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Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Complete Book 1 Collection (review)

Empty Air

At the behest of several readers who appear to believe they know my taste better than I know it, and also in an attempt to figure out just what the hell M. Night Shyamalan was thinking with his The Last Airbender, I watched the entire first season of Nickelodeon’s pseudo-anime series Avatar: The Last Airbender.

As I suspected would be the case, I got zero entertainment value out of it.
This is not fantasy storytelling for thinking adults. It’s inoffensive enough for kids, I suppose, but lack of offense is hardly reason to embrace a story. If I had a kid I wanted to inculcate with the attitudes of openmindedness that exploring the alternative worlds of fantasy fiction requires, I wouldn’t mind showing her this… but I’d want to move on right away to something with more heft, like The Lord of the Rings or even The Chronicles of Narnia. Because even an atheist can embrace the Christian Narnia as a fantasy realm that is consistent and grounded in its own distinctive philosophy, and Narnia works especially well to introduce children to other concepts… like the notion of religion itself as fantasy.

But the world of Airbender feels phony and lacks cohesion. Four different nations corresponding to the traditional elements — air, water, fire, and earth — and the people of those nations can manipulate their national element but not the others? That feels like a game of Magic: The Gathering, not a functioning human society. Even if you want to attribute the magical abilities to genetics, there wouldn’t be such clear-cut divisions in powers: it would be like saying that people can have white hair or black hair or red hair, but no shades anywhere along the spectrums between. And certainly not so that it would be possible for, every generation, a single Avatar and not one more, a sort of Dalai Lama-esque figure, to arise, someone who can control all the elements magically and hence somehow keep the peace among the nations.

It’s not just a matter of religion here: the magic is real, just not in any way that seems plausible even on its own terms, within its own context. And the lack of storytelling finesse in the worldbuilding is equally lacking in the nitty-gritty plotting and character development. Since today has been a bit of a Pick on M. Night Shyamalan Day, I’ll say something nice about him: If I’d seen the TV series before I saw his adaptation of it, I wouldn’t have been quite so hard on him, because he appears to have picked up the stilted, juvenile writing and scenarios seemingly designed to appeal to the kindergarten set of his movie directly from the soure material. His movie is pretty faithful to the source. Not really in a way worth emulating, but still.

The movie follows the same basic story as these 20 episodes: A young Avatar who has been missing for a century turns up and now must bring peace to a world that has fallen into war during his absence. But the individual stories don’t have much urgency to them. Mostly it’s a lot of juvenile bickering among Aang (the voice of Zach Tyler: The Ant Bully) and teenaged siblings Katara (the voice of Mae Whitman: Teacher’s Pet) and Sokka (the voice of Jack De Sena). Oh, and Sokka won’t shut up about how hungry he is, which is hilarious, because teenaged boys are always eating: that’s pretty much the extent of the wit here. But even when Airbender wants to be serious, it falls flat: When Aang discovers that his home has been destroyed and everyone he knew and loved is long dead and gone, he grieves by… playing a game with Sokka? Really? These three sound and act like modern contemporary kids, not the products of a culture deeply alien to our own.

And as is to be expected from a relatively modest TV series, the animation is not particularly inspiring or beautiful: it’s functional at best. The lack of feeling and soul in the story and in the serviceable voice performances is not made up for by stylish, emotional, or dramatic visuals, as is often the case when animation does work to engage the adult imagination.

I’m mystified what anyone over the age of 10 sees in this, frankly.

MPAA: rated TV-Y7

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine
  • CB

    Oh snap!

    I smell trouble a-brewin’ in this har comment thread. Time to batten down the hatches and head down to the storm cellar.

  • Jurgan

    Sigh…

    I mean, I could try to explain why I think this show is so good, but what would be the point? You’ve clearly made up your mind. Well, thanks for giving it a chance, anyway. Maybe I’ll get involved in the discussion later, but right now I don’t feel up for it.

  • vucubcaquix

    A shame, really. I watched the book of air several years ago and thought the same as you since I’m already accustomed to animation and storytelling of much higher caliber, which was why I held off on watching the rest of the series until very recently.

    I don’t know how much stock my opinion will carry here, but the book of earth (the second part) is actually much better in almost every regard. The animation is more fluid, the pacing is tighter, several fan favorite characters were introduced here, the drama is weightier with the death of several, and it even won some Emmys for writing. The philosophy is better fleshed out as the character of Zuko spends more time elaborating the relationships between the elements, and after a rewatching of the first season it turns out that the series is loaded with all kinds of subtle foreshadowing that doesn’t pay dividends until the later seasons.

    But part of the fan fervor I believe comes from the fact that a kid’s show was better than their preconceptions, and that plot continuity such as was displayed here, or on Gargoyles and the like, is very rare for the demographic intended.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NFASos1G-5U
    (one of my favorite scenes from the book of earth, which is quite sad in context)

  • MaryAnn

    I mean, I could try to explain why I think this show is so good, but what would be the point? You’ve clearly made up your mind.

    And you’ve clearly made up *your* mind!

    You could explain why you *think* this show is so good, just as I explained why I *think* it isn’t any good at all. You cannot possibly change my reaction to it, but you could make me understand what you see in it.

  • JoshDM

    Hey, you gave it a shot, and that is something I can appreciate. It’s not your cup of tea.

    Before you hang up the hat for good, please watch one final episode, it is from Season 2 and is entitled “Tales of Ba Sing Se” (episode 15). Prior to the episode, the flying bison has been kidnapped and does not appear, and Prince Zuko and Iroh are trying to get away with a normal life in an Earthbender city. That’s all the preface necessary.

    Beyond that, and even if you don’t watch it, I do appreciate you giving it a chance.

  • T.J.

    I would recommend that you watch books two and three as well. The complexity and caliber of the animation ramps up and the series really comes into its own. There are some breathtaking moments in the series finale that literally made me cry. I am an illustrator and graphic designer, so I am quite picky about animation. I like GOOD animation (aka Miyazaki, Brad Bird, and the like). Season one is much simpler in scope than seasons two and three. Give the rest of the show a shot and you might just change your mind!

  • Jurgan

    I’ll probably take a crack at it tomorrow, once I’ve thought it over, but I don’t really have time to go in depth right now. But you say I “can’t possibly” change your reaction- has no one ever convinced you to change your mind? I’m not arguing about Avatar specifically, it’s just a general thought I’ve had for a while. I’ve always wondered how often critics change their opinions on things. I mean, I’ve discussed movies or TV shows with friends and changed my opinion on whether they were good or bad, yet I rarely see professional critics do so. Maybe it’s just because they (you) tend to spend a lot of time thinking the subject over before giving an opinion, so it’s more final by that point? I don’t know, I’m just curious.

  • JoshDM

    And this is me coming back once more after reading the above comments and noting that the link vucu gives is one of the stories in Tales of Ba Sing Se.

  • Megan

    I just finished watching the series with my 10 yo brother, and I found it enjoyable. It wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever watched, but I think it had strong characters that were both male and female and of varying races, which is rare for kids shows, at least that I’ve seen.

  • vucubcaquix

    @Josh

    I actually felt that the episode felt out of place in the narrative as it was in the middle of a string of intense episodes, but yeah, as a standalone, it had some of the best scenes in the series.

  • JoshDM

    What made me watch the series from start to finish was that I started mid-way. I didn’t watch from the beginning. Due to a marathon and my DVR, I watched Tales of Ba Sing Se and the fourth-to-last episode of season 3, where they’re all performing final training against the rock statues. Sort of ruined all the character arcs for me going in, but I didn’t mind.

    Those two episodes made me want to watch the rest.

  • MaryAnn

    I would recommend that you watch books two and three as well.

    Give ‘em an inch…

    has no one ever convinced you to change your mind?

    About anything at all in the whole wide world? Of course.

    But you won’t able to explain away my emotional reaction to this show. You might make me understand why an adult might enjoy this show, but there’s no way you’re going to convince me to enjoy it. You can’t inject the adult complexity into this story if it isn’t already there.

    I’ve changed my mind about films and TV shows before, but nothing so simplistic as this. It’s always been about stories that are complicated and open to varied interpretation. But there isn’t enough there there in *Airbender* to leave any room for that.

  • fastpathguru

    While admittedly “book 1″ was a little lighter than, and more about laying groundwork for the rest of the series, I do wonder if your reaction might somewhat result from already being tainted by the horror of the apparently craptastic movie…

    I’m sure that M.K.S.’s movie has ruined an entertaining show for many who might’ve otherwise enjoyed it.

    Pity…

  • Wicked Fix

    MaryAnn-

    I understand your disinterest in the show but I am telling you from the experience of not really caring about the show… you really should watch the other two books.

    I am a 28 year old sci-fi/horror, blood and guts, hardcore action and intelligent drama type of movie and tv show person. The last thing I expected to like was the Avatar series. I started watching it with my girlfriend and her kids because she said it was really good. When you watch it, You have to watch it with your inner child in mind at the same time. Just go along for the ride and have fun. In the last two books (Earth and Fire) we get to see the characters grow so much, as well as meeting new ones, and there are themes that come into play that adults can understand and be entertained by much more than book one… and it all leads up to the final showdown between Aang and the Fire lord Ozai.

    There really only is one word that sums up the events that take place in the last book… Epic.

    Just let yourself be open emotionally to what the characters are going through and you will not be disappointed with how the series turns out.

    It is with all sincerity the best animated kids show I have ever seen.

  • Laurel

    All I can say is read the Wikipedia and tvtropes pages about it. I think you’ll find there’s a lot of complexity that you’re missing.

  • http://reformamendment.blogspot.com/ PaulW

    MaryAnn, I understand your being underwhelmed with the Avatar series, mostly because Book 1 is relatively weak compared to the later series (the artwork is also more stiff and uneven in the first few episodes, before the artists found their styles and character designs).

    But as someone who grew up with Star Wars, Star Trek, and a lot of scifi and fantasy (Narnia books were easy reads for me and my brothers; my elder brother Eric became so devoted to Tolkien he learned Quenya – both writing and speaking!), I have to say that I found Avatar refreshing and enjoyable. Unlike other pre-teen oriented fantasy cartoons, Avatar seemed to at least operate by a consistent set of rules. Yes, the characters are annoying and ill-defined at first, but they’re kids and they do grow into more mature and complex characters.

    I also note in your review that you had problems with Aang’s finding out about the Air Nomads and… running off to play Airbender games with Sokka. I don’t think you noticed that earlier in the episode, Aang is in a ton of denial: he’s still coping by his measurements the fact the Monks told him he was the Avatar (why he fled the temple and froze in ice for 100 years), and he’s still in denial that he’s been gone so long that nearly everyone he knows would really be dead. Even when Katara warns him the Fire Nation wiped out the Air Nomads, Aang doesn’t buy it. He doesn’t find the bones of his mentor Gyatso until after he plays those games. And only then does Aang freak out and enter the Avatar state, unleashing a wind blast of furious anger that only Katara can calm.

    As for the kids acting like contemporary teenagers… well, you never want to make your characters too alien to your intended audience (kids, teens and fanboy geeks who won’t get out of their parents’ basements). Why else did Tolkien make his Hobbits so… humanly British? :)

    Also… That was Jason Isaacs (Lucius “Pimp” Malfoy) as Admiral Zhao!!! How could miss that?!

    I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy Book 1. But try Book 2. It has TOPH! Toph rocks! Pun intended.

  • Sarah

    You gave it a shot, not your thing. I liked the first season for the characters, the humor, and the respect it had for its audience, even if they were primarily young children.

    However, and this is important, the show grows with its audience in a way I’ve seen in precious few other shows. The two best characters in the entire series aren’t introduced until next season, and while the broad strokes of the characters’ personalities are remarkably consistent, they are filled in with a very authentic sense of children growing up.

    Also, Nickelodeon realized, with this season you’ve just watched, that the show was striking a chord, and with viewers well outside the 6-11 year old demographic they expected. As a result, the writing became much more nuanced and the budget for the show was increased dramatically. The last 4-part episode is as beautiful as any animation I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot.

    Is it perfect, or even particularly profound? No. But it is an extremely generous-sprited, entertaining show that respects and celebrates the best of its characters and its audience. My friends and I – postgraduate-degrees, late twenties, discriminating-tastes and all – routinely shout lines from the show at each other along with more classic quote sources like Monty Python, Big Lebowski, and – yes – the Princess Bride.

  • MaryAnn

    he’s still in denial that he’s been gone so long that nearly everyone he knows would really be dead.

    Or, conversely, it’s simplistic writing, simplistic performances, and simplistic animation that is unable to convey all the emotion content you brought to it yourself.

    Just let yourself be open emotionally to what the characters are going through and you will not be disappointed with how the series turns out.

    Ah, so: *that* was my problem! I wasn’t open emotionally to it.

    *grr* That sounds suspiciously like the nonsense religious types use to “explain” and “cure” atheism: If only we atheists would open our hearts to Jesus, we’d see the error of our ways.

    Look: I’m glad you all enjoy it. But we’re going to have to disagree on this one. I gave it a shot. But I’m not going to invest another 20 hours in this. Sorry.

  • Rose

    I wouldn’t have invested the time you did – it sounds extremely dull from the concept, then add that awkward kiddie anime style of animation and humour – I think I’ll go back to my Stingray box set.

  • http://macgamer.com Corey Tamas

    I think it’s perfectly fine if you watch something and dislike it (in fact, that’s a big part of why your loyal readers like me keep coming here), but this review was uncharacteristically snarky. I was surprised by that.

    “At the behest of several readers who appear to believe they know my taste better than I know it…”

    Having watched a number of Avatar: Last Airbender-related discussions unfold in your forums, I think it’s true to say that many of your readers want you to give this series a go and are eager to hear what you think. Were there behind the scenes conversations with certain readers in which you were told that you don’t know your own taste? Because I didn’t see that in the comments; only a lot of people wanting to share something they like with you because they value your opinion. So… what did I miss there?

    I’m mystified what anyone over the age of 10 sees in this, frankly.

    It might be true that you’re mystified, but the comment is harsh. You’re no longer talking about the material, but making some insinuations about people who like it. I love reading your movie reviews but, when the discussion moves to people reviews, I am not quite so enthusiastic.

    I love your writing and if you disliked the Avatar: Last Airbender series, I respect that completely… but this review had a lot of little barbs in it which clearly aren’t about the series.

  • Mirabai

    Everyone, please. MaryAnn didn’t enjoy it. Sometimes you can agree with someone a lot, and disagree on a particular point.

    I recently watched this series, because of the hubub over the movie, and did enjoy it. However, personally, I’m able to enjoy things aimed to a younger audience, which Avatar definitely is. Some of the moralizing in the first season can be excruciating. There are some really good concepts in the series, in my opinion (Aang still being a child with a really heavy destiny, Katara working to learn all she can about waterbending while running up against some really shitty cultural expectations, and most things to do with Toph), but Maryann acknowledged that. There are some good concepts, but she feels other books and movies did it better.

    Personally, I do feel that Avatar has much stronger female characters and a more positive message for girls than Narnia or Lord of the Rings (though I love both those books), but that’s a long textual debate that I’d rather not get into without being asked.

    Asking someone who didn’t enjoy the first season to just give the next few seasons (something like 30 hours of television time, or more!) a chance is just not a great idea. You asked MaryAnn to try it, she did, and she didn’t like it. Oh well, let’s get on to the next Female Gaze entry.

  • Laura

    Well, this is a relief to me, frankly. Two of my friends keep showing me episodes of the show to try and get me to watch it, and I’m just like “meh.” For my tastes, it wasn’t bad. But it certainly isn’t something I’m going to go out of my way to watch.

  • markyd

    I have to admit I was quite shocked when I saw that you actually gave in and watched the show. Heck, I’m even tempted to after reading all the praise from the posters around here.
    The few bits I saw of it on Nick looked awful and I never even considered watching it. My 9 year old son wasn’t even interested.
    Anyway…
    I don’t get you people asking her to keep going with it. If she didn’t like the first season, why would she like the rest? Heck, why would any of you have kept going with it when most admit the first season was weak? I don’t get it.
    If I read the first book in a trilogy, and it sucks, I most definitely will not be reading the next one.
    Same with movies.
    It’s a huge time commitment, and I give her huge props for actually giving it a chance.

