Following up a fantastic series like Avatar: The Last Airbender must have been far from an easy feat. The creators not only needed to satisfy fans of the original but find new and exciting ways to establish the sequel as its own thing. The Legend of Korra lasted for four seasons, with a total of 52 episodes, and aired on Nickelodeon from 2012 to 2014.
Set 70 years after its predecessor’s finale, The Legend of Korra introduced audiences to the title character and the next Avatar tasked in-with bringing balance to the world. Taking a page from The Last Airbender, this children’s show presented a colorful and action-heavy story which did not hesitate to tackle mature themes of self-discovery and politics. The plot gets going by sending Korra – who is originally from the water tribe – to Republic City to learn airbending from Tenzin, who happens to be Avatar Aang’s son. Over the course of four seasons, we are treated to a new sport, a wacky parody movie series, and some good old fashion fascism.
Yeah – that last point is no exaggeration, as The Legend of Korra gets incredibly dark at times, often surpassing its predecessor. While some dark secrets added to the cartoon’s overall appeal, others left us scratching our heads.
Let us take a look at 25 secrets the creators of The Legend Of Korra want to bury.
25. Nickelodeon Was Not Too Sure About A Female Protagonist
It seems strange to think about now, but Nickelodeon almost passed on The Legend of Korra due to the lead character being a woman. It should be noted, American cartoons hardly ever go with a non-male lead, with Kim Possible and Daria being two rare exceptions. Animation director Yoo Jae-myung revealed in a 2013 interview that the network needed some convincing before agreeing to go with Korra as the follow-up to the hit series. While the cartoon did end up receiving a fair amount of critical acclaim, the ratings were less than stellar, with most of the final two seasons not even broadcasting on television. It’s a sad reality of network television broadcasting — luckily they did (finally) break the mold.
24. The Villains Had A Point…
A hero is only as compelling as their villain, which goes a long way to explain why Korra is such a great protagonist. Each season’s main antagonist brought up a genuine issue which needed to be addressed within the Avatar universe. Just focusing on Amon, his Equalist movement aimed to protect non-benders, who were constantly at the mercy of those gifted with elemental powers. Gangs often took advantage of those who could not defend themselves, with the police largely consisting of benders. This meant anyone not able to manipulate an element was instantly on the losing end of a power struggle. Obviously, Amon took things a hundred steps too far, but it was a cause worth fighting for.
23. The Live-Action Princess Yue And Asami Sato Share A Bond
Try as fans might, M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender is impossible to truly forget. The questionably paced and acted adaptation of the cartoon’s first season left most viewers wondering if the filmmakers got anything right. Seychelle Gabriel portrayed Princess Yue in the live-action version, who is not the worst realized character in the movie (which is not saying much). Thankfully, the talented actress earned a second chance to leave a positive impression on Avatar, after being cast as Asami Sato for The Legend of Korra. It might not be obvious at first listen, as Seychelle is actually given decent lines in the cartoon, but Princess Yue and Asami share an unexpected bond.
22. Remember When Bolin Was In Love With Korra?
Bolin developed into a fan-favorite. His lovable and goofy personality worked wonders alongside Mako’s brooding angst and Korra’s occasional seriousness. The Legend of Korra threw out quite a few plot threads in the beginning of its run which did not amount to match, including Bolin crushing on the Avatar. Seriously, remember that little nugget from season one? Thankfully, this storyline did not last too long, as Nickelodeon is probably not the network most people turn to for melodramatic soap operas. Anyway, his relationship with Eska was one of the highlights of season two, and not even the Avatar could stand in the way of their passionate romance.
21. Katara Keeps On Coming Back For More
Aang’s missus does not play a significant role in the sequel, possibly due to being nearly 90 years old. While still energetic for her age, Katara just cannot move the way she used to. Despite barely showing up, the high-ranking member of the White Lotus always pops in to chat when there is a finale. Continuing Avatar: The Last Airbender, no season is complete without an appearance from the talented waterbender. Katara served as one of Korra’s masters, teaching her how to waterbend. She had three children with Aang, who each take on substantial roles during the sequel, so Katara indirectly influences how things play out during The Legend of Korra.
