Avatar The Last Airbender - The Complete Book 2 CollectionFor those viewers who, like yours truly, have never seen an episode of Avatar the Last Airbender, and moreso for those, again like yours truly, who have in fact never watched a full episode of anime, this second collection of Nickelodeon’s hit anime show takes the screen with surprising wit, action, beautiful animations, and a downright intriguing plotline.

The background story, as any cartoon worth its salt must posess, is as follows: the human race has been split up into four basic kinds of people: the Water Tribes, the Earth Kingdom, the Air Nomads and the Fire Nation. Naturally, each group of people has its own set of “benders” (now don’t go British slang on me here, it’s a kid’s show) that can control the element of their people, be it air, water, fire, or earth. (Captain Planet‘s crew would be disappointed to learn there’s no Heartbender I’m sure). Now, as the title suggests, there is only one Airbender left, and that’s Aang. Though he’s only 12 years old, he was frozen in ice for 100 years so he’s really closer to 112. Also, the Avatar in the title denotes that he is a being capable of controlling all four elements… but he has to learn first. Now that he’s been unfrozen by teens Katara and Sokka, he’s setting about stopping the Fire Nation from destroying everyone else.

Like a kind of animated Neo, young Aang is the messiah of sorts, an Avatar here to save the world from the fire kingdom. Making extensive use of Eastern mystics, martial arts, and the anime genre itself, creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino have created an exciting, and though perhaps not entirely unique, definite standout show amidst an overflowing glut of cartoons currently available.

As Aang, voice actor Zach Tyler, who also voiced the lead in The Ant Bully, is spot on with whimsy and enthusiasm to spare without sounding cheesy or annoying. Other notables include Mako, the voice of Master Splinter in the recent TMNT revival, in one of his final roles as the dangerous Uncle Iroh and Mark Hamill, who makes a brief appearance as the ruthless Fire Lord Ozai.

Continuing the storyline from the first season (or book as the Avatar collections are called), Avatar distances itself from typical cartoons by having a continuing story arc rather than an episodical mishmash. In this season a hint of a relationship is developed between Aang and Katara, the Fire Nation continues to seek the destruction of Aang and his gang, and an interesting new character named Toph is introduced as an Earthbending mentor.

Although it would be easy for a collection of this size (20 episodes, 492 minutes) to lag at various points throughout and still maintain a solid story, the producers of Avatar have worked hard to make sure that this isn’t the case with their show. As each episode pushes the show closer towards a finale, audiences will find themselves repeatedly impressed by the creativity on the screen. Both young and old alike can enjoy the show and hope that future animators are watching and taking notes.

Zach’s Rating: A-
Anime-niac’s rating: A+
Aqua Teen Hunger Force fan’s rating: C-

To purchase Avatar the Last Airbender – The Complete Book 2 Collection, visit Amazon
For more information, visit the Avatar homepage

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