Avatar The Last Airbender - Book 2 Earth, Vol. 2 (2005)

Format: Animated, Color, NTSC
Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only)
Number of discs:
Paramount Home Video
DVD Release Date: April 10, 2007
Run Time:
120 minutes



Even though this animated series made especially for the Nickelodeon children's TV channel is heavily influenced by Japanese animation styles and traditions, it isn't strictly anime.

For starters, the show was conceived and written in the States even though the animation itself may be probably be done in Korea (nowadays everything is animated in Korea - a trend started by The Simpsons). For another, Avatar: The Last Airbender is much better than a lot of staple anime, probably because of the makers' Western sensibilities. Even though Avatar may feature children as its main protagonists, they never become shrill or annoying in the way anime seems to specialize in.

In fact the playful and humorous interplay between the various characters is one of the series' strongest points. Avatar is never over-serious in the way a lot of anime can be - a sly sense of humor and some clever dialogue runs throughout the series even though the series' ambitions are quite extravagant: it tells a single epic narrative within a fully realized universe of its own. Some episodes may have a standalone feel, but even then they are part of an overall narrative.

Set in a mythical China in a far distant past where fantastical alien creatures such as turtle ducks (literally ducks with turtle shells) for instance closely exist opposite steam-driven tanks and characters straight out of a Akira Kurosawa samurai flick. Like in Ninja Scroll everyone in this magical fantasy land seems to have magical superpowers. Here their powers are centered round control of the four ancient elements, namely fire, water, earth and wind. In fact this mythical world is divided between four kingdoms named exactly that: Earth, Fire, Water and Wind.

When the narrative unwinds there is a hundred years war between the four kingdoms, one which only a so-called "avatar" who has magical powers from all four elements can stop. Unfortunately the Avatar is still only a young boy and he hasn't yet mastered all his powers yet.

THE DISC: Some endless Nickelodeon ads start playing when you insert the disc. Pressing Menu on my remote didn't get rid of the ads, but pressing Skip a few times did. Image and sound quality is great. Avatar is also superior to your average anime offerings in that the show never skimps on the animation.

It is beautifully animated and uses none of the usual cost-saving anime tricks and clichés. Image is presented in its original full screen mode. Not much in the line of extras except for audio commentaries with two episodes by the show's creators and writers.

WORTH IT? Don't be put off by Avatar's origins as a Nickelodeon kiddies show. It is suitable viewing for all ages. Adults will get into it as much as kids do.

RECOMMENDATION: Epic in scope with new major characters being introduced as late as the episodes contained on this disc, it is best to start viewing this series right from the very beginning instead of plonking down somewhere in the middle with this DVD. Instead of forking out more for separate DVDs, it is recommended that you buy the Complete Book I box set instead (yes, you will be wanting all of the episodes). If you're familiar with this show then you probably have already ordered this DVD.

How far does Avatar The Last Airbender's anime "influences" go? One creature, a sky bison is a direct rip-off (or homage if you prefer) of Spirited Away director Hayao Miyazaki's cat bus creature in My Neighbor Tortoro.



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