Retro Review of Avatar the Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra

Avatar The Last Airbender

If you are wondering, I am a huge animation fan, as you can probably tell from some of my animation reviews.  Some of the animated series I missed when they aired live is Avatar the Last Airbender and the Legend of Korra, which both aired on Nickelodeon. Recently I purchased both series on Blu Ray during a sale.  For years I have heard how great both these series are, so now years later and as an adult, I take a look at these series. Just in case you are wondering, there will be SPOILERS! You have been warned.

Avatar The Last Airbender

The story of Avatar is pretty straightforward, the world is made up of four tribes. The water tribes located in the North and South poles, the Earth Kingdom, the Fire Nation, and the Air Nomads. Each tribe has elemental magical powers, so, for example, the water tribe can control water, the fire nation controls fire and etc. The Fire Nation and their evil leader have decided to go to war with all the other nations. A special child is found who is an Avatar, the Avatar can control all four elements and pretty much bring balance to the world and end the war.

So tell me if you have heard this, a young chosen child, must train and learn all the magical ways to defeat an evil and an all-powerful being.  No, I am not talking about Harry Potter, that is the plot of Avatar. Did I mention he has young plucky female and male friends as well as a magical beast? So most of the series he is training and learning to stop the evil force his destiny has foretold. To me, that sounds a lot like Harry Potter.

Animation and Aesthetic

Where the show does excel is the look and unique aesthetic of the setting. The look and feel of the show are very Chinese based. Dragons, monk looking characters and many aspects of ancient Chinese lore a very apparent in this show. The one bummer of watching it now compared to when it aired, the show is not full screen and not really meant for hi-def Blu Ray. But it is a beautiful 2D animated style show that you just don’t see much anymore.

Story Beats and Character Development

When the first season started I really felt like I was not going to enjoy it much as an adult. Early episodes in the first season had a lot of kids humor and the over exaggerated emotions. What I mean by that, it is an old animation trick, for example when a character likes another, they draw the face with huge hearts over their eyes. Old Looney Tunes and Anime do this a lot, I am not a huge fan of that. I feel the viewer is smart enough to know when one character likes the other.

While I felt Aang and his friend’s story was not all that original, I really enjoyed Prince Zuko’s story. Throughout most of the show, I found Prince Zuko and his uncle’s story was much more interesting than Aangs. Zuko is a hated villain in the first couple seasons, but his ark comes full circle by the end of the series. Credit to the writers and creator of the show, the one thing they really did right was the growth of all the characters. That is something you rarely see in a cartoon series.

Conclusion

While I do not think The Last Airbender is the groundbreaking best series of all time that a lot of people do. I do enjoy the Last Airbender, especially in the later seasons. The voice acting was great throughout and the animation and story moves well throughout. The only other knock against the series is some seasons felt too long and there quite a few episodes where Aang and the crew kind of did the same thing a lot. Head to a new land, find out what was wrong, train some and then fix the problem by end of the show. They did that quite a bit during the series.

The Last Airbender is light years better than any 80’s cartoon I watched as a kid, I still feel there are other cartoon series that are better than it. Series like Batman The Animated Series, Star Wars The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, and Robotech. But for The Last Airbender to be in that company means it is a pretty good show and definitely worth the watch even in 2018.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

The Legend of Korra

The Legend of Korra

The Legend of Korra is the follow-up series to the Last Airbender. The story picks up 70 years after the events in the Last Airbender.  Unlike the previous series, right from the start, this series has a more mature feel to it. The characters are older probably late teens and most of the cast from the first series is not in this one. The setting for this series is in Republic City, it looks like 1930’s New York if it was located in China.

The Story and Initial Impressions

The first season of Korra, in my opinion, is better than anything the previous series did. The first season starts with the discovery of the new Avatar, Korra. Then flashes to when she is older and moving to Republic City with her giant polar bear dog. There she meets up with the Air Bender master Tenzin, voiced by none other than J.K. Simmons. She also becomes friends with two brothers which later in the season turns into a weird love triangle, that to be honest was not even needed and in future seasons never really mentioned again.

What I really enjoyed about the first season, was the story revolved around people without bending powers rising against those who do. Also had a subplot about a crooked politician manipulating things and a crooked businessman. I thought the first season was great everything you want in a series but then they wrap up the whole story by the end of the first season. this is a departure from the previous series which had an ongoing story throughout all the seasons.

Hot Start Dull Finish

After the first season, everything just seemed to nose dive. The second season spent most of the series dealing with the spirit world and a lot of episodes on the first Avatar in a flashback series. I just didn’t care for the direction the second season went. The third season course corrected some and had an evil group terrorizing Korra and friends. The fourth season, from what I have heard, is shorter and their budget was cut. You can really tell they struggled to finish the show, one episode in the fourth season was just a recap show. The ending seemed odd also, Korra walks off into the spirit world with her friend Asami. I am not sure if this indicates they were starting a relationship or not, but it felt forced and out of nowhere.

Animation and Sound

The animation and style of the show are beautiful and even better than the previous series. Characters move fluid and the city looks amazing. Also, this series is full screen and full hi-def, unlike the previous series. Sounds and voice acting are top notch, some of the actors include, J.K. Simmons, David Faustino, Mindy Sterling, and Janet Varney as Korra. Overall the look and feel of the show are some of the best I have ever seen.

Conclusion

The Legend of Korra starts off great and better than the previous series in its first season. Unfortunately, it does not keep up the great quality of the first season. The show falls off some in the next three seasons. If the series did not suffer budget cuts and weird decisions it could have been one of the best animated series ever.  While I do recommend watching both series for any animation fan, watch at least the first season of Korra for sure.

Rating 6 out of 10