Legend of Korra Book 1: Air Review (Spoiler Free)
70 years after the defeat of Firelord Ozai by the original Team Avatar, the world is at peace. Avatar Aang built a capital city, Republic City, to unite the remaining nations under a common goal for the betterment of society. With the cycle of the Avatar continuing, an old Katara speaks to Korra “Aang’s time hast passed. My brother and many of my friends are gone. It’s time for you and your generation to take on the responsibility of keeping peace and balance in the world.” And with that, we are off on a new Avatar adventure.
Legend of Korra’s first season takes place almost entirely within the walls of the Republic City. Change is a large theme of this new Avatar series. The buildings are more modern, cars are a new invention in this world, and inequality is prevalent in Republic City. While lacking the world-wide scale of The Last Airbender, LoK’s (Legend of Korra) more streamlined story-telling allows for a tighter cohesive story with zero filler.
The plot of Legend of Korra makes for quite the story experience. When Avatar Korra comes to Republic City to learn the final remaining element, air bending, she stumbles across an anti-bending revolution that could change the fate of benders across the face of the world.
Korra herself couldn’t be anymore different from Aang. Whereas the previous Avatar was more about tranquility and had a deep understanding of the spiritual side of bending, Korra has none. She’s a hot head (I noticed she uses fire bending most of the time) and even though she is older than Aang was at the time of his journey, she is not nearly as mature. It’s a drastically different approach that had me more interested than the previous series did at it’s outset. You can’t help but fall in love with her bubbly yet fiery personality.
Korra’s new Avatar team are a fun addition to the Avatar canon, even if they lack the depth the original team had. Make and Bolin are street kids who struggled to make their way in the world before Korra showed up. Mako is the default “bad boy” and apart from a forced and messy love square, he is unfortunately relegated to that role for the rest of Book 1. Mako is likable for me to hold out hope for his character in coming seasons. Bolin has a Sokka like charisma, a goofy and lovable sidekick who has even less to do than his brother. Bolin is supposed to be a major player in Book 2 so let’s hope that they get into some real development with these brothers.
A far more interesting member is the character of Asami Sato. Born into wealth, (her father is a wealthy industrialist who runs a profitable business that makes cars among other mechanical things) Asami is the only non-bender of the group but knows how to drive and can hang with the best of them. This is a spoiler free review but she ends up becoming quite the tragic character. To put it in perspective, out of every member of the original Team Avatar, I think she’d relate to Zuko the most. I can’t wait to see where this character goes.
Tenzin and Lin Beifong fill the “Uncle Iroh” type roles with their older ages and experienced wisdom. Tenzin is a stern but loving father of 3 and one of the remaining airbenders in the series. He also happens to be the son of Avatar Aang so you know he throws down when the occasion calls for it. Lin Beifong is the daughter of Toph and much like her mother, she steals most of the scenes she is in. Who is her father? Doesn’t matter. Toph was so badass that she probably just created her daughter out of stone and metal.
And then there’s Amon. Amon is the Big Bad of Book 1. He’s a cold, calculated, methodical, anti-bending terrorist. Amon has the complexity of any great modern villain. Firelord Ozai pales in comparison. Wondering who Amon truly is allows for a great mystery beneath all the action proceedings in the first Book. Once you discover who the character really is and where he comes from, he becomes a surprisingly tragic figure. Amon’s origins allowed you to feel compassion for someone who, up until that point, was seemingly unjustified in his fight against benders. Even though his methods are extreme, you have to wonder, does he have the right to fight against certain benders? The only problem I have with Amon as a character is that he’s a difficult villain to top. Fingers crossed that Koh makes a reappearance as the Book 2 villain behind the scenes.
As is tradition with the Avatar series, the season finale once again knocks it out of the park. The stakes aren’t as large as “the fate of the world” so to speak, but they are far more personal. The smaller scale finale still has plenty of great action scenes. The final showdown with Amon is going down as one of my favorite Avatar moments ever. The majority of live action shows should take note: THIS is how you do a season finale. Even the Mako/Korra affair is easier to swallow by the end of it all.
The animation in the series has always been a happy middle between eastern and western anime, while successfully having its own unique style. Well let me tell you, the style has never been so gorgeous. The animation is crisp and clean. Republic City looks like a living breathing city. When the characters are in a dirty part of the city, you can almost smell the filthiness. When the characters are on Airbender Island, you can feel the tranquility washing over the screen. The origins of Amon actually have some of the more breathtaking animation in the series. Truly remarkable art-work that deserves every commendation it gets.
Legend of Korra is a captivating and beautiful sequel to the outstanding Last Airbender series, even if it’s flawed in the character development stages. As a stand-alone season, this season works on nearly every level. (And for everyone comparing Book 1 of Korra to The Last Airbender: Take a look at the first 12 episodes of The Last Airbender and then take a look at these 12 episodes. If Korra’s character development ceases to improve over the remaining seasons, then, and only then, will you be justified in your complaints)
While the story over character situation is disheartening, the characters themselves are still lovable. They just require more attention. The pacing is fast, maybe a little too fast, but it’s a more than worthy addition to the Avatar canon. Just please give more characters more development and stronger emotional arcs. Book 2: Spirits looks like it will deliver that in spades.
Legend of Korra Book 1: Air gets 6.3 out of 7
+ Positively divine animation
+ Who is Amon? OH. Now I am sad.
+ Story is thought provoking and riveting
+ No fillers
+ Continues the tradition of masterful finales
+ Compelling characters and dynamics but…
- They lack significant character development
Best episode: Endgame
Best Quote: When we hit our lowest point, we are open to the greatest change
Reposting for Amanda Palmer because I think she will have opinions.