One of the biggest worries a fan, of either a movie or television show, has is whether a sequel will hold up to the original. Most likely, we are happy to hear there will be more to see of the characters and world we have come to love so much, but a sense of dread and doubt follows that feeling as we hope that the continuation does not ruin what we already have. These were the exact feelings I had about Avatar: The Legend of Korra (TLOK) when I heard it was going to be the sequel series to the much beloved Avatar: The Last Airbender (TLA) animated series. These doubts and fears were immediately put to rest when I saw the first episode, with all the thanks going to the creators, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, who wrote all twelve episodes of the first season. However, the true surprise came when TLOK not only kept the brilliance and feel of the first series but expanded on it in a seamless and thoroughly imaginative way.
Avatar: The Legend of Korra takes place 70 years after the events of Avatar: The Last Airbender where the new Avatar, Korra, has already mastered water, earth and fire. To complete her training, Korra moves to Republic City to learn Airbending from Aang’s son Tenzin, the only Airbending master in the world. However, just after Korra begins her training, she has to also deal with a growing Anti-bending Revolution that has started in the city.
One thing that must be understood is that a ‘sequel series’ is different from a ‘spin-off series’. A sequel series is where a television program introduces new characters, but the whole plot and setting takes place within the same universe and chronologically follows its predecessor. Some examples of successful sequel series’ would be Star Trek: The Next Generation to Star Trek, just as Batman Beyond was a sequel series to Batman: The Animated Series. A spin-off is where a show focuses on a specific event or character from an established show and carries on exploring that aspect during the same time frame as its predecessor. For example, Frasier would be a spin-off to Cheers, the way Angel is to Buffy The Vampire Slayer and so on.
Avatar: The Legend of Korra is as successful sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender as Batman Beyond was to Batman: The Animated Series. In its first season, TLOK introduced a whole set of new characters, a lot of whom had connections to characters from TLA. These new characters are fun, entertaining, interesting, and at the same time quite menacing and devious. This allows fans, who loved TLA, to immediately connect and like these new characters because they were a bridge of sorts between the two series. However, since these were fresh characters, new audiences can enjoy what is happening without needing a backstory. Republic City is also an amazing setting for the series, because unlike TLA, the action and story takes place in a central location and with a far more modern setting that is easy for all to connect to. Finally, the bending battles in this series are not only as good as from TLA, but much better. The way people in this more modern world use their bending abilities is exactly how martial arts has progressed in our world. TLOK introduced ‘pro-bending’, a reference to the start of pro-wrestling in the 1920s of our own history, which is a much faster and more streamlined kind of bending battle than we are used to. The introduction of this kind of game captures the audience’s attention immediately since the battles and duels are a great deal more intricate and fascinating to watch than ever before.
As for the show itself, Avatar: The Legend of Korra is a well-written, well-voice acted and surprisingly mature show. As said previously, the creators have written every episode of season 1 to create a tighter form of storytelling, which results in little-to-no fillers or tangents. Each episode progresses the story and character development for all, and the story itself is a bit more serious than what we had from Avatar: The Last Airbender. If TLA was made for kids then TLOK is made for young adults. This is made evident in the younger characters attempting to make their way in the world after leaving childhood and succeeding and failing the way everyone who has gone through that process can relate to. The story is a mixture of teen angst, romance, action and heart-warmingly funny moments, but it also contains dark undertones and mature themes that allows for bad things to happen to lovable characters. This all encapsulates adolescence to me, except in this world people are able to bend the elements and the fate of the world rests on the shoulders of a 16 year-old girl.
Avatar: The Legend of Korra is a thoroughly enjoyable show with great characters, amazing animation, fantastic battles, fascinating sci-fi weapons, and a surprisingly resonating setting that easily weaves in and out of the technological and socio-political advancements of our own society compared to theirs. DiMartino and Konietzko have done it again; making a masterpiece out of an already brilliant world, without sacrificing a bit of the grandeur Avatar: The Last Airbender left us when it finished its epic tale. I encourage all of you to watch the first season and to join me in waiting for season two.