God I loved this series. it was one of the few animeish things I watched on TV when I was growing up.
Personally, I regard Avatar as a anime despite it being American for a variety of reasons beyond just animation-style and the fact it’s Asian-inspired. For the record, I don’t think anime is a type of cartoon but rather that both anime and cartoons are two types of animation. Here a few reasons;
- Continuous storyline
Most American animated series are episodic, meaning that each episode doesn’t start where the previous one left off. In Avatar there is a overarching storyline as Aang masters all four elements and travels the world.
Episodic shows can be awesome (Courage the Cowardly Dog) but they tend to lack character development and rarely explore their respective universes in depth.
I’m not saying that Avatar is anywhere near Hellsing or even the major Shounen series but there are certainly more serious themes and backstories than you’re likely to get in Spongebob or The Simpsons. With The Simpsons you may get an episode or two with a serious undertone but can that really compare to Zuko’s lifelong struggle for recognition after being brutally maimed? I don’t think so, mainly because you see Zuko’s character evolve.
- Complexity of Universe
Avatar has countries, cultures, abilities and factions all existing within the universe and explored in detail. Not only that but there is a sense of interaction within the universe i.e. this thing happening here caused this thing to happen over there, admittedly it’s less interwoven than shows like One Piece but it’s still amazing compared to normal non-anime.