July 6, 2015

Water. Earth. Fire. Air.

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Earlier this year, I finally watched the entirety of Avatar: The Last Airbender from start to finish. I honestly can't tell you why I didn't do it sooner, as I was blown away by the story-telling, the world-building, the characters, the feels. I laughed, screamed and cried my way through every single episode, falling head over heels in love with Aang, Katara, Sokka, Zuko, Toph and the people they encountered along the way. When I finished, I was weeping and laughing and wanting to start the adventure with these guys all over again. 

Many people, within this book blogging community and outside of it, have already praised this series. There's a gigantic fan base out there, which works because I have more fan goodies and fan art to gush over since I was late to the game. However, I wanted to share the top three reasons I think everyone should watch Avatar: The Last Airbender.

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1. Lore-building
I'm so impressed by how the writers built up this world. On the surface, everything is simply divided by the four elements. But they really dug deep in creating each nation's culture, showcasing through tiny details (clothing, speech, food) how each one is very different from the others. Each element's bending movements is also inspired by martial arts of different kinds, which you'll notice if you pay close attention. Viewers can tell that a lot of attention went into making an actual history and culture for each of the element nations, and I really admired the cleverness and detail with which it was done.

2. Feels
As already mentioned, I laughed and I cried and I raged. There were so many moments and lines that got to me completely, sucker punching me right in the gut with the emotion that they were meant to convey or elicit. I often had to pause an episode, tearing up from laughing too hard or sobbing from the sorrow. I felt everything so deeply, which was partly because of the storytelling and dialogue, and partly because of the next item on my list.

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3. Characters
When it comes right down to it, I would not have loved this show as much were it not for the characters. Aang, an airbender who has to face the reality of his life as a teen boy who also happens to be the Avatar. Katara, a waterbender who finds it needful to venture from her home to find a way to learn her skills. Sokka, Katara's brother, who acts as the leader of the gang, in spite of having no bending skills of his own. Zuko, the disgraced son of the Firelord who wants nothing more than to regain his honor. Toph, an earthbender who is treated like a princess but who wants to use her abilities. These five are the main characters that I fell for, and that will remain burning bright in my memory. But there are so many more secondary characters, good and evil, who populate this tale! It never felt contrived to encounter them, and each one felt fleshed out in a good way. The fact that the writers were able to create such incredible main characters, complex in their choices, emotions and mistakes, and add to that a roster of incredible secondary characters? It's the primary reason that I would recommend this show to any viewer, young or old.

I hope this convinces you to give Avatar: The Last Airbender a shot! As it is, I'm suffering through major withdrawal because of how much I loved it, and I'm sorely tempted to watch it all over again. Thankfully though, Macky alerted me to the fact that there are actually graphic novels that tell a little bit more of the story - and he helped me borrow all the volumes so far from the library. I'm sharing brief thoughts on the three I've read already below. (Please note that there may be slight spoilers for those of you that haven't seen the show!)

The Promise book cover
The Promise by Gene Luen Yang
(part of Avatar: The Last Airbender; written with Michael Dante DiMartino & Bryan Konietzko; illustrated by Gurihiru)
Publisher: Dark Horse
Publication Date: February 26, 2013
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library || Paperback (rec from Macky!)

I was delighted to be reunited with Aang and the gang in The Promise, yet another chapter of their story. They might have managed to save the world, but that doesn't mean the trials they face are over. As the entire world readjusts to the new unity between the different nations, there's just enough resentment, bitterness and entitlement to make things difficult. It was interesting to see such a realistic portrayal of what it might have been like, and the way things play out had the exact feel of an episode from the show. The stakes are high - a kingdom, a village, a home - and there are misunderstandings galore. But even while the main arc takes center stage, each of our favorites gets a bit of page time too. I just loved immersing myself in The Promise, especially because it gave me the same memorable experience as the show.