  • http://bluejaysway.wordpress.com/ Bluejay

    I’ve changed my mind about films and TV shows before

    MaryAnn, would you consider it worthwhile to occasionally write about those changes of opinion? (Perhaps you have, and I missed it.) Like Jurgan earlier in this thread, I’m not arguing about Avatar; I’m just always interested whenever people turn their critical thinking on themselves and explain how or why their thinking evolved: whether it’s Shirley Sherrod explaining her change of attitude about race, or a scientist explaining her revised theories in the light of new evidence, or whatever.

    You recently mentioned elsewhere that you have a lower tolerance for BS these days; it made me wonder if that means you would come down harder today on some films that you reviewed more favorably at the time. (Conversely, perhaps there are some films you didn’t care for at first, and reviewed negatively, but that grew on you after some repeat viewings?)

    Would revisiting your old reviews, to see how well they match up with your current thinking, be worth occasionally writing about? Of course you may have neither the time nor the inclination; how people’s opinions change is just a subject that interests me in general.

  • Emily

    It’s a shame that you didn’t like it, because I truly feel that it is really a great animated series. I agree that the first season is not as adult friendly as the other two, but it is the introduction. Aang is still a kid in denial about his true destiny, not really understanding that he is the only hope the world has. It’s childish feel reflects the feelings that the main character is experiencing. Also, get your facts right, please, because the episode that you referred to when Aang “discovers that his home has been destroyed and everyone he knew and loved is long dead and gone, he grieves by… playing a game with Sooka” he still doesn’t believe that everyone is dead or that the place is deserted when he plays air-ball with Sokka (that is how you spell his name). He believes that they are hiding or are somewhere else in the Southern air temple. You also said that the show lacked wit and it’s humor only went as far as Sokka always being hungry, well, that is true, but these are kids, what you don’t understand about that, I have no idea. They are children about to take the weight of the world on there shoulders, not yet fully understanding what that means. As for you going easy on M. Night Shamalon, he left out a large amount of the foreshadowing, many characters that play huge parts in the next two seasons (Jet, anyone? Haru? Suki?) and got the mythology wrong, which becomes very important as the next two books develop. On top of that he couldn’t even get the pronunciation of the characters names correct and had a horribly written screenplay. Like I said, it is a shame you didn’t like the show, but it sounds like, to me, that you didn’t fully understand it and you went in with your opinion already formed. On top of that, you saw the movie first, which most likely played a part in many people not liking it as much, and may have also been the case for you.

  • JoshDM

    Look: I’m glad you all enjoy it. But we’re going to have to disagree on this one. I gave it a shot. But I’m not going to invest another 20 hours in this. Sorry.

    Gang, stop bugging her. I already asked for just one more episode from her; if she watches it, she watches it, if she doesn’t, she doesn’t.

    Do realize, THE LOT OF YOU (me included), that she has only watched season 1, and that having watched the other seasons, we’ve grown to be quite interested in the extended cast, many of whom (Toph; I can’t believe MAJ is going to miss Toph!) were not introduced till mid-second-season.

    Heck, the “always comes back” meme hasn’t hit the show yet either, iirc. At this point, much like someone else mentioned in the other thread, it’s best to lay off. I think enough of us have expressed that it does get better in the later seasons, but she’s right about the time investment.

  • http://bzero.livejournal.com Bzero

    I can understand the feelings of Airbender fans to an extent… I’m frustrated when people watch the first two-hour pilot of Firefly and then give up on the show as too slow (“It picks up! I promise!”), but, yeah… asking for another 30 hour commitment is a bit much. B)

    (I’m obliquely reminded of the mistake I made in scaring my sister away from comics… she picked up one good issue that caught her interest, and teen nerd as I was, I told her she really needed to read these 200 other issues to really get it. She never expressed interest again. *doh!*)

  • MaryAnn

    You’re no longer talking about the material, but making some insinuations about people who like it.

    Yes, I am. I’m inviting people to explain what adults see in this. Because I really am genuinely mystified.

    I think it’s true to say that many of your readers want you to give this series a go and are eager to hear what you think. Were there behind the scenes conversations with certain readers in which you were told that you don’t know your own taste?

    No behind the scenes conversations. But in those comments, I was told that I would love this series, and I explained why I believed I would not. And those were the precise reasons why I did not enjoy it.

    Also, get your facts right, please,

    My facts *are* correct, thank you. It’s my interpretation that differs from yours.

    because the episode that you referred to when Aang “discovers that his home has been destroyed and everyone he knew and loved is long dead and gone, he grieves by… playing a game with Sooka” he still doesn’t believe that everyone is dead or that the place is deserted when he plays air-ball with Sokka (that is how you spell his name). He believes that they are hiding or are somewhere else in the Southern air temple.

    From those “facts,” I see a hamfisted and juvenile way of expressing coping with bad news. I do not see any interesting or involving dramatization of a child’s denial and fear. Aang knows he’s been gone for 100 years. He already knows everyone is dead. So you cannot honestly say — despite what the character *says* — that he really and truly believes everyone is hiding unless you believe he is mentally retarded, which he clearly is not.

    And I do know how to spell Sokka’s name, as you can clearly see earlier the paragraph. But thanks for pointing out the typo — I’ve fixed it.

    You also said that the show lacked wit and it’s humor only went as far as Sokka always being hungry, well, that is true, but these are kids, what you don’t understand about that, I have no idea.

    What I understand is that this is a story about children *for* children, not for adults. Just because the characters are kids doesn’t mean they *must* be depicted this way. In fact, we can look to Shyamalan’s *Sixth Sense* for a dramatization of a child’s grief in a sophisticated way that will appeal to adults.

    *Avatar* is not that. As I said in my review above, this is for children. I am not a child. I need more than what the simple, for-children story here gives us.

    Like I said, it is a shame you didn’t like the show, but it sounds like, to me, that you didn’t fully understand it and you went in with your opinion already formed. On top of that, you saw the movie first, which most likely played a part in many people not liking it as much, and may have also been the case for you.

    I refuse to accept this criticism. Think it if you like, but I’ve demonstrated plenty of times before that I am not locked into my own expectations. I *am* capable of enjoying — even loving — things I expected to hate, and vice versa. I would have been delighted to discover that I loved this show. I didn’t.

    I’m frustrated when people watch the first two-hour pilot of Firefly and then give up on the show as too slow (“It picks up! I promise!”)

    But that doesn’t mean they’re going to to like the rest of *Firefly*! They might, but they might not, too. If I were on the fence about *Avatar,* if I saw something to pique my interest, that might be reason to keep watching in the hopes that I’d like it even more. But *Avatar* bored the shit out of me. Why would I keep beating myself by continuing to watch it? Particularly when there’s so much other stuff I’d much rather watch, including new stuff I’d like to try?

    MaryAnn, would you consider it worthwhile to occasionally write about those changes of opinion? …

    You recently mentioned elsewhere that you have a lower tolerance for BS these days; it made me wonder if that means you would come down harder today on some films that you reviewed more favorably at the time. (Conversely, perhaps there are some films you didn’t care for at first, and reviewed negatively, but that grew on you after some repeat viewings?)

    I was thinking more specifically, in what I mentioned here, about rethinking my opinion before or even while I’m writing my review, and I often mention that process in my reviews (how the more I thought about a film the less or more I liked it). And I’ve had time to think over *Avatar* — I didn’t just watch it all yesterday and post a review immediately. I’ve had time to find ways I might change my mind about it. But I didn’t find any.

    But revisiting films from years ago? I wish I had time to do that! I would love to rewatch films and write about them again.

  • http://macgamer.com Corey Tamas

    Yes, I am. I’m inviting people to explain what adults see in this. Because I really am genuinely mystified.

    You’ve also said with brusk clarity that you’ve given this series all the attention and thought you’re prepared to give it. So what’s everyone’s motivation to make an earnest effort?

  • Chris

    Hasnt everyone learned this by now, if it’s not called Dr. Who and the show is not a true drama, Mary Ann will either initially or eventually hate/dislike the show. BBC is Mary Ann’s only acceptable network. :)

    That said, I dont love this series but I do think it is one of the better series for children to get into today, which isnt a large number to begin with. It reminds me of my youth watching Dragon Ball Z, not the greatest story in the world but it featured characters you cared for and wanted to root for.

    Just remeber to show your kids Batman: The Animated Series, which in my opinion is still the best kids show from the past 25 years

  • http://www.rogue-penguin.com TempestDash

    Context is king, especially in ways people frequently don’t recognize. There are things to appreciate in Airbender, but they are not the sort of things that one muses about for days on end, at least not yet.

    Why I point out context is because it was working against you, MaryAnn, in very real ways that were far from your ability to control.

    The first context, is of course, popular opinion. Which is impossible to divorce oneself of once they hear it, especially again and again and again. Some cognitive biases are very hard to overcome. When someone tells you Item A is the greatest thing in the whole world and you aren’t human until you experience it, you have to deal with confirmation bias. Which is to say, the human brain seeks to find evidence to support their initial conclusion and downplay evidence that contradicts it.

    Frankly, nothing could live up to the hype that surrounds Airbender these days. Certainly Airbender itself can’t live up to it, it was a kid’s cartoon on Nickelodeon, who’s previous breakout series included Rugrats and Spongebob. Anyone who isn’t predesposed to like Airbender after hearing so much crap about it, would have to overcome overwhelming confirmation bias. The first season simply isn’t that good compared to the second and third.

    Though it was trying to be edgy. Airbender shows the result of a successful genocide within the first handful of episodes. Just GETTING ON TELEVISION was an accomplishment. Which brings me to the second context, what it was trying to rise above.

    Perhaps there is no favorable comparison between Airbender and Lord of the Rings, or even Airbender and the similarly named “Avatar” from Cameron. When compared to the rest of the films reviewed on this website and the assigned scores, Airbender probably doesn’t rank in the high echelons. Especially since, as a TV series, it moves at a snails pace at first.

    But for a VERY large majority of Airbender fans, they came to the show as if taking a risk. They were cartoon fans (either from youth or because of Anime) and wanted to give it a shot, but knew the general quality of animated TV shows in the US (and recently, in Japan as well) is fairly low.

    Airbender, by that reckoning, was an incredible breath of fresh air. It had a season-long dramatic arc, which, frankly, is STILL incredibly rare in American animation (or Canadian, whatever. _Western Animation._) It had characters who grow and change. It shows people dealing with tragedy and setback, even on the good guys side. It had a villain driven by noble goal (seek my father’s approval) doing unscrupulous things (violence and potentially murder).

    The best way to view Airbender Season 1, and why I continue to like it even as I see it pale in comparison to later seasons and even, I fully admit, it’s more mature storytelling contemporaries on film, is that Season 1 establishes a direction the series intended to go in. It doesn’t actually get there until the very end, unfortunately, which makes the early episodes seem plodding in contrast.

    The point is, Airbender is really one story with a disturbingly high number of self-contained chapters. Season 1 is Act 1: we see characters, we get to know them, they act funny so as to try an charm their audience, and it establishes the danger or obstacle to overcome. Then, at the end of Season 1, we have the first climax: the villain (Zuko at this point) actually gets Aang but realizes he can do nothing on his own. He realizes his goal of finding the Avatar is NOT what he wants unless he can show him to his father.

    Season two is the second Arc, and it turns everything on its ear. Season two is when fans really stopped liking the series and started to love. The heroes start losing a lot. Zuko realizes his goals are muddied by his motivations and questions who he really is. The resentment the world feels towards the Avatar and the Fire Nation is revealed. It all becomes bigger and more important.

    But it couldn’t have done that if it hadn’t established a baseline, which is what Season 1 is. An unfortunately boring baseline.

    Given all that, I’m not convinced it’s really worth your time Mary Ann. I loved it, and I think it’s great, but my biases, the history of love for animation, and decades of disappointment with what I’ve seen come from western animation, set me up to like Airbender in a way I didn’t like other shows.

    But without that background, I question how much enjoyment you were ever going to get out of this show.

    Sorry for the essay. I suppose I could have just said: We love it for what it is, but it’s certainly not for everyone.

  • http://www.rogue-penguin.com TempestDash

    Wait, I just found a easier comparison!

    I don’t listen to any Jazz music, really, it’s just not part of my playlists. I listen to other music, symphonic, pop, some eastern genres, but not Jazz. Because of that, I cannot see how a musician like Miles Davis is such a standout in the genre. It’s just more Jazz, just like the rest of it.

    But there are millions of people who say Miles Davis is not just the best Jazz musician, but the best musician ever. Better than Beethhoven!

    I can’t understand that, and it makes no sense to me. Beethoven is excellent, better than any trumpet player, easily.

    Airbender is the same way for animation. Unless you love animation and have spent time trying to dissect it and compare it to its contemporaries until it becomes something all to its own, it’s hard to figure out why someone would say Airbender is better than all other TV instead of just another bit of Jazz.

  • CB

    But that doesn’t mean they’re going to to like the rest of *Firefly*! They might, but they might not, too.

    Frankly, if I showed someone the pilot and they didn’t like it, I wouldn’t expect them to like the rest of the series either. It has all the elements in the show that make it great, and its pacing is actually pretty par for the course. There’s a lot going on in that episode, so if someone is bored by the crew talking around the dinner table and wish there was more action, well, Firefly probably isn’t their show. And I certainly don’t think that the next two episodes, which are much weaker than the pilot, are going to change their minds.

    I can just see some people pressuring their friends into continuing. “I loved this show from the beginning, but I’m sure you’ll start loving it sometime in the middle, for some reason!”

    You’ve also said with brusk clarity that you’ve given this series all the attention and thought you’re prepared to give it. So what’s everyone’s motivation to make an earnest effort?

    So that she can understand what it is that people like about the show; what adults (that aren’t her) find appealing about it.

    Not to convince her that she was wrong to not enjoy it, and get her to watch more. That ship sailed.

    It’s up to you to decide if you would like to discuss the show you like with someone who is interested in why you like it, but isn’t going to join you in becoming a fan.

  • MaryAnn

    You’ve also said with brusk clarity that you’ve given this series all the attention and thought you’re prepared to give it. So what’s everyone’s motivation to make an earnest effort?

    So the only reason this could be worth discussing is if it convinces me to watch more?

    But without that background, I question how much enjoyment you were ever going to get out of this show.

    I think a story should work primarily *as a story.* If there’s other stuff going on as it relates to the history of the genre, or what other similar stories are or aren’t doing, that’s icing on the cake. But the cake itself should be enjoyable as cake.

    I cannot intellectualize myself into an emotional reaction. I can do the opposite: I can come up with all sorts of intellectual rationalizations to justify why I enjoy something on an emotional level (as I do with *Doctor Who,* sometimes). I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Because a story has to hit me on a gut level first. And sometimes the intellectual can be tied up inextricably with the emotional. But the intellectual without the emotional? That’s too cold and too unsatisfying for me.

    But I appreciate your explanation, TempestDash, because now I see what there is for an adult to appreciate in this show. Your jazz analogy is excellent (and I feel the same way about jazz as you do).

  • http://macgamer.com Corey Tamas

    So the only reason this could be worth discussing is if it convinces me to watch more?

    Not at all, and that’s not really what I was getting at. On the one hand you’re essentially saying “I’m done with this TV series and I’m not re-visiting”, while on the other it’s “I want someone to explain this to me”. That’s a mixed message.

  • JoshDM
    Yes, I am. I’m inviting people to explain what adults see in this. Because I really am genuinely mystified.

    You’ve also said with brusk clarity that you’ve given this series all the attention and thought you’re prepared to give it. So what’s everyone’s motivation to make an earnest effort?

    She also intimated in the original comment section for The Last Airbender that she had no interest in following-up on the film by watching any of the animation.

    For me, I enjoyed the heck out of the show, and explained my reasons in prior comments in other threads of this topic, can confirm that subsequent seasons are better than season one, and have stated that I became interested due to watching late-season episodes instead of starting from the beginning.

  • JoshDM

    Just remeber to show your kids Batman: The Animated Series

    Please tell me you’re watching Brave and the Bold. There are some excellent episodes in there (along with some failures).

  • MaryAnn

    On the one hand you’re essentially saying “I’m done with this TV series and I’m not re-visiting”, while on the other it’s “I want someone to explain this to me”. That’s a mixed message.

