When The Legend of Korra‘s first season was announced on Nickelodeon in 2012, I was intrigued. Its predecessor, Avatar: the Last Airbender, was one of the best cartoons I’d seen in a long time. It had a vast world that had such imagination put into it. Every episode seemed to only give us glimpses of the world. The writing was stellar and the voice work was excellent. It was a world I wanted to visit again.
Legend of Korra fast forwards 70 years after Aang’s reign as Avatar. The Fire Nation and Water Tribes have forged a unified Republic, with its capital named Republic City, which seems like a mix between our New York City and Hong Kong. Aang’s descendants are all that remains of the Air Nomads, with Lord Tenzin being his eldest son.
The new Avatar is Korra of the Water Tribe. At the start of the season, she is under Lord Tenzin’s training, having already mastered Water, Fire, and Earth bending. Tenzin has a brother named Buumi (named after Aang’s old friend who once ruled the Earth Kingdom) and a wife named Pema. Together, Tenzin and Pema have four children: Jinora (a calm bookworm), Ikki (her somewhat annoying younger sister), Meelo (her hyper and crazy little brother), and Rohan (who isn’t born until Book One’s finale) Jinora quickly became one of my favorite characters almost within the first episode. In this episode, Korra’s headstrong attitude causes Tenzin to ask Jinora, “Promise me you won’t be as stubborn when you become a teenager.” She responds, “I make no such promises.” That line made me like her. Even at that age, she wanted to be her own person, undefined by her legacy.
One complaint people made about Korra early on was that she wasn’t like Aang. Honestly, if she was like Aang, I would’ve stopped watching right away. I was glad she was headstrong and aggressive. I liked her uncertainty that she could live up to her predecessors’ legacies, which she masked with a false confidence.
In the previous version, Aang gained a new family that trained him in bending and gave him emotional support. In this version, Korra gains three friends. Mako (a fire-bender) and his brother Bolin (an Earth-bender) are pro-Benders, using their abilities in a sport that seems to be an offshoot of volleyball. She also has two animal friends: a polar dog (think giant, polar bear sized dog) named Naga and a fire ferret named Pabu, who’s Bolin’s pet and mascot for their team.
Finally, we are introduced to Asami Sato, whose father designed the Sato-mobiles. (That’s what this world’s version of automobiles are called, after the man who brought cars to Japan) Asami is a nice girl, but don’t take her for granted. She can be very forceful when it’s required. She and Korra have a relationship that becomes warmer throughout the series.
Rounding out her allies is Lin Beifong. She is the daughter of Aang’s old friend and teacher of Earth-bending, Toph. Like her mother, Lin can bend metal as well as earth. She is in charge of the Metal-Bending Police Force, who keeps order in Republic City. It’s also hinted that she and Tenzin were an item at one point, before he met Pema.
Each season has a different villain. For season one, we have Amon, voiced by Steve Blum, most famous for his role as Spike Spiegel in the exceptional dub of Cowboy Bebop. Amon appeals to Republican City’s citizens who are incapable of bending and are of a lower class as a result. He also has an army of chi-blockers, who can temporarily disrupt an opponent’s chi, making them unable to bend elements and/or knocking them out. Amon himself has charisma and an even bigger advantage over Korra–he can permanently remove bending altogether! I thought it was great that he played his role smart–he could’ve removed Korra’s abilities and severed her from her line of predecessors, but that would not accomplish his goal. All it would really do is make her a martyr and turn others against him. He wanted to break her mentally instead and used his followers’ jealousy and desire for better status to his advantage.
This was a great way to introduce the new but still somewhat familiar world of The Legend of Korra. Then came the surprise: the show got renewed for at least two more seasons. Those will be the topic of other posts. I will post my thoughts on Season 2 in June. See you then!