Mike and Bryan said from the start that The Legend of Korra would be a much more mature series than The Last Airbender. The Last Airbender had a lot of comical, and sometimes childish, moments that made the series charming and fun. There is no doubt that The Legend of Korra was humorous at times, mostly thanks to Bolin’s character, but the series definitely lacked the charm that The Last Airbender had.
The strange thing about that, however, is that’s not necessarily a bad thing at all. In fact, it’s a good thing because it shows that Mike and Bryan succeeded in making the show what they wanted it to be: more mature.
After browsing through some Avatar Forums, I noticed that a lot of fans actually missed the fun that The Last Airbender was so famous for. They missed the humor that the show as a whole provided. A lot of people even questioned why Mike and Bryan wanted to change the culture of Avatar by making The Legend of Korra so much more mature in the first place.
Now to be clear, I am not absolutely certain as to why Mike and Bryan made The Legend of Korra more mature. But I do have some ideas. Maybe it had to do with the fact that each Book from The Last Airbender became increasingly mature and Mike and Bryan wanted to continue that trend into The Legend of Korra? But I think it had more to do than simply following a trend.
Let’s roll the clock back to 2005, when Avatar: The Last Airbender aired for the first time. Personally, I was in 5th grade and to be brutally honest, the show seemed a little stupid to me at the time (I know, I know). Back in 2005, the targeted audience for The Last Airbender was probably 9-12 years old even though older kids probably watched it too. I fit right in that range, and since I was an avid Nickelodeon watcher at the time, I gave the show a chance. The humor and wit that the show provided was perfect for a kid my age so I naturally enjoyed the show. I watched all of Book 1 and when that ended, I avidly awaited for Book 2 much like I am currently doing.
Now this is where Mike and Bryan’s brilliance began to come into effect.
Over the years, I’ve outgrown shows like Spongebob Squarepants and Fairly Odd Parents. In fact, I watched Spongebob Squarepants and The Last Airbender together, but at this age, I could only be caught watching The Last Airbender because I still enjoy that show. The reason for this is because while shows like Spongebob Squarepants and The Fairly Odd Parents continued producing episodes for children, The Last Airbender became slightly more mature every season in order to ensure that its audience would stick around despite the fact that they’ve gotten older.
If Mike and Bryan wrote The Last Airbender so that its humor and wit from Book 1 stayed constant throughout Books 2 and 3, I don’t think I would’ve fallen in love with thee series as much as I have now. Mike and Bryan essentially targeted an audience, and built a show that catered to that audience for three consecutive years.
That’s called dedication.
So now four years have passed after The Last Airbender concluded and Avatar fans like me are probably in High School or even College. Mike and Bryan then decide to create another Avatar series, but they know they already have a target audience. They know that their fans haven’t completely abandoned them. So what do they do? Instead of writing their show for a new audience, they wrote their show to cater for their original audience: us.
As kids grow up, the childish humor that used to be funny starts to become ‘stupid’ or ‘immature’. That’s why Mike and Bryan made The Legend of Korra much more mature. They wrote The Legend of Korra for their original fans, so they knew they couldn’t only include themes that a 10 year old would enjoy. They had to make the show enjoyable for the 15-18 year old range too.
That’s why some of the so called ‘fun’ was partially dropped from the show. That’s why The Legend of Korra is perceived as darker and more mature by many. It wasn’t a mistake. Mike and Bryan meant for the show to turn out this way, and they’ve done a fantastic job with it so far.