After “Avatar: The Last Airbender” became available on Netflix, the fandom across the world resurfaced, and so did the conversation about the beloved cartoon. While “Avatar” is widely praised, its sequel “The Legend of Korra” polarizes audiences. With both shows now available on Netflix, critiques and comparisons may resurface. However, one must not forget that “Korra” is an incredibly well-made continuation to “Avatar,” a challenge in itself. Unlike other sequels, “Korra” perfectly introduces an entirely new storyline while maintaining what made “Avatar” special. It successfully implements character cameos from its predecessor and creates a more bold and complex plot with sociopolitical themes.
For a sequel to stand out, it must maintain what made its predecessor unique, while also introducing a different narrative. Simply rehashing old content is uninteresting, and while it may attract viewers, it does not retain them. An example of this is “Recess: All Growed Down,” which attempts to attract former fans by developing a film that relies on flashbacks from the cartoon’s original episodes. While the sequel does ensure similarity to the original cartoon, using flashbacks proves ineffective as it barely provides any new content. This approach loses its appeal for fans who can simply watch the original episodes rather than a sequel.
As for “Korra,” it precisely keeps what made “Avatar” special and develops entirely new plots and characters. “Korra” expands on central components, such as bending, with the addition of innovative combat styles: lava-bending and metal-bending. The sequel also maintains a connection to the original show by having the sons and daughters of the iconic “Avatar” team as recurring characters. Furthermore, the nature of Korra’s (Janet Varney) personality allows for a distinct take to what it means to be the Avatar. While Korra is Aang’s (Zach Tyler) reincarnation as the new Avatar, her personality is the complete opposite. She is persistent, hotheaded and not as spiritual as Aang, so the challenges that Korra faces are very unique. Her personality allows viewers to see a different character arc for an Avatar, thus providing an original storyline.
Another aspect that contributes to a great sequel is including cameos. They are essential for making longtime fans happy and new viewers intrigued to watch the original show. In “Korra,” we see an exquisite approach to cameos as they both please fans and progress the plotline. Throughout the four seasons, there are many cameos, both from minor and main “Avatar” characters. However, the most memorable cameo was Toph in season four. Her appearance pleased many fans, but it also helped the progression of Korra’s story as Toph helps her heal from being poisoned. While Toph plays an essential role in Korra’s storyline, she also has her own story in the season. Despite her carefree attitude, we see the now older Toph apologize to her daughters for being a distant parent, which allows viewers to get to know another side of the beloved character.
While including cameos and introducing a new plot is essential for a sequel’s success, it must also be more bold and complex than its original show. Taking this approach is essential to keep viewers excited and interested. This method is successfully implemented in shows such as “American Horror Story: Apocalypse.” In that series’s eighth season, beloved and powerful characters from prior seasons face enemies that both outpower and outsmart them. Additionally, the show takes a bolder and riskier approach to the story as the central issue is now the end of the world.
With a similar approach, “Korra” also presents more complex challenges and plotlines. The show deals with the aftermath of the 100-year war from “Avatar,” and most of the villains that Korra faces do not seek power or conquest. Instead, their causes are sociopolitical issues, such as equality and freedom. The nature of these conflicts makes for a more intricate storyline in which the cost of fighting is higher for Korra, as her enemies are not inherently evil and have support from many people. Furthermore, we see the toll that these conflicts and battles take on Korra, which allows the show to discuss more serious themes, such as dealing with both physical and mental trauma. While these themes have a darker tone and are risky for a platform such as Nickelodeon, it is the right approach as it allows for a more realistic premise that appeals to an older audience and makes for a bolder and more entertaining sequel.
“Korra” may receive criticism for not being cohesive throughout its seasons, but this can be explained by the fact that Nickelodeon did not greenlight the show’s four seasons at the same time, which resulted in a less consistent story. Additionally, “Korra” faced budget cuts, setting up the show for failure. However, the creators still showcased their talent and attention to detail by incorporating the previously mentioned elements that make “The Legend of Korra” both a great show and a perfect sequel to the already beloved “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” franchise.
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