Welcome to Republic City
It’s been 70 years since Aang ended the Hundred Year War with the defeat of self appointed Phoenix King Ozai and his death has brought about the search for the new Avatar. The White Lotus, tasked at the request of dying Aang, are weary in their quest, and finally come to a small Water Tribe village and find a young girl able to bend three out of four elements with an in-your-face attitude. There is a time skip of roughly ten years and we see here for the first time how far the animation has come. It is simply stunning to watch Korra firebend with a grace that even Zuko and Azula lacked. We also get to meet Katara, a wonderful memory of the past as she’s now in her 80’s and it is also here that I shed a tear at the mention of Sokka and Aang passing. We’re all given the idea that Korra has been barricaded into her snowy home and that she is unable to have true freedom. In a silly misguided overprotective policy of the village, Korra has to plead to be let outside the village walls, just for a moment, so she can ride her polar bear dog through the icy fields.
She eagerly awaits the arrival of Tenzin, her airbending teacher, who coincidentally is the youngest son of Aang and Katara. He arrives by air bison and as my heart screams “APPA!!!!!!”, Tenzin pats the bison as he dismounts with his family, calling it some other name (theories on this below). Tenzin is accompanied by his very pregnant wife Pema, his two daughters Jinora and Ikki and his son Meelo. Unfortunately, Tenzin comes bearing the news he will be unable to teach Korra the fourth element for quite some time as Republic City needs him. Upset and disappointed, Korra watches Tenzin and his family leave and her face, a mask of rebellious determination, plots to fly to Republic City in order to finish her training. Katara discovers her leaving and agrees with Korra’s plan.
Korra says her goodbyes to her parents and rides off into the snow on her polar bear dog, Naga. She stows away on a ship and arrives in the bustling city rife with Steampunk-esque technologies, a stark contrast to the simplicity of her village. As she explores, her brash way of dealing with a set of bullies lands her in trouble with the police, headed by the stern Lin Beifong or as us loyal fans of the original Last Airbender series would know, Toph’s daughter.
The metal bending police rock so hard and it’s fantastic to see the second level bending skills utilized in new ways in this industrialized era. Again, the animation is gorgeous as the police engage Korra in a fight, ending in her arrest. While Korra is detained for her involvement with the bullies, Lin is increasingly antagonistic when speaking with Korra, stopping only when Tenzin arrives to collect her. Korra pleads with Tenzin to allow her to stay and after several objections, a flustered Tenzin finally agrees as Republic City needs all the help it can get.
There is also an underlying political plot dealing with the Equalists, people who feel benders use their powers to oppress them. Korra is outraged to hear such a thing and exchanges words with a protestor, who stands in front of a giant banner with a masked man on it, presumably the leader of the Equalists. The episode closes with Korra giving a speech to Republic City, promising to bring peace and balance to everyone much to the chagrin of masked leader of the Equalists, Amon, who states his plans will have to be accelerated.
I cannot say enough how utterly beautiful The Legend of Korra is to watch. As stated several times above, it’s breathtaking to see some of these fights as they’re so well choreographed and the score just heightens those feelings of awe. Needless to say, let us breeze forward to episode two.
A Leaf In The Wind
Another breathtaking look at Republic City opens this second episode and Korra expresses a wish to see a pro-bending match, something Tenzin scoffs at over breakfast, calling the sport a mockery. It’s then revealed that Korra has never airbended before and Tenzin thinks it’s due to her personality and nature so airbending will be the most difficult for her to master. He brings her to a contraption that she will have to walk through while each gate is spinning and not touch a single one. Tenzin’s daughters demonstrate the fluid motions of airbending, much like the title of this episode indicates, as leaves in the wind. Korra fails miserably and hits just about every gate. Korra’s next lesson is in meditation and she struggles to find a sense of serenity and argues with Tenzin about his airbending techniques before abruptly leaving the lesson. That night she sneaks off Air Temple Island and swims her way to the city, where she explores the pro-bending arena.
As she’s caught in the training quarters, she’s saved by a good natured green-eyed young man who shows her a private box, introducing himself as Bolin. He introduces her to his more serious brother Mako as the match begins. The rules of pro-bending seem simple: teams of 3 battle each other with each side having a bender of each element. They then force the other team behind several lines, with the intent of knocking them off the back of the platform, advancing each time a team member is pushed past a line. Amazed, Korra congratulates the guys on their win, insulted at Mako’s brush off of her comments. Bolin agrees to show her some training moves but shows hesitation on how his earth bending forms will translate to her water bending ones. She smirks and states she can earth bend as well, which confirms her Avatar status to the shame of Mako for treating her so rudely.
