Legend of Korra
When I finally sat down to watch and review "Avatar The Last Airbender" some time back, I was not just blown away, I was blown on the floor, through the door and out onto the street -- Avatar was the most epic, Epic series I'd ever seen, a true credit to the scriptwriters and storyboard artists who made it happen on this side of the ocean. It was simply the strongest non-anime anime series ever created. I figured it would not be easy to top.
Well, the same crew that brought us Avatar, have topped themselves and the Japanese with "Legend Of Korra", which is the tightest scripted, most gorgeously animated, most excellently designed and choreographed non-anime anime that's ever been done. At (so far) 12 episodes, it blows the original out of the water and sets its hair on fire. It's simply the greatest made-for-tv epic I've ever seen; animated or otherwise.
Set some 70 years after the events in the original series, we are introduced to a new Avatar in training, a young waterbender with a firey spirit. She's the opposite of Aang in every way, much to the consternation of her trainers. After mastering Water, Earth and Fire, she's ready to learn Air-bending, but because so few airbenders exist (they are all the offspring of Aang and Kitarra), she's disappointed to learn that her trainer has other issues to deal with in Republic City, a place founded by Aang as a central location by which all the nations and tribes can live together in harmony.
So she travels to meet with her airbending master, only to discover that Republic City isn't the harmonious place the previous Avatar envisioned. There's the rise of a terrorist group representing non-benders who feel that they are being treated as second class citizens, and they are lead by the mysterious and charismatic Amon, who poses the gravest threat ever to all benders -- he has the power to take away a person's bending, permanently....
Korra has the most luscious look of any anime series I've ever experienced. The wonderful steampunk/industrial cityscapes combined with the amazingly choreographed fight sequences (seriously, the best kung-fu you've ever seen) make this series completely killer. So much happens in every episode, you've got to watch each one twice to take it all in.
The series hasn't hit DVD yet, but is available as digital downloads on Amazon, so grab 'em and view them at high-def on your iPad. Definitely recommended. It's rare to find a sequel better than the original, and this (so far) is it in every way.
Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, November 2012
Avatar: The Last Airbender
Anime DVD Review
It was the time of the great unbalance. The world of man had divided into four nations representing the four elements (Earth, Air, Fire and Water). Each nation fought the other for total domination of the world.
Only the Avatar can save the world now. Regrettably, he is a twelve-year-old boy. An Airbender of great power named Aang who has been locked in ice for a century. Now, he's out and not quite ready for the challenge he must face in this bleak, desolate realm.
Fortunately, Aang has found some new friends in a waterbender named Katara and her warrior brother Sokka. He's going to need all the friends he can get as he confronts the great armies of the four nations. Can the Last Avatar reunite humanity and save his world?
Avatar The Last Airbender is the surprise hit series from Nickelodeon. It's probably the best-animated series they've come up with since The Mysterious Cities of Gold (a show it resembles in some ways). It is an intelligently written epic with all the impact of Lord of the Rings. Leave it to a childrens' network not to talk down to children. The scripts here are more mature than most of the shows running on ABC-TV during prime time.
To describe the characters and the complex web of schemes and counter-schemes that permeate this saga would make you believe that it would be all too much for the little kiddies. Do not worry; they'll appreciate the fact that they're not being talked down to. Besides, if you raise them on good stuff, they'll want good stuff when they're adults. I applaud the show's success. Perhaps there is hope for American television after all.
Reviewed by Lawrence Sufrin, December 2006
Below: Promotional art from Avatar: The Last Airbender
Avatar: The Last Airbender:
Anime DVD Review
It takes a lot to get me to review another DVD in the same series. But Avatar is different. It is EPIC. Like, Lord of the Rings "epic", like Battlestar Galactica "epic". For a series that isn't really anime, it's the best anime series I've seen in a long time. Chock-full of action, character development, plot twists, and some of the best and most awesome animation you'll probably ever see in your lifetime, Avatar the Last Airbender makes most anime look like it's standing still.
I admit that Book One was episodic and a little hard to get through. But hold on. Books Two and Three really amp up the plotline, concentrate on the core of the overall story arc, and the look of the series improves more than you can imagine. The addition of Toph to the protagonist's side and Azula to the antagonists adds immeasurably to the series. As each episode ends, you really get an "oh crap!" moment as you realize just how screwed the heroes are (very BSG!).
By the time we reach Sozin's comet, the animation takes on movie quality with some of the most intense sequences ever crafted. It's stunning to think that this series comes from the same network that brings up Spongebob.
But most of all, we appreciate the elegant and meticulously crafted world, where the design and writing were given star treatment, where the proper amount of money was spent up-front to produce something where you learn more about the series after multiple viewings.
And we're not alone in our love for this show: it has garnered a bevy of awards from a multitude of groups and remains one of Nickelodeonís highest rated programs. What's scary is how often I find myself racing home from work to catch it on the air, even though I've seen the episodes multiple times. You can't get enough of it, and that's why it *needs* to be here, on anime.com, more than once.
Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, February 2009
Avatar Website Links:
Nickeloeon's Official Avatar HomePage
Avatar the Last Airbender Fansite
Distant Horizon - Avatar the Last Airbender Fansite
Airbender.net, a fansite for Avatar: The Last Airbende
Avatar: The Last Airbender (The Art of the Animated Series)
Animation Book Review
I'm a sucker for a good cartoon art-book and this has got to be one of the best there is, thanks to being based on one of the best animated series we've seen in a good long time. Dripping with asian-inspired design and anime-esque technique, it is the pinnacle of how to design a cartoon series with a rich world and a wide variety of environments (George Lucas, take note that habitable planets are not just one niche ecosystem).
An unprecedented look at the concept, design, and production art behind this smash-hit, award-winning series, Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Art of the Animated Series features hundreds of images, most of which Nickelodeon has never released to the public, and chronicles the show's development - from the very first sketch through to the series finale and beyond! Apart from jaw-dropping, wonderous artwork (and lots of rough sketches), there is extensive commentary from series creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino.
What made Avatar so great and kept me glued to my seat is right here on these pages, keeping me glued to my seat all over again. This is kind of stuff that gets me sharpening my pencils and pulling out the acme-punched animation bond.
Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, April 2010
Below: Promotional art from Avatar: The Last Airbender