Mark Watches ‘Avatar’: S01E01 – The Boy In The Iceberg

In the first episode of the first season of Avatar: The Last Airbender, siblings Katara and Sokka discover a young boy who has been frozen in ice for one hundred years, setting into motion the myth of the Avatar. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Avatar.

Let’s start this off properly. Here’s what I know about the wonderful world of Avatar: The Last Airbender:

  • M. Night Shyamalan ruined it.
  • There’s a giant creature that looks like a a wooly bull? I don’t know what the creature is called.
  • There’s a bald kid. How is he bald at age nine? Or however old he is. I bet he was a boss and just decided that he might as well start out life looking all dapper without any hair so he’d never have to worry about male pattern balding.
  • People can control elements? So it’s a less goofy version of Captain Planet. (Sidenote: Go to the Wiki of Captain Planet and look at the voice cast. You’re welcome.)
  • People fight.
  • It’s animated.
  • There are people.
  • Stuff.

IT’S SO FUN TO START SOMETHING NEW AND NOT KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT IT.

Having said that, there might be some new folk around here as I start a new series. If so, I highly implore you to read the Site Rules/Spoiler Policy BEFORE COMMENTING. I have an intense and absurdly strict “No Spoiler” rule in effect for the comments. I enjoy reading them, and I do not want to have to worry about someone revealing anything from the future. And if you are truly too bothered to go read that page, here’s a basic guide to spoilers:

Is what you are about to comment on something that happens in an episode that I have not seen yet? THEN MOVE AWAY FROM YOUR KEYBOARD AND STOP. Seem easy enough? Awesome.

Shall we?

“The Boy In The Iceberg”

If there was any indication that this show would be something I would come to enjoy, it was just after the narrated introduction that I grinned from ear to ear. As we’re introduced to the siblings Katara and Sokka, arguing as siblings sometimes do, I was surprised to see a specific interaction open the entire show. Katara is a Waterbender, but I was initially confused as to why Sokka seemed to react so aversely to this revelation. If the world was made out of benders, why would it be at all strange that his sister was a Waterbender?

As the boat they’re on gets stuck between two icebergs, Sokka tries to blame the entire thing on Katara’s weirdness and gender, and Katara snaps instantly:

“You are the most sexist, immature, nut-brained…I’m embarrassed to be related to you!”

Ok, did the main female character just call out her brother for being sexist IN THE FIRST FIVE MINUTES OF THE SHOW. Oh, you all know me too well.

But seriously, right off the bat, we’re given an extremely strong, likable, and intriguing female character who looks like she’ll be the main focus of the story. AND THIS IS A GOOD THING THAT PEOPLE SHOULD FEEL GOOD ABOUT.

If anything, this is a pilot episode, and a short one at that, meant to introduce a lot of things, mainly the entire concept of Avatar. I am not entirely sure this takes place on “Earth” or a planet like that in any way we would understand. But I also don’t feel I need to know that to enjoy any of this, either. I don’t know the history of this show, or if it’s based on a manga series or a comic or a book, but I also get the sense that a great deal of this is distinctly not American. From the lack of white characters, to the story’s insistence to merely drop us into this world with very little context, to some of the silliness when Aang is finally fully introduced, I’m already impressed with the way this narrative is given to us. I don’t mean to say that this show is going to skip over any specific cliches or tropes, since it is aimed at a much younger audience than perhaps anything I’ve watched or read in the past. (Well…what about the first two Harry Potter books?)

On that note, it wasn’t surprising to me that of all the Nations, the Fire Nation is the one who is waging war on the other three tribes. Fire equals violence. GET IT???? But I’m not picking on the concept; even basic things like that can still exist on this show and (hopefully) provide stepping stones to much more interesting stories and devices. But already we meet Prince Zuko, the hot-headed (I SWEAR I WON’T USE TOO MANY PUNS) and impulsive teenager who has made it a mission of his to find the rumored Avatar. Of course, unknown to Katara and Sokka, breaking apart the iceberg with Aang inside of it sends out a beam of light that Zuko interprets as a sign that the Avatar has returned.

I don’t feel like it’s an injustice to the show to state this, but it seems pretty obvious that Aang is going to be the Avatar at some point during the show’s run, and there’s a lot to suggest that here in the first episode. We don’t get the revelation until the end of the episode, but Aang has no idea that he’s been trapped in a block of ice FOR AN ENTIRE CENTURY. In a way, it explains why he immediately seemed so joyous upon being broken out of the ice and asked Katara to go penguin sledding with him. Also RIDING PENGUINS DOWN MOUNTAINS. Surely my inner vegan is screaming OPPRESSION! to me, but every other fiber of my body is saying, “Mark, you have not lived until you’ve sled down a mountain on a penguin.”

So Aang is probably going to be the unknowing hero. Well…ok, there is a detail that does turn this trope on its head a bit. Aang knows he’s an Airbender, so it’s not like he is completely ignorant of his powers, as most Chosen Ones are. Still, I think I’m pretty ok with that, as I don’t imagine the story is going to hinge entirely on Aang learning he is the Avatar. The cast of characters is pretty small right now, but I think we’re just at the beginning, and as we move forward through the show, it’ll only get larger. I mean, we still haven’t met any Earthbenders yet! (I will feel like a fool if that’s not what they’re called. Oops.)

Let’s talk about Aang, who has an infectious youthfulness to his character that’s hard to ignore in this pilot. I think that as I move through Avatar, these first handful of reviews are going to be full of rhetorical questions that YOU CANNOT ANSWER because this is my way of thinking outlaid. But as silly and joyous as Aang’s appearance is in “The Boy In The Iceberg,” I couldn’t help that my brain went to a sad, depressing place. Where is Aang’s family? Is he technically an orphan? Why doesn’t he seem that sad about his predicament? (Well, the episode technically ends on a cliffhanger of sorts after Aang is told about his whole “being-encased-in-a-giant-ice-cube-for-a-century-and-missing-an-entire-war” situation, so we could be getting more of his emotional reaction after that.

That also might explain his playful attitude towards Katara. Well….and it’s part boyish crush, I can’t ignore that either. I’m not sure of anyone’s age in this show, either. I know Zuko’s a teenager. (Do they mention that he’s sixteen? Why do I have that number in my head?) I feel there is some pretty blatant foreshadowing throughout this episode that Katara and Aang might develop a more series relationship, but, then again, it could be a red herring. Or this show could be about something else. LOOK, I’M SERIOUSLY JUST FLAPPING AT THE WIND AT THIS POINT. I don’t know shit about this world and it’s mythology.

What I do like can best be described as such:

  1. Appa. And now I want Appa to fly around on immediately.
  2. Uncle Iroh. Yes, he does fit the wise elder archetype to a T at this point, but I don’t think that will last long. Also, calling it: HE’S THE FIRST TO DIE. (Wait, I don’t know if this show is aimed at an audience where death can happen? WHATEVER, I thought Harry Potter would be all disposable and saccharine and SHIT GOT SO REAL IN THOSE BOOKS.
  3. The way that Aang is introduced to the Southern Water Tribe, who realistically don’t accept the boy with open arms. I mean…he’s the only Airbender, apparently, as the people of this tribe haven’t seen one in a long, long time. About a hundred years, to be exact. Which puts Aang in an interesting position, since there’s a mixture of fear and wonder that surrounds who he is.
  4. And I love that he straight doesn’t give a fuck. He’s busy flying, sticking his tongue on his staff, teaching the kids how to SLIDE DOWN APPA’S BACK, and generally being…well, a kid. He doesn’t care about the war or the Avatar or anything aside from genuinely wanting to meet the people who live in this tribe.
  5. The colors used in this animation are fantastic, from some of the more subtle hues worn by the Southern Water Tribe, to the gorgeous, bright blue arrow markings that flow over Aang’s body. (What the hell are those, by the way?) Despite that a lot of the settings for this episode are set in bright tones (lots and lots of white), it never feels overwhelming or washed out. And hell, the lighter backgrounds (with the exception of the Firebenders ship with Zuko and Iroh on it) actually create a great contrast between the characters and where they’re set.
  6. The very interesting parallel between Aang and Katara, who are both the only benders of their specific element that they know of. Hmmmm.

I like the pilot. I find the concept intriguing. I love that the cast is mainly kids and teenagers (with a believable reason why there are so many of them around), and I hope to continue to enjoy what I see on my screen. I will definitely have one new review up every week day, but since these episodes are half as long as what I’m used to writing about, IF I get a chance to do another review in a day, I will try. NO GUARANTEES. Fair enough?

THOUGHTS

  • Seriously, where is my penguin sled?
  • “You just sneezed and flew ten feet in the air!” “Really? Felt higher than that.”
  • Ok, so Prince Zuko believes that the Avatar is a “coward” for hiding for a hundred years. Um….why?
  • “Listen, until your fathers return from the war, they’re counting on you to be the men of this tribe. And that means no potty breaks!” “But I really gotta go!”
  • Ok, so, I skipped over the obvious: How is it that Aang was in an iceberg for 100 years and he apparently did not age a second?

 

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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633 Responses to Mark Watches ‘Avatar’: S01E01 – The Boy In The Iceberg

  1. shyfully says:

    First: Ohmigod Mark Watches Avatar: The Last Airbender I AM THE MOST EXCITED PERSON IN THE WORLD. I love Doctor Who and Firefly but Avatar has a special place in my heart. I’m not even sure why! It just does.

    Second: It is hard to write a review when I don’t know how you (Mark) will like the show. At all! I’m very worried that you won’t like it or think it is silly. 🙁 I hope it woos you with it’s charm, but it might take a few episodes. I WORRY A LOT ABOUT THIS and since the review changed schedules I worried even more since… I had nothing else to do? I DUNNO.

    Anyway, it’s gogo review time!

    <img src=http://i.imgur.com/lfcyk.gif>

    Okay, the opening. Obviously it is a big exposition dump, but they don’t explain everything. Basically: 4 elements, 4 groups of people, 1 Avatar (with 4 elements), 1 war, 0 Avatars, 100 years. Also, Katara voice over. She has hope.

    So, then we start with Katara and Sokka fishing. And, quickly, this show surprised me. Why? Because Katara called her brother sexist. Now, shows aimed at kids often try to teach lessons to do with -isms and why they are bad but usually they don’t use the actual words. But so early in this show, Katara does. She calls her brother sexist. And it isn’t made into a very special episode and actually doesn’t get a lot of focus- she goes on to complain about his smelly clothes- but it’s nice to see something like that so clearly labeled for what it is, not hidden or euphemised. And it isn’t treated like a special lesson, it’s just presented as part of Katara’s life. This is Katara, she has to deal with sexism and she Will Not Take It Anymore.

    <img src=http://i.imgur.com/4sGLn.gif>

    I don’t want to do a moment by moment review, so disorganization ahead!

    It’s interesting to see the different levels of bending prowess in this episode. Katara is obviously not trained at all, but seems to be pretty powerful, what with her splitting that iceberg and all. Aang seems to be extremely good at Airbending, although he is very young (only a 112~ oh, you know what I mean). He basically airbends as easily as he moves around. Prince Zuko seems to be somewhere in between, perhaps? He said he was being drilled in basic firebending and wants to move on to the ~advanced set~. Also HE DOESN’T NEED ANY CALMING TEA!

    <img src=http://i.imgur.com/UE45U.gif>

    Although this episode has a lot of cute stuff (WHY ISN’T PENGUIN SLEDDING REAL It looks like so much fun) there are also these moments that I call Well, Shit moments. A Well, Shit moment is where suddenly the adorableness breaks down and we see that this world really kind of sucks. The obvious examples would be Katara talking about how there are no benders to teach her (Aang’s reaction makes it pretty clear that this is not the way Things Should Be), Aang hearing that they assumed all the Airbenders were extinct, and Sokka trying to teach the little kids to be warriors to protect the village from firebenders until their father’s return. That is never a good sign, I tell you what. I especially felt so bad for Aang in his moment… How would you even deal with that? “Oh hey, nice to see you YOUR PEOPLE ARE PROBABLY DEAD BTW”

    Also, Aang’s nightmare is interesting. ~He glows~ (Meanwhile, on the fire nation ship- Zuko’s Uncle: You should get some sleep. Zuko: I DON’T NEED ANY CALMING SLEEP!)

