Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Avatar: The Last Airbender vs. Legend of Korra

I am just going to come out and say it: Avatar the Last Airbender is one of the most tightly written TV shows I've ever seen. EVER. 

Quick explanation: Avatar is set in a world where people can "bend" the four elements (water, earth, fire, air)...

You know what? Just watch the opening intro. It explains everything. Plus, PICTURES!

Spoiler: the Avatar was reborn into the Air Nomads. He gets frozen in an iceberg for 100 years. He wakes up to discover the Fire Nation at war with the rest of the world, and all of the Air Nomads dead at the Fire Nation's hands. They were trying to find the Avatar.

Talk about a bad morning.

The series is about Aang trying to master all four elements and defeat the Fire Lord. Awesomeness ensues. 

Okay, so now you're with me. We can proceed.  

The show writers consistently produce high quality episodes. Even the so called "filler" episodes advanced the main plot or a subplot in some way. From the very first episode of The Last Airbender, you can tell they had their end game in sight. Prince Zuko's character arc is still my all time favorite in anything. Ever.

So when the show writers announced they would be doing a sequel of sorts, centered on the next Avatar called the Legend of Korra, I was elated yet frightened. I've been burned before, and I wondered how they could possibly write a sequel and still do the original show justice.

My husband and I have watched all the current episodes of the Legend of Korra.

Here are my thoughts:


Korra does an excellent job in the first episode of quickly establishing how this series is going to be the same, and how it's going to be different. The Order of the White Lotus, a callback from Airbender, find Korra in the southern water tribe. She's bending earth, fire, and water as a toddler, so there's no doubt she's the next avatar. From the opening intro we're told "Avatar Aang's time came to an end", but before that, he and Fire Lord Zuko brought the four nations together and founded the United Republic of Nations.

We also see Airbender Tenzin, Katara and Aang's son. He arrives on a sky bison (unnamed, so probably not Appa) with three kids who are all airbending, and his pregnant wife.

So, that answers some questions, mostly about the airbenders. 

See, an earth bender never gives birth to a water bender, so with Aang being the last airbender it is up to him to single-handedly repopulate the airbenders. Bending isn't directly genetic either, so it's a good thing Aang and Katara had an airbender, and that Tenzin is having lots of airbenders himself. I'd wondered after the Last Airbender ended what would happen if the last air bender died. The avatar cycle would be broken, because the next time the avatar was supposed to be an airbender, there would be no airbending TO be born into. 


This setting is very different from Last Airbender, and I at once love and dislike it. I love the setting in general. LOVE IT. It's very steampunk, and reminds me of the roaring 20's. There's radios and cars and a professional sport in bending. It's awesome. It's fantasy and urban and the art style is gorgeous. 

That said, I'd prefer it if they'd kept the setting a little more fantastical for Avatar. One of my favorite things about The Last Airbender was the setting. It wasn't pseudo-medieval Europe (or pseudo-feudal Japan), but there wasn't a bunch of high tec gadgets either. It was one of the best high fantasy settings I'd run across.

Legend of Korra goes the urban fantasy route. I know it sounds like hypocrisy, coming from the urban fantasy author. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the setting they've created. I just preferred the other setting for Avatar. But that's just my preference. The setting doesn't ruin the series, and in fact brings an interesting angle to the show.

*The demographic:

Legend of Korra is definitely for older viewers and I love it. They took some of their more adult concepts of The Last Airbender (*coughcough* blood bending anyone?) and ran with them. I love it.

*The Avatar State:

I am sort of disappointed Korra is having a hard time accessing the Avatar State. I think the writers have it this way because there's a secret with Aang that they don't want to reveal, but my favorite part of Avatar is Aang dealing with the spirits and the Avatar state. Seriously, every time there was something with the Avatar state in The Last Airbender I got goosebumps.

I also wish they would deal with the Avatar more during peacetime. See, the Last Airbender deals with Aang trying to bring peace to the world. I've always thought it would be cool to see an Avatar in action during peace time, acting as a bridge between the spirit world and their world. 

Korra both shows us what it might be like, and not. There's a lot of politics involved, and dealing with an anti-bending movement, which is pure genius. I love the politics and the vision of what it would be like to deal with bending of all sorts living together. 

There's not a lot of Avatar mediating yet, so I am waiting to see what's going to happen.

They've done an excellent job so far. I love how it's both it's own show as well as a sequel to the original show. 

What do you think?  


  1. Exactly, and well put. I'm a huge fan, but I can also see that they are starting to ramp it up. I expect we'll get some pretty impressive things in the next few episodes (especially with the most recent reveal...)

    So yeah, love it, concerned it isn't going to live up to my hopes, but I'm willing to give it a shot on its own merit.

    And I am digging the animation style.

  2. Love the show so far. The artwork is a little sharper, but the backgrounds could be done a little better. That being said, I can get it in HD, which is amazing.

    The bending genetics thing is really interesting. I always thought (before) only benders of that element could give birth to benders of that same element. But Mako and Bolin have proved that isn't true.

    VERY interested to see where it goes in the season finale next week.

  3. I actually LOVE the steampunkery, but have to admit to not watching more than a few eps of the original series (I know, I know, I need to fix that). But I'm seriously in love with Korra (in a purely platonic, I love your kick-butting ways). :)

  4. Rena: My thoughts exactly!

    Matthew: I might be wrong, but I think that is still true. I was under the impression that Mako and Bolin were brothers in the "raised on the streets" way, not genetically related. Because other wise it's weird that not ONE bender in the original series produced a bender of a different element.

    Susan: OMG yes, I love the steampunkery too. That's why I feel so torn. I love the setting so much, but I sort of wish they just used it in a different show.

    If you have Netflix, the entire first series is on there. And if you love Korra, it's safe to say you will also love the original series.

  5. I've been eyeing the original series on the Netflix/Wii - I just need to carve out the hours to watch it!!

  6. Interesting take. I definitely thought they were blood, but now that you mention it, you might be right.

    Also, consider the fact that Katara and Aang were of two different bending groups (before Aang became Avatar) and yet they had an airbender child.

    Anyway, whatever, both shows are awesome.