|Avatar: The Last Airbender / The Legend of Korra character|
|First appearance||"Welcome to Republic City"|
|Last appearance||"The Last Stand"|
Michael Dante DiMartino |
Cora Baker (child)
|Species||Human (Bonded with Raava, the Light Spirit)|
|Nationality||Southern Water Tribe|
|Eye color||Light blue|
Korra is the title lead character in Nickelodeon's animated television series The Legend of Korra (a sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender), in which she is depicted as the current incarnation of the Avatar, responsible for maintaining peace and balance in the world. She is the immediate reincarnation of Avatar Aang (title character and main protagonist from the original series). The character was created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko and is voiced by Janet Varney.
Korra debuts in the first episode of The Legend of Korra, "Welcome to Republic City", originally airing on Nickelodeon on April 14, 2012. At the start of the series, she meets Bolin and Mako after arriving in Republic City, where she first experiences independence after living a secluded life of training, led by the Order of the White Lotus. The series' final scene, indicating the beginning of a romantic relationship between Korra and fellow female character, Asami Sato, was unprecedented in its representation of LGBT persons in western children's television.
The Legend of Korra
After the death of Aang, Korra is born among the Southern Water Tribe, her abilities manifesting by age 4. Notably, she is nearly kidnapped by Zaheer as a child. At the beginning of Book 1, the teenage Korra, having mastered the other elements, needs to learn airbending from the only living airbending master, Aang's son, Tenzin. Korra moves to Republic City to go after him following a brief encounter with Katara, being taken in by Tenzin and meeting both Mako and Bolin before joining their pro-bending team. After saving Bolin and having her first sighting of Amon, Korra's romantic struggles lead to difficulty with the pro-bending team, which the group recovers from to successfully win their match and make it to the finals, where they are defeated and Amon strikes with his group of followers, the Equalists. Korra afterward discovers Hiroshi Sato's ties to the Equalists, then allowing Asami Sato, Bolin and Mako to live with her, forming a team with the group that Councilman Tarrlok breaks up by arresting the others and revealing himself as a bloodbender in an encounter with Korra where he subdues her. She is locked in a secluded cabin that holds her for a short time before she breaks out once it is ambushed by Amon and his Equalists, the group launching an assault on Republic City that Korra and the others are overpowered in, forcing them to retreat until General Iroh and the United Forces come to the city as reinforcements, who are also overwhelmed. Following saving Tenzin and his children and seemingly losing her bending of three of the elements to Amon, Korra engages in a battle with Amon where she emerges victorious thanks to her airbending, having the other elements restored by Aang and in doing so gaining the power to restore bending as well.
In Book Two: Spirits, taking place six months after the Anti-bending Revolution, Korra learns from her uncle Unalaq of her seclusion being set by both Tenzin and her father, causing her to break off with Tenzin and have Unalaq become her mentor. During her training, Korra has to mend fences between both factions of the Water Tribe and after learning that her father had nothing to do with an attempted kidnapping of Unalaq, she participates in freeing him. Her actions prompt a civil war between the Southern and Northern Water Tribes, Korra afterward making a move to have General Iroh's assistance without President Raiko's authority, which Mako reveals to Raiko. Korra loses consciousness after an attack by her cousins Desna and Eska and a dark spirit swallowing her. She was left without her memory, learning the origins of Wan, the first Avatar, and entering the Spirit World to prevent Vaatu's escape with the aid of Jinora. After the two are separated, Korra reverts to her child self and meets Iroh, then meets her again before opening the Northern spirit portal per Unalaq's request in exchange for Jinora's soul not being destroyed by him. Korea escapes but is unable to bring Jinora with her, returning to the physical world where she makes plans to counter Unalaq, engaging him in battle where she is not only bested, but has her connections to her past lives disconnected with the destruction of the Light Spirit. In another confrontation not long after, Korra destroys Unalaq by purifying him, ending the Civil War and ushering the coexistence of humans and spirits.
