A/N: This is my final tribute to the awesome show that is Avatar:The Last Airbender. I wrote this for the fansite I belong to, ASN, as a kind of reflection now that the finale is right around the corner. I hope you enjoy it, and that maybe it helps you feel better about the end. And I also hope it isn't too long and sappy. :P

Looking Back
An Avatar Tribute

Okay, sit back, because this is going to be long (and I mean LONG). Not only because I'm wordy, but because I love this show, and I will miss it like heck, as I'm sure most of you will. So this tribute may ease your "Avatar is Ending, Oh Noez" syndrome, or it may make it worse. It's up to you.

It's not that often that I remember exactly where something began, but I remember Avatar. I remember sitting on my couch the first day it premiered, and expecting another lame cartoon from Nick I wouldn't like. But as the end credits of "The Avatar Returns" came up, I realized, already, that I was going to be proven wrong. I didn't know how wrong yet though.

Then there was an in-between period, where I slowly realized that I was beginning to look forward to and enjoy Friday nights. I realized that I was actively waiting for Avatar to come on, anticipating it, instead of just running across it. Let me tell you, this was the first time in a long time that ever happened to me for an animated show.

And now, after a lot of time I won't bore you with, I'm here. Being a crazy, devoted, super active ASNer with over 1000 posts, three fanfics, and more than 20 days of logged in time. What a journey. (:

And now the show is ending. Wow.

People who know me, and have read and participated in a thread I once started called "For the Love of Books", know that I take characters very seriously. Most of the time it's book characters, because before Avatar I never came across a TV show where the characters were alive enough for me to take them seriously. But following Avatar for this long, I am not ashamed to say that its characters have irrevocably come to life for me.

There is Aang, our favorite airbender, messiah, and the world's last hope, packed into the tireless, carefree, goofy, wise-beyond-years body of a 12-year-old. We watched him go from the sneezing, penguin sledding goofball of episode 1 to the strong, proud, (still sometimes goofball) leader we know now. We experienced every triumph, stumble, mistake, sorrow, and joy he did. And now we're going to cheer like maniacs when he finally stands up to fulfill his destiny and bring us to the end.

There is Katara, the first person who ever set eyes on the Avatar and the first and most constant one to believe in him unconditionally. Yeah, she bugs us all sometimes, but she's been the rock of the Gaang more often than not, nagging, mothering, and kicking booty in fights. She was and still is Aang's waterbending Sifu, his closest companion, and his love interest. And who didn't love watching her prove to stuffy Pakku that girls could fight too? ;D

There is Sokka, the lovable, plan-ready, meat-and-sarcasm, cactus-juice-drinking warrior oaf of the fandom. He's kept us laughing with his jokes, lightening the mood of almost every episode, often at his own expense. He's showed us every side of him, from the overconfident sexist, to the witty wisemouth, to the serious planguy, to the sweet goof, to the sword-wielding warrior. Although he may have been more reluctant in the beginning, he remained fiercely loyal to the entire Gaang through everything, and saved their behinds many a time.

There is Toph, who came crashing into the series when we least expected it and never slowed down from there. Equated to the God of Awesome by a good portion of the fandom (and I'm not arguing ;)), Toph will forever have our admiration for being a five-foot-four blind twelve year old girl who blew every preconception out of the water. I seriously doubt anyone will challenge her right to the title of Greatest Earthbender and First Metalbender of the world. Where would the Gaang be without her earth sight, lie detector skills, sarcasm, and ability to thrash major butt? "I am so glad we added you to the group."

And then there was Zuko….oh Zuko. We traced the whole range of emotions with you, you stupid, scarred, angsty, crazy, Avatar-hunting, bad-decision-making, Iroh-dissing, double-crossing, confused, honor-obsessed, hair-bending, adorkable, strong, angry, amazing, redeemed, FINALLY praiseworthy prince. We went from throwing him rotting vegetables to throwing confetti, from booing and cursing ourselves blue to cheering until we fell over. Undoubtedly one of the deepest and most complex antiheros I've ever seen, it was a stunning, frustrating, and wild experience to trace his character arc throughout the show. And for the people who never gave up on him, he ultimately came through, showing us another side of himself that's made him one of my all-time favorite characters ever. Oh, and he's driven millions of fangirls wild. We love you Zuzu, really. ;)

