‘The Puppetmaster’ — “Avatar: the Last Airbender”

[http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0417299/]

Water

Earth

Fire

Air

Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony. Then everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked. Only the Avatar, master of all four elements, could stop them. But when the world needed him most, he vanished. A hundred years passed and my brother and I discovered the new Avatar, an airbender named Aang. And although his airbending skills are great, he still has a lot to learn before he’s ready to save anyone.

But I believe Aang can save the world.

Background: in “Avatar: the Last Airbender” Aang is a boy with a destiny and a history: he is the Avatar, the current incarnation of an eternal chain, the one who possesses the power to wield all four of the elements, fated to restore the balance of nature that was broken by the Fire Lord and the conquering of the world by the Fire Nation. Except, a century before, when he was supposed to stop the Fire Nation, he disappeared, and only now has returned. The problem is that he’s still a young boy, not even a teenager, and his companions are little older than he is. Its a pretty heavy burden to shoulder, especially when he’s also hunted by the Fire Nation and hunting those who can help him master the four elements.

Aang is originally joined by two young members of the Water Tribe, Sokka and Katara: Katara possesses the power to ‘bend’ the element of Water, and later Toph, an Earth bender and Zuko, the prince of the Fire Nation who betrayed his father to join the Avatar.

Description: On their journey, Aang, Sokka, Katara and Toph find a village with a mystery: every full moon, says the old woman Hama who finds them in the forest, people would disappear from the forest they were just wandering through. And the full moon is rising soon.

 Hama — “When the Moon turns full, they walk in … and they don’t walk out.”

Although they want to continue, they are shown that Hama is not only from the Southern Water Tribe, but is also a Water bender. She was taken years ago by the Fire Nation, imprisoned and later escaped, and now offers to teach Katara more about water bending. But what she has to teach her is born of her years as a prisoner, where she learned to take water from whatever source she could, and, when the power of the Moon was at its height when it was full, command even the blood of her opponents, including the villagers she drew away into their own imprisonment.

But Katara is repulsed by the thought of blood bending, and battles both it and Hama, as Hama attempts to control her, but Katara’s own water bending powers are stronger. And they have to be, because Hama then takes control of Aang and Sokka through her blood bending. Unable to battle three opponents, she is forced to adapt blood bending herself to defeat Hama.

Hama — “My work is done. Congratulations, Katara: you’re a blood bender.

Katara doesn’t use her blood bending much, but in ‘The Southern Raiders’ she’s angry enough to use it despite her reluctance. And she even scares Zuko a little.

Commentary: It is the mark of a really good program aimed for younger viewers when it also appeals to adults. Nor does is hurt that the voice talent (something I’ve stressed in the past with other animated series) behind the characters were all first-rate.  The series won several professional awards during its 3 year run and was one of the most popular series on the network.

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Trivia: Fire Lord Ozai is voiced by Mark Hamil: quite a turn-around, the young Jedi providing the voice of the evil Emperor.

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