I finished watching Avatar: The Last Airbender the other day.
For the first time ever.
Before you start bashing me for missing out on one of the greatest animated series of all time (for good reason), let me explain myself.
I grew up in a middle lower class, pretty conservative household. We only had network TV, so I didn't watch many TV shows growing up, and the only exposure I had to popular cartoons of the '90s was catching random episodes at a friend's house. We did, however, rent many movies, so I wasn't left completely in the dark as far as '90s pop culture goes. But going into high school and college, I noticed there were several blind spots in my entertainment resume, and I started to rectify those as much as I could. Going back to "fill the gaps" was an interesting experience; sometimes, those short but potent nostalgic moments came to me from my childhood when I was able to catch an episode here and there. And sometimes, it was like watching something completely new, a fresh experience, though it was sometimes dated and easy to tell the show was from a different time.
Many of my friends in college (including some of the Infinity Bros) were caught off guard by the fact I had basically zero knowledge of anything surrounding Avatar: The Last Airbender. I've never been much of an Anime fan, so up until that point, I had all but actively avoided anything that resembled ATLA. That combined with my little experience of any childhood TV shows at all meant that I was completely unaware of the impact this series had on kids growing up. I reluctantly put it on the mental list in the back of my mind. I remember specifically the conversation I had with Mike from What the Fun Podcast Network about how he believed it was the best animated series of all time. I decided then that I had to check it out to know why people love this show so much.
Just a few episodes in, it was clear that I was sleeping on something great. There was a clear vision for the direction of the show, and the incredible blend of emotional moments with child-like humor just made it a delight to watch. This would have been a perfect show to watch in your childhood; the simple dialogue was effective. I laughed with Sokka, empathized with Katara, cheered on Toph, and rooted for Zuko's redemption -- and all that doesn't even include the main protagonist. The characters were so well developed, the lore and world-building was fantastic, and it might have had one of the best finales I have ever watched in an animated series. I even shed a few tears with a few very emotional moments between Iroh and Zuko. There were so many life experiences learned together between the characters through the show, and so many of them were comparable to life lessons we've all been through. It was an experience I'll never forget.
I could be none the wiser if I had decided to just keep this one on my list, or write it off completely. All it took was that little push to start the series. So here's your push - go do that thing. Go watch that show. Go talk to that person. You could be missing out on something amazing. Sure, your life doesn't seem 'that bad' right now, but in the immortal words of Maxwell Lord: "It could be better." So often in life, we take the safe road. We stay comfortable. But we can't grow without stretching ourselves. Just like many of the characters in Avatar: The Last Airbender, we sometimes need to look outside of our comfort zone to find what we're looking for. At one point during the series, Aang burns Katara while trying to learn firebending. He swears that he will never firebend again, because he is afraid that he will hurt his friends. Through learning to trust Zuko, who was once his enemy, he learns to trust himself to master firebending and fulfill his destiny as the Avatar. If he weren't willing to overcome his fear and face it, to stretch himself and do something outside his comfort zone; he might have put his whole world at risk. While our stakes aren't typically quite as high as Aang's, the point remains: if we don't take action, nothing will change the course we are on.
So, I guess you could say I kinda liked Avatar: The Last Airbender. It's worth the watch, if you haven't seen it.
Isaac Edlund surely is no expert on children's cartoons, but he sure enjoys them. He gives Avatar: The Last Airbender a 6/6. You can check out more of his reviews on the Daily Snap.