It takes place in a Constructed World divided into nations based around the elements of water, earth, fire, and air. Some people from each nation, called "benders", have the ability to control the element on which their nation is based.
One person, the Avatar, has the ability to bend all four elements, and is reincarnated into each of the nations upon his or her death in an endless cycle. The main character of each work is this Avatar, and he or she must undergo the trials, tribulations and responsibility of holding that power.
Works in the original canon
- The Lost Scrolls
- The Earth Kingdom Chronicles
- Sozin's Comet: The Final Battlenote
- Ready-to-Read Seriesnote
- Avatar: The Last Airbender Legacy
- The Rise of Kyoshi
- The Shadow of Kyoshi
- The Legend of Korra: Revolutionnote
- The Legend of Korra: Endgamenote
- The Legend of Korra: An Avatar's Chronicle
- Avatar: The Last Airbender The Lost Adventuresnote
- Avatar: The Last Airbender The Promise
- Avatar: The Last Airbender Rebound
- Avatar: The Last Airbender The Search
- Avatar: The Last Airbender Shells
- Avatar: The Last Airbender The Rift
- Avatar: The Last Airbender Sisters
- Avatar: The Last Airbender Smoke and Shadow
- Avatar: The Last Airbender North and South
- Avatar: The Last Airbender Team Avatar Talesnote
- Avatar: The Last Airbender Imbalance
- The Legend of Korra: Friends for Life
- The Legend of Korra: Turf Wars
- The Legend of Korra: Lost Pets
- The Legend of Korra: Ruins of the Empire
- Avatar: The Last Airbender Trading Card Game (2006)
- The Legend of Korra: Pro-Bending Arena (2018)
- Republic City Hustle
Non-canon works and alternate continuities
- Super Deformed Shorts
- The Last Airbender
- The Last Airbender Movie Novelization
- Aang's Destiny
- Battle of the North
- Trial by Fire
- The Avatar's Return
- The Last Airbender (manga)
- Zuko's Story
- Avatar: The Last Airbender , release date TBD. note
- Avatar: The Last Airbender
- Avatar: The Last Airbender The Burning Earth
- Avatar: The Last Airbender Into the Inferno
- The Last Airbender
Tropes common to the franchise:
- Animesque: The art style of the franchise is based on anime, as admitted by the creators themselves, especially the work of Hayao Miyazaki. It also helps that the show is animated by many companies known for working on genuine anime.
- Arc Villain: While Airbender featured a single Big Bad for the duration of the series, Korra features several major antagonists as well as introducing the Greater-Scope Villain of the franchise.
- Airbender: Zuko and Zhao for Book One, Azula in Book Two, and Fire Lord Ozai, who is Orcus on His Throne for the majority of the series, but takes a more active role in the third book. Long Feng is an Arc Villain from episodes fourteen to eighteen in Book Two, before this position is taken over by Azula again.
- Korra: Amon for Book One, Vaatu and Unalaq for Book Two, Zaheer for Book Three and Kuvira for Book Four.
- Bilingual Bonus: All the text within the franchise is executed with real Chinese.
- Fantastic Caste System:
- The city of Ba Sing Se divides its classes into three concentric zones, which also serve as Urban Segregation, with war refugees and the poor crammed into the Lower Ring, merchants and the middle class in the Middle Ring, the nobility in the Upper Ring, and the Earth King's palace at the very center of it all. (By The Legend of Korra, the situation has only grown worse, with an ever greater divide between the classes).
- The Fire Nation's system is partly tied to its colonial empire. In descending order from highest to lowest on the pecking order, you have: the Fire Lord, the royal family, the nobility and Fire Sages, the managerial middle class, peasants, and then colonials at the bottom. In turn, the colonies divide into Fire Nation citizens and Earth Kingdom non-citizens, although in the colonies even earthbenders (otherwise disparaged by their Fire-supremacist occupiers) can become Fire Nation citizens if one of their parents was a citizen.
- The Northern Water Tribe has three castes: The Royal Family, the warrior class, and finally, peasants. By The Legend of Korra, the warrior class appears to have been abolished in favor of a professional army.
- Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Bloodbending has been revealed to be downright illegal in Korra, with the punishment being a life sentence.
- Dragons Are Divine: Dragons were the original Firebenders. Because of that, they were respected and revered by the Sun Warriors and their later incarnation, the Fire Nation. However, Fire Lord Sozin created dragon hunting and they were driven to extinction. Thankfully, two were saved by Iroh and were being protected by the Sun Warriors. These two help Aang and Zuko learn the true way of Firebending.
- Elemental Nation: Integral to the setting — four nations, each themed around one of the four classical elements. By the time of Korra, more intermingling has happened between the four.
