The Legend of Korra: Worthy of the ‘Avatar’ Name

The Legend of Korra, the hotly-anticipated sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender, set seventy years after Avatar Aang faced off against Phoenix King Ozai and Princess Azula, successfully bridges a devotion to the now-familiar world of Avatar: The Last Airbender with a fresh and decidedly different feel.

Happily, The Legend of Korra builds on top of the masterful and harmonious blend of juxtapositions created by Avatar: The Last Airbender, which appealed to children and adults alike: nuanced characters and rich thematic threads of morality share space alongside wildly goofy humor, hard-hitting martial-arts action sequences are set against gorgeous animation, the spiritual dances with the fantastical, and ridiculously insane animal hybrids (I’m looking at you, Naga, you beautiful polar bear dog, you!) populate the landscape. Korra, like its predecessor, is all at once thrilling, funny, pensive, and simply awesome.

Many elements of the new series are polar opposites of the original, establishing a different energy from the get-go. Whereas Avatar: The Last Airbender focused on young male protagonist, Avatar Aang, the new series centers on a teenage girl, Avatar Korra. High fives all around for a kick-ass female protagonist! While Aang was a reluctant hero and an advocate of non-violence, Korra is determined, overconfident, and quick to action. The original series followed Aang’s travels around the World of Avatar, while Korra takes place in one new location, the modernized Republic City. Imagine a 1920s New York or Shanghai with touches of steampunk style. Even the music mixes in a new, bold jazzy flavor with the more traditional instrumentation to emphasize the big city feel.

The first two episodes of The Legend of Korra, “Welcome to Republic City” and “A Leaf in the Wind,” swiftly catch us up on the years since Sozin’s Comet (you will be missed, Sokka), while providing the narrative and thematic groundwork for the new series. With an older protagonist at the helm, these stories and themes are discernibly more mature. Korra has grown up flat-out loving her bending abilities (“Bending is the coolest thing in the world!”) and comes into conflict with an anti-bending movement, a group known as the Equalists, led by the mysterious Amon. This class-warfare struggle will certainly be interesting to watch develop and unfold, especially in the context of a program airing on Nickelodeon. This thematic setup also provides the foundations for Korra’s arc and room for character development, as she is one who operates at a certain level of privilege. We also witness Korra struggle with her lack of a spiritual side, as seen through her airbending training with Master Tenzin (voiced by J.K. Simmons). And an awesome side note, Tenzin’s daughter, Jinora, is voiced by Kiernan Shipka, Mad Men‘s Sally Draper.

Along for the ride are Mako and Bolin, two brothers who Korra meets at a pro-bending tournament, a competitive arena sport where teams battle each other using bending prowess. A love-triangle has already begun to blossom among the three characters, with the second ending hinting a star-crossed lovers. So how long will it be before shirts are printed with Team Mako and Team Bolin?

The Legend of Korra is a worthy addition to the magnificent Avatar canon and I look forward to embarking on this new journey with Avatar Korra. Here’s to more wacky animal hybrids!

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