The Legend of Korra: Welcome to Republic City   Rewatch 
December 19, 2015 12:40 PM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

Official plot description: Having mastered water, earth, and fire, Avatar Korra is eager to begin her training in airbending, but trouble in Republic City interrupts her plans.

This episode brings in the following:
  • The United Republic of Nations, formerly made of Fire Nation colonies on Earth Kingdom land.
  • There's a giant beautiful statue of Aang in Republic City.
  • Unlike the two previous avatars we've seen learn they are avatars, Korra can bend earth, fire, and water from a very early age.
  • The White Lotus doesn't seem to be a secret society anymore, but, instead is responsible for finding and protecting the avatar, as tasked by Avatar Aang.
  • As part of this, they keep Korra locked up in the White Lotus compound, without her parents. But that might be due to Red Lotus activity.
  • Katara proves that anyone can wear hair loopies, no matter their age.
  • Katara and Aang had three children, Kya, Bumi, and Tenzin, the airbending master.
  • Naga is Korra's Polar Bear Dog. Naga is awesome.
  • Tenzin has three children, with one on the way. Jinora is the eldest daughter, Ikki is the middle daughter, and Meelo is the youngest son. And all three are airbenders. Pema, their mother, is hugely pregnant, and Katara says it'll be another airbender. But Pema isn't an airbender.
  • Tenzin is also a councilman for Republic City.
  • Tenzin has a sky bison named Oogi. He is an adorable sky bison.
  • Sokka is dead. :sadface:
  • There are skyscrapers, trains, trams, automobiles (called Satomobiles), and airships in Republic City.
  • While Tenzin works in the city, there is an island called Air Temple Island, where they live.
  • Even with all the beauty and prosperity, there are still homeless in the city.
  • There is a political group called the Equalists, focusing on the struggle of non-benders in a bending world.
  • There are also gangs, such as the Triple Threat Triad, who threaten local merchants.
  • The Republic City Police have metalbenders on their force, who use wire cables to capture criminals and navigate around the city.
  • The Republic City Police Headquarters has a huge statue of Toph Beifong.
  • And who's the chief of police? Lin Beifong. Toph's daughter.
  • Korra is a very strong young woman. Along with picking up all three airbabies, she also lifts Tenzin off the ground.
  • There are press conferences in Republic City, which means Korra has to learn public relations as well as being an avatar.
  • The head of the Equalists is a creepy mask-covered man named Amon. He has plans for the avatar.
In this week's installment of "I've heard that voice before":
  • Korra is voiced by Janet Varney, who also had regular roles on The Thrilling Adventure Hour.
  • Katara is voiced by Eva Marie Saint, known for On The Waterfront and North by Northwest.
  • Tenzin is voiced by J.K. Simmons, known for everything from OZ and Whiplash to J. Jonah Jameson and the Yellow M&M.
  • Jinora is voiced by Keirnan Shipka, who played Sally Draper in Mad Men.
  • And Amon's evil henchman is voiced by Lance Henriksen, known for being Bishop in Aliens, Frank Black in Millennium, and a million other awesome things.
posted by Katemonkey (15 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Since today is the one-year anniversary of when the series finale aired (and oh my god, look at what Bryan posted), I figured, yeah, let's do it. Let's start from the beginning.

I'll be posting one a week, because there's only 13 episodes, and we're assuming that you've not only checked out Books 3 & 4, but that you've also watched The Last Airbender too.

I'm going to be getting heavily into the worldbuilding in my [more inside]s, because that's where I think the show really shines. AtLA had a beautifully built world, and ALoK just builds even further upon it, making it something I just want to luxuriate in.

I'm not gonna lie, I'm also going to totally squeal like a teenage girl over some of these things.

Korra is my favourite of the two series. Aside from building upon the existing history we have, the style and the universe therein is entirely right up my street. The Art Deco/dieselpunk/1920s' Shanghai design choices knock my socks off, from the window frames to the cloches to the bridges. The soundtrack, god, the soundtrack combines Chinese instruments with jazz, and if you haven't picked it up, you are missing out.

