Avatar: The Last Airbender is a 61-episode, Emmy Award-winning American animated television series written and created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. It first aired on February 21, 2005 with a one-hour series premiere and concluded its run with a two-hour tv movie on July 19, 2008. The Avatar franchise refers to each season as a "Book", in which each episode is referred to as a "chapter". Each "Book" takes its name from one of the elements that the protagonist must master: Water, Earth, and Fire. The show's first two seasons each consisted of 20 episodes, while the third season had 21. In addition to the three seasons, there were two recap episodes and three "shorts". The first recap summarized the first eighteen episodes while the second summarized season two. The first self-parody was released via an online flash game. The second and third were released with the Complete Second Season Box Set DVD. The entire series has been released on DVD in both Region One and Region Two.
In the Avatar universe, there are people who are able to manipulate, or "bend", the four elements: Air, Water, Earth, and Fire. Along with the four elements, there are four nations that correspond with each element. Not everyone can bend an element, and those that can can only bend one. However, The Avatar is a being able to manipulate all four elements as well as communicate with the spirits. The Avatar is also born into one nation, and after dying, is reincarnated into another nation following the pattern of Air, Water, Earth, Fire. The series takes place 100 years after the fire nation declares war against all other nations and has killed off all air benders in search of finding the avatar who has been reincarnated as an air bender, Aang. The avatar, trapped in ice for 100 years knows nothing of the war. The series starts with Aang being accidentally freed by a waterbender. The series then primarily follows the adventures of Aang and his companions, Sokka, Katara, and later Toph, as he tries to master all four elements and defeat the fire nation. There is also a strong secondary focus on Zuko, banished and disinherited crown prince of the Fire Nation. Zuko was burned by his own father, the Fire Lord. Zuko then tries to capture Aang in order to regain his peerage and honor.
In addition to the show's three seasons and an unaired pilot, there have been five specials since its premiere in 2005. These include three animated "shorts" and two recap episodes. The shorts were done in a "super deformed" style.School Time Shipping, the first short, featured the characters from the show preparing for a school dance. In Bending Battle, Katara, Toph, Aang, Zuko, Iroh, and Sokka argue over which element is the best one. In Swamp Skiin' Throwdown, Sokka is taught to "swamp ski" by the Foggy Swamp Tribe, a forgotten extension of The Water Tribe. The first recap episode focused on episodes one through seventeen of season one, while the second focused on the entire second season.
The first Avatar: The Last Airbender DVD set became available on January 31, 2006. The first season had five DVD sets, each containing four episodes. For season two and three, four DVD sets were released, with five episodes on each. The only exception to the release pattern was the last DVD set of season three, which contained a sixth episode. At the end of each season, a box set was released, containing all of the episodes from the season. Each box set contains an additional disc of bonus features not available as an individual disc release like every episode of the series.
In the United States, all Season One DVDs were encoded using NTSC. Since this is not compatible in most countries outside North America, Nickelodeon released separate DVDs in regions where the video would be encoded using PAL instead. These releases began on February 19, 2007; each DVD was released months after the original release. As with the original DVDs, each set contained five episodes on one disc, with the exception of The Complete Book One Collection Box Set, which contained all of the twenty episodes in the season on five discs.