Two weeks later, marking the beginning of Book Three: Change, Korra leaves Republic City to offer training to new airbenders across the Earth Kingdom after further straining her relations with President Raiko, recruiting Kai and freeing airbenders who Earth Queen Hou-Ting had been training underground to join her army. She traveled to Zaofu next, meeting Suyin Beifong, who taught her metalbending, nearly being kidnapped after by Zaheer, Ghazan, P'Li and Ming-Hua though she is saved by her allies. With it being discovered Aiwei was part of the conspiracy to kidnap her, Korra sets out to find him, staking out his room and entering the Spirit World after him, where she learns Zaheer and his followers are part of the Red Lotus from the latter. Though managing to escape the Red Lotus, she is captured by Earth Kingdom soldiers, the Earth Queen having declared Korra an enemy. Korra and Asami succeed in escaping, but Korra is forced to give herself up so Zaheer will not harm the captive airbenders. Zaheer double-crosses Korra, taking her unconscious body with him, poisoning her so she can enter the Avatar State and be killed in it to end the Avatar Cycle. She breaks free and is able to combat Zaheer while battling the poison, though succumbs to it before Suyin bends it out of her, Korra being left in a fragile emotional state and being confined to a wheelchair as well.
In the final season, Book Four: Balance, Korra returns to the Southern Water Tribe to recuperate under Katara's care for two-and-a-half years, regaining her ability to walk but losing her ability to enter the Avatar State. She then travels the world though is haunted by a spirit of herself, even losing to it in battle. With the help of Toph Beifong, she removed the mercury from her body and reconnected with the world. Initially planning to reach a peace agreement with Kuvira, Korra duels her and loses her advantage when being haunted once more, being saved by Jinora and Opal. She is then reunited with Asami and Mako when they as a group of three are successful in recovering a kidnapped Prince Wu, though Korra soon begins doubting her effectiveness as Avatar prior to Asami and Tenzin encouraging her. Korra has a reunion with Zaheer who aids her in rescuing trapped souls in the Spirit World, preparing afterward for a showdown with Kuvira by requesting the aid of spirits in the conflict and tries to interrogate Baatar Jr., Kuvira's fiancé, nearly being killed when the Future Industries factory they are in is destroyed by Kuvira. After convincing Kuvira to surrender following showing sympathy with her motivations, she begins a romantic relationship with Asami.
Appearances in other media
Korra is featured in The Legend of Korra video game, which takes place in between the second and third seasons of the series. She has her bending abilities taken away from her at the beginning of the game and she has to regain them as it progresses. She is the only The Legend of Korra character, besides Naga and Jinora, to make an appearance in the game's story mode, which earned it criticism.
In March 2015, Bryan Konietzko posted artwork of Korra and Asami embracing, entitled Turtle-duck Date Night. The art was announced to be sold as an exclusive print for The Legend of Korra / Avatar: The Last Airbender Tribute Exhibition at Gallery Nucleus with its proceeds donated by Konietzko to a LGBTQ suicide prevention hotline. After same-sex marriage was declared legal in all 50 states of the U.S., Konietzko posted a rainbow version of the artwork. Korra and her predecessor Aang will be featured on a print available for attendees of the 2015 San Diego Comic-Con.
The Legend of Korra is to be continued in a three-part comics series, The Legend of Korra: Turf Wars, written by DiMartino and drawn by Irene Koh. It is to take place immediately following the series finale, and will be "focusing on Korra and Asami’s relationship as a new threat emerges". The first volume is to be published in June 2017 by Dark Horse Comics.
Creation and conception
Korra's character was inspired by various female MMA fighters, as Bryan Konietzko is a fan of mixed martial arts. In addition, she was indirectly inspired by one of Bryan Konietzko's sisters. Korra was also designed to be an inversion of Aang, the title character of the preceding story Avatar: The Last Airbender. Instead of the young, spiritual Aang, Korra is a more physical character who has trouble grasping the spiritual side of being the Avatar while being able to already master 3 of the elements at a young age, while Aang takes a while to master each of the elements, but connects with the spirit world instantaneously. Korra's name was settled long after her character was imagined. Konietzko and DiMartino couldn't agree to a name for her until they learned "Cora", the name of a hotel operator's dog. The name was kept, and only changed in spelling.
