Avatar: The Last Airbender is a Nickelodeon anime that has engrossed thousands of fans worldwide. With amazing, strong characters, a believable world, and compelling magical elements, it has everything a show needs to succeed! Not to mention, Avatar’s humour is pretty on point. Fans were disappointed when the series ended, and even more disappointed when the objectively terrible live-action movie was released. The prospect of an upcoming Netflix reboot fills everyone with both dread or anticipation—but at least this time the original Avatar team is involved in the show’s production.
While you wait for the new live-action series, you might be tempted to rewatch the original series. With 61 episodes (and many more if you count The Legend of Korra), you’d certainly be busy! No matter what you do, just leave the live-action film where it belongs—in the trash. And while you rewatch the series, make sure to pay attention to all the little details! The amount of detailing and world building that went into Avatar: The Last Airbender is simply incredible.
There’s always something new to find out, whether it’s a subtle reference or an implication you didn’t quite catch the first time you watched the show. After all, each nation in The Last Airbender is inspired by a real world culture (they’re all a mix of Asian cultures, and each style of bending is heavily inspired by different martial arts). Here are 25 details fans didn’t notice in Avatar: The Last Airbender!
25 Sokka Doesn’t Want To Kiss Suki Under The Moon
Sokka and Suki are quite possibly the most adorable couple in Avatar: the Last Airbender. However, fans may have missed a detail the first time the two of them kissed. They’re talking under the moonlight, and Sokka seems visibly uncomfortable with the idea of kissing Suki there and then. Considering his first love, Princess Yue, sacrificed herself and turned into the moon spirit, that makes a lot of sense. It’s such an easy detail to miss if you’re not paying attention, but it’s so significant!
24 Azula’s Struggles
Azula went down in fans’ memories as one of the series’ best villains. She’s cold, calculating, cruel, power-hungry, and brilliant… not to mention an incredibly powerful bender. In the last Book of the series, you might remember she seemingly loses her mind, appearing less and less in control of her desire to rule. But did you know that it’s very likely she’s got a real mental illness? Fans noticed that her episodes, especially her paranoia and hallucinations, could be symptoms of schizophrenia. According to The Search, a graphic novel, she actually was committed to an institution after Team Avatar’s victory.
23 Fire Lord Ozai And The Animated Joker Have The Same Voice Actor
Did Fire Lord Ozai’s voice sound familiar to you? If you’ve watched Batman: The Animated Series, there’s a very good reason for that. Mark Hamill, who voices both Ozai and Batman’s animated Joker, clearly has a talent for voicing sinister characters. Of course, his talent isn’t limited to bad guys, as he’s also remembered for playing Luke Skywalker, who’s possibly one of the most iconic heroes in modern pop culture. You read that right: Ozai is played by the same man who interpreted Luke Skywalker himself!
22 Both Katara And Toph’s Parents Are Non-Benders
By the end of the series, Katara is a master waterbender, and I don’t need to tell you how talented Toph is when it comes to earthbending. Because of this, you would probably imagine they are descended from benders. Well, that’s actually incorrect.
Contrary to popular belief, Katara’s mother wasn’t a bender.
She simply said that to the Fire Nation soldier to protect her daughter, who was then only a child. Toph learned earthbending from the badgermoles, the original earthbenders. Her parents were non-benders as well!
21 “Made In Earth Kingdom”
This is a nifty little detail that’s very easy to miss. Zuko’s uncle Iroh, everyone’s favorite firebender, gives his nephew a dagger that reads “never give up without a fight.” Aw, what an inspiring present. The funny thing is, the other side of the dagger reads “made in Earth Kingdom.”
This is a reference to our world’s “made in China” objects, as the Earth Kingdom is inspired by Chinese culture.
You may not notice small details like this when you first watch the show, but they’re part of what makes the Avatar universe so immersive!
20 A Reference To The Pieta: Katara Holding Aang
In “The Crossroads of Destiny,” the final episode of Book 2: Earth, Aang is in pretty poor shape. Azula shoots a bolt of lightning at him, hitting him in the back and gravely injuring him. Katara escapes with him and thankfully manages to revive him with her spirit water. This scene is extremely interesting both visually and symbolically, as, at some point in the scene, Katara hold a wounded Aang cradled in her arms. This is a visual nod to the Pieta, a statue of Mary holding Jesus after he was taken down from the cross.
