The Case Against Avatar: The Last Airbender

June 18, 202010087 min

Over the last few weeks, it seems everyone has been reenergized by Avatar: The Last Airbender returning to Netflix. While I’d say it’s a good show and I enjoyed watching it as I was growing up, I can’t help but wonder why people consider this anime? Some may find it to be included within the anime category – a word that derives from the English word animation – and if we’re going strictly by anime being animation, then yes, it is. However, anime is hand-drawn and computer animation originating from Japan. So, if by definition alone, why do people consider American or North American animated series anime?

Understandably, artistic styles play a role in this mistake. Even though western animated series don’t have critical features like anime series, they’re still worldly different compared to western series. For instance, shows like Teen Titans, Samurai Jack, RWBY, and even Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi are North American series widely considered to be part of anime. What makes this problem worse is that the biggest anime retailer in North America, Right Stuf, contributes to the misleading. I do not despise Right Stuf by any means, I use them for any and all my anime and manga needs. The idea that they would add to the confusion is beyond me.

The series I mentioned above get thrown into the mix of anime, not only making it difficult to distinguish what is “true anime” and what is pseudo. Though, I have nothing against any entertainment series being inspired by other shows. If that wasn’t happening, we wouldn’t have shows like The Office, The Simpsons, American Idol, and countless others that we all grew up with. But when a series is made outside of Japan, then it should never really be called anime. The Last Airbender is a remarkable show, and I loved watching it growing up, but I wouldn’t call it anime, nor would it even cross my mind, but that’s just me.

With the way technology is being used, anyone can create remarkable animations in any style, and people can enjoy them for multiple reasons. Which is a beautiful thing to be able to do, but at the end of the day, we must look at the series no matter where they’ve come from and enjoy them. Every country has its fair share of great animations, whether it be Disney, Studio Ghibli, or even newcomer Light Chaser Animation Studios. We need to appreciate each countries creation for their own – and sometimes the terrible ones too – and not just lump them all into one category.

If we can do this, I feel like we can enjoy our animated favorites better and have more opportunities to grow. While I understand this may be a mundane concept or perhaps even asinine, but if we stop doing this, maybe then, we’ll be able to get into other movies through them. This has been the same problem humans have dealt with since the dawn of time, we see something like another and clump them together. Think back, people describe anime as cartoons for children. If it is strictly for children, why don’t children watch Blue Literature: No Longer Human? We must stop autopiloting the categorization of entertainment and other aspects of our lives. When we stop and take a step back, we will feel more relaxed and able to breathe.

Anime, or animation, is an entertainment juggernaut and will never see the sun setting – at least in my lifetime. Anime related topics alone are searched on google between 10 million and 100 million times a month. If people want to watch shows that others deem as pseudo-anime, then please go ahead, there is nothing wrong with enjoying what one likes, and I’ll never argue with that. Though, the real underlining problem is we need to understand and tag it as pseudo-anime instead of just merely anime. 

Cody Senpai

Cody Senpai is the creator of BakaNow, an anime review website that specializes in spoiler-free reviews for everyone. He is an avid anime watcher who has traveled to Japan numerous times to not only experience the culture and history but also to build friendships with people through a common interest. He is an avid animation fanatic from birth and even went on to major in communication to help share the importance of the stories we love to watch and listen to. Cody lives in Denver, Colorado and loves to do anything adventurous.

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