Avatar: The Last Airbender (known as Avatar: The Legend of Aang in Europe) is a North American animated Nickelodeon television series that aired from 2005 to 2008. The series has a sequel, The Legend of Korra.
The story takes place in a world where humans can be born with the ability to control one of the four elements (Fire, Air, Water and Earth) to their will, either for practical applications in their daily lives or for combat, a practice known as Element Bending. Benders of each element are spread between four main nations, while "non-Benders", people born without Bending live in any of the main nations. The "Avatar" is the only human in the entire world that can bend all four elements and is the host of the Spirit of Light, the Avatar can also contact spirits and draw power from their past lives. Every time the Avatar dies they're reincarnated into another nation. For thousands of years, it's been the Avatar's duty to maintain world peace and balance between the nations.
The newest Avatar is Aang, a young monk from the Air Nation. However, one day Aang disappeared right before the Fire Nation declared war on the other three nations and committed mass genocide against the Air Nomads in an effort to destroy the Avatar. While they failed, they also effectively pushed the Air Nomads to the brink of extinction. 100 years later, the world has crumbled into chaos, the Air Nomads are believed to be extinct, and the Water Tribes and Earth Kingdom struggle to fight against the Fire Nation. One day, Katara and Sokka, two siblings from the Southern Water Tribe, stumble upon an iceberg while hunting for food for the poverty-stricken tribe. Inside the iceberg they find Aang, who had frozen himself to save himself from drowning during a thunderstorm right before the war began.
Aang is disturbed to see how the world has changed during his absence, now he must finish his Avatar training and defeat the Fire Nation to restore world peace. Katara, Sokka, and later a blind Earthbender named Toph Beifong, join Aang's quest. Fire Prince Zuko was banished from the Fire Nation and stubbornly chases after the Avatar so he can return to his home. To make matters worse, a powerful comet will pass by Earth at the end of the next summer, the comet exponentially enhances Firebending powers, which will give the Fire Nation enough power to win the war once and for all. This means Aang has to learn all the Elements, something that most Avatars take over a decade to do, and complete his spiritual training to take down the Fire Lord in less than a year. The Avatar possesses a power known as the "Avatar State", which makes them borderline invincible but also uncontrollable and highly destructive, and if Aang were to be killed while in the Avatar State, the Avatar will cease to exist.
Eventually, Zuko betrays the Fire Nation to join the Avatar despite them not trusting him at first. With Zuko's help, Aang finishes his Elemental training, but Aang encounters a bigger problem; In order to save the world, he must kill Zuko's father Ozai, which completely violates his monk training. The day the comet arrives, Zuko and the rest of the gang overthrow the Fire Throne so he can become the new Fire Lord while Aang discovers an alternate method to defeat Ozai without killing him; using his Avatar powers to remove Ozai's Fire powers, effectively de-powering him. With that, the Fire Nation is defeated, and the war is over.
Fire Lord Zuko officially declares that the Fire Nation will surrender their war efforts and will put all their resources to correct the damage done to world with the help of the Avatar. Aang, while still not having fully completed his training, is declared a full Avatar now able to control the Avatar State. Now that the world is in peace once more, Aang and Katara become a couple.
Why it Rocks
- Excellent plot.
- Very solid world-building where each of the nations mirrors a real world culture.
- It's great at balancing mature and light-hearted themes.
- Despite being targeted towards younger audiences, the show tackles some very serious topics such as mass genocide and oppressive class systems.
- Very well-written and likeable characters. Zuko stands out as one of the best characters, with a very believable turn from evil to good that doesn't feel forced.
- Element Bending is an awesome concept and makes for very good action scenes.
- Perfect voice acting, featuring talented voice actors such as Grey DeLisle, Dante Basco, Mako Iwamatsu and Mark Hamill.
- Wonderful anime-esque artstyle and animation.
- Hilarious moments, such as the running gag with the cabbage seller. "MY CABBAGES!"
- The ending was a major Deus Ex Machina.
- "The Great Divide" is generally considered the worst episode in the franchise.
- The live-action movie adaptation was trashed by both critics and fans.