[TV Review] Legend of Korra | Book One: Air

A few months ago, I finally sat down to watch Avatar: The Last Airbender, and in spite of my usual disappointment with media that gets a lot of hype, I was fairly impressed with the series. After finishing, I debated whether or not to go on to Korra right away or postpone it until after the series ended, as I prefer to watch shows in a single whole-series binge rather than joining one in-progress. But I was bored the other day and wanted something to watch... so why not give it a go?

I watched the entire first series in a single night, and after seeing all twelve episodes in back-to-back succession, I have to say that Air doesn't quite live up to The Last Airbender... but it's still pretty damn awesome. I think the biggest flaw is the switch to twelve episodes instead of twenty. Honestly, I feel like they didn't have enough time to flesh everything out because of the shortened season (it was originally intended to be a miniseries, apparently), so certain aspects ended up feeling rushed and/or too convenient, especially toward the end.

For example, we got to see Amon's start of darkness in the penultimate episode... but it only explained part of who he ultimately became. It completely failed to address how he went from an angry and overpowered teenager to a revolutionary so batshit insane as to consider metaphysical mutilation of the innocent--including  toddlers--as necessary "for the greater good". A more reasonable example was the resolution to Korra's loss in the finale (said as vaguely as possible to prevent spoiling anyone, but if you've seen it, you know what I'm talking about). The resolution made sense, but it was a bit of a Deux ex Machina that robbed the story of some of its emotional payoff.

As for Korra herself, she is an awesome character. Not only am I utterly thrilled to see a muscular tomboy character being treated as just as attractive as her beautiful and much more feminine romantic rival and friend, she's also a seriously strong personality with flaws that the writers aren't afraid of acknowledging. She's nearly a complete 180 from her previous incarnation, but she's just as interesting and capable.

I am surprised, however, to find myself not shipping her with any of her fellow characters. None at all. After seeing the first season, I've found--much to my surprise--that I prefer Mako/Asami. Even the prospect of a Mako/Korra/Bolin OT3 isn't working for me, and I have an absurd fondness for OT3s. I'm definitely interested to see where they take her romantic plotline in future seasons; I'd like to see her relationship with Mako end, but I also don't want to see her end the series without a love interest, given how much she subverts the typical idea of a female action hero. Were Korra more like Asami--slight build, beautiful face, sweet personality--I wouldn't mind her ending the series unattached; hell, I'd probably advocate it. But with Korra being the kind of character who, in many other series, would end up alone--No Guy Wants an Amazon, after all--I really want to see her get a long-term love interest outside of the already introduced love triangle.

On another note, I a bit disappointed by the genre shift between The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra. The swift industrialization of the Avatar 'verse honestly makes me sad, though it's an interesting and completely logical progression. I just vastly prefer high fantasy to urban fantasy, and if there are any sequels to come after Korra, I hardly think they're going to somehow de-industrialize.

Then there's the main villain. Amon was seriously fucked up, and I was a bit surprised by just how dark they went. His entire modus operandi revolves around physically subduing his opponents so he can remove their magical abilities. It's like a mystical version of Harrison Bergeron, and it's unbelievably disturbing and vaguely genocidal, since his entire plan is to utterly rid the world of bending (by depowering the benders instead of killing them, but I'd argue that completely and utterly destroying a person's identity out of hatred is worse than simply letting them die as themselves). Then, of course, there's his early fight scene with Korra, which has the same kind of rapey undertones as Slade's fight with Raven in Birthmark. On the other hand, it being a rather mature plotline for an Nickelodeon show permitted them to deliver a super dark fate to both Amon and Tarrlok, and I was totally impressed.

So I'm really looking forward to the next three seasons and will be starting Spirits asap. I just have one final note to end this review...

How the fuck did this happen?

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