Avatar: The Last Airbender

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TL;DR a setting for AZN kung-fu and high magic without being the over-the-top Exalted and not the highbrow Legend of the Five Rings.

Let's say you want something that is fantasy, set in a large complex world that in no way rips off JRR Tolkien, is presented in visual form and is just well made all around. Well, Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko had come to your aid with Avatar: The Last Airbender and its new followup The Legend of Korra. It is in no way related to James Cameron's similarly titled work (thank god).

Setting[edit]

You have a world modeled primarily off Asia (in particular dynastic China), plus some people can magically manipulate simple matter using martial arts moves called "bending." Benders can manipulate one and only one of the Earth, Air, Fire or Water elements. The exception to this rule is one person called the "Avatar" who can master all four types of bending, and universally regarded as a spiritual leader (think: the Dalai Lama). There is only ever one Avatar in each generation, who is the reincarnation of the previous Avatar and can remember (converse with the ghosts of) previous Avatars.

The continent of the Avatar universe, only slightly inspired by China - The Republic City from the second series is situated on the western coast of the Earth Kingdom.

The world has one language and four nations:

  • The Water Tribes: Hunter-gatherer Inuit-like people who live in the North and South polar regions. The South Pole tribe consists of stereotypical Inuit, whereas the ones living at the North Pole got bored of making simple igloos and carved their entire city out of ice. Then they added canals to troll the physicists. Korra was born in the South. There is also a water tribe scattered in equatorial swamps that manipulate the swamp vines by bending the water saturating the vines. Analogous to Indonesia, or a snowy Philippines?
  • The Earth Kingdom: A large loose continental power ruled out of the massive fortified city of Ba Sing Se. Wealthy and prosperous, they are masters of resource harvesting with bending as a safe and efficient means of mining metals and rare earths, and reduced labour required for farming. Culturally diverse, but largely modeled on China and Korea. While it appears nice on the outside, the Capital, Ba Sing Se, ultimately reveals itself as the most 1984-esque by a fair margin, having a secret organisation that polices the inhabitants and re-indoctrinates them to not cause trouble. Some Tolkien-esque undertones there. Then again, the first series is mostly about Buddhism, balance and peace, so it makes sense.
    • The sequel splits the Earth continent into three big territories: The original Earth Kingdom, Republic City (a neutral territory independent from each nation while working with them all), and Zaofu (a city of metalbenders who made their own city after Toph began teaching Metalbending. One of her daughters runs the place).
  • The Fire Nation: A technologically advanced state based off of a volcanic island chain with Imperialistic Ambitions (so, Japan). By technologically advanced, we mean they have steampunk tanks, ironclad ships, a giant freaking drill and hot-air zeppelins (the original concept for the zeppelins was invented by an earth nation mechanic but the fire nation turned them up to 11), and by the time of the sequel, a nation-wide electric grid. Their culture encourages ambition and competition.
  • The Air Nomads: Monastic wanderer-gatherers who lived ascetic (if non-celibate) lives, like what normies think Tibetans live like. They have four temple-cities that the wanderers will cycle through, and monuments scattered throughout the territories of the other three nations. By the time of the first story, the Air Nomads were purged with holy fire by the Fire Nation in an attempt to prevent the reincarnation of the next Avatar. The Avatar was born to Air Nomads anyways and is the protagonist of the first story.
    • After the Harmonic Convergence and Korra saving the world, a strange anomaly happens where random people begin developing airbending powers. Of course, Tenzin (Aang's son) begins making a world tour to meet these airbenders and rebuild the Air Nomads.

There is a fifth faction, of the fae creatures collectively called "Spirits," who used to be common but have mostly left the physical world behind for their own Spirit World that is an alternate dimension. The spirits that remain in the physical world are dedicated to the places they reside, interacting very little with people but they have been known to pick-up on the ambient mood of communities around them (ie. a river spirit will be irritable if the river is polluted and neglected, a mountain spirit will be confrontational if the nation has been at war).