And of course a nod is due to our terrifyingly awesome villains, Azula and Ozai. Ozai, we didn't see his face for two seasons, but he was the shadow behind the fire that starred in all Zuko's flashbacks and memories. Good-looking and scary at the same time, we love to hate him for the psycho tyrant he is. And we hope he goes down hard in the finale. But we all know who the real baddie has always been. The craziest, smartest, most manipulative, cruelest, maniacal, hot evil princess who shoots lightning from her fingertips and lies with every other sentence. Azula, you need to die so bad, but we'll all be really sorry (if) when you do. That's the best praise you can give an epic villain, and Azula definitely is. How many other pure evil women can control the hearts of a good portion of the fandom?

And then there were the minor characters, who we got to know only for a few episodes. Suave, slightly obsessed Freedom Fighter Jet, who nevertheless made us shed tears over his death. Sweet and selfless Yue, who gave her life for her people and made Sokka act like a hopeless romantic. Fierce Kyoshi Warrior Suki, who gave Sokka his first butt-kicking and his first kiss in the same episode, and who can climb iron walls and capture prison Wardens with her bare hands. Dark, knife-throwing ninja Mai, who only showed her softer side when it came to Zuko and ultimately made a great sacrifice for his safety. Perky, pretty, and pink-aura-ed Ty Lee, who pokes people into submission and has a better heart and head on her shoulders than she let on. Momo, the loyal pet who is always a mini-show in the background all by himself. Appa, the faithful skybison who is Aang's first and best friend of all. Our amazing tea-drinking one-man-army guru Iroh, who spouts wisdom and humor and never stopped believing in Zuko. Zhao, owned by a spirit fish when he was in his evil prime. Ursa, Zuzu's awesome Mom who instilled the good that was hidden inside him for so long. And all the other good and bad guys, who are too numerous to mention but apparently important enough to be shipped. ;) They are all important to the story somehow.

We watched them all cry and laugh, fall and stand, hurt and heal, fight and run, speak and listen, fight and fall in love. And if you really got into it like I did, you experienced it with them. You got attached to them, and to this amazing world, and that's why it feels so strange to have it end.

Here's where the advice comes in. Because I believe it doesn't have to end for us. I'm not just talking about the possible TV specials and live-action movies. I'm talking about never forgetting the show.

If we never forget what Avatar meant to us, if we never forget the characters and everything they taught us, they will be here. That might sound cheesy and sappy, but I think it's completely true. I've learned over the years from book characters that if you become attached to them, they aren't going anywhere unless you want them to. I think it will be the same for Avatar. If we hold TV to Avatar's standard, if we still quote lines from it out of the blue, if we keep coming to ASN to rehash and recap and keep up with the people we met here, if we still have "rewatch all the episodes in one weekend" marathons, if we still share "It's an Avatar thing, you wouldn't understand", if we keep writing and drawing out the Avatarverse, if we keep on spreading it to people who haven't seen and experienced it yet, if we keep it around and 5 or 10 or 20 or 50 years from now we take it out again and watch, or show it to our kids, (if we go back and watch SoTN frame-by-frame to prove that Zhue really should have happened!) that's never forgetting. And that's what I'm going to try to do.

So to end this long, sappy tribute (and I'm actually feeling choked up), I will just say thank you. Thank you to M&B, who came up with the concept and the world and helped bring these characters to us. To the voice actors who breathed them to life. And to the essences of the characters themselves: Aang, Katara, Sokka, Toph, Zuko, and all the rest. Thank you for making my life, and the lives of a lot of other people, young and old, a little better, and a little different.

Go out there Gaang. Fight, stand, live, love, and give us a Kohdamned good finale. Because it's been really, really nice knowing you. And it always will be.

I would end this thing with goodbye, or The End…but then I'd being lying. And Toph can tell. ;) So the best closing is…


Because we know it's true.


If you belong to ASN, you should recognize my screename. If you liked or appreciated my tribute, or thought that it was really way too emotional for a animated show, PLEASE REVIEW either way. Or at least ASN PM me what you thought. ;)