20. This One Slipped Past The Animators…
For the most part, The Legend of Korra is a visual treat. The backgrounds tend to be well animated and colorful, with the action crisp and fast-paced. If it was not for the internet – and people like us – this error might have slipped through the cracks without anyone the wiser. In one particular scene, Toph is animated with six fingers. This happens during a flash-back with Aang, so unless there was an epic dropped storyline which saw the earthbender temporarily grow an extra finger, this inconsistency should be credited as an unexpected but humorous mistake.
19. No Meat No Korra
The Avatar franchise in general shares a few similarities with popular anime, especially when it comes to the design of the characters and focus on spirituality. Still, the most blatant anime-inspiration arises from Korra’s eating habits. The Avatar hates visiting the air-temple due to their vegetarian diet, as she cannot eat meat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Yes, at times, Korra thinks with her stomach and not her brain. Sound familiar? She would fit perfectly on a cover of Shōnen Jump alongside Dragon Ball Z‘s Goku, One Piece‘s Luffy, and Naruto. Actually, that is a cross-over which needs to happen sooner rather than later.
18. Korra Prefers To Let Her Fists Do The Talking
Despite being in seemingly peaceful times, nearly every nation in The Legend of Korra is riddled with corruption and incompetence. As the Avatar, Korra serves as a mediator between the separate tribes, as she tries to find a solution that satisfies all parties. A known pacifist, Aang rarely resorted to violence, despite being stuck in the middle of a war. His replacement tends to take a different stance on negotiations, like threatening to murder Judge Hotah if he does not reverse his sentencing. Sure, he was on the take, but violence is never the answer. Considering Korra is extremely confident in her physical abilities, it is hardly surprising she prefers her fists to words.
17. First, There Was Pro-Bending…Later On Came Korra
Pro-Bending is the popular in-universe sport allowing different elements to compete against each other. The gameplay is similar to dodgeball, with the goal being to knock the three opposing players out of their zone. When one player is eliminated, their team loses part of their area, as they slowly are cornered. In an interview with Hollywood Reporter, co-creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko answered a few questions, confirming the idea behind pro-bending formed prior to writing Korra’s character. The sport served as a way to modernize bending for the upcoming series and illustrated how the world had changed since Aang’s day.
16. Season One Made A Big Deal Out Of The Triads…For Some Reason
Korra’s first proper fight is against three members of the Triple Threat Triad. The largest of multiple gangs operating within Republic City, the opening season repeatedly stressed that tensions were high between the criminal organizations. Bolin went as far as to declare a turf war could be imminent. Four seasons later, and nothing really comes out of it. The Triads were quickly forgotten, only rarely showing up as goons for Amon or Varrick. The comics eventually made good on the original plot thread, but the cartoon kind of dropped the ball. Republic City’s underground belly is rarely ever touched upon, so a short arc might have been worth exploring.
15. The Legend Of Korra Flipped Avatar: The Last Airbender On Its Head
The Legend of Korra is a prime example of how to properly write a sequel. There is no doubt the story fits into the world envisioned by its predecessor, but Korra’s journey never feels like a re-tread of Aang’s. Actually, the series reversed most aspects of the original’s plot and main character. Korra is physically powerful but lacks spiritual strength, while Aang was the other way round. The previous Avatar only knew how to airbend, while his fiery successor started off with a solid grasp of the other elements. The setting for the story is also flip-flopped, taking place in large cities rather than requiring the group to travel from country to country so Aang can learn bending.
14. Fire Is Not All That Hot
This point could also be made for Avatar: The Last Airbender, but fire rarely seems to affect anyone in this universe. While Firebenders can control their red-hot element, nothing in the series really suggests they are immune to being burned. The other tribes have it easy – as their elements are unlikely to cause them any harm – but members of the fire nation do not even wear protective gear when controlling theirs. How does it not leaving a huge mark on this hands? Also, season three introduces an entire prison suspended over an active volcano, with no one showing any wear for tear. It’s kinda silly — even for a Saturday morning cartoon.