    Random quotes:

    Aang: This is Appa, my flying bison.
    Sokka: Riiight, and this is Katara, my flying sister.

    Aang: (exiting bathroom) Wow, everything freezes in there!

    Aang: I have a way with animals! (proceeds to run around making ridiculous noises)

    Katara: I haven’t done this since I was a kid!
    Aang: You still are a kid!

    Katara: I sense he’s filled with much wisdom.
    Aang: (tongue stuck to staff) Thee? Now my tongue ith thuck to my thaff!

    (cont)

    • shyfully says:

      <img src=http://i.imgur.com/kFmv0.png>

      Now, the characters. This section might be short since it is hard to remember exactly what I though of them after only one episode.

      Aang: The main character! I find him interesting, though I’m a bit hesitant. He’s very funny and I like how charming he is, but he could easily turn into an idiot hero. Wanting to go on the war ship even when Katara said it was a bad idea was… well, iffy. Then again, he’s 12 and he didn’t understand about the war, since he still thought he’d only been gone for a few days. I do find him sweet, though, and the hints of him having a more serious side makes me willing to give him a chance to prove himself. I like how he interacted with the kids.

      <img src=http://i.imgur.com/X5qnb.gif>

      Katara: MY GIRL 🙂 🙂 She could have easily come across stereotypically- the young female character who has hope resting on male characters, motherly, kind, giving people the benefit of the doubt, emotional – and I’m know there are people out there who think she is. But I think that she isn’t a stereotype, she is fully fledged. And what really, really saves her for me and endears her to me forever, is that she isn’t just waiting and hoping and believing in people. She’s also trying to better herself. The very first thing we see her do is catch a fish with water bending. She was never taught, she has no instruction, her brother is outright rude about her trying to teach herself… but she is still using her talent as well as she can to help her village. And when she finds out Aang is an Airbending Master, she wants him to teach her, or take her where she can be taught. And her kindness, her motherliness doesn’t seem stereotypical to me. It makes sense. She outright says that she has had take on her mother’s role for her brother and her since her mother died. She doesn’t think of herself as a kid anymore. SO YEAH I love Katara.

      Sokka: It’s interesting to compare Sokka to Katara. Sokka had to take on the role of the Man of The Tribe when the warriors left, so to speak. He acts like a jerk in this episode, but, well… a lot of it, I can’t really blame it for. Aang comes in, destroys his tower, everyone becomes so taken with him and the fun he brings… but we, the viewer, know that a Fire Nation ship is RIGHT THERE so it is hard to say that Sokka’s reaction, wanting people to stop messing around and prepare for if they were attacked, is entirely unfounded. He doesn’t know the ship is there, of course, and he doesn’t handle it well, being immature, but you can still see at least partially where he is coming from. So, he’s a character I decided to keep my eye on, even as I laugh when he gets snotted on, covered in snow, etc.

      <img src=http://i.imgur.com/pEU7J.gif>

      The other characters, like Prince Zuko, his uncle, Gran Gran, etc, I will wait until a bit later to discuss since I’m not sure I have thoughts that can really be pulled together from just one episode. Oh, well, I will say Zuko amuses me with his ANGER RAWR and Iroh amuses me with his “You need to chiiiiill” attitude. Iroh got a few laughs from me with his food/game obsession. Heh heh.

      Finally, that cliff hanger. Dun dun dun~~~ So excited to rewatch this show with you guys!

      <img src=http://i.imgur.com/q6PZD.gif>

      • xpanasonicyouthx says:

        ALREADY SO MANY GOOD GIFS!!!!!

        ilu ilu ilu

        • shyfully says:

          DO YOU KNOW HOW HARD IT WAS NOT TO USE ANY AVATAR GIFS IN MY DOCTOR WHO COMMENTS

          PS YOU ARE NOT PREPARED, THOUGH THAT SEEMS REDUNDANT TO SAY THIS EARLY IN A SHOW

      • monkeybutter says:

        Iroh got a few laughs from me with his food/game obsession. Heh heh.

        <img src="http://i51.tinypic.com/2nks1fa.gif"&gt;

        I love Iroh so much…it's just not healthy!

        And I agree with you about Katara. Female characters can motherly and emotional without being a stereotype, and they definitely still be strong. Plus, she has a sense of humor and lots of fun, so in no way is she a flat stereotype. It's just Katara's life!

        • shyfully says:

          Yesss he won my heart when he told Zuko he'd help him… when he finished his meal. I respect priorities like that~

          I am very protective of Katara since, like pretty much all main/recurring female characters, she gets way more bashing than she deserves. She is awesome and epic and Takes No Shit but is also kind and funny and I loved her having fun and laughing in this episode. You really get the sense that she isn't used to being that happy.

        • Elexus Calcearius says:

          IrohIrohIrohIroh. <3

          And yes. Not to give too much away, but I love this show's cast of female character. And male characters. And just characters, period.

      • echinodermata says:

        <3 <3 <3 <3.

      • arctic_hare says:

        I lurve this review like burning, and OMG PENGUIN GIF!!!! <3 <3 <3

      • __Jen__ says:

        ILU <3

        Gifs+ great review+ Katara love= A++++ comment.

      • psycicflower says:

        THIS to your review.

        (Stealing all your gifs)

      • ldwy says:

        Abba is my favorite characterso far. My god. A six legged flying shaggy bison? WHAT COULD BE BETTER.

      • Hotaru_hime says:

        The penguins are like mixes of penguins and seals!!

      • thefireandthehearth says:

        This review is made of wonder, eloquence, and gifs. I loves it.

      • YOU DID NOT DISAPPOINT. A+ (And extra credit points for good gifs!)

      • barnswallowkate says:

        Katara: I sense he’s filled with much wisdom.
        Aang: (tongue stuck to staff) Thee? Now my tongue ith thuck to my thaff!

        That part cracked my shit up.

        Iroh amuses me with his “You need to chiiiiill” attitude.

        It makes me wonder what exactly is in that tea.

      • thinofsubstance says:

        BEST COMMENT.

        Oh man. I can only squee incoherently at this point for fear of spoilers.

        AANG! KATARA! SOKKA! ZUKO! IROH! EVERYONE!

    • Inner Voice says:

      That's a great point about the different levels of bending prowess! I hadn't thought of that before, of how the different levels are all laid out side-by-side in this episode. Katara with her self-taught and inelegant (but effective!) fish-catching, Aang with his total comfort with airbending, and Zuko struggling to get to the next level of his uncle's curriculum.

  2. ASKDSIJFINHUBHG NOT PREPARED! I'd forgotten how hard it was to be ahead of you not want to risk spoiling, but I love that you already like this show.

    And fuck yeah, penguin sledding.

    NOT PREPARED. NEVER PREPARED.

  3. Meenalives says:

    Avatar! Yay! I love how this first episode establishes the characters so quickly. From the very first moment, the sibling interaction between Sokka and Katara seems so real, though on the first watching I assumed that Katara was the older sibling (I will have more thoughts on why Katara responded to the war differently than Sokka in later episodes). I also love the first picture we get of Aang, as this reckless but gentle kid, and the contrast with Sokka and Katara and especially with Zuko, who are all driven. I also love how he interacts with the Water Tribe kids. Aang’s cluelessness quickly becomes heartbreaking when we realize just what he doesn’t know. The moist poignant moment is Katara’s line while penguin sledding, “I haven’t done this since I was a kid!” and Aang’s response “you still are a kid!” but Katara really isn’t anymore. She’s had to take on all the responsibilities of an adult, and it weighs on her. I love how this show depicts how stress and trauma change people.

  4. elusivebreath says:

    Like Mark, I am going to into this fairly unprepared, though I have caught a handful of episodes over the years, as my kids used to watch this show. I had never seen the opening episode though, so it was really intriguing to see where it all started. I don't have a lot to comment on yet (except OMG PENGUING SLEDDING), but I'm looking forward to experiencing something that is brand new to me!

  5. __Jen__ says:

    The obligatory: RUUUUUUUUFIOOOOOOOO
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Um8mMa5w41A

    • monkeybutter says:

      Most beautiful comment ever seen on this blog.

    • echinodermata says:

      Um, I think it's better if you don't say who any upcoming voice actors are. It's like saying omg ACTOR X is appearing in S6 of Doctor Who. I think it's still a spoiler.

      • arctic_hare says:

        Yeah, hence why I deleted it. And one of those VA reveals spoiled me, so I'm extra not pleased.

        • FlameRaven says:

          My apologies. The VAs are harder to catch than actual actors (I didn't realize who they were until I read about it) so I thought it might be okay. Sorry for spoiling.

    • Jaxx_zombie says:

      Every time he is an episode this must be posted.

  6. monkeybutter says:

    Also RIDING PENGUINS DOWN MOUNTAINS. Surely my inner vegan is screaming OPPRESSION! to me, but every other fiber of my body is saying, “Mark, you have not lived until you’ve sled down a mountain on a penguin.”

    <img src="http://i53.tinypic.com/2wr2iko.gif"&gt;

    Seriously, far better than lunch trays.

    I was so excited for you to see Katara. Ain't she great? Despite of all the serious moments, this episode is so much fun. I can't really say much other than RUFIOOOOOOOOO and I really hope you love this show!

  7. Patrick says:

    Fuck yes Mark you are going to love the fuck out of this show. You probably should've watched episode 2 along with this one, since they were aired back to back. And because Avatar is awesome.

  8. Spugsy says:

    Oh, I'm watching along with you and it seems I inadvertently watched two episodes! I think it's definitely a good sign I was intrigued and amused enough to carry on though!

  9. echinodermata says:

    Avatar! ATLA! AAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Firstly, can I just say I love that the credits use actual Chinese characters, not gibberish that looks 'good enough.'

    Learning time: so during the credits, there are two written characters per nation. One character for each references the element, and the second references some sort of description.
    For water, it's friendly/good. Earth gets strong/powerful. Fire gets intense/fiery. Air gets peace/harmony. Just something to keep in mind. (Fyi, I'm going off of the meaning of the characters in Mandarin; I don't know if they're used in Japanese or any other language, and if they have somewhat different meanings in other languages.)

    <img src="http://i56.tinypic.com/10dy2v4.gif"&gt;(Source)

    I also love the map in the credits and its style of art and the way it's given dimension. Additionally, I love that right from the beginning, we know that this is some political shit going down. Basically, there's a lot to love about the credits alone and what it says about this show.

    I often watch television on my computer, and am frequently multitasking such that my attention is not wholly on the video, meaning I pay attention to dialogue more than I do visuals. I can't do that with this show – the detail of the animation is such that it's unfair not to give it my visual attention as well. So much of my appreciation of this show is in fact the visuals, so this show is somewhat unique for me in that I feel required to give it more attention than I normally do.

    It's kind of heavy-handed (kid's show), but I do love the sort of feminist beatdown Katara gives Sokka: it sets in place their characterization and the relationship they have. And I see shades of their relationship in my own with my brother.

    Uncle Iroh's love of tea is kind of a nice little segue from Doctor Who, isn't it? Oh Zuko, don't doubt the effects of tea.

    Appa! Flying bison! I recently changed my Firefox persona to a picture of Appa carrying Aang, Katara, and Sokka. (And before that my Persona was a different ATLA picture.)

    I really appreciate the costuming for the characters. I think the people on the Fire Nation ship look pretty damn awesome, and that the Water Tribe just looks practical. And that works: from what we see, firebending is pretty visually showy, and I could imagine that their culture was built around this aspect of their society.

