Finished watching Avatar: The Legend of Korra a few days back, and although the Avatar world has ended for me, I still retain a lot of thoughts about the second series because it left a bitter taste in my mind. Just wanted to have a place to rant about the series ha ha ha and where else could I possibly do it but here?
I put off watching Korra for many months because after finishing The Last Airbender, the first episode of Korra was such a let down and I couldn't stop comparing Korra's world to Aang's world. But I've had a lot of time on my hands since I graduated one and a half months ago and suddenly decided to give Korra a chance. Unfortunately, I have a lot more complaints about the series than compliments for it.
- The biggest disappointment in Korra as a whole was the major lack of character development. I went through 4 seasons, 52 episodes of this series, and still know nothing about the characters. The series seemed to shortchange character development for advancement in plot. I know the people on Team Avatar, but I don't know
them. There was no explanation for Mako, Bolin or Asami's backgrounds, personalities, etc. The most character development there was was for Korra, and even so she grew so little as a character that I still can't stand her. In The Last Airbender, episodes were dedicated to explaining Aang's bringing up with the Air Nomads before they were wiped out, Zuko's traumatised childhood that led to his motive for hunting down the Avatar, Iroh's broken past, Toph's restrictive and frustrating family, even Appa and Momo had stories to tell. Character development plays such an important role in creating sentimental attachment between viewers and the characters, and that was why The Last Airbender's characters were all so precious. Viewers can feel that all characters grew up, in one way or another. But in this new series, I feel nothing for the characters. More than anything, I feel like 1,196 minutes of Korra has given me zero insights on who these people are. Naga? Pabu? General Iroh? Ikki, Meelo??? One of the most heartwrenching scenes of The Last Airbender was when Toph, blind as she was, had to stop Wan Shi Tong's library from sinking into sand and thus couldn't stop sandbenders from kidnapping Appa. And why was that? Because viewers could sympathise with Toph's plight and could feel the exact helplessness she felt (developed in previous episodes retelling her childhood experiences bound by her disability). But in Korra? Too. Much. Attention. On. Korra.
Did I feel afraid when Bolin was taken to bending-remover Amon? No. Did the air nomads being threatened by Zaheer scare me? Hardly. My favourite characters in this new series were definitely (spirit) Aang, Katara, old man Zuko, spirit world Uncle Iroh, and swamp-ruler Toph. All characters from the previous season; which says just how much I care for this series' characters.
- Another thing that bugged me about Korra was how every season seemed to be so detached from the previous one. What made The Last Airbender the masterpiece it is was that although there were four seasons, every episode played a role in weaving an amazing story leading up to Aang's epic final battle with Fire Lord Ozai and the Avatar's heartwarming decision of forgiving all the damage he's caused in the past four seasons. Whereas with Korra, it feels like every season could be watched a standalone from the rest, and you'd still understand the story. A lot of this, I feel, stems from how the creators moved on so quickly from one major villain to the next without focusing on the feelings of the characters (again, character development).
Every season had their own share of villains: Amon, Unalaq, Zaheer and Kuvira. All different kind of benders with different kinds of plans to defeat the Avatar and take over the world. There seemed to be no overarching goal or mission for the Avatar to tackle and achieve, leading to four very segregated plots that didn't overlap enough to make the series, as a whole, meaningful.
- The Avatar plain sucks. I know it's unfair to compare Korra with Aang because they live in two very different worlds, generations, and face very different problems. But come. on.
How much Avatar failure do I need to watch before Korra finally gets her shit together?? Her bending gets taken away in the first season. She crumbles before Unalaq and lets him merge with evil-spirit Vaatu to take over the world. She almost gets her life sucked out by Zaheer. She loses a dual to the Great Uniter (read: tyrant) Kuvira, letting her "reunite" the metal clan with the rest of the Earth Kingdom. There's only so much sympathy I can spare for a character who refuses to toughen up and keeps getting her "ass kicked" (even she knew it herself). It took the creators long enough to make Korra face her fears, but by then, the interest I had in her succeeding was long gone. From the start, I think Korra was portrayed to be too much of a spoilt, rebellious brat that the impression never really changed throughout the seasons. Bits of her stubbornness could still be felt in the last season. All in all, Korra just isn't as lovable a character as Aang. Maybe it's because of their age difference and different upbringings. But I would very much rather watch a more disciplined character carry out her duties, struggling in a new world of corruption, than watch a messed up girl herself cause more trouble to the world before she finally fixes it. (Refusing to settle down and learn airbending? She wasn't even considered a proper Avatar, then, until the last few episodes of the first season??) In a nutshell, The Legend Of Korra series was made more interesting because the Avatar herself was screwing everything up.
