Avatar: The Last Airbender

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Avatar: The Last Airbender
Avatar The Last Airbender logo.svg
Also known as Avatar: The Legend of Aang
Genre Action
adventure
Dramedy
Format Animated series
Created by Michael Dante DiMartino
Bryan Konietzko
Written by Michael Dante DiMartino
Bryan Konietzko
Aaron Ehasz
Tim Hedrick
John O'Bryan
Elizabeth Welch Ehasz
Joshua Hamilton
May Chan
Matthew Hubbard
James Eagan
Directed by Lauren MacMullan
Dave Filoni
Giancarlo Volpe
Ethan Spaulding
Joaquim Dos Santos
Voices of Zach Tyler Eisen
Mae Whitman
Jack DeSena
Jessie Flower
Dee Bradley Baker
Dante Basco
Mako Iwamatsu
Grey DeLisle
Cricket Leigh
Olivia Hack
Jennie Kwan
Jason Isaacs
Clancy Brown
Greg Baldwin
Mark Hamill
Composer(s) Jeremy Zuckerman
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 3
No. of episodes 61 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) Michael Dante DiMartino
Bryan Konietzko
Aaron Ehasz
Running time 22 minutes
Production company(s) Animation:
Nickelodeon Animation Studios
DR Movie
JM Animation
Moi Animation
Titmouse
Broadcast
Original channel Nickelodeon
Picture format NTSC 4:3 (480i)
Original run February 21, 2005 (2005-02-21) – July 19, 2008 (2008-07-19)
Chronology
Preceded by ­Zuko's Story (comic)
Followed by Avatar: The Last Airbender (comics)
The Legend of Korra (TV series)
External links
Official website

Avatar: The Last Airbender (Avatar: The Legend of Aang in some regions) is an American animated television series that aired for three seasons on Nickelodeon from 2005 to 2008. The series was created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, who served as executive producers along with Aaron Ehasz. Avatar: The Last Airbender is set in an Asian influenced world[1] wherein some are able to manipulate the classical elements by use of psychokinetic variants of Chinese martial arts known as "bending". The show combined the styles of anime and American cartoons, and relied on the imagery of various East Asian, Inuit, Southeast Asian, South Asian and New World societies.[2][not in citation given] Due to this style, the series regularly enters the conversation regarding its consideration as an anime work.[3]

The series follows the adventures of protagonist twelve-year-old Aang and his friends, who must bring peace and unity to the world by ending the Fire Lord's war against the other three nations.[4] The pilot episode first aired on February 21, 2005[5] and the series concluded with a widely praised two-hour episode on July 19, 2008.[6] The show is obtainable from various sources, including DVD, the iTunes Store, the Zune Marketplace, the Xbox Live Marketplace, the PlayStation Store, Netflix Instant Play (formerly), Amazon Instant Video, and the Nicktoons Network.[7]

Upon release, Avatar: The Last Airbender was universally acclaimed by audiences and critics alike.[8] Praises went to the art direction, humor, cultural references, characters, and themes. It was also commercially successful, garnering 5.6 million viewers on its best-rated showing and receiving high ratings in the Nicktoons lineup, even outside its 6- to 11-year-old demographic.[4][9] The series has been nominated for and won awards from the Annual Annie Awards, the Genesis Awards, the primetime Emmy awards and a Peabody Award among others. The first season's success prompted Nickelodeon to order second[10] and third[11] seasons. In other media, the series has spawned a critically panned but financially successful live-action film, titled The Last Airbender, directed by M. Night Shyamalan, scaled action figures,[12] a trading card game,[13][14] three video games based on the first,[15] second,[16][17] and third seasons, stuffed animals distributed by Paramount Parks, and two LEGO sets.[18] An art book was also released in mid-2010.[19] A sequel series, The Legend of Korra, premiered on April 14, 2012[20] to similar critical acclaim and high ratings.

Series overview[edit]

A map of the four nations. The characters at the top, 群雄四分, mean "Powers are divided into Four". The characters of the four lands are 水善 (Water is Benevolent), 土強 (Earth is Strong), 火烈 (Fire is Fierce), and 气和 (Air is Peaceful). The phrase at the bottom, 天下一匡, reads "The world (all under heaven) is guided by one".