19 Why Bumi Threw Aang A Drumstick
When Team Avatar meets Aang’s old friend King Bumi in “The King of Omashu” Aang doesn’t immediately recognize his old friend. And, after all, who could blame him? It’s been a hundred years. Bumi immediately seems to know who Aang is, but the Avatar doesn’t instantly recognize his old friend Bumi “the mad genius.” To force Aang to reveal himself as the Avatar, Bumi throws him a piece of chicken, which Aang airbends away, blowing his cover. The chicken is significant: Bumi, who knows Aang, remembers that the Avatar is vegetarian, and that he wouldn't have caught the chicken.
18 The Lion Turtle Appears In Season 2
The Lion Turtle is a mythical creature, whom Aang meets for the first time in Book 3. The Lion Turtle teaches Aang energy bending, which is instrumental in his victory against the Fire Lord. Indeed, Aang doesn’t want to end Fire Lord Ozai’s life, so he takes away his bending thanks to energy bending instead. But did you notice it also appear in an episode of Book 2: Earth? We see the Lion Turtle on a drawing Team Avatar find in “The Library.”
17 Why Toph Sleeps With Her Feet Up
In “The Western Air Temple,” Zuko accidentally burns Toph’s feet, which is problematic as the blind earthbender uses her feet and her earthbending powers to orient herself. Though Katara heals her friend later on, the soles of Toph’s feet are visibly still injured, as she is seen sleeping with her feet propped up later on. According to some fans, this could also be because she is too sensitive to the earth’s vibrations to sleep with both feet on the ground. Either way, it’s a pretty cool detail, and it adds realism to the show!
16 Aang’s Scar
On that note, there’s a similar detail that adds a nice bit of continuity. In a battle with Azula, Aang gets zapped by the Fire Princess’ lightning, which leaves him with a scar on his foot. While unlike Toph, Aang isn’t left disoriented and unable to use his powers because of the wound, he did get hit with a pretty powerful blast, and this left him with a scar that we see in every subsequent episode when he raises his foot. That’s a pretty impressive thing to remember to add to the character's design!
15 A Familiar Fire Nation Ship
In “The Puppet Master,” Team Avatar encounters Hama, a seemingly innocent inn-keeper who’s later revealed to be a member of the Southern Water Tribe—and a sinister bloodbender. As she explains the story of how she was imprisoned by Fire Nation soldiers who raided the camp, we see a flashback of her memories. Turns out the ship she remembers is the same Fire Nation warship that Aang and Katara wander into in the very first episode of the series. You might not even think about it at first, but it’s little details like this that tie the entire story together.
14 The Puppet-Master: A Halloween Special
Talking about “The Puppet Master,” it’s possibly one of my favorite episodes of the show. Fans will agree it’s also one of the scariest, and that’s not just because bloodbending is downright creepy.
If you watch carefully, the episode contains many tropes of the horror genre.
Visually and symbolically, “The Puppet Master” will probably remind you of your favorite horror movies. In fact, it was released as a Halloween special!
13 Toph Blushes Only Twice In The Series
Toph, or the “Blind Bandit,” likes to act tough and put on a brave face. She may be blind, but don’t make the mistake of underestimating her—she’s a powerful bender and a mighty fighter. She’s also a sassy, no-nonsense character who doesn’t let anyone step on her feet. This is why it’s nice to see another side of her from time to time. For instance, she’s got a crush on Sokka. That much is obvious, but did you notice she only blushes twice in the entire series?
12 No Mercy For Deserters
You don’t just leave an army like the Fire Nation army like that. As far as we know, only two characters in Avatar: The Last Airbender succeed in deserting: Jeong Jeong and Chey.
They appear in “The Deserter,” but they have a cameo in a later episode.
Chey helps Team Avatar escape after Aang’s true identity is revealed to Fire Nation soldiers and leads them to Jeong Jeong’s camp. Later, in Book 2: Earth, we see wanted posters of Jeong Jeong and Chey alongside those of Iroh and Zuko.
11 Beware Of Giant Friendly Mushrooms
“The Desert” also happens to be one of the funniest episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender. That’s mostly because of a scene where Sokka and Momo, after drinking cactus juice, get completely intoxicated. This results in a hilarious, oh-so-quotable scene, with highlights such as Sokka seeing a giant and exclaiming “It’s a giant mushroom! Maybe it’s friendly!” The mushroom cloud is actually a reference to psychedelics—specifically, one that looks like that. It also looks like a nuclear blast cloud, which adds an ominous touch to this otherwise funny scene.
10 A Jealous Aang
Aang and Katara’s relationship surprised many fans, especially Zutara shippers—those who thought Katara had better chemistry with the reformed Prince Zuko. There are many hints that something might happen between Katara and the Avatar himself, however. “Kataang” (their couple name) was foreshadowed a couple of times: when Aang blushes around the pretty waterbender, for instance, or when Sokka suggests that Katara should kiss Jet and Aang gets jealous.
