Review: Avatar, The Legend of Korra (first season, Book 1: Air)

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Avatar: The Legend Of Korra poster

The Legend of Korra is the sequel series to the original Avatar, the Last Airbender cartoon from Nickelodeon. It’s set 70 years into the future after the original events from the first series and is a whole new show in it’s own right. Whilst I do believe it is best that you have seen the first Avatar cartoon, it’s not entirely necessary but I would still very much recommend it or you will miss out on a great many details and history of this story.

In the first season we make acquaintance with some familiar characters, a whole brand new bunch and a brand new setting. Avatar Aang is no longer part of the world of the living, the Avatar spirit having reincarnated in the young waterbender Korra. Tempestuous, strong and a bending talent, Korra has three out of four elements down, only lacking Air. Just like in the first series there’s only one master airbender alive: Aang and Katara’s son: Tenzin, councilman of Republic City, the capital city of the lands now united in what passes for peace after Aang and his friends put an end to the 100 year war in the first series.

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The, now adult, Avatar: The Last Airbender main cast. From left to right: Aang & his flying lemur Momo, Katara, Toph Beifong, Zuko, Sokka

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The all new cast of Avatar: The Legend of Korra. Left to right: Asami Sato, Bolin with his fire ferret Pabu, Korra, Mako and Tenzin.

Steampunks and dieselpunks alike will enjoy all the elements brought into play the second the Avatar sets foot in town.

Oldtimers, steam ships, zeppelins, Victoriana architecture with clear Asian influences (I would dare to say that this is a prime example of Victoriental), dieselpunk WW 2 style flying machines, motorcycles and old skool Vespa like scooters are all commonplace in this whole new world in this particular cartoon.

But that’s not all: the episode recaps at the beginning of every new instalment are in the style of those of old television series, complete with sepia imagery. People in Republic City listen to old skool radios and the machinery and appliances are for the most part distinctively steam and diesel era in appearance.

But the aesthetic doesn’t stop with the modes of transportation and assorted bits and bobs, oh no. Whilst the water tribes and air monks are dressed in distinctively tribal or traditional Asian inspired fantasy robes, the vast majority of others are dressed in a far more contemporary style. Mako and Bolin, two of the main characters, are dressed in what can best described as traditional Chinese garments meets dieselpunk, the Equalists, the main villains of the story, wear outright diesel style uniforms and the United Forces army is also very diesel in both appearance of their warships as their uniforms. Asami’s regular clothes might me more of a style mix as well, but her motoring outfits are obviously steampunk even with cliché cog print included.

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And it doesn’t end there: Tesla-eske technology for weaponry, mech suits and era appropriate music, it’s all part of The Legend of Korra.

But the best thing about all of this is that this isn’t just a cartoon heavy on both steampunk and dieselpunk influences, nor that Nickelodeon has made a sequel to The Last Airbender, it’s that Legend of Korra, whilst different to The Last Airbender, is an excellent cartoon in it’s own right, even with some of the formulas that made the first one fabulous on repeat. It has a solid plot, the episodes build well upon each other, there’s great consistency and interesting characters and the winks and nudges to the first series of Avatar range from subtle, to blatant to extremely well mixed into this story. Done in a way to delight fans of the original story, but also clear enough to make sure that those who started watching with The Legend of Korra aren’t left with too much confusion and too many questions.

I would heartily recommend this show to anyone who likes cartoons and hasn’t seen this yet. It’s also a great way to introduce ones kids to steampunk and dieselpunk in the same go, which I consider to be a total bonus.

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