It's hard to imagine how wildly different yet familiar the new Legend of Korra
is. Like remodeling your bedroom, you know it's the same room you've always done your business in the same shape and yet it's so fresh and different. Legend of Korra
has all the advantages Last Airbender
has without any of the hurdles it had to overcome. With exception to just living up to its pedigree, Legend of Korra
is set to fulfill every bending-fan's itch while still crafting a new, separate story that interested new viewers can get behind. Why should you watch Korra
, whether you're a longtime fan or a newcomer to the world of Avatar
It takes place in an already established world
Imagine watching Last Airbender
's first episode back in 2005, before it became amazing. Much like The Simpsons, it didn't simply explode onto the scene. Viewers were getting themselves into a new, unproven world of fantasy. Creating a new world that captures the attention of the public isn't easy as we've seen in other examples. Mass Effect
did it with amazing success. Too Human collapsed over it's malnourished, buckling knees. So becoming invested in The Last Airbender
could have easily led to joy or disappointment. But the team at Avatar: The Last Airbender
proved that their world was fantastic and amazing with its sweeping oceans, crossed bred fauna, and Asian influences.
Skip to Legend of Korra
and everything that's happening has been proven to fit and gel within the world of Avatar because it takes place years after the events of the Last Airbender
. One of the reasons the announcement of a continuation of the Avatar
series was received with so much excitement was because fans loved the rustic old villages, the bustling Japanese architecture, and the magic infused martial arts. And now it's all coming back but with a fresh coat of paint called progress.
The world has progressed into a new era
Speaking of a fresh coat, don't expect the same story of traveling through a mystic yet ancient world to save the world again. It's been 70 years since Aang saved the world and restored balance and in that span of time, the world was not standing still. The world of Avatar
takes place in a vaguely steampunk, 1920s inspired world while retaining all its roots in Asian design and martial arts.
It goes beyond just saying, “There are cars now.” A major theme in the series is equality and revolution, with the antagonist having a flyer that looks an awful lot like the posters from China's Cultural Revolution
. There's a major class struggle going on and there are triads are at the heart of the problem. There aren't any television sets but people huddle around a radio listening to exciting sports casts. There are even power plants which are of course powered by firebenders capable of shooting lightning. All things and ideals that probably wouldn't fit back in the more period settings of Last Airbender
The new heroes are older
It's likely the children of Avatar: The Last Airbender
were mature for their age. After all, they traveled all over the world in a flying bison, amidst a back drop of war with the fate of millions riding on their shoulders. Yet despite it all, they were still children who could be naïve and optimistic. The outlooks of the new teenage characters are fun new view after following 12-year-olds for so long.
Korra, the new Avatar is in her rebellious years which is further heightened by her aggressive personality. Not only is Mako level-headed and cool under pressure, he has a job and pays bills. His brother Bolin is, well, the guy who lightens the mood. Another thing to keep in mind is the sheer virtue that they're teenagers and thus already have a past. Most of the characters in The Last Airbender
only had a childhood which made them who they are but not much beyond that. Korra's aggressiveness is probably due to her success in learning the physical aspects of bending. Meanwhile, Mako and Bolin have already revealed to have had a past working as the muscle behind the triads. The characters feel richer, especially behind the back story of the world of Avatar.
Tons of respect and references for the past
Despite taking place 70 years past the original Avatar
, that's not to say Korra
takes place in a vacuum. Fans who just can't let go of Aang and his shenanigans will be happy to know that in even the first three episodes, traces of the original cast and their historic actions can still be directly felt. Aang, Toph, and Zuko all have statues celebrating their deeds. From the first episode, the show establishes that Katara is still alive and is an accomplished waterbending master. Toph taught people how to metalbend and established a police force to keep the peace using their metalbending in Republic City.
There are other, subtler references that don't call out to the previous cast so much as to the past itself. In the premiere, Bolin teaches Korra modern bending and fighting which "keeps him light on his feet" much like a boxer, in contrast to Korra's traditional bending forms which keep her rooted. Particularly in the newest episode, Mako gets a job working at the power plant, which involves firebenders shooting lightning at a generator for power. In the past, generating lightning was a rare gift among firebenders and only two people were demonstrated as having the ability to shoot lightning. However, at the power plant, at least five other people were shooting lightning, perhaps showing that progress hasn't just been made technologically but also in bending as well. In the same episode, the primary antongonist's diabolical power was revealed (spoilers)
to be the ability to remove a bender's ability to bend the elements in the same way Aang did to resolve his fight against Fire Lord Sozin. (end spoilers)
The new setting, Republic City
As mentioned before, there has been a lot of technological and cultural progress in Korra
in the past 70 years. All this culminates in the new setting of Republic City. No more will we be enjoying the natural beauty of Avatar. Now we'll be seeing how bending ingenuity and architectural skill has allowed the construction of winding city streets and towering skyscrapers.
Many characters are closely attached to their home cities like Batman's Gotham City and Republic City has a lot of potential. And on a side note, try imagining how skyscrapers in the first place. Imagine a small army of earthbenders piling on stone and dirt for a strong foundation and fire nation metal workers constructing the iron skeleton to the building. It needs to be said that a city of this scale has never existed in the world of Avatar
. Even the huge city of Ba Sing Se from The Last Airbender
didn't have many buildings over three stories.
Music that matches the tone
Sometimes, I forget how memorable music can be in a good show. But Korra's music
immediately jumped out at me due to how well it fit the tone of the era. Music that feels very swing
and feels like it jumped right out of a history text about the roaring twenties.
While there are a lot of period instruments at work in Last Airbender
defintiely has a large focus on violins and horn work
that make you feel like you're going to a party, which is the kind of atmosphere you might find in a freewheeling, prohibition era city with supernatural powers running rampant and gang warfare constantly underlying many decisions.
Kind of makes me want to put on a fedora and go out for a drink. And if I could, I'd bend that hard drink straight into my mouth and pick a fight with an earthbender.