- KORRA ABUSES THE AVATAR STATE IN ALMOST EVERY EPISODE DOES SHE NOT REALISE THE SACRED IMPORTANCE OF IT????
- The attempts at humour in The Legend of Korra was a huge disappointment. The Last Airbender's characters were just so lovable because of Sokka's bad jokes and lousy attempts at wooing girls, Toph's sarcasm towards Aang and even Aang's childish crush on Katara. All of this humour, however, seemed to be lost in Korra. The series gave a more solemn feel overall, with measly attempts at easing up the mood. There were commendable attempts at humour by Bolin, Tenzin (occassionally) and especially Meelo. But the jokes were just so dry that they emphasised even more how the entire season is just a desert lacking of nutritional humour. Meelo's character came off as annoying and disrespectful after a while, and I just hated seeing him on screen trying to lead a team of people older than him. But I guess in a show addressing bigger issues with older, "adult" characters, the level of humour just can't be as simple as it was with the children in Aang.
I have a lot of complaints for The Legend of Korra, but there are certain things I really liked about this new series, continuing from the world of Team Avatar Aang.
- New styles of bending spiced up the series so much more, and made the new world functional in so many new ways. Metal bending, lavabending, healing, blood bending, lightning, combustionbending, spirit bending, energy bending, etc. Although some of these bending styles were briefly introduced in The Last Airbender, it's nice to see how they were developed and led to a future of more sophisticated bending styles that contributed to a new world. Metal bending was pretty cool when Toph first did it in The Last Airbender, but it's more touching to see how she passed down the skills to her daughters, who then trained a whole squad of policemen and built a whole nation out of the one skill. Knowing that bloodbending was made illegal in the new world gave old viewers a small sense of justice because we know the terrifying beginnings of the skill. The development of basic elemental bending and the potential for more bending styles in the future is what has supported the Avatar world in becoming such a magical world that so many fans are entranced by. Truly, the world of the Avatar is an amazing, phenomenal work of fiction.
- Pro-bending tournaments. Although this game of bending the three most common elements played a pretty small part in the series as a whole, the idea of the tournament itself is astounding and it certainly helped Korra develop her skills in an early part of the show. What amused me greatly was the fact that this was a whole new addition to the Avatar world, and the show did very little to explain the workings of the game. They just threw it into the show and viewers watched in confusion as players kept attacking each other. However, just watching the Fire Ferrets play match after match, viewers could pick up on how the game works and even knew the rules and winning methods. I found it baffling when I suddenly realised, later into the tournament, that the Fire Ferrets only needed a knockout to win a match. And I didn't even have the game rules explained to me! *applause to directing team*
- The beginnings of the Avatar revealed. Perhaps the creators sensed that halfway through the second season, the episodes were getting pretty dry (or was that just me?), and so the story of how the very first Avatar was born was revealed. (Finally
, some attention away from Korra.) A lot different than what I would have expected, but I really liked how the story of Wan was animated in a different style from the usual Avatar episodes too (oh how I miss varied animation styles like in The Last Airbender). The origins of the Avatar just added a whole new layer of awesomeness to this make-believe fantasy world of the Avatar. *thumbs up*
- The series had some pretty good villains, if I may say so myself. Amon was a brilliant start to instill terror into a new age of the Avatar's viewers. A villain with powers so unthinkable that no one could have expected his capabilities. (Seriously, the dude gave me nightmares for a while.) Even Unalaq, Vaatu, Zaheer and Kuvira all came with powers that could match up to Korra's. Every battle was a tough one, but Amon takes the cake for carrying the weight of the whole first season. Honestly, he was the reason I was so hooked unto the first season despite the intertia I faced when starting the series.
- Many more mature worldly issues were addressed in Korra. From smaller problems such as romantic relationships between the characters, to large-scale issues like toying with nuclear power to gain authority and homosexuality, The Legend of Korra was able to touch on more sophisticated issues that Aang couldn't possibly work with (given his age). With an older avatar, the viewers who grew up with Aang could relate to the more complex challenges that Korra had to face too. In that sense, it makes sense why The Legend of Korra had to have a more solemn tone than The Last Airbender's. (Although I'd still prefer innocent fun and foolishness any day.)
I've come to the end of this rant and I feel so much better to actually write out and organise my thoughts for this series rather than keep them all running through my mind simultaneously. All in all, The Legend of Korra pales in comparison to the impact left after The Last Airbender. However, it's a pretty great continuation of the world of the Avatar and its developments since Aang restored balance in the world after the first series. At the end of the day, I guess this development is worth watching all four seasons of The Legend of Korra for.