With each episode I am convinced that The Legend of Korra may in fact, not only match the incredible kick, fame, and cult following of the original series, but in fact top it. It became obvious that The Last Airbender’s big fan base was not as much children, who the show was aimed at, but teenagers and young adults. They have transitioned the show well towards that market, while keeping much of the childlike exuberance of the first show. The characters are older, in the later years of puberty rather than at its earlier days. They are in a different world, they struggle with money, with the confines of a metropolitan society rather than a predominately pre-industrial and agrarian one.
In each episode they have introduced new elements and new challenges, not only for Korra, but for her friends too. We’ve fallen for Tenzin’s family, cheered for The Fire Ferrets, and goggled wide-eyed at The Equalists and all that has changed since Aang wore the mantle of Avatar. It’s a powerful image, seeing the ghosts of what you once saw. It is very much akin to Brandon Sanderson’s Alloy of Law. The original series was set in a time of different social constructs, technological advancements, and ideas, just as it was in The Last Airbender. Korra, like Aang, is full of life, but in most other ways they are opposites. Like Azula, Korra was a child prodigy of bending, headstrong, motivated, self-assured, just without the egomaniacal sadist streak. But Aang’s issues were either long-running ones that spanned his show, or ones dealt with in a very episodic manner. Not so for Korra. As the show progresses, more and more problems, obstacles, and story arcs are introduced, laying the groundwork for a monumental show.
As well as this, the obstacles are less clear cut than they were in the original series. Aang either was looking to solve the day’s problem, or working towards his goal of defeating the fire lord and bringing peace to the four nations once more. Amon, one of the series’ most iconic characters so far, is not just a force of pure evil (unless the future facts indicate that he has lied). Yes, he had committed atrocities and his goals are not exactly humanitarian, but he is an idealist, an equalist, who believes, perhaps rightly so, that benders are an oppressive force. They control in ways both physical and economical, their inborn abilities making them first class citizens, even if they are not legally classified as such.
Systems from the first series that were generally singular to savants of the bending arts like lightningbending and metalbending have become somewhat commonplace. At first this may seem odd, even sacrilegious, but if examined through a differing perspective it makes sense. Take a skill like reading. It is now something pretty much all people in countries save for some third world nations can do. But if we jumped back in history, it was not always such common fare. It was in fact only the domain of the wealthy and well-heeled, a trade for scribes, religious figures and nobility. The expansion of knowledge and skills perhaps changes the dynamic of bending altogether. In a time of war, bending is a weapon and a shield, and while there is no true peace, it is fascinating to see bending used for something so workaday as power generation.
From all sides, The Legend of Korra is looking to be an amazing series, and if they keep it up, I believe that it will far outstrip its predecessor. Its improved art-style, choreography, and soundtrack has left me breathless at times, for it has figured out each kink in the old show and created something both true and unique.