Shows

A Fiery Finale to My Favorite Childhood Show

Airbender-CompleteBook3.jpg

Spoiler-Free Show Review:

Avatar: The Last Airbender Season 3

Rating: 9.8 out of 10

Intro

Avatar: The Last Airbender is my favorite childhood show, and Season 3 has always been my favorite season. I recently re-watched this show with my roommate and she really enjoyed it as well.

It includes my favorite episode of the whole show, Chapter 17: The Ember Island Players, when Team Avatar gets to see a play based on their own adventure.

It also includes my least favorite episode, Chapter Eight: The Puppetmaster, which is super creepy for a kid’s show. Nonetheless, it was a well-made episode that helped set up a concept that would later be important for The Legend of Korra.

Read on to find out why this is the best season yet.

(Quick warning–there are no spoilers for Season 3, but there are some minor spoilers for Seasons 1 and 2.)

Background

Avatar: The Last Airbender was created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The head writer was Aaron Ehasz. The genres it straddles include Fantasy, Action, Adventure, and Comedy. Season 3 was released in 2007.

The show won five Annie Awards, a Primetime Emmy Award, a Genesis Award, a Peabody Award and a Kid’s Choice Award.

It is a unique blend of anime style with the style of American cartoons. It draws from Inuit, Japanese, Chinese, and Tibetan culture.

Summary

The world of Avatar: The Last Airbender is made up of four nations which each are focused around a different element: water, earth, fire, and air. Each of these nations is made up of those who can “bend” (control) one of the elements.

Map from the series
The Four Nations from Avatar: The Last Airbender

The current Avatar, Aang, must master all four elements in order to stop a war that has been going on for a hundred years. The war was launched by the Fire Nation, which is bent on world domination.

Real-World Influences of Avatar Part 2: The Water Tribes - The More You  Know post - Imgur
Katara and Sokka

With the help of his friends Katara and Sokka, in Season 1 Aang seeks to master waterbending by traveling to the North Pole to find a waterbending teacher. Along the way, Katara is able to teach him basic waterbending and the team goes on various adventures.

Toph Beifong | Avatar Wiki | Fandom
Toph Beifong

In Season 2, the earthbender Toph joins Team Avatar, the Fire Nation grows in power and influence, the heroes reach Ba Sing Se, and Zuko tries to establish his own identity.

Avatar: The Last Airbender | Netflix

Season 3 begins with Aang waking up in a Fire Nation ship confused–and with a full head of hair! The main point of Season 3 is Aang’s attempts to find a firebending teacher and master all four elements in order to defeat Fire Lord Ozai and end the war.

Pros

  • Powerful character depth and development
  • Creative system of elements
  • Developed fictional cultures based on authentic cultures
  • Diversity
  • Balance of humor and tension, comedy and tragedy
  • Smart musical choices to create humor and tension
  • Range of expressions of characters
  • Entertaining for child and adult audience
  • Explores themes rarely touched upon by children’s shows
  • Intro orients the viewer to the story and is accessible to new viewers
  • Wonderful animation
  • Pacing is better than first season
  • Intense fight scenes
  • Lingering consequences/lasting wounds from last season

Cons

  • Chapter Nine: Nightmares and Daydreams is bizarre and over-the-top
  • Never learned how Hawky worked, but used him anyway

Review

Characters

Zuko | Avatar Wiki | Fandom

Zuko has the biggest identity crisis of all the characters, so it is natural he gets the most development. At this point, his uncle is imprisoned, so he has to decide on his own path without Iroh’s help. He is at home with the life he has always wanted–will he finally be satisfied?

Iroh | Avatar Wiki | Fandom

It is like this season is a reminder of who Iroh really is–a capable, wise man who is more than just a mentor to Zuko.

Azula | Avatar Wiki | Fandom

Azula is a truly terrifying character. Her callousness toward her own family and her intense ambition makes her especially frightening. This season also develops her as a person almost to the same degree as Zuko. We see her insecurities and her paranoia, ripples in the pool of her calm demeanor.

System of Elements

Map from the series

The elements of water, earth, fire, and air are controlled by movements mimicking Chinese martial arts. Because they are modeled off of different forms of martial arts, the bending looks authentic. Waterbending is graceful, earthbending is formidable, firebending is fierce, and airbending is elusive.

