“Avatar: The Last Airbender” had a great Book 1. There was only one episode that I considered weak was “The Great Divide.” The rest of the episodes were at the very least good even if there were some things that could have been explored more. What made Book 1 “Water,” so great were the characters and their arcs and the themes that certain episodes explored as well as the overarching theme of the Book.
The Pros: The Soundtrack – The Track Team did a fantastic job with the soundtrack to the series of Book 1. From the ending theme, to the haunting sound whenever loss or death was faced or the drum beats during chase sequences…the music only ever added to the story.
The Animation – I really liked the animation for this show, it was one of the first things that drew me in as each character has a distinct style and the world is all the richer because of it. Bryan Konietzko and his team really did a great job on this series and Book 1 highlights this.
The Action – From the first fight with Zuko and Aang to the Siege of the North and all the smaller fights and duels inbetween. Every fight Zuko was in was one to see and seeing Katara become a Master Waterbender was great too as she continued to get the point of besting her enemies.
The Writing – The writing was amazing, this is a kids show and the characters were real as well as whether they were complex or static…the reasons behind what they did or believed were mostly explained. There was also so much showing rather than telling which made it so great.
The Characters – The characters of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” are amazing and we see that all of them are complex in different ways or at the very least compelling on their own. Whether it’s the strength of Suki, the wisdom of Iroh or the pride of Zhao we see characters who may not change but who give us so much in how they interact with Team Avatar. This even goes for the minor characters as well like Jet, Chief Amook and Master Pakku as well.
The Character Arcs – The character arcs of Book 1 are powerful and mean something. So much of it is dealing with trauma and growing from the loss. Whether it’s Aang’s abandoning his role to embracing it over the course of the Book and his learning responsibility, Sokka learning compassion, Zuko learning to depend on more than anger and Katara learning humility. These are just some of the changes that happen in our characters and their arcs.
The Themes – There are quite a few themes that Book 1 covers, genocide in the destruction of the Air Nation, colonization Earth Nation’s relationship to Fire Nation cities upon their land, equality and justice and the fight for it in relationship to Kanna and Katara in regards to the Northern Water Tribe and countless others in regards to justice and war and what it means to be good. This themes go throughout the series but are introduced really strongly here.
The Cons: Simplifying Cultures or Characters – “The Great Divide” was the worst at this which is why I used the image from it above, though the non-existent Northern Water Tribe politics and the existence of the character Hahn also fit this description. This was the only thing that really brought down this season.
The first season of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” ends strong and is solid all the way through. Throughout the drive from loss humanizes the characters as we see Aang deal with the loss of his people, Katara and Sokka with the loss of their mother and so much of their tribe and Zuko with the loss of his Nation. All of them are driven by these losses to try and write the wrongs as best they see fit, all the while striving towards good. They lose more in the process and all the while grow. The ending of Book 1 is one of the more tragic endings in any animated series and really captures what makes this series so great. Loss is never seen as something to be avoided when it is tackled and the important themes like genocide are at the forefront of the series and the First Book. If you like great animated shows, you won’t be disappointed by “Water.”
Final Score: 9 / 10. Solidly great even with the weaker episodes.