Though it's been over a decade since the last episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender aired, we're still pretty much hung up on how incredibly awesome this show was. And most of us have been searching, waiting for something like Avatar to come along ever since we finished the series.
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Besides Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko's Legend of Korra and Aaron Ehasz's The Dragon Prince – what else is out there that might appeal to fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender? Well, we did some research and found a few Japanese anime that just might fit the bill. Bear in mind, not all of these are spot on recommendations, but hopefully, between these eight you will find one that best suits your needs.
If you enjoyed the fun filler episodes of Avatar, then perhaps you’d be interested in a more laid-back adventure-type anime where these side quests are kind of the only path towards achieving the protagonist’s goal. In Noragami, we follow a stray god Yato who strives to gain worshipers by taking all kinds of odd jobs, all the while fighting phantoms with his new weapon – regalia in form of a deceased teenage boy named Yukine, and a high school girl Hiyori. So, you can expect a good deal of awesome super-powered fight scenes.
But, the biggest selling point of Noragami is its focus on Japanese culture and religion. If you liked the Asian influences in Avatar and have an interest in Japanese culture, you should give this series a shot.
7 MORIBITO: GUARDIAN OF THE SPIRIT
Moribito poses an interesting moral dilemma – is it justifiable to take the life of a mere child if by doing so one can save a whole nation from a cataclysmic drought and widespread famine? See the child in question is a Prince who is the guardian of the water spirit, thought to be a demon by his father, the Emperor, who ends up ordering his assassination. Thankfully, the Prince’s mother is more charitable and requests a warrior named Balsa to take her son and keep him safe.
As you probably already gathered, Moribito isn’t the type of adventure that leads our heroes down a fun path. However, because of the fantasy elements, the historical setting, and the themes it explores, Moribito might just be the anime for an Avatar fan.
If you’re in the mood for some action/adventure with demons and exorcists then perhaps D.Gray-man is the anime for you. This anime follows Allen Walker, an Exorcist whose job is to foil the evil, world-ending plans of the Millennium Earl. Luckily, Allen isn’t alone on his quest. Accompanying him are the laid-back Lavi, the stoic Kanda, and the caring Lenalee.
One of the main themes of the anime is tragedy, and more specifically, loss of a loved one, which fans of Avatar might find interesting. To make things more interesting (painful), the Millennium Earl can revive the dead by turning them into demons. It’s not all death and despair, though. D.Gray-man has a healthy dose of humor and lots of action to balance it out. The heroes are complex and flawed people and it’s easy to get invested in their stories.
5 YU YU HAKUSHO
In Yu Yu Hakusho, the protagonist Yuusuke is thrust into the world of spirits and demons when he dies saving the life of a young boy. The spirits offer him the chance to become a Spirit Detective and defend the Earth from evil presences. Starting off as a lighthearted adventure, Yu Yu Hakusho gradually grows up into a mature story with a lot of depth.
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With the ever-escalating nature of shounen anime, Yu Yu Hakusho is at its core a battle anime. However, there are plenty of character-driven episodes that give us insights into the character’s personalities and the relationships they form. The charming ensemble cast of fully developed, likable and relatable characters who grow through their experiences is a staple of Avatar, and can also be found in Yu Yu Hakusho.
4 TENGEN TOPPA GURREN LAGANN
If you’re up for an everything-goes type of story with a ridiculous and over the top plot, well look no further than Tengen Topp Gurren Lagann. While Gurren Lagann’s world isn’t nearly as well explained and developed as the world of Avatar, that doesn’t mean it’s any less fascinating.
In fact, for a show where characters travel through space and time using emotional connection and the power of fighting spirit, it’s probably better that it doesn’t even try to explain the inner workings. If you’re willing to suspend your disbelief you should enjoy Gurren Lagann. It’s easy to get invested in the lives of the characters, who are well written, and whose development – especially the protagonist Simon – is nothing short of inspiring. Though it's mostly upbeat, it deals with mature themes like death, which plays a pivotal role in the story.
3 MAGI: THE LABYRINTH OF MAGIC
While bending isn’t magic per se, it does operate similarly to other magical systems. And if you happen to be a fan of magical systems and magic-like powers, perhaps we may interest you in checking out Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic. Following the adventures of Aladdin, Alibaba, and Morgiana this anime is largely based on the stories from 1001 Arabian Nights.
Hungry for adventure and eager to see the world, the heroes travel the world in search of dungeons and come into contact with diverse cultures and characters along the way. If that kind of rich lore, somewhat based in reality, is to your liking then you might want to give Magi a shot. The anime also deals with some of the themes present in Avatar, like friendship and familial bonds.
2 HUNTER X HUNTER (2011)
If you’re looking for a show with a young plucky protagonist who embarks on an adventure with a group of friends in order to become stronger and fulfill his destiny/dreams, then Hunter x Hunter might just be the right fit for you.
The show follows twelve-year-old Gon who’s on his way to becoming a Hunter. Hunters are basically the fiercest people on the face of the Earth who perform all kinds of dangerous tasks. Gon has to constantly learn and improve in order to face his usually more powerful opponents. The show is as much about the grand adventure as it is about the little detours and connections the characters make along the way. The characters are well fleshed out and all have some unique ability, so it’s easy to get invested in their stories. If you liked Avatar's blend of kids-show feel and mature themes, you won't be disappointed.
1 FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST: BROTHERHOOD
Last but certainly not least, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. When it comes to finding something that will scratch all of your Avatar: The Last Airbender itches, there's really only one correct answer: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. A thematically rich story with a flawlessly executed plot, check. Fully realized, relatable characters who develop throughout the story, check. A balanced mix of comedy and action, check. Surprisingly mature and philosophically deep, check. Awesome fight scenes with superpowers, check.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood follows two brothers on a journey to get their old bodies back after a failed attempt at human transmutation cost Ed his arm and leg, and Al his entire body. On their journey, they gain allies, make friends, and leave a permanent mark on the lives of others. At times heartrending, at times heartwarming, Brotherhood will give you all the feels.