*Editor's Note: Today we're featuring a guest post by our fantastic partners over on the Zavvi team! Enjoy their take on Avatar: The Last Airbender, and then check out all the amazing QMx collectibles they have in stock!
Today, QMx is handing the reins of their blog over to us, the Zavvi team, so that we can talk about the classic animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender. We are a leading online retailer that specializes in all things pop culture, including the latest collectibles. As such, it’s safe to say that we’ve watched the show a few dozen times — at least.
With a live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender currently in the works over at Netflix, there’s never been a better time to look back at the original series.
The show began in 2005, running for a total of three seasons, and it remains a fan-favorite to this day. But what makes the show so popular? Well, stick around. We’re going to explain to you why Avatar: The Last Airbender is the best animated series of all time.
The World of Avatar
Brought to life by co-creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, Avatar: The Last Airbender has some of the best world-building ever seen in fiction. The show draws inspiration from various aspects of East Asian culture, with its focal concept of “bending” the elements being based on aspects of Chinese martial arts.
Through this unique approach, the show distinguishes itself from other works of fantasy. The four nations — the Water Tribe, the Earth Kingdom, the Fire Nation, and the Air Nomads — are all fascinating locations to visit. Thanks to Appa, a flying bison, we get to see all of these places up close over the course of 61 episodes (not including the sequel series, The Legend of Korra).
More Than a Kids’ Show
At first glance, it’s easy for those older viewers who are unfamiliar with Avatar: The Last Airbender to dismiss it as a kids’ show. However, if you are holding back on giving it a chance for this reason alone, you would be wise to keep an open mind.
Yes, the series focuses on younger characters. Yes, there are more than a few jokes one might consider silly. But that doesn’t stop the narrative from delving into some adult themes.
The subtext of Avatar: The Last Airbender goes far deeper than a man yelling about his cabbages (though we are thankful for the limitless memes), exploring real-world issues such as war and discrimination. You just have to look at the setup for the show to see how grounded the narrative really is — the Fire Nation is very much a proponent of imperialism, even going so far as to commit genocide against the Air Nomads for fear of the Avatar preventing their takeover of the other nations.
Throughout the show, audiences get to witness the effects of the Fire Nation’s invasion. There are some who rebel, some who pretend the war doesn’t exist, and others who actively spread violence. All of this serves to keep you invested in the world. To make you feel the terror of the Fire Nation and its ruler, Fire Lord Ozai.
Of course, the show wouldn’t be what it is today without the core cast of characters: Aang, Katara, Sokka, and Toph. (We’ll talk about Zuko later on — don’t worry.)
The first season begins with Katara and Sokka, two members of the Southern Water Tribe, fishing in a small boat. Immediately, we get a sense for their personalities — Sokka is the comedic older brother, whereas Katara is the stern sister. This dynamic, though both of the characters do evolve over time, remains constant to the very end.
While fishing, the two siblings stumble upon Aang, the last of the Air Nomads. He is also the next incarnation of the Avatar, a spiritual being with the ability to master all four elements. For 100 years, he has been frozen inside an iceberg. When he finally returns, the first thing Aang wants to do is … go “penguin sledding.” Indeed, the arrow-headed airbender is a character who knows how to have fun. Nevertheless, it soon becomes clear that Aang is deeply afraid of his Avatar-hood and uses levity to hide his true feelings. It is this internal conflict that makes him such an interesting character to follow.
Skipping forward to the second season, we meet Toph. She is perhaps the most unique character in the show. Filling the archetypal role of the muscle, the Earth Kingdom girl is not at all what you would expect. When we first meet her, Toph appears to be a meek blind girl, but she quickly reveals herself to be a powerful earthbender — even going so far as to discover the art of metalbending.
Individually, these characters are all highly endearing. However, it’s when they’re together that they’re at their best. Their dynamic is unmatched, and their personalities bounce off each other in ways that make you want to keep tuning in.
The Villain’s Journey
Last but not least, we have to talk about Zuko. A banished prince of the Fire Nation, Zuko is the single most complex character in Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Upon first introduction, he seems like your typical cartoon villain. He is on a mission to capture the Avatar so as to offer him to the Fire Lord, and he refuses to let anyone get in the way of his goal. However, with the guidance of Uncle Iroh, Zuko evolves into a far more nuanced individual.
Without going into major spoiler territory, Prince Zuko goes on a journey of self-discovery. While pursuing the Avatar, he begins to question his identity and his purpose in life.
The Show Goes On
The series concluded in 2008, but that hasn’t stopped fans from revisiting Team Avatar on a regular basis. Embark on your next adventure with QMx's Avatar: The Last Airbender collection, and head over to Zavvi US or Zavvi UK to see what we're all about at Zavvi.