I’ve always been a fan of Avatar: The Legend of Aang, but for so long I continued putting of watching the next chapter of the Avatar series. Korra is everything I want out of a lead heroine. She is capable, smart, oddly charming, but also sometimes misguided, brash and frustratingly stubborn – which makes her everything a real person would be with the power of four elements sparking off her fingertips.
There are several major differences separating this series to the last. The (slightly) older characters create space for more mature themes to be written in. Romances are certainly not lacking in this regard, and at one point the show writes itself into a love square? Between Korra, Mako, Bolin and Asami. The Pro-Bending showcase in Book One was the perfect way to tie these characters together, as well as remind audiences what bending can actually do! And if we were able to do it in this day and age, why wouldn’t we turn it into a spectator’s sport? It was also a quick way for new viewers to check out all the fun things you could do with basic elements because, you know, not everything exciting is made of high-tech machinery.
And on the topic of high-tech machinery, Future Industries serves as a strong (if not blatant) reminder of the time jump that’s happened since the original Avatar series. In the age of industrialization and technology, can bending survive? Even esteemed metalbenders find themselves stuck when faced with Hiroshi’s giant robo-platinum tech (I can’t remember what they were called) so it does seem that Korra’s generation of benders are facing more difficulties than Aang’s did. The political themes that ran through Book One were done flawlessly, with the chants of Equalists ringing a familliar tone in the minds’ of society today… Can you imagine what politics would look like if this universe was real. I’d rather not. General Iroh’s appearance was a surprise, possibly the best type. When he started speaking with the same voice as Zuko I probably fainted. There was this great Youtube comment that said something along the lines of “Iroh sounded like he was a second away from bitching about honour” which was, the #releast comment you could make.
Amon was a great villain for the first season, the knowledge of his dangerous powers looming over our heads. I was truly terrified of him, I was truly terrified for Korra. I can’t even bend a spoon and I was fearing for my life whenever Korra was near him. Don’t let him take away your bending! Run away! Don’t engage! I would be a terrible Avatar, probably. But of course, our heroine fought back and she fought hard. What I liked about Korra is that her personality was completely different to Aang’s, yet it made so much sense why they were both Avatars. They were both worthy in their own rights. Aang’s upbringing as an Air Nomad gave him the pacifistic qualities that showed us how much he valued peace, but he was also never afraid to fight if that was what he needed to do to achieve it. Korra, on the other hand, tends to fight because she refuses to be disrespected, and she believes that everyone deserves that same right too. Sometimes she fights out of stubbornness or anger, but this is another character arc that we see her grow through. I’ve not yet finished the season, but I can already see a massive change in her character. She’s learned to appreciate those around her more, and has become a more humble person, more open to changes in her life.
The second season was also terrific, with the Civil War and spirit-y plotlines running in tandem, there was barely a moment to breathe. Some characters had been pushed aside, or just pushed to odd directions. Bolin, for example, becomes a mover star, which is. Odd. The separation of the brothers does create more room for growth outside the Pro-Bending arena, but it feels slightly disjointed at times. Asami, after a great first season of facing her evil-robot-building father, struggles to save Future Industries from bankruptcy (and from the clutches of Varrick). We saw her entrepreneurial side more, which was refreshing and also a nice change from all the rocks and water being thrown all over the place by the other characters. Asami is definitely one of my favourite characters, despite being introduced as Mako’s love interest in the first season. She is typically atypical: lover, daughter, racer, fighter, businesswoman. She’s perfect, but her life certainly isn’t, which is where most of her growth takes place and where we’re given the opportunity to admire her true character.
I have no real opinion on the romance plotlines of Book One and Two. They formed naturally, and they ended naturally. Asami and Mako didn’t work out, and neither did Korra and Mako, for different yet similar reasons. The similar reason being Mako. He has the personality of a stale piece of bread. Although he looks pretty, which would explain why both Korra and Asami were into him. (And yes, I do know what happens in the end romance-wise, and I am very, very excited to get into that later on.)
The Civil War conflict of Book Two was definitely exciting, especially after coming out of a different Civil War in cinemas not too long ago. Seeing the Southern and Northern water tribes in a clash for some reason reminded me of Sokka’s relationship with Princess Yue, who turned into a fish, which has little to do with current affairs but. Fish princess. Moon spirit. That was a tragedy for the ages. It was interesting to see how they merged that conflict with Korra’s spiritual journey, especially through Unalaq’s character. To be honest, the whole spiritual journey stuff wasn’t my favourite – I was far more invested in the real-life, gritty themes of Book One, but I must admit they did it well. The change of setting was also jarring, from Republic City, to the almost barren South Pole, or the abstract land of the Spirit World where things exist as colourful, talking shapes with faces.
However, and I say, HOWEVER in bold capitals, there is one thing I loved about Korra’s spiritual journey, and that’s meeting the past Avatars. Especially the first one! The first one, named Wan, a homophone to one, as a friend pointed out to me. I wanted to smack myself in the head after I realized, but it was funny anyway. Wan was great, the whole big battle between Raava and Vaatu thing was great, and the lion turtles were also, great. Which is why it was a million times more heartbreaking when Korra’s spirit was separated from the rest of her past incarnations. I get all giddy on the inside when she connects with her past Avatars, especially Aang (like when Tarrlock trapped her in that metal box) and I’m just, sat here? Wondering if Aang will come back?
I enjoyed that brief moment when Aang appeared to Tenzin in the foggy spirit dungeon. It was a nice heartfelt moment, as Tenzin’s character needed a bit of development too. One of the important themes in Book Two was coming to terms with your family, and your place in it. It was an important lesson for Korra and her father, but also for Tenzin and his siblings as well. Seeing the past through rose-tinted glasses can actually be harmful, and Tenzin realizes that maybe their childhood wasn’t all that he had imagined it to be. Kya is also so Katara, which makes my heart grow a little warmer every time she comes up on screen. Jinora also has the same effect, with her spiritual abilities – she literally carries the light of the world in her hands. That scene with Tenzin, Ikki and the baby bisons was my favourite scene, by the way. Love me, Blueberry Spicehead.
Anyway, I think I’m done with my rant. I’ve just started Season 3 this morning and I had intended to continue now but I ended up writing this instead but we’re all being productive so! Also I just realized I haven’t proclaimed my love for Lin Beifong in this post. I love her. She is amazing. “Stay away from my dad’s ex-girlfriend!” remains one of the most badass lines yet, thank you Jinora. You’re my hero. And so are all the other female characters on this show really. Writers, you have done well. You have done well.