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Water... earth... fire... air
Few shows get the kind of cultural resurgence Avatar: The Last Airbender has had. When the Nickelodeon cartoon, which originally ran from 2005 to 2008, landed on Netflix in 2020, it immediately blew up among new fans and older ones who were able to revisit it for the first time in years. (It's so popular that Netflix is making a live-action adaptation.) The fantastical adventure series follows Aang (Zach Tyler Eisen), a 12-year-old boy who teams up with his friends to end an oppressive regime, using his unique ability to "bend" all four elements: water, fire, earth, and air. Its story and animation have stood the test of time, so it's a no-brainer why it continues to resonate with people all these years later.
Avatar's the kind of show that leaves you thinking, "Well, what now?" after you finish, but we've got you covered with this list of shows to watch next that just might help fill the void. Some are about embarking on magical quests, some are about super-powered teens, and some are just about growing up in a weird, scary world, but they all have something in common with Avatar.
Dana Terrace's fantasy series follows a teen girl named Luz who finds a portal to the Demon Realm, a magical world ruled by a tyrant. There, Luz befriends a rebellious witch named Eda, and King, a tiny warrior who becomes her roommate. Despite not having any magical abilities, Eda helps Luz pursue her dream of becoming a witch by acting as her teacher, and together, the trio act as an unlikely family as they face off against enemies. Avatar's influence is all over The Owl House, from its determined young protagonist to its core friend group to its imaginative adventures; in fact, its influence is so great that The Owl House has even been known to sneak in the occasional reference.
Is this one a given? Sure. But newer Avatar fans might not know there's a whole sequel series, which is the obvious place to start if you want to stay inside a universe where Aang, Katara (Mae Whitman), Sokka (Jack DeSena), and Zuko (Dante Basco) all exist. The Legend of Korra picks up 70 years after the original show ended, centering on Aang's successor, 17-year-old Korra (Janet Varney), who's struggling with her new responsibility as Avatar. The Gaang occasionally pop up as older, wiser adults, and their actions in the original show directly influence Korra's plot. It has a similar action/adventure/sci-fi vibe to Avatar and grapples with comparably mature issues like race, gender, and civil unrest.
Young ones coming to terms with newfound powers continues in Netflix's original animated series Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts, a new series from Dreamworks Animation. Based on the webcomic by Radford Sechrist, Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts follows Kipo, a young girl who gets stranded on the surface of a post-apocalyptic Earth after living in safety underground. Kipo's eternal optimism comes in handy when she forms a band of friends -- two humans, a mutant pig, and an immortal bug who goes through his lifecycle on repeat — as she searches for her father on a planet populated by scooter-driving skunks, giant mutant rabbits, and a mandrill named Scarlemagne who wants to enslave humanity. With a killer hip-hop soundtrack, a diverse cast (including voice work from Karen Fukuhara, Sterling K. Brown, and Deon Cole), and endless imagination, Kipo's one of the most promising new animated shows out here. -Tim Surette
It's easy to tell that Aaron Ehasz, the head writer and executive producer of Avatar, was involved in co-creating The Dragon Prince. The series, set in the enchanted kingdom of Xadia, follows three kids (one of whom is voiced by Jack DeSena) embarking on a journey to defeat the dark magic that has sent their lands to war. Sound familiar? It has everything we all loved about Avatar: mythical creatures, a vast lore, an engaging story, excellent fight scenes, and a whole lot of heart.
This anime series, which is an adaptation of the manga of the same name, follows Tanjiro, a young boy who sets out to avenge his family after a demon curses his sister and leaves the rest of his family dead. Avatar fans should see echoes of Aang, Katara, and Sokka in Tanjiro and the two friends he enlists to help him on his journey. Tanjiro himself is a lot like Aang, a kind-hearted kid who knows he's the only one able to stop the unspeakably evil force that has thrown his life into turmoil. This show also deals with a lot of heavy themes, like what it means to be human and familial duty, and is a great watch for anyone who's into the darker elements of Avatar.
From the producers of Avatar and Korra, Voltron: Legendary Defender is a reboot of the original '80s cartoon. It follows the same general premise as its predecessor — a group of teens become pilots of a fleet of robot space lions that combine to form one big robot called Voltron — while updating the material with a modern sensibility, including (imperfect, but still cool to see) LGBTQ+ representation. In eight seasons, Voltron took its time fleshing out the characters, created some memorable villains, upped its game with every breathtaking fight scene, and kept the story engaging until the very end. Even if the show's finale remains controversial with fans, it's definitely worth a watch.
If it's an American anime with a huge dose of social commentary you're looking for, might we direct your attention to The Boondocks? Aaron McGruder's satirical cartoon about Huey (Regina King), a wise-beyond-his-years 10-year-old who lives in a predominantly white suburb with his younger brother, Riley (also Regina King), and their grandfather (John Witherspoon), does a singular job of commenting on the many facets of the Black experience in American. Like Aang, Huey is a kid with the weight of the world on his shoulders: He knows too much, he sees right through the adults around him, and he's perpetually trying to push back against a broken system, usually unsuccessfully. If your favorite thing about Avatar is its enduring relevance, you'll appreciate The Boondocks' takes on race, class, identity, the government, and more.
After Adora (Aimee Carrero) finds a magic sword that turns her into the warrior She-Ra, she leaves behind her life as a member of the tyrannical, evil Horde to join the rebellion working to take them down, pitting her against her best friend Catra (AJ Michalka) in the process. It's an epic fantasy about heroic teens with a fast-paced comedy style Avatar fans will recognize, and it places similar value on the importance of finding your own family through your friends. Also, the romance on She-Ra is way more compelling than any of the romance on Avatar, let's just be honest about it.
If what you really want is to hear more from your favorite Avatar voices, you can start here: Dante Basco and Mae Whitman reunite for American Dragon: Jake Long, which follows 13-year-old Jake (Basco) who is all at once trying to fulfill his ancestral duty of becoming the first American Dragon, protect New York's population of magical creatures, and get through the everyday embarrassments of being a teen. While Basco and Whitman are the big sells, this show also uses martial arts references as deftly as Avatar and explores what it's like to be a kid coping with the pressures put on you by your family.
The titular Steven (Zach Callison) is a half-human, half-Gem boy being raised by the Crystal Gems, three super-powered aliens who rebelled against a totalitarian space empire and now spend their days guarding the universe. It's a coming-of-age story with bright, sophisticated animation, inventive world building, and a strong emphasis on the importance of love and friendship that will feel familiar to any Avatar fan, but it's Steven Universe's fully realized cast of characters, and watching the ways they develop over time, that will keep you hooked.
If it's straight anime you're after, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, frequently named as one of the best of the genre, is a great place to start. Brothers Edward and Alphonse, whose bodies were destroyed when they attempted to resurrect their deceased mother, go on the hunt for the mythical Philosopher's Stone, which they hope will reverse the damage they've done. This show uses alchemy the way Avatar uses bending; it's the most powerful force in the universe, but it can hurt as much as it helps. Even more, it's a great example of how to execute stellar character arcs, and how to balance action and drama with humor.