Avatar: How to Master Storytelling

Written by Jarrett Crepeau

Avatar: The Last Airbender / Nickelodeon

It’s been 10 years since the conclusion of the critically acclaimed series, Avatar: The Last Airbender. Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino, created this show back in 2005, taking influence and inspiration from East and South Asian culture, as well as combining anime with western cartoon styles. It quickly rose to fame among children and adults alike, critics praising it for its characters, world-building, themes, and art direction. It received multiple awards over its four year run, including a Primetime Emmy Award.

Without spoiling anything, I want to discuss how DiMartino and Konietzko and all the other writers mastered the art of storytelling. Avatar’s four distinct factions, the Water Tribe, Earth Kingdom, Fire Nation, and Air Nomads are all introduced to us within the first few episodes. We not only get to see these lands, but also their culture, customs, and motivations. Avatar Aang’s job is to master the four elements and be the world’s peacekeeper but he can’t do that if he doesn’t learn these key factors about each nation along with the viewer.

Avatar’s blend of eastern and western animation style, imagery, and themes served as a gateway for many kids like me to the world of anime, which is something that wasn’t completely mainstream as it is now over here in the west. And without Avatar anime probably would not have gained that spotlight as quickly as it could. The show also served as an example that animation was more than just a genre for kids, but a tool for telling a great story, one on the same level of respect and admiration as Lord of The Rings and Harry Potter.

The characters in the world of Avatar had well rounded characters that seem to grow with every episode, Prince Zuko in particular. The series posed moral questions that kids and adults could appreciate and learn from, and overall creates something special that can be appreciated 10 years later, and hopefully 10 years in the future. While its sequel, The Legend of Korra, was not as well received as the original, it still servers as a much needed expansion of a universe fans want to see as much as they can of. The creators are also continuing to work on graphic novels that also tell the story of what happened between the two shows and what happened after. If your looking for a place to start with the series, it was recently announced that the complete series of Avatar: The Last Airbender will be released in 1080p on Blu-ray May 8th.

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