The Last Airbender Cartoon version was a very successful Nickelodian animation series. Enjoyed by children, adults and martial artists alike.
It was done with great class and care, and a deep and respectful attention to detail. Something that's rare to find in children’s animation, and most forms of entertainment... It's unfortunate that the movie version did so poorly. (you can read a stinging review of the Last Airbender the movie here)
But don't let the movie version discourage you from enjoying the original cartoon version.
The Last Airbender cartoon has plenty of action, great villains, superheroes and adventure. Plus, it has a lot of KUNG FU FIGHTING too! Keep reading, I’ll explain below…
Even though it’s a “children’s” cartoon the stories within are equally great for adults. The episodes are about friendship, duty, responsibility and character. Each episode has a deeper meaning for the older audience.
If you haven’t watched it, go watch it. It had three seasons… start from the first episode and watch the whole thing in order. You’ll thank me later.
I recommended it to a SiMei at my Kung Fu club for her young son. After watching the first DVD she thanked me for recommending it. They now watch it together on family night and her son AND her daughter are crazy for it.
As many as 5.6 million viewers watched each episode and it was nominated for -- and won -- numerous awards such as the Annual Annie Awards, the primetime Emmy awards and a Peabody Award, among many others.
I won’t get into the plot in this review — just watch it!
But you need to understand the detail to the martial arts and richness of this series.
In the show, their world has four nations. Each nation has people with special powers called “Benders”. These Benders have the power to control specific natural elements. Waterbenders control water. Earthbenders control rock and earth. Firebenders control fire. Airbenders control air.
The creators of the show based each “Bending” style on an actual style of real-world kung fu.
So, Waterbenders use the elegant and circular Tai Chi forms to control water. Earthbenders practice the powerful and low stance forms of Hung Gar to control the earth. Firebenders execute the very flashy long punching and kicking moves seen in Northern Shaolin kung fu to control fire. And Airbenders perform the internal and circular moves found in BaGuaZhang to control the air.
In the fight scenes you can clearly see the visual differences in the techniques and fighting styles between the different Benders.
It’s really quite amazing to watch the attention to detail, not only in the fight choreography, but in the entire series… especially if you have an appreciation for Asian culture or history.
This fictional world is highly influenced by Chinese kung fu (as mentioned above), Chinese history and culture and Asian culture in general.
The creators went so far as to hire cultural, calligraphy and martial arts consultants to help them bring realism and authenticity to the Last Airbender cartoon! (It’s no wonder they were nominated and won so many awards.)
Most of the names of the cities and characters are from the Chinese and Japanese languages. The animation itself is Japanese anime inspired. You can see Chinese, Japanese, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and Tibetan Buddhism influences on the clothing and architecture in the show. There’s yoga. Sanskrit writing is used in some episodes and Chinese calligraphy is the “official” written language for all four nations…
Watch it. That’s all I have to say.
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