Avatar: The Last Airbender takes place in a fantasy world that is home to humans, fantastic animals, and supernatural spirits. Human civilization is divided into four nations: the Water Tribes, the Earth Kingdom, the Air Nomads, and the Fire Nation. Each nation has its own natural element, on which it bases its society. Within each nation exists an order called "Benders," who have the ability to manipulate the element of their nation. The show's creators assigned each Bending art its own style of martial arts; each Bending art inherited the advantages and weaknesses of the martial arts it was assigned. The Bending types are Waterbending, Earthbending, Firebending, and Airbending.
Each generation yields one person who is capable of Bending all four elements. This being is referred to as the Avatar, the spirit of the planet manifested in human form. When an Avatar dies, he is reincarnated into the next nation in the Avatar Cycle. The Avatar Cycle parallels the seasons: winter for The Water Tribes, spring for the Earth Kingdom, summer for the Fire Nation, and autumn for the Air Nomads. Legend holds the Avatar must master each bending art in order, starting with his native element. This can sometimes be compromised when the situation requires it, as Aang demonstrates in the show. For the Avatar, learning to bend the element opposite his native element can be extremely difficult. This is because opposing Bending arts are based on opposing fighting styles and disciplines. Firebending and Waterbending are opposites, as are Earthbending and Airbending.
The Avatar possesses a unique power called the Avatar State. It empowers the Avatar with the knowledge and abilities of all past Avatars, and is used as a defense mechanism. If an Avatar is killed in the Avatar State, the reincarnation cycle will be broken, and the Avatar cycle will end.Through the ages, countless incarnations of Avatar have served to keep the four nations in harmony, and maintain world order. The Avatar serves as the bridge between the physical world and the Spirit World, allowing him or her to solve problems that normal benders cannot.
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