Avatar: The Last Airbender

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Avatar: The Last Airbender

Avatar: The Last Airbender logo
Genre Animation, Adventure, Fantasy
Running time 23 minutes approx.
Creator(s) Michael Dante DiMartino
Bryan Konietzko
Starring Zach Tyler Eisen
Mae Whitman
Jack DeSena
Jessie Flower
Dante Basco
Dee Bradley Baker
Grey DeLisle
Crawford Wilson
Olivia Hack
Cricket Leigh
Clancy Brown
Mark Hamill
Jason Isaacs
Country of origin Flag of United States United States
Original channel Nickelodeon
Original run February 21, 2005–Present
No. of episodes 38 aired of 60 in production
Official website
IMDb profile
TV.com summary

Avatar: The Last Airbender (also known as Avatar: The Legend of Aang in several countries) is an American animated television series airing on Nickelodeon. Set in an Asian-influenced world of martial arts and elemental magic, the series follows the adventures of Aang, the successor to a long line of Avatars, and his friends Katara, Sokka and later Toph, and their two animal companions Appa and Momo in their quest to save the world from the merciless Fire Nation, while avoiding capture from pursuers including Prince Zuko, Princess Azula and other hunters from the Fire Nation.

Originally slated to start November 2004, Avatar: The Last Airbender debuted on TV February 21, 2005 and is available on DVD or for download on the iTunes Store, and XBOX Marketplace. Produced at Nickelodeon Animation Studios in Burbank, California, and animated in South Korea (where many animated television series are animated), it was co-created and executive produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. In the United States, new episodes air Friday nights at 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on the Nickelodeon cable network. New seasons of Avatar begin in the spring and episodes are rerun in the summer; new episodes return in the autumn and the season ends in early winter.

A consistently high ratings performer in the Nicktoons lineup, even outside of its intended six-to-eleven-year-old demographic, Avatar: The Last Airbender is popular with both audiences and critics. The series' success prompted Nickelodeon to order a second twenty-episode season, which began airing on March 17, 2006, and a third season has been announced to begin airing in 2007. Notable merchandise based on the series include five DVD sets of episodes, six-inch scale action figures, a video game, and two Lego sets.

Nickelodeon airs Avatar: The Last Airbender every weekday at 6:30 PM Eastern Standard Time on Nickelodeon, and new episodes air on Fridays at 8:00 PM EST.



Avatar: The Last Airbender is set in a fantasy world on a planet that is home to humans, fantastic animals, and supernatural spirits. Human civilization is divided into three pre-industrialized nations: the Water Tribes, the Earth Kingdom, and the Air Nomads. The fourth nation, the Fire Nation, is, in contrast, an industrialized nation that is capable of manufacturing various kinds of machines. Within each nation, there is an order of men and women, each called "Benders," who have an ability to manipulate their native element. The bending arts combine martial arts and elemental mysticism. They are Waterbending, Earthbending, Firebending, and Airbending.

In each generation, one Bender is capable of bending all four elements; this is the Avatar, the Spirit of the Planet manifested in human form. When the Avatar dies, he or she reincarnates into an unborn baby native to the next nation in the Avatar Cycle. Beginning with the mastery of his native element, the Avatar learns to bend all four elements in the order of the cycle, which parallels the seasons: winter for water, spring for earth, summer for fire, and autumn for air. Learning to bend the element opposite of one's native element is extremely difficult because of opposing fighting styles and doctrines.

The Avatar possesses a unique power that resides within him, called the Avatar State. It is a defense mechanism that empowers the Avatar with the skills and knowledge of all the past Avatars. When the Avatar enters this state, his eyes and mouth begin to glow. The glow is the combination of all the Avatar's previous incarnations focusing their energy through his body. However, if the Avatar is killed in the Avatar State, then the reincarnation cycle will be broken and the Avatar will cease to exist.

Throughout the ages, countless incarnations of the Avatar have served to keep the four nations in harmony and maintain world order. The Avatar also serves as the bridge between the physical world and the Spirit World, home of the world's disembodied spirits.

