I think we all know that the hit Nickolodeon series Avatar: The Last Airbender used a lot of Chinese language in its writing and in the names of its characters, place-names, etc. The reference/allusion to Asian language and culture is actually one of the things that I think makes the show so unique and brilliant.
But as time passed by, I learnt that Japanese features a bit in the show, too.
First, there’s Momo. This adorable little guy is a winged lemur that the main characters find early on in the show. When Aang (the eponymous Avatar in the show’s title) is asked what he would call the lemur, Momo swipes a peach Aang’s friend, and that’s when Aang announces the name. If you didn’t know Japanese, you probably wouldn’t know that 桃, もも (momo) means peach.
You’re looking at the most awesome Agni Kai in the entire series. What’s an Agni Kai, you ask? A very official battle between two firebenders (people who possess pyrokinetic ability in the show). I didn’t know this until I wikied it one day, but agni is Sanskrit for fire, and kai? Well, in Japanese, 会, かい (kai) means meeting. A fire-meeting; why not?
I learnt this one in the Japanese class I was assisting in this past semester. This is the unagi, a giant sea serpent that threatens the Aang’s life twice in one episode. Well, 鰻, うなぎ (unagi) means eel. Makes sense, huh? It certainly looks like a giant eel.
And last but not least, Ummi. This brown-eyed beauty is the wife of Aang’s predecessor, Avatar Kuruk. She’s unique in that she’s one of the few of her countrymen in the show not to have “k” in her name, and to have brown eyes, since most are blue-eyed. Her nation is called the Water Tribe, and in Japanese 海, うみ (umi) means sea. So, that’s a cool little allusion, huh?
By the way, I really love this show. In case you couldn’t tell. I wonder if I’ll find more of these as I go along.