The Search book cover
The Search by Gene Luen Yang
(part of Avatar: The Last Airbender; written with Michael Dante DiMartino & Bryan Konietzkoillustrated by Gurihiru)
Publisher: Dark Horse
Publication Date: February 5, 2014
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library || Paperback (rec from Macky!)

If I thought the feels were up in The Promise, I was dead wrong because the feels nearly overwhelmed me when I read The Search. This story focuses on the search for Zuko's mother, which is something I was curious about while I watched the show. While there's still a lot of humor and sass, there was something heartfelt and heartbreaking about watching this story unfold. I was not expecting it to have happened this way at all, and it's a testament to the storytelling that I broke down in tears somewhere in the middle of this search. So far, of the graphic novel companion stories I've read, this one is my favorite for story and execution. (And yes, okay, also because I adore Zuko, and I just want him to have all of the good things.)

The Rift book cover
The Rift by Gene Luen Yang
(part of Avatar: The Last Airbender; written with Michael Dante DiMartino & Bryan Konietzkoillustrated by Gurihiru)
Publisher: Dark Horse
Publication: February 11, 2015
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library || Hardcover (rec from Macky!)

I honestly had no idea what was going to be happening in The Rift, but going into it blind probably enhanced my reading experience. The novel explores the rift between the spirit and human world, as well as exploring the concepts of clinging to the past, looking to the future and staying in the present. It's a fascinating tale that revolves heavily around Aang and around Toph, each one dealing with a different internal struggle. As always, the graphic novel had the same pace and storytelling style as the show, working all the elements - characters, setting, story - so dang well. I was completely swept up in uncovering the next part of the story, loved the nods to Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, and adored just hanging out with the Gaang again. Plus, reading this in its hardcover compilation format allowed me to be privy to notes from the artist and author - their thoughts were fascinating. Again, I'd highly recommend this one to people suffering from series withdrawal. It'll satiate your desire, at least for a while, since you get to spend more time with Aang, Katara, Sokka and Toph. (Sadly, no Zuko in this one. Boo.)


  1. I'm currently watching the first season of Avatar! My boyfriend loves it and I've already made him watch a ton of my shows so finally devoting time to one of his!

  2. I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I love Avatar and Legend of Korra! I only recently discovered the graphic novels, and have only made it through the first two thus far, but I'm looking forward to getting my hands on "The Rift"

  3. I have seen a few episodes when it was airing here on telivision when I was younger. I remember I really enjoyed the episodes that I saw, but for some reason I couldn't follow the whole series, I think it was the time it aired or maybe I was too busy with school to watch every episode. I have been meaning to watch the series once, but haven't done so far. I especially like how the world building and characters sound so vivid and well done. I am definitely am planning to watch this series eventually.

  4. I am going through the same thing! I just finished the series and all of the graphic novels that are out right now (after borrowing them from the library as well), and am in the process of watching Legend of Korra (have you seen the spin-off yet?). I cannot get the story out of my head either, and keep comparing aspects of books to it (i.e. Red Queen, Stitching Snow, etc). I am trying to get my mom to watch them so I can rewatch them again :) Glad to hear another person understands my Avatar withdrawals.

  5. I started Legend of Korra, and finished Book One! Now I just need to get my butt back in gear and finish the rest of the seasons/books. It's such an incredible story, isn't it?

  6. Yay! I'm glad you plan on watching the series in its entirety. It's really, really good, and I hope you love the story and characters as much as I did.

  7. Yaaaaay. I hope you love it, Kristin! It's such a great show, and I really enjoyed it.

  8. Yessss. Read the graphic novels - they're fantastic! I need to finish Legend of Korra.

  9. It really is! I am on Book Four of Korra; it's okay, but it lacks something that Avatar had. Still good, but not the same. I am really looking forward to the new graph novels that are coming out for both series, though.

  10. I think the lore is a big pull for me, too. It felt so natural and true, and I loved those details! And yes, the feels! Especially in Season 3, ahhhh!! As for characters, Zuko is forever my favorite! *swoon*


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