reasons to watch the dragon prince

You seldom see a review of The Dragon Prince that doesn’t refer to its spiritual predecessor Avatar: The Last Airbender. You might recognize the name of Aaron Ehasz, the head writer of Avatar, as one of the creators of The Dragon Prince. Even Jack De Sena, the voice of our boomerang-wielding Sokka, leads as Prince Callum.

Many of the hallmarks between these two shows overlap. These two children’s animated shows are worlds apart yet close in resemblance. Let’s dive into the shared motifs of The Dragon Prince and Avatar: The Last Airbender and why they’re proof that you should watch the Netflix fantasy series, whose second season arrived today.

1. Comedy is King

Not unlike Avatar: The Last Airbender, comedy permeates the entire epic journey. Humor and slapstick can pop up in even the most dire and serious moments. Remember Aang’s airbending playfulness, Toph’s blind jokes, and comedic gold like Sokka’s “Mushroom Cloud” episode?

The child characters in The Dragon Prince are as quippy as the characters in The Last Airbender. Even when an assassin’s blade is at his throat, Callum cannot resist commenting on the situation (“How is [lying] worse than [you] trying to kill someone?). Don’t forget, the elf Rayla plays dress up like a human with a southern accent: “I like money and starting wars.” Adult characters, like General Amaya and Harrow display a sense of humor.

2. Asians Lead the Adventure

The Dragon Prince and Avatar: The Last Airbender share another similarity: prominent Asian-coded characters lead the story (not counting the Inuit-coded Katara and Sokka). Callum and Ezran’s mother and their Aunt Amaya have visibly coded Asian profiles, giving their sons Asian heritage.

The anime-esque Avatar universe is steeped in conspicuous orientalist elements, from its martial arts styles, Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, and other Asian philosophies. In addition to holding some anime influences, The Dragon Prince is a European medieval fantasy with Tolkein-esque touches of elves and dragons. If anything, setting Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Dragon Prince back-to-back demonstrates that fictional Asian cartoon characters can and should occupy — and lead — both kind of worlds.

3. Humanized Antagonists

Without ever condoning their deeds, Avatar: The Last Airbender allotted humanization to its antagonistic characters. The young Zuko eventually had a redemption arc he worked long and hard for. While a ruthless military annihilator, Azula’s tragic breakdown is treated with pity instead of revulsion.

In The Dragon Prince, King Harrow’s high mage, Lord Viren, continues this phenomenon of humanized villains. His behavior can swerve with the audience’s expectations. One moment, he makes unreasonable demands, another moment he keeps himself in proportion. The audience and certain characters aren’t wrong to peg Viren down as an opportunist with overzealous ambitions, but we also see the sincerity of his principles and he’s capable of processing his egotism, which makes his downfalls more tragic. Season 2 gives us breathing space to appreciate a time where he really was doing his best for the kingdom.

On a lesser degree, Soren and Claudia receive missions with morally ambiguous motives from their father Viren. Their motives for their father’s mission are more deferential rather than ambitious but inadvertently render them antagonistic forces to the heroes. How much they are willing to compromise their own principles for their missions is yet to be seen.

4. War

Avatar: The Last Airbender was set at the tip of the Hundred Year War, as the Fire Kingdom oppressed all the other kingdoms. As Aang and his friends traveled, they confront the consequences of war, from genocide, deforestation, refugee issues, indoctrinated classrooms, and other horrible sights.

The Dragon Prince opens on the brink of war, plagued by the aftermath of a previous war and oppression dating back to centuries when the elves pushed the humans out of their lands when a human mage uncovers dark magic. Thus, the continent was divided into the human kingdoms and the magical land of Xadia where elves and dragons reside.

If there’s anything both shows say about war, it is: Hell, there are complexities in every side, and child characters are forced to grow up too quick. Katara experienced terrible trauma over the murder of her mother. While the young protagonists of The Dragon Prince are trying to prevent a war from taking shape, they know the effects of a past war too well. In the words of King Harrow, “War is full of uncertainty.

5. Lessons About Life and Stuff

In war, children grow up too fast because they are exposed to mortality. Katara coped with the loss of her mother to the Fire Nation. Aang is the sole survivor of a devastating genocide on his people and must preserve his traditions. As a reincarnated chosen one, Aang undergoes several mentorships and lessons to unlock and tame his powers and figure out when — and when not — to listen to his instructors.

The Dragon Prince also continues that “with great power comes great responsibility” theme. Good royal characters express ideals on how to navigate conflict, though those ideals are tested by circumstances. When Prince Callum implores King Harrow to just end the conflict as a king, the latter tells Callum that “the great illusion of childhood is that adults have all the power and freedom. But the truth is the opposite, a child is freer than a king.” When Callum and Prince Ezran find the Dragon Prince’s egg, the two children act on their wholesome ideals to end the conflict. Along the journey, they learn about trust, friendship, honesty, and loss.

6. Taming the Elements

Water, Earth, Fire, Air. The Last Airbender was imbued with the elements. For those born with the ability, inhabitants can bend elements related to their environment, thus waterbending, earthbending, firebending, and airbending.

In contrast, The Dragon Prince partakes in sorcery of runes, incantations, and magical orbs. Humans do not bend and lack inherent elemental abilities, but some can practice magic provided they have a “primal” source. Elements play a huge role in magic, with some similarities with the elements in Airbender. The world of the Dragon Prince introduces six primal sources of magic: The sun, moon, stars, earth, sky, and the ocean. (There’s dark magic, but that’s a different story.) Although Callum doesn’t have inner elemental-connections like Aang, he can perform spells as long as he has a primal stone magical orb.

Like The Last Airbender, each season is split into Books named after an element that will thematically define a chapter.

It’s hard to resist comparing The Dragon Prince to its spiritual predecessor Avatar: The Last Airbender. It’s fine to let the distinct qualities of each show inform your own preferences, but it’s possible to compare without competing. After all, both have their own vision, their own world-building inventiveness, and their fans.

Both seasons of The Dragon Prince are streaming on Netflix now.

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