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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

OPINION: ‘Avatar’ is a children’s show for all ages

Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon

I believe the best kinds of media draw a balance between adults and kids. The Nickelodeon show “Avatar: The Last Airbender” takes the structure and grabs the children’s attention with its visual craft and gags while ultimately delivering a mature storyline for adults.

The story tells about a hundred-years war waging between the Fire Nation (the element benders who can bend fire to their will) against the rest of the world (the element-bending countries of the Water Tribes, the Earth Kingdom and the Air Monks). Only the Avatar, who is the master of water, earth, fire, and air could stop them. His name is Aang, a twelve-year old Air Monk who became the Avatar at the time of Sozin’s Hundred-Year War. Unable to take the pressure thrown at him, Aang runs away, gets caught in a storm at sea, and freezes himself in ice using his unperturbed subconscious water-bending abilities. A hundred years pass, and brother and sister of the Northern Water Tribe, Sokka and Katara, find him and befriend him, and ultimately help him achieve his destiny:to defeat the Fire Nation and master all four elements to do so. 

The artistic choices in this show make it stand out. From the background to all the up-close details, all elements perfectly complement each other to make the show visually appealing to all ages. The backgrounds are beautiful paintings which could be sold as museum pieces. The characters in the foreground take on an American-anime style. I find this style to be the best mix of adult animation and children’s animation. “Avatar”  takes on a rich, mature and beautiful atmosphere for both adults and children to gawk at. The characters take on a solid and impressionable stance without being too goofily-expressed like in most anime as well. 

There are so many characters who have a distinguished presence and impact on the series. With about every main character, there is another which is their polar opposite. Aang’s polar opposite is Zuko, the banished Fire Nation prince whose original objective was to capture Aang and deliver him to the Fire Lord. Zuko would reclaim his royalty and become heir to the throne again. Zuko takes this task seriously and it turns him into an angry and self-hating character. Aang is always happy and smiling; being a monk, he is almost at peace within himself and the world. Aang does feel guilt from running away instead of stepping up to the role of the Avatar. In this, he feels he could’ve stopped the past century of war between the four elemental peoples. His feelings of failure line up with Zuko, who feels similar feelings since he believes he has to capture the Avatar. 

Within its brilliant characterization, “Avatar” once again appeals to both younger and older crowds. It’s the happy-go-lucky traits which Aang and Katara possess and Sokka’s wild, hilarious  antics which kids will find side-splitting. It’s Toph’s cynicism and all the emotional beatdowns Zuko has been given which the adults will personally relate to.

Sokka and Toph are two different kinds of jokesters who are able to pull laughs from different age groups. However, Aang is a goofball who tends to get himself into antics, and Katara has had her share of catching the short end of the stick. 

During some funny scenes, the animators will fall like a tumbling tower into the show’s anime roots, and make the character’s face as inspired by Japanese animation as possible to receive the appropriate laugh from its audience. 

I cannot say how many times I have laughed and felt my heart wrench for this show marketed towards elementary schoolers. 

The writing and the comedy in this show is also in equilibrium. Even being a kids show, adult-like humor at times makes it digestible and enjoyable for all ages.  

Simply put, this show isn’t for children only. This is one of the greatest shows of all time — for anyone, any age. 

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About the Contributor
Tyler Guthrie
Tyler Guthrie, Columnist
Tyler Guthrie is a second-year columnist with The Sunflower. He is a creative writing major with a Spanish minor from El Dorado, Kansas. Guthrie uses he/him pronouns.

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