Plot Synopsis

A century prior to the series' opening, Aang, a 12-year-old Airbender of the Air Nomads' Southern Air Temple, learned from the monks that he was the Avatar. Usually, the Avatar is told of his or her true identity after turning sixteen. However, the monks feared that a war between the four nations was on the horizon, and that the Avatar would soon be needed to help maintain balance and restore order. Shortly thereafter, it was decided that Aang would be separated from his guardian, Monk Gyatso, and sent to the Eastern Air Temple to finish his training.

Confused, frightened, and overwhelmed by recent events and his new responsibilities as the Avatar, Aang fled from his home on his Flying Bison, Appa. While flying over frigid southern ocean waters, a sudden storm caused Appa to plunge deep into the sea. In the Avatar State, Aang used Airbending to protect Appa and himself by creating an air bubble around them. However, the air bubble quickly froze into a sphere of ice, forcing them both into a state of suspended animation.

When the series opens one hundred years later, the Fire Nation is on the brink of victory in its imperialist war. The Water Tribes are in crisis — the Southern Water Tribe's warriors have gone off to war, leaving their home defenseless, and the Northern Water Tribe, though largely intact, is continually on the defensive. The vast Earth Kingdom is now the only true barrier to the Fire Nation's domination, but as the Fire Nation continues to encroach on its borders and conquer its territories, hopes of victory grow bleaker with each passing year.

Two teenage siblings from the Southern Water Tribe — Katara, a Waterbender, and her brother Sokka — discover and free Aang and Appa from the iceberg. Aang soon discovers to his horror that during his absence, a war had started. The very year he vanished, Fire Lord Sozin took advantage of both the Avatar's absence and the Firebending-enhancing powers of a powerful comet to launch a war on the three other nations. To Aang's shock and disbelief, the Fire Nation's opening gambit had been a genocidal assault on the Air Nomads. The Air Temples were stormed and the Airbenders slaughtered in an effort to break the Avatar Cycle, leaving him as the last known Airbender in existence.

As the Avatar, it is Aang's duty to restore harmony and peace to the four nations. Along with his newly discovered friends Katara and Sokka, his Flying Bison Appa and his Winged Lemur Momo, and later the blind Earthbender Toph, Aang travels the world to master all four elements, while evading capture by Prince Zuko and Princess Azula.

Although it takes years of discipline and training to master any one element, Aang must master them all and defeat Fire Lord Ozai by summer's end, when the return of Sozin's Comet will give the Firebenders enough power to win the war. If these events come to pass, not even the Avatar will be able to restore balance to the world.



Main characters

One of the Avatar series' strong points is character development and depth. All the main characters are portrayed as "marvelously flawed human beings" and the series especially shined in terms of characterization in its initial season with its main antagonists. To date, the only two major characters that can be considered "flat" are Azula, who is portrayed as entirely evil, and the Fire Lord, who is seen only briefly on screen, usually in flashbacks.

Aang ( Mitchel Musso in the pilot, Zach Tyler Eisen onwards) - The fun-loving, 12-year-old (plus 100 years spent in suspended animation) titular character of the series and the current incarnation of the Avatar, the spirit of the planet manifested in human form. As the Avatar, Aang must master all four elements to bring peace to the world. This burden was dropped on his shoulders early in life and eventually led to his being frozen in suspended animation for one hundred years until awakened by Katara and Sokka.

He loves to travel the world and is always eager to learn new things and to take detours to take in the sights. Deep down, Aang is truly saddened by the loss of his people and concerned about his new-found duty. But this is replaced by his deep love for Katara and his friendship with Toph and Sokka. At times, he is somewhat naïve of the world and other's true feelings, too preoccupied with the events occurring around him to notice what is really going on.

Katara ( Mae Whitman) - The 14-year-old, sole remaining Waterbender of the Southern Water Tribe who, along with her brother Sokka, discovered Aang. She and Sokka accompany him on his quest to defeat the Fire Lord and bring peace to the war-torn nations. She is a very gifted Waterbender who, by season two, achieves her dream by becoming a master Waterbender. Her next task is to train Aang to become a Waterbending master himself.

