It feels like forever ago, when I watched “The Last Airbender”(TLA). It was probably one of the best, if not the best TV show I watched to date. A story about the frailty of youth juxtaposed with relentless optimism and perseverance.
To me, Aang wasn’t a dwarfish character with weird tattoos, but a kid who had the impossible task of breaking down an evil empire, I felt his inner strength and defiant optimism in the face of damning odds. He was the underdog I rooted for throughout the series, the boy who could do anything. His big warm smile in comparison to his small bald head always made me smile too.
It wasn’t just Aang that I remember from TLA. It was Katara who tried so hard to match Aang’s water bending strength. It was Toph who defied societal conventions. It was Sokka, who despite being a comic relief, was a great leader when the occasion called for it. Zuko was a complex if not complicated character who had so much depth to him, it was magical to see his metamorphosis from a hate filled child to a conscious adult. When I watched these people interact, talk and fight, I felt they were real. The show as an intricate depiction of a fictional world that came out of the TV.
And don’t get me started on the world building. For the first time, in a long time it was a world that I found so distinctive, with the diverse creatures and the nations so different in their structures and beliefs that it had me dreaming for months.
For thirty minutes every week, I’d get the privilege of prying into the lives of these underdogs and I savored every second of it.
Fast forward to now, and what you get is a husk of that greatness. Korra not only disappointed me, it made me contemplate how bad things have really gotten.
In Korra, it's not about challenging the world, its about insipid love triangles. It’s not about a great adventure, its about taking care of bandits. For a great portion of all three seasons its about dealing with bandits. There were so many places where I wanted to just stop watching in the third season. Every season got progressively worse, taking more color away from the world and painting the characters with broader, clumsier strokes than before.
Make no mistake, the art is great, the animation is top of the line but the characters are empty. In fact, the part I liked most about all of Korra was when she was connecting with the first avatar (wan) and we got to see his story. I’ve always wanted to know how it began, so I guess thats cheating. But the point remains, I got so sick of Korra that I wanted relief in something else. Did I mention that the battles in that subplot was way better than the battles in main plot?
Unlike TLA, where I remember the people vividly, I have trouble recalling who some of the characters are in Korra, since there are so many of them, and so many of them are just plain boring. Take Mako for example, wait, who was that guy again? Oh yea, the guy with good looks and a bad boy attitude. Asami? The girl who lost both her parents, but is completely fine with it.
Bolin? He’s one I remember better than the others may because I just like goofy characters, but even he’s boring.
Did I forget to mention someone important? If I did, I probably forgot who they are or what they were doing in the first place.
Calling the jokes bad in Korra is an understatement. I feel like they were made under someone’s infantilizing supervision.
I feel that the creators wanted to do something complex, but they forgot the simple tenets that made Aang so great.
I miss Aang, the greatest part in Korra was when he appeared and said, "When we hit our lowest point, we are open to the greatest change”. It is probably the best thing I’m going to take away from Korra, because he had the authority to say those words. His life was an illustration of this very point.
Korra tries hard to leverage the immense diversity of the Avatar universe, but fails to bring something that is both compelling and new.