Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 1: Water

The Season of Exposition

Kenneth Apana-Korley, Staff Editor

About two months ago, my siblings and I decided that we were going to rewatch shows from our childhood. Except, instead of binging the shows, we determined to watch an episode of each show every night until we finished the shows, with our main goal being to finish Avatar: The Last Airbender. Having made a watching schedule for our “accelerated childhood,” as we called it, we started our journey. After finally finishing the first season, I wanted to share my honest thoughts in this review.

Please keep in mind that this review is full of my first thoughts after returning to the series. My thoughts and opinions about the different characters and the series as a whole might change throughout these four articles, so take everything with a grain of salt.


A Brief Summary:

If you haven’t seen Avatar: The Last Airbender, you should definitely watch the show, no question about it. Seriously, watch the show. Either way, whether you haven’t seen the show and want a little bit of background before deciding if four seasons are worth your time, or if you’ve seen the show before and just need a bit of a refresher, I’ve got you covered.

As the opening of the series states, “Long ago, the Four Nations lived together in harmony, then everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked.” The series takes place during a long-standing war between the Four Nations– the Water Tribe, the Earth Kingdom, The Fire Nation, and the Air Nomads. Each of the nations reflects the element that many of the citizens can control, or “bend”. In this universe, there is one person known as the Avatar. They can learn to control all four elements and whose job is to unite the Four Nations and bring harmony and balance to the universe. The story is about a young Airbender named Aang, who was revealed to be the Avatar. Out of fear for his new responsibilities and feeling like he wasn’t ready to fill the shoes of the Avatar and stop the war, Aang ran from his home at the monastery and accidentally froze himself in ice for 100 years. One hundred years later, upon seeing how much worse the world became without him to stop the Fire Nation, Aang has just one summer to learn and master the other three elements and defeat the Fire Lord, or else the world will fall into utter chaos, destruction, and despair under the leadership of Fire Lord Ozai.


Marquet A. Johnson

Character Names to Remember:

Aang – The Avatar. Has the body and the mind of a 12-year-old boy. Incredibly childish, impatient, and proud. Has a crush on Katara.

Katara – A Waterbender from the Southern Water Tribe. A 14-year-old girl. Impatient, big heart, but at times very stubborn. She and her older brother, Sokka, discovered Aang while he was still frozen in a block of ice. Driven by her ideals and the loss of her mother.

Sokka – A boy from the Southern Water Tribe. Quite thick-skulled at times, constantly trying to lead the team in the right direction. A 15-year-old male, who has a knack for tactics and martial arts, and might as well be considered the leader of the trio.

Zuko – The banished prince of the Fire Nation, whose sole purpose is to capture the Avatar and have his honor restored. 16-year-old Firebender and martial artist. Constantly broods and has outbursts. He is accompanied by his Uncle Iroh on his journies.


My Least Favorite Characters:

I’ve never hated Katara more in my life than after starting season one of the series. At this point, Aang just wants to live his life and train in peace, but Katara is dragging him into conflicts that he’s not ready to solve! The Fire Nation would have been so much less prepared if Katara didn’t asininely shout about how Aang would fix everyone’s minuscule problems every chance she got. Another thing: Sokka actually tried to give good advice a lot of the time! Katara actively chose not to listen to anything Sokka said, which is constantly putting them at a strategic disadvantage during the entirety of the series.

While I’m on the topic of people who don’t listen, Aang is also horrendous during the entirety of season one! He is stubborn, brash, has no understanding of strategy– really, he only cares about having fun.

Of course, he is a likable character because he’s young, but he at times jeopardizes the mission at hand because of his childishness.

“The Deserter,” which was the episode where Aang tried Firebending, was one of the most aggravating episodes for me to watch, because Aang both didn’t understand the value and importance of patience, nor did he understand the meaning of keeping a low profile. I know that he has to develop during the rest of the series but that doesn’t mean he is not irritating.


My Favorite Characters:

In my opinion, Zuko is one of the best characters in the show. I mean, yes, he’s trying to capture Aang and bring him back to the Fire Nation, but if you were the disgraced and exiled prince with only one task for redemption, wouldn’t you do the same thing? The man is fighting for his honor, so I just can’t hate him. Plus, he does have a genuine for his soldiers and about the Fire Nation’s safety.

Of course, it doesn’t always seem that way, but if your father burned your face with fire after you stood up for some soldiers, I think you’d also start acting a bit rash in your search for redemption.

I also wanted to commend Sokka for surviving the first season unscathed. Sokka actually is a great tactician and a great leader, and it’s interesting watching him give so many smart suggestions that the rest of the team refuses to follow. When I watched the “Bato of the Water Tribe,” I was impressed by Sokka’s ability to stay calm under pressure and still lead everyone to safety. One thing I find fascinating is the fact that Sokka learns combat and tactics from all four nations and can use them to his advantage, making him one of the most versatile characters in the entirety of the series, especially for a non-bending character.


My Favorite Episode:

“The Great Divide” was probably one of the best episodes in the first season, no matter how aggravating some of the scenes were.

What set this episode apart for me was the different animation styles within the stories told by the Zhangs, the Gan Jins, and even by Aang himself

It was one of the most entertaining episodes for me, next to “The King of Omashu” (because nobody can compete with Bumi).

Just watching it and seeing how people of two drastically different cultures were brought together and learned to settle their differences, albeit through the lies of the Avatar, was just a nice way to end my evening.


Final Thoughts:

In my book, the first season is 7.5 out of 10. Season one is worth completing for sure. It’s not the best season, but it helps you to have a better understanding of where the characters came from and where they’ll be going by the end of the series.

If you did need any more of a reason to watch the series, think about the amount of diversity and the culture just embedded into the series. As I was researching the article, I discovered that each of the Four Nations is based on some very interesting cultures. The Water Tribes are based on Inuit culture, the Earth Kingdom is based on Chinese culture, the Fire Nation is based on Japanese culture, and the Air Nomads are based on Tibetian culture.

As we as a society move towards a more progressive world that values diversity and intersectionality, it’s apparent that the series has aged quite well, and was extremely progressive for its time. The Avatar himself is supposed to be the one that brings harmony to the land, and although Aang can act quite childish, he does understand the importance of culture, as he learns and follows the customs of each of the Four Nations, becoming a well-rounded individual by the end of the series.

Overall, the first season of Avatar was satisfying and cathartic. All of the anger and irritation I had harbored through the first 19 episodes of the series were pretty much quelled once I reached the last episode. Of course, I still hate Katara and Aang for being childish and not thinking about the safety of the world, but I know from watching the series 10 years prior that they will grow into fine characters. I can’t wait to see all the characters grow and develop and seeing the team grow over the next three seasons. I’m really looking forward to the introduction of Toph and rewatching “Tales of Ba Sing Se.”

Next up, Book Two: Earth