Avatar: The Last Airbender

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Avatar: The Last Airbender is an American animated show from Nickelodeon. It is created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Brian Konietzko, as well as directed by Aaron Ehasz. The series is set in a fantasy Asiatic-like world where some people can manipulate the classical elements (water, earth, fire, and air) with psychokinetic variants of the Chinese martial arts known as "bending"; the Avatar is a person who is the only person in the world to bend all four elements, as well as being a bridge between the human world and the spirit world. The series is presented in a style that combines anime with American cartoons and relies on the imagery of East/South Asian, Inuit, and New World societies.

The series itself tells of how the world used to live in peace and harmony until the Fire Nation waged war against the other nations. A hundred years later, an Air Nomad Avatar named Aang awakens from being frozen and befriends by two Southern Water Tribe siblings: a waterbender named Katara and her non-bending brother Sokka. Having run away at the start of the war, Aang comes to accept his role as the Avatar and learns to adapt to the world he had left behind. Later joined by other friends and fighting new enemies, Aang and his companions must bring peace and unity to the world by ending the Fire Lord's war with the rest of the world.

The series is praised for its art direction, humor, characters, themes, and cultural references. It was nominated for (and won) several awards and has sold plenty of merchandise like action figures, a trading card game, video games, and stuffed animals. The series inspired by a live-action movie called The Last Airbender, directed by M. Night Shyamalan, though it was critically panned. A sequel called The Legend Of Korra premiered in 2012, which stars the titular Avatar after Aang, and a live-action remake of the series is being made for Netflix.

Setting

Avatar: The Last Airbender is set in an Asiatic-like world (along with a spirit world), home to humans and hybrid animals. The world is divided into four nations: the Water Tribe, the Earth Kingdom, the Fire Nation, and the Air Nomads. Each nation has people that are "benders", who can use a kind of telekinetic manipulation to control their nation's elemental martial arts.

Also in this world is the Avatar, a mediator maintaining harmony between the four nations as well as the human and spirit worlds. When the Avatar dies, their spirit reincarnates into the next Avatar from the next nation, set in an order called the Avatar Cycle: Air Nomads, Water Tribe, Earth Kingdom, and Fire Nation. The Avatar is also the only being in this world that can bend all four elements, required to master them all: they start with their home element before going through the other nations in the order of the Avatar Cycle; they usually start at age 16. The Avatar can also use the ability to enter the Avatar State, in which they gain the knowledge and abilities of all past Avatars. Although he/she is at their most powerful, if an Avatar is killed while in the Avatar State, the Cycle would end, and the Avatar would never again appear.

Story

A hundred years before the start of the series, the Fire Nation went through a time of rapid industrialization, technological advancement, and shifts in demographics. The ruler of the Fire Nation, Fire Lord Sozin, planned to start a world war to expand his nation's territory, influence, and wealth, but he was stopped by the Fire Nation's Avatar: Roku (who was also his best friend). After Roku's death, the next Avatar was born, an airbender named Aang. Since the new Avatar was a child, Sozin seizes his chance to go on with his militant plans. Because of the threat of this world war, Aang learned about his Avatar earlier than usual, at the age of twelve. But Aang became afraid of his new responsibilities and was worried that he would be separated from his mentor Gyatso, so he ran away from home with his flying bison, Appa. Out at sea, Aang got caught in a storm, entering the Avatar State and sealing himself and Appa in ice near the South Pole for a century.

Knowing that the new Avatar was an Air Nomad, Sozin carried out a genocide against the Air Nomads during Sozin's Comet, a comet that came every one hundred years and increased the power of firebenders. With this out of the way, Sozin continued his conquest and war, which lasted for a hundred years.

A hundred years later (and at the start of Season 1), a fourteen-year-old waterbender named Katara and her older brother Sokka finds and revive Aang and Appa, located in the South Pole where they live. Aang learned about the war, and he and the siblings decide to go to the Northern Water Tribe so that he and Katara can learn waterbending together. Pursuing them is Prince Zuko, exiled son of the current Fire Lord, who sees the arrival of the Avatar, and he is joined by his uncle Iroh. Another enemy pursuing them is Admiral Zhao, a Fire Nation admiral who wants to win Ozai's favor and nab himself some glory.

