The Elemental ROSSMAN
A few years ago I fell in love with the greatest TV series ever produced; that show was Avatar: The Last Airbender, and it was good. The three-season-long storyline of Avatar was near perfect (probably as close to absolute perfection we mere mortals will ever get with our visual entertainment medium; its only real negative point is the whole "Zuko's mom" thing, which really ain't that bad).
But then Hollywood caught wind (PUN!) that the show was so much fun, and full of purely awesome everything, and had a pretty big basic cable following all its own, and it got greedy. Somebody then got the brilliant idea to allow M. Night Shillelagh to write and direct a movie based on the beloved series, and he fucked it up but good. Now, unfortunately, most people in the world only associate this godawful Last Airbender movie with the story of Aang, Sokka, and Katara, and not the most excellent TV show (which they don't even know about, or only heard of in passing). These people make me cry and rage.
Anyway, after A:TLAB ended its fantastical TV run, the whole world wondered just what its creators would try to do next. I mean, their imagination seemed limitless, and the universe they made from scratch for Avatar was just so fucking beautiful... What could they accomplish if they put their efforts into a sci-fi show? Or a drama? Or a time travel show featuring a snobby gorilla wearing a top hat and bow tie and his talking, obnoxious toucan friend?! But instead (to mix some metaphors), they went back to the proverbial Avatar well and tried to get as much mileage out of it as they could before it totally ran out of spunk and got to the bottom of the ninth.
The Legend of Korra was their next show, and even though it wasn't anything extraordinarily new (meaning it took place in the same world as their element-bending break-out series), it did take place over 70 years after the events of the first story, featured a lot of the grown up children of the original cast, and took place almost entirely in one giant, gritty, 1920s-like megalopolis (called Republic City) instead of having its lead characters travel the globe and visit a new village, shrine, temple, or city each week. Needless to say, I was quite eager for it to premiere. I was dying to see my old friends again (who, if they actually lasted 70 years after the end of A:TLAB, they would indeed be quite OLD), and to see just how all the pain, suffering, and sacrifice that reigned at the end of the first series paid off a couple of generations later.
Without spoilers, I will state that Korra is indeed fun. It had a better and a more interesting start than the first season of its predecessor, but it wasn't quite as epic and pants-blowingly amazing as the 2nd and 3rd seasons of Avatar proved to be. My expectations were just way too high I suppose. Still, it was not bad at all, and I did indeed like it a whoooole lot.... But it wasn't quite there yet. Luckily there are a few more "Books" of the story to go (well, I'm assuming there are, considering every episode of Korra started with the title card that read "The Legend of Korra ~ Book One: Air"). But I digress. I'm about to jump into spoiler territory now in order to a'splain myself.
SLIGHT SPOILERS BEGIN NOW!
Things start off a few years after the death of Aang, who was at one time (before he started popping out air-bendy chillun of his own) the very LAST Airbender. The Secret Order of the White Lotus is now actively searching for the next body of the reborn Avatar (master of all 4 elements, and keeper of the peace in the world) in all the Water Tribe villages around the world (since the cycle of the Avatar goes from Air to Water, lots of people apparently claim that their water baby is the reborn Avatar, and so the experts must travel a lot in order to verify/defame these claims). Their job is to find, protect, and teach the youngling Avatar until he or she is old enough and powerful enough to go out into the world and do their Avatary thang on their own.
Anyway, soon the White Lotuses meet young Korra, and she blows their little minds away with her mad bending abilities! Then they put her through her Avatar paces in the form of boring, decade-long training. Luckily we skip this part.
We (the audience) soon finds that Korra has done well for herself in her years of bending lessons. She's pretty much got down Earth, Water, and Fire, but just as she's about to get her elemental sensei for her hardest subject, Air, she finds that her teacher (Aang's son, Tenzen) can't stay in the South Pole with her, seeing as he's needed back in
Gotham City Republic City, as one of the burg's top councilmen — Republic City being a giant experiment in amalgamation that Avatar Aang and Fire Lord Zuko put together to try and unify the 4 elemental realms of the world after 100 years of war with the Fire Nation.
So Tenzen goes back to civilization, and Korra decides to hop on her trusty polar bear-dog and follow him. Considering she's never left the South Pole and its cold inhabitants before, the sight of the giant sky scrapers, immense statues (of Avatar Aang), and total mix of Water, Earth, and Fire peeps (along with hundreds of thousands of non-benders) blows HER fucking mind.
Being as lost in the city as Hello Kitty is in an S&M shop (as far as I know), Korra causes a boatload of destruction and confusion upon her (and her polar bear-dog's) initial foray into the happening haven, and ultimately gets arrested by Toph's bad ass daughter (Police Chief Lin Beifong, who leads the town's Metal Bending SWAT Team) for wrecking a portion of a restaurant district while roughing up some Triad thugs who were extorting money from the local businesses. She's quickly bailed out of jail by Air Master Tenzen, who then agrees to let her stay at his new temple with his family and train under him near the heart of the new world order. There is much rejoicing.