The variety of techniques that can be used within a single element mean that battles are never boring. Benders like Aang, Katara, and Toph continually find new and creative ways to use their bending.

Toph is unique as a bender, as her bending is based off the Southern praying Mantis Style.

Season 3 is definitely Azula and Zuko’s time to shine with elaborate bending as well. Furthermore, fire as an element is reconsidered as representative of life, not just destruction.

Culture

This season of Avatar: The Last Airbender focuses on Fire Nation culture. This includes their mythology (The Painted Lady), their education system, their forms of entertainment, and their way of life more generally.

Nature - Transcendentalism

Small towns and larger cities are visited throughout the season. This one is a village on a polluted river. Most people wouldn’t have thought a Fire Nation village would be situated on the water–that’s kind of like an earth bending city high in the sky. But the creation of the elemental system does not categorize and simplify people. The cultures in this show are complex, just like cultures in the real world.

The Headband | Avatar Wiki | Fandom

In the Fire Nation, education is propaganda, painting their own society as a heroic force of good in the world. The fierce patriotism of Fire Nation citizens is fueled by a powerful set of lies.

What’s also interesting is the difference between what Aang remembers of Fire Nation culture, and what it is like now. His outdated slang and long-forgotten Fire Nation dances are a source of humor and an indication of how society changes over time, for better or for worse.

Diversity

Avatar: The Last Airbender has cultures based on various real-life cultures. Unlike in some shows, it mimics these cultures while honoring them and without making caricatures of them.

Katara and Sokka have light brown skin, so there is some diversity in skin color as well.

In Season 2, the show introduced Toph, who is blind. She remains a critical character in Season 3.

Balance

The balance of humor in this show with mature themes (war, imperialism, colonialism, corruption, propaganda) makes this show appropriate for children yet entertaining for adults–the perfect balance.

Music adds to the humor at some times, and adds to the tension at others. It isn’t like the show has phenomenal musical scores – it doesn’t, not even in the intro. But it uses music that supports the story and does it well. Season 3 has more epic music for its fight scenes in the final episodes.

The range of expressions on the characters’ faces also adds to the comedy.

Avatar's The Beach Is The Breakfast Club with Bending

Sometimes they are realistic, but occasionally they are way over the top.

Avatar: The Last Airbender / Radar - TV Tropes

Intro

Who is the Earth silhouette in the intro to Avatar: The Last Airbender? -  Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange

The intro neatly explains the system of elements, explains about the war, and introduces the Avatar all in about thirty seconds. It is followed by a “Previously on Avatar” montage that concisely gives more background.

This is good for two reasons. Viewers who watch episodes with large spaces of time between get a reminder of what is going on and the stakes. And new viewers who may have missed the first few episodes get a sense for where the show has been and where it is going.

It’s a smart choice on the part of the directors.

Animation

The animation is beautiful and attractive. I can definitely see both the influence of anime and of American cartoons in the art style.

Pacing

The pacing, which I mentioned as a potential shortcoming in the first season, is not really a problem in the second season. Sure, there are filler episodes, but not as many.

Fight Scenes

Wow. Just wow. The fight scenes in this season blew me away. I can say literally nothing about them without spoiling something, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

Consequences

History of Aang (Summer 100 AG) | Avatar Wiki | Fandom

The biggest consequence of Team Avatar’s failure in Season 2 is Aang’s lasting injury. I like that this is not something Aang just recovers from and everything is better. He has a permanent scar on his back and foot from the lightning strike.

Anyone know what the scar on aang's foot is? : TheLastAirbender

Bizarre Episode

Book 3, Chapter 9: "Nightmares and Daydreams" | Avatar airbender, Avatar  picture, Avatar images

Chapter Nine: Nightmares and Daydreams is basically about Aang trying to handle an immense amount of stress. It includes bizarre hallucinations and childish nightmares. It’s weird and unnecessary and doesn’t add much to the story.

The Last Airbender Book 3 Fire E09 Nightmares And Daydreams - video  Dailymotion

Hawky

Avatar Gave Sokka The Pet That Zuko Was Supposed To Have

None of the characters has any idea how to use Hawky, but by the end of the episode Hawky is sent to a deliver a message. There is no indication how it will get to its destination, it’s never shown how it’s done, and all they did was send it off. Sloppy, in my opinion, but it was most likely due to time constraint. Not a big deal, just disappointing.

