If you’ve been on Netflix a lot this quarantine, then you might recognize these great shows that both made it onto Netflix’s top 10 list: Avatar and Korra. I’ve been a fan of Avatar: the Last Airbender (ATLA) and the Legend of Korra (LOK) since I was kid watching them when they first came out. As soon as I heard ATLA was coming to Netflix, I knew this was my chance to get my girlfriend hooked on the show.
ATLA is a show I’ve rewatched many times over the years because I just love the world that it’s set in. There are four nations, one of each element and people in those nations are sometimes born with the ability to bend their element. The avatar is the bridge between the human world and the spirit world and is the only person in the world to have the ability to control all four elements. They are tasked with keeping peace and balance in the world. Each time the avatar dies, they are reborn into a different nation, continuing the avatar cycle. When in danger, the avatar can enter the avatar state and access all the knowledge and power of their past lives. If an avatar is killed while in the avatar state, they will not be reborn and the avatar will no longer exist.
In ATLA, the characters are young and you get to see them develop and grow over the course of the story. They are caught up in a global struggle that affects all of their communities and they decide that together, they might have a shot of becoming master benders and save the world. Throughout the three seasons of this show, we get a look at the vivid and complex reality the characters inhibit where you can see the different cultures of each nation and watch characters push the rules of bending to create new skills.
Now if you haven’t ever seen the show before, you should also remember that this is a kids’ show. The characters are kids dealing with real world adult problems, and yeah they get on your nerves sometimes, but so do real kids. At least these ones can shoot fire, hurl rocks, and make massive waves.
The biggest difference I’ve noticed between ATLA and LOK was that the characters are aged up and so have the storylines. Instead of 12 y/o Aang as the protagonist, LOK follows the new avatar Korra when she’s in her late teens or early twenties. It’s still a kids show so there’s no blood or swearing or anything like that, but there is a noticable difference between the storylines of each show.
Aang had to learn all four elements in order to defeat the firelord and stop the fire nation from conquering the world. This is a very simple good vs. evil storyline and we don’t see any real motivations from the fire nation except to gain power and expand their empire. We also get a basic ‘hero gets the girl’ trope ending.
Korra, on the other hand, faced a new villain every season. Each had complex motivations that they genuinely believed was right for the world. Each of them also used evil methods for achieving their goal. Because the characters on LOK were slightly older, the writers got to explore the romantic relationships of the characters on a different level. LOK expands on Aang’s world more and more in every season and even gives backstory for the existence of the avatar.
If you haven’t watched either of these shows I would highly recommend both of them. If you find you don’t typically like kids’ cartoons, try starting with LOK instead of ATLA (I couldn’t get my girlfriend to watch ATLA, but she loved LOK).