Avatar: The Last Airbender takes place in a world home to humans, hybrid animals, and spirits. Human civilization is divided into four nations: the Water Tribes, the Earth Kingdom, the Fire Nation, and the Air Nomads. Each nation has a distinct society, wherein people known as "benders" have the ability to manipulate and control the element of their nation using the physical motions of martial arts. The show's creators based each bending style on an existing martial art, leading to clear visual and physical differences in the techniques used by Waterbenders (T'ai chi ch'uan), Earthbenders (Hung Ga kung fu, for the most part), Firebenders (Northern Shaolin kung fu) and Airbenders (Baguazhang).[21] In addition to these four types of bending, there are several minor subcategories of bending within them, including but not limited to: Metalbending and Sandbending (Earth); Lightning generation and redirection (Fire) and Bloodbending, Healing and Plantbending (Water). There is also an ancient and lost bending art called Energybending only known to the lion turtles who then teach it to Aang.

At any given time, there is only one person in the world capable of bending all four major elements: the Avatar. As revealed in The Legend of Korra, bending was originally bestowed to humans temporarily by gigantic Lion Turtles via Energybending, during a time when spirits freely moved in the physical world, which the Lion Turtles protected humans from. The Avatar, born at the end of that era, is an entity that was created from the union of a human named Wan with the light spirit Raava to seal away the latter's dark counterpart Vaatu and guiding the spirits back to their plane of existence. With their purpose over, the Lion Turtles left humans to their own devices, allowing those they made benders at the time to keep their powers permanently, and Wan, as the Avatar, spent the rest of his life maintaining peace between humans. Eventually, the true origins of bending were forgotten, and bending itself was nearly lost to the world, as the inhabitants from the four different nations learned to bend the elements again by observing different forces of nature: the people of the Water Tribes learned Waterbending by studying the tidal effects of the moon, while the people of the Earth Kingdom learned Earthbending from the badger moles. The Air Nomads learned Airbending from the sky bison, and the people of the Fire Nation learned Firebending from the dragons (whom the Fire Nation later hunted to near extinction).

Because of Raava's nature as a spirit, the Avatar is continually reincarnated into one of the four nations in the Avatar Cycle, which appears to have an implied correspondence to Wan's journey and the seasons: Summer/Fire Nation, Autumn/Air Nomads, Winter/Water Tribe, and Spring/Earth Kingdom. An Avatar incarnation is born either male or female, and is required to master each bending art in seasonal order, starting with their native/birth element. Additionally, the Avatar can access Raava's power to enter what is known as the Avatar State. This is when the Avatar is their most powerful, normally a defense mechanism until they are able to master it to the point of activating it on will, where the current Avatar is endowed with the knowledge and abilities of all past lives for a certain amount of time. But should an Avatar ever be killed in the Avatar State, the reincarnation cycle would be broken with the Avatar ceasing to exist.[22] Through the various incarnations, the Avatar functions in keeping a relative equality among the nations while at the same time serving as an intermediator between humans and spirits to maintain balance between the two worlds.[21][23]

Backstory[edit]

The events 100 years before the beginning of the show are revealed gradually and out of order throughout the series.

More than a century before the beginning of the series, the ruler of the Fire Nation, Fire Lord Sozin, planned a world war to expand his territory and bring the world the Fire Nation's prosperity. Despite their friendship, Avatar Roku prevented him from carrying out his plan in order to maintain the balance of their world. However, Sozin bided his time and resumed his campaign once Roku died.

On Roku's death, the Avatar was reincarnated as an Airbender named Aang, who learned of his Avatar status while still twelve years old when his power was needed to stop Sozin. Aang, frightened of his new responsibilities and of separation from his mentor Gyatso, fled his home on his flying bison, Appa. The two were subsequently forced into the ocean by a storm, but Aang became scared, entering the Avatar State and encasing them both in an iceberg, where they remained in suspended animation for one hundred years.

Soon after, Sozin, knowing the nature of the Avatar reincarnation cycle, carried out genocide of the Air Nomads during the passing of a comet that increased the Firebenders' firepower abilities, which was later named after him. However, Aang evaded his grasp, and Sozin spent his remaining days searching for the eponymous "Last Airbender". In time, as the Fire Nation's Hundred Year War continued, Sozin was succeeded as Fire Lord by his son Azulon, who in turn passed the title to his youngest son Ozai, the current ruling Fire Lord at the time of the series and the father of fire prince Zuko and princess Azula. The title was originally meant for Ozai's older brother Iroh, but Iroh's birthright was taken from him in light of his absence from the Fire Nation at the time, laying siege on the Earth Kingdom capital of Ba Sing Se, which lasted for 600 days until he ended it upon the loss of his only son.

