Geeking Out Hard – Avatar: The Last Airbender
I do not watch enough anime, that is a fact. I have a watchlist as tall as I am, almost as tall as the games I want to play, the books I want to read and the films I want to watch, and were it not for the fact that I’m expected to contribute to society in order to survive in it, I’d be getting it all done. Stupid society and it’s evolutionary imperatives for survival.
I have, however, watched a great deal of western TV and films. Having two screens means that I can sit with a series or film running on my left while I work on the right. Or sometimes play Minecraft because life is difficult and sometimes you need infinite Lego to make it seem better. I am a grown man without shame, and I have been watching a kids cartoon. Or have I?
The series is set in a fantasy world with themes drawn from ancient Chinese legend, in which some individuals can manipulate one of the four “classical” elements, earth, air, fire or water, in a style that blends science, spirituality and martial arts. Each generation produces a single individual who can manipulate all four, an Avatar, who brings balance between the elemental nations, and the material and spiritual worlds. Classic kids TV stuff, sure, but it goes into some very awesome and dark places.
Whenever I hear talk about the Golden Age of cartoons, the name Thundercats almost always comes up, along with the sentence that always makes me laugh, “I mean, people actually died in Thundercats!” and I won’t lie, I haven’t watched a lot of the show to memory, I’ve no doubt it went dark, and did so often. But like I mentioned in The Nineties, it’s all too easy to let happy memories of the past blind us to the triumphs of the present. Let us never forget Snarf!
Ba Sing Se
How often does a show go deep politics? The Ba Sing Se story arc has some seriously twisted 1984-style populous manipulation and information control, focussed around the leader of the intelligence agency, the Dai Li, and their coup against the oblivious king. Already at this point in the series, the small group of 12-14 year old kids have become deeply entangled in a war that threatens to destroy all life in the world, but now thrown against espionage and subterfuge?
Perhaps the creepiest part of the chapter is the appointed guide to the city Joo Dee: interchangable women with fixed-uniform smiles that all claim to have been the same person, when the former is swapped out for failing to hide the truth from the Avatar and his allies. We briefly see the brain washing facility where women have their personalities replaced with that of Joo Dee.
Legend of Korra
The sequel series picks up with the final part of the next Avatar’s training. What immediately struck me was the fact that the world had properly advanced the 70 years that pass between Avatar incarnation cycles. An industrial revolution takes place that has it’s roots in minor throw-away events from the original show. The series takes a wildly side-ways shift into fantasy-noir: terrorism, organized crime, corporate espionage, and I’m barely halfway through.
The show is inventive, well written, and combines some fantastic design elements brilliantly. The blend of cultures in the people and setting, the advancements in both magic and technology side-by-side make for a unique world. I have to say that there must have been something in the air in 2012, the shows’ first major villain is weirdly reminiscent of Bane from The Dark Knight Rises.
Getting Geeky With It
I find that I really want to know the stories of the other Avatars, I also want to play an RP where the group play as element-benders, but that should go without saying at this point. There’s a deeply rich world with an incredible team of writers, designers and animators supporting it, and a thousand stories could readily be told in it before the concept began to tire. Not even a shoddy life action screw-up by M. Night Shyamalan could do enough damage to it beyond hope. I’d like to say I plan to avoid the film, but I’m a completionist who intentionally watches bad films out of sheer curiosity.
I don’t remember a show like this ever being on TV when I was younger. In my day it was basically Pokemon, Digimon, and Hey Arnold! which wasn’t a bad mix all told, but I never had a Thundercats OR an Avatar.
That being said, I haven’t watched Reboot in a while…
See you guys Thursday, when I’ll start a brand new series!