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An In-depth Look At: Avatar: The Last Airbender: Book 1: Water

Hello, and thanks for clicking on this blog. I hope you enjoy reading through the blog.

This is going to be a small introduction to a look at Avatar: The Last Airbender, as I’ve read other reviews on here and wanted to my own, looking at one of my favorite shows. Now, I’ve never done anything like this before, so please forgive any long sections of inconsistent ramblings (like this one) or any problematic points where my opinions may become slightly lost or clouded. If there's anything I missed in terms to the concept behind Avatar or any advice on to how to enhance these season-by-season (book-by-book) review, things...then please remember to leave me a comment, it helps out a lot!

Thank you


Book One: Water (Part 1 of 3)

"Whenever righteousness wains and unrighteousness increases, I send myself forth. For the protection of good and for the destruction of evil and for the establishment of righteousness, I come into being, age after age."
— Text from the Bhagavad Gita
Opening Avatar logo
The two halves of the title (Avatar: The Last Airbender); ‘Avatar’ is derived from Hindu mythology, the word literally meaning “descent”, describing a deity becoming in carnet, in order to restore balance to an unbalanced world. The opening quote from the Bhagavad Gita, is part of Vishnu’s multiple manifestations in various forms. The Avatar may not be exactly portrayed as a complete God, but the function is the same, meshing in with the concept of reincarnation, most notably of course being the idea of the Dalai Lama’s continuous return. The Avatar is a powerful being who is master to the four elements and in each time is reborn into the next nation of the cycle, bringing forth balance to the four nations. The nations are based on the four elements which tie in with the later part of the title. Their commonly known as the hellenistic elements as they came from the Greeks and had a strong influence on Europe for many centuries to come, but that may have been an import from Buddhism which were used the four for entirely different purposes. The elements, of course are; Fire, Water, Earth and Air, and bending is the ability in manipulate those elements. Each element is linked with a certain fighting style also, Airbending is Baguazhang inspired, a fluid defensive style of Chinese Martial arts. While Firebending is Northern Shaolin inspired with a major focus on rapid and strong attacks.

The first season, or Book, opens with “The Boy in the Iceberg” but before the episode starts, we’re given essential information every episode, with the first being different as it’s more of a memory of the Avatar instead of a brief explanation of what’s happened, before moving to the whole story. This opening is narrated by Katara. Telling us of a war which is declared by the Firenation on the other three nations while the Avatar was missing from the world. This war wages on for over a century, claiming Sokka’s and Katara’s mother and later their father and all the warriors, sent to reinforce the Earth Kingdom against the forces of the Firenation. This leaves Sokka as chief of the tribe at aged 15 (which doesn’t seem too bad as marrying age in the Avatar world is 16?) in their absence, Katara a year younger and a Waterbender without a teacher, and while they’re out fishing they discover a boy in an iceberg - the title promises and the episode delivers.

Spear fishing

Prince Zuko, one of my favorite characters throughout the universe, stands in awe of a pillar of light which emanates from the spot where Sokka and Katara forced open the iceberg. Despite his Uncle, General Iroh who believes this light to be simply the “celestial lights”, but his nephew determination after many years searching (I’m guessing it was) directs them and the ship toward the light source. This later leads to Zuko drilling a multitude Firebending exercises with Iroh, even though his basics aren’t fully established yet.

The freed boy, we find, is indeed the Avatar who went missing over a 100 years ago, but that’s a fact which he keeps to himself even as he freely admits to being an Airbender. Katara, who yearns to learn Waterbending, instantly admires Aang however her brother is sceptical and suspicious. I must admit in Sokka’s position I would also be suspicious, especially once we begin to see how easily Katara becomes influenced by this stranger. Katara’s entrance to the forbidden Firenation ship is fine illustration of how much she’s influenced by Aang, stating: “if you want to be an Bender, you have to let go of fear” - in order to let the jack-ass take over the reigns for a while! Aang will say a lot of things which could be mislead as being “wisdom”, but he isn’t wise yet, he’s twelve years old, so his remarks come off as thinly cloaked, self serving comments. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not using it as a way to trick people, and even as the Avatar, he doesn’t have all the answers - Aang springs off a booby-trap which locks them inside old ironclad, before heading back to Katara’s village. Which brings me to this point: the Avatar coming into town, is not exactly a good thing, as we discover through the run of the show, it pretty much means that town is about get it’s ass whopped! Understandably, the villagers and Sokka banish Aang to the dismay of Katara.

