Campaign of the Month: November 2011
Avatar: Conquest of the Imperial Order
Avatar The Last Airbender
Below is a summary of the show, Spoiler Alert!!!!
Avatar: The Last Airbender (also known as Avatar: The Legend of Aang) is an animated television series that aired for three seasons on Nickelodeon from 2005 to 2008. The series was created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, who served as executive producers along with Aaron Ehasz. Avatar is set in an Asian-influenced world of Chinese martial arts in which psychic elemental manipulation is possible. The show drew on elements from traditional Asian culture, blending the styles of anime and US domestic cartoons.
The series follows the adventures of the main protagonist Aang and his friends, who must save the world by defeating the evil Fire Lord and ending the destructive war with the Fire Nation. The pilot episode first aired on February 21, 2005 and the series concluded with a widely praised two-hour television movie on July 19, 2008. The show is obtainable from various sources, including on DVD, the iTunes Store, the Zune Marketplace, the Xbox Live Marketplace, the PlayStation Store, Netflix Instant Play, and on the Nicktoons Network.
Avatar: The Last Airbender was popular with both audiences and critics, garnering 5.6 million viewers on its best-rated showing and receiving high ratings in the Nicktoons lineup, even outside its 6–11-year-old demographic. Avatar has been nominated for and won awards from the Annual Annie Awards, the Genesis Awards, the primetime Emmy awards and a Peabody Award among others. The first season’s success prompted Nickelodeon to order second and third seasons. In other media, the series has spawned a live-action movie trilogy, the first titled The Last Airbender, directed by M. Night Shyamalan, scaled action figures, a trading card game, three video games based on the first, second, and third seasons, stuffed animals distributed by Paramount Parks, and two LEGO sets. An art book was also released in mid-2010. Furthermore, the president of Nickelodeon announced on July 21, 2010 that a spin-off mini-series called Avatar: Legend of Korra will premiere in 2011.
Avatar: The Last Airbender is the first of Nickelodeon’s TV shows to never have a VHS release. The series was released only to DVD, a first for Paramount Home Entertainment’s Home Video release of a Nickelodeon show.
Avatar: The Last Airbender takes place in a world that is home to humans, fantastic animals, and spirits. Human civilization is divided into four nations: the Water Tribes, the Earth Kingdom, the Fire Nation, and the Air Nomads. Each nation has its own natural element, on which it bases its society. Furthermore, people known as Benders have the power and ability to control and manipulate the eponymous element of their nation using the physical motions of martial arts. The show’s creators based each Bending style on a style of real-world martial art, leading to visual differences in the techniques used by Waterbenders (tai chi chuan), Earthbenders (Hung Ga kung fu, for the most part), Firebenders (Northern Shaolin kung fu) and Airbenders (baguazhang). Each country is also associated with a season: autumn for the Air Nomads, winter for the Water Tribe, spring for the Earth Kingdom and summer for the Fire Nation.
At any given time, there is only one person alive in the world of Avatar who is capable of bending all four elements: the show’s eponymous Avatar, the spiritual entity of the planet manifested in human form. When an Avatar dies, he or she is reincarnated into the next nation in the Avatar Cycle, in the order of the seasons. Legend holds the Avatar must master each bending art in seasonal order as well, starting with their native element. For the Avatar, learning to bend their opposite element can be extremely difficult; the example shown in the series is Aang’s inability to stand his ground head-on while Earthbending, his Airbender training having placed emphasis on circling, approaching from new angles and adapting on the fly.
The Avatar possesses a unique power and ability called the Avatar State, which endows the Avatar with all the knowledge and abilities of all past Avatars and acts as a self-triggering defense mechanism, although it can be made subject to the will of the user through various methods, such as extensive trial and training. If an Avatar is killed in the Avatar State, the reincarnation cycle will be broken, and the Avatar will cease to exist. Through the ages, countless incarnations of Avatar have served to keep the four nations in harmony, and maintain world order. The Avatar serves as the bridge between the physical world and the Spirit World, allowing him or her to solve problems that normal benders cannot.
Season One (Book One: Water)
Main article: Avatar: The Last Airbender (season 1)
One hundred years before the start of the series, a twelve-year-old Airbender named Aang learns he is the new Avatar. Fearful of the heavy responsibilities of the position, and being separated from his beloved mentor Monk Gyatso, Aang flees from home on his animal guide, a giant six-legged flying bison named Appa. During their flight, they become caught in a fierce storm and crash into the ocean; Aang’s protective Avatar State is triggered, and it encases the pair in an iceberg, in suspended animation. Meanwhile, Fire Lord Sozin, who killed the previous Avatar because he would have acted to stop his war plans, begins a genocidal assault on the Air Nomads. Sozin knew that the new Avatar would be an Air Nomad, and eliminated them in order to ensure his domination of the world would not be interrupted. Ironically, Aang is the only Air Nomad to survive the attack.
