Series like Avatar the Last Air Bender
March 16, 2011 12:17 PM   Subscribe

Daughter and I just finished watching avatar the last air bender anime series on netflix streaming. Can you recommend similar shows?

Did a search, some hits but nothing directly what I'm looking for.

The series inspired many off-show bending "fights" in the house. She proclaimed herself water bending, me the fire bender, mom was air bender and little sister was earth bender. We all do tai-chi like moves and pretend. I love shows that inspire creativity.

Looking for similar shows that:
* Are on NetFlix streaming
* My daughter is 6, so not looking for shows with a lot of violence, strong language...etc
* Strong female characters are a plus
* Tolerable for an adult to watch too
* No sub-titles
* Movies are ok, series are better, 1/2 hour series are best
posted by bleucube to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:35 PM on March 16, 2011

This is a hard question to answer because Avatar is a wonderfully unique show. Really, there's nothing quite like it. The creators are doing another show set sixty or seventy years later, about the next avatar, a girl named Korra, but that won't air till spring of next year.

I watched Avatar as a college student, so what I love about that show - the character development, plot arcs and sharp writing - I associate with adult shows like Firefly. But here's the best I can do for child-friendly recommendations:

Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends - about a home for imaginary friends whose owners have lost interest. Purely episodic, and significantly lighter than avatar.

Adventure Time - subject of a wonderful post on the front page, Adventure Time is an amazing show that occasionally skirts the disturbing surreal. A certain kind of kid would really be into it, but maybe not for everyone. I would show it to my kid, if that counts for anything.

As for Naruto, I'd watch a few episodes to see if it's something your daughter would be interested in.
posted by Rinku at 12:43 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I can't really think of another show that matches it perfectly.

I can say Adventure time is awesome.
posted by Felex at 12:49 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Naruto isn't at all like Avatar. Unfortunately, not much really is like it.

But a friend of mine got that kind of imitation/imagination reaction from his five-year-old girl when they watched "Sugar, a little snow fairy" together.

The basic concept is that all weather is controlled by weather fairies. Snow is made by snow fairies, sunny days by sun fairies, clouds by cloud fairies. And they do it by playing magical music instruments. Snow fairies play flutes, rain fairies play violins, sun fairies play trumpets. Cloud fairies play cellos. A hurricane fairy plays a sousaphone.

When fairies are young, they must spend several months on Earth, looking for something called kirameki (which translates as "twinkle" or "sparkle"). But they aren't told what it is. All they know is that they can't graduate unless they find it. Each of them is given a magic seed, which they plant somewhere when they arrive. It doesn't have to be planted in soil; it will take root and grow anywhere. As they search, when they find kirameki, the plant will grow and eventually come into bloom. That's the signal that they have succeeded.

Most humans cannot see weather fairies, but once in a while there is one who can. The human girl Saga, who is about 11 years old, is one of those rare ones, and Sugar, an apprentice snow fairy, ends up living with Saga. Saga is an orphan who lives with her grandmother. Saga's mother was a famous concert pianist who was killed in a freak traffic accident a few years previous, and Saga hasn't really come to terms with it. Saga herself is a very talented pianist, and that's an important aspect of the story. She also has a part time job working at the local coffee shop.

The show covers a period of about 3 months beginning from when Sugar first meets Saga, running until the end when Sugar graduates. There are other apprentice fairies around: Pepper, a wind fairy (who uses a harp), and Salt, a sun fairy (trumpet). (All the fairies have names of spices and condiments, except for "The Elder", who uses a baton and can do every kind of weather magic.)

It's definitely a kid's show, but very accessible to adults as long as you're not turned off by "sweet" and "heartwarming". The plot is deep enough and the characters well-enough conceived so that there is plenty there for an adult to get into.

One other thing: in addition to the series proper, there is a two-episode extra and if you get the series you should get the extra as well, and watch it afterwards. It takes place four years after the main series, though most of it is a flashback to the time of the series proper. It's a neat story in its own right, and it also answers some questions which the series leaves hanging.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:10 PM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

Seconding Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends.

Of course she'll love just about all Miyazaki - although it tends to be less accessible than Avatar - and many of his films are available with English dubbing. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind comes to mind ( I know you said shows over movies - but the Avatar creators were HEAVILY influenced!)