The creators felt the second season was built around Korra becoming more in-tuned with her spiritual side, reinforcing their belief that a giant spirit version of herself would be the "ultimate manifestation". DiMantino wrote that Korra's lack of usage of the Avatar State during the third season was purposefully done to show her connection with Raava as being full-fledged, her developed understanding that type of power should be reserved for the "most extreme circumstances."
Along with Asami Sato, Korra is half of the first major acknowledged LGBT couple in western children's animation. Regarding Korra's bisexuality, Konietzko admitted that the idea of a romantic relationship between Korra and Asami had been discussed by the creators during production of season one, but had not been given much weight due to assumptions that the show would not be permitted to openly depict a same-sex relationship. As development of the last two seasons went on and Korra and Asami’s friendship progressed, "the more the idea of a romance between them organically blossomed for [the creators]," and so the show started hinting at the possibility of such a relationship. In the end, Konietzko and DiMartino chose to openly depict Korra and Asami's relationship in the series finale because they didn't want to regret not doing so after the series ended. While still having limits on what could be shown, Nickelodeon was supportive of the relationship when approached.
Before drawing the character, Konietzko and DiMartino discussed her athleticism and physicality which factored into the earliest illustrations of Korra. It took the pair and Joaquim Dos Santos's combined efforts to finalize her character design. In the pilot (2012) episode "Welcome to Republic City", Korra is introduced as a teenager wearing Fire Nation attire over her traditional Water Tribe garb. She is briefly seen wearing it again during a flashback in the fourth season. Konietzko thought it was "fun to play with" the familiar Water Tribe outfit. After her defeat of Amon, she underwent an outfit change, gaining an asymmetrical top and sleeves.
Korra for the first three seasons is depicted with long hair that is usually kept in a ponytail, though she has it down on several occasions such as when attending festivities, while entering the Avatar State by the Red Lotus and during her battle with Zaheer shortly afterward. Korra is so rarely seen with her hair down that DiMartino wrote that whenever the character had her hair down, "you know something bad has happened." She maintains the hairstyle for the next three years as she recovers until shortly after regaining her mobility, at which point she cuts it. The hairstyle change was revealed in September 2014 by Konietzko, who wrote that the character was returning to her roots by sporting a bob cut similar to the one she was given by Dos Santos in his original concept for her, Konietzko adding that the alteration was carrying on a tradition in the Avatar franchise to have hairstyle changes over the course of a series. Korra's initial clothing in the fourth season is purposely designed to mirror that of her Water Tribe attire in the previous seasons, consisting of a sleeveless shirt and baggy pants, DiMartino finding it paramount that it resemble her prior clothing due to the duration for which she wore it. Korra gains another outfit midway through the fourth season. This outfit's boots are based on an existing pair of faux suede flat winter buckle boots.
Korra is voiced by Janet Varney. Varney stated that she loved the character, describing her as being "complicated" while reasoning that this was due to her age and responsibilities and summarized her experience voicing Korra as having been "such a privilege to be a part of". Varney understood the criticism of her character and felt it was one of the compelling aspects of the series, as Korra was someone that "you're not always looking up to" and mentioned Superman while saying that a character is more interesting to her when they are flawed. Responding to being questioned about negative reception for the series in general, Varney admitted to preferring to live in a world of "unicorns and rainbows" and only pay attention to the positive feedback she received since she believed she would not "do a better job on the show if my feelings are crushed by someone who’s just angry at me for no reason." Friends with Grey DeLisle, who voiced Azula in the original series Avatar: The Last Airbender, Varney remembered her advice about the fandom where DeLisle told her to be ready for her "life to change."