Season one (Book 1: Water)[edit]

Katara, a fourteen-year-old Southern Tribe Waterbender, and her older brother Sokka find the iceberg containing Aang and Appa and free them. Aang learns of the war occurring in his absence, and the siblings join him to reach the Northern Water Tribe at the North Pole, so that he and Katara can learn Waterbending from a master. Aang's return attracts the attention of prince Zuko, the exiled son of Ozai, who needs to capture the Avatar to return to his homeland. Aang is also pursued by Zhao, a powerful Fire Nation militant who intends to win Ozai's favor and rob Zuko of his redemption.

En route to the North Pole, Aang meets the Kyoshi Warriors and his childhood friend Bumi, attempts to learn fire bending from the deserter fire bending master Jeong Jeong, and gains a traveling companion in a winged lemur he names Momo. Aang discovers the genocide of his people while visiting the Southern Air Temple. During the winter solstice, Aang meets his past life Avatar Roku. Roku tells him of an astral body called Sozin's Comet, which enabled the genocide of the Air Nomads. Aang learns that he must master all four elements and stop Ozai before the comet returns at the end of summer.

Once at the Northern Water Tribe, Aang and Katara learn advanced waterbending from the wise Master Pakku, while Sokka falls in love with Princess Yue, the tribal chief's daughter who was stillborn before given life by the Moon Spirit. However, Zhao lays siege to the Northern Water Tribe. During a full moon, he targets the mortal forms of the Ocean and Moon Spirits, the source of waterbending, capturing the latter and causing a lunar eclipse. Though the group and Iroh attempt to convince him otherwise, Zhao kills the moon spirit to render the waterbenders powerless. Aang uses his Avatar State and combines with the enraged Ocean Spirit to drive off the fleet before Princess Yue sacrifices her life to revive the Moon Spirit. Though its mate is revived, the Ocean Spirit exacted its revenge on Zhao after separating from Aang. Soon after, word of Zuko and Iroh's actions during the siege of the Northern Water Tribe reaches Ozai, leading him to believe they are both worthless to the Fire Nation, and he decides to send his daughter, Zuko's gifted yet sadistic sister Princess Azula, to find the now wanted Zuko and Iroh.

Season two (Book 2: Earth)[edit]

After leaving the Northern Water Tribe, Aang continues to master Waterbending under Katara's tutelage as the group begins looking for an Earthbending teacher. Their search brings them to Toph Beifong, a twelve-year-old blind tomboy and an Earthbending prodigy who wants independence from her upper-class family. Now wanted fugitives, pursued by Azula as she also hunts down Aang's group, Zuko and Iroh attempt to lead new lives in the Earth Kingdom, first as wanderers and later as refugees in the capital of Ba Sing Se. Eventually, finding the library of the spirit Wan Shi Tong, Aang and his group learn that an imminent solar eclipse could allow them to stop the Fire Nation before Sozin Comet's arrives. However, their journey to Ba Sing Se to inform the Earth King of this is complicated when Appa is kidnapped and, managing to reach the city, find the Earth King Kuei and the Ba Sing Se manipulated by Long Feng, the leader of the Dai Li secret police.

After Aang's group finds Appa and exposes Long Feng, the group temporarily go their separate ways. Toph ends up getting captured, but escapes by inventing metalbending, while Aang attempts to learn to consciously access the Avatar state. The Dai Li join Azula to instigate a coup d'état of Ba Sing Se and Zuko, having tried to put the past behind him, relapses at the last second when the Avatar appears in order to rescue Katara. As Aang tries to enter the Avatar state, Azula nearly kills him, which blocks this ability. With Ba Sing Se and the Earth Kingdom now under Fire Nation rule, the group escapes thanks to Iroh covering them at the cost of his freedom, and Kuei goes into hiding.

Season three (Book 3: Fire)[edit]

Aang recovers from a long coma to find his friends and allies disguised as soldiers on a Fire Nation ship. Though reluctant, Aang is forced to maintain the rumors of his death to ensure the success of a planned invasion of the Fire Nation with their allies. Despite winning back his father's love, as Azula gave him the credit for the Avatar's apparent death, Zuko becomes guilty of his actions while learning from Iroh of his heritage as the great grandson of Roku on his mother's side.

While the invasion meets great success at first, Aang and his friends are unable to find Ozai and are forced to retreat with many of their allies captured. At the same time, having learned of his father's intention to wipe out the Earth Kingdom at the time of Sozin's Comet, Zuko leaves the palace to teach Aang Firebending. Though distrusted at first, Zuko is eventually accepted by the group, and they are joined by the Kyoshi Warriors' Suki. But as the day of the comet approaches, Aang became conflicted with the notion that he needs to kill Ozai and mysteriously disappears.

