Being a fan of Japanese anime, I rarely watch American cartoons. This is both because I am usually turned off by their, well, cartoony and unrealistic art style, plus the fact that on average the stories are just less interesting to me. I’ll admit to a major bias here, which probably came about because I watched hundreds of hours of western-style cartoons when I was young and got tired of them.
The other day in the bookstore my eyes caught sight of a thick hardcover book with a beautifully drawn cover. I flipped through it and was surprised by the quality of the art, despite the fact it had some american influences, especially in the character design. It so happens this was one of the art books for the Nickelodeon series The Legend of Korra, which ran several seasons from early 2012 to the end of 2014.
Initially I decided to try watching the first episode because it was free on Amazon Prime with my subscription. I was really impressed by what I saw, with a well-crafted world, excellent visuals, music, as well as voice acting. Unexpectedly, my 4-year old son also really enjoyed it, and after a few episodes he was asking for more after each one ended, despite the fact that the series was clearly made for an older audience, probably late teens. There is a lot of fighting and physical violence, though very rarely do characters die and there is rarely, if ever, any blood.
So my son and I really got into this series and continued watching it little by little, and a few months later we have finally finished all the episodes. I’m not going to go into a detailed review of the storylines and what I liked or disliked about the series. But I will say that despite some weak points, the series as a whole was definitely worth watching.
At this point you may be wondering why I am writing about this American-made cartoon on a blog about Japanese things. The reason is that this series has there are many influences from Asian cultures, for example the setting has many aspects of China, and there are characters who have Japanese-sounding names so are probably supposed to be Japanese. However, more so than the those are the many nods to Japanese animation in terms of the art style employed. Some of this may be because the art was done by two Asian studios, Korean and Japanese. I’m not sure if it was purposeful or not, but several parts reminded me of scenes from Ghibli movies, which I generally consider a good thing.
If you considering seeing this series, it’s probably better if you start with it’s precursor, “Avatar: The Last Airbender”, which I’ve also heard was pretty good. Seeing them out of order isn’t ideal since some parts of the story from Avatar are revealed in The Legend of Korra. There was a live action movie about the The Last Airbender, but I’d heard many horrible things about it, so it’s probably best to stay to the source material instead.
I agree – watching Avatar: The Last Airbender first isn’t necessary but makes watching The Legend of Korra even more enjoyable. The latter has many references to the former (including cameos of major characters from the first series) and it’s interesting to see how the world has changed between Aang’s time and Korra’s. I really enjoyed both, not least because I felt they had really succeeded at keeping what made the first series so great while changing and adding enough things so that Korra’s story wouldn’t just be a copy of Aang’s.
I felt like The Legend of Korra was aimed at an older audience than The Last Airbender (especially with Aang being a pacifist) and thought it was great for children to be able to grow up with Aang and move on to Korra’s journey as teens. Is that something you would like for your son?
By the way, I saw the film years before I watched both series and it really wasn’t as good. I didn’t find it as terrible as many fans of the series, but the original material is much better, no contest. The series are so much fun that my jaw often hurt from laughing when I watched too many episodes in a row, while I don’t remember laughing while watching the film.
Yeah, if I had known my son would have liked Korra as much as he did, I might have started with the first series initially, but some things are hard to predict. I had initially just watched one episode on a whim. Also, I guess was surprised with my own reaction as well.
The pacifist thing sounds like a good thing for children to watch, though I heard that the first series is less serious than Korra. Maybe will just watch one episode and see how it goes.