Visiting Wikipedia today, like I usually do many times a day, I noticed that today’s featured article is on Avatar: The Last Airbender, an animated TV series on Nickelodeon. I coincidentally just bought the first season DVD collection, but have been watching this show religiously and am desperately waiting for the new season to start.
This show is amazing. I am a lover of cartoons and comics already, but this really is an incredible series and I recommend it to everyone. I won’t go over the details of the premise and all that– the Wikipedia article does a very thorough, well-written job of that– but I will tell you that the story line is compelling, the characters are well-developed and interesting, and the animation is well-done (a mix between anime and American cartoons). Most importantly, the creators have done a great job in developing an entire world, a universe to set the series in. It combines martial arts and mysticism to tell the story of a boy savior that will work to master and regain balance among the four classical elements (air, water, earth and fire) and bring peace to the world. The story is told with humor, drama and action and the creators have taken great care in not only drawing from a number of cultural influences– especially Asian art and mythology– but also treating them with deep respect and weaving them expertly into this fictional universe. They take great care in hiring experts in everything from martial arts (each bending style is based on a particular Chinese fighting style) to the calligraphy that appears in various parts of the show. It’s one of the few times that when I see something that is this “pan-Asian,” it doesn’t feel like an exploitation or exportation of Asian culture. Instead, it just feels organic, natural.
I highly recommend it. You’ll want to be a bender just like Aang.