Conclusion

This is my favorite season of my favorite show for a reason. This is not just some kid’s show. It’s worth watching if you are an adult. If you want to learn good storytelling, watching high-quality shows will teach you. This show can teach you something.

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate shows, check out my rating system.

Links

Shows

Show Review: Avatar: The Last Airbender Season 2 (Spoiler-Free)

Avatar-TheCompleteBook2Collection.jpg

Rating: 10 out of 10 stars

Intro

Avatar: The Last Airbender is one of the few shows I have watched that actually gets better in the second season. The whole dynamic of the team, which was already phenomenal, improves when Aang gets an earthbending teacher.

Background

Avatar: The Last Airbender was created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The head writer was Aaron Ehasz. The genres it straddles include Fantasy, Action, Adventure, and Comedy.

The show won five Annie Awards, a Primetime Emmy Award, a Genesis Award, a Peabody Award and a Kid’s Choice Award.

One episode of this season also won a Humane Society Award.

It is a unique blend of anime style with the style of American cartoons. It draws from Inuit, Japanese, Chinese, and Tibetan culture.

Summary

The world of Avatar: The Last Airbender is made up of four nations which each are focused around a different element: water, earth, fire, and air. Each of these nations is made up of those who can “bend” (control) one of the elements.

Map from the series
The Four Nations from Avatar: The Last Airbender

The current Avatar, Aang, must master all four elements in order to stop a war that has been going on for a hundred years. The war was launched by the Fire Nation, which is bent on world domination.

Real-World Influences of Avatar Part 2: The Water Tribes - The More You  Know post - Imgur
Katara and Sokka from Avatar: The Last Airbender

With the help of his friends Katara and Sokka, in Season 1 Aang seeks to master waterbending by traveling to the North Pole to find a waterbending teacher. Along the way, Katara is able to teach him basic waterbending and the team goes on various adventures.

In Season 2, an earthbender joins Team Avatar, the Fire Nation grows in power and influence, the heroes reach Ba Sing Se, and Zuko tries to establish his own identity.

Pros

  • Powerful character depth and development
  • Creative system of elements
  • Developed fictional cultures based on authentic cultures
  • Diversity
  • Animals are creative mixes of various creatures
  • Balance of humor and tension, comedy and tragedy
  • Smart musical choices to create humor and tension
  • Range of expressions of characters
  • Entertaining for child and adult audience
  • Explores themes rarely touched upon by children’s shows
  • Intro orients the viewer to the story and is accessible to new viewers
  • Wonderful animation
  • Pacing is better

Cons

  • Well, I thought about it for a few days, but I got nothin’.

Review

New Characters

ATLA
Toph Beifong

Toph Beifong is a phenomenal character. She can put on the manners of an aristocrat and take them back off again like a mask. Her true personality, however, is one filled with fun, a complete lack of regard for germs, and a sense of humor that almost matches Sokka’s.

Toph is a skilled earthbender. She is blind and unable to read and write, but is able to sense her surroundings with her earthbending. She does this by feeling every vibration in the Earth with her feet. Because of her blindness, her parents treat her like she is helpless, overprotective to a ridiculous degree.

Azula

In my opinion, Azula is the most terrifying character in the show. She is cold, manipulative, and usually completely calm. A firebending prodigy, she is able to bend lightning and wield blue fire, which is hotter than the red-and-orange variety.

Azula is the daughter of the Fire Lord and sister to Zuko. She is introduced briefly at the end of Season 1, but is further developed in Season 2.

Mai

Mai is from the Fire Nation, a childhood friend of Azula who had a major crush on Zuko as a child and still has feelings for him now. Her personality is apathetic and easily bored.

She is not a bender, but she uses stilletos to attack her enemies, and is capable of defeating multiple benders with her skill.

Ty Lee

Ty Lee is another Fire Nation girl, and is not a bender. However, she has a skill called Chi blocking that allows her to temporarily take away another’s bending and incapacitate them.

When we meet her, she is a highly skilled performer at a circus. She is usually cheerful and optimistic – basically the opposite of Mai, even though they are close friends.

