Anime fans got a major shock today, when it was announced that Netflix is developing a live-action version of Avatar: The Last Airbender. The reaction to that announcement has been resoundingly loud, and it seems pretty clear that fans have one major concern above all others: that this Netflix version of The Last Airbender will make the same mistakes that M. Night Shyamalan did with his ill-fated 2010 movie adaptation of the series.
Of all the mistakes that Shyamalan made with his approach, one stands out above all others: the backlash over Hollywood's white-washed casting for The Last Airbender movie. Naturally, this live-action series from Netflix has fans worried that there will be a similar approach to casting; however, original Avatar creators Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko are going to be involved in this new Netflix series, and they want to assure fans that the casting for the show will be as diverse as fans expect!
Check out this decisive excerpt from the statement that DiMartino and Konietzko released in the press:
"We’re thrilled for the opportunity to helm this live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender. We can’t wait to realize Aang’s world as cinematically as we always imagined it to be, and with a culturally appropriate, non-whitewashed cast."
It's pretty clear why The Last Airbender creators added that specific line in their statement: they happened to create one of most culturally diverse animated series of all time, only to have Hollywood completely miss that point.
In that sense, it's very good to hear that DiMartino and Konietzko are committed to returning the series to its roots, by gathering a diverse cast of actors to represent the nations of the Water Tribes, the Earth Kingdom, the Fire Nation, and the Air Nomads. Most importantly, the character of Aang will hopefully be cast with an actor who is somewhat closer in ethnicity to the Eastern-cultural influences of original character - instead of the European mix (English, German, Scottish, etc.) we got with the casting of actor Noah Riner in Shyamalan's The Last Airbender. Normally, comic book or anime adaptations get a lot of crap for changing the ethnicity of established characters to create more diversity -- so it's ironic to see so many fans now nervous about the opposite occurring.
Avatar: The Last Airbender premiered in 2005 on Nickelodeon and concluded in 2008. The series won several industry awards, including Annie Awards, Genesis Awards, a Primetime Emmy Award, and a Peabody Award.
We'll keep you updated on the status of Netflix's Avatar: The Last Airbender as more news comes out.