The Dragon Turtle
imparts the final lesson
to the Avatar.
I adore things like this. I mean, concept art is a thing I'm super interested in, & lavish books of illustrations are a thing I like to own. I am not entirely a visual thinker-- I'm not devoid of it, but I like to rely on others to do a lot of the heavy lifting for me, like with my extensive use of pictures as props in my roleplaying campaign. My point is, really, that I like to see what full fledged artists can do when they stretch themselves. & I don't know if you've heard any rumors about this, but Avatar: the Last Airbender kind of blew my mind. I may have mentioned it once or twice in the past year. So, when this book was announced I threw my fist in the air & went "whoopie!" See here is the thing: I knew it was going to be good. Avatar is just lavished with details & hints, the sorts of things that go by too fast for your thinking brain to catch but that hook into the grey flesh of your limbic system & make your subconscious go all doozy. That twist up your mind like a slice of lime into a gin & tonic. Besides that, Avatar abandons the casual Eurocentrism of a lot of media & really gets into a pan-historic design scheme, without being self conscious about it. So; with that in mind, all I needed to know was the production details: 184 full colour pages. Yep, you could say my heart was pretty much set on this book being excellent.
& I wasn't let down. My expectations were fulfilled! They couldn't be exceeded; I really think the world of the Avatar: the Last Airbender creators, & basically expect them to fetch me the moon for a trinket. & then they do, but the moon it turns out is cooler than you'd think. That is just how they roll. The book really lets their voices come through, too-- you get to hear Mister DiMartino & Mister Konietzko talk about coming up through animation projects on prime time, to Nickelodeon's Invader Zim & then get their own shot. You see that it was originally Aang & a robot & a polar bear dog. What! & you might have seen that I'm utterly enchanted with the original Appa concept art. Now, Appa is perfect & amazing, but I think I might even prefer the less anthropomorphic, more manatee-like version. & you know, reading through about their partnership with the Korean studios is, uh...inspiring? Like, there is commercial art that doesn't treat over-seas workers like crap, that portrays people of varying colours & creeds fairly, that gives women half the roles, that tells a story that entertains all ages? That is a possible option? It is such a ridiculous gold standard that if I hadn't seen Avatar I'd call it imaginary. & I really like finding out what characters were spoofs on who, & how voice actors came to be hired ("I want Zhao to be like Jason Isaac's villain in The Patriot & that Malfoy guy he plays in those Harry Potter movies!" "Oh, okay boss-- is it okay if I just cast Jason Isaacs?"). Oh &! There are spreads on the hybrid animals, & on the calligraphy! Lots of the calligraphy is translated & they talk about the calligrapher they hired & all his techniques. & the "Foreward" by M. Night Syamalan is only a couple short paragraphs-- & haven't forgiven him for the Last Airbender movie debacle.
"Squish-sqaush, sling that slang.
I'm always right back at ya
with my... boomerang."
-by Sokka of the Southern Water Tribe.