It feels like it’s been a long time since I’ve had an avatar in my life. This week on Episode 26, Charlie and I discussed the first two episodes of the new Avatar series, The Legend of Korra. We first talked about being excited for the new series way back in Episode 6 and I even wrote a post about it. So it might be surprising that I have only just now gotten around to watching the first two episodes. But considering that I still haven’t gotten around to seeing the second Iron Man movie it should probably come as no surprise at all. Anyway the point is that it was worth the wait.
The new series starts out later in the new avatar’s development. After having gleefully and defiantly announced “I’m the avatar! You gotta deal with it!” as a child, Korra has trained her whole life and the action of the new series begins with her having completed mastery of Water, Earth and Firebending. The only problem is that she’s never been able to air bend even a little. The world’s only living Airbending master is Aang’s grown son, Tenzin, who is too busy with his responsibilities of running the teeming metropolis of Republic City to go Korra and teach her. So of course Korra must head to Republic City to begin the final phase of her avatar training.
The setting, technology and culture of this avatar is so different from the first one and it’s probably the thing I liked most about the new series. The characters were good and I see a lot of room for development, which is a good thing, but in many ways they did not seem all that different from the main characters of the first series. We have goofy side-kicks, brooding boys and head-strong girls aplenty in the first two episodes. I don’t see a problem with this per say, I’m just pointing out that I would not be nearly as excited to see them if it weren’t such an exciting and different world that they are inhabiting.
The technology is similar to that of a steampunk vision of the 1920’s. Airships, trains, cars and motorcycles criss-cross the city while gangsters, overly aggressive police, and anti-bending “equalists” threaten the peace of the city. The old order of tribes keeping to themselves and benders practicing the ancient traditions has given way. Republic city is a melting pot. Benders and non-benders from every nation live and work together. Professional bending teams are made up of Fire, Water, and Earthbenders who all work together to defeat the other team, using methods and moves that the old masters look down upon. I was especially intrigued the characters of Bolin and Mako, brothers from a cross-bending family. One is an eathbender and the other is a firebender. Such a mixed-bending family didn’t even seem possible in the previous series.
So far the new series has less of an epic feeling to it. It is not yet clear who the big bad guy will be or why the Avatar will be needed in this world. But the writing, animation, and world-creation is good enough that I am willing to wait it out and see where it is all going.