I saw my first episode of “Avatar: the Last Airbender” because a friend tricked me into it in high school.
See, in high school, I was what you’d call a major anime nerd. I went to the local comic book convention, I bought the OSTs, I drew the fanart, wrote the fanfiction, etc. So obviously when “Avatar: the Last Airbender” came out, I had to hate it for no good reason. It was a lame anime wannabe – the colors were too bright and the character designs were cartoonish, nothing like the Far Superior “Neon Genesis Evangelion” and “Witch Hunter Robin.”
It wasn’t until my friend David told me we’d be watching “something cool” and then put on the episode “The Desert” that I realized the show was pretty funny, the story was surprisingly mature, and the characters were well-developed.
Since then, I’ve watched the three seasons of the show in pieces on Netflix, DVR, and perennial Nickelodeon marathons. Recently, I sat through it from beginning to end, completing a number of crafty projects over the sixty-something episodes.
For those of you who might not have seen or heard of the show, Katara gives us a succinct history lesson in the intro:
The show’s creators were strongly influenced by Hayao Miyazaki, made apparent in the stylistic and thematic choices. Avatar has some of the strongest pro-peace themes of anything I’ve seen in TV or film, a characteristic of movies like “Princess Mononoke” and “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind”. In a very mature way, the stories in “Avatar” address spirituality, honor, and friendship, while balancing them with humor and awesome action sequences.
Re-watching the show from beginning to end, I was surprised by how much the writing evolved from the first few episodes. The characters experienced real growth and development, and even the filler episodes became less…well…filler.
The penultimate episode (note: I am referring to the four-part series finale as one episode) is a unique take on the clip show concept that reminds the viewers (and the characters themselves) of how much they’ve evolved over the past year. The protagonists watch a theater troupe put on a play about their journey, which exaggerates elements of their personalities, their stories, and pokes fun at the show’s writing.
There was a notoriously hated episode from the first season where the group had to lead two warring tribes from the Earth Kingdom through a treacherous canyon. The story was a dismissed as a hamhanded filler episode with weak writing. In the play:
Aang: Look! It’s the Great Divide! The biggest canyon in the Earth Kingdom!
Sokka: Ehh…let’s keep flying.
The show has great rewatchability, which made me even sadder when “The Last Airbender” got butchered by M. Night Shyamalan. It also set the bar very high for the sequel series “The Legend of Korra,” which is starting its second season later this year.
I don’t remember all the projects I worked on while watching the series (and honestly, I spent a good chunk of season two playing Neopets) but for most of the third season, I worked on a recycled plastic bag bag. Half the season was spent making the plarn, and the last six episodes, I crocheted about 70% of the bag.
I’m hoping that by the time I start on my next show, I’ll have amassed enough black and brown plastic bags to make a colorful bag.
Next week, if all goes according to plan, I’ll be writing about “Charlie Jade.”