How awesome is Avatar: The Last Airbender!??
I think it is just such a high-quality show, in every way. It’s hilarious, action-packed, thoughtful, tense, and bold. It features an amazing redemption arc for Prince Zuko, a serious journey for Aang and his friends, real stakes, and even a beautiful, fitting story for Iroh. And the music design is utterly spectacular. It gives me chills sometimes, the way the eastern-inspired chords swell in sync with the art style.
And this aired on Nickelodeon, back when I was in middle school. At the time, it felt like I was the only kid that watched it. As I learned later, a lot of kids at the time saw it as anime, and they didn’t particularly like it. Or, perhaps they didn’t think that it was cool enough to talk about. Back in like 2006, anime was far less popular in the mainstream.
Also, many conservative parents didn’t appreciate the mature themes about spirituality in the show. I never really got that vibe, but hey, art is open for interpretation.
Then, in like 2014, I start scrolling around on twitter, and I start finding all these Avatar memes. There was a Savage Aang account and maybe a Thug Sokka page, etc etc, and people started coming out and openly praising the show.
And no, this piece is not about how I am a jaded hipster, since I liked something before everyone else did and never got any attention for it. I mean, it still kinda annoys me, but so do many reality TV shows. And birds.
The point is that this show definitely didn’t get the attention that it deserved. And it still isn’t.
I mean, look at all the awesome things about the show! A coming of age story set in a fantasy war, strong female characters, a deep and lush world with lore to explore. A great tone and sense of humor that builds, satisfying emotional payoffs, and thoughtful explorations of the human soul.
And it’s all in a kid’s show, supposedly.
Isn’t that kinda weird? Like, this could have just as easily been another anime, with much more violence, and they might have played it on Toonami or Adult Swim. It would not have fit in as well in that line up, but hey they could tweak a few things, add gore, who knows. But no, it aired on Nick, a channel dedicated to cartoons and late-night sitcom reruns. And to an extent, it got censored and ignored.
But everyone seems to like it. So, in these modern times, with the internet in all its glory, why is this fantastic show that aired on the same network as SpongeBob and Drake and Josh still slept on?
Is it that controversial a show to some people? Does it look like cheap anime? Or is it maybe just not in line with what mainstream Western audiences want?
I don’t know, I just think the show is great, and I highly encourage anyone to go watch it. Right now. Even if you’ve already seen it before. It’s the modern age, you can find full episodes online for free. Make this the next show you binge watch, and see what all the hype is about!!
This show might be able to show us a lot about ourselves. All of us, as individuals, as citizens, as members of a planetary species. The destinies we should choose, the kinds of nations we want to be, how we can maintain balance and order in the world; these are important themes. And if we should tackle them, why not do it through a funny medium?