Katara is mature, loving, and responsible. Always looking out for the well-being of others, she is a leader when the situation calls for her to lead. However, she can be overbearing and always thinks her way is the right way, never relenting on her views, even when they are disproved. Despite Katara's kind nature, she has a temper which when combined with her impressive Waterbending skills and idealistic views can be quite destructive. After the passing of their mother at the hands of the Fire Nation, Katara took on a motherly role over her older brother Sokka, and later, Aang. Katara is an idealist, trying to right wrongs and help those that have lost hope. But her kind and controlling nature makes her rather blind to others true feelings and what they really want, rather than what she wants.

Sokka ( Jack DeSena) - A 15-year-old warrior of the Southern Water Tribe who, with his sister Katara, accompanies Aang on his quest to defeat the Fire Lord. Unlike his three companions, Sokka cannot bend. He constantly struggles to deal with his lack of mystical power in a world ruled by benders. However, the series frequently grants him opportunities to demonstrate his true gift: inventiveness.

Sokka describes himself as "meat-loving" and "sarcastic." He takes great pride in his mental and physical strength, though it is often overshadowed by others' ability to bend. He is extremely clever, relying on science where the mystical and martial arts elude him, though his silly and immature manner often causes others to underestimate his intelligence and makes him the comic relief of the group. Sokka is very flirtatious and has gained the interest/affection of three female characters in the series - Yue, Suki, and Ty Lee. At the start of the series he was a male chauvinist, but after witnessing the strength of women like Suki and his own sister, his prejudice has slowly waned.

Toph ( Jessie Flower) - A 12-year-old, blind Earthbender who leaves her wealthy lifestyle and home to join Aang on his quest in season two. Her parents are incredibly overprotective, leading her to rebel and fight in underground tournaments. Her popularity as "The Blind Bandit" attracts a hopeful Aang, then looking for an Earthbender to teach him. Though blind, Toph possesses a unique ability to sense vibrations in the ground, essentially allowing her to "see" her surroundings.

Toph has largely lived alone all her life, which makes her somewhat selfish, sarcastic, and at times, arrogant. She is also a loner who isn't afraid to speak her mind and be bluntly truthful. She does not take pleasure in being mean, but rather, she has been sheltered from the world her entire life, never having a friend until she joined the group. Thus, her social skills are lacking. Unable to communicate well with others, she initially appeared mean and selfish to Katara. However, her travels with Aang, Katara, and Sokka have gradually taught her the meaning of teamwork and friendship.

Toph's attitude towards her blindness shifts between humorous and indirectly bitter. Although she is not angry or sad because of her lack of sight, she is very proud of herself. Many times, she questions the kind actions of others towards her as being due to the perception that it makes her weak (as is the attitude adopted by her family). On the other hand, she frequently jokes about her blindness when her companions forget about it in heated situations (ex.: Sokka complains about not being able to see anything in a dark tunnel, and Toph sarcastically replies, "Oh no, what a nightmare.").

Zuko ( Dante Basco) - The exiled 16-year-old prince of the Fire Nation is obsessed with capturing the Avatar in his quest to restore his honour and to redeem himself in the eyes of his father, Fire Lord Ozai. After being branded a traitor at the beginning of season two, he begins to change from a spoiled prince to an outcast who begins to pity and bond with the same people his nation terrorized. He is an incredible warrior, especially in disguise as the Blue Spirit. Zuko, while not as skilled a Firebender as his sister, has other, more powerful skills, specifically in the superior use of twin broadswords and hand-to-hand combat.

