I watched all this with rose_dawson who was very confident I would love it, though to be honest I think it took a little while for my "like" to nudge over into "love". But by the time s3 was over I was quite into it.
UMMMMMM. I don't even know where to start. I think the show was pretty well-done overall, even if its target demographic sometimes felt like it was holding it back a bit -- everyone (except Jet? LOL WTF) had cartoon immunity, anything that got dark would be undercut eventually by silly kid humour, the pacing of the seasons was a bit weird, etc. But there are definitely enough things in here to add the kind of complexity that attracts more of a mixed age group -- things like the corruption in Ba Sing Se and the way the war was hidden from the civilians within the wall, the brainwashing, Zuko's relationship with his father, Azula losing her damn mind, genocides both attempted and complete, etc.
The world-building and the idea of bending, I can especially see the idea of it appealing to kids but ngl I often thought myself about how cool it would be to airbend and just fly around or whatever. It made for a lot of great action sequences and interesting animation. That's one thing I always thought about Harry Potter, that it's kind of a shame it was never animated because you just have that much more freedom with special effects etc that even huge budgets can't quite buy.
Also Kyoshi is a bamf.
I don't want to speak too much about the way they used culture because I don't know much about it, BUT it was nice to see so many different and non-Western cultures used and lol @ anyone saying this is ~ethnically ambiguous. NOT EVEN A LITTLE.
I am just going to break down the characters as we go. SUKI is a flawless queen and probably my fave, I say "probably" mainly because she needs to be in more episode. Suki doesn't even need bending to break out of Azkaban okay. Sokka was my other favourite, I found him quite funny (always a plus for me tbqh) and sympathetic at the same time, especially as the main non-bender in the group. Naturally because as individuals they are my faves, SOKKA/SUKI YES.
Toph was also excellent and probably my third favourite and I thought they dealt with her blindness quite well. Aang was precious and much younger than I thought he would be -- I really liked him in kind of a weird way, he was never actively my favourite or anything but he was a very easy hero to root for. He reminded me of naive bb Harry Potter, just all this do-gooder energy and nobility lol.
Katara... was fine, but not a favourite of mine. She always kind of felt like a poor man's Hermione to me -- I didn't massively dislike her, but sometimes I found her a bit much and often felt like the episodes that were meant to teach her something didn't really teach anything but "Katara is awesome", lol. Like I said, she felt like a poor man's Hermione to me, and like Hermione had more dimension and conquered more challenges and stuff as the main female character as compared to Katara. I also thought Katara's crowning moment of awesome in the finale should've been rearranged -- like when Molly kills Bellatrix, Katara beating Azula didn't really feel "earned"; Zuko should've been the one to take down Azula because that's more meaningful to his story, while Katara could've done... something else. I'M NOT SURE WHAT, but something else.
My UNPOPULAR OPINION, though, is that I didn't care much for or about Zuko. I didn't hate him -- I didn't hate anyone in A:TLA -- but I just could not bring myself to care much, and actively groaned every time a Zuko-heavy ep came up in s2 in particular. I was laughing at him, not in any way with him. I just didn't connect with his story. I think I'm just kind of over the bad boy redemption story. Zuko is everything fandom wanted Draco Malfoy to be, down to the abusive dad and blatant redemption arc, so it shouldn't surprise me at all that fandom latched onto him, but... ehhhhhhh. I never liked Leather Pants Draco anyway so w/e Zuko. My favourite Zuko moment was definitely:
Also I refuse to dignify ~Zutara~ with more than this mention because Mai is awesome and the best thing Zuko had going for him. I am told much of fandom hates Mai which LOL, FANDOM HATING THE CANON LOVE INTEREST OF THE FANDOM DARLING, COLOUR ME SURPRISED, but whatever internet Mai was flawless and I think her "I love Zuko more than I fear you" scenes was one of the best like, character capstones they did. SPEAKING OF:
The relationship between Azula, Ty Lee and Mai was one of the most interesting/complex on the show, and these three were probably my favourites after Sokka/Suki/Toph. I think the moment where Mai chooses Zuko and Ty Lee chooses Mai was the most... ~shocking~ moment, maybe, for me. I don't know that "shocking" is quite the right word because I suspected Azula's life would start to crumble around her and that eventually Ty Lee and Mai would stop supporting her, but I liked the way it was done, with Mai and Azula breaking apart first and Ty Lee ultimately choosing to protect Mai rather than listen to Azula.
Azula in general was a character I liked watching a lot. I found her by far the most charismatic of the villains, immediately more fun to watch than Zuko and more intimidating/interesting to me than Ozai. Her descent into UTTER MADNESS was disturbing to watch -- I don't think they should have redeemed her (and clearly they didn't) but she's also not quite what I expected just based on fandom, I think the way she falls apart at the end shows she was quite hurt by Mai and Ty Lee's betrayal whereas I had initially assumed she'd be completely emotionally detached. But she lost her shit without them.
EVENTUALLY I will post about Korra since I've seen all 3 of those eps too. But this is long so, another day!