    I also love that basically every animal we see isn't normal. It's a very nice detail to the worldbuilding, and it's just so fun and light-hearted.

    Honestly, the first couple of episodes never gripped me the first time I watched it, but I still do think they're decent, solid episodes, and considering how shaky the first episodes of many shows are, I was totally ready to see how the show would continue and improve. Basically, I'm pretty damn excited about reviewing A:TLA on this blog.

    One last point: I dig the final credits music.

    • monkeybutter says:

      Honestly, I love all of the music. And I want to second you on the world-building: the costumes, the animals, the map, the brief political insight — everything is detailed and wonderful. I love that they put so much attention in to the production, including cultural, martial arts, and calligraphy consultants. I agree that the first episodes aren't my favorite, but they do a fabulous job of setting everything up.

      • Elexus Calcearius says:

        The music in this show is brilliant, and I think I can safetly say two of my favourite tunes is the song when they're penguin sledding, since its so peaceful, and the drums in the final credits. All the music is done by 'The Track Team', for anyone who doesn't know.

        • monkeybutter says:

          Still holding out for an official soundtrack so I can give them/Viacom my money, but I'll settle for saying The Track Team is awesome.

    • shyfully says:

      Oooh, that's interesting about the credits! I love the way they are done, they look so epic. And I agree on the costuming! I like the little touches this show has and the different costumes work so well.

      <3<3<3

    • Jenny_M says:

      I sing along with the final credits music and my dog freaks out. I'm like "CHUGACHUG-AH CACHUGACHUGA CHUG-AH." It's not healthy.

    • arctic_hare says:

      I love this review, especially cause you explained what the different characters mean. Awesome!

    • Hotaru_hime says:

      I know that for all four in Japanese, the kanji represent water, earth, fire, and air (obviously) and that for Earth, the second kanji is "tsuyo" for strong. I don't know about the others, sadly.

    • jubilantia says:

      That's great about the introductory characters! I knew the symbols meant each element, but I didn't know that about the second characters.

      Just shows how much these guys do their research and lovingly craft it into the show. Also, I agree that the first few episodes aren't as strong, but it's kind of like different degrees of awesome for me. The best part is, it gets better from here. Like, exponentially. And when something starts well, that's super awesomely great.

    • __Jen__ says:

      Awesome review and thanks for the info on the characters! Also, THIS to everything about the world-building.

    • ldwy says:

      Thanks for sharing your knowledge about the characters. It's very interesting to know.

    • vikinhaw says:

      I'm studying Japanese in college now and the earth, fire, water and air kanji are the same. The strong, intense and peace ones as well but the first one I don't know and I can't look up so I'd assume they're Mandarin. Actually in Japanese the peace one 和 also means Japan.

      • egao-gakari says:

        The first one is used in Japanese, but mainly in names, it's a little old-fashioned. I can't think of a 漢語 off the top of my head that uses it. But its meaning is pretty much the same, like kindness.

        /loves me some Japanese nerd time. Also can't wait to watch ATLA, since I missed it when it was first broadcast due to my crazy parents not owning a TV 🙂

        • egao-gakari says:

          I thought of one! 改善する "to improve something". Then I looked it up, because I'm a nerd, and it's actually used in a bunch of stuff like 善戦する "to fight the good fight" and 善隣 "a good neighbor". It's pronounced ぜん in 音読み and よし in 訓読み.

          Also, because this comment should have something to do with Avatar, I really really love Appa (no reasons necessary) and Zuko really irritates me. I've only seen the first episode so maybe he gets better, but right now I just think he's obnoxious and his reasons for wanting to kill/hunt down the Avatar are kinda lame. ("Coward"? Why?)

  10. Kaci says:

    Oh, Mark. THIS IS ONE OF MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE TV SHOWS SO I AM EXCITE. And even though I refused to see the live-action movie, I feel safe in agreeing with you that M. Night RUINED IT.

    Anyway, because this is outside-of-the-show information, I don't think I'm spoiling anything by answering two of your questions:

    1) To the best of my knowledge, this show isn't based on a book or manga. As far as I know, it's original. (Someone correct me if I'm wrong, please!)
    2) It actually was written by Americans, but animated overseas, as far as I know. (Again, someone correct me if I'm wrong about this!) I remember that very clearly because my hardcore anime friends called it an "abomination" and "blasphemy" whenever I tried to talk about how FREAKING AWESOME it was.
    3) This isn't an answer to any of your questions, but I freaking love the voice cast of this show, particularly Jack DeSena as Sokka.

    Other than that, I'm going to keep mum for fear of spoiling but I AM REALLY GLAD YOU'RE ENJOYING IT SO FAR.

    • Violets are Blue says:

      1) Not based on anything but some of Miyazaki's and other famous anime/video game items are used as inspiration. Also could be from Hindu religions about the avatar. The creators spent years studying the Asian arts before penning this paper.

      2) Is American (hard to claim Mike or Bryan as anything else) but is animated by a couple different animation studios. You can often tell when one does an episode based on the character's looks.

      • monkeybutter says:

        Number one reminds me that I have a question for Mark: how much Miyazaki have you seen? Because the creators are huge fanboys. And Appa is even better when you know he's based on Catbus.

    • Seriously why has Jack DeSena not continued to do voice work. WHY JACK WHY.

    • Karen says:

      Jack DeSena attended my university while I was there too. (And he acted in a web series called Dorm Life that was full of former and current UCLA students.) That is my ~Avatar Brush With Greatness. LOL. But he really is fabulous as Sokka.

      • Kaci says:

        I adore Dorm Life. I actually got into it because I knew I recognized Jack from somewhere (turned out it was All That) so I looked up his IMDB page and found Dorm Life. One of my all-time favorite shows, on the web or not.

    • Hotaru_hime says:

      I think Avatar was largely animated by Koreans, like most animation here in the US. I know Korea animates The Simpsons and a large portion if not all of the DCAU.

  11. I barely remember the first episode of this show, but I *do* know that I watched it on the recommendation of some friends and quickly got absorbed and ended up watching the entire thing over the course of like, 2 weeks. It's wonderfully imagined, for a kids show — even though some things are simplistic or cliche (characteristics of people who bend certain elements, for example) it's easy to overlook those things and get absorbed in the plight of the characters, their mission and their personalities. It definitely has a playfulness about it that keeps it entertaining, as well. Going into it, I was afraid it might Take Itself Super Seriously, but the first episode quashed those fears.

  12. redheadedgirl says:

    Okay, I am trying to watch along in real time.

    OMG IT IS SO HARD. I'm not even rushing to Wikipedia to get background like I usually do.

    MY LIFE YOU GUYS. MY LIFE.

    I liked this very much. I CANNOT WAIT TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS.

    but why do the animals have six limbs? (obvs don't answer if it spoils things)

    • echinodermata says:

      but why do the animals have six limbs?

      Look, never question the biology of this show. It is weird and lovely and HDU question it.

      Excited for everyone watching this show for the first time!

    • Dragonsong12 says:

      YAY! Welcome to A:TLA!

      To answer your question – as it does not spoil – not all the animals have 6 limbs. Appa does in particular because he was largely based on the Cat Bus from the Miyazaki film "My Neighbor Totoro". For the rest…I think the artists were just having fun designing weird creatures. haha!

    • nanceoir says:

      Dude, watching in blog-time is SO HARD, gah. The only way I managed not to speed through Doctor Who (which I'd seen before, lots) was to watching supplementary material, too (Confidential, Torchwood, and The Sarah Jane Adventures). Here, I have none of that, and it's killing me to just stop after 22 minutes.

  13. @sthomson06 says:

    This is what I loved about the first episode – the dynamic between Sokka and Katara is just SO PERFECT, speaking as a girl with an older brother.

  14. who_cares86 says:

    Want to know something really freaky? In Dutch Zuko and Draco Malfoy have the same voice-actor.

  15. echinodermata says:

    Question for Mark: you said that you knew "M. Night Shyamalan ruined it."

    You didn't mention it specifically, but given you know about (some of) the controversy of the movie, were you also aware of all the Asian influences on this show before you started?

  16. @MeagenImage says:

    Why did he not age a day while he was in the iceberg? Because he was in an iceberg. Duuuh. Ice perfectly preserves all living creatures so when you thaw them out they're just as they were the day they were frozen. (NO THE WATER INSIDE LIVING TISSUE DOES NOT BECOME ICE AND BURST IT OPEN. SHUT UP.)

    • Avit says:

      Wrong genre, love! This is fantasy; therefore the answer is MAGIC.

    • @lizbee says:

      Originally, the animation was going to show him sort of suspended in a ball of energy within the iceberg, and that was what kept him alive and young. But there wasn't time to design and animate it convincingly.

      A lot of the first season was done in a crazy rush. It's beautiful, but once you hit the second season, the sudden jump in quality is amazing.

    • Tara says:

      Of course, he's the avatar, he can FLASH FREEZE avatar state fast enough and thus remain preseved. It's the perfect solution

  17. MeasuringInLove says:

    Currently fangirling all over the place because THIS WAS MY FAVORITE SHOW EVER A YEAR OR TWO AGO OH EM GEE, no big deal.

    Really though, so excited. This show is freaking awesomesauce.

  18. doesntsparkle says:

    I love so much about the things this show chooses to be.

    First of all, the entire plot is set off by Katara's feminist rage. I was a bit skeptical when I started watching the show, but the people behind A Very Potter Musical are big fans, and they were talking it up, so I decided to give it a try and was hooked as soon as Katara started water bending away the iceberg.

    Also, I want an Appa!

    • zuzu says:

      That is the exact reason why I started watching the show. Because team starkid recommended it. And because it was on instant netflix and I'd caught an episode or two when it first aired and was interested but was too lazy to find out when it aired.

    • Flea says:

      I found this show through Starkid, too, and can I just say, THANK YOU, STARKID. THANK YOU. One day I will meet Nick Lang and shake his hand for bringing me this show – I very much doubt I'd have found it otherwise, I'm not usually into animation and nor are my friends, but Airbender BLEW MY TINY MIND.

  19. FlameRaven says:

    Some information! If these are spoilers though I will delete.

    -The show's an original creation, although there are a lot of mythological influences. The creators also stated they were pretty influenced by the works of Hayao Miyazaki (and if you have seen My Neighbor Totoro, I swear Appa is related to the cat bus). The original concept, as I understand it, was something like "what if you had a wizened old monk character but he was a kid?"

    -Zuko IS confirmed to be 16, although I don't think it's ever stated anywhere in the script. Aang is 12, Katara is 14 and Sokka 15.

    -Aang's arrows are tattoos.

    -The show's "target" demographic was supposedly 7-10 year old boys. Thus all the silly. It actually became something of a network fail, though, as the show gained a massive following of 20-30yr olds and Nickelodeon never really realized that, especially with its merchandising. I'm still bitter that there is NO SOUNDTRACK and no action figures of the female characters available. D< As a bonus, though, you can acquire your own fluffy Appa plushie.

    -There was an unaired pilot/animation test that I think is on one of the DVDs. At some point either after/during the series you should probably check it out, it is lolarious.

    • Dragonsong12 says:

      "(and if you have seen My Neighbor Totoro, I swear Appa is related to the cat bus)"

      Haha! I just answered above! But that is exactly right, confirmed and intentional. Good eye!

      • FlameRaven says:

        I remember never thinking about it when I first watched the show and then I read an interview where they talked about Miyazaki and suddenly I was like OH MY GOD.

        I need to watch this show again.

      • ldwy says:

        Hahahaha, yes!

    • I'm still bitter that there is NO SOUNDTRACK
      Here, have some music from the finale. (MARK DO NOT CLICK OBVS. Spoilery titles and all.)

      • FlameRaven says:

        's cool, someone up on avatar_fans over on LJ posted up most of the music a long time ago, since it's available on the Track Team's myspace. So I have quite a bit of the music, I'm just bitter because I would seriously pay for an organized CD or three and I don't even have that opportunity. >(

    • Krystal says:

      actually it does say in the series that zuko is 16. I don;t know if it's the first or second episode, but Iroh says "Zuko, in the 16 years you have been on this Earth…"blahblah I forget.