Zuko is hard, militant, and was more than a little obsessive in his quest to capture Aang in the first season. He often acts coldly, but has revealed himself to also be a very caring character as well - a trait which usually is exhibited best in the presence of his Uncle Iroh, who is truly more a father to him than Ozai. However, his quest to capture the Avatar seems to have lost its importance since Azula, his sister, started to seek to hunt and capture him and his uncle. The longer he remains a fugitive of the Fire Nation, the more his overall attitude and demeanor continues to change as well. Zuko has begun to put others before himself in survival situations and as such his more compassionate side begins to show. Zuko's appearance is well-known with his scar on his face marked by his own father, recieved during an imprompt duel that also led to his exile two years prior, and a bald head with a single ponytail. However, in season two, he and his uncle cut off their traditional topknot/ponytails, which has led to Zuko to grow his hair out.

Azula ( Grey DeLisle) - The 14-year-old princess of the Fire Nation, Zuko's younger sister, Iroh's niece, and Fire Lord Ozai's favorite child. Azula has been especially cruel all her life. Her mind is set on war and power; she manipulates and even tortures others, including her brother. At the end of season one, Ozai sent Azula on a mission to imprison Zuko and Iroh, and she later became interested in capturing the Avatar.

Azula is a prodigy, which combined with her sadistic personality makes her an extremely gifted and dangerous Firebender, capable of using hotter blue flames and even lightning abilities possessed only by a select few Firebenders. Azula is uncaring and possibly sociopathic, willing to manipulate others, to the extent that she will put their lives in danger to get what she wants, and almost never gets her own hands dirty in the process. She sees others as expendable, and intimidates her lackeys, older men that quake with fear when she is displeased. At times, Azula acts kind and caring, but only to further her own interests. Otherwise, she is an inflexible and domineering personality, allowing no one to question her aside from the Fire Lord and two crones who oversee her martial arts training. She pushes herself harder than even her men, accepting nothing less than perfection in her training and missions.

Iroh ( Mako) - A retired Fire Nation general and Prince Zuko's uncle, who is also branded a traitor in season two. Iroh is the older brother of Fire Lord Ozai, and was the original heir to the throne of the Fire Nation. Iroh is an immensely powerful Firebender of the highest order who accompanies his nephew in his quest to capture the Avatar. He looks upon Zuko as a son more than as a nephew, especially after the loss of his only son, Lu Ten (Lu Ten died tragically during a raid on the Earth Kingdom city Ba Sing Se many years before the story begins). He is as pained by his nephew's past as Zuko is, and hates that his nephew must suffer as he does. On the surface Iroh is a cheerful and kind old man whose hobbies include drinking tea, playing Pai Sho, and singing.

Much older and experienced than any of the other main characters, Iroh chooses to take a less active role in the affairs, acting as more of a tutor and guide to Zuko and sometimes even the other characters (Toph in " The Chase"). Especially in Season 2, Iroh is shown to take pleasure in helping others, prefers a more passive approach to problems, and at times displays great humility. It is revealed he has crossed into the spirit world at least once before, shows great sympathy and respect for the role of all elements in the world (his defense of the moon spirit against Admiral Zhao in " Siege of the North" caused him to be labeled a traitor), and has admitted to studying the disciplines of other nations (" Bitter Work"). All of this contrary to what one might expect from the would-have-been Fire Lord of an imperialistic Fire Nation.

He is shown to be extremely patient and resourceful: there are many times when Iroh's disposition gives the impression he is holding back when he could take a more active role. These situations often arise when acting as a tutor to the more impatient and inexperienced Zuko. In many cases Iroh chooses not to intervene when it is clear he is uncomfortable with the decisions his nephew makes (he is upset about Zuko's theivery in " The Swamp" but remains silent; he keeps his distance by tracking Zuko after they separate in " The Chase").

Beneath his kindly appearance is a cunning and resourceful master of Firebending who can rival the Fire Nation's best. Though usually friendly, in times of danger Iroh can become incredibly angry and truly dangerous, scaring even the cocky Admiral Zhao into submission. On several occasions Iroh comes to the aid of Zuko only when it is absolutely necessary to ensure his nephew's safety (stopping Zhao's attack after the duel in " The Southern Air Temple", intercepting Azula's attack in " The Avatar State", the duel where he is injured by Azula in " The Chase").