When the first story starts, the Fire Nation has been expanding aggressively into the Earth Nation for four generations, which hasn't been reacting beyond resisting in small city-states and issuing an "everything is fine they'll never win" message from the capital in what's obvious procrastination, hoping the Fire Nation will give up and decide the constant sieges are too expensive (spoiler: nope). The Fire Nation has already extinguished the Air Nomads, satisfied they have prevented the rebirth of the next Avatar prophesied to end their conquering. The Fire Nation naval aggression have made a virtual embargo on the Water Tribes, isolating north from south and both from the Earth Nation.

The only surviving Air Nomad after the pogrom is the current Avatar, who hid himself in cryosleep. Nobody was around to resuscitate him so he was out of the picture for a century or so. His education was interrupted and feels he needs to learn all four forms of bending as well as visit each of the isolated culture/nations before he can fulfill his purpose as a peacemaker.

The second story is sixty years after the first story, and the world's technology has advanced to the level of the 1900's -- ironclad ships are common, we can see industrial manufacturing in privately-owned companies instead of Fire Nation government military efforts, automobiles are uncommon but visible, and we see people listening to crystal radios. Most of the story takes place in "Republic City," which is for all intents and purposes New York City with Chinese architecture. Republic City is the world's equivalent of the United Nations; an independent city-state regarded as a symbol of the international peace. There is civil unrest, as the improved technology is closing the gap between benders and non-benders, causing resentment since benders have had a leg-up in social strata. This resulted in the insurgency of the "Equalist Movement" who want to overthrow the "let them eat cake" bender bourgeoisie.

The Avatar of this era is a young woman from the water tribes who is comfortable with the physical powers granted by her mastery of multiple elements but stunted in her training with spiritual matters and diplomacy, making her a poor mediator in the role that's expected of her, and easily manipulated by politicians. The Equalist insurgents are lead by a charismatic leader named "Amon," who claims to have a method for permanently disabling any person's bending ability; crippling the Avatar would be a huge symbolic victory for the Equalists, who see the Avatar as the pinnacle bender and biggest target for their resentments.

Characters[edit]

The Last Airbender[edit]

From top left and towards right, Toph, Prince Zuko, Sokka, Katara and Avatar Aang.
The Gaang
  • Aang: Protagonist de jour. Mostly optimistic (when he's not panicking) and the nimblest motherfucker you'll ever meet due to mastery of air bending. He destiny is to master the other three elements and save the world. Favorite mode of transport: flying bison. Known to go godmode when shit hits the fan.
  • Katara: Feminist motherly waterbending love interest. Occasionally kicks ass. WARNING: FRIENDSHIP SPEECHES AHEAD. The only one in the group with any resemblance of common sense other than Aang, and has a surprising amount of wisdom and knowledge for her age.
  • Sokka: Katara's bigger brother, a tech-minded guy in a world of magic Kung Fu and Spirits that get pissed off if you cut down too many trees in an area. The non bender of the group and has to think his way to victory. Man's man, ladies man, master swordsman, brilliant scientist (he co-invented the submarine in this setting with the earth nation mechanic who invented the zeppelin), leader of men, and a genius in the use of comedy in all its shapes and forms, from the one-liner to the pratfall. We all wish we were Sokka.
  • Toph Bei Fong: A blind twelve year old girl introduced in Season 2. Also a massive badass and the best Earthbender in existence.
  • Momo: Aang's companion. Hybrid of a bat and a lemur - This is normal in the Avatar universe. Is a cute little bugger.
  • Appa: Aforementioned flying bison. Hasn't got a lot of personality and functions as the group's main center of operations, supplied by a platform on its back. A large part of the second season is focused on getting him back from captivity.
Allies
Enemies
  • Zuko: Exiled firebender prince. Originally a whiny bitch attempting to hunt the avatar to end his exile, but undergoes <gasp> CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT </gasp> and transitions to antihero and then companion.
  • Azula: Zuko's crazy badass dominatrix sister. Also a magnificent bitch with mommy-issues. Hobbies: Shooting lightning, manipulating others to further her plans, being better than you and volleyball. Often accompanied by her only friends/lieutenants the knife-wielding goth, Mai, and the acrobatic valley girl, jailbait teenager fap bait Ty-Lee.
  • Ozai: Ruler of the Fire Nation, firebender of (near) "UNLIMITED POWAH!", crappy father (burned and exiled his preteen son for being 'rude'; rude here meaning protesting against using new recruits as cannon fodder, he also made Azula what she is), and above all evil motherfucker (not surprising considering he's played by Mark Hamill aka Joker). Willing to genocide entire races and nations in order to ensure his power, and his country's undisputed supremacy ( Sounds quite familiar). Joke's on him when Aang strips him of his powers and his previously banished son becomes the new monarch and throws him in the dungeons to rot.
Others
  • Iroh: Zuko's uncle. Basically what would happen if one of the dirtier-minded Buddhas could shoot lightning, breathe fire, and drink enough tea to cause a younger man's heart explode. A fun guy to be around, minus the team-killing. Voiced by the glorious, the late Mako Iwamatsu.