System of Elements

Map from the series

The elements of water, earth, fire, and air are controlled by movements mimicking Chinese martial arts. Because they are modeled off of different forms of martial arts, the bending looks authentic. Waterbending is graceful, earthbending is formidable, firebending is fierce, and airbending is elusive.

The variety of techniques that can be used within a single element mean that battles are never boring. Benders like Aang, Katara, and Toph continually find new and creative ways to use their bending.

Toph is unique as a bender, as her bending is based off the Southern praying Mantis Style.

Culture and Setting

The Swamp

A small waterbending tribe calls the swamp home, wearing clothes made of leaves and bark. They have a culture of their own and diverse personalities. They hunt for their daily food and are in communion with nature.

Ba Sing Se
Ba Sing Se

The name Ba Sing Se means “impenetrable city.” The city is called that because of its thick walls that have made it impregnable against the Fire Nation’s attacks.

Ba Sing Se is the largest city in the show, so large that it is almost like a small country. Within the walls, peace is maintained by strict laws and a strong police force, as well as by more immoral methods.

Ba Sing Se is beautiful but tainted by corruption and fear. The culture is a mix of many cultures because of the refugees that shelter in the city, and features of the city include, but are not limited to, a zoo, a spa, poetry houses, restaurants, and tea shops.

There are many aspects of Ba Sing Se, but I won’t spoil the show by going into any more detail.

Diversity

Avatar: The Last Airbender has cultures based on various real-life cultures. Unlike in some shows, it mimics these cultures while honoring them and without making caricatures of them.

Katara and Sokka have light brown skin, so there is some diversity in skin color as well.

In Season 2, the show introduces Toph, who is blind. Shows rarely include blind characters, leading to underrepresentation, so the directors of Avatar: The Last Airbender made a good choice.

Animal Life

Turtle Ducks

Turtle ducks are my absolute favorite animals of Avatar: The Last Airbender. True, they don’t play a major role like Appa or Momo, but they are just so cute!

Foo Foo Cuddlypoops

The Saber-tooth moose lion is adorable when young, but dangerous when full-grown.

The purple pentapus does not have much of a personality, being a simple invertebrate that lives in sewers. It is similar to an octopus but smaller.

In this season, viewers are reminded that Appa is not just a vehicle, but a character with his own story.

There are many more interesting animals, but I recommend you watch Season 2 to see for yourself!

Balance

Humor and tragedy are well-balanced in this show. Sokka, Toph and Iroh are major sources of humor. The remembered loss of Iroh’s son, the turmoil inside Zuko, and an unexpected death balance out the humor with a more serious tone.

Music adds to the humor at some times, and adds to the tension at others. It isn’t like the show has phenomenal musical scores – it doesn’t, not even in the intro. But it uses music that supports the story and does it well.

The range of expressions on the characters’ faces also adds to the comedy. Sometimes they are realistic, but occasionally they are way over the top.

The balance of humor with mature themes (war, genocide, imperialism, colonialism, corruption) makes this show appropriate for children yet entertaining for adults – the perfect balance.

Intro

The intro neatly explains the system of elements, explains about the war, and introduces the Avatar all in about thirty seconds. It is followed by a “Previously on Avatar” montage that concisely gives more background.

This is good for two reasons. Viewers who watch episodes with large spaces of time between get a reminder of what is going on and the stakes. And new viewers who may have missed the first few episodes get a sense for where the show has been and where it is going.

It’s a smart choice on the part of the directors.

Animation

The animation is beautiful and attractive. I can definitely see both the influence of anime and of American cartoons in the art style.

Pacing

The pacing, which I mentioned as a potential shortcoming in the first season, is not really a problem in the second season. Sure, there are filler episodes, but not as many.

Conclusion

If you watched and enjoyed Season 1, you can expect Season 2 to blow you away even more. There are new characters to fall in love with and the old ones are still acting in character.

The pacing is better, the plot is engaging – really, if you haven’t watched it, you’re missing out.

If you haven’t watched Season 1, you obviously should watch that first. It’s phenomenal and shouldn’t be skipped.

Avatar: The Last Airbender is currently available on Netflix.

Rating System

If you want to know how I rate things, check out my rating system.