    In what way is this a mixed message? I’m not asking to be convinced to change my opinion — I just would like to understand why others hold the opinions they do.

    I really cannot win with this, can I? I devote time and attention to something that I wasn’t all that interested in but gave a fair shot anyway, and I’m accused of fixing my opinion in advance, and that I just wasn’t open enough to it. And when I ask for others to tell me what they see that I didn’t, I’m told I’m being contradictory.

    I think I’ve been extraordinarily open to being shown my expectations were wrong — as I have been in the past — and very open to continuing a conversation that, clearly, many people want to have. Where did I go wrong in any of this?

  • http://www.rogue-penguin.com TempestDash

    I think I’ve been extraordinarily open to being shown my expectations were wrong — as I have been in the past — and very open to continuing a conversation that, clearly, many people want to have. Where did I go wrong in any of this?

    You did nothing wrong. Fans just have a hard time understanding what an ‘opinion’ is:

    http://okazu.blogspot.com/2010/07/how-to-not-to-read-reviews.html

  • http://www.newbspeak.com Newbs

    Whew. Thanks for this review. People kept telling me how great Avatar is, but no matter how many times I tried to watch it I completely failed to see the appeal.

    I thought it was just me! My sneaking suspicion is that the people who love it so much were probably (males) between the ages of 12 and 15 when they first watched it, which means they’re not quite old enough now to have outgrown it (or are steadfastly refusing to acknowledge their nostalgia for what it is, young though it may be).

    Thanks for giving me a reason to quit trying to like this show, MaryAnn!

  • http://www.newbspeak.com Newbs

    Wicked Fix (Wed Jul 28 10, 11:48PM):

    When you watch it, You have to watch it with your inner child in mind at the same time. Just go along for the ride and have fun.

    I gotta say, Wicked Fix… keeping my “inner child” in mind does not sound appealing. This sentiment lends some credence to my suspicions about the emotional maturity level of Avatar’s fanbase. I’d rather be engaged at my current level without having to, you know, regress myself. I mean, it’s cool if you like it (however you have to intellectually manipulate yourself) but the Avatar proponents remind me too much of the kids I used to meet five years ago who begged me to watch Invader Zim.

    Yeah, yeah… I know. Holy shit, right? You love Invader Zim! :)

  • http://reformamendment.blogspot.com/ PaulW

    I think those of us still arguing for this tv series are just trying to convey to MaryAnn that 1) we loved watching Avatar the Last Airbender and 2) we normally love MaryAnn’s reviews and 3) we’re unable to reconcile that MaryAnn and Avatar aren’t meshing into any “like-fest” on MaryAnn’s part. :(

    It just kinda hurts that we’ve fallen in love with Avatar and that MaryAnn doesn’t see the appeal.

  • http://www.rogue-penguin.com TempestDash

    Thanks for giving me a reason to quit trying to like this show, MaryAnn!

    I can’t imagine a more unsatisfying experience. If you don’t like something, why spend time trying to force yourself to? Just stop. It’s not like there is a paltry number of shows or movies around that you can’t turn to in order to find something you genuinely like instead of just kinda maybe sorta made yourself tolerate.

    My sneaking suspicion is that the people who love it so much were probably (males) between the ages of 12 and 15 when they first watched it, which means they’re not quite old enough now to have outgrown it (or are steadfastly refusing to acknowledge their nostalgia for what it is, young though it may be).

    The funny thing about nostalgia is that it can happen to anyone, anytime, without warning. I loved MacGyver, but I now that I have the series box set, I have to say, there are a LOT of episodes that are kind of painfully silly or absurd. I still love the series as a concept. That doesn’t mean I’m regressing to the age at which I first watched it, it just means I recognize it’s importance to me and potentially for the era it was broadcast in.

  • http://www.newbspeak.com Newbs

    TempestDash (Thu Jul 29 10, 2:42PM):

    I can’t imagine a more unsatisfying experience.

    I can! :) But seriously: it’s tough when everybody you talk to says a show is so great and you just don’t agree… I kept trying out of respect for their opinions. MaryAnn’s review here is really the first time I’ve seen or heard anyone say it isn’t that great. Admittedly, I haven’t been able to drum up the desire to search for many opinions, so when this one fell in my lap I was able to shed an unpleasant task I didn’t even realize I’d assigned myself.

    I loved MacGyver, but I now that I have the series box set, I have to say, there are a LOT of episodes that are kind of painfully silly or absurd. I still love the series as a concept. That doesn’t mean I’m regressing to the age at which I first watched it, it just means I recognize it’s importance to me and potentially for the era it was broadcast in.

    Ha! I almost used this exact same example to make my point. I loved MacGyver so much when I was 12, but as you say… when I watch it now it just doesn’t hold up. So I like the idea of it, sure, but I also am willing to admit that my adult, intellectual mind sees how preposterous the entire concept is.

    Contrast MacGyver to another show from the same era: Quantum Leap. It’s my contention that Quantum Leap holds up to modern scrutiny… even now I find myself pulled into reruns if I happen to flip by when SyFy is doing one of their marathons (been a while since one of those… what gives?). Here’s a show in which I can recognize a personal importance, just like MacGyver, but I can also see that it’s a solid show that appeals to the adult in me in different ways than it did when I was a pre-teen.

  • Adina

    Newbs, you’re wrong about the ages of people who love ATLA. I’m a woman, and in my forties, and I watched it for the first time last year, and I love it.

    Most of my friends who love the show are a bit younger than me, but that just means that they were in their 30s when they watched for the first time.

    I did find the childish bits of many of the early episodes off-putting; however, I’d had that same experience with Cardcaptor Sakura, and I came to love that too, so I was willing to keep going.

    What I liked from the beginning of ATLA was that the antagonists were not portrayed as completely evil. Uncle Iroh can be stern, but he’s also loving and honorable. Zuko is filled with rage, but even he doesn’t kill needlessly. Stuff like that will keep me going.

  • Ryan H

    What I liked from the beginning of ATLA was that the antagonists were not portrayed as completely evil. Uncle Iroh can be stern, but he’s also loving and honorable. Zuko is filled with rage, but even he doesn’t kill needlessly. Stuff like that will keep me going.

    That’s… not exactly character depth. That any of the characters are more than a basic cardboard cutout is not a high bar. That should be the absolute minimum expectation for a mature watcher to get past episode 1, not the payoff for seasons of development.

    I get the appeal of shows aimed at a younger audience as an undemanding and brightly coloured diversion. But that should not be an invitation to confuse it with more complex and well rounded offerings.

  • http://www.rogue-penguin.com TempestDash

    I get the appeal of shows aimed at a younger audience as an undemanding and brightly coloured diversion. But that should not be an invitation to confuse it with more complex and well rounded offerings.

    And ATLA gets there, but it takes it’s sweet time, to the point where, if you hadn’t been tolerant of it’s rather timid steps in the early episodes, you’d never reach the point where the show becomes relevant. In many ways that is a serious detriment against the show. But, as I indicated before, it’s possible that only someone who is fluent in the limitations of western animation can fully recognize a series that is striving to break expectations while remaining in the environment where those limitations are most stringently enforced.

    Which is perhaps where the real nobility of ATLA shines through. It tried to tell a halfway decent story, even a GOOD story by some standards, but it did within an environment of oppression. They could have gone to Cartoon Network, or even to the broadcast networks and had a much more tolerant environment to work in. But they didn’t. They told a mature story and they told it to the audiences that watch Nickelodeon.

    Does that on its own make the story better than something like The Dark Knight or Lord of the Rings? Of course not. But it is still an accomplishment.

  • vucubcaquix

    It is what it is, folks. I have years of experience trying to inculcate friends and folks into animation and it’s different styles thereof. We in the anime community have a select group of works known as “gateway series”. For kids, it’d be the Dragonball or Sailor Moon shows, for someone older something like Ghost in the Shell, Nodame Canatabile, Mushishi, FLCL or Berserk depending on taste (my personal gateway series and still all-time favorite is FLCL which is a treatise on male adolescence and puberty wrapped in madcap action and comedy). And there’s the Miyazaki movies which may be the easiest of all to sell the merits of to the uninitiated.

    Some folks will be receptive, others not. A person may not be feeling it for myriad reasons. They either don’t like the plot, can’t become involved with the characters, feel as is they’re being pandered to, or can’t suspend their disbelief far enough to enjoy a certain genre of animation (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AnimationAgeGhetto). It’s not their fault, it’s just taste. Ironically, as I grow older I find it harder to watch something that isn’t animated because when I view an actor onscreen, I’m distracted by thoughts of what his or her real life must be like.

    If MaryAnn decides that something like this isn’t for her, well, she’s got other things to do with her time. She may or may not revisit the other books, but the pseudo-anonymity of this forum doesn’t lend itself very well to rational discussion of differing tastes, let alone persuading someone to change. It tends to quickly devolve into accusations and assumptions, then insults and name-calling. I see it everyday and in faster fashion on certain anonymous imageboards.

    P.S. I ended up really liking Avatar, but only after being dragged kicking and screaming back to it during a show swap with a friend. But my appreciation for the show increased as I saw the research and effort put into it from watching the extras (about a minute each):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ae0LQ-rVGI
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGvvXIrToYQ
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4RJUJ7fisw8
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NO2b60GOn4

    Not to mention all of the bilingual bonuses and even stronger ties to (and criticisms of) Buddhist philosophies during the book of fire.

  • http://bluejaysway.wordpress.com/ Bluejay

    I recommend TempestDash’s link above, to Okazu, as well.

    And I think PaulW has a point, too:

    I think those of us still arguing for this tv series are just trying to convey to MaryAnn that 1) we loved watching Avatar the Last Airbender and 2) we normally love MaryAnn’s reviews and 3) we’re unable to reconcile that MaryAnn and Avatar aren’t meshing into any “like-fest” on MaryAnn’s part. :(

    As irrational as it is, it’s tough to take a dissenting opinion from someone whose writing and ideas you respect and usually agree with. We may be lulled into thinking that we’re always on the same wavelength, at least regarding the topics we hold dear; and it’s a surprise to learn that, naturally, it’s not always the case.

    I suspect it’s a little like when I found out that Philip Pullman thinks Tolkien’s work is “fundamentally infantile”: he has a right to his opinion and his reasons for it, but it was just a shock for me to disagree so completely with someone whose own work I greatly admire.

  • http://www.newbspeak.com Newbs

    Adina (Thu Jul 29 10, 3:23PM):

    Newbs, you’re wrong about the ages of people who love ATLA. I’m a woman, and in my forties, and I watched it for the first time last year, and I love it.

    Well, of course I was being facetious — but I’m sure you knew that. :)

  • Matt C

    The show for me is just okay. For me, it lifts too much from better shows like “Dragonball Z”, and the dialogue is too expository (much like M. Night’s dialogue in the film version). I watched some episodes on NickToons the other day, and I was “Eh, it’s okay. Don’t really see the appeal.”

    I don’t see why MAJ is being attacked for not liking the show (or movie that’s based on it). She gave the show a chance, didn’t like what she saw and made it clear.

  • stchivo

    Just have to say that this is why I like Maryann’s reviews. Even when I like something and she doesn’t, her reasons are always sound and I usually can’t argue with them. What she points out is spot on, in this case it just didn’t bother me and I was still entertained, go figure, I tend to be easily entertained. Another perfect example, I loved Speedracer (I know, I’m almost the only one) but I can’t disagree with why Maryann disliked it.

  • MaryAnn

    As irrational as it is, it’s tough to take a dissenting opinion from someone whose writing and ideas you respect and usually agree with.

    I understand this. I’ve had the same experience myself — I’m sure everyone has. It doesn’t mean we can’t still be friends. :->

    the pseudo-anonymity of this forum doesn’t lend itself very well to rational discussion of differing tastes, let alone persuading someone to change. It tends to quickly devolve into accusations and assumptions, then insults and name-calling.

    I hope this is *not* the case here. I’ve worked hard — and so have my regular commenters — to keep the tone civil and the level of conversation intelligent here, even when there are disagreements.

  • JoshDM

    Contrast MacGyver to another show from the same era: Quantum Leap. It’s my contention that Quantum Leap holds up to modern scrutiny.

    I saw the MacGuyver post and decided I’d post about Quantum Leap and lo and behold, I read the next post and…

    You know what doesn’t hold up? Greatest American Hero. Holy cow that show is shit.

  • http://www.rogue-penguin.com/wp TempestDash

    You know what doesn’t hold up? Greatest American Hero. Holy cow that show is shit.

    Hah! Netflix is recommending me to watch that show on Instant Watch all the time and I keep getting tempted to give it a whirl for old times sake. So far I’ve come to my senses every time and decided that the show is best remembered and perhaps not re-experienced.

    I did like that show a lot when I first watched it, though.

  • Jay31

    First post. This site caught my attention. Big fan of Avatar but I just discovered the series in May. Its definitely one the greatest epic stories thats came out in awhile. I compare it to Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, only difference is its a cartoon. Book 1 lays the foundation. Book 2 is like Empire Strikes Back, it opens the storyline up and develops the characters. Book 3 is the conclusion and the ending is so satisfying. U grow an attachment to the characters like a real movie. Its a shame Shyamalan screwed this great story up. Definitely don’t waste your time if u hate it, its takes patience but u are missing out on a classic story, not just a kid tv show. The creators & writers of this show are brilliant, they definitely did their homework on the mythology, story etc. Im 33 and got my friends watchin it now. I told them once u learn the storyline, you’ll be hooked & I was right.

  • Bill

    “You know what doesn’t hold up? Greatest American Hero. Holy cow that show is shit.” – JoshDM

    jesus christ. truer words were never spoken.

  • Muzz

    A lot of the love for this show expressed here seems to be The Serial Effect (which may have a real name, but that’s all I’ve got right now). It sounds dismissive I know. It’s not meant to be. I’ve never watched it. But bear with me.

    It’s the way people start quoting their age and resumes to justify that they are intelligent sophisticated viewers, so therefore the show must be very high quality. Thing is, it doesn’t necessarily follow. I would accept that it is of a reasonable level of quality and would have to be in order to get people watching for a long time. But it’s after a certain number of episodes that the details start to hit Geek Density and people are well and truly hooked. There’s no requirement for great art and sophistication to achieve this.

    Every soap opera and every one of those ginormous (largely pulp rubbish) fantasy or vampire book series have very dedicated followings that you can find with a little digging. People who, when you ask them why they like it, will say the same stuff: the characters, the plots etc. And then they’ll give you a barrage of knotty details that took half the series to establish and if you just watched/read up until there… It’s almost an emergent property.

    Quite often these folks are outside the ostensible ‘core audience’ and quite often they are perfectly intelligent people of some age and wisdom. Ask them about other series or other kinds of serials and they’re as likely as not to say they are mystified by what people see in them: they’re not into the rubbish those people like, nono, far too discerning. They’re thing is clearly better. They don’t consider themselves ‘serial people’ in that sense. There’s only one thing or two they like like that! But it is something similar happening.

    This isn’t to say that all things that achieve this effect are bad or lightweight (I think The Wire manages it too. And that is clearly the finest thing ever made) but being those things isn’t necessarily an obstacle to achieving The Serial Effect (achieving it correctly is its own kind of art too, rarely the one to mark something as high standard).

    Whatever kernel you find in a show that got you watching in the first place can be completely divorced from any high minded standard of quality that might exist and is completely unrelated to the supposed sophistication of the reader/viewer. Likewise the complexity that develops and keeps you watching doesn’t mark the show as great art either, so should be used with caution in any argument for the quality of something.

    Avatar:TLAB might be a well done show for all sorts of reasons, but you might also be a serial geek.

  • JoshDM

    ANIMATED SEQUEL TO AIRBENDER

    Just in case you didn’t read it in the other threads about Airbender, Avatar : The Legend of Korra is in development.