For creativity and fun, I'd recommend other Nickelodeon toons like The Wild Thornberrys, Rugrats, and Hey Arnold, Invader Zim (might be just a bit too violent or distasteful for her age - maybe watch an episode first?), and The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron - all on Netflix streaming. These are all, I have to say, SLIGHTLY less tolerable for adult viewing than the wonderful Avatar, but certainly lovely and imaginative for a child.

In terms of live action, can't go wrong with Doctor Who!

So sad to have finished Avatar, by the way. I just received a book of art from the show for my birthday!
posted by Isingthebodyelectric at 1:15 PM on March 16, 2011

First, a note: Avatar was made by a US company, vaguely in the style of Japanese animation,* so finding something similar will be tricky.

Second, I could be wrong, but I think all anime on Netflix streaming player is dubbed, so no subtitles to worry about.

With that, here are some light things I've enjoyed (and I'll check Netflix streaming tonight when I get home): NeiA_7 and Haibane Renmei (lit. Ash Feather Federation, translated by the author as Charcoal Feather Federation) are both inspired by more youthful work by Yoshitoshi ABe, who also made the fantastic series Serial Experiments Lain (which is probably better suited to teen-agers).

I just found this list of family-friendly anime, with short descriptions of the series. That same site has a complete list of titles reviewed, with a note on the color key, but that first link is for titles that would have a G-rating. I think the list is a bit old, but it's a good starting point.

* Self nit-picking: Japanese animation, usually called anime for short, doesn't have an over-arching style, beyond being made from a Japanese viewpoint. Anime can be anything from cutesy cartoons to highly realistic animation.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:33 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sadly, most of the cartoons that have martial arts and/or magic powers don't have that awesome level of character development and story and vice versa.

You may want to watch some of the Miyazaki films - Kiki's Delivery Service, Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro (Princess Mononoke has a lot of blood and dying so you'll want to pass on that, though Castle Cagliostro is pretty actiony and PG-13).

Dragonball (but not Dragonball Z) is a fun, fluffy cartoon with martial arts and magic.
Nadia: Secret of Blue Water is probably worth checking out when she hits 7 or 8 (a little bit of violence, but generally cheery.
posted by yeloson at 1:33 PM on March 16, 2011

I hate to disagree with Filthy Light Thief, but the three series recommended there are completely inappropriate for a six year old girl. They're all excellent, and will be good for her to watch at least ten years from now.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:44 PM on March 16, 2011

My little waterbender watched the series six times, back-to-back. She eventually turned to... My Little Pony, which isn't nearly as awful as it should be. (The producer worked on The Powerpuff Girls and Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends)

We've watched the show together a number of times and I've been surprised at the quality. It's not half the show Avatar is, but we take what we can get. As far as I see, MLP only fails your Netflix requirement, but there are high-quality episodes on youtube.
posted by lekvar at 1:59 PM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

The reason that I watched Avatar as an adult was because someone recommended it as being as good as and similar in feel to The Mysterious Cities of Gold, which I had enjoyed immensely as a child. Both are anime-inspired Western animations (MCoG is a French production) and both have an epic quest setup where the children are the heroes.

There are no martial arts in MCoG and, while one of the trio of children is a girl, I wouldn't say that she's the strongest character in there. But it's great fun and the theme tune is a stone gcold classic. There are 39 half-hour episodes.
posted by MUD at 2:38 PM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

From that list of family friendly anime that filthy light thief posted, I might recommend RoboTech. Looks like it's available streaming on Netflix. I know that I loved it as a kid. It has some annoying damsels-in-distress (Minmei, ugh, she annoyed me even then) but also some good female characters, pilots and stuff. (Miriya! She was my favorite!) There's definitely some fighting and explosions but I don't think that the violence is really explicit. You would want to check it out first, I think, but I know that I was watching it at around your daughter's age.

There is also a lot of Robotech. Practically endless entertainment!