Personality and characteristics
Unlike her predecessor Aang, Korra is described by her creators as "very tough, very headstrong, and not scared to get into a fight." Although she is talented, her stubborn and hot-headed personality prevents her from easily learning airbending or connecting with the Spirit World. The Avatar traditionally has the greatest difficulty mastering the element diametrically opposed to the Avatar's personality. For instance, Avatar Roku - a firebender - took longer to learn waterbending and Aang - an airbender - took longer to learn earthbending. The waterbender Korra, on the other hand, had little difficulty with firebending but had considerable trouble with airbending, a situation noted to be spiritual and not elemental.
Her best friend and animal guide is a polar bear-dog named Naga, whose strength helps Korra out of many dangerous situations. Although wild polar bear dogs were originally feared and hunted by Water Tribes, Korra is the first person to ever tame one. Korra is good friends with her pro-bending teammates, the brothers Mako (her romantic interest in seasons 1 and 2) and Bolin. She also develops a strong friendship, and later romance, with Asami Sato, a wealthy industrialist. Korra has strong relationships with the family of her previous life: Having learned waterbending from Katara and then airbending from Tenzin, Tenzin's children look up to her as an older sister, and Kya and Bumi regard her as a friend. Korra is generally on good terms with her own parents, but has little contact with her uncle or cousins, whom she considers weird (and her father considers dangerous). Korra is unusual amongst her past lives in that she is technically royalty: her father Tonraq was in line to be the chief of the Northern Water Tribe before being banished and relocating to the South.
Korra's character develops and matures during episodes 11 through 12 of the first season when she is confronted with detachment from her main three bending skills, leaving her only with airbending, which she had unlocked to save Mako from Amon. Later, she connects to her spiritual self through Aang. Once the connection to her Avatar predecessors is established, Aang is able to bestow energybending upon Korra (as well as her main three bending skills lost earlier). Although Korra is able to bend all four elements, while being capable of entering the Avatar State, Korra is still in the process of perfecting her airbending skills as well as having a true connection and understanding of her spiritual self to complete her training as a fully realized Avatar. Combined with the events of seasons 2 and 3 placing her in life and death situations, the former having her no longer able to contact her past lives for advice, Korra begins to suffer post traumatic stress by the events of Book Four: Balance while doubting her abilities as the Avatar to maintain balance after those she faced have each disrupted the order she was struggling to protect in massive ways. But ultimately, once able to let go of the pain she went through and realizing the significance to her past suffering, Korra returns to her usual self while becoming a more compassionate person from her ordeals.
Korra has impeccable athleticism and acrobatics, shown being capable of simultaneously lifting Tenzin and his children with relative ease. She has surprising speed that go along with her agility and reflexes, which make her a skilled combatant in and of themselves. Her physical strength and stamina makes her capable of swimming across large bodies of water for days, or lift and throw significantly larger opponents. She can punch with enough force to break iron pipes or shatter large chunks of ice launched at her. Her dexterity and balance allows her to skillfully dodge a large barrage of projectiles and easily leap across long distances and over high obstacles from a stationary position. She is shown to be quite flexible, able to bend and twist effectively enough to attack from various angles or squeeze through tight spaces.
- Bending the elements
As the Avatar, Korra is capable of bending all four elements (air, water, earth and fire). At the start of the series, she is proficient in water, earth and fire, having been able to bend them with ease since she was a young child, but struggles with airbending due to the difficulties of embracing her spiritual side. She uses all elements equally as much but each one for different strategies. She uses airbending mostly for non-lethal purposes, such as gliding and evasive manoeuvres. Waterbending for both defensive and offensive manoeuvres. Earthbending for strong attacks as well as for metalbending and she also tends to use firebending when she is angered or acts with hostility towards an opponent, as she demonstrated when threatening the Red Lotus when expressing outrage with Zaheer for apparently murdering her father.
After learning energybending following her defeat of Amon, she becomes capable of restoring bending to those who had lost their abilities thanks to his actions. Her duties as Avatar and her personal feelings towards people did come into play with the restoring power, as she did not grant bending abilities back to individuals with backgrounds in crime. She is able to use energybending to connect with her inner spirit and gain cosmic energy from the universe.
