Two years ago, in March 2015, I purchased and binge-watched the entire the Legend of Korra and so it only seemed fitting to watch Avatar: the Last Airbender. I started with the first season, Avatar: the Last Airbender: Book One: Water which was produced by Nickelodeon.
“Water. Earth. Fire. Air. My grandmother used to tell me stories about the old days, a time of peace when the Avatar kept balance between the Water Tribes, Earth Kingdom, Fire Nation, and Air Nomads. But that all changed when the Fire Nation attacked. Only the Avatar mastered all four elements. Only he could stop the ruthless fire benders. But when the world needed him most, he vanished. A hundred years have passed and the Fire Nation is nearing victory in the war. Two years ago, my father and the men of my tribe journeyed to the Earth Kingdom to help fight against the Fire Nation, leaving me and my brother to look after our tribe. Some people believe that the Avatar was never reborn into the Air Nomads and that the cycle is broken. But I haven’t lost hope. I still believe that somehow the Avatar will return to save the world.”
The first season of Avatar: the Last Airbender has twenty episodes, the Boy In the Iceberg, the Avatar Returns, the Southern Air Temple, the Warriors of Kyoshi, the King of Omashu, Imprisoned, the Spirit World (Winter Solstice, Part 1), Avatar Roku (Winter Solstice, Part 2), the Waterbending Scroll, Jet, the Great Divide, the Storm, the Blue Spirit, the Fortuneteller, Bato of the Water Tribe, the Deserter, the Northern Air Temple, the Waterbending Master, the Siege of the North Part 1, and the Siege of the North Part 2.
The first thing that I’ll say is that Aang is not Korra. I guess I’m one of the awkward people who watched the Legend of Korra before even touching Avatar: the Last Airbender so it’s very different for me watching Avatar: the Last Airbender. In a lot of ways, it’s interesting because I’m getting some of the history that was mentioned in passing from watching Korra. But it’s also very, very different because Aang is a very young, very immature boy and Korra, while young, is not nearly as immature as Aang. Aang does a lot of things that are beyond immature, but I guess that’s part of the charm and part of the character arcs. It allows Aang to learn and grow as a character.
There are a lot of really great characters, especially Katara and Sokka. It’s fantastic to see siblings as the heroes of a story. They disagree about all the things that siblings would disagree about, but they are also there for each other without fail. They also have completely different strengths. Katara is a symbol of hope in one of the biggest ways and Sokka is dedicated in a way that’s rare in any character.
Sokka has a very strong character arc, even in just the first season. In the fourth episode, the Avatar crew gets ambushed by the Kyoshi warriors, who just happen to all be women. Sokka feels like he is supposed to be some sort of macho man and that no women could possibly have defeated a great warrior like him and he challenges them, very disrespectfully. When they kick his butt again, he goes away in shame. But then, he realizes that being a great warrior isn’t dependent on gender. He apologizes in the most fantastic and humble way possible. He comes back into their practice area and admits that he was wrong in the rude way he treated them. He shows them the absolute maximum amount of respect and admits that he should have showed them that respect from the very beginning. He also requests, extremely politely, for them to train him. They agree to do so, but in return, he must abide by all of their warrior traditions, including attire and weapons, which he does. He respects their culture and their traditions and learns to be a warrior on their terms. This is absolutely one of the best examples of seeing and admitting your own weaknesses, admitting you have a lot of work to do, accepting other people who are different than you, and learning how to be a better person. Sokka doesn’t have any special abilities but he’s determined that hard work and dedication will demonstrate tangible results and he’s absolutely correct.
Katara is also a fantastic character for a variety of reasons. It’s interesting to me to see her always taking care of the camp. She gets the groceries and mends the clothes and is always considerate of others while the boys on the team lounge around and complain about how hungry they are. Katara also runs into a lot of sexism and she just goes with it, which is kind of frustrating. She isn’t allowed to learn how to water bend with Aang because she’s a woman and all the women of the Northern Water Tribe learn the healing arts and not how to be a warrior. Katara has to earn her right to learn to be a warrior, which Aang didn’t have to do because he’s the Avatar and he’s male. Katara also appears to be serving as the Avatar’s love interest, which is sometimes done in a cute kind of adolescent way and also kind of a creepy way. Since I’m not much of a fan of romantic subplots, I would rather that people could just travel together and save the world without romance being a thing. But I realize that my being asexual is different than everyone else who enjoys seeing romantic and sexual plots and subplots in absolutely everything.
Overall, I’d say this first season is a solid three on my rating scale. As unfair as it is, I really like the Legend of Korra a lot better and I’ve been judging this series and season against that. So it’s still a good series, but I really do like Korra better.