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Water, Earth, Fire, Air. These are the first lines of one of my favorite childhood series (I could recite the complete intro by heart). Although I was a child when Avatar: the Last Airbender premiered in 2005, I still remember its impact in my life. Even now, I can perfectly recall the excitement I felt with each new episode and how I absolutely loved every minute of this story. Recently, I decided to re-watch the show on Netflix and it reminded me why this childhood series continues to be so memorable. 

Created by Michael Dante DiMarino and Bryan Konietzko, the animated show perfectly conveyed its message through three seasons. It introduces Aang, the last airbender and the avatar destined to save the world. However, he is 12 years old, and must deal with the pressures of growing up too fast. This same struggle is shared with his friends Katara, Sokka, and the antagonist of the story, Zuko. All of these characters are in the center of a never-ending war, as they confront the consequences of such a terrible situation in their lives. When I saw this show, I was younger than the characters themselves, and I could still empathize with their feelings. Only when I grew older could I fully comprehend the heavy subjects presented on this show, like trauma, war, mind control, death, and much more.

The first season focuses on the Water tribe. We see the childlike innocence of the characters who are trying to navigate through their situation and hold on to their childhood. The second season centers on the Earth kingdom; as the action picks up pace and the pressure increases for our beloved main characters. The last season focuses on the Fire nation, and we see new perspectives that give the message of the show a new meaning. It is unfortunate that they did not create a season focused on the Air temple to complete all the elements. Instead, it concluded with an important reminder that violence is never the answer to complicated problemsーa perfect ending all in itself.

Both the creators and writers of this show deserve credit for doing their research when representing different cultures. Although the show doesn’t showcase any specific Eastern Asian culture, it references detailed elements that might not be taught on our side of the Globe. Its animation style and world-design borrows from Chinese art and history; including Hinduism, Taoism and Buddhism, just to mention a few. But these representations are all done in a respectful way. It is an approach to look at the East without using the harmful stereotypes of Asian culture created and perpetuated by Hollywood.  

I always go back to this story to use as inspiration because of its clever writing, wonderful storytelling, notable music, and outstanding character development. I recommend everyone to explore this phenomenal series, because this is a show whose plot twists one should experience firsthand.  

Kayla M Altagracia Jimenez is a book lover who enjoys writing stories, painting, bullet journaling, listening to music, watching shows and movies. An English Literature student at the UPR Rio Piedras Campus, she loves wandering on new adventures. She dreams of becoming a renowned writer and making a meaningful difference in the world. Admires writers like R. L. Stine, Toni Morrison, and John Green.
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