The Legend of Korra offers something both new and familiar to Avatar: The Last Airbender fans. And while the setting has been updated the characters still live within the previous show’s foundation. The new characters are on a different journey, but there is a familiarity to their roles. It’s amazing how many little details in The Last Airbender are run with in The Legend of Korra.
Korra is the new avatar and when we first meet her she is already using three of the four elements with next to no training. Even as a little child she is talented and self-confident. Unlike Aang she doesn’t need to travel the world to stop a war. In fact as the show starts Korra is unaware there is anything wrong in her world… other than her lack of air bending. And while Korra starts as a foiled to Aang the middle of their journey and destination aren’t that far off. If you didn’t like Aang’s goofiness then Korra comes across as a more mature central figure, but still a teenager.
Tenzin is the only air bending master at the beginning of the show. He is also one of the councillors of Republic City, which is experiencing some trouble. Republic City itself could be considered a character as it’s meant to show in a microcosm what is happening across the world of the four elements. Tenzin is the youngest child of Aang and Katara and has a family of his own. Tenzin gives the guidance to the head strong Korra that Aang never really had. Also Korra has two great parents, Tenzin also takes on the role of a father as well as a mentor. Tenzin is also a master politician because there are always problems in Republic City that must be handled gently. He acts as the voice of reason and calmness. In the past he had a relationship with Lin Beifong.
With the gender reversal Mako plays the role of Katara, kind of. Mako is a typical teen-aged boy who seems paralyzed by his choices. Raising himself and his brother on the streets to make it into the world of pro bending, an mixed martial art analog in the new series. Mako is a fire bender while his brother is an earth bender. It isn’t explained why to sibling have control of different elements, but no one in the show seems to be surprised by this fact. Mako is somewhat cool to Korra when they first meet even though Korra is clearly smitten with him. He falls for the sophisticated Asami and our romantic triangle begins. He commits to Team Avatar once the threat of the Equalists becomes apparent. As the show goes on Mako becomes less indecisive and chooses Korra over Asami, while apologizing to Asami for any hurt he caused her. The character is named for Mako Iwamatsu who voiced General Iroh in The Last Airbender.
Bolin is a good natured buffoon. His main purpose is to give heart to team Korra and comedic relief. He lives somewhat in the shadow of his brother Mako. In many ways Bolin is Sokka reborn as an earth bender, which would be a bonus for Sokka who was mostly the butt of most jokes.
Asami Sato is the only daughter of a wealthy Fire nation industrialist who invented the Satomobile. (Think: Model T.) Her mother was killed by a fire bender. She’s beautiful and sophisticated and well versed in all things mechanical. After almost running over then recognizing Mako as a famous pro bender she quickly becomes infatuated with him. Asami provides Team Avatar with resources, insight and more worldly skills. Obviously she is the character meant to compete with Korra’s attention for Mako, but she often seems a bit of a fourth wheel. She loses practically everything by the end of the first season, but stands by Korra or at least her cause unwaveringly. There is an episode where Korra and Asami seem to connect as women of action, but it quickly evaporates around Mako. While I think Asami is a great character, I’m not totally convinced why she would stick with Korra and was always expecting her to switch to the Equalist and her father’s side. We are constantly wondering if she is behind the mask of Amon.
Lin Beifong is Toph’s daughter. She starts as the chief of Republic City’s police and isn’t so warm to Korra believing that the young avatar is undisciplined and takes the law into her own hands. As the series progresses Lin starts to see more similarities than differences between herself and Korra. She pays the penultimate price for bender to protect Tenzin and his family. Her personality is based on that of Toph’s but her appearance is based on one of the producers at Studio Mir who animated The Legend of Korra.
Last Airbender Analog: Roku, Kyoshi, Kuruk, Yangchen, …
Aang in Legend of Korra bears next to no relation to the ‘tween we fell in love with in the original series. What we are treated to here though is a potential fulfilled. Adult Aang is wise, compassionate and pretty damn handsome. He appears to Korra when she needs him most and tells her only what she needs to know. It’s somewhat amusing seeing Korra act as if her previous incarnation has all the answers when we know he didn’t.
The masked big bad of the first season. He has it all together and has a plan that doesn’t seem to be the slightest bit disrupted by the arrival of the avatar. In fact Amon uses the arrival of the avatar to accelerate his plan. His motivations to rid the world of bending are a bit hazy. This is very intriguing as he seems to be a bender himself. His back story eventually casts him as a tragic villain who does the wrong thing for the right reasons.
The little bad of the first season. At first he seems to be the avatar’s friend. He then manipulates the avatar for his own ends before being shown to stand against the avatar. His back story shows him to be the son of a Republic City gangster who was exiled and stripped on his ability to bend by Aang himself. Tarrlok like his father is a specific type of water bender who can bend other people’s blood and therefore control their bodies. Unlike his father he came to clean up Republic City, but goes down a path no unlike his father. For most of the series he is one of the people we are lead to believe may be behind Amon’s mask. In the end he helps the avatar by telling Korra who Amon is and why he doesn’t what he is doing.