The next day, Korra again attempts to weave her way through the airbending tool and in her frustration burns and destroys it. She then yells at Tenzin that he is a terrible teacher before storming off; his daughters hug him in comfort in a cute moment. She goes back to the pro-bending gym, intent on just watching but when the brothers’ third teammate is a no show, Korra offers to fill in for him, unconcerned with the fact that she doesn’t know the rules. She almost immediately breaks the cardinal rule and uses more than one element, which the announcer recognizes as a sign of being the Avatar. Tenzin just happens to be passing a radio and rushes to the arena and confronts Korra. They argue again and she expresses her frustration and anger at not learning air bending quickly, finally stating maybe she doesn’t need to use it ever. He tells her it is not optional and she walks off, furious at the encounter and intent on finishing the match where her teammates are getting their asses handed to them. Tenzin leaves and glances back in time to see Korra utilizing airbending forms as defensive maneuvers and cheers as her team wins the match. Impressed, Mako extends his thanks and congratulations which Korra accepts but states she can’t take all the credit as someone else taught her those moves.
The headstrong Avatar returns to the island and apologizes for her words and actions which Tenzin brushes aside as he also apologizes. She stares off in the direction of the pro bending arena, smiling and many miles away, Mako stares in the direction of Air Temple Island, a pensive look on his face.
It means a lot to see two episodes that keep true to the original series but builds on them, creating its own separate universe that is both new and the same. I think anyone who is a fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender will be very pleased with Legend of Korra. At this moment, I cannot wait for an episode to air every Saturday morning! Below are my initial impressions on the characters introduces and some brief theories on things I hope to see develop, if you’re into that kind of thing, otherwise, tune in next week for my recaps of episodes three and four!
Katara – She’s still the compassionate water bender we know and love but every moment she was on screen, I felt the sting of tears. First she tells us Aang and Sokka have died, then that she has two other children named Kya (after her mother) and Bumi (after the Earth king) and then one of Tenzin’s children calls her “Gran-Gran” and those tears that had been hovering gently, cascaded down my face. I yearn, nay, LONG to know more about her life with Aang and to meet her other children so I can only hope the show takes us there eventually.
Tenzin – Stern, serious, and calm, Tenzin is not at all what I was expecting from a child of Aang. I don’t know what I was hoping for, really, but Tenzin is so far a great character. His red faced frustration and moments of extreme emotions are adorable and as his relationship with Korra strengthens, I can’t help but worry for his ultimate fate. The man has four babies, so they wouldn’t kill him, right? RIGHT!?!
Tenzin’s family – Tight knit and adorable, Pema is the picturesque wife in that she is caring and warm. Jinora is the eldest daughter, calm and serene like her father while Ikki reminds me of Katara. Meelo rounds up the trio with a silly and carefree attitude so he definitely brings most of the giggles when the scene revolves around the kids. I hope there are many more scenes with them.
Korra – Finally, a girl for whom all girls can look up to. Korra has a fiery spirit, a determined nature, and will stop at nothing to go after what her heart desires. She may be headstrong but her heart is big and she learns from her mistakes. I love that she is terrible at comebacks and has zero problems wearing her emotions on her face. Her interactions with the police chief Lin, left me in a fit of laughter. I can’t wait to see where this journey takes her.
Lin Beifong – Lin does not remind me of Toph at all but I sincerely hope an episode is dedicated to her so I can see her in action. I can only imagine the fury she brings with her metal bending and I’m also wondering why she is hostile toward Korra, having never met her previously. I’m assuming future episodes will flesh out this character more…mainly because I want to know what the hell happened to Toph and I really need to know who her father is/was. I’m dying from all this information that’s being dangled in front of me.
Amon – We get only the briefest of looks at the main antagonist but it’s a chilling one. Amon is heading the Equalist faction and we can safely assume he is a non bender since he is heading the protest against benders. He and his associate, the immaculately mustached Liutenant, hear Korra’s speech to Republic City and Amon accepts that his plans will have to move quickly. What plans??
Bolin – At first glance, Bolin reminded me of Sokka. He’s cheerful and has that same brand of special humor. He’s clearly attracted to Korra off the bat as he tells the owner of the arena that she’s “with him” in an attempt to get her off the hook. Even if he’s only meant for comedic relief, he brings a lot of personality to the show. His green eyes are sparkly, his hair curls adorably, and I hope we see a lot more of him!
Mako – Mako is the stereotypical “cool guy” and it’s clear that he has no time for games. He is responsible, in control, and at first a bit cold to Korra when she first meets him. He seems like a genuinely good person inside and he reveals that him and Bolin live above the arena. I wonder what happened to their parents. In a perfect ship, Makorra would happen with a splash of Bolin (shush, and leave me to my fantasies!).
1. The homeless man in the park is the LoK version of the cabbage guy.
2. I started seeing this man everywhere so I’m wondering if he’s important or just a stock civilian they use.
3. Amon is a relative of Azula. I base this on nothing.
4. Appa is actually a female and when she was frozen, she was prego with bison babies and one of those is bison Tenzin uses.