Welcome back from break, everyone! I hope you had a good turkey weekend if you’re in the U.S., and a good week in general if you’re not in the U.S. I spent the break marathoning Jessica Jones with Saika and bopping around on the internet. I have a truly obscene amount of likes on my Tumblr, and as a present for a friend, I was trying to go through them and find a specific couple of posts. Hours later, I hadn’t succeeded at all, but I had stumbled upon several sites that I’d meant to recommend here. One of them is from my rewatch of Avatar: The Last Airbender earlier this year.
It’s pretty obvious that Avatar: The Last Airbender is based on Asian cultures, but, despite being Asian myself, I wasn’t aware of the true extent of the Avatar team’s research. I grew up in the states and, much to my parents’ chagrin, never learned much about either Taiwanese or Chinese history. That’s why I was so glad to find A:TLA Annotated—because the person who runs it clearly knows a lot more about ancient China than I do.
A:TLA Annotated is a fantastic resource for any Avatar fan who wants to know more about the specific cultural influences that found their way into the series. It provides fairly accurate translations of almost every bit of Chinese writing that appears in the show, and it doesn’t stop at just languages. Culture is a combination of many things, and A:TLA Annotated looks at pretty much all of them—through screenshots and pictures, it compares the Avatar world’s sartorial choices to ancient Chinese fashions, Buddha statues and shrines to real-life shrines, and even the architecture of alleys and buildings are compared to ancient Chinese city plannings. Some of these annotations are even available as a subtitle file for your rewatching pleasure.
The coolest thing about A:TLA Annotated, for me at least, is the creator’s theory about how the Fire Nation is not Japan. “Fire Nation = Japan” is a common belief in the Avatar fandom, and since I did study Japanese history in college (again, much to my parents’ chagrin), there were a couple things in the Avatar world’s depiction of the Fire Nation that struck me as maybe not Japanese. (Kyoshi Island, though, that’s definitely Japan.) However, since I didn’t have the requisite knowledge about ancient Chinese history, I didn’t have any other ideas for what else the Fire Nation could be based on. A:TLA Annotated theorizes that the Fire Nation is actually based on parts of both Thai and Chinese culture, and backs it up with a ton of links, pictures, and explanations. It’s a hugely fascinating theory and one you should certainly check out.
A:TLA Annotated can be found here on Tumblr! Much like Wikipedia, it’s absolutely worth losing a couple hours out of your day over.