Why The Legend of Korra Was Made into a More Mature Series than The Last Airbender

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.

  • RepublicCityGal

    I completely agree with you! I hadn't really thought of why Mike and Bryan had chosen to go with a more mature premise for TLoK, but your perspective really makes sense.

    P.S. Your writing is always really good on all your blogs :)

    • http://avatarthelegendofkorra.wordpress.com AdminAvatar

      Thanks RepublicCityGal!

      I hadn't really though about it until a week ago and it all just kind of clicked. Glad you liked the post :)

      • tim

        but alot of thing weren't mature at all, really a cheating mako is the mature theme theywant to go with? at least the joke from atla are only a little annoying since i grown up, but it still can be laugh at. The plot holes and overall theme of lok suck compare to atla. Girl see hot guy, girl ask advice from pregnet lady who also stole a guy, girl attempt to use brother to steal guy, girl goes to guy's girlfriend house and used her car, girl help defeat girlfriend bad father, girl lose power, girl cries and girl then get magical power, so girl fall in love again with cheating guy :)

        yeah and the bending was weaker duh because non-bender can't do squat in the avatar universe *unless they invent the gun which isn't happening, according to most conversation with my friend on http://avatarthelastairbenderonline.com*.

        since bending is bascially martial arts that goes for long range combat, while regualar fighting like chi blocking is only good for close range combat. THus the bending had to be tone down in the begining for the equalist to look cool. But in fact you could just beat them like in 10 sec.

        They should had emperised that bending was weaker because everything was modern and kid don't pratice bending like the good old days or something to make it seem realistic that bending wasn't as strong as before. But they never mention it, and as you can see the fire bending at the begining was like the fire solider in atla, one punch and kick. But at the end of the series korra is amazing using awesome fires sstuff. so thier no way a non bender can win. so the plot was weak because of that weakness in skill between the two groups.

  • Kristina

    I do miss the goofiness but what bothers me the most is the action. In the Last Airbender, the action and the bending was so engaging. Whenever there was a season finale or really important fight or any fight for that matter, I knew it was going to be amazing. Some of my favorite battles were "The Siege of the North", the invasion of the Earth King's Palace, and The Crossroads of Destiny fight. These fights really showed off how good everyone, especially Team Avatar, was at bending or fighting. The moves these guys were performing we amazing (Toph!). But I don't see it anymore with Legend of Korra. In Korra it's like the characters are just randomly throwing moves at each other, there's no technique and it's kind of sloppy. Korra is supposed to be a master of three elements but seriously, Aang was a better bender than Korra was with just ONE element. I don't know if the action is lacking because the season was rushed and Bryke didn't have enough time to fit in some good action scenes, but I really hope we can get some of that back in future seasons. What are your thoughts on this?

    • http://gravatar.com/laurencoll27 laurencoll27

      I feel the exact same way! The moves in Last Air bender were so much more complex and just more fun to watch. Also, it never seems like Korra water bends. Water is my favorite element so I was very excited Korra was a water bender but she hardly ever water bends, mostly she fire bends. Aang's element was air and he always used air the most even after he learned water, earth, and fire. I wish Korra would do the same with water.

      • TLoKorra

        I think one of the biggest reason of why the fights looked a bit boring is that you have benders vs non-benders. The non-benders not being able to bend, as the name states, have to get into close combat to have at least a chance. A bender trying to bend in close range wouldn't be very effective as we can see in several encounters. So the fighting is on a completely different level, which forces the benders into a more martial art kinda style.

        The fights in The Last Airbender were purely benders vs benders so the fights were mid to long range fights, which looks awesome when everyone shoots stuff around :D

        BTT: I love the more mature way the creators took with The Legend of Korra. To be honest I started my Avatar experience with The Legend of Korra and i loved it. I saw many videos of people who criticised The Legend of Korra and praising The Last Airbender. So I watched all books The Last Airbender and I got a little bit annoyed by the childish fun. I mean it had it's charme at first but after a short time it only got annoying. I have to state that I'm 24, so i guess that is the reason why I prefer The Legend of Korra over The Last Airbender.

      • http://avatarthelegendofkorra.wordpress.com AdminAvatar

        I have to agree with TLOKorra. The bending my have been sloppy at times but I think the main reason for the sub-par fight scenes is due to the lack of and enemies who can bend.

        This is actually a really good idea for a future post. I'll write about it in the future.

    • coolman229

      I agree. The action was really limited due to the setting being Republic City. I read an essay on how Korra treated bending as an awesome thing that we should be impressed with rather than how TLA did it, using bending merely to tell the story. I think Bryke lost track of things without the other writers.

      It doesn't really help that they tried to use some Last Airbender style humor (especially with Tenzin) and it felt REALLY out of place.

      • Kristina

        Yeah! That's another thing with the writing, because Bryke wrote all of Book 1 by themselves but they said in Book 2 and onward, they got some other writers from ATLA to write some episodes. I'm not saying that Bryke sucks at writing at all (I mean, they created the whole show) but some of the best episodes in ATLA were written by other writers. But another thing that concerns me is that Books 3 & 4 are only going to be 13 episodes long each, and they're going to be separate stories. So, I'm afraid that they might be kind of rushed like Book 1 if the storylines don't connect. I wish Nickelodeon would've just given Bryke three more books after they had finished Book 1 so they would've been more prepared and made this series just as great as ATLA.

