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Watch Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra ahead of Netflix's live action adaptation

Enter the Avatar-verse with a chronological and release guide to watching both the Last Airbender and Legend of Korra

Image credit: Nickelodeon

The long wait for an Avatar: The Last Airbender live-action series is finally at an end. This week, Netflix debuts its fantasy spectacle delighting fans who are old enough to make new fans of their children. Now, if you're one of those fans and are interested in a rewatch, if you're new to the series and want a proper guide to getting into the series, it can be difficult to know where to start.

That's why we've created Popverse's Avatar watch order.

What's going on in Avatar: The Last Airbender?

Image credit: Nickelodeon

Originally airing from 2005 to 2008, Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005) was created by Michael Dante DiMartineo and Bryan Konietzko. It tells the story of a 12-year-old boy named Aang, who discovers that he is the powerful elemental bender known as the Avatar and destined to end a hundred year imperialist war against the Fire Nation.

The series is set in a fictional world of benders, people who can manipulate the elements of water, earth, fire, and air. There are also non-benders and entire regions made up of benders: the Water Tribe, the Earth Kingdom, the Air Nomads, and the Fire Nation. Finally, the Avatar is the one person who can bend all the elements and is responsible for maintaining balance and peace in the world.

Here'show to watch the series in chronological order:

Avatar: The Last Airbender, Book 1 'Water'

Avatar: The Last Airbender
Image credit: Nickelodeon

Every season of Avatar The Last Airbender (2005) and its sequel series is known as 'books' to designate different seasons of the series and an overall theme. The first season of ATLA is known as 'Water' due to the Water Tribe being the main focus of the season. It features the still-living frozen form of Aang being discovered by two Water Tribe teens known as Katara and Sokka.

Once Sokka and Katara free Aang from ice, the two take him back to their village and unwittingly cause a chain of events that cause them to be targeted by the Fire Nation's prince Zuko. Zuko, who has been searching for tThe Avatar alongside his Uncle Iroh, ends up having a hard time against the combined efforts of Aang, Katara, and Sokka.

Since Aang needs to master the four elements to become a full fledged Avatar, Sokka and Katara decide to take him to the Northern Water Tribe so he can learn from a water bending master. Along the way, they have more run-ins with Zuko and meet all sorts of new friends and foes. When they finally reach tThe Northern Water Tribe, Aang, Sokka, and Katara are put to the test as the Fire Nation launch an attack.

Avatar: The Last Airbender, Book 2 'Earth'

Avatar: The Last Airbender
Image credit: Nickelodeon

Picking up after the tumultuous events of Book 1's season finale, this second season features Aang, Katara, and Sokka searching for an earthbending teacher and journeying to the Earth Kingdom capital. At the same time, Prince Zuko and Uncle Iroh continue their hunt for Aang while butting heads with Zuko's ambitious sister Azula.

When it comes to our main heroes, the trio eventually becomes a quartet when they recruit Toph Beifong, a blind young girl who is extremely skilled at earthbending. Despite some resistance and conflict initially, Toph becomes Aang's earthbending teacher. Eventually, their journey takes them to a massive library in the desert where they learn crucial information about the war and Aang's bison Appa is kidnapped.

At the same time, Zuko and Iroh are now considered traitors to the Fire Nation and end up on the run and must try to avoid detection by Azula, who is also pursuing Aang and the others. After Zuko briefly leaves his uncle to go on his own journey, the two reunite as they head to the Earth Kingdom capital of Ba Sing Se. Aang, Katara, and Sokka also head to Ba Sing Se to find Appa and eventually clash with Zuko and Azula in a climatic and shocking battle in the season finale.

Avatar The Last Airbender, Book 3 'Fire'

Avatar: The Last Airbender
Image credit: Nickelodeon

This final season of Avatar: The Last Airbender begins with Aang regaining consciousness after season 2's tumultuous finale. As the seaosn begin, we find that Sokka, Katara, and Toph have disguised themselves as Fire Nation refugees and that the entire world thinks he's dead. After briefly regrouping with Sokka and Katara's father, Aang also disguises himself so that he and his group can move freely in the Fire Nation while they look for a Firebending teacher.

