I had a sheltered childhood by circumstance.
So my closest friends made it their mission to take me through all three seasons, or books I guess, in their bid to witness what they had in its true form.
Was it all they had claimed it to be?
This isn’t one of my formal reviews so I’ll just say it now, I think it was a solid 3 out of 5. I’ll be honest, with how much my friends gushed about it I was expecting a 4. Maybe they think of it higher because they grew up with it or something?
But my ranking isn’t just because I didn’t grow up with it and in its initial form it wasn’t my taste. Yes there were some incredible highs, but it was countered by some baffling lows. So baffling it was bizarre that people still regarded it as the best animated series of all time.
I feel I’m gonna get hate for saying this, but I don’t care that I disagree. I’m a critical mind. I’m gonna critique Avatar. Here we go lads.
The worldbuilding was very fluid and strong. I don’t recall when anything was made contradictory, for one thing. You could distinctly find that the kingdoms were different but the same in such a small world. Even the various Earth settlements had different character, and there was a lot.
It showed cultural appreciation, not cultural appropriation. I was immediately concerned about this being based off of Chinese cultures, but it rooted itself in similar spiritual and customary beliefs for it to feel like its own culture while still appreciative of its roots.
Zuko. And Iroh. Their stories and arcs were incredibly fulfilling. I almost cried on several occasions. This was also surprising considering upon first seeing Iroh I didn’t like him and now he’s one of my favourites. I heard a lot about Zuko’s redemption arc being one of the best ever written, and he didn’t disappoint.
Book 2 was incredibly well written. That was absolutely the volume I was most engaged in and the one that featured my favourite episodes. The narratives imposed there were very clear, flowed expertly, and I can agree that there is no war in Ba Sing Se.
They didn’t know how to write villains, sans Azula. Azula was the only main villain with any sense of character, motivations and true threat. The Book One and Three villains were each so pathetic I don’t even remember their names, and one of them is the main villain of the series.
Their female lead characters were poorly written, sans Azula and Toph. They were either inconsistent or without personality, which is a shame when some of them were to powerful. Suki was a big red flag, for instance. She had no personality aside from being a noble fighter and loving Sokka. She was basically fridged in the third book too.
There were too many characters to keep track of. I especially found this an issue when there was a big reunion of characters in book three. My friends chorused over each of them and I kept asking who they were or trying to remember where they came from. They clearly didn’t leave an impact on me. Also, I’m sad that those secret tunnel nomads weren’t among them.
A tonne of episodes were filler, but my friends claimed them not. About a third of all episodes hardly progressed the main narrative. This was especially a bad thing in book three, where in the episode before the climax they go off to see a play that makes fun of the rest of the series. What good does that do to the plot? I don’t care about this – just go attack the fire nation already!
The narrative was solved with a deux ex machina. This is the biggest sin of them all. You don’t just give the character a superpower in the climax that was never explained or built up prior which also contradicts the lessons being taught to Aang. His character arc felt incomplete as a result.
So there’s my short take on the series. Zuko and Iroh are precious, Toph is an icon and there is no war in Ba Sing Se.
Yours in writing