  • TeamMakorra

    Do you know what I miss?
    Soka-humor! :(
    Just give me more of that,and I'm happy!

    • Felix

      Agreed, but I think Bolin will solve this problem ;)

      Great post as always and Happy New Year :D

      • http://avatarthelegendofkorra.wordpress.com AdminAvatar

        Thanks Felix.

        Happy new year to you as well! :)

    • http://avatarthelegendofkorra.wordpress.com AdminAvatar

      Why couldn't they have just kept Sokka alive?

      I mean, was it really too much to ask for?

      Totally agree with what you're saying.

      • Obamaniqua

        thankss! But,Bolin is funny,but the humor also changed A LOT! I mean like A LOT!!! The only part that I laughed in TLoK was…When Korra and Mako kissed and Bolin was just standing there with the flowers and he started to cry..That was funny,but on the other side..It was horrible for him…So ATLA = Funny TLoK = Less funny

      • chinaboytag

        They couldn't
        keep Sokka alive because his boomerang would have put a premature stop to Amon's reign. Though, he was so awesome, they almost put him on the show anyway because they knew the fans would rather see more of Sokka than Korra.

        P.S. Sokka is the best of all the characters from ATLA and LoK!!! Though, Bolin, Toph, and Korra all come tied in second! There is just something so attractive about Korra being a strong-minded chic who follows her gut and has lots of self-confidence. I have yet to find a woman like that in real life, but I would definitely like to.

  • Obamaniqua

    I agree, but you saw it in another way,another prespective,which is very good,awesome blog!!! Keep going! ;)

    • http://avatarthelegendofkorra.wordpress.com AdminAvatar

      Thank you!

      Just out of curiosity, how did you see it?

      • Obamaniqua

        What do you mean? How that I saw it that you was it in another perspective? If it's that what you mean..? I actually don't know..But I think,when I was reading the blog, I had another mind about the differences between ATLA and TLoK,and you just changed it a bit, to your own opinion/thoughts,and then I realised that this is a much better 'prespective' then all the others!
        Did I answered yout question? Let me kow!

      • http://avatarthelegendofkorra.wordpress.com AdminAvatar

        Oh sorry, i thought you meant that you saw another perspective as to why LOK was more mature than ATLA. Like another reason.

        My bad. :)

      • Obamaniqua

        Ow okay, I get it! Sorry! :$$ I just saw another perspective of your question! (worse joke EVER)

        • http://avatarthelegendofkorra.wordpress.com AdminAvatar

          No worries :)

          Happy New Year!

      • Obamaniqua

        Same for you!

  • X

    the characters are older than in the last series so its only appropriate to make the show more mature not to mention the villains we got this time were much darker

    • http://avatarthelegendofkorra.wordpress.com AdminAvatar

      Well I think the characters were made older to make the show more mature. But that's just my reasoning.

      • X

        i like that we get to see the avatar as a teenager now, there would be no point in making them a kid again, we've already seen that. i like it more mature, it also seems appropriate because the characters are also grow up during the show so it makes it more realistic. i didn't like book 1 of ATLA because it was to goofy and childish until the finally the jokes in that season were kind of predictable or just stupid. i wonder if so they are actually start using the mature words like genocide in the future, after hearing Amon's vocabulary i won't be surprised if they did. happy new year every one, yay i got sick…

  • Ashes

    I totally and completely agree! Nice post

    • http://avatarthelegendofkorra.wordpress.com AdminAvatar

      Thanks, Ashes!

  • Avatar Edwin

    Really I don't think that they should change the show to much because when I was young I always was happy to see the last airbender because it was funny and had much action. And thats why I always loved this show for ever so I don't think that they should change too much of it. I just say a little bit of it.

  • Ian Almeida

    Great post as always Admin! I like that each show is respectfully its own thing but, I also happen to miss some of the humor. I do have to say, there's only so much they could have done with the original restraints they had, trying to put so much into just 12 episodes of a mini series. I'm glad that they're doing more with the show, hopefully this will allow Bryke to get a little more organized with everything, as there were some key things that need improvement on such as character development.

    As for the whole relationship thing of Makorra, I felt as if it were rushed, and that things just kinda don't really work the way it happened. I hope in Book 2, something that's talked about will be how the relationship has its complications and how Asami feels about them dating and how Bolin deals with their relationship. I mean, we've seen with Twilight that love triangles sometimes don't work for a story, but I really think Bryke can pull it off.

    And for God's sake, let's find out what happened to Zuko's Mom!!

    • http://avatarthelegendofkorra.wordpress.com AdminAvatar

      Hey Ian,

      Yeah I agree that fitting humor into 12 episodes might have been a bit of a challenge.

      And we'll find out about Zuko's mom in a graphic novel called the Search that comes out this March I believe.

      Happy New Year!

      • Diana

        Yay!
        I can't wait to find out what happend to zukos mum!