As Ozai christened himself the "Phoenix King" while making final preparations, Katara and the others unsuccessfully search for Aang. They instead find Iroh after he escaped during the Day of Black Sun, joined by the other members of a secret society called the Order of the White Lotus: Bumi, Master Pakku, Jeong Jeong, and Master Piandao (a master swordsman who taught Sokka). Together, the Order of the White Lotus liberates Ba Sing Se. Sokka, Toph, and Suki leave to hinder the Fire Nation airships, while Zuko and Katara travel to the Fire Nation capital to prevent Azula from being crowned the new Fire Lord. Though having become mentally unstable since her friends Mai and Ty Lee stood up to her with Ozai leaving her behind worsening it, Azula maintains her resourcefulness when challenged by Zuko to an Agni Kai duel by forcing him to intercept a lightning bolt meant for Katara. Luckily, Katara manages to incapacitate Azula before healing Zuko.

As Sozin's Comet arrives, Aang confronts Ozai. Aang finds himself in a losing battle until Ozai inadvertently re-establishes Aang's connection to the Avatar State. Though Aang overpowers Ozai, he decides not to kill him, and instead uses the Energybending he learned from a Lion Turtle to strip Ozai of his bending abilities. Soon after, with his father imprisoned for war crimes, Zuko is crowned the new Fire Lord and begins to work with Aang to rebuild the war-torn world. The series ends as the gang meet up at Ba Sing Se while Aang and Katara kiss beneath the sunset.

Characters[edit]

