Avatar: The Last Airbender, and the Joys of #6 Plastic

Kai and Maria made shrinky dinks of Kai's favorite Avatar characters, Aang and Zuko

Kai and Maria made shrinky dinks of Kai's favorite Avatar characters, Aang and Zuko16-Sep-2007 10:02, SONY DSC-W55, 2.8, 6.3mm, 0.025 sec, ISO 100

 

I’m writing this post at Kai’s request. Tonight he and Maria made Shrinky Dink versions of Kai’s favorite characters from the Nickelodeon show Avatar: The Last Airbender. Maria sketched them and Kai colored them in. Kai is very proud of their work. (They’re not actually Shrinky Dinks though. We made them from the lids of take out sushi containers. You can use #6 plastic just like Shrinky Dinks).

I have to admit Avatar has become a guilty pleasure of mine. The target demographic is 6-11 year olds, but I think it’s actually more sophisticated than a lot of shows intended for adults. The world created for the show is rich in detail, and draws on a wide range of Eastern religions and history to shape its many cultural and supernatural aspects. As an example, the final episode of the second season revolves around Aang (a young boy, who is the main character) having to clear his seven chakras as a step in achieving his potential as the Avatar. I didn’t know much of anything about chakras going into it, but I looked it up afterwards, and it seemed like they actually made a reasonably faithful adaptation of the concept for the show.

What impresses me the most though is the quality of the show’s martial arts animation. Most animation I’ve seen comes up short when it comes to intricate physical movement, but Avatar doesn’t. What’s particularly impressive is that the animators bring to life the distinct styles used by characters from each of the show’s four nations: “The creators use Tai Chi for waterbending, Hung Gar for earthbending (although Toph employs a Chu Gar Southern Praying Mantis style), Northern Shaolin for firebending, and Ba Gua for airbending.”

Also, I’m a sucker for serialized epics with intricate plots. Each season of the show is presented as a book, with each episode being a chapter. The third season trailer below shows some of the maturing of the characters. Like a lot of shows these days, the main characters are kids, but unlike most others, they don’t behave unrealistically (setting aside their magical powers, of course). I also credit the writers for not shying away from how fast the characters are forced to grow up, given their situation. The Aang we see in the third season trailer seems a long way from the goofy kid he was in the first season.

Given the intensity of the trailer, I’m curious to see if the show loses any of the humor that nicely balanced the action and dramatic elements of the previous seasons. I imagine that writing humor gets harder as a story like this moves forward and the stakes just keep getting higher. But maybe that’s why I’m not a fiction writer 😉 . My bet is that they’ll pull it off.

Check out the trailer. The new episodes start airing next week.

3 thoughts on “Avatar: The Last Airbender, and the Joys of #6 Plastic

  • I love Avatar. I love the way it creates this great magical kung fu type world for itself. It greatly captures the elements of the more mystical kung fu cinema styles without being over the top. The messages of balance and nature exemplified by the three elements is just fantastic.

    I’m happy it’s popular and won’t disappear the way Justice League did.

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