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Avatar: The Last Airbender (also known in Europe as Avatar: The Legend of Aang) is an American animated television series that aired for three seasons on Nickelodeon from 2005 to 2008. The series follows the adventures of protagonist Aang, a spiritual defender of Earth known as “The Avatar”, and his friends, who must save the world from the evil Fire Lord by ending his war against the neighbor nations. To do this, Aang must master all four forms of bending, a special martial art in the universe that allows the user to control the elements of Earth, Fire, Water, and Air.
The Legend of Korra is the sequel to The Last Airbender, and premiered on Nickelodeon in 2012, running for four seasons and ending in 2014. Because of the franchise’s past success and fame, the show was quickly picked up and became a popular subject on many sites, including Tumblr in many of its blogs. Unlike the previous series, The Legend of Korra lacks a single over-arching villain, with each season containing a semi-independent story arch. Part way through its third season, Nickelodeon pulled the series from television, airing the remaining episodes exclusively online.
Production and Reception
The Avatar franchise was co-created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, two animation directors, in Burbank, California, and was animated by JM Animation, DR Movie, and Moi Animation, all studios from South Korea.
Avatar: The Last Airbender uses a mixture of cultural influences to create its universe, all from Asian culture and history. The show uses traditional Chinese for any writing in-universe, and draws from Chinese and Japanese mythology for its plot. The series also draws heavily from anime. In an interview on Nickelodeon’s website, the creators said that they employ numerous consultants on the show – including ones for cultural representation, martial arts, and calligraphy.
The show has received positive reviews from both audience members and critics. It has won 5 Annie awards and 1 Emmy, and is currently the 15th highest rated show of all time on IMDB.
- Aang, played by Zach Tyler Eisen, is the protagonist of the series. Raised by nomads, he fled his home after discovering he was the Avatar and was frozen in an iceberg for a hundred years after being caught in a storm. After being revived, he goes on a journey to stop the Fire Nation from taking over the world.
- Katara, played by Mae Whitman, a member of the southern water tribe, is the mentor/friend to Aang during the series. She begins as a novice water bender but eventually masters her bending by the end of the series.
- Sokka, played by Jack DeSena, is another member of the southern water tribe. Though he was a nonbender, he was a tactician and warrior just like his father who led the warriors of the tribe. He is also the group’s comic relief.
- Toph Beifong, played by Jessie Flower, is the daughter of the Beifong family, a wealthy group in the Earth Kingdom. Though blind, she can earthbend to see the vibrations in the ground, thereby making her a formidable opponent. She is also the first person to bend metal.
- Prince Zuko, played by Dante Basco, is the final member to join the group. At the start of the series he is the rival to the avatar and tries to capture him to regain the honor lost from his father after speaking out in a war meeting and later banished.
The Legend of Korra
- Korra, The new avatar, born in the south pole, was capable of learning 3 of the elements very quitly ( the exception being air). Unlike her predacessor, Korra is more eager to fight, and is much more rash than Aang. She is also older than Aang was in the original series, and struggles more with the spiritual side of being the avatar.
- Mako, Named after the voice actor of Iroh from the original series, Mako is a firebender who lives with his earthbending brother after they lost their parents. Mako’s Scarf belong to his father and because of that we chooses to always where it. He and his brother created the Fire Ferrets, a pro bending team, and are friends with Korra.
- Bolin, Bolin is an earthbender from a multicultural family. He grew up on the streets of Republic City under the protection of his older brother, Mako, after their parents were murdered by a firebender.
- Asami Sato, The heir to the Sato automobile industry, Asami first encounters members of the new avatar team when she accidentally hits Mako with her moped. She then dates him for a brief while before breaking up. She is an expert driver and fighter, using equalist weapons such as the shock gauntlet.
- Lin Beifong, The Daughter of Toph from the original series, and the head of the police of Republc City, Lin is an expert earth bender and a highly capable metal bender. She once had a relationship with Korra’s airbending master Tenzin.
- Varrick, New Fan favorite character of season 2, is a wealthy philanthropist and engineering genius. He is also highly eccentric, and is the source of comic relief.
