Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Avatar: The Last Airbender Book 3 DVD Review

Studio: Nickelodean
Michael Dante DiMartino and Brian Konietzko
Writers: DiMartino, Konietzko, John O'Bryan, Nick Malis, and various others
Directors: Joaquim De Santos, Lauren MacMullen, Dave Filoni, and various others
Martial Arts Choreographer: Sifu Kisu
Voice Cast: Zachary Tyler Eisen (Aang), Dante Basco (Zuko), Mae Whitman (Katara), Jack DeSaena (Sokka), Jessica Flower (Toph), Dee Bradley Baker (Appa and Momo), Greg Baldwin (Uncle Iroh), Grey DeLisle (Azula), Mark Hamill (Ozai), and various others

DVD Rating
Show: 10/10
Audio: 9/10
Extras: 9/10
Overall: 9.5/10

Book 3 continues the journey the last airbender and avatar Aang on his journey to stop Fire Lord Ozai and the Firenation from taking over the world with the help of his friends Katara, Sokka, Toph, and pets Appaand Momo. After an unsuccessful Invasion during the solar eclipse Aang and his group are joined by their former enemy Zuko, who has also had his journey in the story. With Zuko's help Aang learns how to firebend in time for Sozin's Comet arrival. With all of his friends behind him to help fight the Firenation the day of Sozin's Comet comes and a still unsure Aang fights the Fire Lord Ozai, now known as Phoenix King, and Zuko faces of against his sister Azula in Agni Kai to see which one of them becomes the next Fire Lord.

Book 3:Fire brings the end of Avatar: The Last Airbender and what an end it was. If their ever was a great way to end a show this is how a show ends. As much as I love this show I am glad that the people behind it decided to end it in such a high note and not drag out the story like so many cartoons and anime have done in the past and present. A lot of props have to go to creators DiMartino and Konietzko and the whole crew who work on this show for creating one of the best shows on TV and definitely the best show Nickelodean has produced. And even though this DVD set is not loaded with special features the amount of commentary by the creators that is in this DVD makes up for it.

It is hard to put Avatar in a category because it is not a cartoon but at the same time it is not a anime either. But it really doesn't matter which category this show falls under because the animation in the show is just beautiful and it is great that this show did not shy away from things like death that so many shows like avoid now. With many animated series that airs here in the US in the various networks it can be seen in the animation that the creators and directers of shows don't have much contact with the Korean animation studios. But Avatar is not like that and it could be seen in the details the show produces that everyone who work on this from the creators to the directors to the Korean animation studio put in there best effort to create the world of Avatar. Listing to the commentary for each episode and watching the special features the creators of the show do give those in the Korean studios a lot of well deserved praise for their hard work on the show.

Just to see how hard these animator's work you should all see the making of the finale with all the sketches. To hear that the fire in the last four episodes was all hand drawn is just amazing since fire is one of the hardest things to animate due to the wild nature of it. One of the highlights of this show was just how awsome the Lion Turtle that taught Aang to spiritbend was just some awsome animation. The Lion Turtle was greatly detailed and one of my favorite creatures in the Avatar World.

Some recommended episodes for Book 3 that deserve repeat watches are:

  • "Sokka's Master" - A great episode for Sokka fans and just some awesome sword choreography. And the swordsmaster Pianfao was an excellent addition to the show and who doesn't love the old master swordman's type character
  • "The Beach" - This is a nice episode since we get to see Zuko hanging out with Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee. Also this is the episode that starts the downfall to Azula since we get hints of her having some serious mother issues.
  • "The Avatar and the Firelord" - A great episode that shows the world of Avatar before the war during Rokku's time as Avatar. This episode also reveals gives a connection between Aang and Zuko that I did not expect.
  • "The Runaway" - Nice Katara and Toph episode that shows a different side to Toph.
  • "The Day of Black Sun Parts 1 & 2" - Good two part episode that set many things in motion for all the main characters to take their individual roles more seriously.
  • "Firebending Masters" - A nice history of the origins of firebending and awsome to see some dragons in this show.
  • "The Boiling Rock Parts 1 & 2" - A nice team up between Sokka and Zuko. Also it is nice the creator's did not forget about Suki and the Kyoshi Warriors after they were captured in the second half of Book 3.
  • "The Southern Raiders" - Great episode for Katara were we see more of an edge to her character and her bloodbending.
  • "The Ember Island Players" - Nice poking fun at some anime voice work and the calm before the storm.
  • "Sozin's Comet Parts 1-4" - One of the best finales to a show with some awsome Avatar State action, spiritbending, and an awsome looking Lion Turtle. We finale get the apperance of the mysterious "Order of the White Lotus" that is lead by Uncle Iroh and some of the old masters we have seen throught the show. Also the reunion between Zuko and his father figure Uncle Iroh was a very touching reunion.

The great things about Avatar has always been about the journey for the five main characters. The journey for all five characters Aang, Zuko, Katara, Sokka, and Toph had in this series was about putting the past behind them, learning from their mistakes, taking responsibility, and learning to accept themselves and others. At times you forget that these characters are just kids especially Aang who literally has the weight of the world on his shoulder. The creators are never shy to show us this fact because there are plenty of episodes were these characters just make mistakes that we all do at their age.

