Quick! Make a list of action-packed cartoons for kids that still manage to scratch the spiritual and sociopolitical itches of older viewers caught between perpetual war and Occupy populism.
Now put The Legend of Korra, the stunning sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender, at the top of that list.
In the animated show’s fantastic first season, which ends Saturday morning on Nickelodeon with back-to-back episodes “Skeletons in the Closest” and “Endgame,” Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konieztko’s tough new heroine Avatar Korra has navigated a refreshing bildungsroman during a full-blown war between the haves and the have-nots. That is, the Benders who have the elemental power to bend earth, air, fire and water to their will, and the Equalists who have not.
“It’s a really strong series because it presents important messages and lessons that are relevant to personal and social relationships and challenges today,” actor P.J. Byrne, who voices comic-relief earthbender Bolin, told me. “Its core message is not about trying to exploit power differences between the haves and have-nots. It says that real power is what you have between your ears and how you choose to use it, that your life is defined by the richness you create in the world you choose to live in.”