Before I begin I just want to say that it has completely broken my heart that I haven’t been able to post as often as I used to. It brings me great distress to know that I have been dropping the ball so epically lately. This school year has been rough and honestly my brain is so fried that the last thing I want to do at the end of the day is spend more brain power reading. Instead I have spent my free time delving into a few old hobbies that I had set aside some time ago. These include knitting, crochet, and calligraphy. These all keep my hands busy while giving my academic mind a bit of a rest so I can unwind. While partaking in these hobbies I also like to play some kind of tv show in the background to create some background noise while I work. My most recent background noise has been Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender.
I absolutely adored this show when I was younger and it has periodically reentered my life throughout the years. The basic premise if that there is a world where humanity has been divided into four nations; The Fire Nation, The Earth Kingdom, The Water Tribes and The Air Nomads. within each of these nations there are individuals who can control the corresponding element their nation is known for. These individuals are called benders and there is one bender who can control all four elements called the Avatar. The Avatar is one individual who is reincarnated into each nation and is meant to maintain balance between the nations. The show surrounds a war between the nations that began when The Fire Nation wiped out the Air Nomads in an attempt to destroy the Avatar and take over the world. Aang is the twelve year old Avatar who has been trapped in an ice berg for 100 years and wakes up to find that he is the only remaining Airbender and that the world is at war.
This show is a thing of beauty that builds layers of complexity on top of a facade of innocence. Each bending style is based on a different form of martial arts and there are distinct differences in the cultures of each nation that make the show visually stunning and captivating to watch. I love seeing the benders at work because my grandmother got me into tai chi when I was young and I can see distinct similarities between my tai chi lessons and the water bending styles. Also my grandmother gave me a chinese long sword, which is what Sokka uses, and a set of double broad swords, which Zuko uses. AHHHHHH Love it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I loved this show as a child because all of the heroes are children and it is just plain fun. however, as I have grown up I can definitely see farther beneath the surface and all I can say is that the creators are damn genius’. The characterization alone makes the show worth watching. The protagonist, Aang, is a twelve year old monk who is forced to face extremely mature issues. Aang is forced to reconcile the fact that victory over The Fire Nation will come at great cost. He discovers that mastering his role as the Avatar will cost him people he loves, and that defeating evil might force him to take a life.
Aang’s companions include a water bender Katara and her non-bending brother Sokka who also face an opportunity for revenge against the man who killed their mother. The Earthbender, Toph, is a blind eleven year old who becomes the most powerful earthbender in the world and invents metalbending.
These characters also face the disgraced Fire Nation Prince, Zukko, who’s face was burnt by his own father for speaking out of turn. ukko is a particularly interesting character, because through him the show examines whether some human beings are inherently evil or whether they are capable of extreme change.
The show also displays the importance of balance between the different elements and balance within humans. The whole purpose of the Avatar is to maintain balance within the world but he must also maintain balance within himself. As an Air Nomad, Aang was raised by monks who taught him to detach himself from earthly desires in order to maintain spiritual enlightenment. This upbringing is completely at odds with his role as the Avatar which forces him to insert himself into the issues of the world around him, and prevents him form reaching enlightenment. Zukko is also an example of the issue of inner balance. Zukko was raised in to believe that The Fire Nation is more advanced and the war is meant to spread its greatness, when the reality is the opposite. Zukko is at war with The Avatar and with himself throughout the show.
All in all, this show is amazing. It is unique among children’s tv in that it is remarkably mature beneath the surface. It is captivating for children and for adults. So you should check it out if you haven’t. Cause it’s great.