Perhaps it's a little ridiculous to over think the reincarnation aspect of The Last Airbender, but something about the concept has always bothered me.
I'm not a new Avatar fan; I was introduced to the series about five years ago when I was just discovered manga and anime. My friends and I all enjoyed watching/talking about the show, and needless to say I became somewhat attached to the players. The show is so well done with great storylines, animation, dialogue, and characters, but has anyone ever wondered what reincarnation means for the friendships and love interest of Aang's current life?
If what I understand about the show is correct, then when Aang dies, every memory and emotion tied to that lifetime is lost. While Katara, Sokka, Toph, Suki, Iroh, Zuko, and every other important person in his life, will move on to what I can only assume to be the spirit world at the end of their lives, he will be reborn into the world of the living, having not a single recollection about their time spent together. I know this is a cartoon, but, for me, that’s all the more reason to tie up loose ends and create a satisfactory ending. The last thing I want to do is rewrite a story that I have fond memories of enjoying, but I need to clear a few things up for myself (and anyone else out there who was slightly unsettled by this plot hole/un-thought out detail).
In my mind there are three ways to end Aang’s story.
Option 1.) As aforementioned, Aang (as we know him) dies and is immediately reborn as the next Avatar, never again to remember the people and relationships that meant so much to him. He would fall in love with women who are not Katara (the romantic in me has a hard time with this one) and, on an odd note, he would at one time or another actually be a woman. This, to me, is the most heartbreaking version possible.
Option 2.) Aang is reincarnated, as we are led to believe, however, he is not alone. Everyone is reincarnated, and those who had meaningful relationships with him would reappear at some point in his next life: drawn like magnets across lifetimes as though it was meant to be. The soul of his partner would always be Katara’s soul, and his true friends would never have to leave his side. This is a decent option, and one that should dovetail smoothly with the show, but still I find myself wanting more.
Forgive me if I sound silly for getting technical with a “children’s show,” but, if I’m going to be able to put this topic to rest, I have to be able to explain the possibility of another outcome: an ideal, which may or may not coincide with the creator’s ideas. Option 3.) Aang is not reincarnated, or, at least not in the way we first assume. Instead of dying, only to be born again, Aang would in fact die, separate from “The Avatar,” as the two are not one being. Aang would have his own soul that, when he stopped living, would pass on, the same as everyone else when their time came. The main characters would be together in the afterlife, whatever that may be, and the next Avatar would be born. Now, if you watch the show you’ll know that "entering the Avatar State" means having the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of previous Avatars, and this is still possible, even without Aang having been each Avatar. In my opinion the Avatar is not Aang, or a person at all. Being the chosen Avatar, as is our hero, would simply mean you were host to something more like the “Spirit of The Avatar.” Each Avatar’s body would contain not only their soul, but the Spirit which was witness to, and a part of, each previous Avatar’s life. In essence the Spirit would be the embodiment of each Avatar’s memories and abilities, but every Avatar would be their own person…
(This is the only option that I believe does justice to the characters who we have come to know and love and this is the option I choose to believe.)
I’m not sure if anyone will read this article, has had these thoughts, or thinks I’m crazy for doing this in the first place, but to be honest I don’t really care. For whatever reason I’ve always felt compelled to address this issue and, take it or leave it, I have.