    • notemily says:

      Appa plushie? I WANTS.

  20. Kari says:

    My husband and I got hooked on this show and watched it all within a few weeks time. We loved it! Aang is adorable! I may have to re-watch now..

  21. @Puffehfish says:

    YOU ARE NOT PREPARED. SO MUCH.
    -SHOVES FIST IN MOUTH-
    WIYPQEBW;RGJFNLKH;RJBG

    But seriously, I can not wait for you to get through the episodes. They are just adorable.
    I may also have to rewatch them as well.

  22. vermillioncity says:

    MARK MARK MARK MARK MARK I AM SO EXCITED.
    I'm halfway through season two right now and I'm so in love with this. Since I learned you were going to watch it, every time Something Happens I'm like, 'MARK WILL SAY SOMETHING'… and that is as specific as I'm gonna get.

    OH MY GOD, IROH. IROH.

    And Sokka! Wheeeeeeeeee heeeeee heeeee SJHBFDJHBFSJB FSJB F SO EXCITE.

  23. Sophi says:

    I WAS SO EXCITED FOR THIS. AND I WAS SO WORRIED YOU WOULD NOT LIKE IT I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHY.

    The first time I saw my brother watching this I went "what are you doing this is obviously for kids", and then I watched it myself and I do not care if it is for kids, many amazing things are and this is one of them.

    Also I still have a massive crush on Katara <3 I cannot wait, I hope your experience with this show will be sparkly and rainbowy and amazing and full of enjoyment and loooove and possibly the occasional "wut" just to balance things out.

  24. zuzu says:

    ugh i fail at posting gifs. /does not know how to make all of them show up.

    • echinodermata says:

      The policy on this blog is not to use gifs from upcoming episodes. I reported your comment, but I saved the text of your comment in a text document if you want to repost it and don't have your comment anymore.

  25. lastyearswishes says:

    ;SDKF;DLFK;AKSDLS'DLF;SDF;LK I AM SO EXCITED THAT YOU FINALLY STARTED THIS SERIES THAT I CAN'T EVEN COMPOSE A MEANINGFUL SENTENCE RIGHT NOW.

    EDIT: lol Okay, I'm better now, I think. Appa is my favorite forever, I wish Sky Bison existed. ;-; I can't wait to see what you think of the show as you move forward, I hope you come to appreciate it as much as we do. :'D I also have no idea how you can only watch one episode at a time, it's fricken impossible for me lmao

  26. PaulineParadise says:

    I LOVE YOU MARK

  27. But seriously, right off the bat, we’re given an extremely strong, likable, and intriguing female character who looks like she’ll be the main focus of the story. AND THIS IS A GOOD THING THAT PEOPLE SHOULD FEEL GOOD ABOUT.
    You will be feeling very good about this show. It will give you good feelings.

    I don’t know the history of this show, or if it’s based on a manga series or a comic or a book
    It is not. It is a completely original concept.

    (I will feel like a fool if that’s not what they’re called. Oops.)
    That is what they are called! Good job!

    Also, calling it: HE’S THE FIRST TO DIE.
    Place your bets now! What's the over-under on this guy?

    (What the hell are those, by the way?)
    Tattoos.

    Ok, so Prince Zuko believes that the Avatar is a “coward” for hiding for a hundred years. Um….why?
    There's been a war on. Where the fuck was he all this time, letting it go on?

    “Listen, until your fathers return from the war, they’re counting on you to be the men of this tribe. And that means no potty breaks!” “But I really gotta go!”
    Oh, Sokka.

    Ok, so, I skipped over the obvious: How is it that Aang was in an iceberg for 100 years and he apparently did not age a second?
    CRYOGENICS.

    Oh, Mark. I am so very excite. So many things you have said that I cannot comment on. So many things in store. YOU ARE SO UNBELIEVABLY FUCKING UNPREPARED.

  28. arctic_hare says:

    OKAY SO. I watched this episode last Wednesday, figuring I'd watch along with you, and wrote down all my thoughts as I did. BUT LOL SURPRISE SHERLOCK. And then I found myself so addicted that I've now seen up to episode 11 of the first season. OOPSIE. But I am having loads of fun, SO I REGRET NOTHING. Here, then, are my thoughts and feelings on the episode as it played out for me, with some edits to reflect responses to your review:

    – I looooooooooooooove Katara so much already! I had the same reaction that you did, Mark! There may have been happy clapping, too. And shouts of "HELL YES!"

    – Heeeeeeee, I love Iroh already too. I'd sit and have jasmine tea with him! Mmmm, jasmine tea. <3 One of my favorites and somebody stop me before I go on a tea tangent, please.

    – PENGUIN SLEDDING OMG WHAT IS THAT I WANT TO GO SEE PENGUINS AANG TAKE ME TAKE ME I'LL GO <3 <3 <3 also Aang is totally adorable I want to give him lots of hugs why can't I?

    – This is all REALLY REALLY pretty to look at, also I would like to live in the South Pole with them.

    – ZOMG PENGUINS! <3 <3 <3 CUTE OVERLOAD I WANT TO DO THAT TOO OMG THEY HAVE FOUR FLIPPERS WHY CAN'T I REACH THROUGH THE SCREEN AND HUG THEM LIFE IS NOT FAIR 🙁 🙁 🙁

    – I don't think I'd be able to resist exploring it either. And I'm glad they went in, because I freaking LOVE this sort of thing, exploring spooky old shipwrecks and whatnot~ it is like candy to me~ this show knows what I like~ humor and fun characters and (literally) cool settings and penguins and stuff like this~

    – Well, crap. D:

    So, overall, REALLY REALLY liking this show so far. It's so charming and fun and yet, like you said, secretly depressing underneath. It's a really interesting world with interesting and fun characters. It definitely gets my –

    <img src="http://i51.tinypic.com/mkurs3.jpg&quot; border="0" alt="Image and video hosting by TinyPic">

    😀

    • Dragonsong12 says:

      I'm loving the number of people finding this for the first time. The excitement of this blog for me is getting to recreate those feelings of things I love being fresh and new! You guys are awesome and I love you all!
      Hooray! A:tLA will suck you in!

    • __Jen__ says:

      How am I not surprised that you watched ahead? 😀

    • Karen says:

      Once you start watching Avatar, it can be REALLY hard to stop in some places. The first time I watched it, I was meant to be packing up and moving out of my apartment, but instead I watched Avatar, and had this really weird set up where I was balancing my laptop on things so that I could multi-task and try to pack and watch Avatar at the same time. IT IS JUST SO HARD TO STOP.

    • shyfully says:

      I am laughing at how many people here weren't able to stop watching, heee.

      – ZOMG PENGUINS! <3 <3 <3 CUTE OVERLOAD I WANT TO DO THAT TOO OMG THEY HAVE FOUR FLIPPERS WHY CAN'T I REACH THROUGH THE SCREEN AND HUG THEM LIFE IS NOT FAIR 🙁 🙁 🙁 </i>

      OUR ARMS WOULD FIT RIGHT BETWEEN THE TWO FLIPPER/WING SETS
      WHY AREN'T THEY REAL CLEARLY THEY WOULD FIT IN HERE PERFECTLY

      • psycicflower says:

        OUR ARMS WOULD FIT RIGHT BETWEEN THE TWO FLIPPER/WING SETS
        WHY AREN'T THEY REAL CLEARLY THEY WOULD FIT IN HERE PERFECTLY

        OH MY GOD NOW I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY WANT TO HUG ONE! THEY WOULD GIVE THE BEST HUGS!

    • Hotaru_hime says:

      The funniest thing is that your "seal of approval" makes me think of the penguins being penguin/seal hybrids. As you're up to episode 11, I assume you have seen more animals in the world and will know why that is funny.

    • @anzel89 says:

      Wow! You were able to stop at 11? 0_0 That's some serious self-control. I remember the first time I watch this show and basically marathoned the whole thing in a week. (thank god it was a vacation week or my grades would have defiantly suffered. :P)

    • Angie says:

      It is SO EASY to just watch episode after episode in one sitting and not even notice when three hours have gone by.

    • Elexus Calcearius says:

      Lol, episode 11? Don't worry, do not have regrets. Look back and know you can anticipate Mark's NOT PREPARED-ness.

    • I am so ignorant, but if there's a war on how are they snarfling jasmine tea in the arctic? HELP MY POOR PEDANTIC BRAIN IT IS FULL OF THE CONFUZZLES!

  29. arnenieberding says:

    "LOOK, I’M SERIOUSLY JUST FLAPPING AT THE WIND AT THIS POINT"

    Why did that make me think of Mark trying to airbend in a rather ungraceful manner? *FLAP FLAP*

  30. maript says:

    That first gif is a spoiler – it's not in the first episode.

  31. echinodermata says:

    And then I found myself so addicted that I've now seen up to episode 11 of the first season. OOPSIE.

    Haha, I kind of figured you wouldn't be able to resist.

  32. omg this is the first time I get to see you start something! Sooo excited, especially since I just started (and finished) A:TLA a week or two ago! I loved it so much. It even inspired me to go vegetarian again. Cannot wait to see you get through the whole series!

  33. Lemone says:

    Eeeee! I am made of glued together excites. Been looking forward to this since you first announced it ages ago.

  34. funksteena says:

    MARKMARKMARKMARKMARKMARKMARK I am reading every single one of these posts until you love everything with as much love as I love Avatar. ALSO: It is very hard not to tell you what you will love.

  35. cait0716 says:

    I'm so excited this is finally starting! I think I'll actually be able to keep up with a show whose episodes are only 20 minutes long (I'm still back in the third season of Doctor Who.)

    About the only thing I can say is that Katara has already won my heart. The second she called her brother sexist I fell in love with her. Definitely didn't expect that and it was awesome. I can't wait to see more of her.

    I really don't know anything about this show except that one of my college roommates was obsessed with it and watched the entire thing in a couple of weeks. So I guess it's good? Can't wait to see more!

  36. alexamarie says:

    i'm so excited. YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND, MARK. I'M REALLY, REALLY EXCITED. this is one of my favorite shows. i can't wait to experience it all over again through your reviews <3
    and yes. the colors in this show are amazing. i love the animation so much, which is saying a lot seeing that i don't really care much for these types of anime-ish shows.
    also: PENGUIN SLEDDING. WHY DOESN'T IT EXIST.
    also also: AANG. i love him. so. much. he's so adorable.
    I CAN'T WAIT TO READ THE REST OF THESE AHHHHHASKDJF;LADJKSF

  37. rainbowsinside says:

    This review is totally the highlight of my day! This show just brings so much joy to my life and reliving it is going to be amazing!

    How is it that Aang was in an iceberg for 100 years and he apparently did not age a second?
    MAAAGGGGIIIICCCCC!!

  38. freeradicals says:

    So even though I have been following this site since Firefly, I am compelled to comment for the first time because my love of Avatar is so deep (And I really love Firefly and Who). I am so excited that you are experiencing this show for the first time!

    Now I will sit on my hands to avoid causing spoilers.

  39. Karen says:

    Yay! I'm so glad that you're watching Avatar now. I watched it for the first time last summer right after I'd graduated from college and was moving out of my college apartment and would stream it on Netflix while I was packing. So idk. Since I watched this at such a ~changing~ moment in my life, Avatar carries a special place in my heart.

    Although I haven't rewatched the series since then, so my memory is a bit fuzzy and I don't think I'll have as many insightful things to say as I did about Doctor Who. But this really is such a fun show. I didn't think I was going to lie it as much as I did. Mostly I just started to watch it because Netflix kept telling me I would like, and by six episodes in, I was hooked.

