In the darkest times, hope is something you give yourself. – Iroh
Avatar first premiered in February 2005, I was ten years old and obviously an idiot for not giving this show a chance. Fast forward a decade and twenty year old me finally gave in from all the hype I had seen on Tumblr and Youtube.
Ten year old me is truly an idiot. Avatar has life lessons most kids shows would never think to talk about. From death and friendship to hope and loss. It doesn’t hold back just because the name Nickelodeon is on the title card.
In Avatar, the world is divided into four nations: Water, Earth, Fire, and Air. However in this world, people have the ability to bend these elements at their will. There are non-benders but come on, who wouldn’t want to be a bender? But then there is the Avatar: this person can bend all elements and connect with the spirits. The Avatar is the bridge between worlds and a uniter of the world. The Avatar, an Airbender named Aang, ran away at a young age after discovering he was the Avatar. Long story short he froze himself and his flying bison, Appa, and 100 years later things aren’t as he remembers.
The Fire Nation (because fire is the cliche bad guy here) began their conquering of the world right after Aang left. Countless lives were lost; they pillaged villages and murdered innocent people.
Two of our main characters: siblings Katara and Sokka discover Aang frozen in ice and embark on a journey to help him reclaim his title as the Avatar and learn his remaining three elements: fire, water, and earth. Along the way we meet an array of people who you should remember because odds are they will return later in the series.
Things can’t be this easy though. The group is being hunted down by Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation. To reclaim his HONOR he must capture the Avatar and return him to his father. Zuko becomes obsessed with taking the group down, but thankfully his Uncle Iroh is there to bring him back to reality and add some wise words of advice along the way.
The show has one main villain: the Fire Nation. From Zuko’s dad to his ruthless sister, the Fire Nation wants nothing else than to conquer the world. Unfortunately, Aang only has a year to bring them all down.
What’s great about the show Avatar is the fun but also serious times that lay ahead. Of course it’s a kid show and it still needs kid show antics, comedic relief, and relatable characters. But it’s so much more than that. The characters go through a lot of development over the course of a year. They grow up right before your eyes, not only physically but mentally as well. They realize the reality of the situation and must be serious at times to get things done.
Like any good show, the characters are the reason it’s so popular. Aang is a fun-loving kid who has to grow up and defeat the Firelord. Katara is strong and wise, but has to become a better bender while keeping the group together. Sokka starts as a comic relief but becomes a leader and fighter, despite being a non-bender. Zuko is a “complex” character, more of an anti-hero than villain with a troubled past just trying to please his father. The more the series goes on the more characters we’re introduced to. Toph for example, doesn’t come until the second season, but she’s an amazing Earth bender with a little twist.
The show doesn’t follow seasons, but books, and each book is a different element. Book one is water, book two earth, and book three fire. The books actually follow the element Aang is learning. (I just find that pretty cool.)
Just because Avatar premiered on Nickelodeon doesn’t mean it should be ruled as a show just for kids. Adults, teenagers, and kids a like enjoy the show because it’s mature. The characters aren’t exactly mature, but the show as a whole treats kids with respect. It allows them to follow a dark storyline, but it also believes they can handle it. Because of this, adults can enjoy the show too.
Don’t think the show ended after three, incredible seasons. It continued on as graphic novels and Legend of Korra (which I will be doing soon) is a continuation of the Avatar’s adventures.
And if you have seen the (abomination) that was Last Airbender by Shamalangadingdong don’t think for a second it follows Avatar at all. Remember, that movie has a 6% on Rotten Tomatoes, Avatar: the Last Airbender has 96%.