On February 21, 2005, the world was introduced to Avatar: The Last Airbender, following Aang, Katara, and Sokka for three seasons on their journey to end the Fire Nation’s war against the other nations of the world. Along the way, we also met Toph, Zuko, Iroh, Azula, and the evil Firelord himself, Ozai. The show came to its conclusion in July 2008, where Aang defeated the Firelord and got to be with his dream girl, Katara. Several years, the birth of The Legend of Korra rocked the airwaves on April 14, 2012, which saw Korra face the spiritual challenges of the world as she trains to become a full-baked Avatar. After four seasons, the show ended on December 19, 2014, with Korra stopping Kuvira from destroying the world and got to go live happily ever with Asami Sato. For years, the debate on which carnation of the Avatar world has sparked fiery back-and-forth arguments from fans regarding the popular series. Of course, this is all just my opinion; however, let’s address which show is better: Avatar: The Last Airbender or The Legend of Korra.
Avatar: The Last Airbender
From the beginning, it’s easy to not be drawn into the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender. While the show is admittedly a bit kiddy in the early episodes, the writing was still solid for a kids cartoon and the animation was breathtaking and different. Most importantly, the characters are what keep you coming back to Avatar. In the beginning, Aang is a big goofball who happens to be the most powerful man in the world. Sokka was the comedic relief and Korra was the “Straight-man” of the series. Of course, as time passed on, the characters continued to evolve, though the core traits of what made these characters loveable remained intact. When it comes to characters, the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender is filled with some of the most colorful and compelling people. Whether it’s the heroes (Aang, Toph, Katara, Sokka) or the villains (Zuko, Uncle Iroh, Ozai, Azula), every one of the core cast is layered with intrigue and complexity. Zuko’s internal battle with himself is one of the best arcs on the show. The son of the firelord wants to be accepted by his father and the fire nation; however, he knows in his heart that what he’s doing is wrong. Despite being insane, we see different sides of Azula, namely with her friends Mai and Ty Lee.
Aang is also an intriguing character from the beginning. Despite being over 100 years old, Aang is simply a kid, thus his behavior in the earlier goings of the series. But Aang is in a war and the fun-loving kid had to grow up very quickly throughout the three seasons. We also followed the evolutions of Sokka, Katara, and Toph, who more than carry their weight throughout the seasons. Despite being a kid’s show, Avatar tackled some very heavy themes, but creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko do an excellent job of writing these subjects in a delicate and truthful manner. Could Avatar: The Last Airbender be a tighter scripted series? Yes; however, even the filler episodes serve a purpose by developing characters, so there’s no issue on that end. Plus, getting a chance to explore the rich and deep world of this series was always a plus. In the end, Avatar: The Last Airbender is essentially a flawless show. You can complain about some minor things here and there, but those details are very small in scope.
The Legend of Korra
In the spin-off to the popular series comes The Legend of Korra and we’re introduced to a protagonist who’s widely different than the airbending Aang. The stubborn and headstrong girl eventually meets people who are similar to Katara and Sokka, Makko and Bolin, though each character is given their own identity to separate themselves from their popular counterparts. Not surprisingly, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko crafted another set of compelling and fun characters that are easy to root for. The Legend of Korra is notably a darker and more mature series; however, the themes tackled in this world remain relatable and important. Whether it’s a silly love triangle between Korra, Makko, and Bolin to Korra battling PTSD following her conflict against Zaheer and his group, The Legend of Korra maintains the standard of writing that was in the Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Were there weak moments? Yes, namely season two. Korra was highly unlikeable in the early episodes and Unalaq wasn’t a particularly interesting villain. The saving grace in season two was the introduction of Varrick, Desna, and Eska. Also, the episode Beginnings is arguably one of the most beautiful and well-written shows in both The Legend of Korra and Avatar: The Last Airbender. To be clear, season two was not bad by any means and actually got better following the Beginnings episodes, but it just wasn’t up to par with the other three. Kuvira was also a tame villain, or a generic bad guy per see. While Korra’s overall arc was strong, there was just nothing about Kuvira that made her stand out. Amon, Tarrlok, Zaheer, and The Red Lotus were all tremendous villains.
Anchored by strong backstories and captivating motives, seasons two and three are top-notch for their complexities in both good and evil. As always, the animation was stunning and the creation of Republic city was a treat for the eyes. Of course, we can’t forget about the side characters like Tenzin, Kya, Ikki, Lin Beifong, and Meelo, who provided fun energy to Korra and the crew. Seeing the adult versions of Aang, Katara, Sokka, and Toph were really cool, though it had me wishing that we spent more time with them. Overall, The Legend of Korra was a strong successor to Avatar: The Last Airbender, despite some missteps that take the series down a bit.
So which show was better? Avatar: The Last Airbender. Even though the character development was stronger and deeper on The Legend of Korra, the original Avatar slips by barely because of how well the world and characters were crafted in three seasons. However, The Legend of Korra is still an amazing series in its own right.