We kick off our exploration of “The Avatar Universe,” with “Avatar: The Last Airbender” pilot, “The Boy in the Iceberg.” This episode really does get into serious issues by implication, which is part of what I love about this show. I’ll get into the particulars in the review, but genocide is in the title. Aang, is the Last Airbender, since all the rest have been killed off by the Fire Nation. You don’t to see kid’s shows explore issues like this, which brings a lot of depth to the story from the beginning.
I didn’t start watching this show until college, but when I did I never failed to be impressed. This is a major reason why I’m looking forward to reviewing the entire series, the comics and Korra and doing Character Profiles through this year of the different characters on the show, as there is so much to explore. This Universe is so rich with politics, philosophy, religion and characters that it would be a shame to not give it the full justice and exploration it deserves.
“The Boy in the Iceberg” was directed by Dave Filoni and written by Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko, Peter Goldfinger, Josh Stolberg and Aaron Ehasz.
The premise is that the Fire Nation has been conquering the world since the Avatar went missing 100 years ago. In current time Sokka and Katara are taking care of their tribe as their father and all the men have gone off to war to fight the Fire Nation. It is while they are hunting that they discover Aang, the Last Airbender, which attracts Prince Zuko to their people.
The Pros: The Premise – The premise is fascinating! You have a world where certain individuals can control the elements, and the Avatar who can control all four. You have the empire of the Fire Nation who has decimated populations like the Southern Water Tribe and committed genocide on the Air Nomads and is a real ongoing threat. We see how advanced Fire Nation technology is compared to the Water Tribe and the fact that Aang, the Last Airbender and Avatar is just a kid, shows just how in over his he and the other characters will be in facing down the Empire that has been conquering the world for 100 years. The idea of people bending elements based off of Martial Arts styles is really cool too…as we see in the introduction, it was through fire bending that the Fire Nation conquered the world.
Katara – Katara is calm except when she is disrespected, which Sokka does throughout the episode. It is his being disrespectful that leads to her water bending Aang out of his hibernation in the ice. From here she is the one who sees something special about Aang, but also has the self respect to confront her fears of the Fire Nation (when her and Aang explore a Fire Nation ship that was abandoned during one of the invasions of the Southern Water Tribe) and she is the one who updates Aang on all that has happened since he was gone.
Aang – Aang is the Natuto personality type. He’s high energy and likes to have fun and joke around…since the first thing he wants to do is go sledding using penguins. You can tell why he was in the ice as well since he is the Last Airbender. He ran and I don’t think he’s made peace with that. He also has not made peace with the fact he’s the Avatar, which makes sense…that’s a lot of responsibility for a kid and he doesn’t feel ready to face it.
Appa – Is a Flying Sky Bison. The Bison has a great design and is a pretty chill creature that cares deeply about people.
Zuko – Zuko is introduced as our antagonist, trying to win the honor of his family by capturing the Avatar, when none of his ancestors could. He has a cool scar and great character design. Also, great voice acting by Dante Basco. His character is impatient and wants to have honor again no matter what. He’s a small man, but intriguing because of it as he is no older than Katara and Sokka.
Iroh – Iroh is Zuko’s Uncle and is the rock that is ignored. When Zuko is getting all wound up it is Iroh who mentions he should sleep and tries to help him become a better Fire Bender by using the meditation and martial arts aspect of bending so that Zuko can find calm and balance. He isn’t successful sadly and is the wise sage along for the ride at this point. He also loves tea as the first scene he is in he is playing a game and offers Zuko some Jasmine Tea. The wonderful Mako Iwamatsu does his voice.
Okay: The Southern Water Tribe – We don’t really get to know them. They have Inuit garb and culture is implied, but we don’t get to know what those beliefs are. They only appear briefly in the first episode and are such a small tribe.
The Cons: Sokka – The guy is mean to Aang and Katara throughout the entire episode. He was pretty insufferable so I didn’t mind at all that he was the but of every joke and got tormented.
The pilot was a great way to start off the series! I had thought Zuko held the Southern Water Tribe hostage in this episode, but it looks like that is next episode as this episode is just Zuko confirming that Aang is with the Southern Water Tribe before he acts. This is godo as it gives us a chance to get to know the characters of Zuko, Iroh, Aang, Katara and Sokka. The characters have always been the strongest part of the story and in this case you really get a feel for how fleshed out the world is too.
Final Score: 9.2 / 10. Only reason it isn’t higher is because of how annoying Sokka is and how much more fleshed out I wish the Southern Water Tribe was.