One hundred years later Katara, a fourteen-year-old Waterbender girl, and her older warrior brother, fifteen-year-old Sokka, free Aang and Appa from the iceberg. The three travel to the Northern Water Tribe so Aang and Katara can learn Waterbending. While on their journey, Aang and friends visit the Southern Air Temple where Aang discovers that the Fire Nation wiped out the Air Nomads. At the Southern Air Temple Aang meets his Avatar guide, Avatar Roku. on their journey, the trio is constantly pursued by Prince Zuko, the exiled son of Fire Lord Ozai, who can only reclaim his honor and throne if he captures the Avatar. Zuko travels with his uncle Iroh, a legendary Fire Nation general and the older brother of Ozai. Competing with Zuko for the Avatar is Admiral Zhao, who leads a Fire Nation assault on the Northern Water Tribe. The attack is repelled thanks to Aang and his friends, but after the siege is ended, the Fire Lord tasks his daughter Azula to capture Zuko and Iroh, who are now considered traitors to the Fire Nation.
[Season Two (Book Two: Earth)
Main article: Avatar: The Last Airbender (season 2)
After leaving the North Pole, Aang masters Waterbending under Katara’s tutelage. Searching for a new Earthbending teacher, the group meets Toph, a blind Earthbending prodigy who teaches Aang how to “see” using Earthbending and vibrations. Meanwhile, Zuko and Iroh, now fugitives from the Fire Nation, attempt to lead new lives in the Earth Kingdom. Zuko, with the help of his uncle, tries to come to terms with his troubled past and his obsession with capturing the Avatar. Aang and his friends discover that an upcoming solar eclipse will deprive Firebenders of their bending, leaving them open to invasion and giving Aang his chance to defeat the Fire Lord, but in learning this Aang’s Sky Bison is lost to a group of Sandbenders. Azula and her two friends Mai and Ty Lee pursue Team Avatar, who struggle to reach Ba Sing Se, the Earth Kingdom capital, and tell the Earth King of the eclipse. After capturing and impersonating the Kyoshi Warriors, friends of Team Avatar, Azula persuades an elite group of Earthbenders called the Dai Li to instigate a coup d’état, allowing the Fire Nation to capture Ba Sing Se. In a final confrontation, Zuko sides with his sister, who promises to restore his honor. Azula mortally wounds Aang, who is in the Avatar State, with a lightning blast. Iroh helps Aang and Katara to escape after Zuko betrays him, and is imprisoned by the Dai Li for his actions. Katara revives Aang with special spirit water from the North Pole, but his seventh chakra is blocked and he cannot enter the Avatar State.
Season Three (Book Three: Fire)
Main article: Avatar: The Last Airbender (season 3)
See also: Sozin’s Comet: The Final Battle
Aang awakens to find the group disguised as Fire Nation soldiers heading West on a Fire Nation ship, while Zuko has been restored to his position as crown prince and Iroh is imprisoned as a traitor. Sokka has planned a small-scale invasion of the Fire Nation to capture the Fire Lord’s palace and defeat Fire Lord Ozai, taking advantage of the solar eclipse. The invasion will be staged by a ragtag group of benders and warriors whom Aang has helped along his journey. Initially the invasion proceeds as planned, but Aang fails to find the Fire Lord before the eclipse ends. The invasion ultimately fails, and only Aang and the rest of the young ones are able to escape. Zuko, in a change of heart, decides to defy his father and join the Avatar. Zuko catches up with Aang at the Western Air Temple and offers to teach Aang Firebending. After some reluctance from Katara and Sokka, Team Avatar allows Zuko to join the group.
In the four-part series finale, Aang and his friends confront the forces of Fire Lord Ozai, who plans to use the power of Sozin’s Comet to destroy the other nations and rule the world as the Phoenix King. Iroh, who escaped from prison during the eclipse, leads the Order of the White Lotus to liberate Ba Sing Se. Sokka, Toph and Kyoshi Warrior Suki take down the Fire Nation’s airships, preventing them from burning down the Earth Kingdom. Zuko and Katara take on Azula, and are able to defeat her due to her deteriorating mental state.
Aang struggles against Ozai, since he is reluctant to take his life. However, Aang is able to reenter the Avatar State and ultimately defeats Ozai by taking away his firebending powers with a technique known as energy-bending, taught to him by an ancient lion-turtle. With Ozai defeated, the war quickly ends. Zuko is crowned the new Fire Lord and, with the help of the Avatar and his friends, begins rebuilding the four nations. The series ends as Aang and Katara kiss beneath the sunset.