Invader Zim was also suggested above, and certainly, when I think of "unusually good American kid's shows" I think of Avatar and Zim. But while Zim is silly and quirky and fun, it is also dark and creepy and weird. I think some of the episodes could be frightening or disturbing for a 6-year-old. I love Zim but I'm not sure I would recommend it for that age.
posted by mandanza at 2:50 PM on March 16, 2011

Seconding Miyazaki and Powerpuff Girls, seconding the anti-recommendation for Haibane Renmei (though the adult stuff would go far, far over her head.)

All of these are only available as discs on Netflix unfortunately, all have dubs. Starting with most recommended:

Bamboo blade: girl's kendo club. One superamazing fighter. All likable characters, lots of exciting fight scenes.

Kaleido Star: girl moves from Japan to US to join renowned circus school. Pretty light but very charming--she'll be jumping on trampolines instead of waterbending. (Only downside; voice of the main character in the dub is WAY HYPER)

Oban Star-Racers: Anime by way of France rather than US. Pod racing, if pod racing were interesting. Some father daughter emotional sweetness.
posted by tchemgrrl at 5:34 PM on March 16, 2011

Oh my goodness! Mysterious Cities of Gold is streaming on Netflix! I don't think there's anyone at my house who's excited (or even interested) enough to watch this with me.

Update to my prior comment: NeiA_7 is only on DVD, and Haibane Renmei isn't even on (US) DVD yet.

Re: Miyazaki - many are streaming online, which you can find in my mega-Miyazaki post (in which gompa posted a MeFi Public Service Announcement for Parents of Small Children, in which he suggested Kiki's Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro and Ponyo. Following that, I provided my quick summary for all the linked films, pointing back to IMDb's parental guides for each film. Of the Miyazaki/Ghibli films, only Ponyo is streaming on Netflix. Lupin the 3rd: The Castle of Cagliostro is also streaming, and it's rated PG-13 on Netflix. Here's the IMDb parental guide, with a lot more information on the movie's general lack of sex & nudity, violence & gore (probably as violent as Avatar's big battles), profanity, etc.

Netflix actually has sections called Family Animation and Kid's Anime (Netflix-only links, sorry everyone else). The former is mostly US-style animation, and the latter is really limited (8 titles listed, three are Avatar: Last Airbender, and none are Ponyo). The three Slayers seasons are streaming, and they might be fun. Netflix lists it as TV-PG - it's about dragon slayers, and it's pretty tame (though there might be some more mature jokes, I can't remember). I'm tempted to suggest Fruits Basket, but it's probably more high school sitcom/drama than you're looking for.

Oooh, The Adventures of Hols, Prince of the Sun is streaming! Except the title is dumb: "Little Norse Prince Valiant." That first link has a detailed description of the film, which I have not yet seen. It may be more abstract than your young'n might enjoy, maybe not. While this movie review warns of the action and violence in the opening, IMDB lists it as a "family" film, a category with everything from "Gnomeo & Juliet" (G) to "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" (PG-13); further mixed message from the IMDb parents guide.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:12 PM on March 16, 2011

I can't believe no one's mentioned Samurai Jack.

Seriously, go now. I still mourn for this show.

And absolutely watch the Powerpuff Girls if you two have not. Very watchable for adults, empowering, relatable, and just straight up awesome for kids. I daresay the smartest 'toon ever targeted at little girls.

Teen Titans also comes to mind.
posted by mellavellum at 6:29 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! Will inspect and fill the queue.
posted by bleucube at 7:40 PM on March 16, 2011

Samurai Jack is not available yet via streaming, but Netflix has it on DVD. I know this because I just put it in my queue after a random conversation with my wife ended with me saying, "WHAAAAT? You've NEVER SEEN Samurai Jack?!?! It's FANTASTIC!"
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:33 PM on March 16, 2011

Naruto is a great show but a terrible suggestion for a six-year-old. It is very bloody, especially Naruto Shippuden.
posted by halfguard at 8:17 AM on March 17, 2011

Seconding Doctor Who; silly fun for all ages, though occasionally scary. I doubt your daughter will pick up on all of it, but she might really enjoy it.
posted by Rinku at 12:17 PM on March 17, 2011

...Haibane Renmei isn't even on (US) DVD yet.

Actually, it was but the license expired and it's out of print. Some stores still have copies, though.

Anyway, it's waaaaay too intense for a six year old.


it's about teenage suicides in purgatory.

posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:16 PM on March 17, 2011

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