Mako, the voice actor who portrayed Iroh, died on July 21, 2006. The final scene of dialogue he had recorded (for the episode The Tales of Ba Sing Se) was dedicated to him. While guest starring at the Pacific Media Expo on October 28, 2006 the creators confirmed that another voice actor has indeed been selected. Although no names were mentioned as for who it is, they stated that the new voice actor had studied underneath Mako on Broadway during a show they did together, and had succeeded Mako in that role when Mako left the show. When the new voice actor had come in for a reading, they thought that he had studied the part ahead of time (they used an already aired part of Iroh's dialogue), but he had done the reading cold. Whoever he may be, the creators feel that Iroh's new voice actor really captures Iroh and Mako's spirit and acting .

Major secondary characters

  • Appa ( Dee Bradley Baker) - Aang's flying bison who serves as the group's main form of transportation as they travel around the world. He was stuck in suspended animation with Aang for 100 years and shares a very strong bond with him. He possesses the ability to fly and can use his tail to create powerful gusts of air.
  • Jet ( Crawford Wilson) - A charasmatic teen who holds a deep grudge against the Fire Nation. He was the leader of the Freedom Fighters, who spent their days antagonizing Fire Nation soldiers. Later, he decided to start a new life in Ba Sing Se. After trying to prove that Zuko and Iroh are from the Fire Nation, he was arrested and brainwashed by the Dai Li. While helping Aang and his friends find Appa, he was injured or possibly killed by Long Feng. Jet uses Twin Tiger-Head Hook Swords as his weapon.
  • Long Feng ( Clancy Brown) - The intelligent and cunning Grand Secretarian of Ba Sing Se, head of the the Dai Li, and advisor to the Earth King. In reality, the Earth King is merely a figurehead of Ba Sing Se's government, so it is actually Long Feng who holds real power. He and the Dai Li use hypnotism to silence talk of war and thus keep Ba Sing Se a peaceful, ordered utopia. Later, his conspiracy was revealed and he was put in jail, however, the Dai Li remain loyal to him.
  • Mai ( Cricket Leigh) - An impassive, bored, nearly emotionless young woman who, along with Ty Lee, accompanies Princess Azula on her quest to capture Zuko, Iroh, and the Avatar. Mai specializes in throwing weapons, which she conceals in many parts of her clothing.
  • Momo ( Dee Bradley Baker) - A intelligent and curious winged lemur who travels around the world with the group as their pet.
  • Fire Lord Ozai ( Mark Hamill) - The ruthless ruler of the Fire Nation, father of Zuko and Azula, and younger brother of Iroh. He is leading his country in a century-long war against the other three nations to create an empire and is waiting for the arrival of Sozin's Comet so that the Fire Nation can utilize its firebending-enhancing powers to win the war.
  • Avatar Roku ( James Garrett) - The Avatar before Aang, who was born to the Fire Nation. Throughout the series, Avatar Roku appears as a spirit to help Aang fulfill his duties as the Avatar.
  • Suki ( Jennie Kwan) - The leader of the young female warriors of Kyoshi Island, she is a tough fighter and staunch ally of Aang, Katara, and Sokka. Suki has a close relationship with Sokka.
  • Ty Lee ( Olivia Hack) - A cheerful and energetic young woman who, along with Mai, accompanies Princess Azula on her quest to capture Zuko, Iroh, and the Avatar. Ty Lee is a skilled acrobat who strikes pressure points to disable her opponents.
  • Admiral Zhao ( Jason Isaacs) - A hot-tempered Fire Nation admiral in pursuit of the Avatar and Zuko's principal rival throughout Book One. Zhao presumably died in the final chapter of Book One.

Minor secondary characters

Creatures and animals

Guest stars



The term " Avatar" comes from the Sanskrit word Avatāra, which means "descent." In Hindu mythology, gods often manifest themselves into Avatars to restore balance on earth after a period of great evil. The Chinese characters appearing above the word "Avatar" in the show's opening mean "the divine medium who has descended upon the mortal world."