    People can control elements? So it’s a less goofy version of Captain Planet.
    ROOD. CAPTAIN PLANET IS A FLAWLESS PIECE OF TELEVISION. IT TAUGHT US ALL ABOUT BEING ECO-FRIENDLY AND HOW THE POWER OF HEART SUCKS.

    Ok, did the main female character just call out her brother for being sexist IN THE FIRST FIVE MINUTES OF THE SHOW. Oh, you all know me too well.
    YES. Because Katara is a fierce goddess of awesome. Also, she is voiced by the actress who played Ann (who?) from Arrested Development.

    As far as I know, the show isn't based on anything in particular. It was all original story developed by the creators (who are white, I think), but it is pretty clearly heavily influenced by Asian media. But I think that manages to do so in a way that isn't fetishizing Asian cultures or appropriating them.

  40. PAWN1 says:

    OH GOSH SO EXCITE FOR YOU WATCHING A:TLA. so excite so excite and so glad you already enjoyed the first episode ahhh!!

    /MOST USELESS COMMENT

    /ALSO MOST EXCITE

  41. arctic_hare says:

    Deleting for spoilers.

    • hpfan04 says:

      I don't understand what the spoilers were? I didn't think it was a spoiler that there's a spin-off coming out?

      I'm sorry, I am just confused….?

      • who_cares86 says:

        You referred to a character that hadn't been introduced yet. We're very strict about spoilers here. So they don't even allow cryptic messages and this future episode is awesome messages.

      • arctic_hare says:

        You mentioned what it was about, something Mark is not aware of, as well as referring to a character not yet introduced for him (or for people watching for the first time, LIKE ME and some others), something that is a BIG NO-NO because it creates expectation spoilers.

  42. plaidpants says:

    Yay! I'm watching this right along with you Mark. I had heard so many good things about this show over the past few years, and am excited its on Netflix InstantWatch.

    Anyway, I watched the first episode in preparation for last Wednesday when I thought you were starting this, but thats ok (because Sherlock is awesome). I enjoyed this first episode a lot, and only a 1/2 hour feels so short!!

    I was surprised at how immediately things happened in this episode – already a "hey you might totally be the Avatar" conversation/hint, and then the fire nation is already coming in to fight everyone!

    I was surprised by how few people there seemed to be in the Water (south pole?) village. I know all the ~menfolk~ ran off to fight, but it seemed like that was the only waternation village in that area and it just didn't seem sustainable.

  43. who_cares86 says:

    That awkward moment where you're just chilling in your iceberg and a moody teenage girl comes along and breaks the iceberg.

  44. Inner Voice says:

    OMG MARK. I HAVE BEEN WAITING FAITHFULLY AND PATIENTLY FOR THIS DAY. MARK WATCHES AVATAR THE LAST AIRBENDER, HELL YES!!

    Ahem. Okay.
    I don't have much to say about this episode. Except for the fact that when watching Appa do his epic belly flop into the water I acted it out along with him. *Wheeeeee~ -SPLOOSH.*

  45. I have watched every episode of the series at least twice, the first two seasons three times, and a couple episodes four or five times. It only gets better on rewatches.

    This one time we watched the entire first season in one day. This is what I do to make my friends watch awesome television.

    • sabra_n says:

      Your self-sacrificing nature has been noted. 😛

    • jubilantia says:

      I, too, take on the incredible burden of watching my favorite shows repeatedly with different sets of friends and family in order to get them into it.

      Weekly Avatar Nights at my grad school (Yip Yip!) came out of me ranting to my Avatar virgin friend about how horrible the movie was going to be because of the racebending. We started watching episodes, and pretty soon 8-12 people were showing up and bringing food and watching Avatar. It was glorious.

      And then we watched Firefly, and then Star Trek, and some Doctor Who… yeah. I like to say I'm just sharing my joy, but I think it's partially me seeking validation and being able to analyze and talk endlessly about my favorite things and hiding from actual real life.

      But who wouldn't want to, when it's this much fun?

  46. Dragonsong12 says:

    Psh! That doesn't follow the A:tLA weird animal conventions at all! (Which I won't get into because we've only seen a few animals thus far)

    …now a dog with a beak? Then we might be able to talk.

  47. kohlrabi says:

    I'll be honest, I didn't have high expectations for this show and mostly just wanted you to get to BSG already (which I didn't like but am still really excited to see your reaction, look I don't know). But the pilot was a lot more intriguing than I was expecting and I really started to like the characters off the bat. I too loved Katara calling out her brother for his sexism, it was jarring but awesome to hear it directly called by its name.

    Ummm, that's all I've got. I knew even less than you did going in but am happily looking forward to discovering more of this world and its stories.

  48. browncoat says:

    Words cannot fully describe how happy I am that you are reviewing this show. It is AWESOMENESS personified.

    I'm also relieved that I can finally follow your blog in real time because I am still a season behind on Doctor Who. It was UTTERLY HEART-WRENCHING not to be able to watch along with you (especially because Doctor Who is quickly becoming one of my favorite shows OF ALL TIME).

    I AM SO EXCITED!!!

  49. thefireandthehearth says:

    Yayayayay Mark Watches time!

    So yeah, the reason I started watching this show? (Be warned- it's a little "cool story bro" and tl;dr, but with information!) I'm staying over at my brother's place, and I'm cooking something in the kitchen while he's watching what I think is some silly animated Nick show (my ignorance is kind of beautiful). I'm cooking, and my ears are suddenly filled with this extremely recognizable voice. It takes me a couple minutes to figure what's going on, but…

    <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/f/f1/Makopicture.jpg"&gt;

    It's Mako! For those who don't know, this smooth embodiment of greatness's full name is Makoto Iwamatsu. He's one of the few well-known Asian actors, and one of the only to nominated for an Academy Award. He's one of the founders of the East West Players, an acting troupe dedicated to not only putting Asian's on stage, but not forcing them to be just the stereotypical restaurant owner/gang member/what have you. So yeah, I pretty much love this man like burning. It doesn't hurt that he's also a really good actor, and his voice is essentially one of my favorite things in the world. Like, I would listen to his voice at all times.

    And why was I hearing his voice? Because he's voicing Iroh, the laid-back uncle! I literally jumped over the kitchen counter to see what the hell was going on (terrifying my brother and nearly knocking over the chili pot in the process). When I finally realized what was going on, my brother offered to start the episode over so that we could watch it together I agreed, because even if it sucked (Mako didn't always take roles that were as good as his talent), I'd get to listen to that badass voice

    I genuinely wasn't expecting to love the show before Iroh even came on screen. Katara calling out her brother for being a sexist jerk is exactly my sort of thing, and the animation is just beautiful at times. I still feeling a bit cheated that I will never, ever be able to penguin-sled. So, my final conclusion at the end of the episode? This was definitely shaping up to be a show that was more than worthy of both Mako's attention and mine (even if they weren't using him all that much yet).

    • shyfully says:

      MAKO <3

    • Tauriel_ says:

      MAKO IS AWESOMENESS PERSONIFIED.

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      ugh this comment is PURE BEAUTY.

    • Elexus Calcearius says:

      MAKO IS AMAZING

    • sabra_n says:

      MAKO IS MAGNIFICENT

      Other places you can hear his voice: He played the demon Aku on Samurai Jack, and he created the role of the Reciter in the original Broadway cast of Pacific Overtures.

    • monkeybutter says:

      I love your dedication to Mako. Honestly, I was also sold on it because of Mako and a few other members of the cast.

    • Suspicious Cookie says:

      OMG Iroh is voiced by a pro! I had no idea – that's awesome!

    • jubilantia says:

      Yah, how cool is Mako? I didn't really know about him until this show. I also didn't know about his really cool activist stuff until reading up on the movie controversy. How great is it that it actually raised my awareness of culture appropriation/ bastardization/ UTTER RAPE (*potentially awesome live action movie–>tears forever*) in popular culture?

      This show rocks on so many levels.

    • sabra_n says:

      And doesn't all this make the bleaching of the movie even more hurtful? Ugh.

  50. Bonnie says:

    Seriously, Avatar? And today? Must be some telepathy thing, cause I suddenly remembered your HP read and decided to check out what you've been up to since then, and then I see that you've just started on one of my favourite shows of all time? Awesome. (My all time fave is Buffy, and I've seen you've got that one scheduled too, so yay!)

    You won't be disappointed with Avatar, the show is just brilliant; it has the right balance of serious and funny, great dynamic characters, and it tackles some important themes in a very unpretentious way. Also, element-manipulation.

    And it's not just a kiddie show, I first saw it two years ago, when I was 28, and didn't find it at all condescending and over-the-top naive.

    So, again, yay!

  51. So happy you're onto Avatar!
    First: This is technically an American cartoon but obviously it's heavily influenced by anime, particularly Miyazaki. But don't be scared by that, it's one of the better american cartoons out there. Considering the low budget the animation in this is pretty awesome. There's an artbook out there (Mark, I wouldn't read it till you've seen the whole show because it goes over all 3 seasons) that says they had someone handpaint all the backgrounds.
    Not much else to add because I'm afraid I'll accidently spoil something so I'll leave off with a yay Avatar! I also advise you to spare yourself and not watch the horrible movie afterwords, Mark. To say it was ruined doesn't even begin to cover things.

    • sundaycoma says:

      In response to low budget– I'd actually heard something somewhat rather the opposite, that the Avatar guys were given an absurd amount of cash to help produce the season 2 and season 3 finales. Something rather to like the tune of a million dollars for those episodes alone. Was it just the rest of the season that they found their budget curtailed or did they, like, know in advance that their finales were going to be epic so they decided to skimp everywhere they could to help make up for it?

      Because pretty much the worst I ever heard from them regarding Nickelodeon's dealings with them and the production of the show is that Nick kept asking them to cut the storylines down a bit to help keep them within the confines of a half-hour show. (That's as kind as I can be regarding certain aspects of certain characters' storylines in a certain last season without getting too spoileriffic). Which, I mean, I know is ULTIMATE TRAGEDY FOREVER but, ya know.

  52. elyce says:

    YAY. That's all.

    No, that's not all. I love Sokka. Just throwing it out there.

  53. Bonnie says:

    Seriously, Avatar? And today? Must be some telepathy thing, cause I suddenly remembered your HP read and decided to check out what you've been up to since then, and then I see that you've just started on one of my favourite shows of all time? Awesome. (My all time fave is Buffy, and I've seen you've got that one scheduled too, so yay!)

  54. jubilantia says:

    Wheeee! I'm so glad you like what you see. This is probably one of my favorite shows ever. I really can't think of anything wrong with this show, and I am psyched for your excitement, if that makes any sense.

    I am not going to say anything else for fear of spoiling you. Keep up the good work!

  55. Hotaru_hime says:

    APPA! I LOVE YOU! WHY ARE SKY BISONS NOT REAL? LIFE HAS NO MEANING WITHOUT SKY BISONS!
    Anyway, that's all I have to say, other than buckle up, it's gonna be a hell of a ride.

  56. shyfully says:

    Oh goodness, I was worried it'd be just me and like four other commenters now that Who is over. PLEASANTLY SURPRISED

    • echinodermata says:

      Thought the same thing. I'm so glad there are lots of people in the comments today.

  57. empath_eia says:

    I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT ALL OF THIS. I love Avatar just as much as Doctor Who, if not more (though for very different reasons), and have rewatched it several times (I once marathoned the whole series over one weekend with my little sisters, BEST VISIT EVER), and I just know I'm going to end up rewatching it yet again alongside your reviews because hey, good excuse.

    Katara is my hero. Aang is also my hero. I am twenty-four years old and completely unashamed to admit this.

  58. ldwy says:

    So I have seen a handful of episodes of this over the years, but not many and not in any kind of order. So.
    First off, I definitely had never seen the first episode.
    So that's good and new.

    I liked it. It's goofy and childish, in some ways thanks to the goofy childishness (and I mean both of those things in a good way) main character, Aang. I feel like there isn't really danger of it becoming too goofy and childish, though. Even in this first episode we've seen important issues and themes brought into the show without fanfare and dealt with very well.
    How much did I LOVE that Katara isn't taking any shit from her brother and calls it like it is? SO much. I love that she's narrating (I think? She narrates the intro…) and seems to be sort of our frame of viewing.

