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10 Things Avatar Ripped Off From Other Anime

Avatar: The Last Airbender was a hit show thanks to its laudable execution, but there are moments in ATLA that feel like ripoffs of other anime.

Avatar: The Last Airbender is among the most well-received television series, garnering three seasons, a four-season sequel, a live-action film, and a recently announced film trilogy. Fans could not get enough of the excellent world-building and phenomenal writing. As unique as the franchise is, it still pulls from anime tropes and traditions.

RELATED: Top 10 Anime Series Better Than Avatar: The Last Airbender

Sometimes, the inspirations that fueled ATLA are too familiar, as the allusions, borrowed themes, and clichés remind viewers of other famous works. Elemental magic systems, a focus on martial arts, and the “Chosen One” trope are all motifs and mechanics that can come across as ripoffs of other anime.

Natural elements water, fire, earth, air, and (sometimes) lightning often feature in anime. Though lightning is a part of firebending in ATLA, the show seems to take cues from other series.

Many anime characters control elements like the Avatar. Most notable are Naruto’sshinobi, whose jutsu stem from the five elements, and Pokémon, magical animals with elemental powers. ATLA takes a well-executed approach to the elemental magic system, but fans can’t help but notice the precedent set by classic anime.

Martial Arts anime have been popular since the beginning of the medium. Iconic original series such as Dororo, Dragon Ball, and Fist of the North Star all emphasize martial arts, mingling them with magical powers. For example, Dragon Ball features energy blasts like the Kamehameha.

Specifically, Naruto, also inspired by martial arts shows, incorporates elemental magic (jutsu) with martial arts (taijutsu), which feels distinctly similar to Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Imperialism has far-reaching effects, so it makes sense that it is a popular theme in fiction. In ATLA, fans witness the Fire Nation destroying the Air Nomad civilization and plaguing the Earth Kingdom and Water Tribes.

RELATED: 10 Harsh Realities Of Rewatching Avatar: The Last Airbender

Other anime are also interested in similar plot lines. Code Geass is a science fiction anime that heavily features this theme, as the Britannians take over Japan and the main character leads a rebellion against them. This example is reminiscent of Zuko’s story arc, as the main character, Lelouch Lamperouge, is a Britannian prince.

Many anime are interested in spirits and the spirit world. In ATLA, nature spirits live in a dream-like world that once was tethered to the material world.

An entire subgenre of supernatural anime focuses on yokai (spirits) and their plane of existence. CLAMP’sxxxHolic follows Kimihiro Watanuki as he learns about and occasionally travels to the spirit world. Other anime, such as the Japanese folklore-inspired Spirited Away, share many themes, images, and settings.

Anime is notorious for its filler, and while some arcs are worthwhile, there is usually at least one terrible episode in the bunch. Naruto and Inuyasha were among the worst culprits in 90s and early 2000s anime.

As good as ATLA is, there are instances of unpalatable filler. A prime example of this is the “Great Divide” episode, which fans and critics universally panned. Fans receive the episode so poorly that the show lands on a list of anime series with the worst filler with Naruto and many others.

Anime characters are no stranger to tense parent-child relationships. In ATLA, fans get the dichotomy between Zuko and Fire Lord Ozai, which thematically resembles the relationship between Lelouch and his father, Charles Zi Britannia. Britannia and other abusive fathers rank on the most cliché anime fathers list for their bad behavior.

Another father-son duo that Zuko and Ozai invoke is Lord Daigo and Hyakkimaru from Dororo. Lord Daigo sacrifices his son to maintain power and save his lands, which sets Hyakkimaru on a quest for revenge. Like Zuko, Hyakkimaru also toes the line between good and evil.

A cross-media motif that many anime series adhere to is the concept of children saving the world. In particular, Shonen and Shojo anime fall into this category. From the pretty guardian, Usagi Tsukino (Sailor Moon), to the cataclysm-surviving Shinji Ikari (Evangelion), kids saving the world is an anime trope fans see everywhere.

Excluding Aang, who is 112, all of ATLA’s characters are between 12 and 16, though Aang acts like a 12-year-old kid. Together, they stop the Fire Nation’s imperialist rampage and restore balance.

It sometimes feels there are more “Chosen One” stories than anything else, as it is a frequent trope in books, film, TV, etc. Aang is the Avatar and thus can bend all four elements, acts as the bridge to the spirit world, and holds his past lives’ knowledge.

Other anime “Chosen Ones” include Naruto Uzumaki and Sasuke Uchiha, as Naruto: Shippudenreveals them as reincarnations of near deities. In Sailor Moon, all the guardians are “Chosen Ones,” but Usagi Tsukino (the title character) is the most important. Many of these works excel, but some become amazing anime ruined by their clichés.

Zuko and Azula have one of the best sibling rivalries in anime. In their company are Dororo’s Hyakkimaru and Tahomaru, whose rivalry sparks because Lord Daigo sacrifices the former and privileges the latter, reminding fans of how Fire Lord Ozai banishes Zuko and favors Azula. In the end, this rivalry forces Hyakkimaru and Tahomaru to fight just as it forces Zuko and Azula to their Agni Kai.

Though they are adopted siblings, Dio Brando and Jonathan Joestar of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventureare also sibling rivals that had to fight to the death. Again, one sibling was a hero while the other was evil.

The interaction between nature and human civilization is at the forefront of many anime and manga. In ATLA, Aang struggles with the aftermath of the 100-Years War as the Fire Nation’s technological advancements and the Earth Kingdom’s struggle to keep pace leaves the earth scarred. Aang’s conflict with Hei Bai, a forest spirit, is one of the most striking examples.

RELATED: 10 Worst Catchphrases in Avatar: The Last Airbender, Ranked

Creators like Hayao Miyazaki are also concerned with this topic. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Princess Mononoke, and Ponyo deal with similar thematic structures.

Brooke Thomas lives and writes out of Houston, TX. She has an MA in English Literature and works as an Anime List Writer for When she is not watching anime, drawing her own comics, and writing, you can find her playing catch with her dog and rock climbing.

10 Elemental Magic Systems Are All Too Common

9 Martial Arts Anime Often Feature Magical Powers

8 Many Animes Wrestle With Themes Of Imperialism

7 A Spirit World Features In Many Works

6 Even Avatar Can’t Avoid Bad Filler Arcs

5 Quests For Revenge Against One’s Problematic Parents Are A Common Plot Line

4 Kids Saving The World Feels Familiar

3 The Chosen One Trope Is Infamous Across Many Genres

2 Fraught Sibling Rivalries Are A Common Theme

1 Themes Surrounding Civilization’s Impact On Nature Remind Fans Of Miyazaki’s Works

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