Day 20 of the Geek Out Challenge is about series recommendations – there are a million TV shows and video games that I’d love to talk about here, but I’ve limited myself to one TV series, and one video game series. I think both of my choices have a universally appealing quality that makes them perfect for a broad audience.
Day 19: What series would you recommend to anyone?
Avatar: The Last Airbender
It sounds a bit silly to say that a children’s cartoon means a lot to me, but this one definitely does. Avatar: The Last Airbender is immensely popular for good reason: it has unparalleled writing, in its narrative, world-building, and characters, as well as fantastic animation, voice acting and music. The general arc of the series follows the naive, somewhat reluctant Avatar, Aang, who is the only person capable of mastering all four of the ‘bending’ (being able to channel and manipulate) elements: Air, Water, Earth, and Fire. He must master all four elements in order to halt the invasion of the Fire Nation, lead by the Fire Lord, Ozai.
He is joined on his quest by brother and sister duo, Sokka and Katara, as well as earth-bending teacher and general badass, Toph. Sokka is probably one of my favourite characters in literally any form of media, and Katara and Toph are two examples of phenomenally written female characters. In fact, nearly every female character in this series is well-written, which is not only refreshing but proves that it’s possible to balance femininity and compassion, with strength and fighting prowess – the two aren’t mutually exclusive. The three main antagonists of books two and three, Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee, are also excellent characters and extremely compelling villains (Azula especially). Every single antagonist in the series is nuanced (take Hama, for instance) and nothing is ever black and white, good and evil. The main antagonist of the first book, Zuko, son of the Fire Lord, has probably the best redemption arc I’ve ever seen in a television series. He goes from endlessly pursuing Aang and co., making bad decision after bad decision, before finally finding his sense of self, and joining their group as Aang’s fire-bending teacher. He is easily my favourite (aside from Sokka) in the entire series – his characterization is handled so well it’s incredible.
The supporting characters in the show are equally endearing, from Uncle Iroh, to Appa the flying bison, to the engineer and his son, Teo. The magic system and world-building are clear, effective, and constantly being built upon. The show is genuinely hilarious at parts, and equally as heartfelt at others. Rarely have I seen a show (much less one that is aimed at children) handle themes like pacifism, personal identity, belonging, and prejudice (to name a few) so expertly; to drive home these themes so clearly is a feat that The Last Airbender pulls off with flying colours. They even managed to wrap up the series with an extremely satisfying ending. I once recommended this show to a friend who refused to watch it because it was “too childish” and good lord, that person has no idea what they’re missing out on. Young or old, fan of cartoons or not, I will always recommend this series to anyone that asks. If you’re an aspiring writer looking for great examples of the core elements of your craft (characters, world-building, narrative arcs) look no further than The Last Airbender.
The Professor Layton series is often compared to the Ace Attorney games, as they share the basic premise of puzzling through a narrative that is centered on a point-and-click style adventure. I first played Professor Layton and the Curious Village at a friend’s cottage – it was raining in the morning, and we were stuck inside. She asked me to help her work through some puzzles in a game that she was stuck on. We sat there for about an hour, poring over her DS, working through 4 or 5 of them, and I was absolutely hooked. As soon as I got home, I immediately went out and bought the game for myself.
My favourite aspect of the games is the puzzle design, particularly in the original games – they were all based around either clever wording, approaching problems from a creative angle, or deceptively simple math (ew, I know). Seeing through a problem to the solution and getting it right on the first go made you feel immensely clever, as did concentrating on a puzzle for 10 or 20 minutes, carefully gauging your answer and then finding out you were right. Whew. The hint coin system was also available for puzzles that were especially vexing. The overall stories in the games were always enjoyable as well, with a fairly decent job of dropping clues, but not enough that you would necessarily be able to tell what was going on before the game revealed it to you. The characters, particularly Professor Layton, and his apprentice, Luke, are both adorable and fun to follow.
Though the puzzles and stories of the series declined in quality slightly (as they focused more on 3D/touch screen mechanics rather than clever presentation), I still adore these games, and I’ve stuck with the series over the years. I’d love to see future titles released on the Switch now that the DS consoles have run their course, and I’d definitely recommend this series to anyone – its easy to pick up for non-gamers, and just as quick to get into if you’re a gaming enthusiast like myself.
As always, check out Megan’s post for Day 20 here, and share your thoughts in the comments!