Avatar: The Last Airbender, not just a kids cartoon but a sprawling epic.

5 stars
Unlike most fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender, I did not grow up watching the show.
I knew of it but I never watched it.
In fact, my first exposure to the show was the live action movie and we all know how that turned out.
So, imagine my surprise, when I learnt that a lot of reviewers I listen to considered this to be one of the greatest TV shows of all time.
After hearing this I naturally had to check it out and watch all three seasons of the show.
And you know what?
They were right.
Because Avatar: The Last Airbender is one of the greatest TV shows I have ever seen.
It is right up there with Death Note, Game of Thrones and Westworld, for me.
This surprised me to no end because, before this, I considered the show to be nothing more than a kids cartoon like Spongebob Squarepants.
But Avatar: The Last Airbender is not this.
Instead of your average kids cartoon the show is a sprawling epic, full of likable characters, engaging stories and excellent use of world building.
If I had one criticism of the show, it would be that initially it does not appear to be the epic story that it is.
The first episode did not really grab me like most of my favourite shows’ first episodes did.
However, after the first few episodes, the show expands its storytelling, creating a complex world and characters that left me engaged from start to finish.
The plot of the show feels more like an epic tale like Lord of The Rings.
The plot is that the world is divided into four nations, Earth, Water, Air and Fire, and each of these nations is able to control their own individual element.

Avatar map
Map of the four nations seen in the show.

The Avatar is the only one who can control all four elements but he disappeared 100 years ago, allowing the Fire Nation to invade the other nations in an attempt to take over the world.
100 years after the Avatar’s disappearance, Water Tribe siblings Katara and Sokka discover the Avatar, a kid named Aang, frozen in ice.
After freeing him the three set out on an adventure to stop the Fire Nation and save the world.
This is a really great premise and it is helped by the show’s storytelling, with each episode expanding our knowledge of the show’s world and its characters.
In fact, the characters are some of the best out of any show I have ever seen.
Every character stands out, from the heroes to the villains.
Aang is a lovable naive kid with a great moral code, Katara is a motherly figure who stands up for her friends and Sokka may be the comedic relief  but he is also incredibly smart and is extremely useful to the group.
Chasing after them is Prince of The Fire Nation Zuko and his uncle Iroh.
These two are easily the best characters in the series, with Iroh coming across as the kind old man who anyone would like to have as their uncle and Zuko has, in my opinion, the greatest character arc of any character I have ever seen.
If you compare Zuko from the start of the show to the end he is a completely different person and watching him make this journey of personal growth across the series was nothing short of enthralling.
And as the show went on even more great characters appeared like Toph, Azula, Suki, Ozai and many more.
I could literally make an entire post about why these characters are so good.

Team Avatar
The three main characters Aang, Katara and Sokka along with their pets Appa and Momo.

These great characters mixed with the intriguing story make for some fantastic episodes that are some of the best TV I have seen, like The Storm, The Crossroads of Destiny and The Southern Raiders.
Even the filler episodes are great.
Avatar Day has nothing to do with the main plot, yet it is a great episode because of its intriguing mystery plot and funny moments.
And then there is The Ember Island Players, which is literally the only good recap episode I can remember.
This episode actually did something creative with the idea, turning it completely on its head.
When making a recap episode, The Ember Island Players should be set as the standard for what makes a great one.

the ember island players
The Ember Island players in the only recap episode that ever had me invested.

There were only a few stumbles with episodes like The Great Divide, and Nightmares and Daydreams but these episodes do not detract from the overall greatness of the show.
The show is further improved by its soundtrack, animation and themes, all of which are excellent.
The soundtrack and animation are so unique in their style that if I stumbled across the show on TV I would instantly know I was watching Avatar: The Last Airbender.
The themes of the show are also presented really well covering spirituality and balance.
All of this greatness culminates in the four part series finale Sozin’s Comet.
It feels like the creators of the show were holding back on the music and animation until the finale because the music and animation on display in these final four episodes is nothing short of fantastic.
The themes are also best displayed in these episodes and the characters go really well with them, especially Aang, who had a great character arc in these final episodes.
If you watch the final four episodes, I would suggest you watch them all together because it feels like you are watching a movie.
Sozin’s Comet was a fantastic way to end the series, which is surprising considering most shows go on for too long or have lackluster finales, while Avatar: The Last Airbender ended its story perfectly.

Avatar State
the four part Sozin’s Comet was a fantastic way to end the series

Honestly, I cannot recommend Avatar: The Last Airbender enough.
I loved the show and it left me wanting more so I cannot wait to check out its follow up series The Legend of Korra.
Avatar: The Last Airbender is a fantastic show that deserves recognition for the epic story that it is.

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