Popularity has risen for Avatar: The Last Airbender since the show first aired in 2005, and for good reason. In the Nickelodeon cartoon, Aang (Zach Tyler Eisen) is a 12-year-old boy who joins forces with his friends to overthrow an oppressive regime by utilizing his unique ability to “bend” all four elements: water, fire, earth, and air. Due to the fact that the story and animation in Avatar have stood the test of time, it should come as no surprise that people are still drawn to it after all these years. That it deals with very real and serious themes like genocide, classism, and fighting against a militaristic, fascist society, helps a lot. That’s rare for a kids’ cartoon.
After watching Avatar, you’ll be left wondering, “Well, what now?” We’ve got you covered with a list of shows to watch next that just might help fill the void, so don’t be discouraged! Avatar is a recurring theme in many of the stories we’ve read, whether they’re about magical quests, super-powered teenagers, or just growing up in a strange, scary world.
Interested in seeing what else we’ve got on the list? They’re in abundance here! Also, if you want more recommendations based on your favorite shows, we’ve got those, too.
1. The Legend of Korra
Is it a foregone conclusion? Sure. However, newcomers to Avatar may be unaware that there is a complete sequel series to the film, which is the first place you should look if you want to stay in the same universe as Aang, Katara (Mae Whitman), Sokka (Jack DeSena), and Zuko (Dante Basco). Korra picks up 70 years after the original series ended, focusing on 17-year-old hothead Korra (Jennifer Varney), who is struggling with her new role as Avatar. The Gaang appear as wiser, older adults on occasion, and their actions in the original series have a direct impact on Korra’s story. If you like the look and feel of Avatar, this will be right up your alley. It deals with mature issues like race, gender and civil unrest in a similar manner to Avatar, but with a nice dash of steampunk. It’s available onNetflix and Paramount+, respectively.
2. Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts
In Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts, a new Dreamworks Animation series for Netflix, young people must come to terms with their newly acquired powers. After spending her entire life underground, Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts, based on Radford Sechrist’s webcomic, follows a young girl named Kipo as she becomes stranded on the surface of the Earth after the collapse of civilization. As Kipo searches for her father on a planet populated by scooter-driving skunks, giant mutant rabbits, and a mandrill named Scarlemagne who wishes to subjugate humanity, she forms a group of friends — two humans, a mutation pig and an immortal bug who repeats his lifecycle. Kipo is one of the most promising new animated shows out there, with a killer hip-hop soundtrack, a diverse cast (including voice work from Karen Fukuhara, Sterling K. Brown, and Deon Cole), and endless imagination. Tim Surette, author of the book [Stream it on Netflix]
3. The Dragon Prince
You can tell Aaron Ehasz, the Avatar head writer and executive producer, was involved in The Dragon Prince’s development. Three kids — one of whom is voiced by none other than Jack DeSena himself! — embark on a quest to defeat the dark magic that has sent their lands to war in the enchanted kingdom of Xadia. Does this sound familiar to you? I loved it because it has all the things I liked about Avatar: mythical creatures and world building. I also liked the story and the fight scenes. [Follow the link to Netflix to see it]
4. Demon Slayer
Tonjiro is an 11-year-old boy who sets out to seek vengeance for the death of his family after an evil spirit curses his sister and the rest of his family. Fans of Avatar will recognize echoes of the Gaang in Tanjiro and his two companions who join him on his quest, despite the fact that it sounds ominous (and it is). When it comes to personality, Tanjiro is similar to Aang. He’s a sweet and kind-hearted kid who realizes he must defeat an unspeakably evil force if he wants to save his friends and family. Those who are interested in the more harrowing aspects of Avatar will appreciate this show, which tackles such heavy topics as what it means to be human and the duties that come with being a family. You can see it on Netflix.
5. Voltron: Legendary Defender
Voltron: Legendary Defender is a remake of the original ’80s cartoon from the team behind Avatar and Korra. Like its predecessor, Voltron is about teenagers who become pilots for an army of robotic lions that eventually unite to form one giant robot called Voltron. However, it’s significant because it updated the material with a modern sensibility, including (imperfect, but still important) LGBTQ representation. Voltron took its time fleshing out the characters over the course of eight seasons, creating memorable villains along the way, raising the bar with each spectacular fight scene, and keeping the plot interesting all the way to the end. Despite the fact that the show’s conclusion is still divisive among viewers, it is well worth seeing. [Follow the link to Netflix to see it]
6. The Boondocks
If you’re looking for an American anime that’s heavy on social commentary, we recommend The Boondocks. Using Huey (Regina King), a 10-year-old boy who is wise beyond his years and lives with his younger brother Riley (also Regina King!) and their grandfather (John Witherspoon) in a predominantly white suburb, Aaron McGruder’s satirical cartoon brilliantly highlights the diverse experiences of African-Americans in the United States. Similarly to Aang, Huey is a young man burdened by his knowledge of the world and his ability to see right through the adults around him. Huey is constantly trying to push back against a broken system, but his efforts are usually in vain. Those of you who enjoyed Avatar’s enduring relevance will get a kick out of The Boondocks’ explorations of race, social class, identity, and the role of the government. [HBO Max subscribers can catch this scene.]
7. She-Ra and the Princesses of Power
To fight the Horde, Adora finds a magical sword (played by Aimee Carrero) that transforms her into the warrior She-Ra. This puts her at odds with her best friend Catra (played by AJ Michalka), who also joins the rebellion. Avatar fans will recognize the fast-paced comedy style of this epic fantasy about heroic teenagers, and it emphasizes the importance of finding your own family through your friends, as does Avatar. Also, if you care about romance in your cartoons, the romance in She-Ra is far superior to any of the romance in Avatar. [Follow the link to Netflix to see it]
8. American Dragon: Jake Long
What if you really want to hear more of your favorite Avatar voices? To celebrate the release of their new film American Dragon: Jake Long, Dante Basco and Mae Whitman have reunited. The film follows 13-year-old Jake (Basco), who is trying to balance his responsibilities as the first American Dragon while also trying to protect the magical creatures that live in New York City and deal with the everyday pressures of being a teen (like his crush on Rose, played by Whitman). In addition to Basco and Whitman, this show makes use of martial arts references as deftly as Avatar and explores what it is like to be a kid dealing with the pressures placed on you by your family. This is a must-see show. The following video can be seen on Disney+.
9. Steven Universe
Crystal Gems (a trio of super-powered aliens who rebelled against a totalitarian space empire and now spend their days guarding the universe) raise goofy Steven (Zach Callison), a half-human, half-Gem boy. This is a coming-of-age story with bright, sophisticated animation, imaginative 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 how they develop over time that will keep you hooked. Steven Universe: The Complete Series [HBO Max subscribers can catch this scene.]
10. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
You can start with Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood if you’re looking for straight anime. It’s often cited as one of the best in the genre by fans. Edward and Alphonse, brothers who tried to resurrect their dead mother but failed, are now on the prowl for the fabled Philosopher’s Stone in the hopes that it can undo the damage they’ve done. While alchemy is the most powerful force in the universe, it can also cause as much harm as good in this show, similar to how bending is used in Avatar. And on top of that, it’s a great example of how to carry out compelling character arcs while also keeping things light and funny. There are a number of streaming services where you can see it.