Sunday, February 5, 2012

Review: The Last Airbender Prequel: Prince Zuko's Story

Inspired by the summer blockbuster directed by M.Night Shyamalan

Story by: Dave Roman and Alison Wilgus
Art by Nina Matsumoto

Based on the series Avatar: The Last Airbender
Created by Michael Dante DiMartino an Bryan Konietzko. Based on the Screenplay written by M.Night Shyamalan

A Del Rey Manga Trade Paperback Original

The Last Airbender: Prequel: Zuko's Story
Bonus Materials

Status: Owned

I thought I first start with some terms I found quite interesting while reading about screenwriting and would like to share it here. These few definitions were presented in "How Not to Write a Screenplay" by Denny Martin Flinn.
Written by - this means the same person or team wrote both the story and the screenplay
Story by -  means then that the writer or writers devised not only the situation and characters but the basic sequence of action in the film
Screenplay by - means the writer or writers created the dialogue and probably made some significant contributions to the development.
Screen story by means that the writer relied on a book, play or other source material, but so thoroughly re worked it that he is acknowledged for having created something new.
Adaptation by means the writer has neither created the story nor written the bulk of the dialogue, but has made some fundamental change in the material.
Narration by means this is given by when the voiceover narration of a film amounts to a dominant voice, such as in movies "Never Cry Wolf, " or Apocalypse Now." An ampersand  (&) between names designates them as a writing team, while "and" between the names means they worked independently. 

I've always been reading credits front and back of a TV or movie (yes, I'm one of those people who really waits till the last production name flashes and ends the whole experience. Besides you'll never know what other surprises you'll find scrolling up such as: Iron Man 2 - Thor's Hammer, POTC 1 the monkey and the coin and many others.) So whenever I watch a TV show or a movie I take note especially the writers of the episode and even the director's name, and even the casting director. It can be quite handy when it comes to favorite TV episodes and movies to watch out. :D

What's it about?
This is Zuko's story prequel to the events that transpired in the movie. The story started a few hours after Ozai challenged his son to Agni Ki which Zuko failed spectacularly and was banished from the city. In order to redeem himself, he needed to find the avatar that had gone missing for 100 years and bring the avatar back to the city. Accompanying him in this journey is his uncle Iroh, who provided to be the prince's calming influence however, Zuko is hot-tempered and impetuous as the element he welds, fire.  Upon the the guidance of Iroh (even if Zuko reluctantly accepts it) they travel to Crescent Temple on Fire Island since it was the last known whereabouts of Avatar Roku and the sages may have more information about that last avatar.

What made me go for it?
After seeing the movie, I was curious about seeing these related material in manga form.

What are my thoughts after reading it?
This is the first time I've picked up a manga but I have seen others (Avalon High, Basilisk and etc) though. I'm a bit of choosy reader and well, trying to be practical these days, I have to be selective and exercise cost-cutting exercises (lolz)  if I  get to continue enjoying regularly buying books. So I bought this copy out from my fascination of seeing a related material from the movie. Since I'm also interested in the world of animation (even though I can't draw to save my life) I like to see how dialogues are broken down into panels, which I think is a challenging process for a writer. This I think exercised the tenet "Show Not Tell" scenarios frequently and to be concise to be able to bring that same amount of energy delivered in a few words.

I enjoyed reading the manga. We were shown a hot-tempered Zuko as he tried to reign in the anger which I think stemmed so much from the prickly father and son relationship culminated in the Agni Ki challenge. Azula (Zuko's sister) was more intimidating on the pages though and looking back at her movie version, I felt there wasn't enough of that bridled power translated on the screen.

Iroh remained the voice of calm against Zuko's turbulent thoughts and feelings and I was laughing when Iroh did his best to teach his nephew the merit of enjoying the journey whatever may be the outcome. He was somehow teaching Zuko to widen his perception and not miss the big picture instead of being having a tunnel-vision in his life.

Hong Sheng, a theater man with a mission (as the Red Spirit) with a healthy dose of humor and a unshakable belief system who was wily enough to steal a couple of explosives from Zuko's ship and use them as a distraction in order to free his son from Kanku.

Zuko (as the Blue Spirit): I can't believe I'm doing this. Those are my explosives.
Hong Sheng (as the Red Spirit) : You can be the one to light them if it makes you feel better.  

This brief encounter gave us an explanation why in the Avatar movie, we saw Zuko in a Blue Spirit costume and how using the idea came to be. I like that it ties the movie again.

The bonus materials found at the end of the manga, were educational. :D The rough draft of the pencil sketches were fascinating because the artist had to draw in the small space everything from facial expressions down to FX without crowding the panel. I thought that was tricky. I was shuffling back and forth from the page to the final version and see the difference in the clean product.

I recommend this to a reader who first got introduced through the film before checking out the animated series and still curious about the people who will meet Aang later. For perhaps aspirant artists, they can also check the bonus materials and see how it goes to translate the written screen into series of drawings.

I would like to learn more about Avatar Roku and the other avatars who came before Aang though. I think that would further expand the Avatar world. I also wonder if Sokka and Katara have their own prequel stories.
Rating 4/5 stars

More Airbender manga review here.
Oh, I hope I'll be able to find the Art of the Airbender Animated Series book. :D


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