Title: Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Number of episodes: 20.
Release Date: 2005.
ORIGINAL NETWORK: Nickelodeon.
Genre(s): Animation, Action, Adventure.
Created by: Michael Dante DiMartino & Bryan Konietzko.
Composer(s): Jeremy Zuckerman & Benjamin Wynn.
Cast: Zach Tyler Eisen, Dee Bradley Baker, Mae Whitman, Jack De Sena, Dante Basco, Michaela Jill Murphy, Mako, and many more!
My Overall Rating:
Growing up, I had the chance to witness one of the most exciting animated series to grace Nickelodeon’s TV network. It had such a colourful and vivid world with unique characters who somehow always inspired a positive and joyful outlook on life. While my memory of these characters and the story behind this series remained blurry to this day, mostly focused on the fun action sequences and humour, I decided that it was an excellent time to revisit this animated series created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, known as Avatar: The Last Airbender. Despite trying to forget (emphasis on “trying to”…) the disastrous live-action movie adaptation by director M. Night Shyamalan back in 2010, an upcoming Netflix live-action remakes series is currently in the works and easily convinced me that there’s no better time than the present to refresh my memory of this franchise that gave way to countless comic book series, prequels, and sequels.
What is Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005) Season 1 about? Set within a world where individuals are able to bend one of the four natural elements (fire, water, earth, and air), every generation an Avatar is chosen to maintain the equilibrium within the world with their ability to manipulate all four elements. The first season begins with two teenagers from the Southern Water Tribe, Katara and Sokka, who accidentally stumble upon twelve-year-old Aang’s body in an iceberg near the South Pole, unleashing him from this prison to grace the world with a long lost Avatar, the last airbender. Having been frozen for over a century, fleeing from his responsibilities as the next Avatar from the Air Nomad, he discovers that the ruler of the Fire Nation has embarked on a journey of world domination. Aang thus sets off on an adventure with Katara and Sokka to learn to bend the other elements (water, earth, and fire) so that he could defeat the Fire Nation.
This might be one of the most remarkable animated series out there. It is perfectly accessible to a young audience, while it also offers plenty of excellent episodes for adults to indulge in, primarily through its excellent story-telling style and fundamental themes, from friendship to love. Through strong bonds between each other and youthful innocence, their adventure brings them to tackle larger societal and world issues surrounding war (oppression, discrimination, and imperialism). Their resilience also brings them to confront staggering dilemmas between good and evil, paving the way to situations where they must make difficult decisions that highlight the power of free will against that of destiny and fate.
With these young heroes, every episode also makes bountiful use of their alluring personalities and candid banter. Their journey across all four nations (Water Tribes, Earth Kingdom, Fire Nation, and Air Nomads), with this first season focused on their journey to the Water Tribes, also allows them to discover unique characters, young and old, who are pivotal to their understanding of the world, on top of serving as formidable mentors by learning quality life lessons from them. With Aang’s bouncy personality, Sokka’s sarcasm and comedy relief, and Katara’s rational and strong-willed decision-making, the trio learn to beautifully embrace each other’s strengths and weaknesses, inevitably making viewers cheer for their success. The parallel story arc focused around Prince Zuko, the banished son of the Fire Lord, who roams around the world with his uncle Iroh, trying to capture the Avatar to redeem himself in the eyes of his father also makes for a compelling narrative.
The art and animation of the series still hold up today, effortlessly bringing forth a bright and lively world. Despite the silliness of some characters or the sternness of others, the series brilliantly captures a divided world, divided mostly by the type of bending and the culture they embrace, from those who are close to nature to those trapped within customs that restrain them from remaining open-minded to the outside world. The excellent score also embellishes the countless scenes’ tones in this series, whether it’s to add gravity or ridicule. While most episodes are self-contained stories, the overarching narrative keeps these episodes connected, promising incredible character- and world-building. The growth of these young heroes as they fight together for a bigger cause is what ultimately makes this journey so addictive and entertaining.
Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005) Season 1 is a fantastic animated series introducing young heroes learning the ins and outs of a world at war as they prepare to fight for peace.