  • http://carltune.wordpress.com mosaic_world

    I found Avatar: The Last Airbender (ATLA) during fall 2012 and finished the 3 books because I got pretty swept up in the characters (more of Iroh and Zuko than the others). then I found Avatar: The Legend of Korra (ATLK) and watched those this year.
    I preferred the kind of young humor of ATLA because I felt it was more innocent and fantasy genre. I like the slightly more realistic graphics and detail of ATLK. at first I didn't like how the plot of ATLK felt more real to life (ideas like terrorism) b/c I feel the real world is kind of dark now. I think there's more plot suspense that keeps ATLK interesting between episodes but I'm probably more engaged by the action than by the characters for ATLK. it will be cool to see Tenzin interact w/ his siblings and I like Bumi (I really liked the old Bumi too from ATLA).

    • http://avatarthelegendofkorra.wordpress.com AdminAvatar

      Completely agree with you. The action is what made LOK good, but the characters and young humor in ATLA is what made that show phenomenal.

      Thanks for summing it all up! :)

  • Tumas-Muscat

    I agree completely. If there is a possible comparison it is the Harry Potter books. I am glad to say that I'm part of the generation which grew up alongside Harry Potter; I shared the character's age when he first came out and continued to do so when each book was released. As I grew up and wanted more from a story, the characters grew up as well and the story became more complicated and epic.

    I was already well into the sixth book when I discovered Avatar, so I wasn't really in the target audience at the time. However, the Asian-based universe and concepts, the wit and humour, the music and the characters themselves and their growth introduced in Avatar's Book 1 left me hooked. As the intelligence, scale and scope of the story-telling grew exponentially, the characters became more complex (especially Zuko) and relationships were consolidated in subsequent Books, my interest not only remained, but grew. The series continued to entertain in a humorous, action-packed, but also often intelligent, way, which did not insult my intelligence but still left me glued to the TV.

    When Korra came around, the characters were closer to my age and the themes more complex, so I immediately felt an attachment to it like the original had evoked. While the humour was not as rampant as before, I felt the series was still charming in that it still managed to balance between some humour and a grandiose plot taking place in a developed world. I was especially intrigued by Amon and the possibilities behind his identity and motives; when all was revealed I was so satisfied to see that his motivation was genuine, even if his methods were not. Even if it was less innocent/simple than 'The Last Airbender' and less black-and-white, it was something I appreciated/wanted in a story now that I had grown up.

    As long as the series retains its soul and keeps some humour which initially kept me in, I would actually prefer that its creators keep up their dedication and keep the maturity they have now injected into the Avatar universe. If this universe is ever re-visited in future in a tone closer to the original series (not with Korra, of course) while retaining its great and intelligent quality, I would probably be fine with that too, as it would be a very fond trip down memory lane.

    • http://avatarthelegendofkorra.wordpress.com AdminAvatar

      Nice comparison! Thanks for writing it all out, I agree with you!

  • http://dearcaveman.blogspot.com Zara

    I completely agree with you. The show even deals with mature themes such as love more deeply. I'm personally a massive fan of TLOK.

  • pure_Jimi

    I like the show so far. The only thing that annoys me is perhaps the technological advancement they've made in only 70 years and some discrepancies in this aspect like the 'automotons' but still telephone operators in another scene. And the weakness of the bending and the general poor approach to battling by the supposedly masters of bending. I mean they equalists are throwing 'bolas' of some sort at benders, some simple strong airbending in a ball around them should be able to stop these objects quite easily to give an example. And in fighting these automotons, you could just boil the persons inside of them alive by fire bending. And the fire benders seem to have lost their ability to propel/fly by using fire, but almost all of them can somehow cast lightning (?) except for korra who seems to be a pretty weak avatar. I mean she can't air bend, she can't metal bend, she can't blood bend, she can't cast lightning (any of this could change),…? While aang had mastered the 4 elements when he was 12 or 13 or something and it seems reasonably to assume that he learned how to metal bend and produce lightning since metal bending and lightning bending is a quite universal skill even amongst normal benders in the korra series, and after all aang could already redirect lightning at a very young age as well.

    To sum it up, I loved the series so far but it would have been even more amazing if they could somehow incorporate more powerful bending again and thus keep it more realistic and consistent with the series and if they could keep the technology aspect also more consistent (although this doesn't bother me as much for whatever reason).

    • Juzara

      Think about difference between 1850′s and 1920′s

  • Michael Morin

    I am a major fan of the original series, though I had always wished that it would have been more mature. I was hopeful for LoK with this development, but I’m disappointed. Bending is the most important aspect of the series, followed by incredible action sequences. Everything else, imo, has also been secondary. This is where LoK fails the most.

    Lightning & metal bending are trivial exercises and common. What bending does exist, is utilized and expressed in the most ineffectual and uncreative manners possible. Korra, from the WATER TRIBE, seems to bend fire 70% of the time, and Earth 25% of the time–and both quite poorly and without imagination. She’s also an idiot. That combination has made her character a few difficult sell for me.

    The lack of interesting bending has made the show something of a teenage melodrama than a spellbinding action flick. Too bad.

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