An animated show on Nickelodeon that has developed a strong following (and will reportedly be turned into a live-action movie soon, helmed by director M. Night Shyamalan), "Avatar: The Last Airbender" is an animated series with Asian influences that started in 2005. The show focuses on a world where people are in control of different elements: Air, Fire, Water and Earth. When the Fire Nation attempts to achieve dominance over the other elemental tribes, a young boy named Aang is found by Katara and Sokka, and thought to be the chosen one who can master all four elements. Despite being immature, his potential ability to manipulate all four elements could lead the people of the world.
This is my introduction to the series, and I was incredibly impressed by it, especially given the kind of children's programming that is offered today. The series offers imaginative stories, doesn't condescend to its audience and boasts a rich mixture of action, adventure, mystery and humor. The martial arts sequences, of which there are quite a few in every episode, are genuinely exciting. Despite all the action, the series still remains wholesome and appealing for a wide variety of viewers, starting with older children (the youngest viewers may find the series a bit frightening.) The animation is certainly above-average for a children's TV series, as well, with striking style and detail. While I am certainly not comparing the two, I was occasionally reminded of some of legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki's work while watching this series.
In advance of the release of the "live-action" movie adaptation of the series (directed by M. Night Shyamalan) is this sleek box set, which offers all 20 episodes from the "Book 1: Water" portion of the series.
0 1-00 UNAIRED Pilot
1 1-01 101 21/Feb/05 The Boy in the Iceberg
2 1-02 102 21/Feb/05 The Avatar Returns
3 1-03 103 25/Feb/05 The Southern Air Temple
4 1-04 104 04/Mar/05 The Warriors of Kyoshi
5 1-05 105 18/Mar/05 The King of Omashu
6 1-06 106 25/Mar/05 Imprisoned
7 1-07 107 08/Apr/05 Winter Solstice Part 1 (The Spirit World)
8 1-08 108 15/Apr/05 Winter Solstice Part 2 (Avatar Roku)
9 1-09 109 29/Apr/05 The Waterbending Scroll
10 1-10 110 06/May/05 Jet
11 1-11 111 20/May/05 The Great Divide
12 1-12 112 03/Jun/05 The Storm
13 1-13 113 17/Jun/05 The Blue Spirit
14 1-14 114 23/Sep/05 The Fortuneteller
15 1-15 115 07/Oct/05 Bato of the Water Tribe
16 1-16 116 21/Oct/05 The Deserter
17 1-17 117 04/Nov/05 The Northern Air Temple
18 1-18 118 18/Nov/05 The Waterbending Master
19 1-19 119 02/Dec/05 The Siege of the North (1)
20 1-20 120 02/Dec/05 The Siege of the North (2)
VIDEO: "Avatar" is presented by Paramount in the show's original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. Image quality throughout the episodes was terrific, as every detail of the show's gorgeous animation was shown off splendidly. The image remained consistently sharp and detailed throughout, with no softness or other issues. No pixelation, shimmering or other flaws were seen. Colors remained bright and well-saturated, with no smearing or other concerns. No complaints to speak of here, as this was simply a lovely presentation.
SOUND: Crisp, clear stereo soundtrack with well-recorded dialogue, score and effects.
EXTRAS: Co-creator Nick DiMartino and members of the cast and crew provide an excellent commentary for the pilot episode, where the group discusses the arc of the show, the development of the series, storylines, working on the show and more. We also get three in-depth documentaries: "Behind the Scenes", "Inside the Sound Studio" and "Inside the Korean Animation Studio". The documentaries don't have a ton of repeat viewing value, but will likely interest fans for one round through.
Final Thoughts: I'd heard of "Avatar" before viewing it on DVD and remain pleasantly suprised that it certainly meets the hype and more. Funny, exciting and beautifully animated, this is a great show for both adults and children alike. Those who have already bought these episodes on the previously released volumes don't need to upgrade, but those who haven't previously picked up the series should look into this set. Recommended.