Legend of Korra[edit]

From top to bottom, Master Tenzin, Mako, Bolin, and Avatar Korra.
The Krew
  • Korra: The title character, and a brash, athletic tomboy who lacks spiritual aptitude (which means she punches people instead of meditating and talking things through like some kind of hippy... which isn't a good ideal when your chief enemy is claiming you oppress people who disagree with them). Gets her ass kicked a lot despite in skilled in three of the four elements due to her impulsiveness and not outright mastering any of them. Rule 34 has taken this penchant for failure and run a fucking marathon with it. Still qualifies as a borderline Mary Sue for the same reason as Rey: much of her supposed power and competence is handed to her on a plate with no personal growth involved.
  • Mako: Writers said he's "Zuko without the angst"; however they forgot Zuko had other traits and so is just some generic dude Korra wants to make out with, and kind of a creepy asshole. Also cheated on Asami. His primary characteristics are his strong sense of duty and a scarf. Team's Firebender, was taught how to lightningbend by a mobster. Becomes a cop in the second season, and then stopped after scandals involving eccentric rich dudes. Named after the late Japanese actor, Mako Iwamatsu, who among his many accomplishments voiced Iroh in The Last Airbender.
  • Bolin: Mako's younger brother. Unlike Mako, Bolin is an earthbender and has character traits. He's the team's "funny guy" (he's basically like Sokka, but without the wit or tactical sense...actually now that you say it, nothing like Sokka), being on the better side of the whole dudebro thing while avoiding asshole territory. Also happens to luck into being a movie star because of an eccentric rich man.
  • Asami Sato: Daughter of this world's inventor of the automobile and easily the most rounded and best member of Team Avatar The token normal. She does not have any flaws other than being too nice sometimes, which is not a flaw, and yet is somehow not a loathsome Mary Sue. Mostly because she isn't in the show much, isn't overpowered, and when she's kicking ass with an Equalist power fist it is pretty awesome. Revealed to be in lesbians with Korra at the end of the series (technically the directors said they're bisexual, but same difference) in a transparent attempt to redeem the series in the eyes of Tumblr, kicking off a category 5 skubstorm in the process (and making the existing Rule 34 of Korra and Asami closer to canon).


Allies
  • Tenzin: the sane, calm, rational Airbending master and adviser to Korra... most of the time. Starts off being a hard-ass until his own family insists that he ease off. Is very set on keeping the Airbending traditions alive and considers his duty to his people and his father important above all else to the point that he wants to be just like his father.
  • Lin Bei-Fong: Toph's even more hard-assed daughter who's chief of Republic City Police. Pretty much only uses metalbending and tries her damnedest to keep everything under control.
  • Suyin Bei-Fong: Lin's sister who built a city of metalbenders named Zaofu. Had to leave Republic City after her mother covered up her association with a gang of criminals and accidentally scaring her sister.


