SUMMARY OF SHOW
What is the Avatar the Last Airbender about? Essentially it is a saga story about a young boy named Aang who's destiny is to save the world from the ruthless Fire Nation and restore balance. Problem is, he's just a twelve year old kid who doesn't know how he's going to accomplish that. Luckily he's got a couple of friends to help him figure it out.
The world of the Avatar: Avatar takes place in a mythical fantasy world with four nations: The Earth Kingdom, the Air Nomads, the Water Tribes and the temperamental Fire Nation. Within each nation are groups of gifted individuals called "benders" who are capable of manipulating their native element in a combination of martial arts and spiritual magic (which makes for some beautiful animation). But only one individual known as the Avatar is capable of mastering all four elements.
Who is The Avatar: The Avatar is the spirit of the world re-incarnated into human form. He (or she) is born into one of the four nations in a never ending cycle. In human form, the Avatar first masters the native element he is born into, then must successfully master the remaining three in order to become a fully realized Avatar capable of tapping into and controlling an emense power known as the Avatar Spirit. As master of all the elements, it is the Avatar's job to maintain peace and keep the balance between the four nations. He also is the bridge between the real world and the spirit world.
About the Benders and Martial Arts used in Avatar: Benders from each nation manipulate their natural elements in different ways and their movements are heavily based on four different forms of Chinese martial arts. To learn more about each nation's abilities and their unique marital art bending style click here.
SYNOPSIS OF THE STORY (Spoiler Warning througout)
Preface Introduction to Avatar: A hundred years ago the ambitious Fire Nation started a campaign of world domination kept only in check by the previous Avatar, a firebender named Roku. When Avatar Roku suddenly disappeared and the new Avatar did not reappear within the next cycle of the Air Nomads, many believed the Avatar cycle had been permanently broken and the balance of power quickly shifted in favor of the Fire Nation. Now a hundred years have past and the Fire Nation is nearing the end of it's victory in the war. The Air Nomads have long since disappeared, hunted to extermination by the ruthless Fire Nation. Only the Earth Kingdom remains and a few scattered tribes of Water people. But there are some that have never given up hope, believing one day the Avatar would return in time to save the world.
Book One: Water: In the South Pole two siblings, a brother and sister named Sokka and Katara, from the decimated Southern Water Tribe discover the Avatar, a young Airbender named Aang, frozen in a state of suspended animation in an iceberg for the last one hundred years. But there's a big problem. He's only twelve years old and knows little about being the Avatar. Although his airbending skills are great he has yet to master the other three elements in order to become a fully realized Avatar. He still has a lot to learn. With the Air Nomads gone and no masters left to teach him, Aang's only hope is to take the long and dangerous journey to the North Pole in hopes of finding a Waterbending Master from the Northern Water Tribe willing to train him.
Knowing Aang is going to need all the help he can get, siblings Katara & Sokka decide to accompany him to the North Pole aboard Aang's ten ton, six legged, flying bison, named Appa. Inexperienced Waterbender, Katara, the only bender left in the entire South Pole, also sees the journey as an opportunity to make her own dreams of becoming a master come true. Traveling with them is Momo, a pet flying lemur Aang finds on his journey home in the episode The Southern Air Temple where he also discovers the terrible tragedy that befell his people at the hands of the Fire Nation.
Along the way the trio face many adventures and dangers, especially when the Fire Nation eventually discovers the Avatar's existence. Aang is persured by two primary but competing antagonist. The first is an angry teenage prince named Zuko, banished from his home two years ago and accompanied by his Uncle Iroh, a retired general and brother the the current Fire Lord. The second is Zhao, a ruthless power-hungery Commander/Admiral in the Fire Nation Army.
During this first season Sokka & Katara form a deep friendship with Aang and start to look upon him as a member of their own family. Together they help and protect each other as Aang begins to discover his hidden abilities, though sometimes he doesn't always have control of them. Aang also learns he must master all four elements by the end of the summer before Sozin's Comet returns. The return of the comet will give Firelord Ozai and the firebenders immense power which will complete Ozai's compaign for world domination.
Avatar the Last Airbender is full a great stories that build and continue to reveal the complexities of the characters, especially Prince Zuko who many fans agree is a character you love to hate and hate to love. Eventhough Aang faces insurmountable odds he takes on the task with a passionate heart but at the same time maintains the innocence of a twelve year old kid who likes to have fun, despite the fact he never wanted to be the Avatar. His most enduring quality of course is his smile. Katara's natural maternal insincts make her character enduring and protective but far from weak. Gutsy and determined, she is more than capable of fighting her own battles. Sokka is the only main character not "gifted" with bending ability. But he does not view this as a weakness. Like his father, he is first a warrior and feels comfortable battling any firebender with his trusty boomerang. He feels more at home with things based in realty than "magic" or spiritual wierdness. But more that that, Sokka proves to be quit ingenious at times, despite being the brunt of many of the comical mishaps the trio encounter. With Sokka's help and a lot of luck, they usually manage to get out of trouble in the end.