Links

  • For my review of Season 1, click here.
  • For my review of Season 3, click here.

Shows

Show Review: Avatar: The Last Airbender Season 1 (Spoiler-Free)

Avatar- The Last Airbender Book 1 DVD.jpg

Show: Avatar: The Last Airbender, Season 1 (2005)

Rating: 9.9 out of 10 stars

Intro

This show is basically my childhood. I have watched it at least five times by now. Since it was added to Netflix, that just gives me another excuse to re-re-re-re-re-watch it.

Recently, I introduced it to my roommate, and we are moving through it at around four or five episodes per week.

Every time a new character would show up on the show, I would say something like, “That’s one of my favorite characters, by the way.”

I ended up saying that for pretty much all of the characters.

Like with my other show reviews, I will start by giving some background and then listing the pros and cons. As this is a spoiler-free review, I will limit how much I reveal of the plot.

Background

Avatar: The Last Airbender was created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The head writer was Aaron Ehasz. The genres it straddles include Fantasy, Action, Adventure, and Comedy.

The show won five Annie Awards, a Primetime Emmy Award, a Genesis Award, a Peabody Award and a Kid’s Choice Award.

It is a unique blend of anime style with the style of American cartoons. It draws from Inuit, Japanese, Chinese, and Tibetan culture.

Summary

The world of Avatar: The Last Airbender is made up of four nations which each are focused around a different element: water, earth, fire, and air. Each of these nations is made up of those who can “bend” (control) one of the elements.

Map from the series
The Four Nations from Avatar: The Last Airbender

The current Avatar, Aang, must master all four elements in order to stop a war that has been going on for a hundred years. The war was launched by the Fire Nation, which is bent on world domination.

Real-World Influences of Avatar Part 2: The Water Tribes - The More You  Know post - Imgur
Katara and Sokka from Avatar: The Last Airbender

With the help of his friends Katara and Sokka, in Season 1 Aang seeks to master waterbending by traveling to the North Pole to find a waterbending teacher. Along the way, Katara is able to teach him basic waterbending and the team goes on various adventures.

Pros

  • Powerful character depth and development
  • Creative system of elements
  • Developed fictional cultures based on authentic cultures
  • Diversity
  • Animals are creative mixes of various creatures
  • Balance of humor and tension, comedy and tragedy
  • Smart musical choices to create humor and tension
  • Range of expressions of characters
  • Entertaining for child and adult audience
  • Explores themes rarely touched upon by children’s shows
  • Intro orients the viewer to the story and is accessible to new viewers

Cons

  • Pacing is a bit slow

Review

Well-developed Characters

Avatar: The Last Airbender's first season is a rocky because it was  groundbreaking
Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender

The characters are the best part of the whole show. I have so many favorites it is ridiculous. Usually for a show I have an obvious favorite. This one, not so much.

The main characters Aang, Katara, Sokka, and Zuko are well-developed. So is Iroh, even though I would not call him a main character.

Aang is the last of the airbenders. He is a childish monk who nonetheless has his moments of insight and an adult-like sense of responsibility. Being raised by monks, there is an expectation that he will be simple, good, and somewhat detached from his emotions (since this is based off of Tibetan monks).

Sometimes he is. But there are definitely times he defies being categorized in this way. His typical humility is occasionally overtaken by pride. His ability to maintain calm is defeated by conflicting emotions such as love, anger, sorrow, and guilt. He is a character who loves to have fun but knows how to be serious.

Avatar: The Last Airbender" Unpopular Opinions
Katara from Avatar: The Last Airbender

Katara is a waterbender from the South Pole. She is less childish than Aang. After the loss of her mother to the Fire Nation and after her father left to fight in the war, she was forced to assume more responsibility. This leads her to adopt an almost motherly role toward the other members of their small band.

She is generally calm, but bristles at all things sexist. She is determined, brave, and sincere.

How Old Are "Avatar: The Last Airbender Characters" Katara, Zuko and Sokka  - Avatar The Last Airbender Character Ages
Sokka from Avatar: The Last Airbender

Sokka is Katara’s older brother. After losing his mother to the Fire Nation and after his father went off to war, he was left as the only “man” in the village. He had to assume at least as much responsibility as Katara.

Other than that, he’s basically the boomerang, meat, and sarcasm guy…he said so himself.