  • Aang (voiced by Zach Tyler Eisen) is the twelve-year-old, fun-loving, Airbending protagonist of the series. Although averse to fighting, Aang is fiercely protective of his friends. He is the current incarnation of the planet's Avatar Spirit, and is therefore required to act as arbiter among the various people. According to DiMartino and Konietzko, the arrow-like tattoos on his forehead and arms mark Aang as an Airbending master; Aang being the youngest Airbender in history to have earned them. His mentor, Monk Gyatso, was the greatest Airbender who had ever lived, according to Aang.
  • Katara (voiced by Mae Whitman) is a fourteen-year-old Waterbender of the Southern Water Tribe, the last one in that tribe. With her older brother Sokka, she accompanies Aang on his quest to defeat the Fire Lord and, eventually, becomes his Waterbending master. Katara is one of the only 2 surviving waterbenders of the Southern Water Tribe ( the other being Hama) and one of only two Waterbenders able to manipulate and control human bodies by bending the water and liquids therein, known as bloodbending (an ability used twice in the series). Katara is usually kind-hearted and generous, but is deeply hurt, hostile and often angered by the slightest betrayal and treachery.
  • Sokka (voiced by Jack DeSena) is a fifteen-year-old non-bender warrior of the Southern Water Tribe. With his younger sister Katara, he accompanies Aang on his quest to defeat the Fire Lord. Sokka describes himself as "meat-loving" and "sarcastic",[24] and is often a source of comic relief. Sokka was in love with princess Yue of the Northern Water Tribe at the end of Season One and later focuses his affections back to Suki, the leader of the Kyoshi Island Warriors, in Seasons Two and Three following Yue's transformation into the Moon Spirit, though he still mourns for her. Unlike his companions, Sokka does not have any bending ability; his skill lies largely in mechanics and the sword. His chief weapons are a metallic boomerang, a blunt metal battle club, a Water Tribe machete, and later a black jian created from the metals of a meteorite.
  • Toph Beifong (voiced by Jessie Flower), a twelve-year-old blind female Earthbending prodigy, first appears in the second season. After a vision Aang received while in a swamp, she becomes Aang's Earthbending instructor. Despite being blind, Toph "sees" by feeling vibrations in the ground through her feet using Earthbending. This ability also enables her to feel the pulses of one's heart, allowing her to tell if someone is lying. She is later shown developing a method of Metalbending by detecting earth-based impurities in the metal. She was strictly taught only the basics of Earthbending by a tutor but learned its original form from badger-moles, the original Earthbenders.
  • Zuko (voiced by Dante Basco) is the sixteen-year-old Firebender, exiled prince of the Fire Nation, original antagonist of the first season, an antihero in the second season, and a protagonist in third season. He is determined and strong-willed, and he rarely shows compassion until the third season. He is obsessed with regaining his lost honor, only to discover its true meaning at the end of the series. During season two, Zuko struggles to deal with his anger, self-pity, and complex familial relationships as well as the choice between good and evil. He also takes on the vigilante identity of the "Blue Spirit" throughout season one and season two. In season three, he defects from the Fire Nation to join the Avatar. At the end of the series, he is crowned the new Fire Lord of the Fire Nation. In this position, he ends the war and promises to aid in rebuilding the other nations to peace and harmony.
  • Appa (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker) is Aang's flying bison, who serves as the protagonists' mode of transport around the world. He remains in suspended animation with Aang for one hundred years and shares a very strong bond with him.[25] He possesses the ability to fly and can use his tail to create incredibly strong and powerful gusts of air. According to Aang, the flying bisons were the first Airbenders.[26]
  • Momo (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker) is an intelligent and curious winged lemur discovered by Aang at the Southern Air Temple.[26] He often picks fights with other winged and smaller creatures and with Appa over food. He is capable of understanding Aang's speech, but less so of understanding others. In "Tales of Ba Sing Se", Momo’s name was written as 模模 (mó mó). Momo means "peach" in Japanese (he grabbed a peach out of Sokka's hand just as Aang was about to name him), but it is written 桃, which also means peach in Chinese.
  • Iroh (voiced by Mako Iwamatsu/Greg Baldwin) is a former Great general of the Fire Nation, known as the Dragon of the West, and Prince Zuko's paternal uncle and mentor. Iroh was the heir to the Fire Nation throne until his younger brother Ozai usurped the throne after the death of their father, Fire Lord Azulon.[27] On the surface, Iroh is a cheerful, kind, optimistic, eccentric old man, but he remains a powerful warrior and a devoted surrogate parent to Zuko. Iroh is a Grand Master of the Order of the White Lotus, a secret society of men from all nations. Unlike most Firebenders, Iroh does not use anger as the source of his strength, relying instead on Firebending secrets learned from the Dragons.
  • Azula (voiced by Grey DeLisle) is the princess of the Fire Nation, Zuko's younger sister and one of the primary antagonists of the series. Although she is much older in appearance, it is confirmed by the official website that she is intended to be 14, making her two years younger than her brother. Azula is a Firebending prodigy and is one of the few living Firebenders capable of casting lightning. She is a cunning master at manipulation and a great leader, using fear to control her subjects and friends alike, reserving loyalty solely for her father. She is meticulous and calculating, but also a megalomaniacal perfectionist. She is seen to be extremely capable and resourceful, bringing down the entire Earth Kingdom in her ruthless pursuit of the Avatar in season two. At the end of season three, she loses her sanity altogether due to deep rooted psychological problems and a fragile mental state broken by the betrayal of her friends, the abandonment of her father, and her elevation to a position of power. She is defeated by Zuko and Katara in an Agni Kai.
  • Suki (Jennie Kwan) is the leader of the young and exclusively female Kyoshi Warriors, a sect established by Avatar Kyoshi. She is an exceptionally skilled fighter and staunch ally of the protagonists. She was imprisoned by the Fire Nation after the Kyoshi Warriors were defeated by Azula, but she was ultimately released by Sokka and Zuko. She remained with the protagonists thereafter and fought with Toph and Sokka to disable the Fire Nation's air force. She was Sokka's love interest and girlfriend immediately following the end of the War.
  • Mai (Cricket Leigh[28]) is the best friend of Ty Lee. Mai herself lacks bending, but she is agile, swift, and skilled in throwing darts and knives. She assists Azula throughout most of her role, but she ultimately decides to abandon Azula. She is also Zuko's girlfriend.
  • Ty Lee (voiced by Olivia Hack[29]) is an acrobat who fights alongside Azula against the protagonists, notable for her appearance of vivacity, innocence, and youth and for her ability to disable enemies by temporarily obstructing the chi from their limbs. Having abandoned Azula, she joins the Kyoshi Warriors, whom she had earlier impersonated.
  • Fire Lord Ozai (voiced by Mark Hamill[29]) ruler of the Fire Nation, is the father of Zuko and Azula, younger brother of Iroh, and the supreme antagonist of the series. Ozai is depicted as a cruel and merciless leader, and is described as "the worst father in the history of fathers" by his son Zuko,[30] of whom he reportedly thought banishment too light a punishment.[31] He favors Azula over Zuko, because he sees her as a firebending prodigy and sees his own beliefs embodied in her. In "Sozin's Comet: The Final Battle", he renames himself the Phoenix King, ruler of the world, and appoints Azula to watch over the Fire Nation alone; but is defeated by Aang, who removes Ozai's ability to firebend.