    I too am very vague about what ages these kids are supposed to be. I peg: Zucko oldest (~16/17?), Sokka next (~14/15), then Katara (~13/14), then Aang (he was specifically mentioned as being 12, right?). Katara certainly seems a lot older than him, but she's also had adult responsibilities for a while now. But maybe vague is the point, so that kids can impose on it whatever works for them.

    Also, I thought the bending was more of the show? I mean, we've seen that it's second nature to Aang, and Zucko is training, but it seems like a lost art to some degree? I mean, there's no one to teach Katara, and Aang might be the only airbender left…so I'm wondering to what extent this is the case, and if so, whether these elements play into the story differently than I imagine.

  59. barnswallowkate says:

    I too have never seen this before! I did see the movie, unfortunately, so I hope that hasn't spoiled me too much.

    Things I Liked:
    – "Ok, did the main female character just call out her brother for being sexist IN THE FIRST FIVE MINUTES OF THE SHOW. Oh, you all know me too well." <– I was really impressed that was in there! I've never seen that in a kids' show (although I can't claim to have seen all of them)
    – App the flying bison/Catbus clone
    – Catpenguins and catseals
    – Most of the humor

    Did Not Like:
    – Body fluids humor (what is this show's obsession with sneezing?)
    – Cheesy sound effects (like when someone head is going *BOINGBOINGBOING* when it is poked with a stick)
    ^– I know it's a kid show but maybe those things will die down? Or maybe I'll just get caught up in the story and not notice them anymore.

    So far the show seems silly and fluffy but with the potential for some shit to get real. I am not prepared!

    • echinodermata says:

      "I too have never seen this before! I did see the movie, unfortunately, so I hope that hasn't spoiled me too much."

      As far as I know (haven't seen it myself), the movie only covers the first season of the show, so I'm guessing you don't know too much already.

      "So far the show seems silly and fluffy but with the potential for some shit to get real"

      I don't want to comment much on your dislikes because spoilers, but that's a good summation. They are at war, after all.

  60. Breathing a huge sigh of relief here, Mark! I figured since you've talked about how excited you were to get into this, it would be alright, but it's so good to know you're enjoying it already. A lot of people won't come in with an open mind for a lot of reasons (it's animated, it's a kids show, it's pretending to be anime *eyeroll*) – and even if none of those are really something that would deter you from consuming entertainment, thanks for keeping an open mind anyway.

    I don't know if this is just me, but I could get a sense that this show was going to be less fail from the credits- the majority of the figures standing in for their respective nations are male, sure, but even to have one out of four when it could have so obviously male across the board- and probably would have been if the show had been in different hands- is nice to see. Oh Mark, if I could only tell you how much win this show is made of, but Spoilers, and I am excite for you to find out yourself.

    After watching the whole series this episode is a little odd- which isn't surprising, really, as most first episodes of shows aren't really encapsulating of what they are or what they are going to be- it definitely hasn't quite settled, which results in some zany antics that are obviously designed to draw the kids in. That's really not a bad thing, as this is a kids show, but it can be a hurtle for anyone over 12 that's trying to get into it?

    Luckily there are a lot of good things here to outweigh that. You and others have touched on most of them, and I'm always better at focus than generalized commenting here so I'm just going to say a thing or two.

    Aang, the titular character and hero of this animated epic. I know this might be partially because it's a kid's show and he's only 12ish, but how refreshing is it to have a chosen one who isn't all angst and brooding? Not to say the kid doesn't have issues- obviously, he's been stuck in an iceberg for a century missed a whole war and is the last of his people, this stuff isn't going to all roll off of him- but he's also a kid and he's acting like one. I've commented on this re: what I like in incarnations of the Doctor, but at this point in my life I have experienced enough stress and shit to be upset about, so I prefer my escapism to include a character who is generally enjoying life and having a good time. Media these days is so obsessed with the dark and the gritty, we get so few characters like Aang that it's really refreshing when they pop up.

    Okay, so I guess that was just one thing. Here's another along the same lines: Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I swear I read/heard somewhere that Sokka was originally conceived as a more serious character, but then they got Jack DeSena in and he was funny and ridiculous, so they added more humor/liveliness to Sokka's character.

    • barnswallowkate says:

      "but how refreshing is it to have a chosen one who isn't all angst and brooding?"

      Haha and my reaction to him was "Jeez calm down kid, I know you're excited about penguin sledding but if you've been in that ice for 100 years your whole family is dead so maybe you should be a little sad about it?"

    • thefireandthehearth says:

      Okay, so I guess that was just one thing. Here's another along the same lines: Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I swear I read/heard somewhere that Sokka was originally conceived as a more serious character, but then they got Jack DeSena in and he was funny and ridiculous, so they added more humor/liveliness to Sokka's character.

      You're right, I believe! Originally, Sokka was a much more serious, straight-laced character. However, De Sena tends toward comedic acting and improv (he was on the Nick sketch show "All That") So when he started messing around slightly with the lines, they realized that Sokka would actually work fairly well as comic relief, while still keeping some of teh srs.

    • echinodermata says:

      "but at this point in my life I have experienced enough stress and shit to be upset about, so I prefer my escapism to include a character who is generally enjoying life and having a good time. Media these days is so obsessed with the dark and the gritty, we get so few characters like Aang that it's really refreshing when they pop up. "

      You probably know I agree with you on this already, but QFT anyway. Aang's childish glee was so nice to watch, even though you know hoshit war and stuff. I just get so sick of 'angst angst angst brood manly tears walk away with my badass coat' in my media.

  61. @anzel89 says:

    Yes!!!!! 😀 I am so excited that you are reviewing this!

    I love Dr. Who and Firefly, but this show just holds a special, special place in my heart. (a place just slightly west of Animanics and Classic Disney) I know it was made for kids but, on the advice of a friend, the first time I saw this show was last year and I was 21!!!! Been addicted ever since so…

    *jumping* XDDDDDD

  62. Inner Voice says:

    The Rifftrax guys did a really good job with TLA. The high quality of their mockery actually made it bearable to watch.

    • jubilantia says:

      That blasphemy? Bearable? Not possible! Well, we'll see. I haven't been able to bring myself to watch it, but if it's on a liveblog, I might be able to waste a Netflix disk-send on it.

  63. ZOMG, I am so excited for you to watch this. I started watching this years ago when I accidentally caught the end of an Avatar panel at comic-con. I don't have anything to add that hasn't been said already, but I can't wait for you to watch this.

  64. Quiqonky says:

    So glad you're doing this show. My kids started watching it and the first few episodes I thought, eh, it's an okay kid show. It didn't take very long for me and my best friend to become completely obsessed with it. LOVE this show and can't wait to read all your reviews of it!

  65. FlameRaven says:

    To further appreciate how gorgeous the animation in this show is, you can find panshots from this episode (and the rest of the show) here: http://piandao.org/panshots/ep1pans.html

    They're separated by episode, so you can enjoy without spoiling. 🙂

  66. Hotaru_hime says:

    I think it's established at some point that Katara is a year or two older than Aang physiologically- he outstrips pretty much everyone chronologically.

  67. echinodermata says:

    Ooh, I was with you right to the end parenthetical. Unfortunately I think that's spoilery. I reported your comment, but I saved the rest of the comment in a text file if it gets deleted and you want to repost but don't have a copy anymore.

  68. Elexus Calcearius says:

    First off- I’m so happy you’re watching this Mark, I feel I can let out all this fan-girly squee. Yay! Also, re-reading this comment I realise that I haven’t really put in much criticism, which is odd, since I tend to do that even for things I really like, but I suppose for the first episode I can allow complete fanning for once.

    Anyway, when I first saw this episode, I was definitely not in a good mood. I was probably about eleven at the time, and mostly feeling annoyed that my favourite show ‘The Wildthorn Berrys’ wasn’t going to be on today so they could premier this stupid show. I watched sulkily, refusing to enjoy it.

    Of course, I eventually became a big fan of the series, and have decided that this is a great episode. Maybe not in comparison into some of the stuff ATLA has coming up, but considering it needs to set up the world, plot and main characters, it’s one of the better series openers I’ve seen.

    “It’s not magic, it’s bending.” *laughs* Bryke, its totally magic, don’t try to convince the audience otherwise. But I really like the way the show took this magic, and made it their own. The idea of the elements in an old one, in both Western and Eastern mythologies, and Avatar is certainly not the only cartoon in the last few decades to make use of it. But I really love how they combined it with the body’s movements, as opposed to magical tokens or other forms of harnessing the power. It makes intuitive sense, and the way the martial arts are incorporated is really amazing to watch.

    That’s another thing that strikes out at me watching the show; how beautiful the animation is. I’ll admit, it can be a little rough in these earlier episodes, but the landscapes are simply beautiful. It’s a real shame that there aren’t more cartoons that are less, well, cartoony because animation can be a really stunning visual medium.

    The concept of an Avatar is very interesting. I’ve studied a lot of Eastern Religions, and I like how her it seems to be a combination of the Hindu concept of the Avatar (best known in reference to the many mortal forms the god Vishnu would sometimes take) and the Dalai Llama.

    I think one of the interesting things about the episode is the theme of hope and belief. “Some people believe that the Avatar was never reborn into the air nomads, and that the cycle is broken. But I haven’t lost hope.” By all accounts, her hope is really silly. As I mentioned before, the Avatar was a reality in this world- or at least, was. Now he sounds more like the Legend of King Arthur, and while slightly more plausible, it’s really ridiculous to believe he’s coming back. Katara still does, though. I don’t blame her for it. When she’s lost so much from the war, it’s perfectly natural to hope there’s a god-like figure to come in and save the day. I can also imagine that it’s as the only bender in her tribe, the idea of a bending saviour is incredibly appealing.

    But interesting, it’s not just the innocent female protagonist who has hope in the Avatar. It’s also Prince Zuko. He really doesn’t seem the type; an angry demeanour and a scarred face, but he also clings to this childlike nativity. It’s an interesting link between the two characters.
    (Cont:)

    • Elexus Calcearius says:

      But despite the fact that their belief could be called childish, they are not children. The first time we see Katara and Sokka, they’re in a boat, hunting. They’re fighting for survival, and we learn that for years the siblings have acted like adults. They’ve needed to keep the camp equipped and fortified, do chores, help train and protect their friends and family. They might not have done particularly well, but considering their age and everything stacked against him, I think they’ve done well. The reality of war and survival has made them adults at a far younger age than they should be.

      The same goes for Zuko. In cannon, he’s sixteen. Unlike the water-tribe siblings, he was raised in a palace, probably in the lap of luxury, so he didn’t have the need for survival to age him. But anyone who has a vague knowledge about how most monarchies are run will probably know that political intrigue and the tension of being in a country at war has most likely exposed Zuko to far more adult knowledge than the average teenager. Not to mention, when we’re introducing him, we find him on a war-ship, leading a group of soldiers. He’s already a leader and a fighter, for better or worse.

      Compare this to Aang, who’s very first words of the show are “want to go penguin sledding?” He’s a bit of a refresh from other protagonists- bright, cheerful, and overly playful. The reality of the war isn’t a reality. Even when he discovers that he’s been asleep for a hundred years, he doesn’t really digest it. “At least I got to meet you,” he grins, not realising the enormity of the situation. Because that’s Aang’s character. He has the never-ending optimism of a child, something so at odds at the war scarred world he’s woken up to.

      And just what a shock would that be? Waking up and realising a hundred years have passed? I think I’d break down and cry, or just go numb with disbelief. I’m sometimes amazed Aang doesn’t react more violently, to be honest. But I suppose it hasn’t really settled in, and he doesn’t quite believe it yet; that, coupled out with his cheerful disposition, allows him to remain painfully optimistic about it.

