Readers, let’s go back a year, to the summer of 2013, when I was between finishing my second year at university and starting my final year. I wasn’t all clued up on the whole ‘golden age of tv,’ thing that I think we’re definitely going through, and I was searching for a TV show to watch. My brother casually mentioned to me that he watched a childrens’ animation called Avatar: The Last Airbender. Being reader, but not a huge fantasy reader, and being someone who truly values animation but hadn’t been attached to cartoon characters since the days of T.J and the gang and Goku and co, I sat down to watch it on Netflix with a fair amount of apprehension. A year and a half later, I am completely, completely obsessed with both Avatar: The Last Airbender and the sequel series, Avatar: The Legend of Korra. I push onto anyone that I think will be interested, and consume the short episodes released every week like a mad woman. I am comfortable saying it is one of the best TV shows I have ever watched (imdb agrees, it is one of their highest rated shows), and I think that there is hardly a person in the world who will actively dislike it. It seems like a fitting time to talk about it, as the last ever Avatar series is currently being streamed online on Nick.com, The Legend of Korra Book (season) 4.
Avatar centers around a world where some people are born with the ability to manipulate or ‘bend’ one of the four elements, water, fire, earth or air. They are separated into four nations, The Fire Nation, The Water tribes (based in the North and South Poles), The Earth Kingdom and the Air nomads, who live in air temples. There is one person, the avatar, who is reincarnated cyclically into all the nations, who has the ability to master all the elements. Their job is to keep balance in the world, and be a bridge between the spiritual and the physical worlds.
One hundred years before the start of the show, the avatar dissapears, leaving the Fire Nation to commit genocide and wage a vicious war on all the other nations, and the world enters a war that spans decades and leaves many people dead and many more in abject states of poverty. Then two of the main characters, Katara and Sokka, find a stranger frozen in an iceberg….
The Legend of Korra stars the next avatar in the cycle, a 17 year old waterbender avatar, Korra, who is almost a fully realized avatar and who deals with the political, social and spiritual implications of a rapidly developing, technological and complicated, complicated world.
I am focusing on Korra, but I cannot stress enough how good the Last Airbender is. It is truly a gem, and is populated with fully fleshed out, loveable characters, both in the ‘good guys’ and the villainous, and an exciting, tight plot that spans over 3 reasons, that deal with mature themes, (like the aforementioned genocide), and still manages to combine great humour and exciting action sequences, and stunning animation. It is one of IMDB’s highest rated shows of all time, so don’t just take my word for it 🙂
Korra is so different, but in my opinion, just as good. Aang, the main character in The Last Airbender, is a twelve year old boy, and Korra starts off as a 17 year old. Korra’s character development, as a 17 year old fiesty and fierce teen to the person she is now, after everything that has happened over three seasons, has been phonemonal. The current season is dealing with issues of PTSD in a nuanced and complicated way, even if viewers like myself are shallowly yearning for the kind of spectacular fight scenes the show is known for.
What the show is particularly good at, though, is its villains. The villains in Korra have all fought for legitimate causes – equality between benders and non-benders, spirituality (and I won’t spoil the Book 3 revelation for you, but it is equally as compelling), and they all fight against the concept of the avatar, and are all truly menacing in their own way. It brings adult, mature abstract themes to animation that is primarily targeted at children, and it is beloved and discussed a lot for these reasons.
Do YOU watch this show? What do you think?