I loved Avatar: The Last Airbender. Aang was a tremendously deep character to be featured on a “kids” show, and the the series dealt with a lot of mature themes in its three seasons. The Legend of Korra absolutely continues that trend, but loses a little bit of the mystery involved in bending itself.
For those that don’t know, the show is centered around people with the ability to “bend” elements to their will. Water, fire, earth, and air. But it goes a little deeper than that. Through study, earth benders, for example, can learn to bend certain types of metal, and some water benders can learn to bend the very blood in a person’s veins. Creepy stuff. The exception is the Avatar, someone born every generation that has the ability to bend ALL of the elements when everyone else is only born with the ability to bend one. But Legend of Korra kind of assumes that everyone has seen The Last Airbender, and doesn’t spend a whole lot of time explaining the ins and outs of the technique. More focus is put on the increasingly hostile interactions of benders with non-benders, and it forms a great parallel to our own lives. Should the elite always be the ones with power, or should it be spread evenly?
Without going too far into the story, the villain of the season is the leader of the “Equalists,” a group of people looking to overthrow the bending elitist government to put their own dictator in charge. The Leader, Amon, has the ability to take a person’s bending away permanently, previously something only the Avatar could occasionally do. For most of the season, I felt that Amon was a little bit of a two-dimensional character, but the reveals in the final two episodes changed that. He actually does have an interesting past, and one that almost makes you sympathize with him.
Korra, on the other hand, is an exceptional character through and through. She’s brash and confident in a way that Aang never was, and it really helps distinguish her from the beloved past star of the series. She’s older than Aang was, and is already a master of three of the elements. But she seems to lack the ability to air bend, no matter what he teacher Tenzin (Aang’s son) tries to show her. It’s a flaw that makes Korra not seem too overpowered amongst her peers. She may be the Avatar, but she is still just a teenager. And as Aang had Katara, Sokka, and Toph, Korra has a group of friends to follow her on adventures. Mako and Bolin are orphaned brothers that train Korra in the sport of pro-bending, and take turns falling in and out of love with her (more on that later). Rounding out the foursome is Asami Sato, daughter of famous inventor Hiroshi Sato. The four of them get up to some wacky adventures, but there are definitely less water treading episodes than in The Last Airbender. Pretty much every episode has something to move the main story forward.
One plot thread that I didn’t particularly enjoy was the love square between the four of them. I completely understand, considering the age demographic of the show, why they’d have teenagers constantly falling in love with one another, but it doesn’t make it any less annoying to watch. Bolin likes Korra, but Korra likes Mako. Mako kind of likes Korra, but then the hot and rich Asami enters the picture and Mako immediately falls for her. Korra goes out with Bolin to make Mako jealous, Bolin finds out and it breaks his heart. Then next episode, Bolin and Korra are best friends again after Korra barely apologizes. Fast forward a few episodes and Mako decides that he’s in love with Korra now, and Asami is understandably jealous and distraught, but never does anything about it for the rest of the season. Confused yet? I’m not surprised. But honestly I’d be much more alright with all of this if there was a more satisfying conlusion to it. Yes, Korra and Mako totes make out omg at the end, but Asami is upset and doesn’t do anything about it, and Bolin is magically okay with his brother dating the girl that he was in love with a week earlier. It all just feels rushed. But really that’s a small(ish) part of the show, and it doesn’t distract too much from the badassery.
The combat animations looks even better than in Last Airbender, and the show is overflowing with cool set piece moments and battles. Watching Korra, Mako, and Bolin all bend different elements in the pro-bending circuit is thrilling. I love that we learned more about metal and blood bending, and I hope that we see more new bending types in the future. All in all, Korra is a great addition to the Avatar mythos, and the show itself improves upon the original in almost every way.
-Korra is a great character
-Meelo is adorable
-some of the character animations don’t look as clean
-Amon lacks depth for most of the season
-love triangles aren’t explored enough