‘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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