Avatar: The Last Airbender is Still One of the Best Shows Ever

Nikita Bhardwaj, Print Opinions Editor

Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender is arguably the most beloved cartoon of all time and for good reason. The series, which initially ran from 2005 to 2008, is the epitome of good character development and complex storytelling, blending comedy, Asian mysticism, and epic fiction to create a heartwarming saga about friendship and resilience. Moreover, it still resonates with audiences today, arriving on Netflix on May 15th, much to the joy of the series’ many quarantined fans. I personally decided to watch it due to a combination of extreme boredom and peer pressure, and I’m really happy I did. 

A major part of Avatar: The Last Airbender’s charm is its incredibly detailed worldbuilding. The Avatar world is divided into four nations—fire, water, earth, and air—populated by normal people and “benders” who can control one of these elements. The nations lived in harmony until the Fire Nation declared war, seeking world domination through violence and oppression. The “Avatar” is the only person who can bend all four elements, and his destiny is to bring peace to the world and stop the Fire Nation from conquering all. The series begins when siblings Katara and Sokka of the Southern Water tribe find a young boy, Aang, enclosed in a block of ice, and quickly discover that he is the Avatar (who has been missing for the past 100 years). The series follows Aang, Katara, and Sokka as they set out on a journey to help Aang master all four elements in order to defeat the Fire Lord.

The show is a gripping and emotionally rewarding watch due to its ability to create incredibly strong characters with detailed backstories and nuanced personalities. From the first episode, viewers are completely invested in the characters, from Katara the wise waterbending teenager, to Sokka, her sarcastic and protective older brother. Many of the characters undergo major growth, although none more dramatic than Zuko, the exiled Fire Nation prince. As one of the most nuanced characters I’ve ever encountered in any work of fiction, Zuko is at war between his Fire Nation upbringing and his strong instinct to do the right thing. While his troubled and stubborn personality grates on the viewer at first, this makes him all the more interesting to watch as he navigates his moral compass and discovers who he truly is. Junior Carl Coatzee stated, “My favorite character so far is definitely Zuko. He’s kind of a jerk for most of season one, but you can tell he’s a very interesting character with a lot of room for personal growth,” and as junior Jasmine Maggio put it, “Zuko stans always win ?✨.”

Another beautiful aspect of the show is its versatility. It is able to concurrently provide a healthy dose of comedy, delve into serious issues like loss and grief, and offer thought-provoking wisdom. Sokka always has a witty line or two to drop each episode, and a few characters exist purely for comedic effect, like the beloved yet tortured cabbage salesman, junior Daniel Pinheiro’s favorite character. Sokka and Katara lost their mother at a young age, and many other characters deal with the aftereffects of losing a loved one, which could be helpful for any viewers going through similar trials. Furthermore, there are many wise and timeless characters, like Uncle Iroh (my personal favorite), who never fails to drop pearls of wisdom such as: “Pride is not the opposite of shame, but its source. True humility is the only antidote to shame.” I had to pause the show and think about that one. And if you don’t believe me, believe junior Arthur Zhu who declared: “Iroh the goat.”

Overall, Avatar: The Last Airbender is my favorite thing I’ve watched throughout quarantine. It’s a definite must-watch for those of you who haven’t seen it yet, and for those who have, something that should be revisited over and over again.