TV Show to Watch: Legend of Korra

Yesterday, I posted about Brave and how animated feature films need more female characters in leading roles.  Today, I want to highlight a TV Show that is truly extraordinary and exemplifies an equal ratio of male/female characters and also has females starring in strong, leading roles.  So let me tell you why The Legend of Korra is so fantastic:

First off, let me start by saying that I’m not someone who watches a lot of anime or reads a lot of manga.  I have an awareness of it because of my students, but it’s a very surface level awareness.  Some things I respect about Japanese animation is how they embrace characters of all ages, explore complex plots, and delve into human emotions.

Legend of Korra is a sequel series to Nickelodeon’s American attempt at a cartoon series in the style of Japanese anime.  The first series, Avatar: The Last Airbender, aired from 2005-2008, was a roaring success (9.0 rating on imdb.com) with high praise from both viewers and critics.  I started watching it because of my younger brother, and discovered that it was even more worth watching than Spongebob.  As great as the original animated Avatar series was, I believe Legend of Korra might be better.  Here’s why:

Plot
The plot is much more complex than your average animated show.  It deals with issues such as prejudice, rebellion, and corruption.  The premise of this series is that there is a revolution in Republic City that targets and threatens a certain population (benders) because the general people (non-benders) have long felt powerless and controlled.  As the plot thickens, we learn new characters who are actually corrupt within the structure of the government and city.  Sometimes I wonder how much of this show is going over the heads of a kid audience.

Characters
The biggest reason this show is awesome is the characters.  They each have distinct personalities and roles in the story.  The ratio of female and male characters is even, but, oh-my-lordy, the female characters ROCK.  Let me highlight three of them:

Korra

First, there’s Korra, the lead character.  She’s strong, fiesty, and tough.  She doesn’t let anyone tell her what to do, which sometimes causes her to make mistakes, but they are mistakes that she deals with herself.  She’s the essence of a strong leading lady.

Asami Sato

Then, there’s Asami Sato.
She drives fast cars.
And motorcycles.
And wears fashionable leather outfits and takes off her helmet and shakes out her long, luxurious hair.
She can fight/defend herself.
And did I mention she’s drop dead gorgeous?
She’s fabulous.

Lin Beifong

And finally there’s Lin Beifong.
She’s the Chief of Police for the entire freaking city.
The Chief of freaking Police.
She can also fly through the air, knock people out, and see through the ground/walls.
She is one tough chick with some serious integrity.



Animation
And finally, the animation is GORGEOUS.  Some scenes are actually breathtaking.  This is not the kind of animation you typically see in a TV show.  The quality is so high above everything else you see on TV, that just glancing at it, you should be able to see the difference.  The backgrounds often look like watercolor paintings.  Both city and landscape are beautiful.  Below are a few screenshots:

Oh wait, did I mention the series is steampunk?  Yup.  Airships, goggles, crazy gadgets, the whole deal.  It gives the show this fantastic edge and freshness that is so much fun.

If I did a good job and convinced you that you need to check this show out, some full episodes are currently streaming on Nick.com for free here.

I think the show would be easier to understand if you have the background from the original series Avatar: The Last Airbender, but if you don’t want to track down that series, you can read a summary here to give you a primer before Korra.  Mostly what you need to know is:

  • What is bending?  (Air-bending, water-bending, fire-bending, earth-bending)
  • What is the Avatar?  Why is the Avatar important?
If you can answer those two questions, then you’re set to watch Legend of Korra and enjoy!