Avatar: the Last Airbender—Book 3: Fire Vol. 4 (Nickelodeon/Paramount Pictures, Not Rated)

avatar-header.jpgThe writers are able to mix humor and drama seamlessly in the final episodes—a grand culmination to a talent that has spanned the entire series.

 

 

 

 

One disc, six episodes; approx. 148 minutes; $16.99

 

Nickelodeon’s animated series Avatar: the Last Airbender, created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, has become a phenomenal hit, earning kudos from every sector and a film adaptation from M. Night Shyamalan, and this DVD finale illustrates exactly why. For anyone not familiar with the show, it features the adventures of a young boy named Aang, the last Airbender and Air Nomad. In this Asian-inspired fantasy world, people who live in one of the four element-themed lands (the Air Temples, Northern or Southern Water Tribes, Earth Kingdom or Fire Nation) can have the ability to "bend" or manipulate their respective elements. The only problem is that the Fire Nation, ruled by the terrible Fire Lord Ozai, is steadily taking over the entire world. Aang is the Avatar, the only person able to bend all four elements, and is destined to save the world by defeating Ozai. At twelve years of age and very unsure of himself, he has slowly managed to master the other elements as the series has progressed, aided by his friends Katara, Sokka, Toph and Zuko. In this final DVD, Aang finally confronts Ozai just as Sozin’s comet passes by earth, giving the already formidable Fire Nation even greater and frightening power. With his chakra blocked and time running out, the entire world waits to see if the Avatar can restore balance.

What is there to say about Avatar? Too much, really—the individual stories explored in each episode are wonderfully written, and as in other high-quality series they nonetheless give viewers additional strands that, by the end, are woven together in a wonderful and cohesive way. The writers who work on Avatar are a finely crafted bunch, and are able to mix humor and drama seamlessly in the final episodes—a grand culmination to a talent that has spanned the entire series.

Click for a larger image.As for artwork, Avatar’s final DVD is full of stunning visuals that would be quite at home in a professionally animated feature-length movie. The colors, costumes, and backgrounds are meticulously rendered to give the viewer immersion in a world that is vaguely familiar, but still very much original. Viewers will see influences from all across Asia, including Tibet, China, Japan, and Thailand. Owing to the skill of the show’s designers, I found it more delightful than intrusive when I recognized bits and pieces clearly from the Far East. DiMartino and Konietzko have done their homework, and have in fact travelled to Asia for first-hand research. Their dedication to detail pays off, and viewers are rewarded accordingly. Some of the most heart-pounding scenes can be found in the final four episodes, including the best animated Lady Macbeth descent-into-madness scene I have ever seen. This is no carbon-copy kiddie show hacked out to net a few bucks; this is one of those fine and rare additions to American animated series which stands out above the rest.

 

Avatar’s last DVD includes the hotly anticipated episodes The Southern Raiders and The Ember Island Players along with the four-part series finale Sozin’s Comet. Newcomers to Avatar definitely need to watch this series from the beginning. To try and jump right to this finale DVD would leave you in the dark about so many of the character revelations exposed in these last episodes, as well as cheating yourself out of a truly fantastic story. Long-time followers of the show will appreciate all the more the efforts put forth in this DVD. Long-standing questions and character developments will come to a head and be resolved in these final episodes, and for the vast part it is extremely satisfactory. Sadly, a lingering question regarding Prince Zuko’s past was not addressed, and at the very end of the final episode I found some of the characters’ behavior incongruous and out-of-place. Ah well. On the whole, it was a great finale to a great series, and I would highly recommend buying this DVD, in addition to the rest of the series. | Elizabeth Schweitzer

Enter here for your chance to win your own copy of Avatar: The Last Airbender—Book 3: Fire Vol. 4: http://www.playbackstl.com/content/view/8639/303/

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