By Andrew Berkeley (@AndrewBerkeley)
Let me begin by prefacing that I've never been drawn to anime style shows. I can recall a time when the Pokémon series were my life, but once I was old enough to recognize the constant recycling of the plot, it quickly became stale. So I'll admit that I was hesitant to give another Nickelodeon anime a chance. And I found myself pleasantly surprised with The Legend of Korra.
The show is a spin-off/sequel of Avatar: The Last Airbender, a show that ran on Nickelodeon from 2005-2008. The show is set in a universe where "benders" can manipulate and control one of the four elements: earth, fire, water, and air. But only the avatar (who is born once every generation) can master all four elements and maintain order and balance in the world. For this generation, that privilege belongs to a young woman from the Water Tribe named Korra.
The show opens with Korra (Janet Varney) having already mastered fire, water, and earth-bending. But in order to complete her avatar training, she must leave the Water Tribe and move to Republic City to learn air-bending. Her instructor is the strict, old-school Tenzin (J.K. Simmons) who is former avatar Aang's son. His techniques require Korra to focus, meditate, and discover her spiritual side... but Korra prefers the physical powerhouse side of being an avatar.
She sneaks away from her training to join the Pro-Bending League as a water-bender for the Future Industries Fire Ferrets. Her teammates are Bolin (P.J. Byrne), the comic relief of the show and Mako (David Faustino) who quickly becomes Korra's love interest.
The main source of conflict in the first season comes from a group of radicals called the Equalists in Republic City. Their leader, the masked Amon (Steve Blum), has the ability to strip benders of their power and he threatens to create an equal world where benders must become extinct. Korra must fight against corrupt politicians and police along with "Team Avatar".
The overall concept of the show is profoundly deep, especially for a show whose typical demographic is aged six to nine. It's remarkably progressive considering the protagonist is a dark-skinned woman who is immensely powerful and able to overcome so many obstacles including oppressive and radical equalists. The dialogue can at times be fairly immature (as jokes about using the bathroom are frequent), but the overall message of overcoming anything and connecting with your spiritual side set a truly positive example for viewers. Amon is a truly horrifying villain who you grow to hate as the first season continues. The dramatic reveal of his true identity is an unpredictable twist that caught me off-guard.
Ultimately, The Legend of Korra is a wonderfully engaging show worth checking out. Even if the storylines go over your head, it's truly an exciting experience to watch people shoot fire out their fingertips at one another. All four seasons of the show are readily available to watch on Netflix today.