Production[edit]

Michael DiMartino, one of the co-creators of the show, at the 2008 New York Comic Con.

Avatar: The Last Airbender was co-created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko at Nickelodeon Animation Studios in Burbank, California. Animation work was mostly done by three animation studios in South Korea: JM Animation, DR Movie, and Moi Animation. According to Bryan Konietzko, the program was conceived in the spring of 2001 when he took an old sketch of a balding, middle-aged man and re-imagined the character as a child.[1] Konietzko drew the character herding bison in the sky, and showed the sketch to Mike DiMartino. At the time, DiMartino was studying a documentary about explorers trapped in the South Pole. Konietzko described their early development of the concept:

We thought, "There's an air guy along with these water people trapped in a snowy wasteland... and maybe some fire people are pressing down on them..."

The co-creators successfully pitched the idea to Nickelodeon vice president and executive producer Eric Coleman just two weeks later.[32]

The series was first revealed to the public in a teaser reel at Comic-Con 2004,[33] and aired February 21, 2005. In the United States, first two episodes of the series were shown together in a one-hour premiere event. A second twenty-episode season ran from March 17, 2006, through December 1.[10] A third and final season, beginning September 21, 2007, featured twenty-one episodes rather than the usual twenty.[11] The final four episodes were packaged as a two-hour movie.

Avatar: The Last Airbender is notable for borrowing extensively from East Asian art and mythology to create its universe. The series' character designs are heavily influenced by Chinese art, history, Hinduism, Taoism and Buddhism,[34] and Yoga.[2] Traditional Chinese calligraphy styles represent nearly all the writing in the series.[35] For each instance of calligraphy, an appropriate style is used, ranging from seal script (more archaic) to clerical script.[35] The show employed a cultural consultant, Edwin Zane, and calligrapher Siu-Leung Lee as consultants for the series' cultural influences.[2][36] The choreographed martial art bending moves were affected by Asian cinema.[1] In an interview, Bryan revealed that, "Mike and I were really interested in other epic 'Legends & Lore' properties, like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, but we knew that we wanted to take a different approach to that type of genre. Our love for Japanese anime, Hong Kong action and kung fu cinema, yoga, and Eastern philosophies led us to the initial inspiration for Avatar: The Last Airbender."[37] The show's character designs are influenced by anime; but the show is not considered an example of such.

All music and sound used in the series was done by Jeremy Zuckerman and Benjamin Wynn, who formed The Track Team. They experimented with use of a wide range of different instruments, such as the guzheng, pipa, and duduk, to compose background music.[38]

The term "Avatar" comes from Sanskrit (अवतार), wherein means "descent"; its roots are ava, "down," and tri, "to pass". In the Hindu scriptures, avatar signifies the mortal incarnation of a god (usually Vishnu). The Chinese characters apparent at the top of the show's title card mean "the divine medium who has descended upon the mortal world".[35] According to the plot, Aang unknowingly revealed he was the Avatar when by choosing four toys out of thousands, each of which were the childhood toys of previous Avatars. In Tibetan Buddhism, there is a similar test for reincarnations of a Tulku Lama. In Magic and Mystery in Tibet, Alexandra David-Neel writes that "a number of objects such as rosaries, ritualistic implements, books, tea-cups, etc., are placed together, and the child must pick out those which belonged to the late tulku, thus showing that he recognizes the things which were theirs in their previous life".[39] Each successor is expected to show signs of continuity with the previous Avatar, such as being born within a week of the death.

Avatar: The Last Airbender draws on the four classical elements for its bending arts: Water, Earth, Fire, and Air. Although each has its own variation, most ancient philosophies incorporate these four elements: examples include the classical Hindu, Buddhist, and Greek elemental traditions. In the show’s opening, each element is accompanied by two Chinese characters: an ancient Chinese seal script character on the left representing the element being shown and a modern Chinese character on the right describing some feature of the element. The character 水 (pinyin: shuǐ), which stands for water, is shown with 善 (pinyin: shàn), which means good and benevolent. The character 土 (pinyin: ), which stands for earth, is shown with 強 (pinyin: qiáng), which means strong and powerful. The character 火 (pinyin: huǒ), which stands for fire, is shown with 烈 (pinyin: liè), which means intense and fierce. Finally, the character 氣 (pinyin: ), which stands for air, is shown with 和 (pinyin: ), which means peace/peaceful and harmony/harmonious.[40]

