500 words is not enough for me to do justice to this show. It’s the best family cartoon series I have ever seen. I just finished watching the series with my boys for the second time and it’s the first time I’ve watched it with my youngest son, though he has seen episodes here and there. Originally released on Nickelodeon from 2005 through 2008, Avatar – The Last Airbender tells the story of a world divided by war and conflict. The world is split up into four kingdoms, and intended to be a place where they work together and live in peace. The Fire Nation changed all of that when they attacked and destroyed the Air Nation. Each nation (Earth, Air, Fire, and Water) has citizens with the ability to control and manipulate the element of their nation. There is one person that has the ability to control all four elements – the Avatar. Unfortunately, the Avatar has been missing for 100 years. The series tells the story of the new Avatar, the friends he meets in his journey, and his quest to bring balance and peace to the world.
That’s the plot in a nutshell. And that would be enough on its own, but the show is so much more. Most grown up shows should study the way this series handles character development, emotional payoffs, and rich thematic content. For a show created to appeal to six to eight year olds, it’s amazing how much depth they were able to pack in without making things overly complicated. The main characters all go through dramatic transformations. Motivations evolve and mature. Allegiances are tested. Enemies become friends. Friends become enemies. It’s all there.
At its most basic, the show is fun, exciting and full of laughs and adventure. Seeing my kids belly laugh as we watched this show is a memory I will treasure for the rest of my life. The animation is well done, blending various different influences from Anime to more American styles. The voice acting is impressive, using a mix of adults and children to bring the characters to life. The music is engaging but rarely manipulative or pandering. And when the show requires a gigantic payoff, it hits it out of the park every single time.
If you have children between 6 and 15, they will most likely enjoy this show. They will fall in love with Aang, Katara, Sokka, Zuko, Toph, Iroh, Appa, and Momo. There are elements of Eastern mysticism, and reincarnation plays a pretty big role in the story. But instead of hiding from it, those plot points gave my family a good opportunity to discuss what we believe and how that differs from what the show presents. The show also gives you chances to talk about love, hope, selflessness, sacrifice, and friendship. What more could you ask for?
*Netflix has announced plans for a live-action reboot of the series.