Avatar: The Last Airbender. If you haven’t seen this cartoon before, then you SERIOUSLY are missing out. I’m not even fucking kidding. You are missing out on one of the most amazing and in-depth American animations ever made. That’s right. This isn’t an anime, which is Japanese. THIS IS AMERICAN! This is a big deal, people.
But enough of my clear fan-boy antics, let’s get this review rolling. Be warned there may be spoilers, so read at your own risk.
Long ago, there was a time of peace. When the Water Tribes, Earth Kingdom, Fire Nation, and Air Nomads, all lived together in harmony where the Avatar kept balance between the Nations. Each Nation was capable of bending a single element:
Water Tribes = Waterbenders
Earth Kingdom = Earthbenders
Fire Nation = Firebenders
Air Nomads = Airbenders
But everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked. They wiped out the Air Nomads, bringing their race to the very brink of extinction. Only the Avatar mastered all four elements and only the Avatar could stop the ruthless Firebenbers. But when the world needed him most, he vanished. 100 years passed and the world was at war with the Fire Nation, who were nearing victory in the war. The world’s only chance is the Avatar, who hasn’t been seen for 100 years. But there are those who haven’t lost hope. Some believe that the Avatar will bring balance back to the world.
Avatar: The Last Airbender tells us the story of Aang, the current Avatar who was found in an iceberg by Katara, a waterbender, and her non-waterbending brother Sokka travelling around the world to help Aang master the elements of Water, Earth, and Fire, while evading the Fire Nation, and the banished son of their Fire Lord, Prince Zuko. Along the way, Aang, Katara, and Sokka meet many people and learn about the impact that the Fire Nation’s war is having on the world. Throughout this journey, they discover that the Fire Nation will win the war in one year if they are able to use the power of Sozin’s Comet, a comet that travels close to the planet and enhances Firebending to a level that will cause so much destruction that not even the Avatar will be able to restore balance. So now in a race against time, Aang must master all 4 elements within a year and stop the Fire Lord from destroying the balance of the world.
What, did you think I was going to do a season-by-season review like I did with Game of Thrones? Hell no, there is not enough time in the world to write an in-depth review into each season. If you want the full story, watch the show. Or just go to Avatar Wiki and read it all there.
Aang is the current Avatar and is the only person in the world capable of bending all four elements. He’s also the last Airbender, since the Fire Nation committed a mass genocide on the Air Nomads to wipe out the Avatar and prevent them from interrupting their efforts in the war. Ironically enough, Aang survived by encasing himself in an iceberg for 100 years. Being an Air Nomad by nature, Aang is a very peaceful kid. He like to have fun and never resorts to violence unless it’s needed. And even then, it’s self-defense. But his struggle is that he is the Avatar and thus the only person capable of ending the war with the Fire Nation.
Katara is a Waterbender and Aang’s close friend. She at first is a novice Waterbender and only able to do the most basic of Waterbending. But with Aang’s help, she manages to travel to the North Pole and become a Waterbending master, effectively also becoming Aang’s Waterbending teacher to help him master the element. Always trying to keep the group together and being optimistic, Katara is the mother figure of the group.
Sokka is the older brother to Katara and is a Non-Bender. He can’t bend the elements, but he’ll fuck you over with his trusty boomerang. Over time, he learns the art of swordsmanship and forges a sword from a meteorite. He’s the comic relief of the group. Sarcastic, brash, and often skeptical of the power of Bending, Sokka is also a tactical genius. Often coming up with witty and inventive ideas, he’s the one that will usually come up with the winning strategy for the team.
One of the most bad-ass characters on the show, Toph is not just an Earthbender. She is the world’s greatest Earthbender. Completely blind, Toph “sees” by feeling the vibrations in the ground with her feet. Along with her superior hearing, Toph essentially has 360 degree “sight”. Unyielding like the element she bends, Toph is literally as tough as nails.
Zuko is the banished prince of the Fire Lord and his one mission is to capture the Avatar and bring him back to the Fire Lord. A man of undying pride and honour, Zuko will never give up when it comes to getting what he wants. Over time, he grows so much as a character that he is easily one of the top favourite characters of this show, as well as one of the best characters in a cartoon, period.
The bending in this show is simply amazing. The applications of elemental control is among one of the most creative that I’ve ever seen. You see, it’s not just purely water, earth, fire, and air. Each element can use a variety of sub-elements, such as:
Water: Ice, Mist/Fog, Plants, Blood (Under a full moon only)
Earth: Sand, Dust, Metal (Toph only)
Air: Unofficially, it’s Sound. Air is the only element with no sub-element.
It’s also a known fact that each of the Bending Arts actually is modeled after real martial arts!
Water: Tai Chi
Earth: Hung Gar (Southern Praying Mantis for Toph)
Fire: Northern Shaolin
This not only adds to the lore of the show, since there’s heavy Asian influence throughout it, but it also gives the characters proper form when they fight one another. When you see an Earthbender kick a large stone, you can see the power in it. When a Waterbender bends the water around them, you see the fluid motion in their arms. It’s just perfect.
The Lore of the Avatar-verse
There literally is so much in-depth history into the world of Avatar that it’s literally impossible to even think about where to begin. Throughout the series, we learn about the Avatars before Aang and their own turmoils that they faced. But let’s go into the most important lore of them all. The story of the Avatar.
The Avatar is said to be the spirit of the planet in human form. When an Avatar dies, he/she is reborn into the next nation, following the cycle of the seasons. The cycle goes as such:
Most Avatars will spend the first 16 years of their life training in their native element, living a normal life and being unaware of their status. Upon their 16th birthday, they are told of their status and are told to travel the world to master the other 3 elements.
The Avatar is the only being on the planet capable of bending more than one element and thus is considered the most powerful Bender alive. This is also enhanced by a power called the Avatar State.
The Avatar State is a power that allows the Avatar to tap into all the power of the past Avatars, giving them immense power over the elements and essentially becoming a living god. The result of this is the glowing in the eyes, or tattoos for the Airbender Avatars. But like all power, it comes with a drawback. If the Avatar is killed whilst in the Avatar State, all their past lives will be killed with them and the cycle will be broken, meaning that the Avatar will cease to exist.
It is the role of the Avatar to keep balance between the Four Nations, as well as act as a bridge between the physical world and the Spirit World.
Avatar: The Last Airbender is easily my favourite American animation of all time, with my favourite anime being Dragonball Z, of course. It’s the perfect show for adults and children alike and it is one of those shows where you can learn many life lessons that can apply to you in real life. After all, I learned this from the show:
“It is important to draw wisdom from many different places. If you take it from only one place, it becomes rigid and stale. Understanding others, the other elements, and the other nations, will help you become whole.”
Fucking Iroh, always making me tear-bend with his philosophical bad-assery