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Show 6 of 25: AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER
(2005-2008)

it’s about:
I’m going to go ahead and quote Katara on this one:

Water. Earth. Fire. Air. Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony. Then, everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked. Only the Avatar, master of all four elements could stop them. But, when the world needed him most, he vanished.
A hundred years passed and my brother and I discovered the new Avatar, an Airbender named Aang. And although his airbending skills are great, he has a lot to learn before he’s ready to save anyone.
But I believe, Aang can save the world.

my earliest history with the show:

I remember seeing trailers for this animated series on Nickelodeon from time to time and being really interested. I chanced upon the first episode on the channel and found it to be quite good. I waited for the next episode same time next week. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the second episode but rather a couple of episodes ahead… I gave up then.

I believe it was late 2009 when I finally saw a DVD boxed set for Avatar’s Book One on sale. I bought it at once, started watching back at home and finished it by the next day. I wanted more. Within the next two to three weeks I devoured the entire series.

why it sticks:

This show is one of the most “adult” animated series I’ve watched. I consider it as such because at its core, the show is about war and warfare. In 2008, Avatar: The Last Airbender won a Peabody Award for its “unusually complex characters and healthy respect for the consequences of warfare;” and this recognition sums up the treatment of the show, the characters as well as the story.

Aang, Katara, Toph, Sokka and Zuko are characters that grew and flourished as the series got deeper and deeper into the story. From time to time, you have to remind yourself that these are simply kids who are forced into a world threatened by war and destruction. Sure, they have powers; but these powers are nothing if not honed and developed. The whole series serves as a journey for each of them, not only as they tried to gain control of their skills, but also as they discovered more about themselves through their ancestry and family history.

I appreciate the fact that Avatar: The Last Airbender has a sense of history. It’s fairly clear that this show is rooted in Eastern culture and folklore. The movements for each of the four nations is very much inspired by martial arts. I couldn’t be more happy that it is treated with respect in this series. The creators clearly gave significance to the influence of Chinese culture in the crafting of the story, making it a well-rounded and multi-dimensional show.

The show also has a lot of humor and wit. The writing is excellent because there seems to be a perfect balance between its adult themes, fight scenes and clever dialogue. No matter how treacherous the road ahead may be, whenever Sokka cracks a joke or Aang stumbles over himself, we are reminded that there’s still a bit of comedy left in life.

This show is simply a breath of fresh air compared to all the shallow and laugh-a-minute cartoons airing now. It has a lot of layers, a lot of heart, and a lot of action. It clearly made an impression on me and I love it to bits. Seriously… So much so that it crushed me upon watching the movie The Last Airbender; but that’s another discussion for another day…

best memory:

The third book in the series, FIRE, left me with such an affection for the show. It clearly got darker and darker as we neared the end; but that’s where it was headed from the beginning. It all came down to the battle between Aang and Fire Lord Ozai, Zuko’s father. This was the battle that ended all battles; and I hung on to every second. This is gripping stuff… animated and fictional, I know… but still gripping.

Here’s another Avatar-related entry worth reading. It was featured on Freshly Pressed almost a year ago: Strange Fruit

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