Avatar: The Last Airbender | Teen Ink

Avatar: The Last Airbender

November 12, 2018
By eileenlilin SILVER, Brooklyn, New York
eileenlilin SILVER, Brooklyn, New York
6 articles 0 photos 0 comments

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“Water. Earth. Fire. Air.” These words begin every episode, following a sequence of incredibly animated and beautifully hand-drawn visuals. The first time watching, I was surprised and captivated by the cartoon’s serious tone, following the turmoil of a hundred-year war fought between four nations in a supernatural setting. The characters possessed such intricate depth, and the worldbuilding had me awestruck with how it depicted each nation with defined individuality. Every aspect of the show is perfectly delivered, able to bring you to tears by way of laughter or sadness, culminating the fantasy show, Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Avatar: The Last Airbender’s narrative follows a world torn and mutilated through an unending war, pitting the Earth Kingdom, Water Tribes, and Air Temples against the cruel, warmongering Fire Nation. Within each nation, many are born with the capability to bend elements, having near-complete control over water, earth, fire, or air. Only one can bring peace to this self-destructing world, however he has disappeared for over a century. Discovered encased in an iceberg by the Water Tribe’s Katara and Sokka, Aang, the Avatar, is the only bender capable of mastering all four elements, and during his journey, he faces numerous adversaries to save the ravaged world he’d abandoned for that bloody century.

Throughout three seasons, sixty-one episodes, and more than twenty-one hours of content, there is not a single episode that fails to contribute to the overall plot; this provides a sense of continuous progress, following Aang’s journey as he and his friends traverse new lands, experiencing the impact of the Great War. Another major point of importance in the plot is conflict. Unlike most shows, the overarching conflict, defeating the Fire Nation, follows the entirety of Avatar, presented as the clear goal by the first episode, and resolved in the very last. Instead of straying from their journey to explore another storyline, the series is able to incorporate sub-plots within an episode or two, which continually contribute to the fulfillment of a final goal. These smaller, condensed events ensure that the hilarity and entertainment of the show remain stellar, all while transporting our characters along the plot line, and closer to the end of this cataclysmic war.

Right from the first episode, the protagonists are fully characterized, with snippets of humor that make them feel realistic, exciting, and extremely likable. Aang emerges from his century-long, icy imprisonment still as a goofy, 12-year old child, though he grows to mature and accepts what he used to constantly reject— his responsibility as the Avatar. Katara and Sokka have a less-than-perfect sibling relationship, yet they are both fundamental to the group’s functionality, with Katara acting as a mother figure and Sokka being everyone’s planner and the group’s essential comedic relief. Zuko, the first season’s firebending antagonist, although initially desperate to capture the Avatar, proves to develop in arguably the best character arc in cinematic history, a story so heart-wrenching and agonizingly beautiful. The show delves into every single character’s story, brushing on real-world conflicts and their individual tragedies. What is the fuel that powers their drive to fight? What have they lost and cannot regain, due to the cycle of war? The reason why this world, so deeply rooted in fiction, feels lifelike is because the characters’ hardships and emotional arcs reflect that of watchers, who are able to connect deeply with the story’s themes of abandonment, loss, revenge, prejudice, fear, and love. Although Avatar The Last Airbender is as fictional as can be, the memorable cast and their rich individuality left me enchanted and invested in that beautiful, tragic, emotional rollercoaster of a show.

Aside from the incredible characters and flawless plot design, Avatar The Last Airbender is constantly praised for its wonderful worldbuilding, which brings the cultures, people, and nations of their universe to life. The directors based these fictional nations largely on East Asian countriesand the Eskimo tribes of North America. Every tribe is easily identifiable and individualized as Aang, Katara, and Sokka explore them in the series, hoping for Aang to master the four elements. For example, the Earth Kingdom, based on feudal China, features beige houses and dark green roofs that dot the capital, Ba Sing Se, in a crowded manner. The clothing and even the hairstyles of people can also be traced to their origins, with the airbenders draped in yellow monk robes and the Fire Nation royalty with their hair partially clipped into a bun. The enormous detail of the setting truly instill a sense of belonging between the characters, plot, and the universe in which they reside.

         Enhancing the picture-perfection of Avatar’s writing are masterminds, co-directors Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. Although their exceptional work is a major contributor to the show, it would be lesser without its stunning animation, art, and music. These factors infinitely enhance regular scenes, empowering an action sequence or giving depth to a particular character. One of the strongest examples of this is the final Agni Kai, a duel between two firebending siblings, each vying to stain their hands with the blood of family. Violent bursts of flame resemble dragons as they flash across the screen, swirling and roaring in untamed eruptions of crimson and azure. The action peaks, every movement heightened by the jaw-dropping visuals, incinerating comets of fire clashing with gargantuan force. However, the melancholy soundtrack blankets the scene into one of intense sorrow, as brother and sister attack with murderous intent. This wonderful, heartbreaking convergence of excitement and deep turmoil conveys raw emotion, achieved from Avatar’s purely beautiful use of animation, visuals, and music. There is no need for words.

 Avatar The Last Airbender is a perfect work-of-art, revolutionary in the field of animated series. Everything, from the characters to the animation, is delicately sculpted, carved out to befit a masterpiece. Soon, you'll even find yourself taking a martial arts stance in the living room, wishing, with all your heart, that a few licks of flame would escape your outstretched fist.

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This article has 1 comment.

on Oct. 18 2021 at 2:07 pm
fearless_kitten20 BRONZE, Fairview, Oklahoma
2 articles 0 photos 1 comment
this is so pretty and true, avatar the last airbender is my favorite shot closet to korra.