Concurrently, Zuko is welcomed back into the Fire Nation for his actions against Iroh and Aang at the end of book 2 and is hailed a hero alongside his sister Azula. Although Zuko initially goes along with this, the internal conflict within him leads him into a big secret about his family that forces him to choose between being loyal to his father or striking out on his own path by joining Aang's team.

When Aang's party and Zuko finally converge, trust must be gained before Zuko works together with them to teach Aang firebending. Several steps are needed to defeat Zuko's father Fire Lord Sozin before the arrival of a comet that would make him all powerful. With a triumphant series finale, the Fire Lord is finally defeated, Azula is incapitated, and a new era begins as the series ends.

But the story wasn't over...

What is The Legend of Korra, and how does it relate to ATLA?

Image credit: Nickelodeon

Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005) was so well-received it earned a sequel known as The Legend of Korra (2012). Airing from 2012 to 2014, Legend of Korra (2012) takes place 70 years after Avatar The Last Airbender (2005) and follows Aang's Avatar successor, a 17-year-old girl named Korra. Both series would become known for its East Asian inspired worldbuilding, its tackling of serious themes such as colonialism and gender descrimation, and its inclusive cast of characters.

Let's get into its chronology.

The Legend of Korra, Book 1 'Air'

Legend of Korra
Image credit: Nickelodeon

Decades after the events of ATLA (2005), 17-year-old Korra is now the new Avatar. In the first episode, we first meet her as a child and learn that she is a prodigy capable of bending three of the four elements. Then we transition to a teenaged Korra taking her Firebending test, which she passes with flying colors. From there, she travels to Republic City to train with Aang's son Tenzin at the nearby Airbending Temples and begins a rough journey to mastering Airbending.

This season stands out for not only its headstrong female lead, but also for showing how the world of Avatar has changed since Korra became the new Avatar. Republic City has a '20s steampunk influence and Tenzin is not the only descendant of Team Avatar around. There are also new characters such as brothers Bolin and Mako and the resourceful beauty Asami Sato. With a new heroine also comes a new antagonist by the name of Amon, who leads an anti-bending revolutionary group. At one point, Korra is captured by an ally of Amon and receives a vision of an adult Aang's past, learning a major secret about Amon.

Slowly but surely, Korra starts to prove herself as The Avatar by combining the old style of bending with a new athletic style that is the sport known as Probending. She also learns how much of a threat Amon is when he demonstrates a terrifying ability that affects benders. With help from new allies, Korra and the others eventually manage to defeat Amon for good.

The Legend of Korra, Book 2 'Spirits'

Legend of Korra
Image credit: Nickelodeon

Six months after the events of Book 1 Air, Korra believes she has mastered airbending, Mako becomes a policeman, Bolin tries to be a solo probending athlete, and Asami takes over her late father's tech company. Korra visits her family in the Southern Water Tribe and meets her father's brother Unalaq and his children Eska and Deska, Tenzin's mother Katara, and Tenzin's sister Kya. When an angry spirit attacks the water tribe festival, Unalaq calms it and Korra decides to learn from him instead of Tenzin from then on.

From there, Korra tries to learn spirit bending, the ability to calm spirits from the plane of reality known as the spirit world. Unfortunately, she is impeded by a war between the Southern Water Tribe and the Northern Water Tribe that is intentionally caused by Unalaq. Although she tries her best to aid the Southern Water Tribe, Korra is attacked by Eska and Deska and swallowed by a giant dark spirit that causes her to lose her memory.

In a special two-part episode, Korra discovers the origin of the first Avatar Wan, in order to regain her memories with the help of Fire Nation Sages. She also learns Unalaq's true goal of releasing an ancient dark spirit known as Vaatu. Once Korra awakens with her memory restored, Korra's spiritual training begins anew with the help of Tenzin, his daughter Jinora, and an old ally from the past.

With spiritual growth occurring in Korra but also other characters, things come to a head when Vaatu is freed for the first time in many years. From there, Korra must tap into her true potential in order to defeat Unalaq and Vaatu. Once the dust settles from the battle, Korra takes some new steps as The Avatar and announces new changes between the two Water Tribes and the physical and spirit worlds.