9 The Painted Lady Looks Familiar
In “The Painted Lady,” Team Avatar saves a village that was being poisoned by a nearby Fire Nation factory. They destroy the factory, and Katara disguises herself as the Painted Lady, the village’s water spirit, to scare away the soldiers and help the village. She is then thanked by the real Painted Lady. What’s interesting is that this spirit looks a lot like Yue in her Moon Spirit form. That must have been heart-wrenching for Sokka! But of course, it makes sense, as both Yue and the Painted Lady are water spirits.
8 Toph Makes The Nickelodeon Logo Out Of Meteorite
Sokka gives Toph a piece of meteorite, which the young earthbender immediately starts playing with. It’s leftover from the crafting of Sokka’s legendary meteorite sword, so it’s got a lot of significance for both characters—especially considering Toph’s crush on Sokka. She bends it into several shapes, including, at some point, the easily recognizable Nickelodeon “splat.” Toph eventually turns the meteorite into a bracelet that she can wear at all times, but the splat is a cool bit of fourth-wall breaking!
7 Accurate Hand Gestures
The creators of Avatar: The Last Airbender took special care to ensure the anime was grounded in real life. This means there are lots of details you may not pay attention to, but that help flesh out the world and make it seem real.
For instance, when Aang opens chakras, his hand gestures are accurate.
Opening chakras are important, too, as it’s a crucial step to mastering the Avatar State. Guru Pathik explains this to Aang during his training in “The Guru.”
6 Airbenders Have A Sense Of Humor
Being an airbender isn’t all about meditations and opening chakras, however. The airbending nomads know how to have fun!
A good example is Aang playing in Omashu's delivery system with Bumi.
But even in the Air Temples, during Aang’s flashbacks, we see the monks having fun and playing pranks and each other. This explains Aang’s sometimes goofy nature—in episode 1, he’s the first one who reminds Katara it’s important to have fun, telling her she is, after all, still a kid.
5 Earth Rumble VI: References To Real World Wrestling
“The Blind Bandit” is perhaps one of the best episodes of the series. It features “Earth Rumble VI,” an earthbending competition where Team Avatar meets Toph for the first time. Did you notice all the references to real-world wrestling in Earth Rumble VI? Sokka acts like a typical wrestling fan during the entire episode, one of the wrestlers (called “The Boulder”) is a spoof of The Rock, and the other wrestlers also incarnate wrestling “stock characters,” like Fire Nation Man, who’s a parody of Russian “baddies” in American wrestling.
4 Katara's Betrothal Necklace
Whether you’re a Kataang shipper or a Zutara enthusiast, you have to admit Katara and Aang have their moments. Katara wears her grandmother’s necklace, which happens to be a traditional Southern Water Tribe betrothal necklace.
When she loses this betrothal necklace, Aang gives her a new necklace to replace it.
It’s a very symbolically-charged gesture and one that nicely foreshadows Aang and Katara’s relationship. The scene is already pretty cute, with Aang blushing when Katara asks him how she looks, but this little detail makes it even better!
3 Wanted: The Blue Spirit
As we saw earlier, wanted posters are a good way to add character cameos throughout the series. In “The Deserter,” where Team Avatar meets Jeong Jeong and Chey, we see several wanted posters. This includes a wanted poster for another character: the Blue Spirit. The Blue Spirit, of course, is none other than Prince Zuko, and Team Avatar meets him in the episode “The Blue Spirit” in Book One. We don’t get to see the Blue Spirit much, so it’s nice to see a nod to him, even if it’s in the form of a wanted poster.
2 One Episode Involves A Reference To SpongeBob
Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? “The Siege of the North Part One” includes a subtle reference to SpongeBob SquarePants in the form of the mention to a sea sponge—or, in the German translation, a starfish.
Both shows are Nickelodeon shows, so subtle nods in between shows make sense!
If you really pay attention, you’ll find lots of similar Easter eggs in Avatar: The Last Airbender! This kind of attention to detail really makes the show worth re-watching.
1 The Cabbage Merchant Got A Statue In Republic City
Ah, the cabbage merchant. Appearing for the first time in “The King of Omashu,” he becomes a recurring character and serves as comic relief. The poor merchant can’t seem to catch a break, as his cabbages are always getting stolen, confiscated, or knocked over.
At least he got a statue in Republic City at the end of the show!
While the cabbage merchant was meant to appear only once in the series, writers loved him so much he became a recurring gag, so it’s nice to see him be honored in this way.