When the first season of Legend of Korra was released some Avatar fans were disappointed by her attitude. She was obnoxious and whiny which annoyed some of the viewers. Thankfully, the fans came to terms with her characterization as the story progressed. Some might argue that her behavior as the protagonist of the series was not acceptable but those traits were not inherently a bad thing about her. Korra’s traits in season 1 might have been irritating but they helped in the diverse characterization that viewers usually never get to see.
The anime industry just like many others has had issues with the representation of historically oppressed groups. Even if people from these groups are given a representation they are mostly subjected to tokenism and stereotypes. Female characters go through the same thing. But surprisingly that was not true for Korra who was given space to be herself. She has flaws and she learned from her mistakes to become a better person. Although most shows always give viewers a perfect hero who always knows what’s the right thing to do Legend of Korra is different. It did not shy away from giving viewers an imperfect protagonist who was not sure of some of her choices.
The early dislike targeted at Korra came from the gap in the personalities of the protagonist of the original series and Legend of Korra. While Aang used to be a fun-loving nomad, the fans surprisingly got a temperamental teenager in the next series and they were not prepared for it. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Korra was presented as Aang’s opposite. She started off her series as brash, impatient, and hot-headed. Although she excelled in the physical aspects of being the Avatar but was not as mentally strong as Aang. While her predecessor did not love being Avatar, Korra liked everything about it. However, she soon learned about the burden that comes with the title and eventually grew to become a successor to Aang in every way.
Aang was adventurous, passive, and cheerful. He excelled in the spiritual aspects of his role but he never really wanted to be the Avatar. However, he came to terms with his role to end the war. Although the character development of both of them was engaging, the viewers truly got to see Korra learn from her past mistakes. Korra touched on some flaws in each season and became a better leader.
One can easily trace the roots of Korra’s arrogance in Book 1. She was able to bend 3 out of 4 elements without any training which was a remarkable feat. Unlike other Avatars, Korra got to know about her role as the chosen one very early in life. So, it was not wrong of her to think that she was different and exceptional. Her role as the Avatar defined her entire being.
The idea that she was the chosen one played into her arrogance as she was excited to take down bad guys and establish herself as the hero in Republic City. In the early season, Korra struggles to learn airbending which is deeply rooted in spiritualism. She finally unlocks airbending when she fights someone other than herself. In Book 2 Korra despite the revelations is still stubborn and abuses her powers. However, she loses her bending again. As she loses connection with past Avatars, she is all alone as they cannot come to her rescue as they did in Book 1. By the end of the season, Korra learns to respect her powers.
In Book 3, Zaheer makes Korra question her worldview. He wants to get rid of all the leaders including the Avatar as he believes that they do more harm than good. Korra is forced to question herself and she finally grapples with the consequences of her actions. She is humbled by her past mistakes and decides to make amends. Book 4 puts a much greater emphasis on Korra’s struggle with her mentality. She disappeared for more than 3 years to rediscover her purpose. She then realizes that she needs to fight for the greater good. She then discovers more about herself in the rest of the series.
What makes Korra realistic is her flaws. The creators did not shy away from showing that she is just like others. She makes mistakes but most importantly she learns from them. Her character development seems better because of her flaws. One can see the difference between Korra of season 1 and Korra of Season 4. Her journey of self-discovery was interesting to watch as a viewer.
Korra is a complex character and the creators have a great job of showing viewers her growth as an Avatar and a human being. Despite her flaws, Korra is special since she is genuinely interested in making herself a better person. Therefore, Korra’s character development is one of the most realistic ones that you are likely to watch an anime world.