When Aang was a child, he unknowingly revealed that he was the Avatar when he chose four toys out of thousands. These four toys were the same ones that past Avatars had chosen for generations when they were children, revealing that Aang was the reincarnation of the Avatar. This same test is used by Tibetan Buddhist monks when a reincarnated Dalai Lama is expected. Visions of the monks reveal who the Dalai Lama is, and this test finalizes that he is, indeed, the reincarnation.

The successor is expected to show signs of continuity with the previous Avatar, such as being born within a week of the death.


Avatar draws on four of the five classical Indian elements of Hindu and Buddhist traditions for the four bending arts: Fire ( agni or tejas), Water ( ap or jala), Earth ( prithvi or bhumi), and Wind or Air ( vayu or pavan). The fifth, aether ( akasha or akash) is symbolized by Aang because as the Avatar, he is the intermediary between the physical world and the Spirit World. The four elements can also be found in Western traditions from at least the 5th century BC. Some names in the series, such as "Agni Kai" and King Bumi the Earthbender, borrow directly from these elements. The four elements, Fire, Air, Water, and Earth represents the four states of matter: plasma, gas, liquid, and solid.


Classical Chinese calligraphy, a very old form of written Chinese once used in formal communication and literature, is used for nearly all the writing that appear in Avatar. For each instance of calligraphy, an appropriate style is used, ranging from the archaic to the clerical. The show employs calligrapher Siu-Leung Lee as a consultant and translator.

Fighting styles

The fighting choreography of Avatar draws from martial arts, and the fighting styles and weaponry are based on Chinese martial arts, with each bending art corresponding to a certain real-world style or styles. The creators use Tai Chi for Waterbending, Hung Gar for Earthbending (although Toph employs Southern Praying Mantis Kung Fu), Northern Shaolin for Firebending, and Ba Gua for Airbending. The show employs Sifu Kisu of the Harmonious Fist Chinese Athletic Association as a martial arts consultant.

Each fighting style was chosen to represent the element it projected:

  • Tai Chi creates flowing, fluid movements to represent water.
  • Hung Gar was chosen for its firmly rooted stances to represent solid earth.
  • Northern Shaolin uses fast and swift strikes to mimic the power of fire.
  • Ba Gua's soft, circular movements were chosen to represent air/wind.

The ability to bend appears to come from both genetics and spirituality. This is hinted in the series when twin brothers in the episode " The Fortuneteller" announced that only one of them is an Earthbender. However, all Air Nomads are benders due to their spirituality.

Anime style

While Avatar is not considered as anime due to being primarily American in style and writing, one review has commented that "Avatar blurs the line between anime and (US) domestic cartoons until it becomes irrelevant."

Avatar and Hayao Miyazaki

Avatar creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino confirmed a particular anime influence in a magazine interview:

"The best anime balances great action sequences with humor and emotion, something we try to do on Avatar. We love all the films of Hayao Miyazaki, especially Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke. Both movies deal with spirituality and the environment in an entertaining way. Also, there's a lot of great animation."

The episode, " The Spirit World" and the two-part first season finale " Siege of the North" are good examples of this influence, as the former prominently features a corrupted forest spirit attacking a human settlement as a direct result of the destruction of its forest home, while the latter involves the main protagonists trying to prevent the murder of a nature spirit by an ambitious mortal, all of which are also featured in Princess Mononoke.

Similarly, the character Wan Shi Tong from " The Library" bears a strong visual similarity to No Face from Spirited Away, while the form Aang took in the finale after becoming one with the Ocean Spirit bears an even stronger resemblance to Shishigami's "Didarabocchi" ("the Nightwalker") form in Princess Mononoke. Also, according to an interview with the artists involved in creating Avatar, Appa's design was based on the Catbus in My Neighbour Totoro, due to the peculiar task of creating a mammal with six legs.

Nominations and awards

Avatar won two Pulcinella Awards in 2005 for "Best Action/Adventure Series" and "Best Series of the Year." It received 2006 Annie Award nominations for "Best Animated Television Production" and "Best Writing in an Animated Television Production" ( The Fortuneteller), and won "Best Storyboarding in an Animated Television Production" ( The Deserter).

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