And I get it. Both are amazing. Both take place in the same world (Korra is set 70 years after Avatar), but they tell very different stories in very different formats. Avatar's arrival on Netflix in 2020 was a cultural event, and rightly so. But Korra hits the same highs as Avatar -- it just does so with a format and a set of characters that are wildly different from their predecessors.
Here's why The Legend of Korra is worth your time, whether it's a first viewing or a return to the series.
The Legend of Korra walks a different path than Avatar: The Last Airbender
One of my favorite parts of The Legend of Korra is the way the show investigates specific themes in each of its four seasons. Averaging 13 episodes, each season builds on the ideas that came before them.
Spirituality, responsibility, trauma, leadership; the show spends a dozen episodes exploring each of these concepts, creating a different viewing experience compared with the long-form journey of Aang and his friends in the original Avatar show. It's closer to a collection of short stories than a single epic novel.
The themes of Korra feel more mature and developed compared with Avatar. Both deal with weighty subjects, but where Avatar tends to dip a toe in from time to time, Korra wades waist-deep and takes its time exploring difficult issues. The show takes concepts like emotional manipulation, abuse of power and post-traumatic stress and visibly grapples with them alongside the viewer.
Some of those explorations are better than others (in later seasons, the show jokes about its own shortcomings in season 2), but the overall result is a series whose evolution mirrors the growth of its protagonist.
Why you should watch it
The Legend of Korra hits the same emotional highs as Avatar: The Last Airbender. Korra may fumble around those highs more than Avatar did, but that's one of the advantages of watching shows on streaming services: You can get through the bad stuff faster. And the show's bright spots shine even brighter when watching on demand.
Watch the show in the highest quality you can, because the action sequences are truly stunning. Korra and friends' battles against the Equalists in season 1 are still some of the flashiest, most electrifying animated battles on TV. The show bares its action ambitions halfway through the first season with "And the Winner Is..." and the bending contests in the season 3 and 4 finales are unrelentingly thrilling.
There's something new to discover with each new viewing, whether it's small details you missed the first time, or just in-show moments that take on new meaning based on real-world events since the show aired. Watching metalbenders detain peaceful protesters hits differently in 2021 than it did in 2012. Some of it may feel too close to home, but part of the value of the show is its ability to tackle real situations in a fantasy world, and to use the fantastical elements to explore those ideas in ways real-world stories can't.
Much like Avatar, the characters are a major highlight of Korra. Bending brothers Mako and Bolin are the show's resident cool guy and comic relief, respectively. Tenzin, the youngest son of Aang, plays a mentor who's just as challenged by Korra's personality as he is proud of her eventual accomplishments. And we should all kneel before Asami, who manages to be the brains, beauty and heart of the new Team Avatar, all while holding her own in combat.
But if there were only one reason to watch Korra, it would have to be the journey of the title character herself.
While Aang's story in Avatar: The Last Airbender is about accepting responsibility while staying true to your values, Korra's story is about discovering how to learn from your experiences and how to grow beyond your own expectations. The Korra at the end of season 4 feels so different from the Korra in episode 1, and voice actress Janet Varney is the soul of that change. Korra's transformation is believable because of the authenticity Varney gives the character. She breathes vibrant life into a heroine who's both brash and uncertain, a master and a novice, an unstoppable powerhouse and a gentle, loving friend.
The Legend of Korra will have its 10th anniversary in April next year. And... I just love this show, OK? It's not perfect -- it's flawed, just like all of us. And, just like all of us, it stumbles through those flaws, sometimes getting worse before it gets better. But eventually, as we all hope to do, it finds its footing, realizes what it should be, and it pursues that vision with optimism and confidence. Please, just give Korra a chance. It'll nestle its way into your heart.