Avatar The Last Airbender finally receives the title of anime in 2024: Here’s how

Avatar the last airbender, anime vs Live action

For years, fans of the globally renowned animated series Avatar The Last Airbender have debated its rightful place in the animation world. While some vehemently argued for its classification as anime, others questioned its legitimacy due to its American origin story.

However, in a landmark move, 2024 finally saw “Avatar: The Last Airbender” officially recognized as an anime, and credit goes to Western media like Netflix for popularizing anime globally.

The Netflix Effect and the Anime Label

Aang in Avatar the last airbender Live-action
Aang in Avatar the Last Airbender Live-action (Image via Netflix)

The rise of streaming services like Netflix has played a significant role in expanding the global reach of anime and animation with over 93 billion hours of streams of anime. Netflix offers a diverse selection of shows, including both classic and contemporary anime, alongside non-Japanese productions that share similar styles and storytelling like Castlevania and Devilman Crybaby. 

The recent live-action adaptation of Avatar the last airbender on Netflix, along with the upcoming animated series, has reignited the debate about the show’s classification. The live-action being produced by Netflix has stayed faithful to the original show and has shown fluid action scenes, resembling Japanese anime.

  • Accordingly, whether the Avatar should be considered an anime or not depends upon the fans’ perception.
  • Many fans have now considered Avatar the Last Airbender anime, appreciating its shared elements with the genre, even though it wasn’t produced in Japan.

This fan recognition favors the argument that the definition of anime is evolving and becoming more inclusive.

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The rise of non-Japanese animation with anime-like aesthetics

Mizu staring menacingly in Blue Samurai
A still from Blue Eye Samurai anime (Image via Netflix)

Traditionally, anime has referred to animation produced in Japan. However, the rise of streaming platforms like Netflix has led to a significant increase in non-Japanese animation being labeled as anime.

  • Shows like Blue Eye Samurai and Arcane are just a few examples of Western productions heavily influenced by anime aesthetics and storytelling techniques, which allows them to easily commercialize on a pre-existing fan base.
  • These shows, while not technically Japanese, are enjoyed for their adherence to the core aspects that define anime, such as big eyes, mythical powers, and shonen protagonists. 

Avatar the last airbender anime’s Journey: From Nickelodeon to anime

Aang, Sokka, Katara, Momo. and Appa from Avatar the Last Airbender
A still from Avatar the Last Airbender anime (Image via Nickelodeon)

Avatar the Last Airbender, originally produced by Nickelodeon Animation Studio in the United States, has always occupied a unique space.

  • It aired from 2005 to 2008 and was loved for its engaging story, well-developed characters, and incorporation of martial arts and Asian cultural influences.
  • While its animation style differed from traditional anime, the show had a lot of similarities with Japanese anime, such as the elemental powers system, unique attack abilities, and plot featuring a lot of resemblance with the Tibetan culture. 

Though these thematic similarities can also be attributed to the creator’s wish to create a mythology based on Eastern culture. Mike & Bryan, the mastermind behind Avatar the last airbender anime has acknowledged it as an Asian Cartoon (despite them being non-Asians) based on the teachings of Buddhism and Chinese culture. 

Conclusion

The definition of anime is no longer limited solely to its Japanese origin. As animation has evolved into a global product, having a more inclusive definition allows us to appreciate the diverse range of animation including Western stories and creativity. In the case of Avatar The Last Airbender, the show’s cultural influences, animation style, and power system, combined with its presence on a platform such as Netflix, which is known for its anime library, solidify its claim to be considered anime in 2024 and beyond.

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