Avatar: The Last Airbender is my favorite work of animation. I like it more than any other cartoon, anime, or film. Being the creator of an animation blog, I find it only fitting to write a piece about my favorite work of fiction. If you have not seen this show yet, there are some spoilers in this post.
Without Avatar, I never would have considered watching anime and discovering the stunning works of Miyazaki, Kon, Shinkai, and more. Without Avatar, I would still only be watching Disney and Pixar films and nothing more. Avatar opened a new world of animation and allowed me to see the potential of the medium.
Back in middle school, Friday at 8pm was sacred. Nothing else compared to watching a new episode of Avatar and experiencing Aang and the Gaang’s adventures across the four nations. There was nothing more exciting than hearing Katara say in the show’s introduction: “Water. Earth. Fire. Air.” because I knew something amazing was about to happen. Riding back home on the school bus, I would think for hours on end about what the Gaang would encounter next, sometimes accurately predicting future episode situations.
What makes Avatar such a strong show is its continuous and human character development. I am not exaggerating when I say that Aang, Sokka, Katara, Toph, Zuko, and a few others were some of my best friends. They did not feel like fictional 2D characters on a tv screen, but rather, real human beings. I was disappointed in Zuko when he chose Azula over Uncle Iroh in the season two finale. I didn’t see this action as simply drama on a show, I felt betrayed by a good friend.
It’s not only like a few characters develop well over the 61 episode series; every single one is dynamic. For example, I care about Azula, no matter how evil she is, because she is anything but one dimensional. The most flat character in the whole series is Admiral Zhou, and even he has clear fears, ambitions, and motivations. Even the minor characters such as Jet and Smellerbee are well-developed and have strong backstories.
After the final episode credits rolled on July 19, 2008, I couldn’t help but shake off the feeling that I had just witnessed the end of something great, and just maybe, I might never have that feeling again. It took 5 years for me to feel this again, and that was after seeing Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises in theaters; I knew I would probably never see another new Miyazaki film again. That’s right, I am equating the greatness of Miyazaki’s entire career to a single show. And I will never take that back.
Avatar: The Last Airbender will always be a part of me, and not even the Fire Lord can take that away.