From this point we get to see, especially in Book 1: Water, is that Katara, while basically being a kind hearted and decent person, never the less is a bit myopic on the subject of her abilities. It’s understandable, she has something special and having that frustrated can be difficult to live with, so at times she acts slightly short-sighted and even selfish, rationalising things due to how desperate she can get. I only mean to mention this as these less noticeable traits to her character, as it generally follows the line as a compassionate one. Like wise, Aang is being further brought into these conflicts, but he is still a child, with an awesome responsibility (which he may to times forget about, but some how never ends-up neglecting), he still want to act and be a kid. And it’s good to see a show keeping to an age in both body and mind, instead of the children being adults in tiny bodies.

When Aang spots Zuko’s ironclad ship pulling-up into the village, naturally he wants to protect it and quickly surrenders to do so. Certain aspects of the show take an entirely new meaning in retrospect - Sokka’s view of Aang changes from distrust to wanting to risk his life for, due to Aangs sacrifice for people he barely knows - I’m going to discuss Sokka more later, but let’s get to ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Talents of Charlie Brown (if you didn’t get that reference, than you lived in a bad time) Aang, has the ability to knock-out, not one, but two guards with his hands tied behind his back, but in the end get’s knocked over-board to the freezing waters. I’m just putting on my sceptical face...hmm… It’s at this point when Aang lights up like a Christmas tree on fire, comes up from the depths and kicks everyone's ass with new found Waterbending skills. Episode two establishes the main plot of this season, that Aang needs to learn how to do this again without the glowing ink and eyes and in order to that, they must travel from the South to the North pole to find him a master.

In traditional Buddhist teachings, Water is the representation of fluidity, which is an apt metaphor for the journey that Aang, Katara and Sokka must undertake to the Northern Water Tribe. As they seem offley unable to control their destiny anymore than a river can control the flow of water that streams down it, only able to escape it’s confined boundaries when other forces come into the equation, creating rare and destructive moments. In addition, one of Waterbendings most powerful points is the change of state, from liquid to solid - water to ice. Evidently showing the transformation of Aang, like when he fell overboard, we see the change from the fluid Airbender to hardened juggernaut, which what we learn as being the Avatar state.

After the first confrontation with the Firenation, we stop off at the Northern Air Temple where Aang grew up. Now unfortunately become a tomb to his people after being massacred after a Firenation attack. Katara means well in her protective nature towards Aang, but with this realisation at the same time, how can someone save a world which their being sheltered from. Because like it or not, mistakes of the past and mistake here, have forced Aang into this position and whatever the intentions, compounding one mistake with another, it only makes the truth more unbearable and the situation worsen. Aang discovering, unprepared, drives him into the Avatar State where he almost destroys them all because he’s not incontrol. Luckily in the room of statues (of previous Avatars), Avatar Roku, the Avatar before Aang, his eyes glow. This shows us that someone indeed will guide Aang, helping him to succeed in his destiny in ending the war.

Zuko and Zhao Agni Kai
In the same episode, “The Northern Air Temple”, gives more info on the antagonist Zuko. While he’s getting the damage done by Aang repair in port, that’s where we meet Zhao in his first appearance. Zhao reveals Zuko’s main intent on why he was in search of the Avatar, to free himself from exile. Nut Zhao recognises Aang as a major threat to the Firenation’s plans of conquest which requires his direct involvement. His contemptuous treatment of Zuko contrast him and recasts the Prince in a different light: he’s not some spoiled, inpatient brat, he’s someone who is obsessed over what he’s lost and he’s still learning discipline. However there’s more of him that our first impressions of him see, like wise, Uncle is more than just the silly old fat guy, who wants nothing more than to drink tea and play games. Because when Zuko defeats Zhao in a Agni Kai, Zuko does kill him Zhao attempt to repays this with a cheap backstab, the silly old fat man, is instantly able to stop him in seemingly no effort at all.

