It’s been almost four years since Nickelodeon’s amazing animated television series Avatar: The Last Airbender ended its three season run. Sure, there was a half-hearted attempt to adapt the story to the big screen, but I think we can all agree M. Night Shyamalan’s interpretation never rose to the occasion. But now we have The Legend of Korra, a Last Airbender sequel by the creators of the original show so many of us loved. While the season premiere of The Legend of Korra is set to air tomorrow—Saturday, April 14—on Nickelodeon in the US, the first two episodes, Welcome to Republic City and A Leaf in the Wind, are already available on iTunes, giving us a chance to review it early.
A more mature setting
The Legend of Korra is set seventy years after the series finale of The Last Airbender. A lot has changed in those seventy years. There is peace in the world, and Aang’s legacy is most obvious in the marvelous metropolis he founded. Republic City, the main setting of this new show, is a steampunk-esque place where people of all four nations live together in harmony. However, the city isn’t the utopia it seems.
At the center of The Legend of Korra is a deeper conflict that immediately shows the new-found maturity of this sequel. Benders, people who can manipulate one of the four elements, are too powerful, and many of them abuse their powers at the expense of the normal population. Civil war is brewing, and the Equalists—the anti-bender movement—is at the heart of it. This well-executed exploration of deeper themes connects with the now-grown-up fans of Avatar while still staying true to the old concept of witty dialogue, comical characters, and seriously epic magic. The city itself is beautifully visualized, with spectacular Victorian-style skylines and gorgeous buildings.
At the time of this sequel, Aang is long gone, and the new Avatar incarnation is Korra of the water tribe, a young stubborn woman still training, and not yet in command of all four elements. She, too, is grown up compared to the characters in The Last Airbender, and so are most other characters, in their adolescence. The story of The Legend of Korra follows her as she stumbles onto the public scene in Republic City, where she lives with one of the only living air benders, a son of Avatar Aang whose political obligations prevent him from taking Korra away from the public eye for her training.
Bending for sports
In quick succession, these first two episodes give a solid introduction to all the defining elements of the series, from new characters to the political climate of Republic City, and from an organized bending mafia and the metal-bending police to Korra’s unsuccessful air-bending lessons. The Legend of Korra more than lives up to the legacy of Avatar. What stands out to me most, though, is Pro-Bending, a professional sports that utilizes the bending magic. Unlike most fictional sports, this one is easily comprehendible and exciting to watch. On top of that, the arena in which the games take place is a true pleasure to look at.
All in all, The Legend of Korra is off to a promising start. The new and mature angle, combined with the steampunk setting, is definitely a hit. The Last Airbender left big shoes to fill, but this sequel may well surpass the original. I, for one, look forward to seeing more, and I can’t wait to find out where the story goes from here. If you loved Avatar: The Last Airbender, don’t forget to watch the season premiere of The Legend of Korra!