Recently, it was discovered that the critically acclaimed and beloved animated series from Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko will be getting a Blu Ray release in the UK as an Amazon exclusive on June 11th 2018. The set includes three art cards exclusive to the UK edition, and is currently priced at £60.55.
The series has already been released on Blu Ray in the US, where during May 2018 it remained a Best Buy timed exclusive for a month until its general release on 5th June 2018. I will be reviewing this edition ahead of the UK release, as the discs and content should be the same.
ATLA ran for three seasons (or books) between 2005-2008 and told the story of Airbender Aang (Zach Tyler Eisen)-the last of his race and the one destined with the spirit of the Avatar, which has been passed down each generation to random individuals with skill and willpower. His task as Avatar is to return peace and harmony to a world controlled by the violent dictatorship of the Fire Nation, who in a post-war and desolate world continue to seize control and power over their surrounding neighbouring former allies. The previous Avatar had vanished and died, subsequently reincarnating into Aang, who found himself trapped in ice for over 100 years.
The world of ATLA sees a divide into four nations, distinguished and entwined by their individual abilities to “bend” the key elements of their environments. The Air Nomads bend air high in the mountains and on the side of cliffs, The Water Tribe control the water surrounding their icy locale, the Earth Kingdom make use of their constructive skills to create vast kingdoms and the Fire Nation have used their devastative power to attempt to control the entire world for over a century, as is the plan of Fire Lord Ozai (Mark Hamill) The series managed to tell an ongoing story with a varied and endearing cast of characters, mostly managing to stray away from predictable and flawed writing in order to bring a quality animated show to Nickelodeon.
Though some episodes here and there have brought ire to fans, the well-crafted and finely tuned realm of fantasy that ATLA is a part of ensured that the arc-driven narrative kept a fine pace that grew and developed in both story and character development. Aang, Sokka (Jack De Sena), Katara (Mae Whitman), Toph (Jessie Flower), Zuko (Dante Basco) and the best character of the series Iroh (Mako) all saw significant changes throughout, bringing another great example of just what an animated series can achieve, as ATLA has managed to endear itself to an audience inclusive of all ages. Creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko really took their time to make the narrative as rich as possible, fully realising the concepts and managing to execute these ideas with assistance from a great animation team who really put motion into the bending, characters and world. All of these elements and so much more are what places ALTA as one of the finest animated series ever made.
The Blu Ray itself is a sweet deal, containing all 61 episodes in HD, specifically a HD upscale which sees the image presented in 1080p with its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (which places black bars on either side to fill in the 1.78:1 frame.) The picture quality itself is a clear improvement over the DVDs, especially with the early episodes which had terrible ghosting effects due to poor rendering. However, the image still has issues such as ringing, banding and aliasing which may be more noticeable to some than others. Considering the limitations of the picture, Paramount have done a decent job here, and it’s still a worthwhile upgrade overall. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 lossless soundtrack and manages to present the often-great soundtrack and character dialogue effectively, though like the VQ also has its limits.
All the bonus features from the previous DVD iterations of the series are also included, these include behind-the-scenes featurettes, commentaries, shorts and even a graphic novel all spread across the nine discs. The outer slipcover packaging is simple but wonderfully designed, adorned with Aang entering his Avatar state, whilst the interior digipak has the key characters. The disks are plain and there’s no interior art, but overall, it’s an impressive package for the price.
Though the Amazon UK price is £60.55, because the discs are region free (I tested them on my PS4 to be sure) it means that you can import the US edition from a number of websites. I obtained mine from DeepDiscount wherein it costs around $37/£29, which is a real bargain for such a great series.
Overall, this is a worthwhile investment for both fans of the series and newcomers, Avatar the Last Airbender is a sublime animated series that manages to be (almost) consistently great in its approach to storytelling and world building.
Picture and audio
Overall: 4/5 A worthy buy!
By HW Reynolds
Images provided by Nickelodeon/Paramount Home Entertainment and bluray.com