weaponsofmassdelight

Mutual Assured Delight

Avatar the Last Airbender: when East meets West


I wrote this a long time ago, so be gentle.

Ionic versus Pentatonic.   Nuclear family versus extended. Chopstick versus fork. For as long as the cradles of civilization have been around, there has been a difference between Eastern Culture and Western culture that has gone beyond the physical separation by the Ural and Caucasus Mountains.  Whether it be by the main differences in philosophy and religion or the way to hand a business card, it obvious that there is a major divide between how things functions between the cultures. However, every so often lightning strikes and that great red line dissipate to create something truly awe-inspiring.   In the year 2004 at Comic-con, the world saw lightning struck once again. Avatar: The Last Air bender was ready to shine.

Like many great animated television shows, ATLA(Avatar The Last Air bender) began in Burbank California. The two men who came up with the main idea were Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko in 2001. It took them only two weeks to come up with the idea and pitch it. By February of 2005 it was an overnight hit. Since that fateful day there has been three seasons, a few hour long specials, and a successful second season to grace the avatar universe. The Avatar universe tells the story of Avatars, one person every lifetime who has the ability to use all four of the elements in comparison to only one, to bring harmony to the land. ATLA tells the story of how Aang, an avatar trapped in a block of ice for 100 years, and his companions defeat the fire nation after it had waged an all-out war for domination. Avatar: The Legend of Korra, is about the Avatar after Aang named Korra who must live in a world where although people with elemental abilities live in harmony,  a resistance of normal people is formed to stop bending.

So why is Avatar special? Well, that is multi-part answer. One would be the fact that Avatar is a serious drama.  Even though there is humor involved, most notably involving the character Sokka and his trusty boomerang, it would be a lie to say that ALTA does not tug on the metaphorical heartstrings. The creators masterfully play with music, storyline, and character developments that make mature characters that are relatable despite the odd universe in which they live in. I found myself emphasizing with Anng’s attempt to get Katara to notice him and crying with him when the frustration of being born into responsibility became too much to handle.  What we were given was a show not just for the demographic of 8-11. We were given an epic story that blended western and eastern ideas to give a masterpiece. It is understood early on that eastern philosophy, art, and martial arts heavily influenced the show. The amazing thing was, it was not based off of tired old stereotypes that would often show up in western shows including Eastern elements.  ATLA was a celebration of Eastern culture.

Recently, Avatar: The Legend of Korra was renewed for a second season. A greater diffusion between western and eastern history/ideas is created, with jazz and automobiles painted next to Chinese folk music and bamboo trees.   The future for this show is unknown to everybody except the small group of dedicated artists in Burbank. What is known is that Avatar will continue to meld the hearts of mind of Eastern and Western fans for years to come.

God I love the track Team.  (M. Knight Free since  ’05)

-Grant

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