The fourth episode is “The Warriors of Kyoshi” where we find a group of all female warriors and their village. One of which is going to be a particular interest to Sokka (*cough, *spoilers), and besides -- “don’t worry Sokka, where we’re going, you won’t need pants”’re not helping Aang… Anyways, I’ve already mentioned that I’ll be looking at Sokka in more depth later in another part, but right here, we get the full brunt of his sexism on display, which was partly on display in episode one. Here Sokka, maybe a slight tool in his remarks about his sister and later the Kyoshi warriors, stating it was impossible for girls to ambush them they way they did. But this shows the Water Tribe - this is their way and it’s not really Sokka’s fault on look at women in this manner, it’s his culture, which he seems to come over relatively quickly. As eventually he asks Suki, with humility and on his own militia, to become one of their students - which is against the customs of the Kyoshi Islanders culture. Beside the story of Sokka’s training, we get to see another previous Avatar, Kyoshi. Who defended this place when she split the pellicular from the mainland (we’ll get into that in Book 2). As always, this town where we find our heros in, who love the Avatar, get burnt to the ground near the end credits...oops! But unlike the last time this happened, we get to see Aang looking over the devastation and coming to the realisation as the Avatar, he’s both ‘hope’ and ‘instigator of destruction’.

The next episode is where Aang, Sokka and Katara reach the Earth Kingdom city of Omashu of amazing architecture and awesome slides! Aang this time, cut’s out the middleman in destroying this town and does it by himself, abusing the delivery system the same way his friend Boomy suggested to over a century ago - like no-one else would’ve done that already here since then? Once caught, the King throws him a feast, as he’s quite suspicious on this bald kid who using an stupidly long alias throw Aang a bone, no literary he does, and Aang uses his Airbending in his suprise. The King, insane (or hinted to being) tasks Aang in three challenges in order to save Sokka and Katara from this creeping crystal. He succeeds with the first two challenges and the third a dual and in thinking him being smart he picks the elderly King. Big mistake! As the King reveals himself to being a powerful Earthbender which Aang barely fight to a draw with. It ends-up the King is indeed his old friend from years ago, teaching Aang lateral thinking which he’ll need the Avatar will need.

Earthbending in essential to the following episode, “Imprisoned” where our heroes arrive in an Earth Kingdom village which occupied by the Firenation. it’s the first sign of the Firebender ideals of superiority because unlike the other three, they don’t require existing elements of Earth, Air or Water to manipulate, they can create their own fire. They punish the Earthbender with a mockery in this deficiency. Trapping them on an metal rig where Earthbending (at this time) is impossible. Katara mistakenly get’s a young Earthbender sent there, and in her guilt goes to rescue him, with help from Sokka and Aang of course. The mistake comes into being as Katara, whose own brother made a mockery of her bending abilities felt liberated by Aang arrival, freely able to use her abilities without scrutiny. She does the same by making this young man, Earthbend in order to rescue some one’s life, which results in him being captured by the stationed Firenation troops. With a passionate to try a urge the Earthbenders in taking action against their captors, but they’ve been so worn down they refuse to hope again. They get this bright idea to use coal, as it’s a form of earth, a way to freedom and the hope they need to escape. Even then they’re not too sure if they should resist, but eventually they’re goated into taking action and soon, they have hope again. The throw their captors over board, and free themselves - a point of liberation wanted by Katara on a massive scale.

Continues in Part 2

Again, I just wanted to thank you for clicking here and if you’re seeing this then thank you for reading. I’m not sure when part 2 will be release, but I’m currently writing it as I type this!

Cheers! XD

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