The Legend of Korra, Book 3 'Change'

Legend of Korra
Image credit: Nickelodeon

Since the end of Book 2 signaled change, then Book 3 shows the Avatar world adjusting to them. Not only are spirits and humans learning to co-exist, but certain people are now becoming Airbenders such as Tenzin's brother Bumi. Unfortunately, another person who can now Airbend is the criminal Zaheer, who breaks out of prison and then starts recruiting anarchists to overthrow the Four Nations' governments and The Avatar.

Together, Zaheer and his allies become 'The Red Lotus' and soon become a dangerous threat to Korra and the others as the latter group tries to recruit the new Airbenders. While Korra's team visits the metalbending city of Zaofu and meet Lin Beifong's sister Suyin and her daughter Opal, Zaheer tries to find Korra at the Northern Air Temple. Things come to a head when Zaheer's party assassinates tThe Earth Queen in Ba Sing Se.

From there, Zaheer delivers Korra an ultimatum: come to him or the airbenders in the Northern Airbending Temple die. Korra agrees and in the season finale, undergoes poisoning so The Red Lotus can trigger Korra's Avatar State in order to kill her and permanently end the existence of The Avatar. Although Korra manages to escape and put up a fight, she nearly dies until the new airbenders defeat and capture Zaheer and Suyin gets rid of the poison in her body. Two weeks later, Korra is weakened and wheelchair bound as Tenzin declares that the Air Nomads will serve the world in the Avatar's place until Korra recovers.

Legend of Korra, Book 4 'Balance'

Legend of Korra
Image credit: Nickelodeon

This final season of Legend of Korra takes place three years after the events of Book 3's finale. Korra, traumatized by the events she experienced, has renounced her identity as The Avatar. After recovering with the aid of physical therapy, she isolates herself from most human contact and travels the world, seeing a dark hallucination of herself wherever she goes. A spirit leads her to a swamp where she meets an elderly Toph Beifong, who aids her in her recovery so Korra can resume her duties as The Avatar.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world has been enduring the rise of Kuvira, a woman who aims to unite the Earth Kingdom under a dictatorship. Kuvira has roped in Bolin, as well as inventor Varrick and his assistant Zhu Li, under the pretense of doing what's best for Earthbenders. Opposing her besides Korra is Earth Kingdom prince Wu, Mako, Suyin, and other past allies of Korra. Although Korra challenges Kuvira to a duel to decide the fate of the city of Zaofu, Korra is still affected by past trauma and loses.

In fact, it isn't until Korra visits Zaheer in prison that she is finally able to move on from her trauma and fully reconnect with her Avatar abilities. From there, she is finally able to face Kuvira at full strength, which also means the latter is able to do the same. After Korra and her allies face Kuvira's army of mech robots, Korra and Kuvira have one final showdown that results in a fantastic display of Korra's Avatar abilities and her compassion. Moreover, the final scene of the series is notable for being one of the first displays of an lesbian romance in animation.

From Aang to Korra, Avatar The Last Airbender (2005) and The Legend of Korra (2012) are considered one of the best animated franchises ever. If you ever need an epic fantasy world to escape to, then the world of Avatar should satisfy you.

Netflix's Avatar: The Last Airbender

Still image from trailer featuring Aang
Image credit: Netflix

And now we come to it. This long-awaited live action Netflix series is not itself a new chapter but an adaptation of the original series, complete with eth same cast of characters. You can watch the trailer for the show here, to get you ready for what's sure to be one of the most-viewed anime adaptaions in recent memory.

Here's hoping we get a season 2.

We've got a sky bison's worth of Avatar goodness here at Popverse, including an exclusive Avatar reunion panel from C2E2 2023 and a couple recommendations on what to watch after the series. We've even put together a list of some of the best Avatar cosplayers from across the four nations - why not check it out?

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Latonya Pennington avatar
Latonya Pennington: Latonya Pennington is a freelance pop culture contributor at Reed Pop. In addition to writing about anime and manga, they have also written about video games, American comics, and young adult fiction. Their writing can also be found at Fandom Games, Into More, Gayming Magazine, and Comics XF among others. When they aren't writing for work, they can be found streaming shows, playing video games, reading novels, or doing creative writing.
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