Set 70 years after the events of the world-wide television phenomenon Avatar: The Last Airbender (ATLA), the story of the new adolescent avatar Korra begins. Arriving in 2012, and with huge boots to fill, The Legend of Korra began with ‘Welcome to Republic City’, a tantalizing pilot episode which not only works to set up the entire series, but introduces a much advanced world to that of The Last Airbender which is both exciting and refreshing.
One of the best features of the pilot is that despite the fact it contains some characters that are the children of the ATLA heroes, it is so abundantly different to its predecessor series. This difference is shown instantly with the introduction of avatar Korra, as her natural affinity for the physical aspects of avatar training whilst neglecting the spiritual sides are made profoundly clear, as well as the presence of her impulsive and boisterous personality which stands her in a stark contrast to that of avatar Aang. Probably the most obvious difference between the two series is conveyed by Republic City itself. Looking like a 1920s steampunk New York stylised with Asian influences, it is worlds apart from the feudal landscape of ATLA. This distinguishes The Legend of Korra as a series that builds and sometimes warmly reflects upon its predecessor but takes its own bold stab – it is not simply a rehash of stories past, which can often be the fate of a sequel series.
Additionally, the episode perfectly sets up the overarching themes of the series. It conveys the idea of finding one’s self and their place in life when it depicts Korra liberating herself from the compound in which she has trained her whole life, against the directions of her elders, to travel to Republic City and begin the last phase of her avatar training. Whilst exploring the city her forcibly sheltered life is made exceptionally clear as she tries to procure food with no money and ultimately has to catch fish in a park pond with a vagabond. Furthermore, her reckless abandon and impulsive personality, which develops and changes throughout the series, is shown when she attempts to apprehend criminals, yet ends up creating significant damage and being arrested herself.
This pilot is improved even further by the artistic aptitude applied to it by creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino along with their exceptionally talented team. The hand-drawn animation, which continues at the same calibre throughout the series, is genuinely astounding. The unique style of the series never gets old and can at times steal the show. Furthermore, the original composer for ATLA, Jeremy Zuckerman, created a soundtrack that is entirely different to that of ATLA, yet completely captures the essence of the franchise. The music is sometimes hair-raising and other times tranquil, yet always perfectly complementing the show’s visuals.
Being aired off the back of a massively successful predecessor series, ‘Welcome to Republic City’ embodies everything a pilot episode should feature and sets up The Legend of Korra expertly. It demonstrates both musical and visual artistic prowess like no other whilst masterfully introducing the broad themes the show wished to pursue. However, most impressively it is able to create a completely new take on the ATLA universe that is both fresh and extremely exciting, as it facilitates the mature and entirely original storylines that made the show a distinctive and revered addition to the franchise.
The Legend of Korra is now available to watch on Netflix. You can watch the episode opening below.