Monday, April 16, 2012

The Legend of Korra

The Legend of Korra takes place 70 years after the events at the end of Avatar: The Last Airbender.  If you’ve never heard or watched Avatar: The Last Airbender you are missing out on so much!  Sure it’s on Nickelodeon, targeted at kids but it easily appeals to adults as well.

The Last Airbender takes place in a world that is divided into four different cultures: Earth, Fire, Air and Water.  There are citizens who are born with the abilities to manipulate these four elements.  They are called benders and train to develop their skills.  There is one individual, known as the Avatar, who is the only one who can control all four elements.  She or he has the responsibility to maintain balance in the world.  When an Avatar passes away, a new one is born as the reincarnation of all previous Avatars.

The events in Avatar: The Last Airbender centered around Avatar Aang and the 100 Year War that started when the Fire Nation began a campaign of domination.  It was Avatar Aang who had the responsibility to stop the Fire Nation and restore balance among the other nations.  In the new series, Avatar Aang has passed and a new Avatar, Korra of the Southern Water Tribe, is tasked with maintaining balance but in a very different world with advanced technology and a populace with a growing distrust of all benders.

The Legend of Korra recently premiered on Nickelodeon on Saturday, April 14th.  The first two episodes have been kicking around the internet for a couple of weeks now.  Since only the first episode has aired, I’ll just talk about that one for now.  I’ve always enjoyed The Last Airbender.  I think it was about two years ago when we were finally able to watch the entire series from beginning to end courtesy of Netflix.  Before it was catching episodes here and there as it was running, and filling in the rest of what we missed with reruns.

It’s a fun, exciting adventure that the whole family can enjoy that has a fully realized world with wonderful characters who are easily likable yet layered with flaws, which makes them even more interesting.  The Legend of Korra starts out well, establishing a young Korra that will be equally likeable, from what I’ve seen so far, yet setting her apart as her own person.  She is not a warmed up version of any characters we’ve seen from the previous series.  She is smart, brave, strong and full of life and energy.  She doesn’t want to be kept locked up, she’s ready to explore the world and fulfill her obligations as the Avatar.

There is also a whole new setting in this series: Republic City.  It’s a city established by Avatar Aang and Fire Lord Zuko, where all benders could live together peacefully.  It’s a city that has grown tremendously, in both size and its use of technology.  It’s modern and full of new wonders that Korra has only heard about as she trained in the Southern Water Nation.  This is a city that has been without the Avatar for a while and has seemed to move on toward a different future.  It is here where the seeds of dissent have been planted and beginning to manifest itself against all benders.

The look and feel of the city is great.  It is very 1920s-esque with the Model T-like cars driving around, shop keepers selling phonographs, yet it has that steampunk vibe with zeppelins zipping through the air.  It’s a very different city compared to what us fans of The Last Airbender are used to seeing in the large, walled cities of this world.  Ingenious uses of bending were used for transportation and communication.  Republic City has moved beyond bending for its uses, though benders are still a big part of the city.

I’m really excited to see more from this new series.  We’ve gotten just enough to tie the two series together but The Legend of Korra will be able to move on and be its own show.  It has a new Avatar, a new setting and a new adventure that has not yet been explored before.  I really recommend it so far based on the first episode.  I think it gives you enough background to jump into this new series if you haven’t watched The Last Airbender.

Now I want to discuss some things I noticed and show some of my favorite moments.  There will be minor spoilers ahead:

The opening is narrated by Tenzin, Aang’s youngest son, who is the only one of Aang’s children who is an airbender and who will be training the current Avatar, Korra.  In the original series, Katara was the narrator, and we were shown faceless figures demonstrating each of the four elements.  This time we get to see the last 3 Avatars (who were very prominent in the original series) and Korra, the current reincarnation, demonstrating each of the elements.

