12 Days of Anime #4 – Watching Avatar Wan’s Tale Is a Mythic Experience (Legend of Korra)

Avatar: the Last Airbender is a great show, and I have many friends who’ve watched it, including with their children, a point I touched upon in my post about demographics, and as such I was quite excited for Avatar: The Legend of Korra. I liked that show fine, and had been quite excited for season 2, which aired this year. One Saturday I woke up to watch that week’s Legend of Korra, only to find out that we had a double feature on our hand, and quite a double-feature it’s been.

Beginnings - Avatar Wan - The Legend of Korra

The greatest human, standing between spirits and mankind.

“Beginnings” comprises episodes 7-8 of Korra’s 2nd season, and transports us 10,000 years into the past, to the birth of the first avatar, Wan. Alongside Wan’s story, we get to see the birth of bending, how humans finally emerged from their confined walls (almost zoos), and how darkness found its way into the world, as the world of spirits separated from the material plane. That is quite some “Just So Story” (Rudyard Kipling, for anyone wondering what I’m referencing).

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Cartoon Demographics – Are We Infantiles, or are Children More Adult-like?

I’ve been thinking of the intersection of genres and demographics for a while, especially as I’ve recently discussed how some shows have demographics as meta-genres, and instead of genres. This recent blog post on The Otaku Lounge by Artemis discussing anime/manga demographics made me try to formulate my words on the topic. I sat down and thought – this genres don’t really apply to me – I watch children shows (though less as time goes by), and I watch both female and male-oriented young-adult and adult shows. I also tried to even identify shows that fall within certain categories and had a really hard time doing so.

Avatar: The Last Airbender (season 2)

That’s when I realized – the shows don’t have these demographics within them. There is no magical connection between the so-called demographic which is supposedly of the show and who really enjoys the show, or can enjoy it – especially if we’re going to resist gender and age-based essentialism, though obviously we’re talking more about life experienced and supposed socialization lines here.
That made me realize – these demographics are merely a construct, and not one truly used by the authors of shows or movies, but by the marketing teams that have to release the work into the wide world.

Well, let’s backtrack a bit and talk about some shows, movies, and other things:

Avatar the Last Airbender – This cartoon by Nickolodeon had first come out in 2005. The Story-Game RPG community I was part of had absolutely loved it. I was 20 when it’s come out, my friend Christian who was 30 years old who watched it with his 3 year old and 13 year old sons. We’ve had numerous men and women ranging from 15 to about 40 who all absolutely loved the show. So what if it’s been categorized as a “Children’s show”? It has good characters, good character and plot development, real conflicts and conflict-resolution that isn’t entirely based on violence. It’s for everyone.

Disney/Pixar movies – Children here are usually taken to watch Disney films as they grow up. I remember being taken to watch Bambi as a five year old, and when I saw my grandmother crying next to me I consoled her, “Don’t worry grandmother, it’s not real – it’s just a movie.” My best friend and I had watched plenty of animated films in the cinemas – all of the Shrek films, Toy Story 3, and recently we’ve watched Monsters University.
We definitely weren’t the only adults there, though going at later hours and watching the films in English rather than dubbed to Hebrew definitely raises the age. The point being, there is definite adult interest in these “Children-shows”.

Now, let’s look at some different examples:

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