By: Kendall Litzsinger
In many respects, Avatar the Last Airbender is one of the best animated shows of all time. Its characters have captured the hearts of fans young and old and its lessons are thoughtful and timeless. Avatar is a rich Asian inspired world with creativity, versatility and a lot of heart. One can imagine that when the Legend of Korra was announced in 2011, many were hoping that it would be a well written follow up to the original series, and in many ways, it was. There were some instances where Korra surpassed her predecessor but there were also moments where her show fell completely short of it. Is the Legend of Korra a worthy successor to Avatar or is this show just another cash grab that relies on giving into the masses? Let’s find out.
Our main character is hotheaded, brash and proud, the exact opposite of Aang from the first show. Korra as a character is someone who I feel many can relate to as she’s flawed and has moments of immaturity but is also someone who will do the right thing in the end. The other characters are a bit bland though, my least favorite being the criminal Mako. There really is not a whole lot I can say about Mako other than that he’s a poorly written James Dean type. His brother Bolin is much more fun to watch as he’s got way more personality. Then there’s our final member of Korra’s little crew, the beautiful Asami. She’s probably the best written out of the main cast outside of Korra and she’s got a very interesting backstory which I won’t give away. When it comes to the rest of the cast, everyone else is kind of forgettable. Even the four villains of each season are just rehashed versions of villains from far better movies and shows. While Avatar had a lovable and complex cast of characters, Korra for me was the only character worth really talking about in her show.
The story of Korra relies less on one big story arc and more on mini arcs with each season. This ruined the show for me because it took away the grand story that made the original so great to experience. Here we have four smaller stories instead of one big one. This makes it harder to get to know the characters and makes the villains less impactful and threatening. Season three was truly the only season of this show where the villains were actually threatening. While some story choices worked well such as dedicating an episode to the history of the Avatar universe, others did not. One such example is season 4’s episode Remembrances. This episode was merely a rehashed clip show that did not further influence the story or amount to anything. When this show does something brilliant, it’s pretty well done but these moments are quite rare in a show that’s story is mostly mediocre.
One of the things Korra got right was its setting. From the bustling Republic City to the metal clan of Zaofu, the settings in this show are creative, inventive and breathtaking. Even the spirit world which was somewhat boring in the original show got a massive revamp and the creators went all out with the designs of the spirits and the alternate reality that they inhabit. The detail in the animation is also astounding. Much like the original, the animation is fluid, crisp and wonderful to look at. The way the artists even chose to model Republic City after the real cities of New York and Hong Kong but take their own creative spin on it is just plain fun to watch on screen. If one is going to watch this show for anything, it would have to be the setting.
Another thing that the show does well is choreography. The fight sequences mirror that of the original show and are just as, if not even more spectacular. New styles of fighting are explored such as lava bending, astral projection, and the sinister blood bending that appeared in the Halloween special of the original show. Like its predecessor, Korra has it’s fight choreography based on real world martial arts choreography which adds to the creative ways in which the show connects to our own world. To see the fight choreography be expanded on in ways no one ever thought possible in Avatar is something that really makes this show stand out as an art form.
When it comes to the worst thing about this show, it has to be the shoehorned romance. This show is infamous for its poor execution of romance and honestly, one could recreate the love triangle narration in the She’s the Man trailer with these characters. The relationships in this show don’t take any time to develop but rather spring out of nowhere and then stop. Nothing really gets resolved in the end with the couples and the only couple that had decent writing was the romance between the side characters Varrick and Zhu Li. The other couple that had decent potential was Korra and her best friend Asami but even then, their romance felt kind of rushed in at the very end. I really do like Korra and Asami as a couple and the comics that take place after the show really do the couple justice, but the show itself could have done so much better. It’s always possible that Nickelodeon executives were too homophobic to feature an explicitly LGBT couple at the time but then again, that’s no excuse.
In conclusion, while the Legend of Korra had some amazing cinematography, animation, settings and choreography, it also had forgettable side characters, uninteresting villains, rushed romances and weak plots. As a stand-alone show, Korra holds up pretty well but as a follow up to Avatar, it’s a weak sequel. There’s a lot to like about this show from its progressive leanings to lush animation but there’s also plenty to complain about too. If you want to check out this show, go ahead, maybe there’s something in it I’m not getting out of it. I really do like certain aspects of Korra but some of the bigger things made the show an underwhelming follow up to an epic masterpiece.