13. Korra, Love Triangles, And Clichés
Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko did a bang-up job of subverting gender stereotypes and tropes. Korra is a strong but flawed protagonist, who is never defined by her body parts. While the cartoon is rather progressive, a few tired clichés still made their way into the storylines. The earlier parts of Book One: Air are dominated by a love triangle between Korra, Mako, and Bolin. Ignoring just how unpleasant these types of situations tend to be, the Avatar ends up falling for the brooding bad boy and ignoring his fun-loving brother. The Legend of Korra moved past this romantic subplot rather quickly, so it was only annoying for a short period of time.
12. Aang, Tenzin, And The Circle Of Life
J.K. Simmons’ Tenzin spends most of the cartoon trying to teach Korra how to bend air while dealing with his eccentric children. The monk is Aang’s son and learned everything he knows from the former Avatar. In some ways, it is Aang teaching Korra how to control her final element. Each Avatar is linked to the same spirit, which transfers to a new host once the current representative dies. This entity allows them to control the four elements and ensures the chosen ones are connected across generations. It could be argued that Tenzin is practically re-teaching his father how to airbend. Also, does that make Korra her own teacher?
11. Implied Death
As this is a children’s cartoon, death is rarely ever shown during The Legend of Korra. Nickelodeon is hardly scared of taking a risk or two, but blood and gore could be a step too far. Although the grim reaper might never show up on screen, death is everywhere during The Legend of Korra. Besides moments where Korra is threatening to send Judges to the afterlife unless they do what she wants, there are countless of huge battles which undoubtedly left a corpse or two behind. Two guards are pretty much killed during the penultimate episode of the series, as Korra and company tried to sneak into Kuvira’s secret base.
10. Platinum Games Miss Big With The Legend Of Korra
Platinum Games is a name any gamer should recognize. As one of the best action-oriented developers in the business, with critical darlings like Nier: Automata and Bayonetta underneath its belt, no other company seems better suited to create a video-game based on The Legend of Korra. Sadly, things did not quite work out. While the game-play was okay – if nowhere near as engaging as their previous titles – Platinum Games’ The Legend of Korra was short and repetitive. At the time, the developer could do no wrong, so this disappointment was a hard pill to swallow. Further licensed games would follow, with only Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants In Manhattan for the PlayStation 4 earning a lower aggregate score on Metacritic.
9. Korra Started Off As A Pretty Arrogant Character
Possibly used to juxtaposition Aang’s less than obnoxious personality, Korra is introduced as a wonder child who is overconfident in her own abilities. Due to being physically gifted, to the point that she picked up firebending on her own as a young child, Korra kind of aspected the chips to align in her favor during the earlier parts of the series. This backfires spectacularly when it comes to her spiritual training, as the new Avatar genuinely struggled to connect with her past lives. This came as a shock to her and also the audience, as Aang made it seem rather easy. At the end of the day, this led to an engaging character arc for the protagonist.
8. Mako And Bolin Stole The Show
There is a noticeable shift in the character dynamics following the first two seasons. Initially, Korra spent most of her time alongside the two polar opposite brothers. While the Avatar was far from a poor character, she was often eclipsed by the antics of Mako and especially Bolin. Things changed from season 3, as the Fire Ferrets were mostly left to do their own thing. This resulted in Asami often sharing the screen with Korra, eventually leading to romantic feelings arising between the two. The protagonist is a considerably more interesting character from Book Three, as she was really put through the ringer against Zaheer and Kuvira.