One of the first stops is the ruins of the Southern Air Temple, where Aang learned about his people's genocide. When the winter solstice rolls around, Aang meets the spirit of the Avatar before him, Avatar Roku, and comes to term with the duties of the Avatar. They finally reach the Northern Water Tribe, and Aang and Katara learn waterbending from Master Pakku, a stern man whose past is tied with Katara's grandmother. Sokka also falls in love with the chief's daughter, Princess Yue. Soon enough, Zhao and his navy lay siege to the Northern Water Tribe, capturing the mortal forms of the ocean and moon spirits - the first waterbenders. Zhao kills the moon spirit to rob the waterbenders of their power, but Aang joins the ocean spirit in driving off the enemy fleet (during which Zhao is killed), while Yue sacrifices herself to restore the moon spirit back to life. Ozai hears of Iroh's resistance to Zhao and sends his daughter, Azula, to capture his brother and son.

In season 2, the three friends leave the Northern Water Tribe. Along the way, Aang and Katara continue their waterbending training while looking for an earthbending teacher for the former. The teacher they meet is a twelve-year-old blind girl named Toph Beifong, who wants independence from her upper class protective parents. Pursued by Princess Azula and her own gang, Prince Zuko and Iroh flee to the Earth Kingdom, living as wanderers and later refuges in Ba Sing Se, the Earth Kingdom's capital city. While exploring a library guarded by the owl-like spirit Wan Shi Tong, Aang and his friends learn of a solar eclipse which can dimish the Fire Nation's firebending and win them the war, so they journey to Ba Sing Se to tell the king about their plan. They realize that Earth King Kuei is a puppet king manipulated by his advisor and head of the Dai Li secret police, Long Feng. They expose Long Feng's political schemes, while Azula teams up with him and his Dail Li agents to carry out a coup d'état in Ba Sing Se. Zuko, who had spent time learning to make peace with his identity, ultimately sides with his sister. During a fight in the ancient catacombs under Ba Sing Se, Aang nearly completes the Avatar State only to be nearly killed by Azula, forcing the heroes to flee with help from Iroh. Ba Sing Se is now under the rule of the Fire Nation.

In season 3, Aang finally awakes from a coma to see his friends and allies disguised as Fire Nation soldiers and citizens, preparing to invade the Fire Nation capital during the eclipse. After spending time in the Fire Nation and among its people, they're ready to fight. The invasion succeeds at first, but due to Azula warning Ozai about the eclipse, Aang and his friends cannot find the Fire Lord and thus retreat. Zuko learns about the destruction his father plans to unleash upon the Earth Kingdom during Sozin's Comet, a huge comet that greatly enhances a firebender's power. He regrets choosing his father's tyrannical rule and abandons the Fire Nation to help Aang and teach him firebending. A few days before the comet's arrival, Aang wrestles with the possibility of killing Ozai to end the war, since as a pacifist, he prefers to not kill, and he asks his past lives' spirits for advice. In the meantime, Zuko, Katara, and the others meet up with Iroh, who is leading a secret society called the Order of the White Lotus. Once Sozin's Comet arrives, the White Lotus liberates Ba Sing Se from the Fire Nation's grasp. Zuko and Katara confront Azula the day she is to be crowned the new Fire Lord, while Sokka, Toph, and Suki (Sokka's girlfriend from the Kyoshi Warriors) try to stop the Fire Nation's air fleet. Finally, Aang battles Ozai but is beaten until Ozai accidentally trigger's Aang's final connection to the Avatar State. After a powerful fight, Aang strips Ozai of his firebending powers with a move called "energybending", which can remove a person's bending. Zuko is crowned the new Fire Lord in his father's place, and the remaining three nations decide to work together for peace.

Main Characters

Avatar Aang (voiced by Zach Tyler Eisen) = Aang is the main protagonist of the story as well as the current Avatar. He is the only human survivor of the Air Nomad massacre, waking up from spending a century in an iceberg he created.

Katara (voiced by Mae Whitman) = Katara is the deuteragonist of the story and Aang's eventual girlfriend. She aspires to become a powerful waterbender, tagging along with Aang on his quest to the Northern Water Tribe along with her brother.

Sokka (voiced by Jack DeSena) = Sokka is Katara's older brother and the only non-bending member of the group (until his girlfriend Suki joins them in the third season).

Toph Beifong (voiced by Jessie Flower) = Toph is a young blind earthebender and eventual creator of metalbending. Due to having been born blind, she ends up being sheltered by her overprotective parents, who don't know about their daughter's power. Once she meets Aang and his friends, she runs away from home and becomes Aang's earthbending teacher.

Zuko (voiced by Dante Basco) = Prince Zuko is the crowning prince of the Fire Nation, as well as a recurring antagonist in season 1. Three years before the story takes place, he had been brutally burned and banished by his father - Fire Lord Ozai - for speaking out of term during a war meeting. He is given the difficult task of finding the Avatar and has his uncle, former general Iroh, to help him during his journey.

References