Legend Of Korra Upgrades Avatar’s Mythic Epic

Avatar: The Last Airbender proved itself the most compelling cartoon of the last decade. Now the beloved series’ creators have returned with a sequel, The Legend of Korra, a psychokinetic steampunk upgrade with a fearless female hero leading the charge.

“The main theme is the same with The Legend of Korra as it was with the original series: How does one find balance in themselves and balance in the world?” said Michael Dante DiMartino, who created the original series with Bryan Konietzko. “More specifically with The Legend of Korra, we are looking at the conflict between tradition and modernity.”

Inspired by mythic epics like The Lord of the Rings as much as by Japanese anime, Hong Kong action cinema, and Eastern philosophy, religion and martial arts, Avatar: The Last Airbender stunned viewers from 2005 to 2008 with seamless elemental fantasy based on “benders” who could manipulate water, earth, fire and air. Its precocious hero Aang, a peerless master of the bending arts, set out on a transformative journey to defeat the militarist Fire Nation — with a lot of help from his gifted friends Katara, Sokka, Toph and Zuko — in an animistic pre-industrial environment.

Taking place 70 years later in that same universe, The Legend of Korra, which premieres Saturday on Nickelodeon, thrusts its 17-year-old heroine into a bustling industrial metropolis called Republic City, a composite of Shanghai, Hong Kong, Manhattan and Vancouver. As much as the athletic and optimistic Korra (voiced by Janet Varney) is a wide-eyed outsider from an icebound outpost, she’s also the most powerful being on a planet teeming with technology.

Instead of facing a fearsome elemental enemy, she goes up against the mysterious Amon (animation voiceover king Steve Blum), who weaponizes his words to move city-slicker masses no longer enthralled with bucolic benders hurling hurricanes, fireballs, ice sheets and boulders in public.