The electricity of The Legend of Korra

The first season (book) of The Legend of Korra recently came to a close. Fortunately, the show has thus far surpassed its grand predecessor.

It’s been 16 years since the death of Aang, and the new Avatar has been found.

Unlike Aang at the beginning of his story, Korra has already mastered three of the four elements. The one she has trouble with is air, the primary element of her predecessor, and the first book covers her attempts to master this critical element.

She builds a stable of friends to rely on, and cements her place in the society she has thus far been sheltered from. Korra becomes a professional athlete in a competitive bending sport, while establishing her spiritual and mental connection to the past avatars, an obviously essential ingredient to success in her role as the protector of the world’s balance.

The story of Korra is formatted quite differently from the first series. Aang’s story was continuous from book to book, with each book separating his training regimens, rather than the plot, which remained a constant thread.

Korra’s story seems to be the other way around. The conflict presented early on in the season, the fight against the Equalist Movement and its mysterious leader, has been fully resolved, a true dénouement, requiring next season to present Korra with a new visceral challenge. However, her training remains incomplete, and learning to Airbend will be incredibly important for her in the future. Yes, she hits major milestones in the first season, but she’s still far from the mastery of Aang.

In some ways this dénouement arrives too abruptly, and is even a bit jarring, but that’s an unfortunate side effect of having to write a show in 20 minute chunks. The conclusion to the entire season needs to fit in just one of those episodes, which must also have its own distinct plot. It works well, however, and the ending the writers chose manages to both rouse and completely surprise the audience.

The character of Korra is also quite different from Aang. Where he was disciplined and calmly exuberant, Korra is impetuous and sometimes uncouth. Where Aang would do anything to create peace, Korra is perpetually looking for a fight. Korra has everything to prove in a world which isn’t even sure it needs her. Some of the character development through this season is a bit silly, but it almost has to be. The writers have allowed the more childish gags of Aang’s story to take a backseat, with this more mature protagonist, but in their place we have the awkward moments of teenaged life.

Alongside her other challenges, Korra has teen romance to deal with, and it creates some cringing and confusing moments. Personally, I could have done without the romantic sub-plot, but I understand why it needs to be there, and I don’t feel like it detracts from the show’s major arc.

Fans of the first show probably already know that they would like this one, but it’s a certainty now. The Legend of Korra not only lives up to the quality and heart of The Last Airbender, it surpasses the previous show, as hard as that seems, to create an outstanding fantasy adventure in a compelling story-world with real, relatable characters, and a unique magic system.

It’s quite clear that Korra is constructed by the same team – which is now using the lessons it learned with The Last Airbender to create exceptional challenges and characterizations. This helps depict the development of multiple concepts and settings, including the population of non-benders, rather than just developing the protagonists, which was the focus of the previous series.

Of course, I still recommend that everyonesee Avatar: The Last Airbender in its entirety. If you haven’t watched it yet, start there, though it’s not a prerequisite to getting into Korra. It will help, and if you don’t watch it first, Korra will spoil it for you.

The second season of Legend of Korra will run spring 2013. If you want to catch up, the first season is available on Amazon Instant Video.