In addition to the use of four classical elements in the series, the fighting styles associated with each element are derived from different styles of Chinese martial arts, for which the film-makers employed Sifu Kisu of the Harmonious Fist Chinese Athletic Association as a consultant.[41] Each fighting style was chosen to represent the element it projected. T'ai chi was used for "Waterbending" in the series, which focuses on alignment, body structure, breath, and visualization. Hung Gar was used for "Earthbending" in the series, and was chosen for its firmly rooted stances and powerful strikes to present the solid nature of earth. Northern Shaolin, which uses strong arm and leg movements was used to represent "Firebending". Ba Gua, which uses dynamic circular movements and quick directional changes, was used for "Airbending".[21][42][43] The only exception to these styles is Toph, who can be seen practicing a Chu Gar Southern Praying Mantis style.[44]

Reception[edit]

Ratings[edit]

When the series debuted, it was rated the best animated television series in its demographic;[45] new episodes averaged 3.1 million viewers each.[45] Many people regard it as a major anime series, and it has gained somewhat of a cult following. A one-hour special showing of "The Secret of the Fire Nation" which aired on September 15, 2006, consisting of "The Serpent's Pass" and "The Drill", gathered an audience of 5.1 million viewers. According to the Nielsen Media Research, the special was the best performing cable television show airing in that week.[46] In 2007, Avatar: The Last Airbender was syndicated to more than 105 countries worldwide, and was one of Nickelodeon's top rated programs. The series was ranked first on Nickelodeon in Germany, Indonesia, Malaysia, The Netherlands, Belgium, and Colombia.[47]

The four-part series finale, Sozin's Comet: The Final Battle, received the highest ratings of the series. Its premiere averaged 5.6 million viewers, 95% more viewers than Nickelodeon had received in mid-July 2007.[48] During the week of July 14, it ranked as the most-viewed program for the under-14 demographic.[49][50] Sozin's Comet: The Final Battle also appeared on iTunes' top ten list of best-selling television episodes during that same week.[51] Sozin's Comet: The Final Battle's popularity affected online media as well; "Rise of the Phoenix King", a Nick.com online game based on Sozin's Comet: The Final Battle, generated almost 815,000 game plays within three days.[52] IGN listed the complete series as 35th in its list of Top 100 Animated TV Shows.[53]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Status Ref.
2005 Pulcinella Awards Best Action Adventure TV Series N/A Won [54]
Best TV Series N/A Won [54]
33rd Annie Awards Best Animated Television Production N/A Nominated [55]
Storyboarding in an Animated Television Production Lauren MacMullan for "The Deserter" Won [55]
Writing for an Animated Television Production Aaron Ehasz and John O’Bryan for "The Fortuneteller" Nominated [55]
2006 34th Annie Awards Character Animation in a Television Production Yu Jae Myung for "The Blind Bandit" Won [56]
Directing in an Animated Television Production Giancarlo Volpe for "The Drill" Won [56]
2007 36th Annie Awards Best Animated Television Production for Children N/A Won [57]
Directing in an Animated Television Production Joaquim Dos Santos for "Sozin's Comet, Part 3: Into the Inferno" Won [57]
Genesis Awards Outstanding Children's Programming "Appa's Lost Days" Won [58]
59th Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Animated Program "City of Walls and Secrets" Nominated [59]
Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation "Sang-Jin Kim" for "Lake Laogai" Won [59]
2008 Nickelodeon Kid's Choice Awards Favorite Cartoon N/A Won
Annecy International Animated Film Festival TV series Joaquim Dos Santos for "The Day of Black Sun, Part 2: The Eclipse" Nominated [60]
56th Golden Reel Awards Best Sound Editing in a Television Animation "Sozin's Comet, Part 4: Avatar Aang" Nominated [61]
Peabody Awards N/A N/A Won [62]
2009 Kids' choice awards Australia Fave toon Avatar: The Last Airbender Nominated [63]

Other media[edit]

Art and comic books[edit]

Dark Horse Comics released an art book titled Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Art of the Animated Series, on June 2, 2010 which contains 184 pages of the original art and creation behind the Avatar: The Last Airbender animated series.[64] Several comic book short stories were published in Nickelodeon Magazine, and on June 15, 2011 Dark Horse released a collection of these and new comics in a single volume, Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Lost Adventures.[65]

Dark Horse also publishes a graphic novel series by Gene Yang that continues Aang's story after the Hundred Years' War. Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Promise, published in three volumes in 2012, is about the fate of the Fire Nation colonies that eventually become The Legend of Korra's United Republic. A second set of three comic books, Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Search, focuses on Zuko and Azula and the fate of their mother, Ursa.[66]