      As for things I just enjoy from this episode over-all;
      1)The penguin sledding scene. It’s a combination of the beautiful animation, wonderfully playful music and just the joy of the scene that it makes me smile.
      2)“This is Appa, my flying bison. “Right. And this is Katara, my flying sister.” Sokka, ILU.
      3)The scene where Aang’s iceberg first appears and is broken out of the ice is beautiful. The ethereal light and the fog; it makes for a genuinely mystical scene. Or maybe I just like shiny lights. That’s definitely a distinct possibility.
      And so we begin with the show, and of course- UNPREPARED.

      • echinodermata says:

        Holy walls o' text batman! I LOVE LONG COMMENTS ilu for this.

        Basically, lovely comment, and I do hope you talk more about any points you can make about Eastern religions as the show goes on.

      • arctic_hare says:

        Awesome comment is awesome, I really look forward to reading more of this from you. <3

      • psycicflower says:

        Epic comment is epic and brilliant. Love the comparison of all the children characters and their levels of maturity.
        I'm a sucker for hope though so I really do love Katara's opening.

      • jubilantia says:

        Hooray! Excellent analysis. As the show goes on, you can really see how densely packed the episodes are. They'll be juggling at least two plotlines seamlessly, with excellent character development and pacing.

        Yeah, everyone is unprepared for the sheer unicorns-leaping-over-rainbows-eating-cupcakes awesomeness that is Avatar.

      • shyfully says:

        I LOVE YOUR BRAIN AND ALL THE THOUGHTS IN IT

        I really like how you pointed out the two people who still believe in the Avatar are Zuko and Katara. I hadn't though about that angle before and it is verrrrry interesting!

    • P__ says:

      I'm coming at this from a high school world history and nursery school teacher perspective, and the little bits of Eastern religions in ATLA make my heart sing. I love the idea that my future students will have a basic idea of some very complex topics because of this show. I don't want to accidentally spoil anything, but there are so many moments where you will see Buddhism, Hinduism, Shintoism, and cultural beliefs you wouldn't expect to see in a Nickelodeon show. There's an animal that I predicted in the finale based on a Native American creation myth. Maybe I'm just overly attached to the concept of students applying knowledge from unorthodox sources, because I distinctively remember having a "Wait! I know what those are!" moment about mitochondria, courtesy of the second book of the Time Quartet. They're still my favorite part of the animal cell 🙂

      Also, I agree with another comment above this one: It will take a few episodes for the more mature themes to appear, but they are coming. I want you to love this show!

  69. TropeGirl says:

    You just keep picking excellent things to watch. I am so excited for you. 😀

  70. Danielle says:

    Iroh: Fantastic. RIP Mako.
    IIRC, Zuko is a couple of years older than the GAang.
    SOKKA IS MY FAVOURITE AND I WANT TO MARRY HIM.

  71. affableevil says:

    I think everything that I could say about the absolute adoration I have for this show (that is non-spoilerly OBVS) has probably already been said, and in a much more eloquent fashion than whatever I would spew out. So I will just say that I have wanted an Appa plushie for years where is my cuddly air bison

    <img src="http://i55.tinypic.com/9zwnsz.jpg&quot; border="0" alt="Image and video hosting by TinyPic">

    I mean…RIGHT???

  72. ABBryant says:

    A summary of episode 1:

    -Hopeful optimism
    -Continued Skepticism
    -PENGUINS!!!!

  73. shadeedge says:

    ………but how do they smell?

  74. Bacon_Bomb says:

    My head just exploded that you are watching this now. All you have to do now is watch Pride & Prejudice and then we will be soul bonded or some shit.

    • doesntsparkle says:

      The BBC miniseries, or the Keira Knightly movie?

    • sundaycoma says:

      That's how I felt after he finished Harry Potter and started watching Firefly. I was even going to suggest A:tLA for him but never got around to actually lending an active hand in molding the perfect internet buddy (then I found out he plans on reading the Uglies series by Scott Westerfield and now I know: in the afterlife, I *will* find Mark and we *will* fan together hard)

      • Flea says:

        Add "His Dark Materials" to this and you've got me right now. SOMEWHERE, SOMEDAY, THIS MAN AND I WILL RANT AND APPLAUD THE GREATEST FANDOMS.

        Except he'll be funnier at it.

  75. xpanasonicyouthx says:

    JESUS CHRIST STOP POSTING SPOILERY COMMENTS YOU ALL

    what the hell. EVERY TIME!!! How hard is this???

  76. arctic_hare says:

    Yeah, afraid I'll have to delete this.

  77. shadeedge says:

    Haha, if ever there was an added motivation to steer clear of spoilers, it's an annoyed Mark.

    I''m a huge fan of this show and really excited Mark (and everyone else for whom this is a first run through) to see it. Avatar is one of the few shows i've seen where it starts off good and just gets better and better with time.

    Loose thought; I like that, even in the first episodes, we're seeing characters that cannot be defined purely through one or two character traits, or by their particular skills. Katara can waterbend, but that isn't the entirety of her character or life. Sokka can't, but not being able to do likewise isn't the entirety of his character.

  78. @gladdecease says:

    If this were any other show, I would probably just continue to lurk/keyboard smash in capslock about your reactions on twitter, as I have with your other projects, but… this is *Avatar*. I remember sitting down to watch the pilot with my kid sister (who was at that age just barely in the range of the intended age group, lol). I remember the impossibly long hiatus(es), the strange last-minute schedule changes Nickelodeon is infamous for pulling.

    And I want to see if watching the show without that frustration and time for the fannish hive mind to work would change my view of things. So I'm joining in on the rewatch!

    – Not even two minutes in and I've got shivers; Katara's voice over/world history lesson plus that music really takes me back. GOD, THIS SHOW.
    – Ah, a loving brother-sister relationship. Katara calling out her brother on his sexism is a thing that should happen more often on television, though I do love her rant here quite a lot.
    – AANG! And Appa! Oh, I've missed you two. You don't even have to do anything to remind me of the good times, just keep on glowing in an iceberg. &hearts;
    – Tiger seals! I love the combo animals in this show sfm.
    – Ooh, what's that? A sour, insidious note to the music? It can only mean – yes! Zuko's here! And Uncle Iroh! &hearts;&hearts;&hearts;&hearts; I love these guys for so many reasons, not the least of which is their fantastic voice actors (even as a child I knew Mako was awesome – he voiced Aku in Samurai Jack, after all; dude is badass). I hope you'll someday be as fond of them as I am.
    – Iroh's games. <333 If it hadn't been presented as such a boring old guy thing to do (by Zuko's viewpoint, which is totally biased), I think they could have tried to sell that card/tile game of his. I would have bought it.
    – Iroh and TEA! I love that his fondness for tea was established within, like, three lines.
    – And Zuko's ~anger. My god, he's just mad at everything, isn't he?
    – Aang! And his first lines are so silly, aw. He's so precious. Poor kid doesn't realize that penguin sledding isn't Katara's idea of a first date.
    – Appa is pretty much the ~coolest thing ever. I love how much Aang cares for him.
    – YIP-YIP. &hearts; I have so many feelings about that silly phrase you have no idea.
    – fjkldjla;ljkf ~omg, I wish I could bring this thing up that I just noticed but it would be slightly spoilery for [episode] SO I CAN'T. THIS IS WHY I ALWAYS LURKED BEFORE, MARK. I WANT TO ~SHARE. /makes a note to bring it up then
    – Awww, Zuko's honor.
    – I love Gran-Gran so much. She's a lot more deadpan than I remember, but it suits her.
    – Boy oh boy, is Zuko presuming a lot about the Avatar situation. Also, it's strange to see his bending at this level. Still on the basics at sixteen… well, it explains some things I'd thought canon had overlooked.
    – I love Aang in this episode so much. "War? What wa – OH HEY PENGUIN! :D"
    – I would want to go penguin sledding, except I know for a fact I'd be the one that ends up flipping over the penguin and gets stuck in the snow head-first.
    – I didn't care much for the exploration of the old ship – I kept on wondering when the shit was gonna hit the fan. I was too used to the "exploring the forbidden X" trope, and wanted the story to jump ahead to the more interesting part. But the reveal that Aang's been frozen for a century is well done, I'll give the scene that much.
    – That said, I LOVE THE BOOBY TRAP. &hearts;&hearts;&hearts; It's like a Rube Goldberg device – stepping on the string turns a knob that moves a lever that hits a pipe that causes pressure to rise that lights up a rocket to signal the ship's location! Very clever, century-ago Fire Navy guys. I approve of your technique.
    – Oh, Zuko. Your flair for the dramatic was impressive to young me, but present day me just rolls my eyes. As they say, you are not prepared. And neither are you, Mark – for a lot of things. This is exciting!

    For a moment at the end of your review, I was awfully confused. "That's it?" I wondered, squinting at the screen. "That can't be it, he hasn't seen– OH WAIT."

    When the pilot aired on TV, it was as an hour-long special that consisted of two half-hour episodes shown back to back. So some of your questions weren't answered in this first half-hour primarily because they were going to be answered in the second half. Personally, I think they work better as a pilot when viewed together, but the cliffhanger isn't a bad ending either.

  79. tethysdust says:

    I think this is a really effective episode. They managed to introduce a handful of characters, and give a general sense to the world's culture, political state, and mythology, and even basic geography, while still keeping everything so fast-paced and silly that it would keep children entertained.

    I love that Katara can show herself as a strong female (calling out her brother, catching fish with water-bending) even though she appears to be filling a traditional 'female role' at the moment. Sokka might have come across as a little annoying, but I agree that, given the looming Fire Nation boat threat that we watchers know about, he does have a point. Aang seems like an adorable opposite to Sokka right now, and I can't even imagine how I would react if I suddenly realized I'd effectively gone to sleep and woken up a century later. Zuko and Iroh definitely have a very strong Anger-Peace dynamic going on. All the characterizations seem kind of exaggerated to me at the end of episode one, but I think that it is a deliberate effort to make all of these characters have distinct personalities in our minds, right from the start!

    Side Note: Oh my gosh, there are so many comments already!! I sadly fell behind in Dr. Who (life happens… still trying to catch up) and I'm really excited to re-watch Avatar with Mark Watches! Are the Mark Watches posts typically up at a specific time, like the Mark Reads? I would have liked to read along with everyone's thoughts as the comments appeared :).

    • echinodermata says:

      "I think this is a really effective episode…All the characterizations seem kind of exaggerated to me at the end of episode one, but I think that it is a deliberate effort to make all of these characters have distinct personalities in our minds, right from the start!"

      That's a good point. This isn't my favorite ep, since I think there are some growing pains for the show's beginning, such as some of the obvious and perhaps over-the-top characterization. But it is a quick way to establish what it needs to so that we can fit in all the rest that needs to be done here and in the next couple eps.

      Fyi, Watches posts typically go up around 1 pm PST, but sometimes Mark posts a bit later. Or sometimes hours earlier. But 1 pm is a good time to start checking the site for an update and refreshing as you get impatient. Or you could subscribe to the RSS feed and find a way to get notified of new entries. Or you could check Mark's twitter, since he normally links to the posts in a tweet when he puts up the review. Or you could do all three (looks around shiftily).

      • tethysdust says:

        Yeah, it's not my favorite episode either, but I think it achieves its purpose.

        Thanks for the timing info! My usual habit with Reads is to just obsessively refresh the page when its about time for a post, but I guess I should probably branch out into twitter/RSS as well.

    • jubilantia says:

      Yeah on the relative weakness of this episode. More like a lower level of awesomeness. I bet there was Executive Meddling involved as the show was finding its feet, since you see it get a lot more expansive as the show goes on and proves itself. I have interacted with 7 year olds (who got me into the show) who had no problem understanding and loving the show, as well as 20 and 50 year olds. I think it's infinitely marvelous that the creators don't belittle or talk down the intelligence of children.

