Avatar: The Last Airbender – Is it an Anime?

Searching around for an interesting peripheral figure or group to look at regarding anime, I came across the above video from the PBS Idea Channel, hosted by Mike Rugnetta, a successful YouTube show that “examines the connections between pop culture, technology and art.” The YouTube Channel, and it’s videos boasting millions of views, demonstrate how many people are interested in these niche investigations. Furthermore, the video brought to my attention the discourse about the genre classification of anime, and the question of, is “Avatar: the Last Airbender” an anime?

As Mike Rugnetta informs us, anime is simply the Japanese word for animation. Outside of Japan, the term specifically only refers to animation from Japan, although in Japan, it refers to every type of animation. With this applied logic, “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” can be classified as American or Western Anime. Chris O’Brien from the Escapist leads an interesting argument, stating that “anime has been around and popular for so long, its influence now stretches far outside the confines of the tiny island country in the Pacific from which it originates.”  Thus certainly, this information surely calls for the discussion and perhaps a rethinking of our often rigid genre classification system.

The question, I think, is what is gained by excluding works that meet major stylistic criteria from a genre?

Are we maintaining the usefulness of the word anime, having it mean a very specific thing?

There is a usefulness in having anime communicate equality or a set of qualities, but is a disservice done when it starts excluding things that admirers of the form might appreciate regardless of it’s “authenticity?”

Or speaking of which, maybe it’s about protecting the sanctity or quality of the genre itself?

– Mike Rugnetta, The Idea Channel

Personally what I’d like to find out by investigating fandom communities, is how fans of “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” and it’s sequel series, “The Legend of Korra” feel about Anime. I personally find the two shows to be extremely fascinating, as not only do they combine the styles of anime and American cartoons, they also communicates cultural imagery, adult intellectual themes, mythology, and theology of various East Asian, Inuit, Southeast Asian, South Asian and New World societies.

What are your thoughts on the subject? I’d love to know!


– Rugnetta (2014,) “Is Avatar: The Last Airbender Anime?” PBS Idea Channel, Accessed 28 Aug 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRfv5a9QFu8

– O’Brien, (2012) “Can Americans Make Anime?” The Escapist, Accessed 28 Aug 2014, http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/features/9829-Can-Americans-Make-Anime