By your powers combined and multiplied, I am Avatar! The Last Planeteer!
Accursedly, I’m on a REALLY slow PC right now. So I’ll refrain from posting too many pictures. Obviously, this post will review only part of season 3, but before we begin, let me talk a bit about the earlier seasons. Paraphrased from the show’s opening monologue:
Long ago, the four nations lived in peace and harmony. But all that changed when the Fire Nation attacked. The only one who could stop them and maintain balance, was the Avatar, who mastered all four elements. But just as the world needed him most, he vanished.
A hundred years later, Katara and her brother Sokka found the Last Airbender; Aang, trapped in an iceberg. While his Airbending skills are great, he still has a long way to go before he’s able to defeat theFire Nation. But Katara and Sokka believe that Aang can save the world.
Roughly, that’s how the monologue goes. It can get pretty tiresome, since they used the same monologue throughout the seasons. Incidentally, Bending refers to the ability to manipulate one of the four elements of nature, like a Planeteer. A quick review of the first two seasons is thus:
Season 1: Water
The introductory season, where we get to know the characters and the world they inhabit. It’s mostly a lot of standalone adventures as the Aang Gang travel the world, righting wrongs and basking in the celebrity of being the Avatar whilst looking for a Water Bending teacher to teach Aang. All the while, they are being chased relentlessly by the banished Prince of the Fire Nation, Prince Zuko; aided by his uncle Iroh.
Aang’s shown to be just an annoying kid, while Sokka is useless. His only purpose is to be the universe’s butt monkey. Katara is almost as useless, her job in the first season was to be as much a liability as Sokka, but at least she functioned as a sort of guide to the world for Aang. Unlike many series’ villain, they attempt to humanize Prince Zuko, who has maybe about a third of the airtime for his side.
While they may have had almost revolutionary concepts for a cartoon, overall, the first season, like many first seasons, was stilted. The anime-ness they tried to apply was as painful as that of Totally Spies. It’s a decent watch, but hasn’t quite hit its stride yet. I’d give it ** to*** for the earlier parts, but *** to ***1/2 as it progressed. Overall…
*** out of 5.
Season 2: Earth
Season 2’s much stronger. By this point, not only have the characters gotten more comfortable in their niches, but they’ve grown. Aang is a little less annoying, since he isn’t goofing off as much. Sokka is still the weakest link, but his jokes are actually amusing now and while he’s still the chew toy of the universe, at least he’s starting to show that he has some brains now. Not much, but he’s getting there. On Katara’s end, she’s learned some more advanced Water Bending and is on par with high end users. Yeah, her power up’s pretty dramatic, but acceptable from a storytelling perspective.
For the good guys, they’ve also added Toph, who is a blind little girl with ‘tude. She’s undoubtedly the powerhouse of the Aang Gang. While a straightforward character, she isn’t the designate nagging mother/girlfriend that Katara is, and since she isn’t useless, she’s pretty cool for a new character; avoiding the annoying new character syndrome. She may seem a tad too powerful though, and some episodes seem to try to weaken her, usually by putting her in a water environment where her earth powers are considerably weakened. She’s like an inverted Aquaman.
On the villain side, Zuko’s humanizing feels less forced and Iroh really starts to win the hearts of the audience with his saintly Jesus-ness. Like the good guys, we also have a new villain in Zuko’s sister, Azula and her quirky miniboss squad. Also like the good guys, Azula’s not at all annoying for a new character. She’s basically a full time villain, lacking any and all redeeming qualities. She’s the equivalent of a bad guy wrestler, bad to the bone and all too willing to steal candy from a baby; just because.
Vastly improved over the first season, season 2 is not without it’s shortcomings, but it is easily one of the better shows going.
**** out of 5.
**** out of 5 for seasons 1 and 2 overall, with season 2 bringing the average up.
Season 3: Fire (Episodes 1 to 12)
Actually, I’ve seen up to ep 14 at this time, but figured I could use this series for more material to blog. There have been few anime series to watch out for these past many moons.
But back to season 3. This is a much more focused season than the previous ones. Essentially, the characters are very intent on reaching the goal they’ve set forth toward the end of season 2. They’re aiming to take the fight to the Fire Nation itself. As such, there aren’t as many side trips compared to the earlier seasons. While those had about 20 eps each to reach their finale, season 3 is very much like a 12 episode anime season. So they’re quite rushed. They tried sticking a few asides in, but you get a real sense of urgency in the pace. Since the characters are already developed at this point, at least there isn’t any lack of character development. Everyone’s comfortable in their role now, and are in fact, quite a bit more grown up. Even Sokka’s getting picked on by the universe less it seems. It’s a definitely more serious season.
Katara’s a full blown Mary Sue now though. Her power’s on par with season 2 Toph, could probably take on (though not win against) Aang in the Avatar State (Super Saiyan mode) and easily be subject to OVER NINE THOUSAND jokes. Fortunately, since she’s been a nagger since season 1, her nagging in season 3 actually grounds/humanizes her character here, as opposed to dehumanizing her to the level of a sitcom housewife.
It’s a good season that references to past episodes, bolstered by the now firmly established cast. I should end this post now, but before I go, I’d like to note that in addition to being a total munchkin, Katara is also indisputably the skankiestly dressed female in the entire Avatar world. Seriously, compare her midriff bearing sari with everyone’s tunics. Not a single chick shows more skin than Katara, except for the one bikini beach episode.
**** out of 5.