God, I’ve missed Avatar. No, not James Cameron’s blue aliens. Rather, that would be Avatar: The Last Airbender, my favorite animated show of all time, and probably in my top ten overall list. The three season arc was a brilliant introduction to a world where people master the elements of fire, water, air and earth, all without the aid of Captain Planet.
Once the show wrapped, I figured it was the last we’d seen of the series, as it was about as conclusory as can be. But now the show’s creators have found a way to bring it back with The Legend of Korra, a sequel set probably close to eighty years later in the same universe.
This weekend brought us new episodes of Game of Thrones and Mad Men, but also our first look at the new Avatar, master of all four elements. Korra is from the southern water tribe, and when we meet her, she’s already a pretty powerful bender. The last Avatar, Aang, spent a season learning each of the three elements that weren’t native to him. Korra already has fire, earth and her native water under her belt, with only air to go.
The show has many tie-ins to the original. Kitara is now old and grey, and had children with Aang once they stopped being prepubescent. We meet her son Tenzin (voiced by JK Simmons!), an airbending master, who is tasked with teaching the impatient Korra the very patient art form.
I love Korra’s character. I love everything about her. Her design is gorgeous, as she’s a tough, spunky, strong female lead, and a bit more grown up than the children of the first series. I like that she’s already mastered most of the elements, and is cocky about her powers where Aang was more unsure. She’s just an all-around great character, and that much can be seen from the first two episodes alone.
There is so much potential in this universe, I hope that they keep doing shows like this indefinitely. Korra is only supposed to be one season of 24 episodes I believe, making it even shorter than the already abridged first series. There doesn’t seem to be some world-ending threat looming right now. Rather, the scope seems a bit smaller, with local troubles like criminal gangs and anti-bending militant groups being the primary sources of unrest, but perhaps it will escalate.
I don’t think the show needs to go overboard with tying things back to the original. Like it’s nice that descendants of the old cast are around, but if this new fire bending athlete kid turns out to be Zuko’s kid, I think we’ve gone over the top. I also wasn’t all that impressed with professional bending as a sport. That was a fun episodes, but flicking wisps of water and fire, and hurling earth discs isn’t exactly the coolest use of the powers, and I thought from the description it was going to be significantly more epic. Rather, the superior scene was Korra’s apprehension of local criminals using bending, and her subsequent chase by police.
In short, I’m thoroughly excited the series is back. It looks phenomenal in HD, and is one of the best animated shows out there. Hard to believe that it’s all the work of Americans, when such concepts like this are normally Asian in origin. Thankfully however, Korra does not need to spend ten episodes powering up before something happens. With a relatively short run, it forces each episode to be jam packed, and it’s usually all quality through and through.
I can’t say this enough, but go watch the original, and join me on Saturdays to watch Korra. What? Going out is overrated.