30 Day Challenge- Something Over-Rated
Oh yeah. I went there. But I think people are kinda viewing this as an almost matyred series after the horrid movie. And I recognize it was innovative for an american cartoon. But the character development was shit. Absolutely and the writers did not know how to write a decent relationship. Don’t get me wrong iI like a lot of the characters but there is to much wrong with this series for me to ever view as good as others think see it as.
….I would just like to acknowledge that this might have very well have been the case for the first season, season two was better, and season three was the one we all freak out over. To loudly declare that one of the most celebrated aspects of an innovative series— really, why the series was innovative for an American program in the first place— is “shit,” sounds like a hasty conclusion drawn from only vague impressions from either a show in its infancy or snippets of the show across its run.
If you don’t want spoilers, turn back now. D:
Avatar the Last Airbender is built around characterization. We’ve got several different subplots running the span of the series at once, mostly centered around the main cast, which, by the end of season three, grows to encompass Aang, Katara, Sokka, Toph and Zuko. Which means we have a twelve-year-old kid who is expected to be a spiritual and physical savior to the world as we know it. We also have a fourteen-year-old girl with an incredible talent for waterbending who, due to her recent increased involvement with the war against the fire nation, is being forced to face some of her demons regarding the death of her mother. There’s also her brother— my favorite character, though I would say most people have figured that out— who is smart as a whip but clumsy on the uptake, struggling to be the leader that he knows his tribe needs and that his father probably wants him to be. Toph is the twelve-year-old blind earthbending prodigy who has run away from her overbearing parents to help save the world through the power of sheer badassery and smart-ass comments. Finally, there’s Zuko, the exiled Prince of the Fire Nation, who is forced, over the span of the series, to redefine what he perceives as good and evil and help the gang stop his father, the Fire Lord.
Okay, we can’t deny that it relies pretty heavily on some tried and true tropes, but stay with me.
But what’s incredible about watching ATLA to me is seeing these kids grow up. It’s what kept me reading Harry Potter. It’s probably why The Lion King and Treasure Planet are so high on my list of favorite Disney movies. There is so much thought put into these five goofy kids and the relationships they develop with each other and the people outside their tight-nit circle that it boggles the mind. (And, when illustrated, tends to look like spaghetti.)
Let’s take Sokka for example— Sokka has a fantastic character arc. He goes from a closed-minded, xenophobic, kinda racist, sexist fifteen-year-old brat with some skill in combat and some inherent talent for strategy to a brilliant, creative, open-minded guy with the leadership skills to do whatever he wants to do, even if he thinks it might be beyond him. He’s not the only one who gets thoroughly developed throughout the series, obviously, he just happens to have the arc I identify with the most.
As for the argument that “they can’t write a relationship,” I could point you at any of the main cast. But, for the sake of brevity, I would like to address Zuko and Iroh. The prince and his Uncle have the single most compelling father-son relationship that I have seen on TV, much less animated programming aimed at an 8 to 15 demographic. Early on, Zuko holds nothing but contempt for this man who he really sees as nothing more than a babysitter, or maybe a firebending instructor. He has no respect for the man (who, it is worth mentioning, lost his son Lu Ten in the war) and brushes him off. In spite of all of this, Iroh continues to try to make it through to him, to teach him the real rights and wrongs of the world they live in. Only after Zuko betrays Iroh in an attempt to gain favor with his father again does he really realize how right Iroh was, and he spends the rest of the series trying to find him again, if only to apologize. It is easily the most powerful relationship in the series.
When I first started watching this show, I came in in the middle of season two and was bored out of my wits. I was probably sixteen or seventeen at the time. I didn’t know what was going on, I thought it was stupid that Americans were trying to make an anime… when I tuned back in at one point (after listening to my friends rave about how good the show was) I happened to catch the beginning of the episodes at the end of the first season and I was hooked. I had to figure out what on earth I’d just seen and I started recording the entire series. And, I am happy to say that I was not disappointed— which is very, very easy for me to be.
All I ask is that before you jump to a hasty generalization, that you sit back and watch more of the series. You might see why so many people love it so much.