The Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra series have officially come to an end and what powerful and beautiful shows both series were. This is my way of showing my appreciation for what I consider to be the best stories ever made into a cartoon show. Just a terrific ride the series gave its fans and the controversy that it spawned by its dramatic and controversial ending since the show ended last Friday. Although, I do not find the ending controversial, per se, it has polarized its fan base in an unexpected way. I started the article with one of my favorite Youtube tribute videos just to set the tone.
From the very first episode, “The Boy in the Iceberg,” viewers instantly realized the potential this show had. I was biased about the fact that it was on Nickelodeon, a kids only network, but any doubts I had were completely erased within the first few minutes of the show. Instantly, we are thrown into a world of 4 nations of elements, Earth, Fire, Air and Water factions. A cycle of elements, like the cycle of seasons. The world filled with individuals who can manipulate the elements as an extension of their Chi. Martial arts type combat scenes where the combatants do not even touch their opponent with punches, kicks, etc. Instead, the use of the elements as an extension of their bodies resulting in some of the most terrific fight scenes ever.
The Fire Nation attempts to conquer the world and completely eradicate the other nations in pursuit of establishing their dominance. The only one who can save the world and restore balance is the Avatar. An individual born with the ability to manipulate all four elements and maintain a system of balance. However, for the Avatar to reach his full potential, he/she must learn how to bend the elements by living and training in each of the nations. This was all necessary for the balance of peace within the nations. Just amazing how this played out.
In response to the Avatar Cycle, the Fire Nation eradicated the entire Air Nation while searching for the next Avatar, who would be an Airbender according to the Cycle, and prevent him from mastering his abilities and thereby allowing the Fire Nation to take over the world.
Also through the first episode, we are introduced to an array of characters with complex history and stories. A group of characters who, we as fans, grow to love as their stories are told throughout the series. A group who become legendary, both in the story, and realistically through us as fans.
Sokka and Katara of Southern Water Tribe. Their mother was killed during a Fire Nation invasion and their father who left them to start a resistance to the Fire Nation. Aang, literally the last Airbender, who was frozen for a full century with his flying Bison, and saved through the Avatar State, which we will come to learn is initially a defense mechanism for the Avatar. When Aang is saved by Sokka and Katara, he still has not learned that his nation, his family, his friends were destroyed in his absence. When he learns this was a result of his absence, he is destroyed, but it is at that moment that he realizes his role and how he must embrace it, rather than run from it, to save the world.
And who can forget about Toph, the greatest Earthbender whose legacy plays a significant role in The Legend of Korra. She appears in a vision by Aang in the mystic forest while Aang is searching for an Earthbending master.
Finally, we are introduced to Zuko and Iroh, two of the greatest characters ever. Not just in the Avatar universe but in the history of anime and comics. General Iroh, a former soldier of the Fire Nation, who lost his son to the war. Prince Zuko, a banished prince by his father the Firelord. A son without a father and a father without a son. Their journey together exposes us to one of the most powerful dynamics throughout the series. Zuko’s banishment sends him on a journey to find and return the Avatar to his father in attempt to regain his honor. General Iroh, who wishes to help and guide his nephew towards a righteous course. Throughout the first 3 seasons of the series, we see how conflicted Zuko is with his methods of attempting to regain his honor. After making several mistakes and having betrayed his uncle to regain acceptance by his father and his nation, he realizes that his role is to train the Avatar in order to defeat the Fire Nation. In the end, his uncle’s guidance leads him to regaining his honor and by this time, he feels that his uncle would never forgive him but he will beg for his uncle’s forgiveness. This buildup leads us to one of the most tear-jerking scenes ever illustrated in film or animation. I have provided a video of the scene below but I am willing to bet that we have all watched this scene hundreds of times while attempting to re-experience the nostalgia of Avatar.
Each of these characters are on separate paths through the same journey. Each of their missteps and triumphs played out on screen and we all learned to love them as we watched them on screen.
