You may ask why I am reviewing a Young Adult cartoon series on my blog devoted, primarily, to horror and science-fiction.
It's my blog and I liked it.
I was a big fan of the original Avatar: The Last Airbender. I thought it was extremely well-written and enjoyed it tremendously. Parents forget that children need things like Star Wars to instill in them the values of good, evil, freedom, oppression, spirituality and other important topics which will serve them later in life. Having watched both, though, how do I think The Legend of Korra stacks up to its predecessor?
I think it's better than the original series.
|The art design for this series is truly fantastic.|
Using the definition of retro-science-fiction for steampunk, The Legend of Korra is one of the most mainstream examples of the genre. We have a divide between the traditional "old ways" of the religious past and the new ways of modern industry embodied by the Avatar, a literal physical god, visiting a city torn by economic strife. It's fairly high concept for children's fair and I'm happy to put it up there with The Hunger Games.
The premise is Korra is the new Avatar after the death of previous series hero Aang. As the Avatar she possesses all four kung-fu sorcery types (called "bending") based on the Greek elements (Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water). It is her job to bring balance to the world. However, what is balance and what does it mean in a world with cars and zeppelins? The questioning of this role and how Korra is not one for introspection herself, is one of the underlying themes of the show.
|I never would have guess Tenzin was played by Spiderman's boss.|
The fact Korra comes into Republic City expecting to be revered as the Avatar and ignores anyone who gets in her way, official or not, gives a credibility to their cause. Those with power have to be wary of those they step on, which is often not the case. Our heroine has to learn humility and respect for others' beliefs, even when they differ from her own.
|The series maintains its trademark humor throughout.|
The villain of the series, Amon, and his Equalist movement are an inspired creation. While on some level they don't much make sense, as we've never seen any organized prejudice against bending in the setting, their cause serves as a good metaphor for scapegoating. The show is also smart enough not to depict them as one-dimensional villains.The Equalists have the sincerity of their convictions and even if their philosophy is wrong, it's easy to see how people could fall into it.
The fact the show depicts the majority of Equalists joining because of the city's poor economic conditions is deep storytelling for a children's show. I would have liked the show to get deeper into the Equalists and their philosophy than they did but I understand why they chose not to. Depicting a group as understandable doesn't mean it should be depicted as right after all.
|Amon was a great villain. He even had the viewers questioning whether or not he had a point.|
Really, the entire cast is great. I liked every single character from Tenzin the Air-Bending Master to his children to Asami the heiress adventurer. Lin Beifong the Chief of Police is one of my favorite characters in the series as she's both a woman in her fifties, an authority figure, and a badass. The fact the two major male supporting cast, Mako and Bo-Lin, are regulated mostly to the love-interest and comic relief roles is groundbreaking by itself.
Credit goes to the artists and storyboarders for the fact the action is top-notch. This is a good example of the wuxia genre in that, despite being animated sorcerous kung-fu battles, everything felt believable in the context of the world. There were only a few times I felt the heroes were given easy victories and, most of them, I felt they were too hard on our heroes. Things were exciting, visually stunning to watch, and fast-paced. What more could you want?
|Korra has a great character arc and believable flaws. All which you rarely see in these sorts of shows.|
Really, I could talk about this series all day.
So what do I think of this program overall? I think The Legend of Korra is not just a good cartoon but good television period. I would recommend this show to adults and children alike. It's the kind of family entertainment which the networks should be more focused on producing. It also manages to say something, which is rare enough by itself. The art is gorgeous, the designs beautiful, and the storytelling great.
Kudos, Nickelodeon! You've surprised me.
Buy at Amazon.com