Avatar: The Last Airbender, debuted on Nickelodeon in 2005. It's intended audience was for ages between 6 and 11, but they gained attention from all age ranges. The narrative behind the show is that their world is divided up into four nations: the Water Tribes, the Earth Kingdom, the Air Nomads, and the Fire Nation. Each has its own element and the people of that nation are known as "benders" because they can control their element. Inside of these nations are also people that don't have these abilities, sometimes called "nonbenders". Each generation has one person that can manipulate all for of these elements, the "Avatar". This individual also has a strong connection to spirits and their past reincarnations. Once an Avatar dies, their powers are passed down to the next Avatar of the next nation. The Avatar is seen as the link between the mortal world and the spirit world, therefore has abilities some benders don't. They serve as the symbol of order between all of the nations and are meant to keep the world in peace with each other. In this series in particular we follow Avatar Aang, the last surviving air bender, and his journey around the world to learn all four elements. Not only does the show have a great story, but it also has influences from our culture and entirely new ideas only seen on Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Some of the best types are shows are the ones that are good no matter what age you are. The stories that the Avatar tells are fun and interesting and can appeal to anyone. Some people think that because its an animated show, that must mean its for kids, but we all know of animated cartoons that are meant to be for adults only. Avatar is a mix between classic animated cartoon and Japanese anime, but don't let stereotypes of anime keep you from watching, it's still a kids show after all. When I first watched this show was when it was still new in the early 2000s and I was somewhere in my teens. I loved Avatar then as a child, and now as an adult, but I feel like rewatching it now has made it so I can really enjoy the show for all that it is.
Avatar isn’t just one of those stereotypical Nickelodeon cartoons, it’s not just about a group of friends getting up to some trouble each episode and they end up learning some life lesson about it. I guess some episodes do, but most shows do. The three seasons are are each characterized by an element Aang needs to learn. Book one is water, two is earth, and three is fire. Each season you meet new characters with their own stories and you travel to different places with stories along their journey too. One thing I like about the storyline was how unique it is. They don’t just give you sad stories you’re supposed to pity the characters for, they give them challenging beginnings that they work hard to overcome. For example, their stories aren’t that a character is blind so her parents are overprotective and she lives a miserable life because of it. It’s, because she is blind she’s one of the best earth benders. But once her parents find out and try to protect her from what they think is dangerous, she proves to them how strong she is even though she is blind.
Another one of my favorite things about Avatar is the non-human characters. Since a big part of the show is about the spirits and the spirit world, they came up with some of the most unique looking creatures (and some of the cutest). Like this turtle duck, why isn’t this a real thing? I mean it sort of is in two parts, but I want this one.
Some of them are even a little on the spooky side, which is surprising for a kids show. In a few episodes there is a spirit that Aang talks to in the spirit world, it’s body resembles a large centipede type bug but it’s face changes to the faces of those he has stolen. So when Aang meets with this spirit he can’t show any emotions or the spirit will steal his face. Spooky for a kids show, right?
One of the best parts of Avatar is also it’s humor. With some kids shows their humor can be a little predictable and over the top, but in Avatar the humor seems to be more like witty banter that keeps the show going at a fast past and shows you character relationships as well. A lot of well known memes have come from this show, who hasn’t seen the cabbage vendor and his cabbage cart? Or heard about Prince Zuko and his angsts teen rage that always gets shot down by his tea loving Uncle Iroh.
The show also has some well done action scenes and an interesting way of learning things about these powers that people posses. Because Avatar is based somewhat on anime, you’d expect it to have that predictable anime style fighting, but the show is often about learning their new found abilities or using what they already know into their powers. Some episodes are even focused on just learning these abilities and what it took to get them there. Their styles of fighting are also based largely on Asian-influenced martial arts.
To summarize, Avatar: The Last Airbender is on Netflix and you should go watch it now. Even if you’ve already seen it, watch it again. Rewatching has made me see so many things I missed each time I have watched it before and I feel like it just gets better and better. Now there is also The Lefend of Korra, the avatar following Aang. Korra is a very different avatar than Aang was, she is skilled in most of the elements from the beginning, but lacks some of the patience and spiritual areas that the avatar should have mastered. Unfortunately, that’s as far as these shows will ever go, but if you watch them over and over again it’s like they never end.