I have always been a person who has marveled in imagination, often wondering as a child whether all that we are seeing on television or in films is fact or fantasy. Nickelodeon was my television channel of choice growing up; their shows were strange yet always guaranteed a laugh from me. Although I enjoyed a lot of the shows on the channel, there was never anything that gripped me, piqued my interest, or let my imagination run free.
Fast forward to 2005. I remember the day clearly, at the age of seven, sitting crossed-legged on the floor in front of the television ready to watch the new show that Nickelodeon had been advertising for the past few weeks: Avatar: The Last Airbender. It was shown as something that would truly have me gripped, with fantasy animals, bright colors, comedy, and, of course, the bending. Everything I was wanting in a program was right there in front of me. From the opening credits to the very last words from Zuko as the episode closed, I was HOOKED and ready for more.
For those just hearing about the show, Avatar: The Last Airbender was a Nickelodeon animation created by Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino. In the Avatar universe, the world is split into four nations: the Water Tribe, Earth Kingdom, Air Nomads, and Fire Nation. Most individuals from each nation have the ability to manipulate the element of their nation. Only one person can control ALL four elements, and this is the Avatar. But as tensions rise between the nations and a war begins, the Avatar disappears and isn’t seen for one hundred years.
The story follows Aang, a twelve-year-old monk, who was discovered in an iceberg by a brother and sister from the Water Tribe, Sokka and Katara. After finding that Aang is the last Airbender, they also soon discover that he is, in fact, the Avatar, the only one who can stop the war and save the world. The children decide to team up and help Aang master the elements so he can complete this goal. This comes with some challenges as they are chased around the world by angsty Prince Zuko from the Fire Nation, who's set on the task to bring Aang to his father, the Fire Lord. The show received immense success, garnering 9.2 on IMDb and 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, as well as a massive cult following and an equally successful spin-off show The Legend of Korra.
This show ended up becoming my favorite very quickly. At such a young age, I was not only enthralled by the concept of bending the four elements and the overall adventure, but I felt like I was learning along with the other characters, growing up with them and maturing as they did throughout the series. I had found the program I was looking for as a child, and I grew up rewatching and adoring every moment, still calling it my favorite show today.
Fast forward to 2021, lockdown is in full swing and driving everyone insane. It's fair to say we all need an escape. I looked no further than my favorite show, but I wasn’t going to do this alone. I posted a little tweet to the Twitterverse to any person who had not experienced the glory that was the Avatar world. My good friend and fellow nerd, Anthony, joined me in this rewatch, and we embarked on the first two episodes. We thought having a first-time watcher with a superfan would be something awesome.
From the get-go, we both loved it. Anthony and I agreed that the level of comedy was absolutely perfect: you could tell that it was a show made for children, but it didn’t go over the boundary of being “super cheesy”. The overall aspect of having the ability to master the elements was something we both found very interesting, and the ferocity of Zuko and the level-headedness of his uncle Iroh was very enjoyable. Anthony said he looks forward to seeing how their relationship plays out through the upcoming episodes.
Another thing that Anthony brought up was how much he enjoyed Sokka as a character, he was very much the comic relief yet, he was left to be the man of the village, as he was the only man and warrior left while his father along with the rest of the men are currently fighting in the war. Sokka didn’t have to stand up to Prince Zuko when he arrived at the South Pole, but he felt as if it was his duty to himself and the defenseless tribe. Although their standoff was quick, it was memorable, and it had the perfect amount of comedy and action to keep us glued to our screens.
Aang was a super fun character, and his energy was so infectious. Anthony wasn’t sure how he was going to fare in the fight, so seeing him take on numerous amounts of Zuko’s men with his hands tied behind his back was amazing. Although the fight scenes are mostly fast-paced, it didn’t feel like you were missing anything. In a weird way, it made me feel like a little kid again, getting so excited by the action and bright colors of the water and fire.
The moment that stood out the most for us was when we saw Aang go into the “Avatar State” for the first time. We were both at the edge of our seats begging with Katara as she called out Aang's name when he was knocked off Zuko’s ship. When his eyes and tattoos began to glow we both started shouting out in not just relief but amazement. Watching this little kid create a whirlpool as he shot himself back onto the ship was insane, and it definitely brought out our inner children!
I asked Anthony if he enjoyed the show and was up for watching the next episode, “The Southern Air Temple.” He agreed, and he said he was already really enjoying it and could see where the hype was coming from. He wanted to see how Aang was going to develop as a character and Avatar and see if he would grow out of his goofiness as the series progresses. I told him that there will absolutely be growth from all the characters throughout the show. Already, Anthony says that Uncle Iroh is the best character and, although he seems like a level-headed soul, he can imagine he’s also a badass. Without spoiling too much, I will say he is 100% correct there!
We look forward to watching the next episodes during our weekly rewatches. Of course, if I was doing this alone, I would be deep into a full-on binging session right about now. But I'm finding it so much more fun introducing such a beloved series and piece of art to fresh eyes. It's pretty hard to not spoil things and get too biased and overexcited, but we’ll see how that goes!
We hope to see more people join us as we watch each week and discuss the episode at around 7 p.m. GMT on this Discord server. I will be filming and writing our thoughts in the hopes others will join us!
If you've seen Avatar: The Last Airbender, what were your initial impressions seeing those first few episodes? Share your experiences in the comments!