“When I was a boy, my father, Avatar Aang, told me the story of how he and his friends, heroically ended the hundred year war. Avatar Aang and Firelord Zuko transformed the fire nation colonies into the United Republic of Nations. A society of benders and non-benders, from all over the world could live and thrive together in peace and harmony. They named the capitol of this great land, Republic City. Avatar Aang accomplished many remarkable things in his life, but sadly, his time in this world came to an end. And like the cycle of the seasons, the cycle of the Avatar became anew.” - Tenzin
What a beautiful and touching introduction to the new world that the previous series helped establish. The Legend of Korra, which begins decades after Avatar Aang has passed gave us an entire new world that was influenced by the previous team Avatar, including Firelord Zuko and Avatar Aang. We are introduced to the headstrong Korra as a child who immediately demands that she’s “the avatar and you gotta deal with it.”
Here, we enter Korra's life where she has mastered 3 of the four elements and the next element is air. The only person in the world who can teach her is Tenzin, Avatar Aang's youngest son, who along with his 3 children, are the only airbenders in the world. Korra decides to run away from the Southern Water Temple compound that was created in order to protect her, a final decree by Aang, before his passing. Thus, slowly detaching us from the previous series by doing away with the final part of his legacy. But it won't be the last time we hear from or about Avatar Aang.
We are introduced to the characters who will become the next Team Avatar throughout the first season. Mako and Bolin, siblings from an Earth Nation father and a Fire Nation mother. The epitome of a thriving Republic City community of benders and non-benders from all nations. Firelord Zuko and Avatar Aang's vision. Both are pro-benders on the Fire Ferrets, a sport similar to boxing that consists of a water-bender, fire bender and earth bender. Korra's struggles to learn the air-bending techniques are overcome through her involvement in pro-bending, when she replaces the third member who quit the team.
As the team continues to succeed, we learn that Korra is attracted to Mako but she won't tell him yet. Mako, however, runs into the next outstanding character that plays a big role throughout the series and its finale. Here's where things get interesting. Mako and Asami start dating and slowly, but surely, this becomes an awkward love triangle.
After the second season, we learn that Mako has dumped both Asami and Korra, for different reasons but this is an important aspect that has to be emphasized here. (You know where this is going). From these breakups, Korra and Asami, start kindling their friendship, I'm not trying to be funny here. We are literally shown throughout seasons 3 and 4, how they begin to show their affection for one another. Moreover, Mako begins acting extremely awkward when interacting with both of them. We are exposed to brief windows of revelation into the "Korrasami" relationship. It may not mean much at each stage of interaction, but the end result is unmistakable. At the beginning of the final season, we see Korra change her look by cutting her hair and embracing more of her masculinity. I am not suggesting all gay females are masculine or vice-versa. I only intend to suggest that this part of the series was another window of exposure into their relationship.
Here's where the controversy begins. I hate the terms being used to describe the relationship status or even the combination of names to make a couple, I honestly just can't stand it. The term "ship" or "shipping" for relationship and Korrasami, Makorra, or whatever other idiotic conjunctions. But that's not the controversy, obviously, that's just my beef with the idiots causing the controversy. No, the controversy is the fact that we have a gay heroine. Call it ignorance, bigotry or stupidity, some people don't want this ending. I was surprised by it for the simple fact that it is Nickelodeon, but that's it. I am not gay, but I am pro-LGBT and this does not bother me. It's a historic move by the creators and the series. It was beautiful and we saw our heroine happy and in love.
The show gave us another treat in the form of Varick and Zhu Li. What every single one of us kept asking for. Their marriage. Yet another beautiful and epic ending to a dynamic that came to life throughout the series.
What more could a fan ask for!! This was epic and the buildup was humorous and romantic.
Here are some notable mentions you may or may not have known about:
Was Master Piandao
The series creators, Mike and Bryan:
Were the inspiration for:
Finally, most of my favorites, The Beifong Family:
Ahhhhh, miss the series already and I can only hope that a third installment will eventually come. Please leave comments and I wanted to add more info about Lin and Suyin but this thing took up a lot more time than I wanted. Hope you enjoyed.