Next Saturday (April 14th) a new chapter opens in the Avatar: The Last Airbender story. The Legend of Korra in many ways is very similar to its predecessor and very opposite to it. Aang was a tween boy who needed to learn water, earth and air bending. Korra is a teenaged girl who knew those three bending techniques from a very young age. Aang travelled across the four elemental nations while Korra travels to a single city. The Last Airbender had a classic kung fu movie feel. The Legend of Korra is more of a Karate Kid feel.
The Legend of Korra takes place in Republic City, the new capital of all four nations, that was established by the last Avatar, Aang. It was meant to be a shining example of all that was possible when everyone came together and harmony was achieved. By the time Korra reaches Republic City, it is no different from any modern city in our world. There is crime, discrimination, an invisible class system and a bureaucracy that doesn’t seems to be very good at keeping anyone happy. It’s a rude awakening for Korra who was raised in a special compound in the Southern Water tribe lands. It’s an eye opener for those of us coming from the original series though as well. We don’t just get racketeering thugs, we get racketeering thugs in a hot rod. We have a professional bender league which seems to be a very popular form of entertainment for all of Republic City’s radio listeners. It’s been less than a hundred years since Aang united the four nations and we’ve gone from the Five Kingdoms era to the Roaring ’20s.
I love the feeling of the worlds of Final Fantasy VII, Valkyria Chronicles and Fullmetal Alchemist. If you love those settings, you’ll feel right at home with Republic City. But what if you were expecting The Last Airbender Part 2? Well if you get over the very modern trade dress you’ll realize that The Legend of Korra has very similar themes to Aang’s journey. The core idea is where do I fit into this world. Having been separated from the outside world for most of their life both Aang and Korra must engage with the very troubling world around them. They are going to wrestle with problems they have no experience dealing with and others will expect them to do it effortlessly. Korra is older and farther along her training. She represents probably the original show’s audience now. And the setting is jazzed up to appeal to people who did watch The Last Airbender as a tween.
Take for example, the Pro Bending tournament. Everyone in the four nations has heard about it. Even Korra far in the south with a somewhat sheltered life knew about it. Tensen, Aang’s son and Korra’s air bending teacher, hates Pro Bending. He believes it’s a perversion of what bending is about. It reflects the issues between traditional martial arts and mixed martial arts in our world. And this really is the brilliance of The Legend of Korra, that it blends its own fantasy world with our modern one. The Last Airbender is a classic Hero’s Journey. The Legend of Korra is really a coming of age story set in a world undergoing enormous social upheaval. Korra keeps the great storytelling, character development and even the humour of Airbender, but it is a modern tale for a modern audience.
The Legend of Korra Episodes
The Legend of Korra Season Promo