The Avatar series has produced two sets of canonical comics. The first are short stories published in Nickelodeon Magazine and the Nickelodeon Comics Club. These were at one point available online through the Nickelodeon website, but were taken down in 2010 when Nickelodeon Magazine ended its run. The other set are a series of graphic novels published by Dark Horse Comics which chart the events that took place immediately after the end of The Last Airbender, and are functionally a prequel series to The Legend of Korra. These comics serve to fill in empty plot points left by the original series (like the ultimate fate of Zuko’s mother), and to show the changes that the end of the war brings to the world (such as the events that lead to the founding of Republic City). A complete list of all the comics, along with plot synopses, are available on the Avatar wiki.
On 2010, a live-action film based on the first season of “The Last Airbender” was released. The movie, directed by M. Night Shyamalan, received an extremely poor reception, scoring only a 6% positive on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie also received a novelization. The film also failed to earn back its $150 million budget, managing to make only about $131 million at the box office. Though sequels were planned, no specific release dates have yet been announced. In an interview with the show creators, Shyamalan described what attracted him to what he expected to be a trilogy of films about two hours each. He also said that, in the face of the large number of material contained in each season, he would aim for a “selective adaptation” similar to what happened with the X-Men films.
The film was also the subject of a online controversy called Racebending in response to its cast. Though the main characters in the cartoon all come nations based on an amalgam of Asian and Inuit cultures, all three of the protagonists (Aang, Katara, and Sokka) were cast with white actors, with only the villain (Zuko) cast with a person of color. The controversy created a massive backlash that included satirical fan art, tee-shirts, and a fan-fiction contest.
The website DeviantArt has 130,161 submisions under the tag “avatar the last airbender”, and 54,539 submisions under the tag “the legend of korra”. Avatar fans are also well represented on Tumblr and Reddit.
Creepy Katara is the name a photoshop exploitable, featuring an image of Katara in a rather somber and very blank stare. It’s used in similar fashion to Weegee. The image is a screenshot from the episode “The Day of Black Sun, Part 1: The Invasion.”
Cactus Juice comes from a scene in the tenth episode of season two, in which Sokka hallucinates after drinking juice from a cactus while travelling through the desert. Uses of the meme are often jokes based around Sokka’s incoherent speech and LSD-like hallucinations.
Comedian Amon is a series of vertical comics that feature Amon, the antagonist of The Legend of Korra’s first season, acting like a stand-up comedian. Usually the jokes involve Amon making some kind of pun or cultural reference with the last panel of the comic being him pausing for applause that, presumably, shall never come.
Crying Bolin / Kissing Korra
Crying Bolin and Kissing Korra are a pair of related memes that derive from a scene in episode 5 of The Legend of Korra’s first season, in which Bolin runs away crying after seeing Korra kiss his brother Mako.
Inappropriate Timing Spongebob Banner
Inappropriate Timing Spongebob Banner is an exploitable image series based on a Nickelodeon bumper banner featuring the cartoon character Spongebob Squarepants laughing with the caption “Up Next.” The popup banner is typically juxtaposed with emotional scenes from various films and television shows to mock poorly timed cross-promo ads displayed in the lower thirds during broadcast. The banner was first shown in a scene from the sixth episode of The Legend of Korra’s first season. During the broadcast, as Korra was falling down from a tall height, a banner ad of a laughing Spongebob Squarepants popped up at the bottom of the screen. The following day, an animated GIF of the scene was posted on the Korravangelist Tumblr blog with the description “Wow spongebob you’re a fucking asshole. Korra could have died.” Within three weeks, the post received over 16,200 notes.
Then Everything Changed When The Fire Nation Attacked
Then Everything Changed When The Fire Nation Attacked is a catchphrase from Avatar:The Last Airbender’s opening narration. It is often used as a caption in the final panel of multi-panel comics as a humerus all-purpose ending. As a catchphrase, it is often added on to the end of sentences in a similar fashion to the quote I took an arrow in the knee.
Cabbage Man is a background character from Avatar: The Last Airbender. In the series, it is a running gag that a chase scene will involve the main characters running over the cart of cabbages that he was trying to sell, at which point he will shout “my cabages!” in despair. In the legend of Korra, one major company that works on new technology is called Cabbage Corp, and was founded by the merchant. The line is often used in image macros.