A Closer Look into Avatar: The Last Airbender, My Favorite Animated Scenes

Though many must be frustrated/tired of all my Avatar posts please know it is all for a good cause. This is Part I of my favorite Avatar moments posts. It will be hard, almost like saying goodbye to a good friend but it will be fun. I still need to finish my “Top 51 Most Beautiful Animated Films” posts (sorry for those still waiting for me to finish).

So… For this post I wanted to go over my favorite animated scenes from the show. Those who know me well understand how much I love great animation. Avatar is loaded with amazing action scenes and emotional moments. I limited myself to my favorite ten, which will save time and help me move on quicker.

For those who do not know, Avatar is primarily hand drawn animation. My mother commented a few weeks ago how I probably loved this show so much because of this. Hand drawn animation entails a lot of hard work and helps connect the story and characters to an audience better. There is something magical about 2D animation, almost like watching artwork come to life. It has a hand to paper quality lost in 3D animation.

These are my favorite scenes, so I am sorry if it coincides with other’s opinions. *Shrug* If it bothers you too much just go and make your own list. I do that all the time. Some slots have two sequences, but since I limited myself it was necessary. Let’s get started.

  10. Aang fights Jet, Episode 10 “Jet”/ Toph in Metal Suit, Episode 60 “Sozin’s Comet: Part 3”

*I have always liked Aang’s first fight with Jet for its energy and look. Jet’s fighting style is rugged but precise and interesting to watch. Since I studied the four main fighting styles for Avatar I wondered if the creator’s gave individuals like Jet their own unique techniques and look. 

Jet is actually based on Spike Spiegel so I wonder if their fighting styles are similar. As for his fight with Aang, I liked how they moved above ground through the animation. Unlike many of the other fights throughout the show, it dances and swirls through the trees in Aang’s world, disconnected from the earth.

*Toph’s fight in the airship caught my attention a few weeks ago. Only about 25 seconds long, it is subtle but intricate in design and implementation. What I like most about it is how Toph seems to fold into the metal door, which enables her to withstand incredible heat and even crawl on the ceiling. Much like earth itself, it is not very fast paced but takes its time. Which is fine by me, for I love to watch how it is animated. Ahh! I love the small details in her movements. I also like the music The Track Team composed for it using drums and sighing strings.

9. Dragon Dance, Episode 53 “The Firebending Masters”

What is most interesting to me about this piece of animation is how their fighting positions matched the dragons’. It teaches how our actions reflect our spirits, which must be teachable. I have said multiple times how impressive bending is. I saw a little bit of Teen Titans a few days ago and felt the action scenes missed that heart seen throughout Avatar. As this simple clip shows, all the character’s movements are grounded in reality, mixing real life with the fantastic.

8.Toph Fights Wrestlers, Episode 26 “The Blind Bandit”

Everything I love about Toph’s fighting abilities is reflected in this showdown. Like the #10 clip, watching her fight off each of the wrestlers is like watching someone write their name in Kanji. The term “wait and listen” epitomizes  this scene. Sometimes, I watch the rough animation for shows and movies. Seeing it is like picking apart a complicated and well oiled machine. That is what this scene is like. It appeals to me because I am allowed to witness tactful, and well-structured fighting. My favorite moment is when the ring leader throws the rock at her and as she dodges it it shows in slow motion how disciplined her style is.

7. Long Feng’s Speech and Jet’s Brainwashing, Episode  34 “City of Walls and Secrets”

This sequence reflects the balance between word and action. It is not a fancy fight scene but it impressed me with its subtlety. Political intrigue is thoroughly fascinating to me and I loved how well the creator’s portrayed it in this small scene. It is unsettling to see how Long Feng’s words, which ring with contrition, are unmasked by the circling of the lamp.

6. Aang Changes to Ocean Spirit, Episode 20 “Siege of the North:Part 2”

This scene is really short. I am not talking about “Koizilla” attacking the fire nation but how Aang joined the ocean spirit. Coupled by the choir, sliding strings and drums it remains a powerful demonstration of man’s connection to nature. The minute Aang states “No, it’s not over” my eyes remain frozen as he steps into the pool, slips down into the water and emerges, consumed by power. I especially like the two second moment of Aang swooping into the water and how his glow matches the lonely, gray atmosphere.

1115. Aang Talks to Koh, Episode 20 “Siege of the North: Part 2″/ Aang and Katara’s Dance, Episode 42 “The Headband”

*Koh, as a character, has grown on me over the years. As a child, he creeped me out but with my expanded knowledge on Eastern religions I feel I understand his encounter with Aang better. What I like about it is how he and Aang acted off each other. There conversation dripped with tension as Koh tried to trick Aang and Aang patiently waited until he found the information he needed. The way Koh moves is also intriguing to watch, especially in how his legs move and he constantly circles around Aang with primal curiosity.

