delivers a stellar review.

To people complaining it was predictable–well, to a degree, yes. It’s still a kids’ show, which guarantees several differences from adult-oriented fare right there. But it was quite dark and quite deep, definitely catering to its older audiences and painting a very real and human struggle that’s far removed from the standard cliche-riddled “you shall pay for this!”-esque cartoon duels.

American TV hasn’t seen animation like this in many years.

And was the music–DONE WITH LIVE MUSICIANS FOR ONCE–amazing or what? There’s one duel in particular that wouldn’t have quite succeeded without such a strong score behind it. This violinist and music-worshiper very strongly approved! I read an interview The Track Team (the composers) had done a couple of months ago and they mentioned how excited they were to have real musicians to work with on this. It totally paid off! They’ve done a great job with this entire show, giving it a very different, organic, and worldly feel with their instrumentations and melodies.

I’ll confess: I cried. I seriously wept. I’ve become fairly emotionally invested in these characters. The journey Zuko and Iroh have taken has been particularly wonderful to watch, and I just rewatched episode 1 this week, and Aang and Katara and Sokka have grown up and matured so noticeably since then. And though people write Aang off as being boring, I really identify strongly with his struggle–like him, I also try to live a life of nonviolence and respect towards all living beings. (I’ve been a strict vegetarian for 15 years, and as an Indian, my belief structure is based in Hindu and Buddhist spiritual ideals.) The struggle he went through to reconcile his task was one that resonated with me–I truly understood how hard it was for him, being shouldered with an assignment that went against his very core. I really liked the way they resolved it.

This has a PoDW tie-in, too, because a complaint I’ve seen about Ren is that he’s too weak and wimpy (in part) because in The Game Players of Undaar, he didn’t kill Bloth off–or, through inaction, let him die–when he had the chance. To me, that isn’t cowardice, but courage and strength of character.

And speaking of resolution, I love how…final and not final the ending was. It instilled a great sense of closure, certainly, but the way they left several untied threads hanging there was done so gracefully.

Okay, this is long enough. I can’t say enough good things about it. Did any of you see it? Feel free to weigh in here–and spoilers are okay in the comments.

3 Responses to “Avatar: The Last Airbender – a spoiler-free review

  • I liked it mostly but the loose ends with Zuko’s mom, Toth’s family and, ultimately, whether there will ever be any more Airbenders left me wishing they’d create a fourth series called ‘The Book of Air’.

  • The creators did state that they are open to the idea of continuing the series somehow, but there isn’t going to be a Book 4. And you’re right, they didn’t resolve Toph’s family situation, though I kind of doubt she would go back. What I really wanted to see was an explanation of Iroh’s journey to the spirit world–they brought it up in season 1 and then just dropped it.

    They’re making a trilogy of films, though–M. Night Shyamalan is working with the Avatar creators on them. Each film covers one book/season.

  • Timothy Reilly
    11 years ago

    Yes! I have watched The Game Players of Undaar episode just yesterday. In fact I watch one episode of The Pirates of Dark Water every Saturday on DVD as a discipline, and I the episode
    above was episode 17 which means it is almost over…too bad. I am an avid fan, consider it a Hanna & Barbera masterpiece too bad their is only 21 episodes. I love it.

    Timothy Reilly

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