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Look, I love Avatar: The Last Airbender with my full heart and soul. I’ve seen all three seasons, bought every Avatar-themed Funko Pop, and have read all the comics and even the novel. Hell, I’m even one of the few people who will defend the M. Night Shyamalan Avatar movie. And of course I’m super psyched for the upcoming Netflix show. But, with all the said, I’m sorry, but The Legend of Korra is still the better series of the two.
And I already know what you’re going to say. You’re going to say that The Legend of Korra doesn't have the heart and humor that Avatar has. Or the characters! God, Bolin is NOT Sokka, no matter how hard the creators tried to make him the comic relief. And I’ll agree with you. Even so, I’ll still die on the hill for The Legend of Korra and here are five reasons why.
The Stakes Are Much Higher on The Legend of Korra
As noted earlier, I love Avatar, but come on now. The stakes never really got that high on the show. True, Avatar was a much more personal show, and characters like Toph and Iroh had much better internal struggles than the characters in The Legend of Korra. But when you spend whole episodes concerning rescuing Appa, then you’re kind of on the low-end scale when it comes to stakes. That’s not to say that stuff didn’t get real on Avatar, as anytime Aang went into his Avatar state, I held my breath. But in the long run, you never really felt like things wouldn’t turn out alright for our heroes.
This was very different from The Legend of Korra, where the stakes were always sky high. The first villain, Amon, was a great example of this since he could permanently take somebody’s bending abilities away from them—or so we thought. But anytime he was present, there was always a looming doom to him that was never matched on Avatar. Or what about when Korra lost her connection with all the past Avatars? The ramifications of that were (and are) huge, and I tense up just thinking about it. That’s why I feel like The Legend of Korra had much higher stakes than The Last Airbender—when it played with the lore, it played for keeps.
I Think the Action is Much Better On The Legend of Korra, Too
I always really liked how the animation looked when it came to bending on Avatar, but the action was rarely awe-inspiring. Besides a few fights, I feel like one of the major aspects that had potential but was never fully realized was the action (this is another reason why I kind of dig the movie, since the action was utterly epic at times.)
But the action in The Legend of Korra was a huge highlight. All the bending fights were amazing, and I especially liked how metalbending was expanded on this show, as well how new abilities, like lavabending, came into play. Plus, the animation was just so much more fluid on Korra than it was on Avatar. I get that the characters weren’t as memorable on The Legend of Korra, but when it came to the action, that show definitely gets the nod.
The Worldbuilding is Superior on The Legend of Korra
Ba Sing Se is awesome. The Fire Nation is awesome. In fact, all of the different nations in Avatar are amazing. But… I much prefer the steampunk aesthetic of The Legend of Korra. Because if anything, The Legend of Korra is a story about change. The replacement of the old guard. The march toward progress.
And the steampunk elements of Korra make that all fully realized. I love the “movers”. I love the metalbending police force. And while I don’t love the Pro-Bending League, I respect how it built upon the idea that bending has now advanced to the point that it’s become a part of everyday life, and actually separates the benders from the non-benders, which I always found intriguing.
The Extra Season Helped
Avatar feels complete as a series. Yes, there are only three seasons (or books) and only 61 episodes, but the show rarely wasted any time, and each episode gave enormous growth to the characters and to the mythology. But even though The Legend of Korra only had 52 episodes, I really think having a fourth season helped to round out Korra’s character arc. Because honestly, Korra was, in my opinion, one of the least interesting characters in the first two seasons, but I really warmed up to her by the fourth season.
Because Korra was always meant to be the polar opposite of Aang. Aang only knew airbending at the start of his training. Korra knew everything but airbending at her start. Aang was calm, but juvenile. Korra was feisty and more grown-up, etc. But Aang was always likeable and a natural fit as Avatar. Korra, on the other hand, had to grow much more, and her growth was more satisfying than Aang’s as an end result. And that fourth book, titled “Balance,” really had Korra come into her own. And in more than ways that one.
The LGBTQ Factor
Plus, I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up that Korra and Asami’s relationship (Korrasami) is, as far as I know, the first gay relationship in a “kid’s” TV show. Now yes, it’s VERY subtle (in the show. Not in the comic book, Turf Wars). But the fact that the very last shot of the show is of Korra and Asami holding hands makes The Legend of Korra a much more important show than Avatar, even if you don’t think it’s necessarily a better one.
But I personally do think this does make Korra better than Avatar because it is making a stand toward something. While yes, there was the message of inclusion in Avatar (Toph was, after all, blind, and still the most valued member of the team), the idea that a Nickelodeon show would be the first to stand behind gay rights still can’t be overlooked, and it adds even more weight and value to Korra’s character growth as she’s figuring herself out when it came to her little fling with Mako.
And those are my reasons. Again, I’m not saying Avatar sucks. I LOVE Avatar. But I’m still in the camp that thinks The Legend of Korra is better, and I’m standing behind that decision. But what do you think? Sound off in the comments.