- Elemental Powers: The franchise has the four Bending Arts, namely Water, Earth, Fire, and Air. Indeed, all four nations are themed around their respective elements — the Water Tribes, the Earth Kingdom, the Fire Nation, and the Air Nomads, with a certain percentage of people born within those countries manifesting their respective signature elemental power. Normally, a bender can only use the element they're born with, but there is one exception in the titular Avatar, a reincarnated figure who can (with training and time) harness the powers of all four elements, and serves more or less as the resident Superhero. Note that the cycle of Avatar reincarnation corresponds with the ancient Greek order: Air (warm and wet) to Water (cold and wet) to Earth (cold and dry) to Fire (hot and dry) to Air to etc.
- There is also Pure Energy in the form of chi, which tends to be related to the Spirit World, granting abilities like locating things far away, seeing the future, and reading auras. It is also the metaphysical basis of Bending (done by manipulating chi within one's body via muscle or breath control) and the ability to invoke the Avatar State at will (via opening one's chakras). In the Grand Finale of Avatar: The Last Airbender, another discipline of Bending, called Energybending, is revealed. It is an ancient style said to predate the Bending of the elements (and the first incarnation of the Avatar) and was used by beings to manipulate the energy within themselves. Bending the energy of another is shown to be capable of both bestowing knowledge and removing the ability to Bend, at the risk of having one's own spirit overwhelmed by the target.
- Each of the Bending styles also has specialized substyles, some which require a great amount of skill and special training, or are stronger in certain bloodlines. Some Firebenders can fire explosive beams from their forehead (referred to as "Combustionbending") or generate lightning, some Waterbenders can heal, calm spirits, or bend the blood of others, select Earthbenders can bend metal or even lava, and a few Airbenders can perform Astral Projection or outright fly. There are also a few odd groups with their own takes on bending, like swampbenders and sandbenders; these are not separate elements, but specific disciplines of Waterbending and Earthbending developed by some tribes to better suit the areas they live in (swamps and deserts, respectively). Similarly, Waterbending is shown to include ice and snow by default since both Water Tribes are located near the poles.
- The benders' temperaments often follow the traditional associations with those elements, but there are exceptions. Uncle Iroh is one of the most skilled firebenders in the world, and is a fat, philosophical and laid back (many would say "lazy", and many do). Of course, push him too far, and you will learn why he is known as the Dragon of the West. Meanwhile, King Bumi, one of the most skilled Earthbenders, is probably entirely insane, in contrast to the calm Implacable Man association you'd expect.
- Bending is so integral that it's even incorporated into major technologies; in Avatar: The Last Airbender, Ba Sing Se's transit system is powered by Earth Benders, while in The Legend of Korra, Republic City's power plants are staffed by lightingbenders.
- The Epic: Both series qualify, and together they form a Generational Saga.
- Ethnic Magician: Zigzagged. Everyone in the world comes from a Fantasy Counterpart Culture for either China, Japan, Tibet, the Inuit, or the Aztecs, meaning there are no "Europeans" to compare them to. At the same time, however, each nation and corresponding ethnicity is still firmly linked to one particular element and its associated bending style, which is part of why Aang had to travel all over the world so he could learn all the styles where they were actually practiced, so in that sense they're still all Ethnic Magicians to each other.
- Expanded Universe: The comic books as well as canonical comic strips.
- Extraordinary World, Ordinary Problems: The conflicts in most of the story arcs are often mundane issues which just so happen to take place in a fantasy setting. For example, the Fire Nation's imperialism in the first series is shown more akin to Imperial Japan at the height of Japanese colonialism or the Roman Empire, rather than hordes of Always Chaotic Evil Mooks marching out of Mordor. Many stories acknowledge the mundane political realities of the war against the Fire Nation, including its political aftermath in the comics and The Legend of Korra - people don't just instantly trust the Fire Nation government again.
- Fantasy Gun Control: Played with in that explosives made from blasting jelly and "spark powder" are prevalent, but handheld firearms of any kind are never seen, even in the 1920's style setting of The Legend of Korra.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The four nations borrow features from real-life historical nations.
- The Air Nomads draw most of their influence from Tibet, specifically from the monks of Tibetan Buddhism.
- The Fire Nation's political situation at the beginning of the story (technologically advanced archipelago with imperialist intentions) mirrors that of Imperial Japan, though its aesthetics draw more from Cambodia and Tibet.
- The Earth Kingdom's aesthetics and politics are taken from countries in mainland East Asia, chiefly China and Korea.
- The Water Tribes are chiefly based on the Inuit peoples.
- Greater-Scope Paragon:
- The great lion turtles. In ancient days they were the protectors of humanity, and granted them the power of bending. After the mortal Wan joined with the spirit of light Raava to become the first Avatar, the lion turtles withdrew from the world at large. At the end of the Hundred Years War, Aang met the last lion turtle, who gave him the final key to defeating Fire Lord Ozai.