Enemies
  • Amon: Eliphas the Inheritor's bastard son and a hero of the common man and working class who strives to end the oppression of foul bending class and bring about true equality and a golden age of happiness, until later episodes reveal he's just batshit insane. Also, has the BEST voice in the entire series, being also blessed by Steve Blum.
  • Vaatu: The spirit of chaos of the Avatar world, who is embattled with an eternal conflict with Raava, the incarnation of peace. They're suppose to be analogies of Yin and Yang (the Chinese philosophy that opposing forces balance and compliment each other to create peace and equilibrium), but the writers kinda fucked it up and made it: "VAATU IS CHAOS SO BAD, RAAVA IS PEACE SO GUD".
  • Unalaq: Lorgar of the Avatar world. Starts off a malicious prick and then literally gets empowered by the Dark God to make a fucking Kaiju fight. Is also Korra's uncle. Also a very powerful Waterbender.
    • Eska and Desna: Unalaq's identical twin son and daughter. One of them becomes Bolin's stalker and tries marrying him. She's voiced by Aubrey Plaza.
  • Red Lotus: A secret society dedicated to the cause of anarchy.
    • Zaheer: The Normie Batman-lite leader of the group, the deeply spiritual Zaheer semi-spontaneously developed Airbending powers after Korra aligned the spirit world with the one that matters. Instead of being a Buddhist about it like Aang, he rips the air out of people's lungs and embraces the void like a boss. Learns how to fly after his girlfriend is tricked into making her own head explode. Voiced and faced by Henry Rollins.
  • Kuvira: The Lord Commander Militant of the Avatar setting. Student of Suyin and former member of the metal bender clan. Cleaned up the mess left behind by the Red Lotus after Suyin refused to step up and founded the Earth Empire, claiming that the concept of kings was outdated.
Others
  • Varrick: The Littlefinger of the Avatar universe. He at first appears to be very eccentric and friendly to Team Avatar, but it turns out he is manipulating entire wars in order to profit off of them. Still manages to be one of the most fun characters in Seasons 2 and 4, respectively. Probably has tons of crack stowed away on many of his boats, which he uses to fund movie production and insane inventions. Always flanked by his secretary/maid/assistant/bodyguard Zhu Li, who always does things.

Films[edit]

A movie was released in 2010 by M. Night Shyama-*CRUSH*

Ahem, Please ignore the vandal spreading lies above. there is none, as of yet. No movie was ever made that was universally panned by critics and fans alike, blatantly ignored/basterdized the fluff in ways unseen since C. S. Goto, and contained more racewashing than a fanfic collectively written by Tumblr. There are no plans of any movies like the one described in the future, nor was one ever made in the fist place.

Any mention of anything resembling a movie set in the Avatar Universe may result in an invitation from the Earth King to Lake Laogai to discuss such discoveries. Remember, there is no movie in the Avatar franchise and all media related to it are just the two TV shows, comics, and the occasional video games.

Also, please report sightings of a man by the name of M. Night Shyamalan to your nearest Earth Kingdom constable, as he is wanted for questioning. Do not attempt to apprehend this man by yourself has he is known to destroy anything he is able to grab into an unrecognizable mess.

Games[edit]

  • There's an Apocalypse World hack for Avatar like stories. (They dropped the sex movies, you perv.)
  • There's a Savage Worlds splatbook for Avatar; also some details on Savagepedia. (more links needed)
  • "Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple" for the vaguely Asian-setting protagonist gang tries to solve other people's problems & hilarity ensues, with a little magic but there are no hit points so there's no kung-fu roll playing here.
  • Jadepunk and Tianxia, both made for the same system as Do, run on the same 'Steam/Dieselpunk through an Eastern Lens' idea as Korra but play it put for actual drama.
  • The Way of the Four Elements monastic tradition from 5e is a very obvious homage to The Avatar.