Main article: List of Avatar: The Last Airbender characters
Aang (Zach Tyler Eisen) is the 12 year old fun-loving protagonist of the series who had been frozen in ice with his flying bison, Appa, for about 100 years. He is freed by a young Waterbender named Katara who later becomes his love interest. He is the current incarnation of the Avatar, the spirit of the planet manifested in human form. Aang is a reluctant hero trying to return balance to the world. Aang also has arrow tattoos on his forehead and limbs, something that was part of Airbender culture before they were wiped out. According to the shows creators in DVD extras the tattoos mark Aang as an airbending master and he is the youngest airbender in history to earn them.
Katara (Mae Whitman) is a 14-year-old Waterbender of the Southern Water Tribe. Katara and her brother, Sokka, discover and free Aang from a block of ice in which he had been frozen for 100 years. With her brother Sokka, she accompanies Aang on his quest to defeat the Fire Lord and, eventually, becomes his Waterbending teacher. Katara is the only waterbender left in the Southern Water Tribe as well as one of the only Waterbenders that possesses the knowledge of bloodbending. Bloodbending allows her to control any person by bending the water inside the blood; although she is reluctant to use the ability. In the original un-aired pilot episode, Katara’s name was Kaya; this later is stated to be her mother’s name.
Sokka (Jack DeSena) is a 15 year old warrior of the Southern Water Tribe. With his sister, Katara, he accompanies Aang on his quest to defeat the Fire Lord. As both the joker and the idea man of the group, Sokka describes himself as “meat-loving” and “sarcastic”. Unlike his companions, Sokka does not have any bending ability; however the series, though it often makes him the victim of comedy at his expense, frequently grants him opportunities to use his ingenuity and weapons, including his trusty boomerang and a sword he forged from a meteorite.
Toph Bei Fong (Jessie Flower) is a blind female Earthbender who is 12 years old. She first appears in the second season of the show. Not long after meeting Aang and his friends, she leaves her wealthy family and comfortable home to join Aang on his quest and a plan to teach him Earthbending. This is because she was constantly belittled by her parents even though she secretly became one of the strongest earthbenders of the kingdom by competing in Tournaments. Though blind, Toph “sees” by feeling vibrations in the ground through her feet, she can even use this ability to tell the state of mind of those around her by feeling their breathing and heartbeat. She even uses this ability to develop the art of Metalbending, by feeling the earth and minerals in refined metal. Toph can be rigid and hard headed as she is true to her earthbending nature but as she gets to know the others better she begins to open up and becomes close friends to Aang, Katara, and Sokka.
Momo (Dee Bradley Baker in both the animated series and the live-action film) is an intelligent and curious winged lemur. Aang found him at the Southern Air Temple soon after starting his quest and decided to keep him as a pet. He often picks fights with other winged and smaller creatures and with Appa over food. Momo is shown to only understand Aang and has trouble deciphering other people’s speech. In “Tales of Ba Sing Se”, Momo’s name was written as 模模 (mó mó).
Appa (Dee Bradley Baker in both the animated series and the live-action film) is Aang’s flying bison who serves as the group’s main form of transportation around the world. He is stuck in suspended animation with Aang for 100 years, and shares a very strong bond with him. He possesses the ability to fly and can use his tail to create powerful gusts of air. According to Aang, flying bison were the first Airbenders.
Zuko (Dante Basco) is the 16 year old exiled prince of the Fire Nation and original antagonist of the series. Due to events in Zuko’s past, his father Fire Lord Ozai, deems him a complete failure and burns his face, leaving him with his trademark scar, and banishes him. The only way for Zuko to regain his honor and return to the Fire Nation, is to capture the Avatar. Over time, Zuko struggles to deal with his anger, self-pity, and complex familial relationships. Over the course of the series he grows sympathetic to the people his nation has terrorized. He takes on the vigilante identity of “the blue spirit” at the end of season one and beginning of season two. In season three, he defects from the Fire Nation and joins the Avatar and the team in order to teach Aang Firebending. At the end of the series, he is crowned ruler of the Fire Nation.
Azula (Grey DeLisle) is the 14 year old manipulative princess of the Fire Nation. She is Zuko’s younger sister and one of the major antagonists of the series. Azula is a Firebending prodigy and is one of the few living Firebenders capable of casting lightning. She uses fear to control her relatives and friends Mai and Ty Lee, reserving her family loyalty for her father alone. It is revealed, later in the third season, that, even though she was admired by everyone when she was young, her mother favored Zuko over her. At the end of season three, she goes insane over the betrayal of Mai and Ty Lee.
