Last weekend I was flipping through the channels, looking for something to put on as background noise, and stopped on Nickelodeon because they were showing cartoons. While I was halfway paying attention, a commercial came on that made me stop what I was doing. It was for an upcoming show and there was something about the music that was very familiar, so I used the DVR and bounced back a bit to see the whole thing. It was for a show called Legend of Korra, a sequel to the very successful Avatar: the Last Airbender series that ended back in 2008. Intrigued, I looked it up and set my DVR to record it. (I love DVR.)


Holy smokes, it’s like Avatar plus! The animation style is very similar, with the same subdued palette and matte-finish look of the original, but it is much more dynamic. Like the original, the season is called a Book and the individual episodes are Chapters; this first episode was two chapters run back-to-back. Like most first episodes in a new show it was more “Let’s get to know the characters” than any real story, but it was still very entertaining.


It begins seventy years after the end of the first series according to the beginning narration. It is later revealed that the narrator is Tenzin, the son of Aang and Katara from the original series. (Two other ofspring are also briefly mentioned but as Tenzin is the only airbending master they are either non-benders or waterbenders like their mother.) He recounts the founding of the United Republic of Nations and the capitol city of Republic City (very original) in what was once the Fire Nation’s colonies after the war as sort of a perfect, balanced society, but after the death of Aang the balance began to crumble. There is then a jump to the home of a Water Tribe family where members of the White Lotus Society have arrived to investigate claims that the couple’s young daughter is the new Avatar. The mother calls for her daughter Korra as one of the elders expresses his doubts, only to have a portion of the home’s wall fly past them. In what is possibly the best character introduction ever, a little girl of about four stomps in shouting “I’m the Avatar! You gotta deal with it!” and proceeds to earthbend rocks up out of the ground, sets one of the elders’ robes on fire, and then puts it out with waterbending.

Pictured: pure badass.

There is another jump forward to what will be the show’s present day showing a teenaged (seventeen or eighteen is my guess) Korra completing her firebending training and awaiting the arrival of the airbending master. When he arrives he tells her he cannot stay because there is some unspecified trouble in Republic City – her training will have to wait. Being strong-willed and determined, Korra runs away, sneaks aboard a ship with her pet polar bear-dog (who is the size of a bison) and goes to Republic City.

Republic City with Korra in the foreground.

Even though it has an almost identical appearance, the show contrasts nicely with the original. Where the original series took place mostly in rural areas or wilderness,Legendis set mainly in the metropolis of Republic City.  The city is huge and there is evidence of more widespread technology – the streets are packed with vehicles called “satomobiles” that resemble early cars and there is evidence of advanced mechanical and electrical devices including radios that broadcast the wildly popular pro-bending matches. This sport is really interesting to watch and accounts for most of the action sequences in the second half of the premiere. The playing field is an elongated six-sided polygon divided into six zones and raised above a pit filled with water. Two teams of three benders – once each for earth, fire, and water – attempt to knock their opponents backwards through the three zones and ultimately off the field and into the water below. Through a series of events, Korra joins the pro-bending team of a pair of brothers, the Fire Ferrets.

This is a fire ferret, a red panda-ferret hybrid. I want one. Why are all the animals in the Avatar world so frickin’ adorable?

It’s too early to say if the show is going to be as good as the original, but so far it is very promising. Instead of rehashing the old they have developed what feels like a very good continuation of the story. The world isn’tidentical to the first, which is completely believeable given to progression of technology, but has what I’d call an Asian-inspired steampunk flavor added. I can’t wait to see more.

I will make a grounds-less prediction that there will be some sort of romance in Korra’s future, probably with one of the brothers on her pro-bending team. Since one is easy-going and a bit goofy and the other is taciturn and brooding, I also predict it will be the brooding one who doesn’t seem to like her very much. I’ve seen enough romantic comedies to recognise a “I hated you but now I love you” plot line.