Aang and Katara’s dance had a different taste to it. It was really nice to see how disciplined fighting could become choreographed movement. I also liked how Aang and Katara played off each other. Aang seemed just a little older, whereas Katara grew younger as she allowed herself to drop her cares and express herself. It is subtly romantic and carefree.

4. Zuko Fights Zhao, Episode 3 “The Southern Air Temple

I have always liked this sequence, since I saw it about ten years ago. The more I see it the more impressive it becomes. The first 13 Avatar episodes were meant to be experimental, to see if audiences liked the material. Unlike other animated shows, from the get go its animation was high quality and engaging. 

This Agni Kai, or fire duel, showed what Avatar was capable of through animation. It is like seeing first hand two master martial artists fighting through art. As a passive observer it is not readily apparent how detailed it is. Remember this scene was done frame by frame. Not only did this mean learning how martial artists moved but also capturing the intricate details in their muscles for each position. These small details really impress me as a lover of animation and art.

3. Aang and Zuko Escape from Zhao’s Fortress, Episode 13 “The Blue Spirit”/ Zuko And Azula Agni Kai, Episode 60 “Sozin’s Comet: Part 3”

*Aang and Zuko’s escape is one of the longest sequences I have listed. I wanted to include Zuko’s fight with the guards outside Aang’s cell (especially for the one five second clip of Zuko dousing the fire guard with a bucket of water and knocking him out) but decided to focus on their journey to the outer wall of the fortress. I liked seeing Zuko use swords to skillfully overcome multiple opponents. My favorite shot is of him sliding his sword down a spear. I also loved seeing Aang’s airbending. It is here I understood how his style worked as a defensive technique. Come to think of it, I probably love airbending so much because of this episode. All in all, this sequence is a very well choreographed and implemented piece of animation.

*I almost forgot Zuko and Azula’s last fight. That would have been a terrible shame, seeing how beautiful it is. This fight feels like a sad dance, big and disconnected from reality. It showcases Azula’s dying sanity and Zuko’s newfound confidence and strength. What makes this short fight stand out is the simple, yet powerful music. Everything Azula and Zuko do gains new poignancy through the swinging strings and well placed percussion instruments. I feel anew with every viewing that animation, if done right, becomes art in motion.

2. Aang’s First Avatar State, Episode 2 “The Avatar Returns”

This will probably surprise Avatar fans. I have always felt that the first few episodes sparked my love of the show. (Usually, I forget the first episodes in shows) . I almost put Episode 2 as one of my top 20 favorite episodes. But, as it goes, I was overwhelmed by all the other great ones and it fell by the wayside, which is a shame. 

As for this clip, it is rather short but is an amazing piece of animation. What I liked most about it was how otherworldly it seemed, from the glowing eyes and arrows, the sweeping motions of the water and the slow and the deliberate strength Aang showcased. My favorite four or five second clip was when Aang jumped onto the ship and gracefully moved the water behind him. I also like the moment his eyes glow and he swiftly gathers the waters around him.

1. Aang Fights Ozai, Episodes 60-61 “Sozin’s Comet: Part 3-4”

How ironic is it that my two favorite sequences come from the first episodes and the last episodes? I doubt anyone is surprised this is my favorite. By far the longest clip on the list, seeing as it encompasses two episodes, it is intricately detailed and beatifully executed. Originally, the finale was only supposed to be three episodes long. However, for the sake of the story the creators decided it needed to be split into four parts. I am glad they did this because it gave them time to flesh out the dynamics of this colossal fight.

It has energy, power and suspense and the setting was larger than any other from the show. It spanned through an entire bay filled with rock pillars. This fight is split into two parts: Ozai’s brutal subsequent wins which corner Aang into the sphere, and Aang’s reconnection to the Avatar State and overwhelmingly powerful defeat of Ozai. (I do not include their spiritual battle, as it is part of another list). I watched the rough animation for this sequence, being the nerd I am, and marveled at the intricate details in the character animation. Sometimes the action required the papers to spiral down into each other to create the large atmosphere.

I have so many favorite moments: Aang lifting the top of a pillar and kicking it towards Ozai, Aang jumping around a pillar and pushing it, and Ozai shooting lightning at Aang being just a few of them. My definite favorite is when Aang jumps out of the rock pile in the  Avatar state and grabs Ozai by the hair. I will not talk about it anymore or I will go on and on and on. . . If you are interested in my other feelings about it, check out my review and Top ten favorite episodes post. Also, I highly recommend watching the bonus features for Season 3 from the DVD’s. That is where they have the rough animation for Ozai and Aang’s fight as well as Zuko and Azula’s Agni Kai.

(By the way, I LOVE how they animated Aang while in the cosmic sphere, surrounded by all the elements.) 


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