The Legend of Korra, the animated series follow up to Avatar: The Last Airbender, centres on new avatar, Korra, some years after the death of Aang, the previous avatar. Set in the same world, the series delivers mature content through serious and pertinent themes.
Series one finds Korra under the tuition of air-bender guru, Tenzin, Kitara and Aang’s by-the-book son. During Korra’s training, she and Tenzin are often at heads with each other. Meanwhile, she makes new friends with Mako and Bolin, two bending champions, as well as team sponsor, Asami. When the anti-bending messiah, Amon, surfaces with the ability to remove people’s bending, Korra, finds herself caught in a big mystery as she comes to terms with her weaknesses.
Series two takes places some time later when Korra’s uncle Unalaq, chief of the northern water tribe, asks Korra to use her avatar-powers to open the portals to the spirit world. This results in some drastic changes to the world as well as several betrayals.
In series three, Korra and her friends deal with the consequences of opening the spirit portals as well as a secret society who wants to destroy all forms of government.
The fourth and final series picks up some months later, with Korra wandering the world trying to escape her powerlessness and shadow self. Meanwhile, Mako has become a bodyguard for Prince Wu, Bolin a member of Kovera’s earth nation, and Asami an industrialist. This series focuses on resolving many of the character arcs, while pitting Korra against Kovera’s militaristic view of bringing unification to the world’s nations.
The Legend of Korra’s storytelling is very tight, with many plot twists, and tense scenarios. Moreover, the series, especially series four, deals with some very mature, controversial issues, such as PTSD, fascism, the consequences of mass destruction, self-belief, eastern philosophy, and connecting with the spiritual self, while retaining the focus on balance and mindfulness. At times, the portrayal of some of this material, especially series two’s spiritual focus, is clumsy, however, for the most part it is presented in a believable and relatable manner.
The female characters really come to the fore, especially in series four, offering positive (and negative) role models for young girls.
The primary protagonists are well rounded and credible characters audiences will come to love. Unfortunately, from series two onwards, Bolin is turned into a buffoon for comedic purposes, which is disappointing because it fails to honour his character. Eventually, however, he re-evolves into the character established in series one.
The series features some amazing cel and 3D animation. Characters’ gestures and animations are realistic and convincing and, in most places, the blending of cel and 3D animation is seamless.
Overall, creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartno should be applauded for creating an avant-garde animated television series that confronts mature and engaging themes and pushes the boundaries of animation. The Legend of Korra is MUST SEE TV, especially series one and four.
4 ½ stars