Hey guys and gals, I know it’s been a while since this series ended but at the time it was airing I was following other series and this was one of the sacrifices I made in order to keep some peace of mind. I finally finished it earlier this year and here’s what I thought!
I have heard a lot of chatter on how Korra’s story is not as good as Aang’s. I disagree and find this opinion the majority of the time crops up from persons clinging to an extension of Aang’s journey. While the Avatar is a streamline of rebirth into each generation I believe each individual Avatar’s story is unique to themselves.
Of course we became attached to Aang – the kid was pure happy energy and believed in no limits. He came to us from a spiritual place where everything was possible, the world less strict for a mind to open to the possibilities. His lessons learned and wisdom were easy to sneak in with head-fakes (indirect learning) disguised in light hearted jest. As you progressed through Aang’s show seasons he eased you into the material world – a world of limitations and rules and fire nation tyranny.
Korra starts on the other end of the circle: her journey as the Avatar beings with rules and walls and limitations from the moment the White Lotus confirms her the next Avatar. This well-meaning organization takes charge of Korra’s path, choosing her lessons, making decisions for her. A flash back of young Korra shows her to be tenacious and as brightly burning in spirit as Aang ever was. Her rebellious flashes are a mix of her make-it-happen attitude in a world of limitations and typical cooped-up-teenager frustration.
The burning-brightly-fire of Korra’s personality was very pretty and shiny and when you have an instant-hook like that it’s hard to keep the fire going all the time. Her constant antics wore me out at first no matter how much I related with her. The first time I started watching the Legend of Korra (LoK) I had recently finished re-watching Avatar: The Last Airbender and was still raw to Aang’s story. I feel my love for Aang’s character was more of a slow burn. He started at a much lower energy and strung you along with attractive laughter. I have never watched the live action film after such strong negative feedback from the fanbase and even without the desire for redemption the viewers probably felt going into Korra’s story I was left wanting – so I stopped watching halfway through the first season.
From a creative perspective I would like you to note a few things:
- you can see in LoK how legends are fluffed with meringue and the grandiose over time is exaggerated from Aang’s legacy.
- the effect of a long-ruminated story has a stronger, clearer base of execution in the first ‘novel’ (Aang’s series) versus when something is pushed faster (Korra’s series).
- In watching each Avatar we needed to be mindful of what they lacked while watching to help stoke long-burnin embers: for Aang we needed seriousness and and understanding of the gravity of his world; for Korra we needed the patience as she struggled to learn not only air bending but flexibility of nature in any given situation.
Difficult as Korra was to swallow I find it hard to believe anyone did not feel chills when Vaatu struck Raava and disintegrated Korra’s connection to the previous Avatars: Aang, Roku, Kyoshi, and the male water bender and female air bender Aang called on for advice when meditating on the lion turtle. Don’t tell me you didn’t feel a surge of familiarity and pride on discovering that Wan started the sequence of elements each subsequent Avatar learned not only in turn but in rebirth; that the order was established not by a grand or philosophical design but by Wan’s motivation to be a protector of the helpless. Seeing the framed story of Wan built up that sense of nostalgia we had for Aang in layers by the time Korra reconnected with Raava and we were back, rooting for the water tribe Avatar.
Aang set an example of what greatness could look like and how to nurture the inner child – our inner magic. If you want desperately for the unexplainable magic of a miracle you have to start by believing in magic. Korra and Wan showed us a person of great influence, power, and inspiration can rise from anywhere and anyone.
“Before he fused with Rava, Wan was just a regular person.”
“You have always been strong, unyielding, and fierce.”
— LoK Season 2, ep 14
The ancient lion turtle that aided Aang before his confrontation with fire lord Ozai taught us that the greatest and purest form of bending was the bending of energy in oneself. This lesson was brought back in LoK and first glimpsed at the end of season one when Korra, brought low when her bending was blocked by Amon, learned to bring back the bending of herself and others. She continually shows us how to stand up and believe in the limitless power inside of ourselves. Wan also taught us this lesson on a less magical level when he focused on his motivations to provide aid and reached past his limitations. They teach us to believe in ourselves and affirm, at least for me, that magic comes in many forms.
Aang’s journey was more focused on the external movement of the war and Korra’s was the internal journey of who she was and what degree if significance she held in the world. As a sequential series yes, perhaps Aang’s was better, subjectively. He was first and, let’s face it, it was sentiment for his journey that brought us fans back for Korra. For me they are separate. From Aang’s story I only pulled the lore forward with me. These two avatars are presented in the same world but they had to work in differing eras. I saw the making of two legends.