In an interview, Konietzko said:

"Mike and I were really interested in other epic 'Legends & Lore' properties, like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, but we knew that we wanted to take a different approach to that type of genre. Our love for Japanese anime, Hong Kong action and kung fu cinema, yoga, and Eastern philosophies led us to the initial inspiration for Avatar: The Last Airbender."[1]

The series is notable for borrowing extensively from East Asian art and mythology for its universe. Its creators employed cultural consultants Edwin Zane and calligrapher Siu-Leung Lee to help determine its art direction and settings.[2][3] Its character designs are influenced by Chinese art and history, Hinduism, Taoism and Buddhism, and Yoga.[2][4]

Each fighting style is unique to the "benders" who use them or characters who are aligned to a certain element. For example, practitioners of "waterbending" use movements influenced by T'ai chi and focused on alignment, body structure, breath, and visualization. Hung Gar was the inspiration for practitioners of "earthbending", and was chosen for its firmly rooted stances and powerful strikes as a representation of the solidity of earth. Northern Shaolin, which uses strong arm and leg movements, was chosen to represent "firebending". Ba Gua, which uses dynamic circular movements and quick directional changes, was used for "airbending".[5] The Chu Gar Southern Praying Mantis style can be seen practiced by the earthbender Toph, who develops a unique fighting style as a result of her blindness.[6]

According to Kirk Hamilton of Kotaku, the themes in Avatar represent the show's message that "it's more important to be yourself than to hew to the roles society expects of you."[7]

1. "IGN: Interview: Avatar's Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino". IGN. September 6, 2007. Archived from the original on November 18, 2007.
2. Mark Lasswell (August 25, 2005). "Kung Fu Fightin' Anime Stars, Bo". New York Times. Archived from the original on March 27, 2008.
3. "Edwin Zane — Filmography". New York Times. Archived from the original on February 21, 2009.
4. "Interview With The Creators". October 12, 2005.
5. Sifu Kisu. Creating the Legend. Nickelodeon.
6. "Audience Questions and Answer Part 2 at the San Diego Comi-con 2006". Flaming June. Archived from the original (WMV) on April 14, 2008. Retrieved May 7, 2008.
7. Hamilton, Kirk (February 28, 2017). "Avatar: The Last Airbender Is One Of The Greatest TV Shows Of All Time". Kotaku. Archived from the original on July 31, 2017.

Book One: Water

Chapter One: The Boy in the Iceberg


Iroh: Power and firebending come from the breath, not the muscles. The breath becomes energy in the body. The energy extends past your limbs and becomes fire!

Chapter Three: The Southern Air Temple


Monk Gyatso: But we can't concern ourselves with what was. We must act on what is.

Chapter Eleven: The Great Divide


Aang: Harsh words won't solve problems. Action will!

Chapter Sixteen: The Deserter


Jeong Jeong: Destiny? What would a boy know of destiny? If a fish lives its whole life in this river, does he know the river's destiny? No! Only that it runs on and on out of his control. He may follow where it flows, but he cannot see the end. He cannot imagine the ocean.


Jeong Jeong: To master the bending disciplines, you must first master discipline itself.


Jeong Jeong: Before learning firebending, you must learn water and earth. Water is cool and soothing. Earth is steady and stable. But fire… Fire is alive. It breaths, it grows. Without the bender, a rock will not throw itself. But fire will spread and destroy everything in its path if one does not have the will to control it! That is its destiny!


Jeong Jeong: Feel the heat of the sun. It is the greatest source of fire, yet it is in complete balance with nature.


Jeong Jeong: Power in firebending comes from the breath. That is why you must master proper breath control.


Jeong Jeong: Learn restraint or risk destroying yourself and everything you love.

Book Two: Earth

Chapter Three: Return to Omashu


Aang: Why didn't you free yourself? Why did you surrender when Omashu was invaded? What's the matter with you, Bumi?
Bumi: There are options in fighting called jing. It's a choice of how you direct your energy.
Aang: I know! There's positive jing when you're attacking, and negative jing when you're retreating.
Bumi: And neutral jing: when you do nothing.
Aang: There are three jings?
Bumi: Well, technically there are 85. But let's just focus on the third. Neutral jing is the key to earthbending. It involves listening and waiting for the right moment to strike.
Aang: That's why you surrendered, isn't it?
Bumi: Yes, and it's why I can't leave now.
Aang: I guess I need to find someone else to teach me earthbending.
Bumi: Your teacher will be someone who has mastered neutral jing. You need to find someone who waits and listens before striking.

Chapter Four: The Swamp


Huu: See, this whole swap is actually just one tree spread out over miles. Branches spread and sink and take root and then spread some more — one big, living organism, just like the entire world.
Aang: I get how the tree is one big thing, but the whole world?
Huu: Sure. You think you're any different from me or your friends or this tree? If you listen hard enough, you can hear every living thing breathing together. You can feel everything growing. We are all living together even if most folks don't act like it. We all have the same roots, and we are all branches of the same tree.
Katara: But what did our visions mean?
Huu: In the swamp, we see visions of people we've lost, people we loved, folks we think are gone. But the swamp tells us they're not. We're still connected to 'em. Time is an illusion, and so is death.

Chapter Five: Avatar Day


Iroh: You must never give in to despair. Allow yourself to slip down that road and you surrender to your lowest instincts. In the darkest times, hope is something you give yourself. That is the meaning of inner strength.

Chapter Nine: Bitter Work


Iroh: Lightning is a pure expression of firebending — without aggression. It is not fueled by rage or emotion the way other firebending is. Some call lightning the cold-blooded fire. It is precise and deadly, like Azula. To perform the technique requires peace of mind.


Iroh: There is energy all around us. The energy is both yin and yang — a positive energy and a negative energy. Only a select few firebenders can separate these energies. This creates an imbalance. The energy wants to restore balance. And in the moment the positive and negative energy come crashing back together, you provide release and guidance, creating lightning.


Iroh: You will not be able to master lightning until you have dealt with the turmoil inside you.
Zuko: What turmoil?
Iroh: Zuko, you must let go of your feelings of shame if you want your anger to go away.
Zuko: But I don't feel any shame at all. I'm as proud as ever.
Iroh: Prince Zuko, pride is not the opposite of shame, but its source. True humility is the only antidote to shame.

Revist this episode. Lots more to record.