Other memorable characters show up in specific chapter episodes in the first season. They include a very crazed King Bumi in "The City of Omashu"; Suki, the head of a band of female warriors in "The Island of Kyoshi", Haru an Earthbender in "Imprisoned", Jet a rebel with a band of "Freedome Fighters" and Princess Yue in the last three episodes of Season One (who eventually becomes the Moon Spirit). Chapter 12 "The Storm" is perhaps one of the best episodes in filling you in on the history and motivations of Aang and Zuko, while the "The Blue Spirit" adds complexity and thought to Prince Zuko's character.
At the end of the first season Admiral Zhao meets a dramatic demise as the Northern Water Tribe and the Avatar fight back in a dramatic two part episode finalle, "Siege of the North". Aang discoveres and awesome and terrifying aspect of his Avatar spirit, while a battered and weary Prince Zuko and Uncle Iroh barely escape. Katara has know become a Master Waterbender.
Book Two: Earth begins a whole new journey as Aang continues to feel the pressure to master the elements in time before Sozin's Comet arrives. With Airbending and now Waterbending pretty well under his belt, Aang begins to seek out an Earth Bending master. Meanwhile Zuko faces another major change in his life as his status is shifted from banished prince with the hopes of returning home to a fugative on the run from the Fire Nation. Many of the episodes continue to parellel the growth of these two main characters on their separate journies.
Along the way the characters encounter more adventure. Aang and the gang find themselves trapped in an underground cave in the episode "Cave of Two Lovers" where Aang tries to deal with his growing feelings towards Katara. Zuko, on the other hand, is forced to accept kindness from a pretty Earth Kingdom healer after Iroh poisens himself. He gets a first hand insight into the tragedy the Fire Nation has inflicted on the innocent.
But the biggest obstacle both soon face is the addition of another main character in the Avatar series: Princess Azula, Zuko's younger, cold-blooded sister sent by the Fire Lord himself to track down Zuko, Iroh and the Avatar.
The favored sibling, Azula is a master Firebender with an added and deadly gift of controlling electricity, a very difficult Firebending technique to master (thus far only Uncle Iroh has been shown capable of doing this technique in an earlier First Season episode "The Storm"). She is aided in her quest by two friends, Mai, a gothic looking depressed teenager highly skilled in the use of daggers, and Ty Lee, a bubbly acrobat with the abiltity to use pressure points to temporarily paralyze a bender's ability to bend.
Aang's first hope in finding an Earthbender master is to return to the city of Omashu and have his old childhood friend, King Bumi, train him. But his hopes are crushed when he learns the Fire Nation has taken over the great city and renamed it New Ozai and imprisoned Bumi. Aang is forced to continue his quest through a strange swamp and some even stranger characters before eventually discovering Toph (aka "The Blind Bandit) at a secret underground Earthbending tournament.
Toph is the second major character to join the series in the Second Season. Though blind from birth, Aang soon learns this twelve year old spunky kid is uniquely gifted in the art of nuetral jing (the ability to sense the movements of an oppoent before he takes action) and uses her Earthbending abilities to "see" her world.
Toph's addition to the Avatar team though has a rocky start as the gang tries to deal with her rather tough, abrasive, no-nonesense manner. But eventually they manage to work out thier differences through several interesting episodes. Toph also meets an interesting tea loving friend along the way which will prove valuable, but conflicting, in episodes to come.
As the series progresses, Aang struggles with mental blocks as he tries to learn earthbending in the episode "Bitter Work". Meanwhile, in the same episode, Zuko battles his own parrellel journey of frustration as Iroh attempts to teach Zuko the complex and dangerous skill of controlling lightening.
During the Second Season, Zuko's journey reaches an all time low point and eventually he decides to seperate from his Uncle Iroh feeling the need to follow his own path for a while in the episode "Zuko Alone." This journey leads the bitter fugative prince into an isolated village terrorized by Earthbending thugs. It is here Zuko is befriened by a young boy and is once again shown kindness. But it is the flashbacks to Zuko's childhood in this episode which are the most interesting as fans learn about Zuko's mother for the first time, and get a glimpse of the evilness of his sister Azula even at a young age. In this episode we also learn a little bit about the death of Iroh's beloved son, Luten, and glimpse the depth of deception the Royal Family will sink to as Ozai, the younger brother and not Iroh, the eldest, manages to suceed the throne as the next Fire Lord.
More adventures follow as Sokka discover's a potential weakness in the Fire Nation following a trip into the desert where the Gaang discovers a Spirit Libary. But this comes at a great cost when Appa, Aang's beloved flying bison, is stolen by Sandbenders. The focus of the latter part of the Second Season is a race to the great Earth Kingdom city of Ba Sing Se where Sokka hopes to enlist the aid of the city's powerful king in his plan to attack the Fire Nation and Aang's desperation in finding Appa.
But the city of Ba Sing Se hold mysteries and dangers of its own as the gang discovers the city is controlled by a powerful organization of elite Earthbenders called the Di Lei who are the "cultural guards" to the city and try and prevent the gang from seeking an audience with the Earth King.