- Avatar Wan himself counts as this, as the very first Avatar who separated the human and Spirit Worlds and sealed the spirit of darkness Vaatu inside the Tree of Time for 10,000 years. By the time of The Legend of Korra, so much time has passed that very few apart from the Red Lotus and later on Korra herself even know of his existence.
- Avatar Aang attains this status in The Legend of Korra, having been the one who originally founded the United Republic alongside Fire Lord Zuko and being Korra's direct predecessor. However, because of Korra's issues with the spiritual aspects of being the Avatar, his role as Spirit Advisor is limited to giving her dreams of his battle with Yakone 42 years prior, and restoring her bending at the end of Book 1. In Books 3 and 4 he's unable to help Korra because he and all her other past lives had their connection to her severed by Unalaq managing to kill Raava.
- Fantasy World Map: Shown in the beginning of each episode of TLA.
- Greater-Scope Villain:
- Vaatu, the spirit of chaos and darkness, though he wasn't revealed until the Origins Episode during the second book of Korra.
- For smaller examples of this, there's Fire Lord Sozin, who committed the genocide of the Air Nomads, and Yakone, a crime boss whose legacy proves disastrous for Republic City. The Red Lotus, a terrorist organization out to enforce a new world order, make their debut in the third book of Korra.
- God of Good: The Avatar is the human incarnation of the spirit of light and peace, Raava. She bonded herself with a human host in order to defeat her evil opposite Vaatu and later bring peace to both physical and spirit worlds.
- Heal It with Water: Of the four classical elements, Waterbenders have the unique power of Healing Hands, which women in the Northern Water Tribe are only allowed to learn. Katara spontaneously manifests the ability when she dips her burned hands in a stream and later trains up to become such a Combat Medic that she can use water from a sacred spring to basically bring someone Back from the Dead.
- In My Language, That Sounds Like...: In the real world, the whole franchise suffers from this in Britain. Unfortunately, in British English, the word "bender" is a childishly insulting slang term for a gay man. Compound words like "airbender" aren't too problematic, but lines referring to a person being a "bender" generically sound unintentionally "naughty" to a British audience. This led to the first show being promoted in the UK as Avatar: The Legend of Aang, which then inspired the worldwide title of the second show.
- Legacy Character: The Avatar, via reincarnation.
- Only Child Syndrome: This is averted way more than in other multi-media franchises for the other characters but theres never been an Avatar whos been confirmed to have siblings. Wan was an orphaned Street Urchin, any Airbender Avatar (like Yangcheng and Aang) came from a society with No Blood Ties, Kyoshi never had any siblings, Roku considered Sozin a brother in their youth but he didnt have blood siblings, and Korra is also an only child. Off all the recent Avatars, Kuruk is the only one who hasnt been confirmed either way.
- Playing with Fire:
- Firebenders, obviously. A select few also have secondary abilities like lightningbending (Shock and Awe) and combustionbending (explosive lasers, basically). The interesting part is that not all of them fit the hot-tempered mold that usually goes along with fire powers, given that they are an entire culture. Zuko is plenty hot-headed, but his sister, Azula, is more cold and cunning, which her blue fire reflects. Their father, Ozai, is somewhere in between, while Iroh has the personality of a warm campfire.
- Aang, on the other hand, once he accepts that Firebending does not equal Bad Powers, Bad People, comes fairly close to Iroh's version of this, though he does become considerably more focused; it's implied that Firebenders have a tendency to become overly intense and Determinators.
- In the original show, the Fire Nation's philosophy of firebending via rage plays a part in their hot-headed tempers; the Sun Warriors, the descendants of the original Firebending civilization, passed onto Iroh, Zuko, and Aang the original, life-affirming form of firebending that averts the need for firebenders to be Hot-Blooded to use their powers. It is indicated that this style of firebending allows for far more control than rage-bending does.
- Then there's Mako from The Legend of Korra, who's The Stoic ("cool under fire," as a sports announcer puts it). Avatar Korra herself fits the Hot-Blooded stereotype and it's interesting to note that she will default to fire even though she's a Waterbender by birth.
- Psycho Electro: Lightningbending is the secondary ability of firebenders. However, it's a complete subversion as it requires a kind of emotional clarity and detachment (which can be calmness, such as with Iroh, or cold-heartedness, as with Azula and Ozai) which allows one to separate and focus the necessary energies. Azula's ability to continue shooting lightning even after her Villainous Breakdown is probably due to a combination of familiarity, the significant power boost provided by Sozin's Comet, and having great clarity in terms of really wanting to kill Zuko and Katara. Also subverted in The Legend of Korra, where bending lightning has become commonplace. There are even factories where lightningbenders can work to provide electricity for utilities.
- Reincarnation: The Avatar's spirit never truly dies as it continuously reincarnates into a new body at death. However, if the Avatar is killed in the Avatar State, the Avatar would truly die.
- Whatevermancy: Or whateverbending in this case.