And Korra...where can I begin on Korra herself? That adorable little girl with her outie belly button and little pout, firebending and earthbending and waterbending at such an early age, because she's got this, she knows what's up, she's the avatar and you gotta deal with it. She's all strength and physicality and power and the spirituality and peace that Aang had learned at the foot of Gyatso, okay, she doesn't know all that yet, but she's so young and full of life.

And Tenzin! And his family! And Katara, rocking the hair loopies! And Naga! And Lin! Oh my God, Lin. Lin is my role model in life, Lin is my hero, Lin stands on my mantlepiece and is glaring at me now.

I love how this introduces so much in so little time. I love that you don't have to know anything about The Last Airbender to get hooked in, but if you did, then there's just so much more there.
posted by Katemonkey at 12:55 PM on December 19, 2015 [6 favorites]

Katemonkey, I look forward to seeing this show more through your eyes.

confession: i found it muddled, slow moving and derivative, compared to the ATLA, but good compared to most shows.
posted by gregglind at 1:38 PM on December 19, 2015

confession: i found it muddled, slow moving

Interesting, I actually found it not slow moving enough in many respects. The equalist arc could easily have been covered in three seasons like the fire nation story was in the original (which is still my favourite, I think the plotting was better, though the animation in Korra is just drop dead gorgeous).
posted by smoke at 2:08 PM on December 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

i found it muddled, slow moving and derivative, compared to the ATLA, but good compared to most shows

Wasn't the original way more derivative? I like ATLA better overall but Korra actually tried way more stuff than that show ever did. And like smoke I found it to be often too rapidly paced. It needed a little bit more time to set up stronger stakes in some of their arcs or even just dumb goof off episodes to get to know the characters, but the tighter season runs didn't allow for as much of that.

The voice of Korra, Janet Varney, is also the recurring side-character Becca on You're the Worst and that title definitely applies to her character in that show.
posted by john-a-dreams at 4:25 PM on December 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

oh my god Tenzin was also Cave Johnson! !!!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:19 PM on December 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

I haven't had a chance to watch yet, but I love how the show immediately sets out to upend the built in opinions we have of the Avatar from ATLA. In ATLA, Aang is seen often times (with the exception of one village - at the start of the episode at least) as a messiah figure and someone who will right the wrongs of the world caught in the 100 years war. Everywhere he goes, he generally, almost always, is appreciated for being the Avatar and for helping in whatever way he does. This is built on the long absence of the Avatar, and also, he's just presented as a hero for being who he is. When this doesn't happen, it's played for comedic purposes because it's so contrary to what we see in the show.

Open to Korra and her first time in Republic City. She see's bad guys and steps in, she's the Avatar, a hero...and what happens? She gets in trouble. She's in trouble for partly being a vigilante and partly for simply destroying things in the process of saving the day. She can't even hang out in the city park without getting yelled at. She's an inverse from Aang in multiple ways.

He's a guy, she's a gal. He only knows air bending, she knows everything but air bending. He's a hero, and she's almost an after thought. And we won't even go into the attitude differences! One thing they do share in common is a sense of separation. Aang is alone because his entire nation has been eradicated. Korra is alone because she was isolated from her people (we later learn for her protection), but also because she eventually leaves the Southern Water Tribe and is very much the country rube in the big city. There's virtually no one who she can identify with.

I love the idea of the Equalists and I agree, this would have been an occasion where a full season instead of a half season (13 episodes) would have allowed for even more fun exploration. The idea of the Equalists could not really have worked in ATLA, but it does here because we have an urban environment where the benefits of bending are actually quite few, and the negative aspects can have large ramifications. More so, benders are always the minority of the population, but they have an inordinate amount of influence on how the Republic is run. Amon is simply a fantastic villain to lead them.

As we go forward, the art remains beautiful, more so than ATLA, but the writing does suffer some if only because Bryke, while talented, don't quite bring the same level as the writers they had employed previously. Korra immediately begins to pick up once they make a very mature decision and bow out of the direct writing duties (for the most part), something that doesn't really happen until later in Season 2.

The show stands as an incredible monument to American animation (and Korean) and should be considered one of the finest animated shows in the last 20 years.
posted by Atreides at 7:48 AM on December 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

There are some parts of Korra I really liked, mostly character and aesthetic related, but the plot has never really got me. I did dig the equalists, but because they're setup to be the antagonists, they never really get a fair shake, cause actually they have some valid points.

