With ATLA finally being added to Netflix in the US, there has been a renewed interest in this wonderful show. Today, I was recommended a video on YouTube of Iroh singing ‘Leaves from the Vine’ that really brought me back. It reminded me about just how much I love this series, and I just feel like rambling on about it, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do. This isn’t going to be an in depth analysis or anything, I just want to proclaim my love for this amazing series.
The concept of Avatar is so freaking cool. For the record, I’ve watched ATLA in its entirety 4 times and every single time I watch it I can never get over how damn awesome bending is. It’s such a simple concept, being able to control the traditional elements, but it’s so unbelievably well thought out as a magic system. I have spent countless hours arguing with my sister about which type of bender we would be, which always ends unproductively as we reach a point where we’re both like “WELL I WOULD BE THE AVATAR ANYWAY”.
Adding to this, the lore of the avatar universe is so incredibly interesting. From the very concept of an ‘avatar’ to the clothing the characters wear, the influence from Asian cultures bleeds through the show and is one of my favourite things about the series. IMO, this is the main reason why ATLA will always be inherently better than LOK, because it just has the feel of an ancient Asian legend that has been passed down by generations. That charm is just special. No western show even comes close in terms of doing its Asian influence justice.
LET’S TALK ABOUT THE CHARACTERS because ATLA has some of the best written characters in all of television. The amazing thing about this show is the sheer amount of different ways in which characters are great. Katara is awesome for growing and learning, Toph is awesome for never changing. Aang is impressive for being a powerful bender, Sokka is impressive for being a non-bender. Iroh is amazing for being grounded, Azula is amazing for being psychotic. Team Avatar are great for their variety of jokes, Cabbage guy is great for “MY CABBAGES!”. Need I go on?
Well, yes, I do need to go on because I have yet to talk about the best character in the show: ZUKO. He has the greatest redemption arc OF ALL TIME, and yes you can quote me on that. From an angry, hurt and confused boy to the wonderful self-confident young man that he grew to become, Zuko’s story arc is what exceptional storytelling looks like. His road to redemption doesn’t happen magically, it’s hard fought. Going on that journey with him makes you want to be a better person; to believe in the good within people.
Speaking of exceptional, ever heard ATLA’s soundtrack? MASTERPIECE. The fact that it hasn’t been recognised as such on an official platform is beyond bullshit. Gorgeous music track after track. I’m honestly awestruck to this day about how good this soundtrack is. And the animation? Fights from the entire series are animated and choreographed really well but I still have to mention the final Agni Kai. This show aired in 2005. 2005. How.
I’ve said so much, because ATLA is one of those shows that I feel blessed to have experienced, and I really don’t say that lightly. Every so often you watch something that really just never leaves you, and ATLA stands out even among those types of shows.
All images are used for commentary purposes.