Suki. Is Sokka’s love interest after Princess Yue became the moon. She is the leader of the Kyoshi Warriors.
Iroh (Mako in season one and two. Greg Baldwin in season three) is a retired Fire Nation general, known as the Dragon of the West, and Prince Zuko’s uncle and mentor. Iroh was the original heir to the Fire Nation throne until his brother usurped the throne after Fire Lord Azulon’s death. Iroh may have been less eager to take the throne because his son Lu Ten was killed in battle and Iroh’s grief kept him from power as well as taking the Earth Kingdom city of Ba Sing Se. On the surface, Iroh is a cheerful, kind, optimistically eccentric tea-loving old man, but he still remains a powerful warrior and a devoted surrogate parent to Zuko. Iroh is a Grand Master of the Order of the White Lotus, a secret society of men from all nations and helps retake Ba Sing Se during the series finale. Unlike most Firebenders, Iroh does not use anger as the source of his strength; instead he uses the original Firebending skills learned from the Dragons.
Mai is Zuko’s love interest and the friend of Ty Lee. She was Azula’s friend until the middle of season 3. She is also very skilled at throwing knives.
Ty Lee is a circus girl and friends with Mai and Azula (until the middle of season 3). She fights using chi blocking and is extremely flexible and a skilled acrobat. In the final episode, she chooses to join the Kyoshi Warriors.
Ozai (Mark Hamill) is the father of Zuko and Azula, younger brother of Iroh, and rules the Fire Nation as Fire Lord. Although he is the primary antagonist for the series, he played a behind-the-scenes role during the first two seasons. His face was not shown until the first episode of Book 3.
Avatar: The Last Airbender draws on the four classical elements common to many ancient philosophies for its bending arts: Water, Earth, Fire and Air. Although each has its own variation, most ancient philosophies incorporate these four elements in some way. Examples include the classical Hindu, Buddhist, and Greek elemental traditions. In the show’s opening, each element is accompanied by two Chinese characters: an ancient Chinese seal script character on the left representing the element being shown and a modern Chinese character on the right describing some feature of the element. The character 水 (pinyin: shui), which stands for water, is shown with 善 (pinyin: shan), which means benevolence and adaptivity. The character 土 (pinyin: tu), which stands for earth, is shown with 強 (pinyin: qiang), which means for strength and stability. The character 火 (pinyin: huo), which stands for fire, is shown with 烈 (pinyin: lie), which means intensity and passion. Finally, the character 气 (pinyin: qi), which stands for air, is shown with 和 (pinyin: he), which means peace and harmony.
In addition to the use of four classical elements in the series, the fighting styles associated with each element are all taken from different styles of Chinese martial arts. The series employed Sifu Kisu of the Harmonious Fist Chinese Athletic Association as a martial arts consultant. Each fighting style was chosen to represent the element it projected. Tai Chi was used for “Waterbending” in the series, and it focuses on alignment, body structure, breath, and visualization. Hung Gar was used for “Earthbending” in the series, and was chosen for its firmly rooted stances and powerful strikes to present the solid nature of earth. Northern Shaolin, which uses strong arm and leg movements was used for “Firebending”. And Ba Gua, which uses dynamic circular movements and quick directional changes, was used for “Airbending”. The only exception to these styles is Toph, who can be seen practicing a Chu Gar Southern Praying Mantis style.
When the series debuted, it was rated the best animated television series in its demographic; new episodes averaged 3.1 million viewers each. A one-hour special showing of “The Secret of the Fire Nation” which aired on September 15, 2006, consisting of “The Serpent’s Pass” and “The Drill”, gathered an audience of 5.1 million viewers. According to the Nielsen Media Research, the special was the best performing cable television show airing in that week. In 2007, Avatar was syndicated to more than 105 countries worldwide, and was one of Nickelodeon’s top rated programs. The series was ranked first on Nickelodeon in Germany, Indonesia, Malaysia, Belgium, and Colombia.
The series finale, Sozin’s Comet: The Final Battle, received the highest ratings of the series. Its July 19, 2008 premiere averaged 5.6 million viewers, 95% more viewers than Nickelodeon had received in mid-July 2007. During the week of July 14, it ranked as the most-viewed program for the under-14 demographic. Sozin’s Comet also appeared on iTunes’ top ten list of best-selling television episodes during that same week. Sozin’s Comet’s popularity affected online media as well; “Rise of the Phoenix King”, a Nick.com online game based on Sozin’s Comet, generated almost 815,000 game plays within three days.