  • Jay31

    I remember my art professor would tell us that the value of art is always determined by the eye of the beholder whether its paintings, literature, film etc. Thats why their’s never a consensus from critics and regular folks like myself. U got those who take it for what it is and u got those who have to prove their intelligence and over analyze it. That being said my explanation of why I love the show so much. What caught my attention at first was the action. I’ll admit the animation is choppy at times but the action scenes were epic & very fluid but I honestly believe that the creators did that on purpose cause the cartoon has mixed styles of animation, not like the cheap 70s Hanna Barbera cartoons. Then I liked the comedy of show. The show has a great balance of comedy, action, drama. Then I started to pay attention to the story(nick marathons of course) & by the middle of the 2nd season I was hooked especially when Toph comes in. The cartoon appealed to kids but it was definitely made for teenagers and adults. The details of show are so concrete u cant help but to believe in this world. From the history & politics to the clothes & money the kids used in different cities. I’m still lookin for mistakes the writers might have made in the back story. Even the filler episodes(and there is alot) have purpose. It all comes together at the end of 3rd season. I dont watch alot TV but I havent been excited bout a show like this since Curb your Enthusiasm & Seinfeld which I started watchin 6 years ago.I just love great writing & story telling.

  • History of Bubbles

    Eeheehee. I’ve seen a little bit of “Avatar,” and I was impressed by the characters that felt like real kids, the fairly lush backgrounds and sense of place (a hallmark of Japanese and European animation and comics, but often absent in American works IMO), and generally the ambitiousness of a fully serialized cartoon series, which is pretty rare in America. At the same time, I didn’t feel engaged by it dramatically, and the emotions felt kind of “flat” in the way that MaryAnn describes. In the end it never really grabbed me.

    So basically, while I can appreciate the ways in which many other people like it, I also very much enjoyed reading a negative review. I guess since I take a dispassionate view on the show, I like seeing both opinions articulated.

    And I must admit I like seeing the pot stirred. :D

  • Minty

    As an adult, I did not start watching this series from the beginning, I watched somewhere near the end of Book 2 and the rest of Book 3. The last two books are definitely my favorites in the series. When I finally got to Book 1, I was disappointed because it wasn’t as good as the other latter books. But if you take the series as a whole, the characters really do evolve through 3 books and there’s so much transformation and growth.

    I don’t think this has been mentioned but in the last 2 books and even a bit in the 1st book, there’s so much social justice and wisdom tied into the story arc–this is what makes me, as an adult, love this series. In Book 3, Aang struggles with the concept of ending one person’s life–when everyone in series justifies ending one person’s life by an eye for an eye, Aang believes there has to be an alternative way. In another chapter of book 3, we learn that a factory (from the Fire Nation) takes over the land and water of a village and heavily pollutes it. The factory claims its helping the village but really, they are making the villagers sick with their pollution. Katara empowers the whole village to reclaim their land and water from the factory and in the end, the villagers help clean up and restore their waters. These are just some issues that you can tie into real life and one of the main reasons I love this series so much. You really can’t just judge the series based on the first book even though it does have some social justice issues in it (example: the chapter with Hei Bai spirit, ealing with genocide) but the whole series is all about balance.

    Speaking of balance and tying it into Asian cultures and mythologies, it’s not often you see an American cartoon depict cultures from different countries that are not European. Not only did this cartoon introduce the social justice aspect but it opened up the eyes of many to Asian cultures and mythologies–that’s something that Narnia or Lord of the Rings can’t do (because they’re based on European mythologies and I also didn’t see much social justice related issues in those series). Avatar the Last Airbender series showed Asian cultures and mythologies in a way that didn’t stereotype.

  • Jurgan

    Well, I’ll try to explain my fascination with the show as best I can. However, I’m definitely not going to tell you “keep watching, it gets better.” I would do that for something like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which had a mediocre first season but a solid gold second season (if you do ever watch that, it might be best just to start with S2 and use wikipedia to see what you missed, and save yourself nine hours). But I wasn’t even aware that there was a feeling amongst so many that the first season of Avatar was greatly inferior to the second. I like all three seasons, and while the second might be better, it’s not enough of a gulf for me to recommend it to someone who didn’t like the first season at all. The three seasons follow the same classical three act structure as the Star Wars trilogy: the first season introduces the world and the characters and can largely stand alone, the second season expands it, adds some new characters, and ends on a downer note, and the third season may be a bit weaker but still works as a good ending. Now, many Star Wars fans feel Empire is the best Star Wars movie, but I’m sure you’d agree that someone who didn’t find anything appealing in A New Hope probably wouldn’t be swayed by Empire Strikes Back. The reason why the second part works is because you’re already in love with the world and want to see more of it. If you’re bored by the world already, seeing more probably won’t change your mind.

    That said, I’m not sure I can sum up my feelings succinctly, so instead I’ll try to respond directly to some of your criticisms. I have to say, though, I was a bit put off by your saying that “it’s not for adults” and “there’s no depth to it.” Just because you don’t see any depth doesn’t mean it’s not there. I only bring it up because you normally come down hard on comments that state opinions as fact.

    Four different nations corresponding to the traditional elements — air, water, fire, and earth — and the people of those nations can manipulate their national element but not the others? That feels like a game of Magic: The Gathering, not a functioning human society. Even if you want to attribute the magical abilities to genetics, there wouldn’t be such clear-cut divisions in powers: it would be like saying that people can have white hair or black hair or red hair, but no shades anywhere along the spectrums between.

    Well, the last thing I’d want is to have a character sit down and explain the way the world works, as Katara’s grand-mother did in the movie. That was my biggest problem with the movie- so much of the dialogue was pure exposition, rather than actual conversation. There are hints along the way that explain how it all works- sort of like you said with Firefly, it drops you into the world and expects you to pick it up as you go. For example, in The Fortuneteller (which you did see), we meet two identical twins, only one of whom is an earthbender. Genetics is part of it, but clearly not everything. If your parents were earthbenders, you might have the potential to be an earthbender, but even if you do, there’s no guarantee you’ll actually develop that ability. Part of it may also be cultural- the earthbenders are raised by other earthbenders, so that’s what they learn how to do. Katara’s a waterbender, but she’s the only one in her village- for whatever reason, none of the others managed to learn. Sokka clearly wouldn’t have the temperament or patience to master waterbending. There are some shades of it, too- some earthbenders can bend sand, and some can’t. One waterbender is able to control other people by bending their blood, in one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever seen attempted in a children’s show.. These are the sorts of discussions that fans enjoy- picking it apart and finding explanations. Heck, how does the Force work? What, so Leia was Luke’s sister yet she never felt so much as a tingle of the Force until the end of Empire?

    And certainly not so that it would be possible for, every generation, a single Avatar and not one more, a sort of Dalai Lama-esque figure, to arise, someone who can control all the elements magically and hence somehow keep the peace among the nations.

    To quote Sokka (in a later episode): “That’s Avatar stuff. That doesn’t count.” The Avatar is a spirit that possesses different people. It’s not passed genetically- it’s a spiritual power that’s outside the rest of the world. Now, you probably won’t understand all of it, but you pick up bits and pieces as you go. The first episode of season 2 explains a good bit more about how the Avatar spirit works. There are spirits here that can influence the world in clear ways. Yes, the “magic” of bending is real, but the spiritual aspects of the avatar is separate. To carry on my Star Wars analogy, hyperdrives and blasters are things everyone has access to and is accepted as fact, but the powers of the Jedi are a separate thing entirely. The kid can do stuff no one else fully understands, but after a while they accept that it exists and can be trusted.

    stilted, juvenile writing

    Really? I don’t know where this comes from. I think the writing’s terrific. And I think there’s a lot of good humor, particularly from Sokka (no, it’s not all about food, though that’s certainly a lot of it). After Katara finds out she has healing powers:

    Sokka: That would have been helpful in the past- like when I got two fishhooks caught in my thumb!
    Aang: Two?
    Katara: He tried to get the first hook out with a second hook.

    I’m not going to tell you you’re wrong if you didn’t laugh, but it wasn’t just “I’m so hungry” over and over.

    I’ve got to go, but I’ll post some more later.

  • Jason Bolt

    This review is either dishonest or the viewer just didn’t care to pay attention. This is evidenced by when she refers to how Aang deals with loss “by…playing a game with Sokka?” If the reviewer had been paying attention, she’d remember that at that moment Aang had not yet realized/accepted the fact that his people were wiped out, partially because Katara was hiding the evidence from him. Once Aang found the skeleton of his mentor Gyatso, he broke down (in a rather terrifying way, thanks to his Avatar powers).

    The subject is later brought up in the heart-wrenching episode “The Storm”, where Aang deals with guilt over leaving his people right before they were wiped out. The episode also deals with the past of Zuko, and how his father scarred him then banished him. I’m at a loss as to how the reviewer forgot to mention the characters of Zuko and Iroh at all, as they are the most interesting in the show.

    As for why people over the age of 10 enjoy watching the show- I love the fantasy world of Avatar, and don’t see the problems the reviewer does. Another part is the characters. Zuko and Iroh are the strongest characters of season 1, and season 2 introduces the villainous sister of Zuko, Azula, and the tough-as-rocks tomboy Toph. Another big draw of the show is the intricate action sequences, but I suppose that doesn’t appeal to the reviewer.

  • Jurgan

    I’m continuing without checking to see if anyone’s responded to me yet. Where was I? Oh, yes, the bit about Aang at the temple.

    because the episode that you referred to when Aang “discovers that his home has been destroyed and everyone he knew and loved is long dead and gone, he grieves by… playing a game with Sooka” he still doesn’t believe that everyone is dead or that the place is deserted when he plays air-ball with Sokka (that is how you spell his name). He believes that they are hiding or are somewhere else in the Southern air temple.

    From those “facts,” I see a hamfisted and juvenile way of expressing coping with bad news. I do not see any interesting or involving dramatization of a child’s denial and fear. Aang knows he’s been gone for 100 years. He already knows everyone is dead. So you cannot honestly say — despite what the character *says* — that he really and truly believes everyone is hiding unless you believe he is mentally retarded, which he clearly is not.

    (Hope I did the quoting right) I just watched that episode earlier today to make sure I remembered it correctly, and I have to say you missed the point. Maybe you’re getting the timeline mixed up- that’s understandable, as you were probably doing other stuff at the same time (that’s not a criticism- I often use the computer and watch TV simultaneously), but it’s gotten you confused this time. First off, he certainly doesn’t know that everyone’s dead. Some of his friends were very young and could have still been alive. Heck, just two episodes later we meet Aang’s childhood friend Bumi, now the Earth King (well, one of them). There’s also some suggestion later in the series that some people in this world could live considerably longer than we can (I think The Guru said he was over two hundred- am I remembering that right, anyone?), but that’s not really relevant. Here’s the point:

    When they first arrive at the temple, Aang’s excited about seeing “the monks,” because he doesn’t believe the Fire Nation could have made it here. Katara’s worried that they’ve been destroyed, since no one’s seen them in a while, but Aang’s confident they would have escaped, and are in hiding because they don’t know who these newly arrived people are. While he talks about Monk Gyatso, his father-figure, he never mentions him specifically as someone he’s expecting to see. He is upset, though, because it’s starting to hit him that Gyatso and many of the others he knew are dead. So Sokka plays a game with him to try to take his mind off it. At this point, he’s in a bit of denial, but it’s fairly normal, healthy grief. The real trauma hasn’t hit yet.

    Picture this: You’re in a coma for twenty years. When you wake up, you’re excited to see your family again. You keep thinking especially about you grand-father. Of course, he was eighty-five when you went in, so you know he’s probably dead, but you still can’t help think of him. And even if he is dead, you’ve still got a large extended family who’ll be waiting for you. But then you find out that your grand-father didn’t die peacefully in his sleeping. Rather, he was brutally murdered. Bad enough, but all the rest of your family were murdered as well by the same person (someone who’s still out there, incidentally). So not only to you have to think about how your family died horribly, but you’ve got no one left with you. You’re now the Last Johanson: how are you going to deal with it? Now multiply that to include your entire culture, and you’ve got what Aang had happen.

    Once Aang found the bodies of Gyatso and the others, he realized that they were all gone. Up until then, he knew he would be unlikely to find many people who knew him, but he figured there were still Air Nomads out there, and they’d be willing to take him in. Maybe they could tell him stories about what happened to his old friends and teachers. Once he realized that a complete genocide had taken place, he didn’t go off to play- he went nuts, let the Avatar spirit take him over, and nearly blew up the whole fucking temple. I think that’s a pretty realistic reaction to what he went through.

    And as is to be expected from a relatively modest TV series, the animation is not particularly inspiring or beautiful: it’s functional at best. The lack of feeling and soul in the story and in the serviceable voice performances is not made up for by stylish, emotional, or dramatic visuals, as is often the case when animation does work to engage the adult imagination.

    Well, now, I think the animation is gorgeous. Maybe some of the faces aren’t incredibly detailed, but that’s okay. Some of the animation is inspired by Gainax, and some by Miyazaki. The faces, for instance, are clearly influenced by FLCL. And Koh, the face-stealing demon, looks just like a Miyazaki creature- it could have been lifted straight out of Spirited Away (Koh was also downright terrifying- I’m sure a lot of kids got nightmares from that scene). I’m going to quote something a friend of mine wrote to better explain what I’m getting at:

    Why does “The Spectacular Spider-Man” look the way it does? Why are the models so streamlined and stylized when we grew up with cartoons where the character models were very detailed?

    The answer is this, it is easier to animate and to animate well. To those who keep on citing shows like “G.I. Joe”, “He-Man”, and other shows from that era, take off the nostalgia tinted glasses and go back and actually look at them. The character models look good when they are static, but the animation is really slow and lousy.

    When Bruce Timm first set out to produce “Batman: The Animated Series”, people complained about his streamlined character models, I know it might not seem like it considering how universally praised he is today, but it was not the case. Why did he do that? Because he knew you got better animation out of it. Less lines to draw means less lines to animate, especially on a TV budget.

    If you want those detailed models and good animation, you need the budget of a feature length Disney movie, and even then it’s still not a good idea.

    I think the same applies to Avatar. The models aren’t enormously detailed most of the time, but where it shows is the kung-fu sequences. Kung-fu master Sifu Kisu performed the motion capture for the action scenes, and it shows. All the bending moves are actual kung-fu moves, based on several different styles (tai chi for waterbending, for instance). The action thus is smooth and gripping. Battles are fast-moving and thrilling. They could have made the characters much more detailed, but drawing complicated characters over and over again would have made fluid motion much more difficult. Instead, they went with a style that allows ease of animation, which leads to well-staged, dynamic scenes.

    As for “serviceable” voice acting, well, I’ll have to disagree on that one, too. Partly. Some of the voice actors, especially the late Mako (Iroh), are excellent from the beginning. However, he was already an established actor. I may be mistaken, but I think they said that for Avatar, they always cast by actual age. Rather than a forty-five year old woman, Aang was actually played by a young boy. This makes the show feel more authentic, but it also naturally leaves them with some inexperienced actors. Listening earlier to the early episode I rewatched, I can hear some flatness in the voice performance, particularly Katara and Aang. This is one area that I feel definitely improves over time.

    Anyway, moving on. While I said earlier that I don’t think season one is considerably worse than the others, it did have a number of filler episodes. I was particularly bored when an entire episode would center around Zuko trying to catch Aang, because it was obvious he’d fail anyway (I referred to those as “Zuko E. Coyote” episodes). From a plotting standpoint, it’s somewhat dull, but from a character standpoint, it’s inevitable. The whole point is that Zuko really has no chance of success. Zuko’s the most complex character on the show. He never admits it, but it eventually becomes clear that his father ordered him to capture the Avatar expecting him to fail- after all, he hadn’t been seen in a century. Zuko can’t face the fact that his father was an abusive monster, and is trapped on a hopeless quest because he wants to earn his father’s love. This brings him into conflict with Zhao early on. Zhao is fiercely loyal to the Fire Nation and views Zuko as a traitor. At the same time, he knows Zuko’s a better man than he is, which leads him to an obsessive hatred. After Zuko wins the duel in their first meeting, and Zhao tries to backstab him:

    Iroh: Even in exile, my nephew is more honorable than you. And thank you for the tea- it was delicious.
    Zuko: Uncle- did you really mean that?
    Iroh: Of course. I told you, ginseng tea is my favorite.

    Little moments like that establish just how much Iroh cares for Zuko, and that he’s more of a father than Ozai ever was. Zuko ends up taking the drastic measure of freeing the Avatar in “The Blue Spirit.” Perhaps an obvious plot point, but it shows just how far Zuko has gone, and leads Zhao to outright hatred of this treacherous prince. And yet Zuko still tries to save Zhao in the end.