Avatar Kyoshi - Earth

Avatar Roku - Fire

Avatar Aang - Air

Avatar Korra - Water

We also get a glimpse of all our favorite heroes from The Last Airbender, but they’ve been aged since the last time we’ve seen them.  They look like they are in their late teens.  It’s a nice transition, moving seamlessly from the original to the new to show the passage of time.  It’s done in a way that’s respectful of the original series characters and the fans who love them.

Sokka, Suki, Toph and Katara

Zuko and Aang

I really like the statue of Avatar Aang in the bay of Republic City.  Even more interesting, it’s of an adult Aang (also note that Aang is an adult in demonstrating airbending as well).  It’s showing us that yes, he was only a 12 year old child when he defeated Fire Lord Ozai but he grew up, and did a lot more.

It seems the creators are avoiding showing us images of Aang as us viewers remember him, as the adorable 12 year old child.  I like what they are doing here.  We are moving into a time and place, when Aang has already passed on and a new Avatar is ready to take her place in the world and assume her responsibilities as the Avatar.  It is time to let the new generation follow their own path.  I will miss Aang, and I’m saddened that he has passed but he achieved much and there was a life for him beyond the 100 Year War.  He grew up and lived a rich full life.  He and Katara have three children together, he helped build Republic City; his legacy will live on.

I really loved the introduction of a young Avatar Korra showing off her limited earth, fire and waterbending skills.  The little puffs of fire and small earth platforms were adorable as well as her baby belly hanging out!  Oh my god, baby bellies are the cutest!  If you want to see her in action, check out this clip:

“I’m the Avatar, you gotta deal with it!”

Aang and Katara named their first son, Bumi, after the king of Omashu who was a close friend of Aang.  And if you take a look at this, he is a non-bender.

It’s awesome that Katara is Korra’s waterbending master and she still has her hair loopys!

I loved the part when Katara picks up her grandson, Meelo, to hug him, and he tells his grandmother, “Unhand me strange woman!”  It's moments like these that make me love this show.  I find it very believable that a small boy, meeting his grandmother for the first time, would say something like this, and grandma would just chuckle and hug him some more.

And the most important question asked by Jinora, Tenzin’s oldest daughter: "What happened to Zuko’s mother?"  Yes!  This is very important because The Last Airbender ended with this same question and it has not been answered yet.  Not cool!  I demand an answer!  Please.

Tenzin’s children are adorable.  They are air benders and very much like Aang when he was young, fun loving yet very serious when it comes to the art of airbending.  Well, except for Meelo who fell asleep when he should have been meditating.

Some things I’m looking forward to in this new series:

I really hope we see more of Katara and that we get to meet her and Aang’s other two children, Kya (love that name!) and Bumi.  And maybe a chance to meet Sokka’s children or grandchildren (if they exist).

Korra achieving the Avatar State.  It was said in the first episode that she has the physical abilities covered (though just beginning her airbending training), but not the spiritual.  It’s going to be interesting watching her journey.  Aang managed, though with some difficulty.  But he was still very young and only had a year and I think he had a bit of an advantage having been trained by peaceful monks.  I can’t wait to see how Korra does it.

Before it was everyone against the Fire Nation, but within the other nations, benders were looked up to and protected those that were non-benders.  This growing conflict between benders and non-benders is going to be very interesting.

So two big, enthusiastic thumbs up!  I’m looking forward to more.  And if you are a fan and want more, Nickelodeon already has episode 2 up:

And this past weekend I picked up the graphic novel Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Promise Part 1 which bridges the events from the original series with the new.  It's excellent!  Part 2 is due in May!

* Since I do not cable, I just found out that Nickelodeon aired both episode 1 and 2 on Saturday, so I guess I could have talked about both episodes.  Oh well... gives something else to talk about another day!

1 comment:

  1. Oh God!! I don't know if The Legend of Korra is going to be as good as Avatar: The Last Airbender, i've seen the first episodes, and I'm not liking as much as I love the story of Aang, Katara, Sokka, Toph and Zuko.....