All Things Avatar – Alice [Geeks] Out

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I fell in love with Avatar at the most unexpected moment, and that was when I was packing up my house in Flagstaff to move down to Phoenix. I wanted some noise in the background while I packed, so I turned on Nickelodeon. As I walked back and forth in front of the TV, I began to notice martial arts action happening on the screen, and as I listened, it piqued my interest. Before long I was watching in earnest. Nickelodeon was running a marathon of the show and my packing was abandoned entirely as I was sucked into the show.

I learned the show grabbing my attention was called “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” which originally ran from 2005 to 2008 on Nickelodeon for three seasons.  As part of the marathon, they had “bubbles” of additional information display on the screen, such as a brief snippet of character history, or information on production, or identifying a creator’s favorite scene. It made the experience so much more engrossing. I was hooked.

Later, as my son got older and TV watching became a part of our routine, I was happy to find that the show was still being aired in re-runs. I don’t know about other parents out there, but I am always happy to find something that both my kid and I can enjoy, and Avatar fits the bill. If I am honest, I think I like Avatar even more than my son does. Why?

1. I have always been attracted to Asian themes, from Shintoism to Buddhism, from Ichiban to Rangoli or from Zatoichi to The Drunken Master. Avatar feeds that attraction because it takes place in a world with a mythical Chinese aesthetic. There are four nations: Water, Earth, Fire and Air, which are similar to the five-phase archetypes in traditional Chinese medicine, which are water, earth, fire, wood and metal.

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By Adho1982. Available on Redbubble.

 

2. I love almost anything involving martial arts. Having studied various forms of martial arts for around 10 years, I really appreciated the attention to details that the animators (JM Animation, DR Movie, and MOI Animation) put into the show to make sure the elemental bending animations match real-life martial arts styles’ movements. The styles are:

Waterbenders  = T’ai chi ch’uan

Earthbenders = Hung Ga kung fu

Firebenders = Northern Shaolin kung fu

Airbenders = Baguazhang

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Images from Nickelodeon

3. I enjoy all the characters, but I am a sucker for the comic relief sidekick, which is Sokka in the show; he does not disappoint. There are several hilarious compilations of viewers’ favorite Sokka moments — just do a search. This one by Anna Young is my favorite so far: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQ1erew3zjQ

 

4. The show is enjoyable, funny and exciting, but it is also sad and deeply moving. The creators presented stories with a lot of big themes which make great teaching moments for parents. Over the course of the three seasons, I feel like ALL the big themes are covered. Revenge, loyalty, loss, destiny, sacrifice, etc., all have a presence in the show. Every character participates in these teaching moments, but my favorite animated mentor is Uncle Iroh who plays the role of a yoda-like older sage. He has the best “deep-thought” quotes, for example: “Sometimes life is like this dark tunnel, you can’t always see the light at the end of the tunnel, but if you just keep moving, you will come to a better place.” Uncle Iroh and his quotes are a fan favorite as evidenced by Anuradha Edirisuriya’s quote blog and the Ask Uncle Iroh tumblr (just to name a couple).

5. The stories are also damn clever and witty. My favorite two episodes illustrate this point. They are both from season 3, episode 9 “Nightmares and Daydreams” and episode 17 “The Ember Island Players“.

Avatar-crazy-azula6. I grew up in the ’70s and ’80s when strongly-written female characters didn’t have that much presence on TV, animated or otherwise. The main character in Avatar is male, but there is a lot of female representation. The main group is split 50-50 and there are plenty of other female characters throughout the entire series. I especially enjoy that main antagonist is female — Azula. She is broken and crazy and mean and sad and wonderfully voiced by Grey DeLisle.

7. Speaking of the voice acting — it is excellent in Avatar. The four principles are Zach Tyler Eisen voicing Aang, Mae Whitman as Katara, Jack DeSena voices Sokka and my favorite Jessie Flower voices Toph (the character I identify with most). I also really enjoy Dante Basco‘s voicing of Zuko. I got to learn more about Dante Basco at the Comic and Media Expo and like him even more now. Mark Hamill voices the big bad, Fire Lord Ozai.

Selfie!! by He-de on DeviantArt

Selfie!! by He-de on DeviantArt

8. It cannot be denied that the show inspired a huge following of very dedicated fans. A search of any fan fiction site will result in of thousands of stories taking place in the Avatar universe. xtremesweetness has completed a list of her favorites. The fans also show their love by creating tons of artwork. You can view these creations in a number of places; DevaintArt, Tumblr, and FanPop among others. One of my favorites is “Selfie!!” by He-de found on DevianArt. There is also plenty of cosplay! Amazing cosplay! A couple of my favorites in include TophWei’s Mia and Pugoffka-sama series of photographs of the cosband Fighting Dreamers’s Avatar cosplay. And finally, Etsy is a goldmine for Avatar fans. Just do a search on Avatar or Appa. Seriously.

9. Dark horse publishes the graphic novels, and we have several in the house. I have particularly enjoyed the The Lost Adventures and The Search. There are video games, too. Our copy editor Huan has played some of them and tells me that Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Burning Earth video game on the Xbox 360  provides players with 5 achievements that amount to a 1000 gamerscore. He says it’s the easiest game to earn every achievement.

10. Finally, I just love these two guys, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko who created and produced the series. Thank you gentlemen for all the feels!

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From
Michael Dante DiMartino’s tumblr

If you have never seen the series, I strongly suggest that you check it out. It may not turn out to be your cup of tea, but you should take a sip and find out! All three seasons are available on Amazon.

P.S. I once lost a $70 bet to my son over how many legs Appa has. *so ashamed*

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