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When I was a young girl, only watching cartoons before the big daddies of TV came along like Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad, there was one cartoon that I took for granted, up until very recently, when I realized how fantastic of a TV show it really was. And that, my friends, is Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Of course, it doesn’t hide itself from kid-like moments, but when watching the show, viewers would be surprised at the amount of depth and character that this supposed kids show has. The themes that revolve around it. The parallels it can draw. I know that Legend of Korra, the sequel show that takes place way in the future, might be a worthy successor, but nothing will ever beat the beauty that was the original.
Avatar: The Last Airbender features Aang, a young airbender who happens to be the next Avatar. For 100 years, he was trapped in an iceberg, only to be woken up by two young water tribe folk, Katara and Sokka. When he awakens, he finds out that the Fire Nation, led by Fire Lord Ozai, is trying to take over the rest of the nations, and it's up to him, a young boy, to save the world.
It sounds like an intense plot for just a children's show, which is why I am here today, to talk about the best reasons as to why it’s time for you to give this supposed “kids” show, Avatar: The Last Airbender, a chance. No spoilers here.
The Character Relationships Are Realistic
Alright, I can’t be the only one in thinking that most relationships in TV shows seem to move super-fast, and sometimes, they just don’t make sense. I can think of several pairings in TV history that just baffle me as to why they are together, like Jackie and Fez from That 70’s Show.
But the relationships in Avatar: The Last Airbender are paced very evenly, and they genuinely feel like one is meant to be with the other. Their similarities in personality make them very compatible couples -even the ones that don’t last that long – and make you want to root for them.
It’s An Awesome Action-Adventure Story
Most cartoons – at least from my experience – are never really action-based. Most have issues that could be solved in the ten or twenty minutes that they are given, and that way, they can move onto the next episode, like SpongeBob.
But oh no, not Avatar: The Last Airbender. This show has an overarching villain for three seasons - one that is most certainly scarier than any villain I've ever seen in movies or TV - a set goal in mind, with new issues arising every episode that seem to make things even harder and give the group more challenging experiences. It raises the stakes for a cartoon and gives way to some of those most interesting stories ever told in TV history. The action and the adventure is amazing for a series that is supposed to be meant for kids.
The Themes Are On Par With Shows Like Game Of Thrones And Breaking Bad
Think of some of the darkest themes you can muster – death, genocide, depression, anxiety, loneliness – Avatar covers all of that. And not just once, but multiple times throughout the series through several different characters, how certain events in their lives have paved the way and made them better human beings, and how they learned to cope with trauma.
But the themes aren’t all about sad things. Avatar: The Last Airbender also covers the value of love and friendship, of having someone by your side, of learning from your mistakes and becoming a better person. It truly covers all the ground material someone could think of, and there’s truly a part for everyone, no matter what they are doing through, to enjoy.
The Characters Are Well-Rounded, Including The Villains
I can’t think of a single second during this show where I thought “this person is too good” or “this person is too bad.” Every single character in Avatar: The Last Airbender has their moment in the sun where their story is explained and it shows why they are the way they are – even the villain, who has an interesting backstory as Fire Lord.
The villains themselves are so well thought out and well-rounded, and nothing ever seems forced, and the heroes aren’t all cookie-cutter versions of what a hero should be. They all have issues. And that’s what makes them so compelling to cheer for. Aang, Katara, Sokka - each of them have their own problems, making them so interesting to watch grow and become the young men and women they are near the end of the series.
The Music Is Killer
There’s not a single fan that I’ve talked to where they haven’t said the music isn’t amazing. There are tracks in this show that make you want to fall asleep because they are so peaceful and almost lure you into a sense of tranquility, but then there are other tracks – "The Last Agni Kai" – that are just utterly stunning, and others – "Credits" – that make you want to bop your head and dance around.
Seriously, if you watch Avatar: The Last Airbender for nothing else, watch it for the music. It’s so good.
The Animation Is Beautiful
Considering Avatar: The Last Airbender premiered in 2005, most viewers were not expecting beautiful animation, but the art style is absolutely fantastic. I loved seeing the breathtaking landscapes of the Water Nation, to the castles and family lifestyle of the Fire Nation, to the sprawling cityscape of Ba Sing Se. Everything is designed and animated so perfectly. And the bending itself is wonderfully done.
But not only that, there are some super funny moments in animation as well. The facial expressions of certain characters, when they get angry. It’s almost a source of comedic relief. They blend perfect animation with some amazing sets to some of the most hilarious character moments of the series. Truly, the beauty of animation in a nutshell.
The World-Building Is Perfect
The more I’ve read about Avatar: The Last Airbender, and looked into the comics that come after, the more I’ve come to realize how much detail is in it. I’m not saying that it’s to the extent of say Game of Thrones, but the world-building in Avatar: The Last Airbender has a lot of history that’s impressive for an animated show.
The stories of the past Avatars are intriguing, the tales of the current leaders and how they got there are interesting, and the traditions and lifestyles of the four separate nations are so different and detailed that it makes you want to learn more about each and every one of them. It’s truly a great parallel to the real world, and how certain countries have completely different cultures and tastes than the last – except with element-bending powers thrown in there.
The Character Development Of Certain Characters Is God-Like
I will go down with this opinion until the day I die. The way we see these characters evolve in Avatar: The Last Airbender, in just three seasons, is astounding. We see good guys turn to darker points in their life, passive figures turn violent for the sake of their family, bad guys turn good to save the world – we even develop slight compassion for some of the villains. The evolution of their bending ability changes as well, showing how much can evolve within a year (yes, this whole series takes place over a year).
There have been plenty of character arcs in television and movie history, but I don’t think there’s been a show where literally everyone has changed, either for better or for worse. Avatar is that only show where everyone has had that moment of change, that switch, and it’s amazing to watch them develop from beginning to end.
Appa. Just Appa.
Because who wouldn’t want to watch Avatar: The Last Airbender when this guy is in it? He’s adorable. Appa is a flying bison - which already sounds interesting in itself, but he is Aang's bonded bison that he picked when he was a young boy, creating a friendship between the two of them that is not only cute to watch but heartbreaking at times as well. I won't reveal any more than that.
Seriously, if you haven't watched this show, give it a try. The episodes aren't too long and the series is only three seasons. Trust me. It's worth the watch. It's right up on Netflix. But for the love of God, don't watch the live-action version. Just don't.
Big nerd and lover of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire. Will forever hate season eight. Superhero and horror geek. And please don't debate me on The Last of Us 2, it was amazing!
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