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Apr 07
2012

6 Reasons to Try The Legend of Korra

I wasn’t going to post this until next week, since the show officially airs on April 14. But since the hour-long premiere has been released for free on iTunes (US only, but when has that ever stopped anime fans?), now is as good a time as any to talk about Korra.

For those who don’t know, The Legend of Korra is the sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender, an anime-influenced American cartoon. Korra takes place in a mystical, Asian-inspired world where people can be born with bending powers: the ability to manipulate either air, water, fire, or earth with martial arts moves. When the great turmoil approaches, the Avatar, the only person who can bend all four elements, must bring peace and balance to the world.

I’m guessing most anime fans have checked it out, but if you haven’t, here’s some reasons why you should.

6: You don’t have watch to the original, Avatar: The Last Airbender.

The Legend of Korra is to The Last Airbender what Aquarion EVOL is to the original Aquarion, what Fam, The Silver Wing is to the original Last Exile. It’s got a new cast, a new setting, even a new tone. Granted, you’ll miss out on some of the running gags and cameos that crossover from the old series. And you’ll be spoiled on The Last Airbender’s major plot twists fifteen seconds into Korra. But “getting” the plot shouldn’t be a problem. The show is aimed at teens and pre-teens, so it’s not tough to catch up on the story.

That said, I recommend the original. All three seasons are plagued with silly filler episodes, but when the show ramps up the epic factor, it’s one of the best American TV cartoons ever made. The first season is the most childish and inconsistent, but when the series finds its footing in season two, it’s all uphill from there.

5: Just because it’s a “kid’s show” doesn’t mean it’s not mature.

To be fair, Korra is more adult than its prequel. The Last Airbender, season one, was aimed squarely at kids. The Legend of Korra caters to tweens and fans of the original. Still, this airs on Nickelodeon, so some jokes are too dumb to be funny. And sometimes the show commits “kid show logic” in that events are glossed over quickly without receiving in-depth development.

But there are benefits to kid’s shows. You don’t have the silly teenage otkau wish fulfillment nonsense you get in most anime, for example. The pacing is crisper, the world-building isn’t stuffed with endless exposition, jargon, and philosophizing. This isn’t Fate/Zero; shit has to happen every episode.

And Korra isn’t just a kid’s show; it’s a family show. It tackles the very difficult task of catering not just to kids, but to the parents of those kids. Sort of like Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, etcetera. Sure, it indulges in some kid’s show silliness, but it’s got an accessibility for all ages. And it’s not afraid to address some tough issues: death, discrimination, genocide, modernity versus faith–all of these were well touched upon in the first series, and there’s no doubt they’ll get fair treatment here.

4: The animation eclipses anything you’ll see on late night Japanese TV.

No clips, so we’ll have to make do with a trailer:

If Korra is like its prequel, there will be at least one or two one-to-four minute fight scenes per episode. Maybe that doesn’t sound like much, but it is, especially when they’re all animated and choreographed like the one above. And the show doesn’t slouch when the action is off; the frames-per-second is high even during the quiet moments, and backgrounds are lush. Great detail all around.

3: The cast is fascinating.

Fans of The Last Airbender have a lot of love for the original cast. All personalities are consistently written, and all major characters develop realistically, mostly for the better. Aang stops running from his responsibilities; Katara and Sokka grow into adults; Zuko learns some common sense, etcetera. Korra’s cast hasn’t had the time to develop yet, but I’ll be honest. It took a season and a half to learn to love the original cast. Korra’s cast I liked immediately.

And count me a fan of Korra, the polarizing new tomboy Avatar. Sure, she’s a bit obnoxious in the way that any hot-headed contrast to The Last Airbender’s peaceful Avatar Aang should be. But I gotta give the team props for making Korra a girl. It’s a risky to make a female athlete the star, and Korra is the whole package: she’s abrasive, aggressive, and impatient, but she’s also right to be confident and self-assured. It’s great to see an assertive, headstrong female character, especially in a kid’s show, and I’m sure she’ll grow out of her worst character flaws in true Avatar fashion.

2: The conflict is fascinating.

The Last Airbender had a simple conflict that more-or-less mimicked Japan’s exploits in East and Southeast Asia during WWII. The Fire Nation, a small, militaristic island nation, wanted to take over the rest of the world and establish firebenders as the only bending race. While many Fire Nation citizens were rendered sympathetic, there was a clear-cut bad guy in this show. Beat the imperialists, ensure freedom for everyone. Easy.

The conflict of Korra isn’t so simple. The four nations now live in peace. The setting, Republic City, is a symbol of this peace–it’s a place where all benders live together in harmony. The problem? The people who aren’t born with bending powers. They’re angry that many benders have used their gifts to bully and control them, and a masked political figure, Amon, has tapped into this anger and promises to end to benders’ reign.

Amon is clearly a bad dude. What he’s promising is the elimination of a race. But are the non-benders wrong for being upset? They live a tougher life because they’re born without superpowers, and they’re exploited by those who do. It’s the age-old question of equality versus liberty, and if Korra wants to resolve this conflict, she’ll have to look carefully at both sides.

1: It’s got the old-school epic factor that Guilty Crown, Last Exile – Fam, The Silver Wing -, Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon, Accel World, you name it, all wanted but failed to grasp.

Yeah, I know.  These lists are supposed to end on something clever or funny like “I’m blogging it” (not true) or “The fanwank will be glorious” (true) or “You can a woo girlfriend in the insane sea of Korra fangirls” (possible) or whatever. And there’s no hard proof this epic factor will develop and last. I’m basing this off my experience with The Last Airbender and the very promising trailers Nickelodeon has rolled out.

But think about it. Here’s a series that promises intricate world-building, a large, layered cast,  a story that’s grand in scale, and fight scenes that don’t waste time on chit-chat and get straight to the point. Here’s a story where all scenes and players are connected and where you have assurance this will finish conclusively since it’s an original show. So many anime want to do this, but they can’t because of time constraints, budget restraints, creative constraints, you name it. These anime are hyped ad nauseam only to let us anime-watchers down. You can count me in with the rest of those hypesters because I’m willing to bet that Korra won’t.

I can think of a dozen more reasons, but judging by this gigantic wall of text, I should stop. Double-episode premiere the 14th on Nick, and it’s available for free on iTunes (or wherever you get your animu) now. I know it’s ~American~ animation, but give it a shot. Who knows, with the rate of the current premieres, it could be one of the best things to air this season.

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/ One Commentleave a comment /

  • laplace says:

    "The animation eclipses anything you’ll see on late night Japanese TV."
    Well…many times you can easily see animation visibly dropping to ~5 fps, which even Japanese dont do nowadays. Mostly good animation is for fights, but you dont actually need good animation for fights, you need good directing.

    "I know it’s ~American~ animation"
    Its ~USian~. And technically – its ~Korean~. Do you really think USia has 2D animators that good anymore ?

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