Anime Reporter delves into the world of almost, but not-really, anime now to talk about Samurai Jack and Avatar: The Last Airbender (or The Legend of Aang, if you prefer). While I’m also pretty fond of Avatar: The Legend of Korra, I’m really not up to date on the series so I’d rather talk about these two that have come and gone.
Samurai Jack debuted in 2001 and, by the time it was cancelled in 2004, had 52 episodes. The story was that of a brave samurai warrior who fought against the demon Aku who had been terrorising his people. At the moment when Jack, (for twas the samurai’s name), was about to defeat the monster, Aku hurled him into the future, way way way into the future, where Aku’s evil had spread and he effectively ruled the world. Jack journeys across a futuristic dystopia, learning new skills and making many allies in his quest to destroy Aku and possibly travel back to his time to prevent this terrible future from ever happening. The series was clever, imaginative and gorgeously animated with a simplistic style. Jack’s journey unfortunately never came to an end as the series was cancelled before he ever found a way home but it remains a superb example of a hero’s epic journey, a great quest to save his people and find the peace he needs. Jack as a protagonist was both likeable and endearing, curious and adventurous without being overly simple or foolhardy. The supporting characters were equally enjoyable, though they were often in the series for very brief times. Jack would make friends and allies on his journey but typically travelled alone. Aku, despite a rather simple appearance, remained an intimidating and menacing presence throughout the series and while the series foreshadowed Jack’s successful journey home sometime in the future, Aku remained undefeated before we had to say goodbye.
Avatar: The Last Airbender was a Nickelodeon series centred around a world where certain people, known as benders, had the ability to psychically manipulate one of the four elements; fire, water, wind and earth. In every generation, one person was born who alone could master all four of the elements and this person was known as the avatar. The avatar’s mission was essentially to be a bridge between the human and spirit worlds and to preserve peace between the peoples of the four great nations. This series sees the world one hundred years after the avatar has disappeared. Aang, the young avatar in question accidentally got himself frozen in a ball of ice for a century and, like Samurai Jack, wakes to a world slightly less happy and peaceful than he recalls. The Fire Nation declared war shortly after Aang’s disappearance and effectively took over the other three nations. Unlike Samurai Jack, Aang isn’t too concerned with finding a magical way back to his own time, but sets about learning to master all of the elements to try and end the conflict in the here and now. The series lasted for three “books”, each devoted to one of the three elements Aang had yet to master; earth, fire and water. This series was, to put it simply, awesome. There was a wonderfully juggled mix of humour, action, imagination, romance and tragedy. Characters were well fleshed out individuals and the running themes/gags feel like visits from old friends as the series progresses. Its sequel series, Legend of Korra is a strong series in its own right, but, from what I’ve seen, it doesn’t quite have the same personality as its predecessor.
There you have it! Samurai Jack and Avatar: The Last Airbender remain two of my all-time favourite non-anime, anime series. What about you? Are there any series that don’t quite technically qualify as anime but that you can’t help but think of along the same lines? Share your comments below and let me know what you think.
Thanks for reading,