26 April 2012

The Legend of Korra

Thanks to the Amazon Instant Video app on my Playstation 3, I can keep up with my favorite TV shows without the hassle of a cable account. Of course I'm paying per episode, but there's plenty of free stuff for Prime members (that's me!). Because of this blessed streaming event, I had the good fortune of stumbling upon-- and by "stumbling upon" I mean waiting on pins and needles for a year-- Nickelodeon's newest series, The Legend of Korra.

(To clarify: I do not work for any of the companies that make the products I talk about. Sadly. If you happen to discover my blog and need a writer for or about film & television, I'm your gal)

My apologies for not having an image-- I'll sketch one for you in the future. I thought it'd be neat if I posted drawings of the topic rather than steal borrow images from Google. But if you're like me and desperate for a visual, click on the link provided above.

Anyway, the BIG DEAL about LoK is that it's the newest story in the legendary Avatar animated series, the first being Avatar: The Last Airbender. Remember that horrendous film by M. Night Shamalan a couple years ago? Me neither, I've blocked it from my mind. However, the far superior animated series earned a Primetime Emmy award and won the hearts of adult and child viewers everywhere. The Last Airbender has an array of charming, ridiculous, and villainous three-dimensional characters, detailed subplots, and a story chalked full of relatable themes and emotional moments. You CARE about Aang, Katara, Sokka, Zuko, Toph, and the people they meet on their journey.

Not to mention both TLA and LoK have incredible imagery of beautiful martial arts movements performed in vast, unique scenery. And no, it's not Anime for all you haters out there.  Yes, it has an Asian production design but as someone who watches Anime, I would not place either show in that category. So if that's holding you back, swallow your pride and watch a couple episodes of the original series-- now on Netflix Instant and free for Prime members, and probably Hulu as well.  However, my main focus is Legend of Korra-- the people over at Nick have upped the ante this time. Quick summary about the world: it's filled with humans and "benders," people who use special moves to manipulate one of the four elements while the Avatar is the only person who can bend all of them.

**Contains SPOILERS of the First Series, skip to next Paragraph.
In The Last Airbender, the Fire Benders are trying to take over the world, kill the Avatar, and imprison all other benders who would resist. After the success of Avatar Aang (the last airbender in the world-- the fire lord wiped out the rest in search of the avatar) and his friends in defeating the Fire Lord, Aang and Fire Lord Zuko form Republic City, a metropolis where benders and non-benders can live, work, and prosper.

LoK takes places 17 years after Avatar Aang passes away and Korra, the new Avatar (they're reincarnated from generation to generation), needs to master her final element: air. As she's been in rural seclusion all her life, traveling to the beautifully industrial Republic City-- think steampunk NYC-- is quite the change, especially when Korra encounters the Equalists, a group of non-benders trying to rid the world of bending completely.  As our heroine has a penchant for trouble, she gets herself into all kinds of mischief while meeting friends and enemies along the way. The series is 3 episodes in but you can watch them all on Nickelodeon's website to catch up.

The Avatar "Books," as the seasons are referred to, offer comedy, drama, and action portrayed through skillful art and animation. Instead of repeating the character pattern of the first series, Korra is the complete opposite of Aang: headstrong, stubborn, and hot-headed.  There are plenty of charming new characters: Tenzen her Air Bending Master-- voiced by the underrated J.K. Simmons-- and his 3 children (who provide ample comedic relief), Mako and Bolin-- two professional benders and Korra's new companions, and the villainous Amon who is far more than he appears (I've got so many suspicions about that guy). And of course the Avatar has her animal companion as well: Naga, the polar-bear-dog.  Wait... what did I just say?   One charming detail of this fictional world is the "hybrid animals." Avatar Aang's companions were Appa, a flying bison, and Momo, a winged lemur, while this new series has Naga and Pabu the fire ferret. There are also lion-turtles, platypus-bears, rabbi-roo, etc.

Being three episodes into the series and having to wait for each episode, I'm ready to drive over to Nickelodeon and beg them to tell me what's going to happen! The Legend of Korra promises to match, if not surpass, its predecessor in every way possible.  Fans of The Last Airbender will love seeing the new animals, clever ways to incorporate bending, as well as the references to the first series.  I highly recommend watching TLA first but you will definitely be able to enjoy LoK without doing so. I hope you check it out and love it as much as I do.

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