Earth. Fire. Air. Water. Nickelodeon’s Avatar universe is back with Avatar: The Legend of Korra and, boy, does it have a lot to live up to. From the second that Avatar: The Last Airbender ended, fans have been clamoring for more. Thankfully, Nickelodeon has finally delivered. In spades. Full spoilers of episodes 1 and 2 follow!
In The Legend of Korra, 70 years have passed since Avatar Aang united the four bending nations and brought peace to the world. In that time, Avatar Aang has come and gone, leaving a legacy in Republic City, intended to be a bastion of unity in the new world. As society and technology advanced over the decades, the culture has evolved into a wonderful amalgam of Steampunk, 1920s, and element bending, with Republic City at the heart of this change. The series' creators could have easily settled into something familiar, but they were wise to evolve the world, as this new environment provides a perfect backdrop for our new Avatar, Korra.
Korra is also the definition of spitfire. She is headstrong and a gifted fighter, already proficient in earth, fire, and water bending. However, despite her being older than Aang was when we followed his journey in The Last Airbender, she lacks the calm, focus, and maturity that Aang had even as a youth, qualities that an Avatar is supposed to possess. And that is recipe for some gloriously funny interactions, such as the notable exchange during her interrogation with Lin Beifong, Toph’s daughter and the Republic City Chief of Police.
Korra, born of the Water Tribe, travels to Republic City to train under Tenzin, airbending master and Aang’s and Katara’s youngest son. However, upon her first visit to Republic City, she discovers that there is a lot of tension brewing under the surface. Korra runs into a group of protesters complaining about “the oppression of the benders.” The old ways are clashing with modern society (as we figured they would.) It creates an interesting dichotomy - as the Avatar, she need to learn these "old ways" under Master Tenzin, but as a modern youth experiencing the city for the first time, she's drawn to an entire city surrounding her contradicting it all. Tenzin displays many of Aang’s personality traits as he navigates this new society as a political figure and as a master airbender; it’s almost as if Aang is living on through his son (and grandchildren), which is nice to see. I can’t wait to see where this all leads. Providing tension like this takes a generic fish-out-of-water story and turns it into something much more compelling.
For long time fans of the Avatar story, there are many nods to the older series. While many of the original team has passed, there are a few characters still around, such as Katara, now Aang’s elderly widow, Tenzin’s mother, and Korra’s waterbending master. Story-wise, there is a rather insidious thread dropped about one of the previous series’ biggest unsolved mysteries: Zuko’s mother. It is brought up by one of Katara’s grandchildren, but before the story can be told, Katara is cut off. I really hope that this is addressed later in the series.
Korra also introduces some fantastic new forms of element bending! The Republic City police utilize metalbending (which, by the way, was discovered by Toph in the original series) in a way that make them look like an army of Spider-Men! The chase sequence between them and Korra was really breathtaking. Also, I cannot put into words how awesome Pro-Bending is. The sport is like a mix of dodgeball, American Gladiators, and element bending! Like Quidditch, it’s a sport I wished existed in real life. Its utilization in the story is pretty cool, too.
I can’t wait to see what else has to bring to the table. With some of the best animation I have seen in a while coupled with a compelling story, The Legend of Korra has a lot to offer. Any fan of Avatar will feel right at home in this wild ride, while being enough of a blank slate to welcome any newcomer to the series. And if you need anymore convincing, I will leave you with this: polar-bear-dog.
The series premiere of Avatar: The Legend of Korra will air on April 14 at 11:00 AM on Nickelodeon.