    I’ll go ahead and spoil, since I doubt anyone reading this thread is still watching the show. The second season introduces Azula, Zuko’s sister, who’s their dad’s favorite, and also kind of crazy. Zuko establishes the relationship at the end of season 1, muses out loud and talking to an unconscious Aang:
    “You remind me of my sister. My father says she was born lucky. He says I was lucky to be born. That’s okay, though. I don’t need luck- I don’t want it. I’ve had to work hard for everything in my life and it’s made me strong. It’s made me who I am.”
    That one speech just blows me away every time. Zuko being so proud of his hard life because it made him a better person- it’s just a great character moment, and the actor does a stellar job delivering it. Anyway, Azula starts chasing Aang instead, as well as Zuko. Eventually, though, Zuko and Iroh start living on their own, and Zuko starts to find inner peace. And then Azula shows up with the perfect way to capture the Avatar and the biggest city in the Earth Kingdom at the same time, and asks for Zuko’s help. On the other hand, Iroh tries to convince him to give up his quest and join with Aang and the others (he’d already spent a good bit of time bonding with Katara in a prison). Now, the easy way is to have Zuko join up with the good guys at this time. Instead, he makes his biggest mistake by helping Azula. He goes back a hero, wins the acceptance of his father, and- realizes he doesn’t really want it. Only then does he join up with Aang and turn his back on the fire nation. See, joining when he had nothing to lose wouldn’t have shown any strength. But seeing him get everything he ever wanted, only to throw it away because it was the right thing to do- that’s a much stronger moment. It angered Zuko fans at the time, but it was worth it.

    Someone said that the complex villains are part of what makes this show good, and I agree. Someone else responded that that’s a bare minimum for adult entertainment. Well- no, not really, at least not for popular entertainment. Maybe you want it, but it’s not a given. Look at the other Avatar, James Cameron’s. You want to talk simplistic writing- explain to me the complexity of Colonel Killy McDeath and Mr. Slimy Corporate Suit. Or the average James Bond movie. Heck, even Star Wars- the Empire is ridiculously evil. Except for the rather quick redemption of Darth Vader, you’ve got Emperor Snidely Whiplash and Grand Moff “Blow Up a Planet Because It’ll Scare People.” It may sound like I’m bashing Star Wars a lot, but I love Star Wars too. I like more, though, a villain whom I can understand, even while I disagree. And in Avatar, not only are the bad guys not all bad (with the exception of Ozai himself, who’s in the Sauron role of pure evil that motivates the other, more complex characters), but the good guys aren’t all good. Look at the blatant sexism in the Northern Water Tribe. I like the idea of Katara standing up for herself when she’s told her gender made her less of a person. And in season two, we get Toph, a Ripley-type character who was designed as a male but flipped to a female without being significantly changed. She’s a powerful earthbender whose role in the show has nothing to do with her being a girl. There are some very good female role models. As for flawed heroes, we see it even more at the end of season 2 in Ba Sing Se, which is run by a corrupt secret police more interested in keeping order than protecting the people. They fill the Dolores Umbridge role- someone who should be on the heroes’ side but end up being just another villain.

    The end of season 2 was pretty daring, for a kids’ cartoon. Actually, it’s very similar to Empire Strikes Back, to the point where I think it was a deliberate reference (and I don’t think it’s unfair to lift elements from other stories if they feel natural- I don’t think it’s a ripoff). Aang abandons training with his mentor because he senses his friends are in danger and rushes to save them, but ends up losing a critical battle and getting crippled, while Iroh is imprisoned by the Fire Nation. The main characters just barely escape with their lives. Plus there’s Zuko’s betrayal, which I already mentioned. It’s rare for a kids’ show to end on such a down note and trust kids (and parents) to deal with it.

    Someone mentioned powerful themes in the story, and they’re certainly there. One of them is civil disobedience, and asking where true loyalty belongs. For instance, the Fire Nation priest tries to help the Avatar, despite the Fire Lord demanding he turn him in, because he sees his religious duty to protecting the world as a higher calling than following orders of his nation. Perhaps this doesn’t work for a nonreligous person, but surely you appreciate the idea of choosing whether to stand up for an ideal or taking the easy route and doing what you’re told. Zuko is a bigger example- he ultimately realizes that overthrowing his father is actually a way of helping the Fire Nation overcome its warring nature. The other aspect I really love is the world-building. Early in S2, we get the legend of how Omashu was founded, and it sounds like a real legend. In Ba Sing Se, we see a beautiful modern city, but eventually realize it’s corrupt at the core, thanks to the Dai Li (the above-mentioned secret police). In S3, we see the Fire Nation at last, and realize how the citizens are brainwashed. The students say a daily pledge to the Fire Lord and are told lies about their own history, such as the claim that they slaughter of the Air Nomads was an honorable battle (the true history goes straight down the memory hole). That episode also has one of the funniest moments of the series, in which Sokka pretends to be Aang’s father (“[My name is] Fire. Wang Fire.” Great pseudonym there.). And then, when Zuko confronts his father, he dismisses the idea, taught to citizens, that they’re spreading civilization by war as a self-serving lie. Many fans saw that as a knock at American imperialism. I don’t know if that was intended, but if the shoe fits…

    Anyway, that’s my dissertation. I hope it helps, and I hope 3,000 words wasn’t too much (yikes, am I still talking?). What surprises me is that you and I agree almost completely on animated features, yet not on animated TV shows (aside from adult comedies like The Simpsons or Futurama). Maybe it’s for the best that you never got around to watching Gargoyles (I thought you’d like that mainly for the well-researched Scottish history and the Shakespeare references, plus the plethora of Star Trek actors, but it might not have been enough). But you were moved by Spirited Away, which was a fairly simple story- a very good one, but simple. I thought Happy Feet looked terrible (most of the ads were little more than Robin Williams mugging for the microphone), but I saw it solely on your recommendation, and loved it. I still haven’t seen Meet the Robinsons, but I will. And, of course, The Incredibles. The point is, I thought you were the type who appreciated animated storytelling. I thought that you understood that animation could be used to tell any type of story. Yet your recent comment that you can’t imagine dramatic stories being as good when animated gives me pause. Something like Grave of the Fireflies is immensely powerful as it is. The same story could be told in live action, but it wouldn’t be the same movie. It might be a good movie nonetheless, but, as you’ve said, there’s no such thing as a good story that’s poorly told. How it’s done is as important as what’s done, and some people are skilled at telling dramatic stories through animation. It sounded like what you meant was that animation’s not an appropriate medium for adult stories, which is an attitude that always makes me angry. However, it doesn’t really square with your earlier reviews, so I’m left confused. I hope this conversation helps us better understand one another.

  • JoshDM

    You’re now the Last Johanson: how are you going to deal with it? Now multiply that to include your entire culture, and you’ve got what Aang had happen.

    FlickFilosopher: The Last Johanson; The Legend of MAJ.

  • Chris

    I’ve never seen the TV show, and never will (generally, I can’t stand Japanese animation; nothing to do with the story, I just hate the art). But this reminds me, somewhat, of Mystery Science Theater 3000. I am a devoted Mystie, but I know many people just think the show’s stupid. Now, I can roll my eyes and say “they just don’t get it,” but that’s not true. As MaryAnn has said, you can’t argue someone into enjoying something.

    People: she doesn’t like your show. Get over it. I could spend decades carefully analyzing every word of the Twilight series, and all the philosophical implications. I will still think it’s shit; sorry, but that’s the way it is. MaryAnn disagrees with you… drop it and move on. Why does her criticism of a freaking kids show stab at you like this?

  • jay31

    @ Jurgan or anybody that can answer:

    I have a question and u seem like u followed the series pretty closely. I just finished it recently. My question would be did Zuko’s Mom poison Firelord Azulan so Ozai could become firelord and wouldnt kill Zuko his first born? Is that why she was banished? The show never goes in detail about that, kinda leaves it up for grabs. I just remember in Book 3 Chptr 11 when Zuko confronted his dad, Firelord Ozai told him “your mother knew how bad I wanted to be firelord, she did treasonous things that night, therefore she was banished..”, and in Book 2 “Zuko Alone”, it was mentioned that firelord Azulan was healthy but then all of a sudden he died & the mother disapeared.If not then why was she banished? Makes no sense she would be banished just because she stuck up for son & wouldnt let her him be sacrificed by his father. Or is it, we will never know and thats the way the writers wanted it? Avatar ties up everything neatly at the end except this.

  • MaryAnn

    The models aren’t enormously detailed most of the time, but where it shows is the kung-fu sequences. Kung-fu master Sifu Kisu performed the motion capture for the action scenes, and it shows.

    Er, I’d like to see such detailed animation the faces of the characters, then, not in the kung-fu.

    The point is, I thought you were the type who appreciated animated storytelling. I thought that you understood that animation could be used to tell any type of story.

    Animation is just a medium. Animation is not the story itself. And it simply does not follow that just because I’ve liked or even loved some animated stories in the past that I will like or love *every* animated story.

    Maybe it’s for the best that you never got around to watching Gargoyles (I thought you’d like that mainly for the well-researched Scottish history and the Shakespeare references, plus the plethora of Star Trek actors, but it might not have been enough)

    All those things you mention: They’re not the story. Historical and literary references only work well within the context of a well-told story. Maybe *Gargoyles* is a well-told story; maybe it isn’t. But the fact that you mention these things thinking they’ll entice me suggests that you don’t understand why I appreciate any movie (or TV, or book): for the story.

  • amanohyo

    Just out of curiosity, how does Avatar compare to Naruto (original series nonfiller, pre-Shippuden)? Although I’ve never seen Avatar, the concepts seem roughly similar. Naruto (like Gargoyles and every Gundam series and Dragonball Z… and Pro Wrestling) is clearly a show for children and preteens. How are the writing and plot elements in Avatar more mature than those found in the average shonen manga? I get the sense reading these replies that there is a greater emphasis on character development than pure action, that the writing is less melodramatic, and that the world is more fleshed out; is that generally the case?

    I guess my question is, if you only had enough time to watch one animated series, why would you pick Avatar rather than one of the many anime series that are also populated with sympathetic villains living in a universe where people can use elemental magic and also feature a ragtag group of episodic adventurers that happens to include a young, male chosen one, who is coincidentally the precise age of the target audience? The lack of pandering, sexist fanservice is a definite plus, but what else does it have to offer that makes it stand out from the crowd?

  • Jurgan

    Er, I’d like to see such detailed animation the faces of the characters, then, not in the kung-fu.

    That’s fine, but unless you have an enormous budget, it’s very hard to animate detailed models doing much. Think about how much effort it takes to draw such detail, and then think about doing it thousands of times in many different poses. Unless you have a lot of time and money, you end up with clunky, awkwardly moving characters who don’t do very much. I suppose you could have very detailed talking heads, but they wouldn’t be able to do much. I think the faces show plenty of expression- they just chose to do so in an exaggerated fashion. It works, for me.

    The point is that animation isn’t supposed to imitate reality, but represent it. You railed against Beowulf, and the takeaway I got from that review was that there’s no point in trying to imitate the human face perfectly in animation, because you’ll never be able to do as well as simple live action filming. Now you’re asking for more detail in faces, when you hated Zemeckis trying to give too much detail in faces. Good animation is a stylized representation of reality, not a literal imitation. I think the overabundance of CGI is leading many people to think that being more “realistic” is always better. CGI is a legitimate artform, but so is traditional cel animation, and it’s sad to me that 2D animation is getting phased out in this country because it’s not “realistic” enough.

    Animation is just a medium. Animation is not the story itself. And it simply does not follow that just because I’ve liked or even loved some animated stories in the past that I will like or love *every* animated story.

    Show me where I said that. Of course, not every animated story will be good. But your recent comment suggested that you dismiss out of hand the idea that a good dramatic story could be told through animation. My point was that I believe animation is capable of telling any story if the medium is used correctly.

    All those things you mention: They’re not the story. Historical and literary references only work well within the context of a well-told story. Maybe *Gargoyles* is a well-told story; maybe it isn’t. But the fact that you mention these things thinking they’ll entice me suggests that you don’t understand why I appreciate any movie (or TV, or book): for the story.

    We’re going to have to define that term a little better to continue this conversation. What is story, then? Some people use it to mean plot, but I’m sure that’s not what you mean. For me, character is the most important thing, but that’s part of the story as well. Story is everything. A good movie doesn’t *tell* a good story, it *is* a good story. Every aspect of it is part of that story. I think you mean it the same way, but I just want to make sure we’re on the same page.

    Of course I think Gargoyles is a good story. I mentioned aspects of the story that appeal to me and that I think would appeal to you as well. Scottish history and Shakespeare references are part of the story. One of the gargoyles helps Macbeth take the throne of Scotland thanks to a bargain with the Weird Sisters. She later betrays him out of a lack of trust and unresolved guilt over her earlier actions, thus fulfilling the Weird Sisters’ prophecy. That’s all part of the story. Even the voice actors are part of the story- Demona wouldn’t be the same character if she weren’t voiced by Marina Sirtis, and that has an impact on the story as well. All of this is in service of a great story. I’m not saying that you’ll necessarily like the story. Frankly, I can’t imagine anyone disliking it, but the above thread proves it’s possible. But I mentioned some aspects of the story that might appeal to you.

    It seems to me that saying “Forget those things- I care about the story” shuts down the conversation. The story is the sum of all of the aspects of a TV show, movie, book, video game, etc. When you ask someone to tell you about the story, what do you really want? Do you want to hear about interesting characters? Do you want to hear about clever and funny dialogue? All of those things are aspects of the story, and when I mention aspects I think you’ll like, I’m telling you about the story. Probably you want to hear something about what the story has to say about the world? I could tell you that Gargoyles has strong themes of anti-prejudice and acceptance of others. I could tell you that it emphasizes that all actions have repercussions, and that denying responsibility for your actions leads to a great deal of pain for yourself and others. You’ve described yourself as a pacifist (I think- forgive me if I’m overstating it). I oppose the death penalty and most aggressive wars largely because of Gargoyles. At a key point in my moral growth, around the age of twelve, it showed vividly that vengeance begets nothing but a vicious cycle of further vengeance. But, written like this, all of those are simply morals, and all of them have been told in good and bad stories. I think Gargoyles does a very good job showing the truth of these ideas, rather than preachily telling viewers that they’re true. Again, though, you may disagree.

    And so we’re back to what is story, and what parts of it are important to you? I can tell you anything you ask about Gargoyles, having been in the fandom for close to a decade and met the main creator in person four separate times. But I can’t tell you whether it’s a good story. It’s a good story to me, but the only way you could know if it would be good to you is to see it yourself. I’m not saying “go watch it” if you don’t think it will appeal to you. My point is simply that “story” is a vague, massive thing, and the only way I can talk about it is to describe aspects of it. Everything I describe is part of the story, and cannot be put in a box and separated from the rest of it. What else can I say?

  • MaryAnn

    The point is that animation isn’t supposed to imitate reality, but represent it. You railed against Beowulf, and the takeaway I got from that review was that there’s no point in trying to imitate the human face perfectly in animation, because you’ll never be able to do as well as simple live action filming. Now you’re asking for more detail in faces, when you hated Zemeckis trying to give too much detail in faces. Good animation is a stylized representation of reality, not a literal imitation. I think the overabundance of CGI is leading many people to think that being more “realistic” is always better.

    I was responding specifically to the comment about the animators chosing to put a lot of work into the kung fu. I didn’t say anything about “realistic” faces, but I also don’t think that there any stylization of faces in *Airbender* that worked for me as a representation of reality in provoking emotion or sympathy.

    The problem with *Beowulf* isn’t that there was too much “detail” or “realism” in the faces, it’s that they weren’t animated! Not in the sense of cartoon animation, but in the sense of how a human face expresses emotion. And anyway, the issue with *Beowulf* is a totally different from *Airbender,* because Zemeckis clearly wanted his animated characters to look as indistinguishable from humans as possible, which he could have done much better — and cheaper! — if he’d just filmed his actors. That’s not what’s going on in *Airbender.* *Airbender* simply isn’t nuanced in how it is depicting its characters. And before you go into a rundown of the nuance you see: I just didn’t see it. I just didn’t. It doesn’t mean it wasn’t there for you.