Also I feel so bad for Pema. She's like, just an air bender incubator.
posted by KernalM at 3:33 PM on December 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

cause actually they have some valid points.

I think one of the points made late in the show is that all of Korra's antagonists have some kind of validity to their causes. We can talk about that more when we get to it, but I felt like part of her ultimate resolution is finding ways to accommodate those valid points while rejecting the extremism that accompanied them.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 4:50 PM on December 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

Yay, thanks for posting this! I’ve been eagerly awaiting it since the Avatar: The Last Airbender threads finished. I’m watching the series for the first time, so I’ll be skimming past spoilers until I’ve seen more of it.

This episode felt like a declaration of all the things that have changed compared to ATLA: From rural to urban; from medieval to industrial; from feudalism to republic; from a child hero with little adult guidance to a young adult heroine navigating a world full of adults. Nearly all of the main characters from the first series are gone. And yet it still feels completely like Avatar.
posted by mbrubeck at 10:47 AM on December 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Now that the holidays are over I can dig into this!

For some reason I always forget between viewings how much I love Korra. She's so brash and brawny and completely unspiritual and superficially seems very little like Aang -- I love that he's pretty much the exemplar of Air whereas she's a Water Tribe Avatar who gravitates naturally towards Fire, her opposite element! -- but they share the same exuberance, curiosity, kindness and sense of fairness. Although Aang does struggle a bit with how to provide guidance as the Avatar in the post-war world of the comics, Korra has to work a lot more to figure out what fairness is in the complexity of the world she's launched herself into, and it's in the execution of that where LOK's greatest triumphs and failures lie.

IMO ATLA and LOK are best viewed as two parts of a whole. ATLA's ideals/philosophy/aesthetics are so more meaningful coming to fuller fruition in LOK; LOK has room to be as ambitious and original and occasionally messy as it is because ATLA forms such a strong base.

I think there's a bit of a Star Wars effect in calling ATLA derivative -- it's been such a gamechanger that the changes it wrought are no longer visible and people compare it unfavorably with its more recent successors. But also, as a lifelong sff fan who's also Asian American, I can tell you that Chosen One adventure stories set in a high fantasy version of the past are a lot more played out for some demographics and cultures than others.

It's a good thing that ATLA is less groundbreaking than it was ten years ago and that LOK continued to push the envelope in having an indigenous, dark-skinned female protagonist (and then pushed the envelope even further in seasons 3 and 4, but we'll get to that), but a lot of the post-Korra discourse from white fans about Aang verges on whitewashing (nothing that I've seen on FanFare, to be clear), and ugh.

tl;dr things that I love about this episode:
- the music during the Firebending training sequence ("Firebending Training") and when Korra's on the run ("On the Lam")
- that Korra picks up Tenzin and all three of his kids at once
- Korra's bending style -- we don't see anyone else who integrates all the disciplines as smoothly as she does, not even the other Avatars
- Amon's character design
- LIN!!!! and the Spider-Mannish metalbending police force
- Tenzin, you dork, I've missed you
posted by bettafish at 3:33 PM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm the avatar, you've gotta deal with it! SO GOOD!

I had picked up ATLA when it first aired, but never finished watching the series back in the day. I had never seen Korra - I had seem the FanFare threads, but didn't try to catch up to watch along, figuring I had two shows worth of catch-up.

I finally saw the entire ATLA series as part of the FanFare threads, and I loved the show, it's visual and audio asthetic, and how it dealt with some complex topics and themes. A few minutes into this first episode, and I love Korra! Partially because I love to see little kids portrayed in realistic ways, including the brash, craziness of really young ones, and partially because it's such a stark change from Aang. There's still the same playfulness, but so much more rough-and-tumble.

At first, I was worried about the use of CG for the cities, as sometimes there's a stark divide between what looks like flat 2D cel animation and the very deep 3D of CGI, and I was concerned the beautiful painted feeling would take a back seat to "realism," but my fears were wiped clean by this episode. The "detail density" of the CGI felt fitting in the chaotic world of Republic City, and there is still so many beautiful scenes. I think the detail of the background artwork has significantly increased, while keeping the feeling of ATLA.

