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Sample Evaluation Essay

Updated on October 24, 2012
Aang, Katara, Sokka
Aang, Katara, Sokka
Aang, Katara, Sokka, and Zuko
Aang, Katara, Sokka, and Zuko

Flameo, Hotman!

“Some men are born great; others have greatness thrust upon them.” To me, this quote by William Shakespeare perfectly embodies Avatar: The Last Airbender. Avatar is about a young boy named Aang, who is told he’s the avatar, and that he must learn all four elements and save the world. To me, that is someone who is definitely having greatness thrust upon him. Avatar: The Last Airbender, an animated television show for adolescents, was created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. While the synopsis of the show may seem like nothing special, Michael and Bryan brought life to an animated series that has captured thousands of people. By incorporating three very important aspects into their show, excellent animation and voice acting, an interesting story line, and smooth overall character development, they have created a truly wonderful show that can be enjoyed by many people for years to come.

Avatar: The Last Airbender is a story about a young boy, Aang, who finds out at an early age that he is next in line to be the avatar. The avatar is a man or women whose job is to protect the four nations and make sure they stay balanced. Like any young boy would be, he is overcome by the pressure that comes with being the avatar and decides to run away, in hopes that he won’t have to be the avatar anymore. Disaster strikes, though. While he is running away from the Southern Air Temple, he gets caught in the midst of a storm which eventually takes him down and submerges him in the ocean. Luckily, Aang’s avatar state kicks in and encases him and his flying bison, Appa, in an iceberg which successfully suspends them in animation. One hundred years have passed since Aang ran away from the Southern Air Temple, and the world is now a very different place. What was once a peaceful and loving world is now a world that is burdened with war, despair, and loss. Aang while still suspended in animation is found by two Southern Water Tribe members, Katara and Sokka, and finally is freed from the iceberg. Shortly after re-emerging from the iceberg, Aang finds out the current state of the world and realizes that he must pick up where he left off one hundred years ago. He realizes he must continue mastering the other three elements (earth, fire, and water) so he can defeat Fire Lord Ozai and bring balance to the world again. It’s with some help from friends (Katara, Sokka, Toph, and Zuko) that he finally accomplishes his goal in season three, and restores balance to a world that was once fraught with destruction.

One of the most important aspects in any animated television show is the voice actors of the characters in the series. While many other aspects are important, it’s this aspect that can really make or break an animated show. It is clear that all the voice actors in the show were chosen with precise care and thought. For Aang, a young boy (Zach Tyler Eisen) was chosen to voice his character which helps bring Aang’s youthful personality to life. While for Zuko, they had Dante Basco who has more of a rough quality to his voice be the voice actor for Zuko, which helps bring out Zuko’s more rough personality. It’s these voice actors that truly bring the characters to life, and just generally fit the characters’ styles and attitudes. I have found that voice actors that don’t fit an animated character can distract from the overall story, and Avatar makes sure to avoid this. A prime example of a character’s voice being distracting is General Iroh’s voice in Legend of Korra, which ironically is Avatar’s sequel and is voiced by a familiar person, Dante Basco. While Dante Basco’s rough voice fits perfectly for Zuko, it does not fit for General Iroh’s. General Iroh in Legend of Korra doesn’t have the same personality nor look as Zuko did. Basco’s gruff voice just sounds unnatural coming out of him, which caused a major distraction to me and quite a few other people in the Avatar fandom while we watched the show.

One of the first things anyone will notice while watching Avatar is the crisp and consistent animation that occurs throughout the entire series. I have noticed many animated shows where the animation gets worse as time goes on or slowly starts to change styles, both of which can get irritating after some time. Avatar excels in the very fact that it avoids those pitfalls quite successfully by staying true to their unique animation style from start to finish. Avatar also has a more mature animation to it, which to me, makes it more appealing to adult audiences. There are several shows, Fish Tales and Gravity Falls, which use an almost immature animation that quickly turns adults off. Avatar avoids this problem by using a unique anime style animation with inspirations from several famous animes: My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, and Princess Mononoke.

The second aspect that Avatar truly excels in is something that any great television show possesses, an excellent story. Right from the very beginning it is clear that Avatar follows the same overall story line that all great shows and movies follow. This format is called, The Hero’s Journey.[1] This format consists of three acts. The first act introduces the hero and the problem facing the hero, the second act involves the hero responding to the problem, and the third act shows the problem finally being solved by the hero. Each of these three acts correspond to the three seasons of Avatar. The first act corresponds to the first season of Avatar, where Aang is introduced and also the problem facing him, the destruction of the four nations by Fire Lord Ozai. The second act corresponds to the second season of Avatar, which is where Aang goes about learning most of the elements and also where he and his friends try to come up with a strategy to take down the Fire Lord. Finally, the third act corresponds to the third season of Avatar, which is where Aang finally faces and defeats Fire Lord Ozai, thereby restoring balance and peace to the world. It’s these three acts that really connect the whole story of Avatar and make it into something that many people will remember for years.

Now, the most important aspect of an animated television show is the overall character development of the main characters. It’s this very aspect that I believe truly makes Avatar into the best animated television show for adolescences. The character development is done incredibly well by the two creators of the series. It’s smooth and believable, which is two aspects that many shows miss the mark on. While, the overall character development of each story might not be made known until the very last episode, it is something that is definitely worth being praised. In the very beginning of the show we are given: Aang, a young boy who is scared of his destiny and runs away from it; Katara, a young girl whose waterbending skills aren’t exactly up to par; Sokka, a young boy who is scared to even give his battle strategy to his family and friends; and Zuko, a boy who believes his whole reason in life is to destroy the avatar and to help his father win the war. At the end of the series though, we are given four very familiar but at the same time different characters: Aang, a boy who instead of running from his destiny is now facing it head on; Katara, a girl who is now a waterbending master; Sokka, a boy who can now command and lead a whole army; and Zuko, a boy who now realizes his destiny isn’t to destroy the world but to instead save it by helping the avatar defeat his father. It’s the element of amazing character development in these four characters that really bring the whole show to life, and make it something worth remembering.

Legend of Korra, Avatar’s sequel, sadly fails to possess the same great amount of character development Avatar possessed. While the character development of the four main characters of Avatar is interspersed throughout the show and realistic, Legend of Korra’s character development is rushed and seems almost fake. Avatar Aang has to deal with many problems and unfortunate circumstances before he truly grows as a character, while Avatar Korra quickly develops from a girl who is blunt and rash to a girl who is more precise and plans ahead in just 12 episodes. The quick character development that exists in Korra almost seems like a cop out, and can easily bother a viewer. While Aang’s long and detailed character development just seems right, and extremely believable and satisfying.

While to many people, Avatar: The Last Airbender may just seem like another adolescent animated television show, but it is so much more than that. To me, it’s the best animated television show for adolescents, and I believe it will keep that title for a long time. It will very well keep this title because it excels in three aspects that are important to making an excellent television show. It excels in animation and voice acting, story line, and overall character development throughout the series. With these three aspects combined, an amazing animated television show can come to life. Avatar: The Last Airbender is a show that I would recommend to anyone of any age category, because it is something definitely worth seeing and something that will truly be remembered for years to come.

[1] This format was dubbed by my Intro to Mass Communication professor, Robert Darden. It’s also his idea.

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