Well, that isn’t completely true. He’s a lot more complex than that. He is hard and cynical compared to the others, but he certainly has a soft side.

He’s intelligent, and is constantly thinking of ideas to help the team one-up their adversaries. He has the qualities of a leader.

Sokka is not a bender, but that never made me think he was any less valuable to the team than the others. His ingenuity and smart-alecky comments make him irreplacable.

Avatar: The Last Airbender": I'm Still Not Over Zuko's Redemption Arc
Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender

Zuko may be the most complex character.

He values his honor, which he lost when he was banished from the Fire Nation by his father, Firelord Ozai. The only way to restore himself to his rightful place as prince of the Fire Nation is to capture the Avatar.

He has a massive temper that flares up (literally) every time they hit an obstacle. Nevertheless, he is a clever and dastardly villain. Despite his status as the major antagonist of Season 1 and as a teenager in exile, he shows that he is honorable through his actions.

He is a sympathetic bad guy with a whole lot of backstory. This is no one-dimensional villain. There are scenes that will have you rooting for him as much as you would for the good guys.

Iroh | Avatar Wiki | Fandom
Iroh from Avatar: The Last Airbender

Iroh is the uncle of Zuko, and he is filled with wisdom and love for his nephew. He is a major source of humor for Season 1.

Iroh is somewhat disgraced himself due to a military loss at Ba Sing Se. However, he is not in exile like Zuko – he travels with him by choice and not necessity.

He offers Zuko both practical advice and proverbial wisdom, and is pretty much a father figure.

Bending system

The elements of water, earth, fire, and air are controlled by movements mimicking Chinese martial arts. Because they are modeled off of different forms of martial arts, the bending looks authentic.

If the martial arts did not look natural and go along well with the bending itself, it would have been laughable – for example, as in the horribly made film for Avatar: The Last Airbender, where a group of earth benders did an elaborate series of movements to lift a single small boulder.

But here, it is done well. The martial arts and the element the characters are bending become one and the movements look natural. Waterbending is graceful, earthbending is formidable, firebending is fierce, and airbending is elusive.

The variety of techniques that can be used within a single element mean that battles are never boring. Benders like Aang and Katara continually find new and creative ways to use their bending.

Because the bending system is limited to four elements it makes it easy for an audience to know what to expect and yet to be continually surprised. Nothing feels overly convenient. There are no major plot-saving changes to the system to make it feel fake or incomplete.

Cultures of Avatar: The Last Airbender

Southern Water Tribe | Avatar Wiki | Fandom
The Southern Water Tribe from Avatar: The Last Airbender

The first glimpse we get of a community in the show is the Southern Water Tribe, which is a vestige of what it was before the war. It is basically a close-knit little village of women, children, and Sokka.

Their culture is based on Inuit culture and they live in buildings made of cloth or snow. The clothing that they wear is unique to the Water Tribes, and Katara wears a carved betrothal necklace passed down from her mother.

Since they only have one waterbender remaining in the village, the culture is no longer based around waterbending.

The Southern Air Temple | Avatar Wiki | Fandom
The Southern Air Temple from Avatar: The Last Airbender

The Southern Air Temple is not what it used to be. The Fire Nation has invaded and no airbenders remain. That is no spoiler. It’s literally in the title of the show: Aang is the last airbender.

It’s clear from flashbacks in Season 1 that the Southern Air Temple once was a vibrant place filled with Air Nomads who lived their lives in peace. They lived among six-legged flying bisons and flying lemurs.

They also had their own games, evidenced by the court set up where Aang and Sokka play an airbending game.

The Northern Air Temple | Avatar Wiki | Fandom
The Northern Air Temple from Avatar: The Last Airbender

To avoid spoiling anything, I won’t tell you about the Northern Air Temple. It is enough to say that it is nothing like Aang expected, and that it provides more glimpses into the culture of the Air Nomads.

Fire Nation colonial village | Avatar Wiki | Fandom
Fire Nation Colony from Avatar: The Last Airbender

The one instance that we get a real sense for Fire Nation culture is in a colony in the Earth Kingdom, where the Fire Days Festival is taking place. We get an idea for the forms of entertainment that are a part of their special celebrations, such as an entertainer who plays like a stage magician/performer using firebending.

