Wait: How did I not hear about this!?
I know Avatar: the Last Airbender isn’t technically anime because it’s not Japanese, and I remember getting really confused when I first watched the original series because I wondered how this particular “anime” had such good English dubbing, only to learn later that it was an American produced series (by Nickelodeon). The Legend of Korra follows the original series, beginning approximately 70 years after the end of The Last Airbender, and focuses on Korra, the new Avatar.
There are a few differences to note off the bat between the two Avatars: In The Last Airbender, Aang had only mastered Air Bending, while in The Legend of Korra, Korra is adept at Water, Fire, and Earth Bending at a young age. Aang’s age during the run of the series was 12-years old; Korra is 17 to start. Aang is male; Korra is female. One of the main challenges for Aang was to bring peace and restore balance in a world that had been dominated by the Fire Nation; 70 years later, Korra faces a whole set of different issues in a completely changed world, including growing segregation between benders and non-benders (think humans versus mutants in X-Men), civil unrest, and tyrannical triads.
I really, really liked the original Avatar: the Last Airbender, and though I felt the ending was rushed – not that it wasn’t well-concluded, just that some questions remained unanswered – and I’d heard the live action movie was terrible, it’s still probably one of my most favourite series of all time. The whole world of Avatar – the geography, the nationalism, the division of benders, and the concept of elemental bending itself – is so well explained through the series and its characters. It had a good mix of action and comedy (and there was romance too – and I don’t doubt there will be a romantic story in Legend of Korra) with awesome fight scenes and solid characters. Now… as to whether or not it’s necessary to have seen the original series (and we’re talking 61 episodes here) before watching Legend of Korra… I’m not sure I can say, having seen all 61 episodes before starting the Legend of Korra, but I’m going to say it’s not essential. The series opens in the same fashion as before: with a narrative and with visualizations of what elemental bending is. It also mentions in passing the basic plot of what the first “season” covered – that is Aang’s journey in not only becoming Avatar, but of how he and his friends brought an end to the 100 Year War.
The characters in this series are completely new, with Katara being the only pre-existing character who’s carried over from the original. But the original characters are far from lost and forgotten as we learn their children are the ones in charge now. Most notable are Tenzin, Katara and Aang’s youngest son, and Lin Beifong, Toph’s daughter. No doubt the offsprings of Sokka (x Suki) and Zuko (x Mai) will pop up sooner or later in the 26 episodes of Legend of Korra.
The first two settings introduced in this new world is the White Lotus headquarter located in the South Pole, and the established metropolis known as Republic City. After escaping from her South Pole safe house, Korra begins a new life in Republic City, learning Air Bending under the tutelage of Tenzin, making new friends, and discovering she’s just a small town girl entering a much bigger world. The animation and character designs are still distinguishably Last Airbender-esque, with vivid colours, amusing expressions, and well choreographed and exciting fights.
Due to a show in popularity for the series, the first two episodes of The Legend of Korra were released early as a one-hour special, but the official release date is April 14th. The first season is said to contain 12 episodes, saving the remaining 14 for a second season.
So this isn’t technically Japanese anime, and it wasn’t mentioned in our Spring Preview (actually, this is where I found out about it – thanks Xana and Lykos!), but I am SO. EXCITED. And if you’re excited then let me know because then I won’t feel so bad when I bring it up now and then as the series runs through its first season. (I’m just kidding. I wouldn’t actually feel bad.)