The Ranch Review

Avatar: The Last Airbender

Avatar: The Last Airbender show poster

Avatar: The Last Airbender show poster

Elissa Huynh, In Depth Editor

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No other American animated television series has such complex plots, backgrounds and characters. No other address such a variety of important topics and issues in life. No other balances action, comedy, drama and romance so well. Avatar: The Last Airbender, created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, proved to be the best show ever made in America throughout its three seasons.  

 The show follows the adventures of Aang who is the Avatar, master of all four elements, in a world where people can bend earth, water, air or fire. Along with his friends, he holds the responsibility to end the war started by the fire nation. The war goes way back and its past is frequently addressed in the show in different perspectives. The plot reflects reality because it really shows the effects of war on regular civilians and those who play a major role in it. In today’s world, many countries still face devastation from war, which is similar to some of the villages that the characters visit. For example, an Earth kingdom village taken over by the Fire Nation arrested all of the earth benders for no legitimate reason.  

 The background provided throughout the show makes it advanced for a children’s animated series on Nickelodeon. It goes into depth about the history of Avatars, Katara and Sokka’s experience as children during the war, how the fire nation started it and Zuko’s childhood as the son of the Fire Lord. The details and connections between the backstories were brilliant and mind-blowing especially since they gave the point of view of the antagonists.  

 The creators made Zuko into a dynamic and round character. He goes through the best character development as he transitions from an insecure, selfish prince who wants to regain his honor after being banished by his father to a loyal, selfless friend to Aang who understands his true destiny. The other characters also experience character development such as how Aang went from a naive Avatar to a strong one that learned that he could change his destiny. Sokka started as a sexist, cocky teenager and became a mature, strategic leader.  

 Avatar: The Last Airbender covers important messages that the audience can learn from. Through Aang learning that he doesn’t have to kill the Fire Lord to end the war, people learn that they control their own destinies. Through Toph being a skilled earth bender despite her blindness and small size, people learn that even the small and disabled can be powerful, strong and brave. Never abandon those w

In addition to all these amazing parts of the show, the broad range of genres makes it constantly interesting and realistic. The action scenes like the confrontations between Zuko and Aang, invasion of the Fire Nation and the final battles are intense and captivating. Comedic scenes like when Sokka fell in a hole, Aang hallucinated due to self-deprivation and the horrible play on Ember Island create lighthearted moods, bring laughter and deepen the characters’ personalities. Some romance between characters such as Aang and Katara occur and portrays them as more realistic but it does not dominate the plot in order to focus on the main thread. With the spirit world and bending of elements, the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender is completely new and unique. Fantasy becomes reality as flying bison, flying lemurs, giant turtles, meetings with past Avatars and the Avatar state come to life. Lastly, the interpersonal conflicts between characters lead to drama. For example, Zuko and Azula grew up as siblings but never completely got along causing Azula to manipulate Zuko and ultimately facing him in the Agni Kai for the position of the next Fire Lord.  

 One of the greatest impacts of the show is the positive representation. Girls fight, bend and speak up against the patriarchy. Katara is a female main character who sets her goal on learning how to water bend in season 1, but when she discovers that the Northern Water Tribe did not allow girls to fight, she bravely defended herself and challenged the patriarchal system. She became a powerful bender and changed the sexist tradition. Almost every main character is a kid or teenager proving that being young does not invalidate people’s skills, opinions, beliefs and influences on large issues like world politics. Toph, a blind little rich girl who was constantly under strict protection of her parents, is always depicted as strong and brave. She shows how disability is not equivalent to weakness. Almost everyone has Asian characteristics. The cultures of each nation draw influence from the Inuit and east Asian societies. The representation here gives pride to the minorities that are usually overlooked in American television.  

 The art style of the animation has realism and similarities to anime. Several characters have deep, large eyes and everything generally looks realistic. The animation of action scenes flow perfectly and each type of bending has its own distinctive style. The actors’ voices match their characters well like Zach Tyler Eisen who had an innocent childlike voice and played Aang.  

 Avatar: The Last Airbender aired from 2005 to 2008 and greatly influenced this generation’s childhoods. Many reference the show and are still big fans. It has a rating of 9.2/10 on IMDb. This animated television series left a significant legacy as the best show ever produced in America.

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