    Scottish history and Shakespeare references are part of the story. One of the gargoyles helps Macbeth take the throne of Scotland thanks to a bargain with the Weird Sisters. She later betrays him out of a lack of trust and unresolved guilt over her earlier actions, thus fulfilling the Weird Sisters’ prophecy. That’s all part of the story.

    Yeah, that’s all part of the story. But it’s *how* that story is dramatized that is key. That basic plot you describe could work out as story in many different ways, some that work, some that don’t. And the references are no more part of the story than, say, the Escher references are part of the story in *Inception.* They are part of how the story is told, but such things can be used to either good, bad, or indifferent effect.

    I oppose the death penalty and most aggressive wars largely because of Gargoyles. At a key point in my moral growth, around the age of twelve, it showed vividly that vengeance begets nothing but a vicious cycle of further vengeance.

    That’s great for you. But it’s unlikely to have the same impact on me, at the age of 40.

    My point is simply that “story” is a vague, massive thing

    Yes, it is. But it’s a different kind of vague, massive thing than saying that a story references Shakespeare or Escher. Story is: “A boy and a girl from different warring factions fall in love, with tragic consequences.” That could be *Romeo & Juliet,* or it could be *Twilight.* But that description of the story tells me more about whether I might want to see it than “It takes place in Verona” or “It’s about vampires.”

    But I’m not inviting you to tell me about *Gargoyles.* Let me make me prejudices about animation more clear: A cheaply produced animated weekly TV is unlikely to impress me as drama, because animation produced on the quick and cheap cannot have the nuance I need from drama. When I enjoy TV animation, it’s more likely to be absurd or satirical, such as *Spongebob Squarepants* or *The Simpsons.*

  • Jurgan

    Well, now we’re getting somewhere.

    And before you go into a rundown of the nuance you see: I just didn’t see it. I just didn’t. It doesn’t mean it wasn’t there for you…

    A cheaply produced animated weekly TV is unlikely to impress me as drama, because animation produced on the quick and cheap cannot have the nuance I need from drama.

    By the standards you’re setting, any TV show is “quick and cheap.” I think Gargoyles’s animation was pretty close to the level of Disney features of the time. You probably would disagree. But at least I know that, so I can better understand where you’re coming from. To me, I don’t really feel any need for facial expressions in animation to be nuanced. The animation supports the action. The emotional content comes from the voice performances. That’s probably why I like English dubs better than most other anime fans- I have trouble connecting to a character who’s speaking a language I don’t speak. That doesn’t mean I won’t watch subtitles, but I prefer English as long as the performance isn’t bad. Again, that’s me. Obviously, you look for different things.

    That’s great for you. But it’s unlikely to have the same impact on me, at the age of 40.

    Of course, but I’m pretty sure you already agree with those statements anyway. In any event, I’m no longer trying to convince you to watch Gargoyles, I was just explaining some of the things that originally made me think you might like it.

    But I’m not inviting you to tell me about *Gargoyles.*

    Don’t worry, I wasn’t planning to.

    Story is: “A boy and a girl from different warring factions fall in love, with tragic consequences.” That could be *Romeo & Juliet,* or it could be *Twilight.* But that description of the story tells me more about whether I might want to see it than “It takes place in Verona” or “It’s about vampires.”

    See, to me, that’s not story- that’s a plot summary. Story includes how it’s done, which is more important than what the plot is. As you say, hearing a plot summary like that could lead to a good or a bad story. So, if I’m trying to convince someone to watch something, rather than just state the generic plot, I’d talk about what sets it apart from other, similar stories. The plot of any story is usually pretty simple to state, after all. Granted, some are very complicated, but you can usually sum up the premise quickly. Once that’s done, you need to explain why this story is preferable to the many other stories that have been told before.

    Anyway, I think I’m about done with this conversation, unless something really catches my eye. Like I said, it just surprised me that we could agree so much on feature animation but disagree so much on TV shows. Now that I know that, it’ll be easier to figure out in the future.

  • Jurgan

    By the way, this got pretty stressful for me at times. Like… someone said above, it can be tough to disagree strongly with someone you respect. I’m glad we were able to carry on this conversation without it getting too heated (I thought of some good, snarky zingers at times, but swallowed them because I don’t want to feel unwelcome here). So, thanks for engaging.

    And, hey, at least JoshDM can’t bug you about Kentucky Fried Movie any more.

  • JoshDM

    Kentucky what?

  • Jaygre31

    “I guess my question is, if you only had enough time to watch one animated series, why would you pick Avatar rather than one of the many anime series that are also populated with sympathetic villains living in a universe where people can use elemental magic and also feature a ragtag group of episodic adventurers that happens to include a young, male chosen one, who is coincidentally the precise age of the target audience? The lack of pandering, sexist fanservice is a definite plus, but what else does it have to offer that makes it stand out from the crowd?”

    @ amanohyo:

    I havent seen those cartoons u’ve mentioned, only thing I can say is that the show does everything great. Comedy, drama, action. It has a beginning , middle and end. I’ve never seen the character development on this level in a cartoon before. Dont listen to the reviewer, u have to watch all 3 books to appreciate the writing. U cant just watch book 1 and form an opinion about the entire series. Its just a great epic story. I guarante if u watch all 3 books u’d understand the passion people have for this series. It just takes patience. Thats 61 episodes your behind..lol.

  • Saakaar

    The wise man points to the moon, the fool looks at the finger.

    I think you really should see the entire series with an open mind without coming into conclusions. You might learn a lot of good things from the series. :)

  • http://www.haruhi.tv Haruhi Suzumiya

    I have to say that I dislike both Spongebob and the Simpsons, mainly because I feel that they have become stale and they have outlasted their stay. The average episode of Spongebob would end up rehashing or reusing a plot from an older episode, and the same goes for the Simpsons, though it gets worst for relying on the occasional celebrity cameo, Lisa as a mouthpiece, and so on. I really wish both of these series would end.

    For Avatar…. I’d have to say the first season was pretty much the weakest point of the series as a whole. The first season was largely a random adventure every week, and did not get serious until the very end, and even then, there was no true plot and character development until the second season. But, hey, if you’re not going to see the other two seasons, I’m fine with that, though I think it’d be a shame to base an entire series on what is arguably its weakest season. But, you’ve seemed to have pretty much made up your mind.

    Did I like Avatar ? I suppose I did, though I found the first season to be slow and lacking any development. The series grew more on me in the second and third seasons, when it stopped the random adventure a week format, and became a continuous story.

    But I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Avatar is one of the best Western animation I’ve seen. No, that spot would be more for Invader Zim and the Boondocks, both of which have offered ideas and a style that cannot be found in most other animation.

  • Cheer Up

    I have been going over the numbers since reading some dubious movie sites that have been saying M. Night’s film is a “success”, yes I know, despite 98% of the critics in the US have said otherwise. Please feel free to research the validity since I took them off MovieMojo.com.

    The production budget for the film was 150 million (Marketing costs were another 130 million, but that’s another story) and so far it has made domestically $129,344,805 and since HALF goes to the theaters that show it, that amount is less than 65 million. Now if you add the the foreign gross (54 million) and we have about 188 million worldwide. However since half has to go to the theaters, the movie has only made less that 95 million so far after a month and a half. Still a failure in both counts.

    Listen we cannot let this director think his decisions were anything but ill advised and ridiculous. Give us some ideas to put the word out.

  • Jurgan

    Cheer Up, this thread is about the TV show. There’s a different thread for the movie.

  • fwardani

    I used to be your fan MaryAnn, and followed your reviews through Rottentomatoes regularly. But I just think that here you’re just being really unfair with the show. It’s ok that you don’t like it, but I just generally disagree with your overall tone, which I find condescending and smug – exactly the way I always imagine how pretentious, artsy-fartsy, snob film critics can be.

    I’m 35 and I adore the series, and I’m a jaded film watcher – hate Disney stuff, mainstream rom-coms and I thought no other animated features today can surpass the greatness of Pixar, Nick Park and Studio Ghibli.

    And yes I was reluctant at first to watch it but my nephew made me sit through the earliest episodes, and then unconsciously got myself addicted until the very end.Yes, it’s a feel-good escapism material, and it’s basically a ‘kids’ show, being aired on Nick. But it’s a wonderful, compelling epic story for all ages, definitely a keeper, something that I save to rewatch again and again with my family – along with the Pixar and Ghibli films.

    So maybe it’s not really for everyone, esp. the cynics in this world. For me the fact that it’s been generating loyal fanbase everywhere and at the same time still very underrated is actually increasing its value.

    So I’m really sorry that you can’t join our fun. And that you lose one reader here. Bye, MaryAnn. :-)

  • Kendall

    This was basically the only show I ever even watched as a kid, and you just tore it apart (along with my childhood). I’d hate to see what you have to say about a show that was actually bad.

  • Guest

    I don’t know if you’ll even get to read this…But I must ask you to just read this post on a blog…I do wish you would watch the first episode of the second season (The Blind Bandit), but the odds are probably against me. :P That episode is considerably better than the entire first season (in my opinion, anyways).

    http://stormingtheivorytower.blogspot.com/2012/08/suffering-will-be-your-teacher-avatar.html

  • EnderTX

    I’m going to have to agree with Wise_Guy. Your review seems incomplete and lacks details past the third episode. As if you watched three episodes and filled in the blanks with the movie you already reviewed and watched. Such a shame.

    I don’t really understand your gripe with the bending aspect of the universe. Its simply the rules of the universe that you are either a bender of one element or a non-bender. The Avatar spiritually posses the ability to bend all four. Why aren’t the people of this universe able to bend more than one? Its the creators universe and thats just how it works. Don’t understand why it has to be strict and logical…or under some type of magic/fantasy rules.

  • Rosencrantz&Guildenstern

    Funny thing to hear an advocator of The Lord of The Rings complain about the lack of emotions. One’d think that after reading that rancid peace of dry exposition and force fed , boring, stuffy pseudo-romanticism you’d pretty much become immune to all the negatives stated inm this critique.

  • creative character

    I just think its pretty clear that if you are going to post as a critic on something maybe you should actually take a look at the character development. Avatar has some of the most developed, complex characters of any story I’ve seen. Mary ann talks about unexpressive faces, its just blatantly obvious she has no idea what she is talking about.

    What makes Avatar amazing. The characters do what you’d expect them to do in the situation they are in. There is rarely a moment when you are scratching your head going “seriously!”

    Some people just refuse to get over animation. My partner didn’t like it at first, but after a bit he saw how great it is. Other people just refuse to look and see value in animation.

  • Avatar fan

    I’m sorry, but I watched the TV series and the movie absolutely butchered it. Nothing was correct. It was little really a different movie with a similar plot. They don’t even pronounce the names right. I understand he wanted to connect it further with it’s eastern roots, but come on. No one wants to see a movie where the main characters name is ahh-ng

  • Jonas

    I know this is late but I just came across the review and was shocked to find perhaps the first negative “critic” review of the show (or season/book 1). Interested in your opinion, I was dissapointed to find that your review makes me question if you even saw the whole season. As many other commenters have pointed out, even your most specific criticisms are riddled with inaccuracies. I admit, when I first saw this season I was very skeptical. And it took me a while to get into it (and I could certainly see how it would take till the phenomenally well done/shocking second-half of the second season) I could see from the first few episodes that the show is different than perhaps anything of television (esp. a children’s show).

    There are certainly valid criticisms of the first season: the hit-or-miss children’s humor (including the annoying sound-effects and close-ups that come with it), a couple mediocre filler episodes (esp. “The Great Divide”), and the overall “child” feeling of some episodes (Nickelodeon)… but these issues are purely confined this season. And while the series certainly still had it’s problems (very few don’t), Avatar (to answer your question) forever remains to appeal to adults for it’s fantastic/absorbing world, complex characters, thought-provoking and thrilling story, dark political themes/storytelling (mainly in season 2 & 3), and the fantastic animation.

    Seeing as you seem confident that the show is simplistic and bad despite the barrage of angry commenters, and the fact that this show is perhaps the most critically acclaimed kids show in recent memory, a recommendation to truly watch the show would be futile. But I’ll put it out there, I’ve seen many — including I — that weren’t fully on board with this season, but were blown away by season 2 and 3.

  • Jonas

    If you have the time, I recommend you check out episode “Zuko Alone” or — in more spoiler-y terrritory — “City of Walls and Secrets” or “The Crossroads of Destiny” as examples of the fantastic writing, characters, and themes the show has developed.

  • Matthew Stiles

    Hello, MaryAnn.

    Mild Season One & Two spoilers ahead.

    “But even when Airbender wants to be serious, it falls flat: When Aang discovers that his home has been destroyed and everyone he knew and loved is long dead and gone, he grieves by… playing a game with Sokka? Really?”

    I would like to help you with your analysis by providing a perspective you may not have considered.

    The impact of Aang’s realization did not fully sink in until he saw the skeletons inside the chamber. When Aang played the game with Sokka, he had not yet seen proof of the death of his friends, and was in denial about the whole thing. He used the game with Sokka to distract himself from the lingering dread that something was wrong with his beloved home. He was distracting himself, as any kid might (no matter in what time period or universe), from the possibility that his world had been destroyed.

    When he finally realized the truth, his guilt, sorrow and rage pierced his
    heart and my own. I saw him reflected in me. I saw the worlds I had left behind in fear, and the ruins I had returned to. Aang fled the monks a hundred years ago because he knew in his heart that he needed to remain a kid awhile longer and that diving into intense Avatar training would break his spirit instead of strengthening it. And although he did not understand his own motives at first, his choice wasn’t purely selfish. In the end, he was a stronger Avatar for it.

    Do you remember a time in your life when you fled an obligation others had placed on you, experienced guilt, (self-inflicted and from the outside) and your decision still worked for the greater good? With Aang’s help, I’m seeing my fears of certain obligations as natural guideposts along my journey toward self-realization. I understand now that I don’t need to break my spirit to get where I need to be; that I really can have what my heart desires. I am learning to have patience with myself, to forgive myself for my weakness, and am all the more thankful for the loving support I have received from friends and family who see my uniqueness and to this day are driving me along my own “Avatar” path. They know it’s all for the good. So do I. Big things are bound to happen.

    And that is exactly what Aang went through, to a T. No, I’m not just extracting a kernel of truth from Aang’s otherwise shallow development, I’m not imagining things that weren’t there, and I’m not saying anything I wouldn’t have said immediately after watching Season One. It’s all there. If you don’t see it, with all due respect, that’s your problem, and no one else’s.

    “These three sound and act like modern contemporary kids, not the products of a culture deeply alien to our own.”



    Fantasy storytelling is not always meant to project realities “alien to our
    own,” although it certainly can. At its core, fantasy reflects our own nature and reveals our own world to us from an altered perspective.

    Avatar achieves this in its division of four elements, although you bring up a valid point about the split seeming artificial. Yes, in real life, there are natural gradations between personality types, cultural divides, and belief systems – everyone has a bit of everything – but Avatar encourages you to think of the four nations and four elements in the same way one might view the major arcana of Tarot. Obviously, in real life, not everyone is limited to a single personality trait or the use of a single “element,” and Avatar does not intend to say so. In fact, it is clearly conveyed throughout every season and episode of Avatar that the elements are meant to unite and that their separation is an illusion.

    Each element has its own positive and negative aspects, strengths and weaknesses. Aang’s airbending prefers ducking, weaving, seeking strategic angles from which to strike. (The universe seems to wait a hundred years for the “right angle” while Aang is trapped in ice.) Aang later (mild spoilers of season two, which I think you should hear) struggles with his opposite, earthbending, which demands him to face his fears head on. There’s no fancy footwork to moving a rock. You just push. Hard. You can draw a parallel all the way back to Aang’s behavior at the air temple, playing the game with Sokka. Following his airy nature, he preferred to skirt reality until it was too late. But the wonderful lesson he learned, over a much longer series of events, was that it’s never too late. With air and earth combined, Aang waited until the time was right, maneuvered into the correct position (or rather, allowed the universe to move him), and hit like a truck.

    We are all Aang. Each one of us, and each other main character in Avatar, deals with similar struggles to Aang, overcoming fear and guilt and pursuing a genuine path, using elemental affinities, personality types, cultural divides, and belief systems, as motifs. All these peel away to reveal the essence.

    Aang’s case is just one example of the intricate interweaving of elements in Avatar, the rest of which you are always – always, even in a thousand years – welcome to explore for yourself.

