Avatar: The Last Airbender might be more popular right now than it was when it originally aired in 2005, and for good reason. The Nickelodeon cartoon is a fun, fantastical adventure that 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. Avatar's 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. It helps that it has a pretty evergreen relevance rare for a kids' cartoon, dealing with very real, very serious themes like genocide, classism, and pushing back against a militaristic, fascist society.
Avatar's the kind of show that leaves you thinking, "Well, what now?" after you finish. But don't despair, because we've got you covered with a 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.
Is this one a given? Sure. But fans just discovering Avatar might not know there's a whole sequel series, which is definitely the first place you should turn 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 hothead 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, but with a nice dash of steampunk, if that's your thing. [Watch it on Netflix, Paramount+]
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 [Watch it on Netflix
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 even voiced by Jack DeSena himself! -- 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. [Watch it on Netflix]
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. It sounds pretty dark (and it definitely is), but Avatar fans will see a echoes of the Gaang in Tanjiro and the two friends he enlists to help him on his journey. Tanjiro is a lot like Aang in general, a sweet and 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 more frightening parts of Avatar. [Watch on Netflix]
Coming 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 teenagers become pilots of a fleet of robot space lions that combine to form one big robot called Voltron; totally casual -- but it's significant for the ways it updated the material with a modern sensibility, including (imperfect, but still important) 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 though the show's finale remains controversial with fans, it's definitely worth a watch. [Watch it on Netflix]
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 highlighting the many facets of the Black experience in the United States. 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. [Watch it on HBO Max]
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, plus it places similar value on the importance of finding your own family through your friends. Also, just to be honest, the romance on She-Ra is way more compelling than any of the romance on Avatar, if that's something you find important in your cartoon-watching. [Watch it on Netflix]
If what you really want is to hear more from your favorite Avatar voices, we've got you covered: 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 (like crushing on Rose (Whitman), who's keeping a dark secret of her own). While Basco and Whitman are definitely 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. [Watch it on Disney+]
The titular Steven (Zach Callison) is a goofy, 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. [Watch it on HBO Max]
If it's straight anime you're after, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, frequently named among fans 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. [Watch it on Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, Crunchyroll]