Avatar: The Last Airbender was a groundbreaking title in Western animation and the cartoon genre that revolutionized the modern perception of two-dimensional entertainment media. Its greatly imaginative world was crafted with intensive care to nurture the beauty of a blend of East Asian cultures that appreciated a variety of nations’ customs, traditions, and individual lore. The unique tone that was taken by Avatar: The Last Airbender challenged the prenotions and assumptions typically surrounding children’s programming, and inside itself, instilled an unapologetic sense of heart. Vast creativity tied together with the understanding of the scarcity of diversity allowed Avatar: The Last Airbender to elevate its storytelling practices to a new standard for television. Nickelodeon’s breakout series has outlasted the test of time’s wear as the cherished attitudes towards the show still prevail; its popularity is a direct reflection of how deeply impactful the animated series remains to be. The cartoon’s overwhelming positivity and sheer adoration resulted in a direct spin-off series, The Legend of Korraand has inspired Nickelodeon to parent Avatar Studios to build upon the Avatar Airbender Universe, as outlined by EW.
The Avatar Airbender Universe has given way to a world filled with extraordinary creatures, and even more exceptional abilities. Those who were able to “bend” were gifted with the ability to gain control over the four classical natural elements. Earth, water, fire, and air did not just categorize the four Nations, but were able to be manipulated by select individuals. Each bending style is dedicated to a specific form of martial arts, and motions are rooted through the movement of one’s body, particularly hands or feet. Not all were born with the inherent ability to bend the elements and seek out control over an element after consulting a lion turtle. The high level of spirituality found among the Air Nomad people allowed them to be the only ones where bending was genetically shared from generation to generation. Bending evolved as benders became more intuitive to their ability and discovered that it could surpass the four core elements. As the art of bending is bound to be explored as the Avatar Airbender Universe resumes its signature world, here is a look back at the five strongest benders in the series, ranked.
5 King Bumi
One of the most powerful Earth Benders to exist in Avatar: The Last Airbender, King Bumi’s reputation as an Earth Bender outweighed the oddities attached to his personality. His tactical approach to his relationship with the earth allowed each strike to be as strategic as possible. Bumi’s old age was no handicap to him, and he essentially refused to slow down; an impressive physique and keen understanding of Earth Bending were the sources of his spryness. He was able to save an entire city single-handedly, recovering Omashu from the clutches of the imperialistic Fire Nation’s reign. An Earth Bending style that heeded to particularity and patience permitted Bumi the opportunity to excel in his ability. Techniques backed by decades of power behind them, going on to train himself to levitate objects with little effort. He became so attuned to Earth Bending that Bumi would Bend through his face with only some difficulty restricting him.
4 Toph Beifong
Toph Beifong defied the doubts cast about her and her ability, and her resilience allowed her to become one of the most powerful Earth Benders in Avatar: The Last Airbender history. She mastered the art form of Earth Bending at the age of 12 and later founded the practice of Metal Bending. Her ability to control the raw earth around her was a natural inclination, and she was quick to champion her gift after being guided by the way of the Badger Mole. Toph solidified her determination in her strong will and her resilience, giving little power to her blindness, and overcoming the cautious attitudes projected upon her by others. She found the courage and confidence to directly battle against Earth Bending masters by staying tuned to her unpredictability. Her early career in bending offered a healthy advantage over her peers and enriched her ability as her skills were augmented. Toph became so powerful that she developed seismic sensing and became susceptible to even the slightest shift of movement around her.
3 General Iroh
The Dragon of the West, Iroh’s Fire Bending has attested to his reputation. He established himself as one of the most feared and respected Fire Benders throughout the Fire Nation, who would later teach the “true” form of Fire Bending to Avatar Aang and Prince Zuko. Through Avatar: The Last Airbender, Iroh was wise in a multitude of ways through his bending ability and through his sage proverbs, though his knowledge of Fire Bending endowed him with the correct means of redirecting lightning through the body. Iroh incorporated other defensive moves, offensive strikes, or stances found in other forms of bending into his own practice while understanding how to manipulate fire without causing any collateral damage. The balance of both offense and defensive Fire Bending presents Iroh as a thoughtful, articulate, and deliberate master of the flame. His value of practicality over combative bending implies that Iroh has the ability to become more overpowered when striking in an attack. His training with the last of the dragons in the Avatar Airbender Universe defends an unparalleled level of skill – and adds more value to his nickname.
2 Firelord Ozai
The ruthless Firelord Ozai was one to be feared and shed no mercy driven by his lust for power over the other nations. His eventual defeat at the hands of Avatar Aang did not dethrone his status as the world’s most skilled and all-mighty Fire Bender. Aside from General Iroh and Princess Azula, Ozai is one of the few Fire Benders who can organically generate lightning as a subset of Fire Bending. His aggressive form of Fire Bending emphasized unforgiving offense that was quick to reiterate the measures of his strength that was nearly enough to kill the Avatar. Ozai internalized the act of Fire Bending to where it was indistinguishable from the rest of his identity. He was able to move about by being carried by forces of fire cast beneath him and thrived off of the power generated by Sozin’s Comet. The strength behind his Fire Bending is grown from each season of Avatar: The Last Airbenderultimately equating to Ozai’s nearly-undefeatable status.
1 The Avatars
The Master of the Elements does not often look alike from life to life. Incarnated into a new Avatar per each generation, the Avatar’s lineage has proven that the strongest benders in Avatar: The Last Airbender fall under a common denominator and must achieve their mission of restoring peace. No two Avatars are alike, though all of them have the potential of unlocking their Avatar State that grants them unfathomable control over most – if not every – forms of Bending. Their naturally heightened inclination to rise above proficiency and ascend in their Bending tasks the Avatar with seeing every element in their utmost control. Each Avatar displays their own set of strengths and weaknesses, though are eternally assumed to be the pinnacle of bending. Tens of thousands of years of experience have cultivated a personal understanding of each element. Even with much left to learn upon a freshly-proclaimed embodiment of the Avatar, they are destined to reign supreme over the spiritual, physical, and elemental world.