As a lifelong fan of animation, I’ve seen a lot of cartoons and animated series. And trust me when I say that after all this time Avatar: The Last Airbender remains one of the greatest animated series I have ever seen. Even though the series concluded 11 years ago, it still holds up today as one of the all-time greats.
Avatar: The Last Airbender is set in a world where people known as “benders” can be born. A bender is someone who can manipulate one of the four classical elements: Water, Air, Earth, and Fire. The only being who can manipulate all of the elements at once is the Avatar, a figure that is endlessly reincarnated throughout time, though each incarnation comes from a different background (for example, the last three Avatars before Korra went Earth-Fire-Air). The world is loosely organized into nations/tribal areas according to these elements as well. There are the Northern and Southern Water Tribes, the Air Nomads, the Earth Kingdom, and the Fire Nation. However, everything changes when the Fire Nation sets out to conquer the world.
100 years after the Fire Nation begins its conquest, the main story follows Katara (a water-bender) and her brother Sokka as they discover the long-lost Avatar Aang, the last airbender in the world. To fulfill his destiny, Aang must master all of the elements and put the world back into balance. But it won’t be easy, since Aang and his friends are closely pursued first by Prince Zuko, an exiled Fire Nation prince, and then a host of other villains, including the psychotic Azula (Zuko’s sister).
Considering it’s an animated series, and meant for children, Avatar: The Last Airbender contains some very adult themes. There’s references to genocide (the Air Nomads are annihilated), murder, torture, abuse, just to name a few of the darker examples. That being said, the story Avatar tells is a beautiful one, and you’ll quickly find yourself immersed in Aang’s adventures as he seeks to fulfill his destiny as the Avatar. I really found myself identifying with Toph along the way, particularly when she breaks away from her stifling family in order to make her own life.
One of the things I like best about the world of Avatar is how real it feels. The way bending is presented in every day life, it feels like something that does and could exist. I freely admit, during the show’s original run, I wished I could be a bender (preferably a Water bender but knowing my luck I’d be an Earth bender like Toph).
If you haven’t seen Avatar: The Last Airbender, I highly recommend going out and picking up the complete series on Blu-Ray. I emphasize blu-ray because the regular DVD version of the box set has some….issues…that tend to ruin the viewing experience. Take my word for it, the Blu-Ray version of the set is worth it.
Let me know what you think about Avatar: The Last Airbender in the comments below and have a great day!
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