The final episodes of Season Two brings back Freedom Fighter Jet from Season One and provides many plots twists which leave fans furious, shocked, unnerved and hanging on edge as they eagerly awaiting Season Three!
Season Three: Fire begins as Aang awakes aboard a Fire Nation ship after the devesting fall of the great Earth Kingdom city of Ba Sing Se in a coupe led by Princess Azula. Shocking most of all was Zuko's allegiance with his sister just when fans thought he'd seen the light.
The Gaang now must deguise themselves as they journey through the Fire Nation until they can meet up with Sokka's father, Hakoda, and a rag tag band of rebels as they attempt to over throw Firelord Ozai during a solar eclipse which will leave the firebenders temporarily helpless. Along the way, Katara learns a dark side to waterbending in the creepy episode, "The Puppetmaster", Sokka finds a Swordmaster and gets a cool new weapon and Toph gets herself into some trouble in a series of con games. The gang is also being pursued by a "mechanical" man with the ability to bend explosives forces with his mind Sokka nicknames "Combustion Man" He proves to be a difficult foe to fight and avoid.
Meanwhile, Zuko tries to settle back into his role as the reigning Prince having been accepted back into the Fire Nation. He even manages to rekindle an old flame (gothic teen Mai). But, more importantly, the Firelord has forgiven him and once again Zuko has found favor with his father. But dispite all his good fortunes, Zuko remains angry, bitter and more confused than ever. While he is now treated like a hero, his Uncle Iroh, now imprisioned in a Fire Nation, is called a traitor. The teenage prince now struggles with his own self identity, guilt over his uncle's imprisionment, and his own values as he tries to mold back into what he feels his father wants. During this time Zuko also learns a disturbing bit of history which directly ties his legacy to the Avatar.
In the two part "Invasion" episode, the Gaang team up with old friends as they attempt to overthrow Firelord Ozai during a solor eclipse which will temporarily disable the firebenders. But the cunning Princess Azula is ready for them, and Firelord Ozai is nowhere to be found! This exciting episode once again separates Sokka and Katara from thier father Hakoda as they are forced to flee while the rest must meet the fate of the Fire Nation. Zuko, meanwhile, makes a lifechanging decision as he finally confronts his father and decides to join the Avatar.
After an extremely LONG hiatus between episodes, the series once again starts up again with Zuko trying to convince the Gaang to let him join. After Zuko manages to prove his worth with the Gaang in a battle against "Combustion Man" (despite the fact Zuko is the one how HIRED him to kill the Avatar), he is eventually but reluctantly allowed to join the Gaang. A series of paired episodes with the major characters follows. The first is with Aang in "The Firebending Masters" as Zuko and Aang search for a new source of firebender not based on aggression after Zuko looses his firebending abilities. Next Sokka and Zuko team up in a fabulous two part episode, "The Boiling Rock" as Sokka attempts a daring rescue to free his father, Hakoda, from a Fire Nation Prison. While there, Sokka also discovers his old flame, Kyoshi Warrior Suki, is also imprisioned. Lastly, Zuko helps Katara track down her mother's murderer in the episode "The Southern Raiders" where we get a first look at Katara's mother and learn why she was singled out and killed.
A comical break in the episodes follows with "The Ember Island Players" as the Gaang attends a play about themselves while hiding out in Zuko's family summer home on Ember Island, (the same place Zuko visited in "The Beach" episode). But in the end Aang is left to struggle with his feelings for Katara and the battle before them.
The final FOUR episodes are clumped together in an exciting two hour season finalle, titled Sozin's Comet and is a beautifully done animated climax to this saga series. Though the wait was EXTREMELY long and annoying for fans, the final animation scenes between Aang and Ozai are spectacular and well worth the wait as Aang struggles with the realization he needs to take a life in order to bring about peace. Meanwhile, Zuko is finally reunited with his uncle Iroh in a humbling emotional reunion. Four major battles occur in the final episode: Iroh and members of the White Lotus Society attempt to reclaim and free Ba Sing Se; Sokka, Toph and Suki try to take out the Fire Nation air fleet bend of obliterating the Earth Kingdom; Zuko and Katara try to take out Princess Azula before she is crowned as the next Firelord, and Aang and Oazi, who has now declared himself the "Pheonix King" have a final battle! Each was done spectacularly well with music very different from what you would first expect but left a very lasting impression. Koodoes to "The Track Team" for the musical score!
All and all, what I think appeals to many fans about "Avatar the Last Airbender" is a great story with strong characters that grow and eventually overcome many obstacles to unite in a common cause. The superb animation, at times, incorporating the fluid movements of the martial arts is a pleasure to watch. The creators of Avatar, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko and the writers should be very proud of their accomplishment as the animated series Avatar finally comes to an explosive end while prospects of a live action film are currently in the brewing. As a fan of animation and a good story, I give them get an A++++ in my book and hope the creators will bless us with some special episodes that will answer some questions left hanging such as what happened to Zuko's mom and is Aang really the LAST Airbender. (If so he better produce some offspring or the Avatar cycle will truly disappear when it comes back around to the Air Nomads!)
Blue Spirt Gal