And the roaring 20s vibe? LOVE IT! So much fun in this first episode, and the hinted threat of a greater nemesis than the gap between benders and non-benders, the haves and have-nots (they're not homeless, they're "vagabonds" and they're having fun living in bushes! Especially such sparkly bushes!).

A question that I'm sure will be clarified as the show progresses - are air benders less prevalent in all parts of society, from the Pro Bending Games to street gangs, because of the Fire Nation's genocide during the 100 year war? It was kind of odd to see air bending left out of so much, but I realize it makes sense if most/all of the current air benders are direct descendants of Aang. (Poor Pema - taking care of three little air benders, two of whom are high energy).
posted by filthy light thief at 7:46 AM on January 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

filthy light thief, glad you're with us!

I'm assuming you don't mind background info spoilers, so to clarify the airbender issue, the only living airbenders are Tenzin and his three preadolescent children, plus Korra. The Air Acolytes you see wandering around Air Temple Island are all nonbenders who've chosen to adopt airbender values, and/or their descendants, with Aang and later Tenzin as their cultural/spiritual leader. (We see the origin of the acolytes in the post-ATLA comics.) Pema is presumably an Acolyte, though it's possible she met Tenzin first and adopted airbender ways later, I can't remember if that's mentioned somewhere.
posted by bettafish at 8:01 AM on January 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ah, thanks for the info bettafish. I waited to watch these episodes until I finished reading the three complete graphic novels (The Promise, The Search, and The Rift). Thanks for clarifying who the acolytes are - I didn't know if other air benders have surfaced in the intervening years.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:22 AM on January 14, 2016

This is a First Watch for me.

Ack, I love Korra already. And Katara! You are still alive and kicking and hair-loopied! That just gives me the heart pangs! Kya was her mother's name, wasn't it? And Bumi was King Bumi, obviously. I thought I recognized the name Tenzin but I think I was thinking of Tenzing Norgay.

I did not register the statue of Toph at all. And it seemed less like metal bending by the police force and more like metal Spider-man cord tools. They felt very much like the Dai Li. (Jeepers, I just finished ATLA amonth or two ago and I keep needing to Google for the right names.)

The music feels like Cowboy Bebop tunes, and I got a bit of a Batman vibe of Korra needing to be the new protector of the city. I'm not complaining on either.

I am super excited to watch more Korra. She just seems to upend the demure, quiet, obedient girl trope so much. I think Toph would both love her and have a cutesy nickname a la "Twinkle Toes" for her naivety.

I've read all the books so far, so I am cautiously pessimistic about Korra's abilities to transform the city. Yes, pessimistic, not optimistic. Hopefully not too many cringeworthy scenes in the future...

Tenzin has to single handedly repopulate the Airbending Nation?! His poor poor wife!
posted by jillithd at 12:08 PM on March 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

I just got it into my head to rewatch some Korra for the first time in years, and got to the 4:00 mark of this episode, where she's just finished talking to Katara and the dour White Lotus judges who are evaluating her firebending match and whether she should get airbending training. And there's something about her smile, enthusiasm, and siddle-saunter-dance as she takes her leave that really captures the promise and joy of youth, someone who is looking forward to the opportunities their coming education and adult responsibilities are going to open up for them to enjoy exploring, contributing, experiencing, and making their mark on the world.

I remember loving that segment the first time I watched it, and finding Korra adorable for it, but now knowing what's coming for her over the rest of the story Books 1 through 4 tell and how it's going to frighten her, beat the crap out of her, and even break her for a while, I suddenly just started to cry.

I didn't find LOK to have quite the same level of wonder that ATLA had on my first viewing, and I still think there's a level of tightness and magic to ATLA that LOK couldn't consistently rise to. But man, 4 minutes into a rewatch and I'm in tears, maybe as much for myself and other people I know who came into young adulthood with one set of hopes and expectations and found the reality to be very different, as it will be for Korra herself, both in defeat and triumph. But that's the mark of art that matters. Glad to have LOK to come back to and see with rewatch eyes.
posted by weston at 12:07 AM on May 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

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