7. Lin And Tenzin’s Relationship Fell Apart Over Children
The offspring of two members from the original Team Avatar, Lin and Tenzin grew up knowing each other. As the cookie occasionally crumbles, the two started dating, with things getting pretty serious. From what was shown, they were rather into each other, but Tenzin struggled to commit to the Chief of the Metalbending Police Force due to a disagreement in the children department. The airbender wanted to spread his seed, while Lin showed no desire to reproduce. Pema confessed to Tenzin, who finally broke it off with Toph’s daughter. Overall, Lin took it rather well, as she only TRIED to arrest Pema.
6. Korra’s Name Did Not Came Easy
During the same Hollywood Reporter interview mentioned earlier, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko explained that figuring out what to call the next Avatar took quite awhile. The character design was completed in 2009, shortly after the completion of Avatar: The Last Airbender, but they could not think of a name to attach to their new hero’s face. Inspiration can arise from the weirdest of sources, as they finally figured it out during a stay at an eco-lodge in 2010. The name of the owner’s dog was Cora, and the rest is history.
5. Korra’s Polar Bear-Dog Naga Was Hardly Anything New
Sticking with the same interview, another interesting revelation centered around the Avatar’s lovable pet polar bear-dog Naga. The design for Korra’s animal companion dates back to 2002, as Bryan Koneitzko sketched a bipedal polar bear-dog. As Avatar: The Last Airbender did not lack for mystical creatures, they could not find a place to introduce Naga. Once the sequel was in development, the design was brought back, handing Korra a fast way to travel and a cuddly new pet. The creators modeled Naga after their dogs. It’s a cute homage, but seriously? They couldn’t find a spot in the original — they need to try harder! Naga is awesome.
4. The Legend of Korra Required Hundred Of Artists From Multiple Countries
Unsurprisingly, a huge amount of work went into the creation of every single episode of The Legend of Korra. Besides Nickelodeon’s Animation Studios in Burbank, California; two foreign animation studios collaborated to bring to life this adventure series. South Korea’s Studio Mir, who also worked on The Boondocks and Voltron: Legendary Defender, designed the characters and backgrounds. They also handled the animation for the first season. India’s Technicolor, whose portfolio includes Call Of Duty and FIFA, took charge of modeling the many CG vehicle for Nickelodeon’s cartoon. It’s no surprise that The Legend of Korra is a staggering treat for the eyes.
3. It’s Not Called Avatar Because Of James Cameron
Ever wondered why The Legend of Korra and M. Night Shyamalan’s terrible live-action adaptation of The Last Airbender dropped Avatar from the name? After all, it was a huge part of the original’s series public identity. Well, the answer comes in the form of James Cameron, or more specifically, his 2009 3D fest known as Avatar. Fox’s blockbuster was such a huge commercial hit, any creator would be forgiven for not trying to associate themselves with it. More importantly, adding Avatar to the name could lead to many trademark issues, which are hardly worth the time and money to fight in court. At the end of the day, The Legend of Korra is good enough.
2. Amon Blocked Bending…Somehow
Season one’s Equalist movement arc served as a harbinger for things to came, although it was rather rushed. Amon popped up late in the season and was gone before too long. His main gimmick was his ability to block bending, turning Korra into your average Joe. This was pretty cool, perfectly suiting his equality rhetoric. It is a shame we never really got a proper explanation of how he was doing it. Amon is eventually exposed to be a bloodbender, so that probably was a factor, but The Legend Of Korra left this plot tread largely unexplored. Aang pulled off something similar at the end of The Last Airbender, by manipulating spiritual energy, although that version was hardly reversible.
1. Korra And Asami Never Kiss On Nickelodeon
A big deal was made out of Nickelodeon agreeing to show a non-hetero couple in one of their shows. The Legend of Korra ends with the protagonist and Asami going on a spiritual journey while holding hands. The cartoon did not leave their romance up to interpretation, although they held back from showing anything particularly physical. The series never shied away from showing couples getting it on, although this was the first time they were of the same gender. Korra and Asami’s final scene mirrors Aang and Katara’s from The Last Airbender, but the latter actually showed them kissing. In the comics, the couple did eventually cross that threshold.
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