A wild ANIMATED ACTION MINI SERIES appeared!
NIAMH used REVIEW!
Fuck, I loved The legend of Aang.
It was simply the best show Nickelodeon ever put out- It was incredible in it’s scale, it’s attention to detail, it’s gorgeous animation, it’s amazingly lovable, complicated and kick ass characters, it’s amazing sense of humor, it’s beautiful score- Oh man is there anything Legend of Aang didn’t do right?
The original series ran for three seasons of 22 episodes each and it really is a masterpiece. It struck a rare balance in children’s TV- It took it’s myth arc seriously while at the same time keeping an incredible humour and most importantly it respected it’s audience. I really cannot gush about Legend of Aang enough. I’ve had to rewrite my first paragraph four times adding in shit they got RIGHT. Awesome.
The basic plot, for any newbies, is that the avatar world is divided into 4 general races of people- The fire Nation (Based loosely in aesthetic on Imperial Japan), The Earth Kingdom (Based on a certain Dynasty of China that I can’t remember the name of), the Water Tribes at the North and South Poles (Based looesly on Inuits) and finally, the Air nomads (Based on Tibetan Monks). Some members of each of these races have the power to manipulate their particular element- so you have fire, water earth and Air benders. Once every Generation, the spirit of the planet is born as the only human with the ability to manipulate all four elements, and their job is to maintain balance. When the Avatar dies, they’re reborn in a different race to the one they just were, and the cycle starts again with them learning all the elements.
That’s the really basic plot, and oh man it gets so much deeper than that.
And so, after the epic finale of Legend of Aang, nerds everywhere orgasmed when a sequel miniseries was announced- The Legend of Korra was going to pick up a whole new cast of characters and the newxt avatar, Korra. The basic Avatar formula was always ripe for sequel bait and Korra proved successful- it’s already been green lighted for a second series apparently and it does go in a radically different direction to the original series which is good. Overall, here are some of my thoughts- Set out as pros and cons
I adored this series, let’s make that very clear. Let’s also make it clear that I don’t think Korra was the masterpiece that Aang was. It’s exceptional but perhaps understandably didn’t have the epic scale that made Aang so memorable. In a way, I like that. Korra manages to really deviate itself from the formula of it’s parent series and there was a conscious effort to make this series different. Rather than the globe wandering original Korra is set entirely around a modern metropolis location that didn’t even exist as a city at the time of Aang’s series. It’s colour palette is far darker and grimier and even the soundtrack is different- Like jazz with Asian instruments tossed in [Spoiler- it rocks so fuckin hard]. The setting is far more industrially developed than Aang- Set 70 years after Aang, the 2 series are seperated by a massive industrial revolution. In Aang we saw a few early airships and mechanical weapons but in Korra we have a full on electrical, petrol driven steampunk playground- and that’s awesome. It makes a great success of feeling like the same world, just a little further along in time.
Korra is also fucking boss because it’s proved something- A female lead can kick ass in a series and boys will watch it. I won’t really go into how much this kicks ass, but suffice to say Korra is pretty goddamn progressive for a show marketed to kids- Execs were worried about Boys not liking a show with a female lead, but in test screenings most boys just thought she kicked ass. And she, to quote The Nostalgia chick, doesn’t hold her ovaries in triumph as she kicks as- Korra just happens to be female and happens to be in this ridiculous situation.
I don’t get the impression that Korra was written consciously as a ‘strong female character’, she certainly doesn’t feel forced or awkward. She’s a character, rather than a ‘female’ character. You can say the same for the other women in this series and oh dear god they ALL KICK SO MUCH ASS YOU GUYS (even Pema. Fuckin’ LOVE Pema)
One thing Korra avoided was the usual trap of sequels which is trying to re-capture the dynamic of the original work- and they did do it in places, but it’s rather hard to distinguish who is this series’ ‘Sokka,’ who’s the ‘Aang’ and who’s the ‘Zuko’, because all the characters are looking for different things. You do have the joker, the broody one and the blithe spirit, but they aren’t carbon copies of the original cast, nor are their relationships. Even direct relatives aren’t expies- Tenzin is very unlike Aang, and Lin Bei Fong isn’t a Toph clone despite being her mother. There are nice homages, but the characters are all their own. Unfortunately…
… The series had absolutely no time to develop this very promising cast.
My god, this felt so rushed. It’s my one massive complaint with the whole series. they set out to do and show so much and introduce so much new shit, that it just all flew past for me. you had the new steampunk elements, fine. And the metal bending police, then pro bending, then equalists, then FUCK race cars then AGH Air Acolytes and biplanes and cabbage corps- so much! Now there is a comic book series bridging this series and Aang together, but the pacing of the show itself felt rushed. It was difficult to really build up a connection to massive cast in 10 25 minute episodes, and an hour long finale.
The cast was awesome, just not utilized very well. People are introduced and you never really get breathing time with them, there’s no warming period- General Iroh junior is a good example- I know he’s really a nod to fans, being voiced by a familiar actor and all that, but he only appears in THE FINALE? Seriously? It drove me nuts! We get no arc with him, we don’t get a character, we just get badass General doing badass shit. That’s fine, but I think what made Legend of Aang so compelling was the fact that EVERYONE had a point and an arc to their stories- Even Toph who by and large was comic relief badass who cracked wise in the original series was introduced with a motivation- run away from my smothering parents. Sokka and Katara and everyone felt rounded and familiar.
Korra just didn’t have time to introduce and maintain such a massive cast- Lin Bei Fong is another offender- Awesome and badass, but we don’t really get under her skin much- we don’t get under anyone’s skin the way Aang did so expertly. Even side characters in Aang like Jet and Haru had most character to them. the Korra characters are… Disappointing in a way. You always want more because they’re awesome, but there just isn’t enough time for everyone. So in terms of pacing, I found Korra a bit too jam packed- they tried to do too much with too little time. (General Bumi DIDN’T EVEN GET A LINE. HE LOOKED AWESOME AND ALL HE GOT TO SAY WAS ‘WOOO!’)
I really, really loved this show. I’m so glad it exists. I didn’t even get into all the awesome aspects of it, but it really is exceptional. However, Korra seriously suffered from it’s short running time- Introducing a whole new setting and a massively changed world was very ambitious and not fully successful in the time that that had. It’s a gorgeously animated and very clever little series (You’d actually get through he whole thing in one sitting) but it doesn’t have the majesty of the original. Then again, it was never going to, and I don’t think the makers wanted it to be another Aang- it’s the differences from Aang that really make it something special.
It was super effective!
Niamh ‘Avatar state Yip Yip!’ Keoghan