      Just because their worldview is small from lack of experience doesn't mean you shouldn't try to expand it, or just take the easy way out with potty humor. Which these guys sometimes do, but rarely and precisely.

    • monkeybutter says:

      I love that Katara can show herself as a strong female (calling out her brother, catching fish with water-bending) even though she appears to be filling a traditional 'female role' at the moment.

      Me too. Character depth forever~ And I think you make a good point about their distinct personalities. Everyone sort of fills a necessary role, but they're good starting points to get you into the story!

      I love and depend on Google Reader to deliver me distraction during the day 🙂 I have an account devoted to dicking around on the internet, so it's convenient to have Reader open in one tab, and my email in the other with reply notifs. Much better than F5ing at 1 PDT!

  80. Grant says:

    If this counts as a spoiler, feel free to downvote me incredibly. I don't think it does, though, since it's never actually stated in the show and is in no way plot relevent.

    The arrow tattoos on aang's body just symbolize that he's mastered airbending. Like a coming-of-age thing.

  81. affableevil says:

    UGH YES THIS IS MY LIFE NOW

    It doesn't even really matter, because once I clarify that I don't mean Cameron's movie, people don't want to talk about this show with me anyway. Even before the movie, they would just kind of nod politely but I could tell they weren't interested because it was a children's show or whatever. And the awful movie adaption has created even more havoc, because the cartoon will always be associated with it. I mean, it became famous for being the worst film in quite a while. I've seen insinuations that the show MUST be terrible too, to have spawned such an abomination, which breaks my heart.

    …Okay so my hands kind of ran away with me on this one. Here's a mid-bellyflop Appa:
    <img src="http://i52.tinypic.com/25f3gip.jpg&quot; border="0" alt="Image and video hosting by TinyPic">

  82. leirac507 says:

    So excited for this!! There are simply no words for how much I love this show.

    The animation is gorgeous, the voice acting is great, the characters are lovable and three-dimensional, the humor is actually funny, the world-building is wonderful, the music is just beautiful, etc etc.

    And as a fairly fluent speaker of Mandarin, I'm always pleasantly surprised by the accuracy of the Asian elements of the show and their treatment of it.

    Looking forward to rewatching this with everyone at Mark Watches!

  83. SO EXCITED SO EXCITED SO EXCITED. I heard about this show when it was originally airing, but at that point I was like, I don't know, 19? 20? So I was like "Yeah whatever, Nickelodeon was cool until they started showing Sponge Bob, I'm not watching it." Then MUCH LATER my boyfriend introduced me and I was like WHERE HAS THIS SHOW BEEN ALL MY LIFE OH RIGHT I REFUSED TO WATCH IT MY BAD.

    I also loved Katara immediately for the comment about Sokka being a sexist weenie. ILU FOREVER KATARA. Especially since that was totally me at 14-15. YOU CAN'T SAY THAT! IT'S SEXIST! WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH YOU!

    AAARGH most of my GIFs are from Seasons 2 & 3. SAD. But I do have this one:

    <img src="http://i33.photobucket.com/albums/d61/lostluck_personal/AvatarTheLastAirbender5.gif"&gt;

  84. Skulls, Candies says:

    OMFG.

    OMFG.

    MARK WATCHES ATLA ITS FINALLY HERE OMFG CAPS LOCK SPAM DOES NOT EXPRESS MY FULL EXITE MUST NOW RESIST URGE TO COMMENT BECAUSE PROBABLY EVERYTHING I SAY WILL BE SATURATED WITH SPOILERS, OH GOD LOVELOVELOOOOOOVVVVVEEEEEE

  85. @redbeardjim says:

    Also? She can kill you with her brain.

  86. sundaycoma says:

    Also: I'm sure a lot of people have responded to the "Distinctly not American" comment but in case they haven't… The show's two creators are both American and they were commissioned by Nickelodeon to create something that was originally intended to be, as they phrase it, "Lord of the Rings" for children but being that both of them were deeply interested in Asian cultures, they decided that the way they would do that for Nickelodeon would be to take the idea of a separate world as immersive as that of Tolkien's and base it in Asian ideas. So you'll see things like Buddhist and Shinto philosophy (pardon me if "Shinto" doesn't act like its own adjective in English, I don't know the proper one off the top of my head) as well as Chinese archetectural/ costuming influences and even influences of Inuit and Tibetan culture! ! (Inuit you can already begin to see through the costumes and character designs of Sokka and Katara's tribe).

    Also, the creators outsourced the actual animation to a South Korean animation studio so that could also account for it. 🙂

    I think one of the main appeals for you in regards to this show will eventually be how much love and diligent care the creators and animators put in for every single character, every single plotline, every single episode. The amount of research and attention to detail that goes into the world of Avatar: the Last Airbender is just bananas and I really suspect it's rock your socks off. I cannot even stress this enough: You are so unprepared for how much you're gonna love this.

    • @redbeardjim says:

      Well, a whole lot of animation of American shows is done in Korea, so that in and of itself doesn't mean much.

      • sundaycoma says:

        I actually wasn't aware of that until I started reading some of the other comments in the hopes that I hadn't been too repetitive. I'm going to go ahead and use the "I don't watch TV" defense at this particular juncture (I've never even seen a single episode of Simpsons).

  87. Skulls, Candied says:

    IKNORITE

    It is pretty awesome to be able to discuss such plot and animation intricacies without having someone interrupt- Hey wait you DON'T mean the blue people?

    No. I don't mean the blue people. ATLA came out BEFORE Avatar (the show did anyways), PLEASE PEOPLE.

    Also, may the M. Night movie DIE IN ALL THE FIRES.

  88. @redbeardjim says:

    This is one of my most favorite shows ever. In fact, I registered for this site specifically because someone told me you were watching this for the first time. I cannot WAIT to see your reactions to some of the things upcoming.

    I fell in love pretty much as soon as Iroh went "OM NOM NOM" on his roast duck.

  89. Minish says:

    "Stuff>"

    WHO told you?! UGH the whole thing is ruined now that you know stuff.

  90. Is there any site where one can watch (y'know, legally, and hopefully for free) this magnificent sparkly new show?

  91. sundaycoma says:

    Mark, I have been with you ever since you finished the seventh Harry Potter book (and may I just take a moment to say that I literally read all your blog posts over the course of like four days) and when I found out you were watching Firefly, I thought there could be no possible way you could touch upon any other fandom that were nearer and dearer to my heart than those two… but I was wrong.

    I am so excited to read you going through this journey! I know you will enjoy yourself, Avatar is truly one of the best animated series ever to be presented on television. The issues that get presented are going to be so up your alley, you don't even know. (You don't even *KNOW*)

  92. Quizzical says:

    SO EXCITED!!!

    that is all.

    (no really! SOOO excited!)

    xo

  93. Pelleloguin says:

    YAY! Mark is watching one of the best shows ever! WOOT!
    Ok, so I teased my little brothers about watching this show, because Nick can't make good anime styled shows. How wrong I was. I caught a later episode, and was all "Cool, they use elements to fight. Cool, they are realistically shown as kids/teens. ONG FLYING BISON! I wants an Appa! Cool, this is that show my brothers like….Now I need to say sorry."

    Needless to say, I own all three seasons and the artbook, and a fan art button set I got in the Artist Alley of my local Anime convention.

    I loved this episode. I tend to judge shows based on the main female character if they have one. If she's just the girlfriend, or just the chick who needs to be rescued, I ditch it. In this show, Katara IMMEDIATELY calls Sokka out on his treatment of girls. No questions asked, she, like any sister, starts to yell at him, and brings up any slight he has done to her that comes to mind. (Dirty Socks) I knew this was going to be a great show…Well, that and they mentioned a genocide in a kids show without being soft and trying to hide it. It's mentioned in passing yes, but you just know it will be brought to full light sometime.
    And I think it's good for kids shows to show war and death, it does not need to be really violent, but a subtle nod to it is realistic. They will learn about it anyways, why not show it with a realistic attitude and at the same time introduce hope for a better tomorrow? You know the war is not going well, Katara's father has left to fight, and you see the strain it puts on their family, how hard it has been for the whole Tribe. Then Aang shows up and you can see hope. If Aang is the Avatar, then there is still a chance. I love it, it reminds me very much of Miyazaki movies.

  94. DuskQ says:

    I have been a fan of this show for over a couple years now. Can you believe that the first time I watched this, that I was not enthused? I didn’t start out here though. It’s great that you’re instantly won over!

    First, I love Jack DeSena as Sokka! His comic delivery isn’t over the top here. Lines like “My watch tower!” had me in stiches. It just wouldn’t have sounded the same if someone else had read it. It’s fun to see his bad luck when Aang get’s to avoid all the catastrophes like Appa sneezing and the watch tower collapsing.

    I thought I had seen all the episodes millions of times, but there were many things that were like new. First, besides the feminist piece, there was a lot to like in the first few moment. For instance, there are more ways than one to skin a fish! (That’s my last pun.) Sokka is fishing the old fashioned way when we’re immediately introduced to this world’s version of magic that is not magic “yeah yeah yeah an ancient art that’s unique to our culture blah blah blah—“ And then she got him on the muscles in the water. It was all hilarious.

    Second, I never realized that Sokka seemed to immediately dislike Aang on principle that Aang wins over the little warriors faster than Sokka ever did. It’s funny to see these teens and pre-teens in grown up roles. You can really sense that Sokka is trying to be adult and a leader but he has to compensate.

    And Aang. I agree with you for reason D. and more! His playfulness is so refreshing. It’s nice to have a main character with a perosnality. His genuineness is his greatest asset and I’m so glad that we have a chance to see it early.

    To reason E. You’re right about the colors and the visuals. The light and myriads of blue during the penguin race was gorgeous! And I don’t really want to go sledding. I just want a cool aquarium where I can keep ‘em as pets. Is that so wrong? I’m not vegan but I swear I won’t eat them.

    To reason F. Never noticed the parallal. Also, I never noticed until now how Aang serves to validate this ability of hers that is special. It’s easy for her to get caught in Aang’s charm. He well-traveled and he promises her things she’s always wanted, that is to master water. Her Gran-Gran tells her not to put all her hopes on him, but Aang literally represents hope. I used to think of hopefulness as a quality that was just inherent in Katara’s personality until now. Interesting.

    • arctic_hare says:

      I just want a cool aquarium where I can keep ‘em as pets. Is that so wrong?

      Considering that I've wanted a pet penguin for some time, I'm going to have to go with "no, not at all."

  95. corporatecake says:

    fjdslkafja; SO EXCIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIITE.

  96. Dena says:

    OMG YAAAAAAAY.

    I'm a pretty recent Avatar fan who started watching specifically because I heard about the white washing and ruination of the Shamalyan version and wanted to be informed before I raged. I FELL SO IN LOVE.

    My completely non-spoilery prediction is that you will love it too. I AM GOING TO REWATCH WITH YOU!

  97. arctic_hare says:

    This was reported for being possibly spoilery for general geology/animals in the show, so I'm deleting it just in case.

    • Tilja says:

      Thanks for the comment and the action. I really believed it wasn't spoilery to retell what is said in the opening credits, including the mapping.

      If the policy is so uptight as this, then I won't be commenting any longer. If general things can't be said, then I've got nothing to say of any value. At least until the first book is over.

      Thanks again. I really believed it was all right. One question though, was the generality about oriental practices spoilery as well? You didn't mention that in your report, so I'm wondering.

  98. I had heard great things about ATLA, but never got around to seeing it until you said you were going to review it. So I watched episode 1… and then 2… and then 3 and 4 and 5, 6, 7… Seriously, I don't know how you don't marathon these show you review, Mark. You truly are amazing, and I am so thankful I get to read your thoughts on them.

    Basically, YOU ARE AWESOME MARK; I KNEW YOU'D LIKE THE 'SEXIST' COMMENT BY KATARA; THE SHOW IS AWESOME SO YOU ARE IN FOR A GREAT RIDE!!!

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