As the Avatar, Korra is as a bridge between "Material World" and the "Spirit World", the plane of existence where the universe's disembodied spirits dwell. As her training under Tenzin progressed, she had slowly reconnected with her spirituality, seeing visions and accessing various memories from her past lives. Korra is able to purify "dark spirits" by balancing the energy within them. Following the events of the Harmonic Convergence in 171 AG, Korra lost her connection to her past lives by being temporarily separated from Raava, who was destroyed. Due to some residual traces of mercury in her body after her battle with Zaheer, Korra lost the ability to contact Raava and was unable to enter the Avatar State for three years.
- The Avatar State
Her most powerful ability is the Avatar State, which allows her to access bending techniques she would not have learned during her own lifetime but throughout that of her predecessors. In addition, she also receives a massive boost in raw power, enabling her to easily overcome any opponent that tries to fight her head on. The form is activated by Korra being in a predicament that she will either not be able to combat with her current skills or when her life is in mortal danger. While speaking in the Avatar State, Korra's voice becomes in-sync with that of Raava's as a testament to their connection. Her weaknesses in the state is that she vulnerable, and if killed, then this would cause the Avatar to cease being reincarnated.
Korra's position as a female protagonist, unusual for American animation, caused Nickelodeon to originally suspend production on the series. According to co-creator Bryan Koniezko, this was because the executives believed that "girls will watch shows about boys, but boys won't watch shows about girls". Production resumed when Korra test screened well, in particular with young boys.
Common Sense Media praised Korra as a good role model, citing her dedication to her goals and open-mindedness towards new ideas.
Noel Kirkpatrick felt the character had become unlikeable during the second season, though applauded the show for putting her at the center of its narrative as we saw the character "without a moderating influence, like Tenzin".
Max Nicholson of IGN wrote that seeing Korra weeks after her battle with Zaheer "in such a vulnerable, weakened state, especially weeks later, was truly heartbreaking." Korra's experience with post traumatic stress disorder during Book Four has been highly praised as a realistic approach to the subject. Janet Varney's acting received particular praise, with The AV Club describing it as "an exceptional performance that fully captures the Avatar’s pain, fear, and sadness. (Varney's) voice work is essential to bringing a sense of reality to Korra’s struggle".
Relationship with Asami Sato
Korra's position as a bisexual protagonist, as well as her eventual relationship with Asami Sato have been the subject of many very positive reviews from the media. In light of the finale, Vanity Fair called the show "one of the most powerful, subversive shows of 2014", saying that the show "challenged expectations and bravely explored content outside the scope of children’s television". IGN commented that the one-hour finale was a "great success", "filled with action, emotion and an ending I think fans will be talking about for a long time". Forbes predicted that, in the future, Korra "taking her female companion’s hand" and leaping into the Spirit World "will become one of the hallmarks of this series". Megan Farokhmanesh of Polygon wrote that by portraying Korra and Asami as bisexual, the series even avoided the error of assuming sexual orientation, as many other TV series did, to be a strict divide between "gay" and "straight".
Among the critics who viewed the pairing negatively, E. Steven Burnett of Christ and Pop Culture wrote that the depiction of a same-sex relationship “hijacks Korra’s story in service of social causes to the detriment of its own creative storytelling." Daniel Rodrigues-Martin of Geeks Under Grace opined that the creators after season two failed to "convincingly establish any character as a credible romantic interest of Korra’s". Rodrigues-Martin held that there was no foreshadowing of a romantic relationship between the two characters.
In response to criticism that Korra and Asami's relationship was thrown in to appeal to fans who "shipped" the two of them together, Konietzko pointed out that any decision they made regarding Korra's romantic life could be interpreted as caving to a specific group of fans who supported Korra being paired with a certain character, and claimed that at the end of the day, the creators went for the relationship that felt right to them. He also suggested that anyone who felt the relationship was not adequately foreshadowed had watched the last two seasons only expecting to see heterosexual relationships.
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