Written by Ashli Trageser (Features Writer)
“Avatar is one of if not the best cartoons I’ve ever seen. It has drama, depth, all that good stuff.” -Konnor Long, another SLVHS student with fantastic taste in cartoons. While the first episode of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” aired in 2005 and the last in 2008, the wonderfully done cartoon has made quite a comeback in the past year on Netflix during quarantine. The show was already one to be well-remembered, but in the past year its popularity and ratings have shot up as people revisit this early 2000’s favorite. Not just for nostalgic reasons or sentimental value, either. The show is genuinely extremely entertaining with a wonderfully charismatic cast, beautiful animation, a jaw-dropping soundtrack, and writing that can and has left its audience in tears.
In this world, there are four elements – water, earth, air, and fire. Some people are born with the ability to ‘bend’ one of these elements, studying it and being able to control it with their movements. There are also lots of sub-elements; for example, if you’re a very skilled earthbender you might be able to metalbend or lavabend as well. Those who aren’t born with these abilities are known as ‘non-benders.’ Though in this world, there’s also the one known as the Avatar, who can bend all four elements and is the bridge between the mortal and spirit worlds. Once the Avatar dies, they are reincarnated as someone new, so there have been thousands of Avatars in the past. While the Avatar can bend all four elements, every single one has their main element, which goes through a cycle with every reincarnation. The protagonist of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” is the world’s current Avatar, an airbender named Aang.
The show begins with the air nation under attack by the fire nation, and being the young twelve-year-old Avatar, Aang had no idea what to do. He was struck down amid battle and landed in the water, and to protect himself and his flying bison, Appa, he sealed them both away in ice. One hundred years went by, and the world thought their avatar had abandoned them, slowly beginning to lose hope. One day, a 14-year-old waterbender named Katara and her non-bending older brother Sokka came across Aang in the iceberg in the outskirts of the Southern Water Tribe. They let him out to find that he was the missing Avatar, and the three of them went off to train Aang in the four elements so he could end the war the fire nation started once and for all. All the while, they are running away from exiled fire prince Zuko, who’s trying to capture the avatar so he may return home and regain his honor. During their journey, they also meet a young blind earthbender named Toph who decides to run away from home and join them.
While the show has lots of light-hearted episodes about flying around the world and making flower crowns along the way, it also contains a lot of scenes that provoke deep emotion. (spoiler warning) Examples include Aang finding out his entire culture and kind was destroyed by the fire nation, Katara and Sokka dealing with the loss of their mother and absence of their father, Zuko being burned and exiled by his father, etc. While I don’t believe this show should have been made for children, it has content for everyone and manages to keep all ages entertained.
While the writing and voice acting in “Avatar: The Last Airbender” speaks for itself, (featuring characters voiced by Mae Whitman, Grey DeLisle, Jack De Sena, etc.) another aspect of the show to be praised is the animation. While the entire series is aesthetically pleasing, certain scenes went down in animation history for their jaw-dropping beauty. Scenes such as the final Agni Kai between Zuko and Azula, Aang’s fight with Firelord Ozai, the tale of Iroh, and many more. (full scenes listed above available on YouTube)
Between the animation, voice acting, writing, story, characters, and overall originality, “Avatar: The Last Airbender” was one to go down in cartoon history. This article was saved for the last issue of The Claw because I believe it to be the best-animated show there has ever been, period. “Avatar is A-tier, change my mind. You can’t.” -Luci Nye.