To make a long story short (kind of), Korra gets involved with Professional Bending Battles (a pretty cool made-up sport featuring Water, Earth, and Fire Benders beating the shit out of each other that's 1,000,000Xs better thought out than Quidditch), then she plays with the hearts of two bending brothers named Mako and Bolin, and soon she becomes the poster-child enemy of a radical non-bending movement led by the mysterious masked man known only as Amon. Amon wants to break down the bending order of the world one elemental-user at a time with his mad-crazy secret weapon. He is really one motherfucking bad ass fucker. He's honestly about thrice as scary as Azula at her craziest.
Lots of bad things happen, some really well played twists occur, and some great new characters come to aid Korra in her well intentioned quest to save the entire bending world (the sexiest of her new friends being Asami the rich girl... GrrrrOOOOooowl!), and it all comes to an amazing conclusion that wraps up every last detail, and answers every single question raised throughout the course of the all too short, 12-episode long story... And therein lies my biggest issue with Korra: there's nothing epic left to lead it into the next season.
See, that was one of my favorite aspects of the original Avatar: its jizz-blowingly awesome cliffhanger season finales... They always kept you waiting impatiently for more the following seasons. That is totally not the case with Korra. If it weren't for the title of the season itself (the aforementioned Book One: Air) I would have just thought that this is all they had planned for this new Avatar — a single 12-episode story arc. There's no hints of anything big being built up to or still looming over Korra and her pals to last another couple of seasons.
That's petty of me, I know, but I was slightly disappointed that instead of leaving some of the major issues that hung about our intrepid heroes at the end of the series (like all those big-time benders being royally handicapped, and Amon still being on the loose) open and still problematic, they wrapped them all up in a five minute epilogue. I thought there was plenty of room to escalate these disturbing dilemmas over the course of 2 (or more) seasons, and make them truly epic.... But they just wrapped them up like a cheap Hollywood movie in the rushed final moments of the whole tale. Yeah, that's the best way to put it: it just felt rushed. True, the ways that everything wrapped up were understandable (what happened to Amon, and how Korra got out of her particular situation), but I expected them to end it all like Avatar season 2 did: the bad guys got away, and the good guys were dealt a huge blow — one which made the viewer wonder just how the heroes would overcome their quandaries and still come back to win in the next season. But that's not to say that Korra didn't end well.... It did. And it was very cool... But I'm done talking about that now. Moving on!
So that's the reason why I wasn't 100% insanely and rabidly crazy about Korra (which wasn't much at all). What DID I like/love about it? Quite a bit. The big bad, Amon, was really interesting — his motives, his actions, his abilities... He was truly and totally terrifying! There was a serious sense of dread that surrounded him. Whoever came up with him did a fantastic job.
I also loved the flashback through Korra's Avatar memory to a very important time in Aang's life (that took place close to 30 years after the end of the original series).
The idea of the mundies in Republic City feeling like second class citizens because they can't bend anything was very interesting too. As Captain Rugged pointed out to me, they never really covered anything like that in the first series. Non-benders were usually okay with their lot in life then, but by cramming in so many different types of elementals in one giant city like this, it's kind of like gathering a lot of tinder and piling it up on top of a pile of gunpowder with Amon becoming the spark. Adding to this non-bending frustration is the fact that regular benders are becoming more and more powerful on their own. Metal bending (thought impossible 70 years before) can now be done by most Earth Benders with some training, and Fire Benders can now all use the scary blue lightning that only Azula, Ozai, and Iroh had previously only mastered. The benders are getting stronger, learning more destructive abilities, and the normals are feeling more and more repressed. Amon came out to lead the mundies at the perfect time.
The final 3 episodes were very, very good, and they were a well wrapped-up conclusion to everything. They were extremely satisfying with how they showed the war between benders and normies escalating, and then with how it all came to a close.
I loved the TONE of the show lots too. It goes dark pretty quickly, then it turns sadistically deranged in the final hour and a half of storytelling (the last 3 episodes are pretty terrifying, having to do with that one terribly illegal bending activity that everyone knows is a total no-no). I mean, it's so fucked up at times that small children might have nightmares after watching it. This was a plus to me though. It proved that the creators were not afraid of anything if it helped to tell their story.
And finally, the animation... Absolutely GORGEOUS. This is one of the best looking, most consistently fluid animated television program I've ever seen. No wonder it fell behind its production schedule! And the way they animated the elemental bending in this show, it made the magic even more beautiful and more impressive than most of what we saw in the original A:TLAB. They poured a shitload of love into this baby.
So, the creators of Korra did a fantastic job of making a sequel to the greatest television show ever made. It was a good start, but it wrapped up every last plot thread brought up during its run, making it appear that any further adventures of Korra will be self-contained, smaller tales too, and not a multiple-season-long giant story that makes your jaw drop in awe and blow-job-ready love. Really though, that's my only gripe. Honestly, that's not bad. Not bad at all.