Tv Review: Avatar The Last Airbender

(The Show to Watch Right Now)


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Avatar is hands down the best-animated show I have ever seen. Possibly one of the greatest shows period. Avatar: The Last Airbender has recently gained more attention, following its phenomenally successful re-release on Netflix this past summer. This show despite being over fifteen years old now, sat on Netflix’s top 10 series, for a record 60 days. But what about this show has made it so timeless, and so popular among fans and critics alike?  


For me, it’s a combination of familiar tropes, cliches, and unique eastern philosophy/art style. Its exploration of timeless themes such as genocide, war, and discrimination, through complex characters, and its ability to balance so many genres at once, being action/adventure, comedy, drama, suspense, and mystery. It does all these traits simultaneously, while again being accessible and enjoyable to the average audience member.  


While the hero’s journey arc, is something that we’ve seen in countless stories from The Odyssey, to Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings. This show takes in a unique direction. Avatar the Last Airbender takes place in a world in which there are four nations each capable of bending one of the classic elements (Fire, Earth, Air, and Water). While the Avatar is the only one capable of bending all four of them. The main protagonist Aang, wakes up from being frozen for one hundred years, having already failed his responsibility to the world. In most stories, the hero starts in a normal world and then proceeds down the list of steps. In Avatar, Aang starts on step three, which is the failure in the call to action.


Avatar has a unique animation style, combing traditional western style animation, and Eastern Animation, as well as occasional CG. This gives the show a visual style that no other show can match. However, the story does sometimes not do enough of its own originality, particularly with the episodes: The Guru, and The Crossroads of Destiny, in which it is almost a beat for beat remake of The Empire Strikes Back. While this is not a problem for me, because I enjoy the Empire Strikes Back, and it works with the story has set up previously. The similarities are rather blatant once you notice them. However, it does not take away from the enjoyment of the show. 


Next, the show explores themes that a rarely explored in children’s shows. The most notable ones include genocide, the effects of war, and discrimination. In the show, Aang finds out that his entire family and community, were killed up by the invading Fire Nation, kicking off the hundred-year war, that the show deals with. In addition, the show explores how war affects everyone. For example, many earth kingdom commoners have to now flee their homes as refugees. Next, governments in the Earth Kingdom prevent people from talking about the war, to keep order and peace. Finally, it shows how fire nation citizens are indoctrinated with hatred and bigotry of other nations, while only showing the superiority of their nation. 

Avatar doesn’t shy away from the topic of discrimination and the use of diversity. Many shows and movies today try to force diversity and issues regarding discrimination, making it come across and lazy. While the show does deal with that sometimes, particularly in the episode: The Waterbending Master, most of the time it does explores those topics so seamlessly that we as audience members don’t even notice it. 


Finally, the show can balance so many different genres together. For example, Avatar has a great sense of adventure and worldbuilding as for most of the story,  our main group of characters is exploring the world around them going from deserts to forests, to mountains, to cities,  and everything in between. Next, it has great action set pieces particularly the episodes Siege of the North, Crossroads of Destiny, Day of Black Sun, and Sozin’s Comet. Besides, it has great suspense and mystery most notably with the episode: The Blue Spirit. Also, it had great dramatic depth for all the characters and was able to tug at my heartstrings to the point of making me cry. This is explored beautifully in episodes such as The Storm, Zuko Alone, Tales of Ba Sing, Appa’s Lost Days, and The Guru. Finally, the show can top it all off with great humor and a sense of comedic timing, this is mostly seen with the character of Sokka, and is heightened in episodes such as Cave of Two Lovers, and The Ember Island Players.  


Overall, this show balances all of the elements I have talked about, it a fantastic mix of everything that you could want. Great animation, actions, characters, themes, mystery, adventure, and world-building. Also, this show is incredibly important, especially now with bigotry being hot button topics that are occurring right now in the United States. However, the show also gives us insight on how to properly integrate diversity into shows, showing that it takes more than having diversity in a show to make it good.