    It is totally fine that Avatar is not “in your element.” You desire a different
    flavor of entertainment, and I would never try to take that away from you. But just as all elements are essentially one and are meant to accept each other even while apparently separate, you may come to realize someday that all types of thought, when of quality, will send a signal to your heart, telling you that even if you aren’t ready to receive them, they exist.

    Avatar thinks on the level of children – you’re right – but not on the level of
    children who seek shallowness and flippancy. It thinks on the level of children who have survived countless years of struggle in this world and are still willing to love life as children do.

    Blessings,

    Matthew

  • A

    I’m mystified how anyone can consider this a critic review, frankly.

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    Why?

    Unless you can explain what you mean in a rational way, I’ll be forced to consider you a troll and delete your comment.

  • Will Friedman

    So I didn’t read the review completely. I disagree with your opinion of the show, but that’s not what kept me from finishing. What befuddles me is your blatant attack on religion. Regardless of what I believe, how could you possibly bring religion into a review of a children’s pseudo-anime series on Nickelodeon? What business does that have in this review? I find that quite unprofessional. You seem as if you’re just searching for things about which to be unhappy.

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    You don’t think religion is an aspect of this series?

  • EnderTX

    Because there is no details about story. The one detail about the story you go into you straight up get wrong. Aang did not play a game AFTER he saw the physical evidence of his people being slaughtered, he was playing it BEFORE. While he was playing the game, he assumed they were either hiding in the general area of the temple or simply evacuated. You still haven’t admitted to the mistake or fixed it.

    Your complaint about nobody being able to bend more elements is severely nitpicking. This universe can be dictated how the creators see fit. And you not accepting that simply means that you went into this TV show with a CLOSED mind. As a critic, that is something you shouldn’t do.

    You are the only critic that I have found with the largest discrepancy of a score. You know you did it wrong when your peers vote this season an 8-9/10 and you simply calling it garbage.

  • A

    You don’t believe this show is for creative thinking adults, because…it mixes humor with religion? True, many of the concepts explored in the show are pretty basic, and the humor can be questionable at times, but it sounds like you want it to be just a mixture of religion and action while it’s a mix of Eastern philosophy, action, comedy, diverse characters, and spirits, more than enough for an introduction to Eastern religions. If you’re looking for a very in-depth religious documentary, look elsewhere. As for the Avatar Universe, you complain it’s a mess and the nations are divided. YES, it was intended to be that way, not an utopia.

    Sadly, it seems Aang playing the game with Sokka is the only real reference to the show that you have to back up your claims, and it’s not even valid. As many have stated, he did that before realizing what had happened. I believe some of us would appreciate more details to back your beliefs so we can actually believe that you watched the whole season.

  • FormerlyKnownAsBill

    “This universe can be dictated how the creators see fit.”

    certainly. but this thing is all over the road. not that that is a bad thing necessarily. there is plenty of opportunity to go off the rails in a fantasy. but it helps if you come back to the fold from time to time.

    but i could barely discern a story here. i’m open to the idea that i’m just not tuned into this kind of stuff. is there a primer you’d recommend?

  • EnderTX

    Your going to have to go into a bit more detail with the ‘all over the road’ bit.
    The premise for the bending and the nations is very simple. Fire – Water – Earth – Air. All the elements are bent by one savior(mediator) the Avatar who keeps peace between the nations. If killed, is reborn to another bender. There is an order to it, but not really important.
    This universe believes in the spirit world. One does exist in this universe. The Avatar can go to / communicate with spirits.
    Perhaps I will wait for your elaboration.

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    You don’t believe this show is for creative thinking adults, because…it mixes humor with religion?

    That is not at all what I wrote.

    I believe some of us would appreciate more details to back your beliefs so we can actually believe that you watched the whole season.

    If you’re not going to trust what I write, there’s no point in hanging around her.

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    This universe can be dictated how the creators see fit.

    Did I say or imply otherwise?

    But I don’t have to like what they’ve done.

    You know you did it wrong when your peers vote this season an 8-9/10 and you simply calling it garbage.

    You’re kidding, right? All critics must agree? What’s the point of having more than one critic at all in your world?

  • EnderTX

    Did I say or imply otherwise?

    But I don’t have to like what they’ve done.

    Yes, yes you did. You said that the world seems phony and doesn’t seem plausible. Even by magic and fantasy standards. You wanted people to be able to bend more then one element. Trying to use real world examples as to why they should be able to.

    “You’re kidding, right? All critics must agree? What’s the point of having more than one critic at all in your world?


    No, they don’t have to agree. But I have never seen such a large gap in score in any movie, product, game or anything in media/entertainment. As you conveniently left out the first part of my message, I pointed out the large gap in scores.
    And surprise surprise, you have nothing to say about one of the few plot details you went into, you got wrong in your review.

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    Read the other comments here. Between my reviews and the comments I’ve posted, I’ve said all I have to say about this TV show. I don’t like it. It’s not a personal insult directed at you.

  • EnderTX

    I disagree.

    “This is not fantasy storytelling for thinking adults.”
    Implying almost right off the bat that if you liked this story, your an idiot. Sure, not insulting at all.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Implying almost right off the bat that if you liked this story, your an idiot.

    Irony.

    Seriously, pal, it’s not personal. But you seem to be having trouble separating your ego from this particular program. Maybe it’s time to step away from the computer for a few, eh?

  • EnderTX

    Uh, this is a public review with an open comment section. How does my ego come into play here? I just don’t want people to not take this show seriously because they read this review and saw wrong information. Relax pal, don’t have to take these comments so seriously. Perhaps you need to step away from the computer a bit?

    Irony how? I didn’t call her an idiot. I said that when she implied that this show isn’t for thinking adults she is essentially calling people who liked it idiots.

    I just care about whether reviewers and critics have enough integrity and step up and admit the blatant mistake in their reviews.

    Bad enough that she insults the fans of the show. Would have been a slightly better review if she left those bits in her thoughts and not on her review.

    I’m done with this place anyway. But I figure before I leave to make sure to see everything she says to skip. I bet there are some hidden gems and masterpieces in that ‘don’t see’ pile.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    How does my ego come into play here?

    You’re taking a bad review, of something you admire but didn’t create, as a personal insult. How does your ego not come into play?

    I just don’t want people to not take this show seriously because they read this review and saw wrong information.

    As you yourself point out, the show is pretty well regarded, critically and commercially. Somehow I think it will survive a bad review here and there. And I say that as someone who was too bored with the bits of it I watched over my kids’ shoulders to care.

    Irony how?

    I’ll just let you chew on that for a while.

    I just care about whether reviewers and critics have enough integrity and step up and admit the blatant mistake in their reviews.

    Pedantic bullshit. What do you think, if she goes back and corrects her “mistake”, she’s suddenly going to looooooooooove the show?

    I bet there are some hidden gems and masterpieces in that ‘don’t see’ pile.

    Probably. And that would prove what, exactly? That her tastes differ from yours? Shocking.

  • EnderTX

    The whole review as an insult? No, just the small bit where she calls the fandom idiots, in which I am a part of. I actually laughed at that bit – don’t get me wrong. You’re trying to decode my intentions when I have already said them.
    How on earth did you get that I want her to like the show? If I wanted her to like it, I would be begging her to re-watch the season. Asking to change wrong information is not a benefit to myself, which you think for some reason is my intention, but it is for the benefit of the reader.
    So a fan of Maryann comes along, was curious of Maryann’s review on it. Sees the wrong information and takes it for fact, and thinks, “Wow, not seeing that!” All due to wrong information.
    The idiot bit was just my way to show how unprofessional this review was. The misinformation bit is to make sure that people who like Maryann’s opinion, don’t get wrong information. Yea, definitely my ego. Caring about whether people get correct information. SHAME ON ME.

  • A

    “That is not at all what I wrote” Well then, could you explain why you think this show isn’t consistent and grounded in its own distinctive philosophy? This seems to be your argument when you say Narnia has more heft. That’s an opinion, but I’d like to know what you mean.

    “If you’re not going to trust what I write, there’s no point of hanging around here” Just because I don’t trust the review, doesn’t mean I’m not interested to hear the logic behind your statements.

  • A

    Aang played the game with Sokka BEFORE finding out what happened to his people. Don’t deny it; if you scroll down, you’ll see many commenters have pointed that out.

  • Creg

    You don’t think you can be honest about aspects of the series? It is quite clear Aang played a game with Sokka before he found out about the demise of his people.

    Furthermore, the moments of bickering you claim to be prominent in the series of more than permeated by the moments of touching union between the youngsters.

    You seem to mistake the writing to be juvenile, whereas the reality is that the show is based on children, this doesn’t mean that the show can’t be appealing to adults. A primary appeal of the show is watching the youngster Aang struggle with the expectation of saving the world despite being a child.

    You are making the religion argument the centrepiece of your argument, why is this? This is a children’s show after all, and from a completely differering timeframe from LOTR and Narnia, why would you expect it to have the same clout in this debate as them? That is not only unrealistic, but not the point of the show, which you have clearly comprehensively missed.

    You made one effort to describe something that happened in the show, and got this factually wrong, why should your review therefore be counted as trustworthy?

    All in all a very poor effort from a reviewer who clearly is not technically adept enough to deal with addressing the themes of the show, its really shown your shortcomings far more than your percieved shortcomings of the show. Poor.

  • Tricia

    Such a shocking review. This show must be good if it can get a 9.1/10 star average on imdb. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Just very shocking to see such a poor review. This is one of the best kids shows around. I think this is a first for me of hearing someone dislike it so much. Though it does seem as though you are ill suited for critiquing it since you only even watched one season and don’t even seem to know what was going on in that first season.

  • Nathan

    If I were to watch the first ten minutes of The Matrix, or any movie for that matter, and then wrote a review about it, I would not be presenting an accurate picture of the overall work. To me it seems as if you watched the first three episodes and then decided it was all going to be more of the same and gave up watching. I hope I am mistaken, but based on the evidence you have presented that’s what it looks like you did. Look I know some of the comedy is sub par but really? View the content before bashing it… er… reviewing it. The world building takes place over the whole series and isn’t crammed down our throat in huge exposition dumps like in M. Night’s film. The animation in the season finale is actually quite breathtaking so clearly you haven’t seen it. Unless of course your expectations were somewhere in the stratosphere for a 30min nick television show. As for the Tolkien comparison, I found it rather refreshing that this wasn’t another middle earthish bad guys bad, good guys good, series. Not that I dislike Tolkien, but I’m tired of the antagonist always being some being of pure evil. The fire nation soldiers are portrayed as people who are proud of their country and yet still human beings capable of regret and a sense of honor. Iroh displays the good of this evil empire. This series is more complex than you think it is. A show that can deal with such topics as genocide, end justifying the means, the horrors of war etc and still maintain a Y-7 rating is quite an achievement. Give it a chance, if you can suffer through the horrible adaptation than you can survive the tv series.

  • Oizys Havoc

    This is the absolute worst review I have ever seen. Avatar: The Last Airbender is a masterpiece, and you’re a fucking idiot.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Nuthin’ signifies true appreciation of a masterpiece like blind, profanity-laced, spittle-flecked rage at anyone who disagrees. Good job!

  • Bluejay

    Way to demonstrate the tolerance, peace, and harmony that Aang is supposed to represent. If you haven’t absorbed that lesson — the main lesson of the show — you clearly haven’t been paying attention, and you can’t be much of a fan yourself.

  • Nathan

    I think this video review gives an excellent overview of the show and it’s strengths and weaknesses. It reviews the content of the whole series, not just the first few episodes. Give it a watch, I believe that it gives a viewer a more accurate picture of what to expect when it comes to the series. I came across it on youtube a while back. Give it a look.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQCKmp3A7ts

  • MCG

    First of I would like to say I have watched and been a huge fan of anime and lord of the rings for over 20years. Second I have to say that avatars the last Airbender in its entirety is a television masterpiece. True the first season was still filling out characters and animation but what pilot season isn’t? I have watched a wide range of TV series from mash in its entirety and all in the family, Roseanne, to friends and modern family and everything in between. …needless to say I have watched a lot of tv series in my life. I rank this show (all 3 seasons) in the top 5 of my all-time favorite.by the end of the third season I was astonished with the depth of the main characters in their struggles with the world around them.And Ang trying to deal with the conflict of doing what the rest of the world wants or expects him to do which is kill the fire Lord and the teachings he was given as he lived in his temple which is to respect every living thing. ….and the final action or fight scene is mindblowing. ..actually it spans 4 episodes….when the show finally put up the words the end my wife cried for 30 minutes she was so moved as I was too mind u we were 30year old parents. After I saw this every cartoon I saw beforehand I really could see them for what they were junk and brain rot. Thats how much it changed my veiw of american animation…I am very pleased with this series and I dont believe something like it will be animated in the next 10 to 20 years

  • Oizys Havoc

    Did you seriously delete my comment? You are unbelievable.

  • Bluejay

    Because all it was was a personal insult. You want your comment to stay? Then make it a civil argument, with actual reasons for why you like the show. (See: all the comments below supporting the show, which have NOT been deleted.) Disagree all you want. Just don’t be an asshole.

  • Oizys Havoc

    1. The person wrote this review deserves to be insulted. 2. This is the internet. I can state my opinion in any way I want. If I think her reviews sucks, or if it pisses me off, then I’m going to say so.

  • Bluejay

    I see you’re having trouble with the “not being an asshole” part.

    You’re right. This is the internet. You’re free to be an asshole. And she’s free to delete you. Her site, her rules.

    You can say that her review sucks, or that it pisses you off. But if all you’ve got as a counterargument is “you’re a fucking idiot,” then no one here has any reason to think you’re anything other than a troll. You want people to respect your view, maybe even convince them to agree with you? Then make an intelligent argument. Give reasons for your opinion. Analyze the show. Prove you can have a grownup conversation.

    Also, I’ll say this again: it’s pretty ironic that you’re being an asshole in defense of a show whose main hero is all about NOT BEING AN ASSHOLE. Aang is all about striving for tolerance and harmony, and he’d be the last person to insult and hate other people because of differences of opinion. By being an asshole, you’re missing the entire spirit of the show.

  • Oizys Havoc

    Fine. I give up.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    1. Says you.
    2. Yes, and the owner/moderator of the places you’re spouting off your opinions – which must have been truly a shit stain on the blog, for MaryAnn to delete it uncommented upon – can, if they so choose, delete your ass into oblivion. And you get to sit there, impotent and fuming. Because, as you say, this is the internet.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I dunno what it is about this show, but it really brings out the self-important asshole in its fans. Just today I saw a post on 9gag.com where commentors were engaging in internecine flamewarfare about the relative quality of the original series and its sequel, The Legend of Korra. WTF?

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    This is my party. If you are unable to behave like a reasonable adult, you are not welcome.

  • Bluejay

    Give up on the insults and personal attacks, sure. But you don’t have to give up on your opinion. Is it really THAT HARD to tell us, NICELY, why you think she’s wrong, and what you think the show’s good points are?

    If the only thing you know how to do is insult people who don’t agree with you, you’ve got a problem. But if you learn how to play nicely, there’s a whole world of interesting conversations out there, where people get to argue about ACTUAL IDEAS instead of calling each other “fucking idiots” all the time. Who knows, you might like it.

  • bronxbee

    yet, you’re too much of a coward to even give yourself a *screen* name… you can say whatever you want — but the site runner doesn’t have to let you say it here.

  • Oizys Havoc

    Okay then, I’ll elaborate. Your criticisms reek of pretentiousness and ignorance. Avatar: the Last Airbender has brilliant writing, three-dimensional characters that develop, fantastic action scenes, and ingenious concepts. It seems as though you got lazy and only watched a couple episodes. I get the impression that you went into the show not wanting to like it, and ended up not liking it for completely ridiculous reasons.

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    brilliant writing, three-dimensional characters that develop, fantastic action scenes, and ingenious concepts.

    Sez you.

  • Danielm80

    Thank you for defending your opinion with a reasoned argument. Could you give examples of the character development and the ingenious concepts that made you a fan of the show? That might convince me to start watching it.

    Also, what makes you say that MaryAnn went into the show not wanting to like it? Can you explain why you think her reasons are ridiculous?

