May 2, 2008

Water, Earth, Fire, Air

No, not Captain Planet. I referring to the four nations of the world in the series Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Don't get fooled by the fact that it's a "Nicktoon" - this series may be focused on children, but it's written on many levels. I think that may be the reas that Nickelodeon hasn't aired it recently, actually - I think it draws the wrong demographic, which is to say: older teens and adults. Despite that, it's the finest specimen of dramatic writing in animation on American TV, in my opinion.

It follow the journey of Aang, last remaining member of Air nation (the Air Nomads), who is also the Avatar: the umpteenth reincarnation of the bridge between the material world and the spirit world. Destined to return balance to world, he and his friends journey across world so that he can learn each of the "bending" techniques - elemental manipulation crossed with martial arts - and try to bring peace to a world that's been at war for over one hundred years.

One of the coolest aspects is that each of the martial arts styles - one per nation/"bending" technique - used in the series is based on a different, real world style. And the major techniques used on the show are based on recorded footage, but not motion capture, of Sifu Kisu of the Harmonious Fist Chinese Athletic Association.