After catching up on seasons one, two, and three of Avatar: The Last Airbender in quick succession I chose to give myself a break from the binge-watching. As was mentioned in a previous post, binge-watching Nickelodeon’s Avatar series is an incredibly easy task, one you may not even realize you’re accomplishing until you’ve finished the first season in under a week. But I had heard mixed reviews on the Avatar sequel series, The Legend of Korra. Naturally I didn’t want the series to taint the marvel’s I had witnessed from the original show and leave a bad taste in my mouth. But I chose to go all in this week, watching the entire first season. After all, it was the trailer for the third season of The Legend of Korra that got me to finally take the plunge and watch The Last Airbender in the first place. And whattaya know? I loved it.
Nostalgia heavy, action packed, and refreshingly new while still feeling like the same old show, The Legend of Korra is the sequel series every show dreams of having. And it’s no wonder they chose to move forward with this series, after the massive fanbase The Last Airbender has amassed, and the story they had yet to tell. After Aang, the Avatar of the original series, passes away, the Avatar spirit is born again into the body of young Korra, a girl from the Water tribe.
The scene of the world has changed. 80 years after Avatar Aang took down Fire Lord Ozai, technology has advanced to a point where it can realistically compete with the benders of the world. We are introduced to a new city, Republic City, in which Aang and friends helped unite the benders of the world with non-benders. Over time the city has become corrupted by mafiosos and other gangs. One rebel group, the Equalists, run by a terrorist leader named Amon threatens to force equality among benders and non-benders. The group claims that the source of all injustice is the oppression of the benders on those without such abilities, and that the world must be cleansed of their stain. It is revealed that Amon has the unique ability to remove someone else’s bending skills permanently, making him a threat on par (if not greater) than Ozai.
The animation. Oh my, the animation. Truly, The Legend of Korra outdid itself in every respect when it comes down to the beauty of the animation. An almost imperceptible mix of line art cartooning and cgi, no scene is presented poorly. The noir steampunk world 80 years post-The Last Airbender is one reminiscent of the 20s, 30s, and 40s Americana, but spiced up with the majestic culture of the ancient Chinese. Republic City itself borrows most from San Francisco, but also pulls samplings from other cities, like New York and Paris. This incredibly different
world atmosphere is made real due to the level of intricacy the animation department went to achieve it. But really, when we talk about “animation” in a show like this, we can’t undersell the fighting. Cause wow. Each fight will knock your socks off. You thought that the creative team exhausted all the ways to possibly make bending a unique style of Kung fu? Well you thought wrong. Each fight is gorgeously lathered with slow-mo action, intense and thoughtful interpretation of elemental power, and pure awesome sauce. That’s not even mentioning that in this new world there’s a professional sport called Pro-Bending, which is one of those things you’d expect to get old really quick – but nah. Seriously a 10/10 in terms of animation.
If there’s anything not to love in this new series, it’s the fact that it’s so short in comparison to the original series. 12 episodes was but a generous sample of the glory The Last Airbender provided, seasonally. It detracted some from the necessary personal growth of the new #TeamAvatar – that team being Korra (duh), Mako (the group hunk and love interest), Bolin (the hunk’s brother, resident Sokka, and unlucky member of a love triangle), and Asami (the rich girl, who is also interested in said hunk). Did the love triangle(s) add to the story at all? Sort of? Well no, but they would’ve been welcome if they had room to fan out and breathe from the get go. But I did like the fast paced storytelling the 12 episodes necessitated – because of it we received very little filler, and a whole lot of fun.
One interesting note I’ll briefly touch upon. Avatar: The Last Airbender was the three season story arc of Avatar Aang learning to bend all four elements, each season mastering a new element. But he only started with knowing how to bend air. Instead of treading similar ground, Avatar Korra in this first book is fully capable of performing water, earth, and Firebending, but she cannot bend air. This is her journey to master that skill, to fully become the rightful Avatar whom she was born to be. I just thought that contrast was nicely done.
I mentioned nostalgia near the beginning of the review. Now, I know I am embarrassingly new to the Avatar fandom, and I can’t expect to fully comprehend the level of nostalgia those older fans who’ve grown up with the series feel when watching The Legend of Korra, but wow. Some of those cameos, and relatives, and nods really hit me. The descendants of the original Avatar team are all extremely well represented, and each does serious justice to their original counterparts. Unfortunately only Katara is alive from the original crew, but her presence and position as (essentially) the grandmother and hero to all new generations is endearing. Also I never “squee”… But did anyone else squee when they heard Prince Zuko’s voice coming from his grandson (appropriately titled) General Iroh?! C’mon, that was a total surprise for the fans if ever there were one.
In my opinion, the most remarkable thing about The Legend of Korra is that it has matured with its audience. No longer a show about kids saving the world, it’s a show about teens/young adults saving the world. The stakes are higher, the plot is deeper, and there are real casualties along the way. To mask this under the guise of it being a show for kids is astounding to me. It just goes to show how far reaching the series appeal is, with a gravitas that rivals even it’s original. Is it bad that I might actually be enjoying it more than The Last Airbender? Does that make my opinion officially moot? I don’t really care, because I’ve found my new show! 🙂