Shows You Should Watch This Summer Part I: The Legend of Korraby Nam Le on Jun, 28 2012
This is the first of a three part series on shows you should watch this summer.
The Legend of Korra is not like most cartoons. To call it one, or to dismiss it based on appearances, would be to do it an injustice, really.
Despite a beautiful, “Roaring 20s”-influenced exterior, the show is far more than all flash.
At its Korr[a], there lies an ultimately compelling children’s series – one that subtly challenges concepts like equality and oppression underneath all the fancy kung-foolery. Of course, the show’s careful handling of mature themes is not the only reason to give it a chance.
Outstanding visuals – Though already briefly mentioned above, this part is worth mentioning again. The Legend of Korra is simply stunning in high definition. It’s really the only way to watch the show – you cannot fully enjoy the fireballs, steampunk mechs and explosions without it. Trust me.
Creative concept/flavor – Set in a world where certain people (“benders”) are born with the ability to channel earth, water, air, or fire through their martial arts, the Legend of Korra’s core premise is not immediately unique by itself. After all, such an idea was explored in the old WB show Shaolin Showdown. There are a couple of twists here that make things interesting, though. In every generation of people, there is one individual who is born able to control all four of these elements, called the Avatar. As you might have gathered, Korra is the Avatar of her time, and the series traces her development and progression in that role, as well as how she handles the expectations that title carries.
Complicating this conflict is the time period the show is set in. With industrialization and modernism now reaching the shores of Republic City, a small faction of citizens has begun to question the need for benders at all. Seeing them as oppressive and unequal, technological advances have given these citizens the ability to fight back for the first time, which creates a far different bender-nonbender dynamic than was found in The Last Airbender (the original Avatar series that spawned four successful seasons). There, nonbenders were essentially useless; here, they fight on par with their elementally powered peers – a key difference that makes war actually feel like war. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the ideological clash between these two groups drives most of the show’s first season, but it makes for dramatic and surprisingly thought-provoking television.
Amon – Limited by being a children’s show and all, Nickelodeon still does an incredible job of building up the mysterious Amon as a villain. A badass in every sense of the word, by the end of Korra’s 12 episode run, viewers grow to dread his every appearance on-screen, wondering about what evil plot he has cooked up now. Cunning, powerful and deliberate, the masked menace is a legitimate threat to Korra, a stark contrast to most cartoons, where the hero never really seems in danger. Not so here.
Easter Eggs – No, the Legend of Korra does not deliver food to you. It does, however, pack many surprises for its fans, particularly the returning ones. Those coming back for a second round in the Avatar universe will find cameos from past characters, as well as their offspring and ancestors, which makes the world seem much more coherent and believable.
The show is not perfect, of course – there is certainly room to nitpick at its pacing, length, and perhaps even how the first season ends. Still, those minor flaws aside, there is enough to thoroughly entertain fans, old and new.
Plus, it has kung fu. Who could hate that?