After a four year wait, Avatar is back with The Legend of Korra. Luckily for it, the show already has a substantial fan base and is a highly anticipated release. With all this anticipation comes a lot of expectations that may or may not be met. Fortunately the two-chapter premiere of The Legend of Korra starts off on the right foot. The Legend of Korra quickly manages to prove that this is a series worthy of carrying on the Avatar series.
The Legend of Korra takes place 70 years after The Last Airbender. Aang’s time has passed and now a new Avatar has been born out of the water tribe. Her name is Korra, and from an early age she displayed natural talent in the art of bending fire, water and earth. In chapter 1, “Welcome to Republic City,” it is decided that Korra will be taught airbending by Katara and Aang’s son, Tenzin. Much to Korra’s dismay, however, Tenzin explains he cannot teach her due to circumstances in Republic City. This city is a place founded by Aang and Zuko, made for benders and non-benders alike. Unable to take no for an answer, Korra makes her way to Republic City. After a small brawl with some thugs, she finds herself in trouble and is bailed out by Tenzin. Just as he is about to send her back to the water tribe, he has a change of heart and agrees that she can stay with him and he will teach her airbending. In chapter 2, “A Leaf in the Wind,” Korra finds herself at odds with Tenzin as she has trouble airbending. Going against his rules, she attends a pro-bending match where she meets Bolin and Mako, members of a pro-bending team that she ends up joining, and with her help the three make it into a pro-bending tournament.
Avatar creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko waste no time getting to the point in this episode. Just as we are introduced to a young Korra we soon find ourselves watching her struggle with the metalbending police in Republic City. The pacing is fast, which is appreciated as it gets the viewer invested in the story quickly. It also makes for exciting entertainment, as Korra goes from displaying her natural abilities as a child, to passing her firebending test and then to using all three bending elements to defend a local store owner from thugs. Though it is a fast start, it easily sets the tone for the series and serves as a fantastic reminder of why so many loved the first series.
Chapter 2 slows down the pace just the slightest bit, with Korra beginning her airbending training. To say her training starts off badly is an understatement. She is unable to do anything Tenzin says, whether it be getting through an ancient airbending maze or even meditating. Airbending training is rather fascinating to watch, since that is the only element we did not get to see in the previous series. Pro-bending is a fun addition to the series, and having benders working through a series of competitions is a great way for the series to keep up the intensity while Korra undergoes air training. Of course, it also allows for creative new styles of bending and fighting to be introduced. Korra and Tenzin fight in the majority of the episode, but are able to come to an understanding by the end: Korra has to be more open minded while Tenzin needs to be less controlling.
The show introduces an array of new characters. Leaving Aang behind is sad, but necessary. There is a beautiful moment between Katara and Korra where Katara passes the baton and tells Korra to find her own path: an honest message that all fans should take to heart. Korra herself is the polar opposite of Aang. She is strong, hardheaded and always eager to fight. Strong female protagonists can be difficult to find on television, so Korra’s concept alone is a welcome change. In general I’d say it was smart to create an Avatar so different from Aang. Instead of rehashing the problems Aang had we now get to see Korra struggle with her own Avatar problems, like getting in touch with her spiritual side and learning what it means to be like a leaf in the wind. Watching her get involved in pro-bending is a lot of fun too, as we get to watch her improve her natural abilities as a bender.
The distinction between Korra and Aang is further established through her interaction with Tenzin. He is uptight and serious, completely unlike Korra. Despite his seriousness he does have a few hilarious moments, particularly when dealing with his kids (who are surprisingly very funny) and when he watches Korra pro-bend. Toph’s daughter, Lin, is similarly serious, but much more strict. She leads Republic City’s metalbenders and would have locked up Korra had it not been for Tenzin’s intervention. Though the story is about Korra and her time as the Avatar, one has to wonder who else has had children and whether or not they will make an appearance.
As for new characters: At this point Bolin and Mako sort of come across as Sokka and Zuko 2.0. Bolin is the quirky guy trying to get the girls while Mako is the silent, mean-but-caring type. It’s not terrible that there are such similarities, but if the two aren’t distinguished properly it could come off as a rehash. I did thoroughly enjoy the two though, especially when Mako comes around at the end and stops being a jerk to Korra. This new Avatar crew will have to grow in their own right of they are to win the pro-bending tournament.
Now, if the series was just about pro-bending that would eventually get old. There is a villain, and he goes by the name of Amon. He is the leader of an anti-bending movement currently going on in Republic City. Amon is only on screen for a tiny bit of time, so his motive and final objective are anyone’s guess. Since we know so little, making even an initial judgment on him is impossible.
Republic City is a part of Avatar that viewers have never seen before. It is a city blended with the culture of the past and the technology of the future. Such a change from the previous series is drastic, but yet another reminder that the show is in a different era. Despite the change, the city, characters and the bending are still beautifully animated and drawn. The music, like the city, has similarly been adjusted. It has a roaring 20s feel, but still keeps the aesthetics that made the original series so great.
There is a lot of promise and hope built into the series premiere of The Legend of Korra. The only issue is that the bar is set rather high, and perhaps unfairly so. With such a strong legacy behind it, Korra has its work cut out for itself. That aside, in these first two chapters we have been introduced to a stunning setting, an eclectic range of interesting characters and a powerful new Avatar that will undoubtedly take the series past the bar that has been set so high for the show.
Even though Aang and his friends are gone, a piece of them has been left behind. That is the beauty of The Legend of Korra it has limitless story and character potential and all the means to meet it.