Furthermore, food such as flaming fire cakes are part of the festivities, as well as fireworks.

We also see a puppet show of the Firelord against his enemies, telling the children the story of their nation. This is subtle indoctrination – but every nation has its heroes and the stories a nation tells usually cast it in a positive light.

More and more, we see that the Fire Nation citizens are fiercely patriotic.

Omashu | Avatar Wiki | Fandom
Omashu from Avatar: The Last Airbender

The biggest Earth Kingdom city we see in Season 1 is Omashu. It has a culture built around earthbending. To get inside the walls, one is interrogated by Earth Kingdom soldiers, who must then physically open the walls with earthbending.

Aang says that a hundred years ago, the people of Omashu were the friendliest in the world, but now the kids see that the war has changed the people to be more suspicious of outsiders.

The most distinctive feature of Omashu is the elaborate postal system run by earthbending. It is only surpassed in entertainment value by the eccentric Earth King who lives there.

Northern Water Tribe | Avatar Wiki | Fandom
The Northern Water Tribe from Avatar: The Last Airbender

I won’t say too much about the Northern Water Tribe to avoid spoilers. It is different from the Southern Water Tribe in terms of sheer size, form of government, its focus around waterbending, and the roles of men and women.

Diversity

Avatar: The Last Airbender has cultures based on various real-life cultures. Unlike in some shows, it mimics these cultures while honoring them and without making caricatures of them.

Katara and Sokka have light brown skin, so there is some diversity in skin color as well.

Animal Life

Appa | Avatar Wiki | Fandom
Appa from Avatar: The Last Airbender

Appa is a six-legged flying bison. Yeah, you don’t get more creative than that.

The Animals Of The World Of Avatar Part 1 | Avatar tattoo, Avatar  airbender, The last avatar
Momo from Avatar: The Last Airbender

Momo is a flying lemur that the kids adopt. Not as creative, but kind of cute.

Otter penguin | Avatar Wiki | Fandom
Otter Penguins from Avatar: The Last Airbender

Otter Penguins are cute, and apparently you can use them as sleds!

Elephant koi | Avatar Wiki | Fandom
Elephant Koi from Avatar: The Last Airbender
Unagi | Avatar Wiki | Fandom
The Unagi from Avatar: The Last Airbender

Stay tuned for more interesting animals when I review Seasons 2 and 3!

Balance

Humor and tragedy are well-balanced in this show. Sokka and Iroh are major sources of humor. Zuko’s story, the loss of Katara and Sokka’s mother, and the genocide of the Air Nomads balance out the humor with a more serious tone.

Music adds to the humor at some times, and adds to the tension at others. It isn’t like the show has phenomenal musical scores – it doesn’t, not even in the intro. But it uses music that supports the story and does it well.

The range of expressions on the characters’ faces also adds to the comedy. Sometimes they are realistic, but occasionally they are way over the top.

The balance of humor with mature themes (war, genocide, imperialism, colonialism) makes this show appropriate for children yet entertaining for adults – the perfect balance.

Intro

The intro neatly explains the system of elements, explains about the war, and introduces the Avatar all in about thirty seconds. It is followed by a “Previously on Avatar” montage that concisely gives more background.

This is good for two reasons. Viewers who watch episodes with large spaces of time between get a reminder of what is going on and the stakes. And new viewers who may have missed the first few episodes get a sense for where the show has been and where it is going.

It’s a smart choice on the part of the directors.

Pacing

My only con for the show is that some viewers may be put off by the pacing. The characters go on a ton of side adventures before they reach their destination. While that’s fun to watch, I am sure it will make some viewers impatient. Hang in there…it’s worth it.

This is only a minor con because these excursions provide further opportunity for character development.

Conclusion

Anyway…this review was mostly me saying everything that is awesome about this show and why you should watch it. Because you should.

If you’re a writer, you should watch it because it is an example of good storytelling and great character development.

If you love comedy, watch it because it is funny.

If you are into anime, watch it because it is either the best example of American anime or an amazing anime-inspired cartoon, depending on your point of view. (Whether it is an anime or not is controversial.)

If you just love a good story, watch it.

Links

  • For my review of Season 2, click here.
  • For my review of Season 3, click here.