Promotion and merchandising[edit]

The two Lego sets: a Fire Nation ship and an Air Temple

Avatar: The Last Airbender's success has led to some promotional advertising with third-party companies, such as Burger King and Upper Deck Entertainment. Avatar: The Last Airbender-themed roller coasters at Nickelodeon Universe in the Mall of America and one formerly at Kings Island also appeared. During the show's runtime, Nickelodeon published two special issues of Nick Mag Presents dedicated entirely to the show. Various members of the Avatar: The Last Airbender staff and cast appeared at the 2006 San Diego Comic-Con International convention, while Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko appeared with Martial Arts Consultant Sifu Kisu at the Pacific Media Expo on October 28, 2006. Avatar: The Last Airbender also has its own line of t-shirts, LEGO playsets, toys, a trading card game,[67] a cine-manga, and three video games, as well as an MMO.[68]

The Fisher-Price-produced action figure toy line generated some controversy with its exclusion of any female characters.[69] Mattel came to release information stating that they have taken account of Katara's increased role within the program, and that she would be included in the figure assortment for a mid-2007 release.[70] The figure ultimately went unreleased, however, as the entire line was canceled before she could be produced.

Nickelodeon executives have since released optimistic plans for upcoming marketing strategies in regards to Avatar: The Last Airbender. Nickelodeon President Cyma Zarghami openly stated her belief that the franchise "could become their Harry Potter".[71]

Video games[edit]

A video game trilogy about Avatar: The Last Airbender has been created. Avatar: The Last Airbender, the video game, was released on October 10, 2006. Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Burning Earth was released on October 16, 2007. Avatar: The Last Airbender – Into the Inferno was released on October 13, 2008. The three games were loosely based on seasons one, two and three, respectively. Players can select characters and complete quests to gain experience and advance the storyline. Despite lackluster critical reviews, the games did extremely well commercially; for example, Avatar: The Last Airbender was THQ's top selling Nickelodeon game in 2006 and even reached Sony CEA's "Greatest Hits" status.[72]

Avatar: Legends of the Arena, a massive multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG) for Microsoft Windows, was launched on September 25, 2008, by Nickelodeon.[73] Each user is able to create their own character, choose a nation, and to interact with others across the globe.[73][74][75] Since Holiday 2012, the Game Servers for the Game are closed.

Film[edit]

The first season of the show became the basis for the 2010 live-action film The Last Airbender, written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. It is claimed[by whom?] to be the first movie of a planned trilogy from each of the television 3 seasons. Critical reception was overwhelmingly negative from both critics and fans alike, earning the film a 6% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and five Razzies in 2011, including Worst Picture. The film originally shared the title of the television series, but it was changed to The Last Airbender because producers feared it would be confused with the James Cameron film Avatar. The film version stars Noah Ringer as Aang, Nicola Peltz as Katara, Jackson Rathbone as Sokka, Dev Patel as Zuko, and Shaun Toub as Iroh.

Sequel[edit]

The Legend of Korra, a sequel series to Avatar: The Last Airbender, was announced at the Comic-Con in San Diego on July 22, 2010.[76][77] It is written and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, the creators and producers of the original series.[78] Initially titled Avatar: Legend of Korra, then The Last Airbender: Legend of Korra, it takes place seventy years after the end of Avatar: The Last Airbender.[79] The first season of 12 episodes aired from April to June 2012, and a second season of 14 episodes aired from September 2013 to November 2013, the third series is currently in production. Nickelodeon also awarded an additional 26 episodes to The Legend of Korra, re-announced by co-creator Konietzko at the 2012 Comic-Con in San Diego.

The series' protagonist is Korra, a 17-year-old girl from the Southern Water Tribe and the reincarnation of the Avatar after Aang's death. The character was partly inspired by Avatar Kyoshi of the original series, whom the creators say was very popular among fans. In order to avoid repetition of Aang's adventures during the original series, the creators wanted to root the show in one place: Republic City. A concept drawing of the city, released with the announcement of the series, shows the city's design as inspired by Shanghai, Hong Kong, Manhattan, and Vancouver with a steampunk vibe.[80] In the show's first season, Korra has to learn airbending from Tenzin, the youngest son of Aang and Katara, and contend with Amon's anti-bender revolution taking place in the city.[81] The show's second season also provides the origins of the Avatar Cycle.

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External links[edit]