  • Bluejay

    While I don’t want to discourage this conversation (far from it; I’m glad an attempt at civility is being made), I do want to point out that detailed, reasoned arguments for both sides have already been made downthread, around 4 years ago. I suspect MaryAnn has said everything she wants to say about this show and doesn’t really want to revive the argument all these years later.

    Here‘s a comment that I think supports the show quite well, and is representative of a lot of the early fan comments on the thread. And here‘s a comment by MaryAnn responding to others’ criticisms and elaborating on her opinion.

    If you’re sincerely open to watching the series, Danielm80, I’d recommend it. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, and my memories are more of the three seasons as a complete story rather than just the first season by itself — but I did enjoy the world-building; the way the characters — including the “villains” — grow in moral complexity (much as the Harry Potter kids did); the fact that, by the second season, the gender ratio of the main cast has balanced out to include two of the strongest and most interesting female characters I’ve seen on family TV; and — perhaps my strongest memory of the series — the way that the show consistently chose compassion over violence: in a character’s decision about righting an injustice in her past, in a “villain’s” struggle with his own conscience, in the choices that the heroes make to resolve even the flashiest magic-fu fights. Oh, and I didn’t mind the kid-humor that seemed to irritate MAJ; Sokka’s eating jokes are no more (or less) juvenile than Cookie Monster’s om-nom-nomming, and there’s delight to be found in that.

    I also seem to recall that you’ve said you support MAJ because you value her opinion even though you often disagree, even violently, with her. With that in mind, since she disliked Avatar so much, perhaps this might be a show you’ll actually enjoy. ;-)

  • Danielm80

    Two days ago, you said:

    You want people to respect your view, maybe even convince them to agree
    with you? Then make an intelligent argument. Give reasons for your
    opinion. Analyze the show. Prove you can have a grownup conversation.

    Oizys Havoc is making an attempt to follow your advice. I thought that his (or her) response was lacking in detail, so I encouraged him to elaborate. I wanted to have a civil discussion, rather than continue the flame war. He obviously has strong, personal affection for the show, and I’d like to hear why. His reasons may be different than those of the other fans on this thread, and his enthusiasm for the series (like yours) might convince me to watch it–once I’ve finished season three of Game of Thrones.

  • Bluejay

    As I said, I didn’t intend to discourage conversation, and I recognize the attempts at civility. I just didn’t know how much you already knew about fans’ opinions of the show in general, or if you’d had the patience to wade through the 4-year-old arguments downthread, so just wanted to point out what was there. In case you were interested.

  • Oizys Havoc

    Sez you? Thanks for confirming that you have no credibility.

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    Hint: You are falling into the trap of presuming that your opinion is objective fact. It isn’t.

    But you don’t need to agree with me! You can go elsewhere for your reviews. There’s hundreds of film- and TV-review sites available to you.

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    Sokka’s eating jokes are no more (or less) juvenile than Cookie Monster’s om-nom-nomming, and there’s delight to be found in that.

    If that’s an argument in favor of the sophistication and complexity of *Avatar,* it’s not working. :->

  • Bluejay

    Oy, you’re opening yourself up for more fan outrage, MaryAnn. ;-)

    Let’s just say that I find Sokka’s jokes to be the frothy icing on a somewhat denser, more subtly-flavored cake. :-)

  • Oizys Havoc

    1. My point was that you told me to behave like a reasonable adult, so I gave my reasons for liking the show. And all you had to say in response was “Sez you.” If that’s not hypocrisy, I don’t know what is. 2. You’re right, I don’t need to agree with you. Neither does anyone else.

  • Danielm80

    At the risk of stating the obvious: A review is not a mathematical proof. People disagree with MaryAnn all the time, and she’s not offended by that, because a review is just an opinion. But if you say, “My subjective opinion is more valid than your subjective opinion,” you probably won’t convince anybody who didn’t already agree with you. On the other hand, if you quote some of the best lines from the series, or describe some ingenious concepts that show how original the story is, that’s a pretty strong argument for the series. Even if you don’t change MaryAnn’s mind, you might get other people interested in watching it. For example, Bluejay’s comments elsewhere in the thread have made me think about picking up the DVD.

    Avatar has thousands and thousands of fans around the world. One critic on one website said she didn’t like it. The series isn’t suddenly going to disappear because it got a bad review. But enough people are reading this thread that a few well-written comments might encourage them to check out the show, just as a few posts full of insults and curses might convince people its fans are trolls.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    1. Not really. You asserted a bunch of facts not in evidence, upon which you failed to elaborate, and then followed that with yet another snide disparagement, because apparently you just can’t help yourself. You clearly have no interest in s serious discussion, so why should MaryAnn, who made her opinion clear 4 and a half years ago, indulge you?
    2. *ahem* Avatar: the Last Airbender is a crappy kids show that enjoys an esteem, from people who really ought to know better, that far outstrips it’s actual worth. Frankly, I commend MaryAnn on making it all the way through the entire first season.

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    Read the other comments in this long thread. I’m not going to repeat myself.

  • Bluejay

    OK, I said I was done, but… one last pitch, for readers of this thread in general. Since some commenters have said they’d like concrete examples of the show’s virtues, I’d just like to point out this scene. WARNING: it’s a spoilerish clip from the third season, but to me it exemplifies something Avatar does so well.

    In just this one scene, the show deals with the atrocities of war; the sacrifices of parents; the way that wars scar children for life; the idea that seeking revenge against monsters makes you risk turning into one yourself; the question of what to do with war criminals when they’ve turned into helpless old men (who maybe even regret what they’ve done); and the idea that the moral choices you make, and not your fighting skills or powers, are what separate you from those you oppose. All this in a storyline that’s not even about the main character.

    These are heavy themes for any story to deal with, and particularly for an animated “children’s show” with a lot of young fans. Avatar does this consistently and well, in between lighter moments of humor. The show has a big heart, and it’s grappling with big ideas. I think that those who follow the story through all three seasons will find much to impress them, and a payback that’s totally worth it.

    But that’s just my opinion. ;-)

  • Oizys Havoc

    Did you just call ATLA crappy? You realize you just signed your death warrant right?

  • Bluejay

    Is that an admission that (most) Avatar fans are willing to crucify anyone who doesn’t share their love for the show?

    That makes me sad. It should be obvious by now that I’m a big fan, as much as you are. But all we can do is keep trying to explain why we think it’s good. Some people will agree with us, some won’t. That’s fine. We don’t need to make people our enemies because they have different opinions on a TV show.

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    Death warrant?

    I realize (I hope!) that you are exaggerating for effect. But what sort of effect are you aiming for? And is that effect really the best argument for a show you love? And do you really love it? Or are you simply afraid to say you don’t?

  • Oizys Havoc

    You know what? I’m done. I’m done with this website, I’m done putting up with self righteous, pretentious a-holes, and I’m done with listening to people defend this awful review. I’m leaving so that I don’t have to socialize with all you idiots. Good riddance.

  • Bluejay

    You came back just to say that? You could have just, you know, stopped commenting. And after all this, you’ve still got nothing but insults. Sad.

    You’re “done putting up with self-righteous a-holes”? But then how are you going to live with yourself?

    Have a nice life, buddy. Keep enjoying what you enjoy, and here’s hoping you learn not to hate those who don’t.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Aw, don’t go away mad…

    Nice form on the flounce, though, but let’s see if you can stick the landing

  • Randal

    Hello there,
    I somehow missed watching this show during my childhood and opted to watch it at the age of 23. I haven’t read the comments thread because I don’t have time to read through it.

    I can agree that the first season has “childish” humour, however, this quickly changes throughout the series. I think it’s an unfair judgment based on one season, rather than watching the entire series. If you watched only season 1 of a show like Breaking Bad, there’s no way to have dreamt of the potential.

    Anyway, I’d like to politely tackle some of your concerns.
    1. The avatar that’s a “Dalai Lama”-esque character? Recall, the Avatar is reincarnated as a different element each time: Water-Earth-Fire-Air. You got to see Avatar Roku, who was nothing like Aang. It’s not every generation; it’s as long as the Avatar lives (i.e. 100 years is not a generation)
    2. A nation being able to control only one element – genetics is probably the best way to think about it, for your sake. The series addresses this much, much later (its sequel, The Legend of Korra). Maybe the reason why these nations can’t learn other elements because they have no one to teach them and their innate stubbornness and selfishness to look at the other nations possibly having useful information.
    2a. If you continue watching, you’ll learn that masters in each tribe can learn a sub-element. (i.e. fire benders learn lightning)
    3. Aang plays a game when realizing his people have died? If you’re 10 and unwilling to accept responsibility, the best way to do it is to run away from it.
    4. Religious connotations? It has more to do with different cultures and their customs – these nations represent more of the Indigenous populations and the ancient Chinese/Japanese. Just because they are not Christian-based doesn’t invalidate it in any way, shape, or form. It’s more on spirituality. I’m an atheist and I looked beyond the need to search for religion.
    5. I refuse to touch the movie.
    6. Was Zuko’s story of exile and having a sociopathic father not compelling enough for you?
    7. The creativity of the animals? Sky bison?
    8. The animation is a Western-Eastern hybrid; it’s unfortunate you don’t see that as inspiring. Also keep in mind the age of the show – 5 years old when you watched it.

    Anyway, you’re entitled to your own opinion, but there’s to more to the series, especially after Season 1.

    Sincerely,
    Randal, PhD Candidate, University of Toronto

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    You should find the time to read through the comments. I’ve addressed many of your concerns already.

    you’re entitled to your own opinion

    Most generous of you.

  • Cave Johnson

    I believe what Mary Ann was getting at with her rather abrupt response was, simply saying something is well written or full of ingeneous concepts is not adequate proof. Your word is not above scrutiny. Even if you were an… animated media expert (if such a thing exists) your word alone wouldn’t be proof enough that you are correct in anything you have said (not that there is an objective truth that can be said regarding most art). For any statement you have made about the merits of this show, you should have provided examples (from said show). As much as I disliked Mary Ann’s review she did provide examples to back up her opinion. You however need to organize your thoughts and come back with a legitimate argument or no one will take you seriously. Oh, and no one take this wall of text seriously as it is written by an ignorant Canadian who thinks an 85% in grade 12U English makes his opinion matter.

  • Cave Johnson

    Careful that you don’t say anything too dislikable though, or the public might force you to sell your site ; ) Free speech only applies if you say the right things. What with 70 year old men being publically humiliated for saying politicaly incorrect things in private. (not that I promote politicaly incorrect statements)

  • Cave Johnson

    You’ll be back

  • Tonio Kruger

    As long as you can find Internet sites dedicated to white supremacy on the Net, it’s safe to say that MaryAnn’s site will be safe since her site is a very, very, very long way from being that dislikeable.

    But thank you for your concern. And your rush to defend a guy that even Rod Dreher of the American Conservative refuses to champion is touching.

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/bonfire-of-the-vanities-west-coast-edition/

    Then again I agree with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

    http://time.com/79590/donald-sterling-kareem-abdul-jabbar-racism/

    On that issue, at least.

  • Tonio Kruger
  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    You have no idea how the First Amendment works. And anyway, this is so absurdly off topic that I am restraining myself mightily from simply deleting it.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Cave: “Free speech only applies if you say the right things.”
    MaryAnn: “You have no idea how the First Amendment works.”

    Or how “free speech” works, for that matter. Apparently it can never be repeated enough: Freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences for the stupid/evil things you say. Freedom of speech does not make every word equally valid.

  • Tanner

    I know this was posted quite awhile ago, but hear me out: I urge you to watch this show in it’s entirety, or at least through season 2. The season 2 finale is one of the strongest episodes in the entire series. It serves as a sort of Act II finale, as by the end of the episode virtually all hope is lost. The entirety of Book 2 is much less choppy than Book 1, and each episode is extraordinarily well-written. In my opinion, Book 1 of the show is worth skipping as whole, save for the first two episodes and the last three episodes, and the fact that many of the characters and themes established in Book 1 appear later on in the series. When I do marathons of the show, I sometimes skip Book 1 as it is truly not as enthralling as the two seasons that follow it. Book 2 never has a dull moment, and I think it would be wise to continue watching in order to make a truly educated opinion of ATLA. If you would like, I could give you a list of the episodes that focus purely on story progression so you could fairly judge the skeleton of the overall plot. Though without the rest of the “filler” episodes, a lot of character growth and development is missed. The episodes that the story truly hinges on are 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 12, 18, 19, 20, 30, 31, 32, 33, 40, 46, 50, 51, 58, 59, 60, and 61. This way, you can make a review on the main plot as a whole in the time it would take you to watch season 1 fully.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Dude, don’t do this. She watched the show. She gave it an entire season to catch her interest. It didn’t. And that’s fine. Because, you know what? It’s just a TV show. Don’t be that guy, the one who just won’t shut up about that thing that he really likes but you can’t stand. Just, don’t. OK?

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    I urge you to watch this show in it’s entirety, or at least through season 2.

    As I’ve said elsewhere in this thread, this is not a reasonable request to make. There’s too much else I would rather watch, too much else I would rather do, than invest even more time in a show that has failed to capture my imagination.

  • Elizabeth

    Oh my gosh, believe me when I say I understand what you mean. My boyfriend wanted me to watch this show, so I started watching it… And, I mean, it started off… okay. But it didn’t really move anywhere. The writing was very childish and the plot quickly grew stale. I stopped watching less then halfway through season 1. I thought he was crazy. I looked through some of the IMDb reviews just to see if it was actually as widely acclaimed as he made it seem. And yeah… all around, full-fledged adults were giving it 10/10. So I decided to give it another try, as I figured if the show received an Emmy and had such a large fan base, I must’ve have missed the potential under all of the awkward voice acting and silly child humor. After a six-month hiatus, I picked up the show again, and painfully forced my way through the next few episodes. But then, the show started to grow on me. By the time the season 1 finale rolled around, the show had provided an intriguing mythology, some pretty decent animation and action scenes, and even nearly three-dimensional characters. I was actually beginning to enjoy this show. And season two picked up with a blast, never leaving you with a dull moment. What I loved about this show is that it grew with me; it grew from something awkward and ugly into something truly beautiful and unique. The characters established themselves, demanding to be heard, and they almost felt real. Not to mention (from a somewhat feminist bias), this show has some of the most well-written female characters I’ve ever seen. They are constantly challenging patriarchal themes and gender stereotypes, and teaching girls young and old that they do have the power and potential to do anything they please. The writing only grows stronger and more elaborate; more suspenseful, more dramatic, more comical. Even the animation improves. The increase of fluidity and vibrancy from the beginning of this show to the end is absolutely astounding. Avatar: The Last Airbender is a show that will grow with you, and grow on you. I can honestly say, as a 28 year-old woman, that this has become my favorite TV show of all time. The grandeur of the rich fantasy and diversity of this world rivals that of Lord of the Rings. The character development brings each and every hero/heroine and villain/villainess to life. And that’s another thing Avatar does so well. It blurs the lines between good and evil, and sets everyone on an equal playing field of shades of gray. Everyone, even the citizens and leaders of the “evil” Fire Nation, has their motives, and none of them are morally wrong. Each and every character is conflicted. They all feel love, hate, and anything under the full spectrum of emotions. Honor, betrayal, love, revenge, destiny, courage, and friendship are all themes expressed in Avatar. This show honestly does fantastic storytelling on the level of any of the greatest of the greatest films, books, or television series, and it manages as a children’s show. Avatar fulfilled its destiny as the greatest feat of animated storytelling of all time. Believe me when I say, this show is worth giving second chance. P.S. To give you an idea of how skeptical I was, it took me 8 months to drag myself through the first season of 20 episodes (which was admittedly a hellhole at the time, although looking back it now holds some nostalgic value). Once I reached season 2, I finished the remaining 41 episodes in under a week.

  • Bluejay

    I think it’s okay that this show (or any show) may not be everyone’s cup of tea. By now MaryAnn must have had hundreds of comments urging her to give the series a second look; if she decides it’s not for her, and that she’d rather spend her time and attention on other things, c’est la vie. (And at this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if the constant badgering from fans is making her dislike the show even more.) Let it be.

    Having said that, I do think yours is the most eloquent (and civil) defense of Avatar that I’ve seen on this thread. And, as a fellow fan, I appreciate the enthusiasm. :-)

  • Your father

    you are Weak