Avatar: The Last Airbender is considered by many to be the best-animated television series of all time. It was released by Nickelodeon in 2005. The show takes place in a universe where the four elements—earth, fire, air and water—are governed by humans. The show’s protagonist, Aang, is the sole survivor of his air nation and is referred to as the “avatar” because of his ability to control all four elements.

He must learn all the other three elements along with his friends he made — Katara, Sokka and Toph — and must stop the fire nation’s attack that Fire Lord Ozai controls. There is also Ozai’s son, Prince Zuko, who seeks to regain his honor with his uncle Iroh after being exiled from the fire nation. 

Avatar: The Last Airbender has been praised for its storytelling, characters, world-building, animation and tackling heavy themes. The franchise has spanned into a comic series, a prequel novel series, an animated spin-off show titled The Legend of Korra and an upcoming live-action adaptation. If you are wondering if you should watch the original series before the Netflix live-action adaptation is released in February 2024, here are five reasons to check out Avatar: The Last Airbender. 

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Rich Storytelling 

Avatar: The Last Airbender is highly praised for its rich storytelling throughout its 61 episodes in the three seasons. It follows a well-crafted plot that expertly balances action, drama and humor. The pacing is perfect, keeping viewers engaged from start to finish. There are barely any filler episodes or unnecessary scenes that don’t contribute to the plot, so viewers will find the show easy to follow as the story flows. 

Katara, Aang and Sokka posing with the weapons out in Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Avatar: The Last Airbender

Complex Characters

The heart of Avatar: The Last Airbender comes from its wide range of different characters. All the characters have intricate personalities and experience personal development throughout the three seasons. For instance, Prince Zuko, the main antagonist, is known for going through a powerful redemption arc. The main characters, Aang, Katara, Sokka and Toph, have complex personalities and develop independently. 

Heavy Themes

Even though Avatar: The Last Airbender is considered a children’s cartoon, it doesn’t shy away from exploring complex themes that add depth to its plot. The themes that are shown in the show are war, genocide, imperialism, trauma, grief, redemption and moral ambiguity. All of the themes in the show are shown respectfully and teach important lessons that can still be relevant today. 

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Fantastic World-Building 

The show creates a unique high fantasy setting that blends history and lore with its narrative. Taking its inspiration from Asian and Indigenous cultures, the show focuses on four nations. The Water Nation, the Earth Kingdom, the Fire Nation and the Air Nomads have different people, cultures, customs and bending. Almost every detail and history presented in Avatar: The Last Airbender is well-crafted to create complexity in its world-building. 

Beautiful Animation 

Avatar: The Last Airbender has a beautiful 2D animation style that blends Japanese anime and Western cartoons. Over three seasons, you will marvel at the stunning landscape. The visuals of the fight scenes are captivating. The use of color is rich and detailed. The show’s animation style made it stand out from other Western cartoons at the time and paved the way for other cartoons to follow in its inspiration.

Princess Azula in Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Pictured: Princess Azula in Avatar: The Last Airbender

Avatar: The Last Airbender is a masterpiece to dive into right now to experience its engaging story, likable characters, meaningful themes and beautiful animation. It is a must-watch show that will engage you with action, drama and humor. 

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Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra are now streaming on Netflix. The live-action adaptation will hit the streamer on February 22, 2024. 

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Sade Johnson