Now while each of these five main characters had there own moment to shine there were really three characters that really stood out in my mind after watching all of Book 3. The first one is the most surprising and that character is Sokka. Sokka started the series as nothing more than a comic relief a role that he played for most of, if not all, of Book 1 and 2. While there were small instances were Sokka was able to take the spotlight but these moments were to far from in between that when it happened they never stood out as character defining moments. But in Book 3 that all changed and we finally see Sokka become a swordsmen in "Sokka's Master" and develop his skills as a general in "Day of Black Sun Part 1 & 2," "The Boiling Rock Part 1 &2," and in the four part "Into the Inferno" finale. In each episode Sokka was able to show his worth and become much of a central character that and a key in helping to defeat the Fire Lord. And with all that he was still able to be the comedy relief and deliver some of the funnier lines in the show.

The second stand out character of Book 3 is really second star of the show Zuko. No other character in the show has gone through more changes and challenges than Zuko and in some ways Avatar is as much Zuko's story of redemption as it is of Aang saving the world. For much of Book 2 not only did fans think that Zuko would end the Book by joining Team Avatar but the creators also mention that Zuko was meant to join the good side in in the DVD commentary. It was great seen how from being the inexperienced master-level Firebender that was always angry to at the beggining of the series to the calm and cool Firebending master by the time he fought the out of her mind Azula.

In truth Zuko and Azula were opposites of one other because were Zuko started the series as a guy who was always angry, never really in control of situations, and showed his emotions on his sleeve who was more about using power than strategy, Azula started out as the calm, always in control of situations, and emotionless who was a very polished Firebender. But by the time it came to the finale showdown between brother and sister the roles were switched were Zuko due to finale accepting his destiny and joining Team Avatar was the calm and in control while Azula due to feeling betrayed out of control wack job and showed more of an unpolished Firebending. And let me just say this that the Zuko and Azula fight was probably one of the best if not the best fight on Avatar. Seeing the power and beuty of two Firebending masters was a thing of beuty and was help with some great music and sound effects.

Before I go onto the third standout character let me just say this, I know some fans are pissed off with Azula's break down at the end of the season but I actually thought it work well with how her character development from the beggining. There were already slight hints of some buried mother problems with her since the Book 2 episode "Zuko Alone" and those mother issues came to the forefront in "The Beach" were we saw her true emotions come to the surface at the end. And with the betrayal of her two supposed best friends in Mai and Ty Lee it was inevitable she would become the paronoid and out of control character she became at the end.

Now to the third, and not suprising, stand out character and the star of the show is Aang. Now I know this is an obvious choice but I just love how the creators made Aang into one of the most innocent and pure hearted character on TV. This is highlighted in how he took out the the Fire Lord/Phoniex King in their final battle. Because throughout the series all of the people around Aang even his past lives told Aang he had to kill the Fire Lord to bring peace to the world. But killing the Fire Lord would have been to out of character move for Aang to do. Plus it seems that at times fans forget that even though Aang is the Avatar, saver of the world, at his core he is still a 12 year old kid who is still sees the good in people like all 12 year olds should.

I am glad the people behind Avatar did not forget this fact and the scene were Aang spiritbends was the second best moment after the Zuko/Azula fight. Before the whole spiritbending the moment were Aang goes Avatar State on the Fire Lord's ass was another must see moments with the four elements working together like they did.

Now even though these three were stand out characters for me in Book 3 does not mean the ladies of Avatar didn't get their moments to shine. It could be argued that Katara, Toph, Azula, Mai, Ty Lee, and Suki kick just as much ass if not more during the series. Whether it was Katara learning how to Bloodbend (which was great), Toph mastering Metalbending, or Azula being a natural Firebender and being able to create lightining (something Zuko still could not do) these were all ladies that kick some series ass in the show and girls no guy would want to mess with. And it was great that it was Katara who took down Azula because it is really through her eyes that most of the story is told through.

Also even though this is technically a show about the journey for the kids to become adults does not mean the adults were no slotches. In truth we got to see through all the adults on the show how far each one of the kids still have to go to become the best at there craft.Even though Zuko and Azula both showed a lot of power with there Firebending they still don't compare to the amount of power their dad showed in the battle with Aang. And even though Sokka started to shine as a leader he still has a ways to go before he becomes a true general like his father.

Now I could go on and on about how great this show is/was but I won do that. But I will say that this is definetly a show that will go down as one of my favorite shows of all time and something I recommend for any cartoon/anime fan who loves good deep storytelling that is for all ages with some great comedy and kick ass fight sequences. And as I said earlier, a lot of credit must go to everyone who work on Avatar from the creators to the Korean animators to to the voice actors to those in the Nickolodean Stdios who allowed the creators to stay with their vision of they wanted the world of Avatar to be and not shying away from things like death like so many show do in this PC world we live in. Now every should go out and buy this show and hope that the live-action movie does a good job at properly telling the story of Aang and his friends.

1 Comment:

avatar : The Last Airbender said...

I must be doing something right since I've watched 2 seasons i have to watch the 3 season