How do you beat the Buffy Hangover? How can you remedy the seemingly endless period in which you are in a perpetual state of Buffy-induced unrest, unable to find another television show that can measure up to the golden standard of Whedon perfection? No matter what you try, there just seems to be something missing from other programs. Maybe the plot lines are too loose. The dialogue too generic. The characters too one-dimensional.
Sorry to say, but I’m here to tell you that there is no cure. I’m confident that there will never be another show better than Buffy in our lifetime. However, while there may be no show that rivals BTVS as a whole, there are a lot of shows that master certain aspects of it.
In this first entry in a series of television show suggestions for what to watch after Buffy, I’ll be honing in on certain aspects that you may have enjoyed about BTVS and recommending TV shows based on those elements. Today’s suggestion is the action-adventure animated series The Legend of Korra.
NOTE: EVERYTHING IS SPOILER FREE SO DON’T WORRY. Click on pictures and gifs for sources.
2. The Legend of Korra
Watch it if you liked the following aspects of Buffy:
-Great action and fight sequences
-Strong female leads
-Flawed, realistic, and nuanced main character (heavy identity exploration)
-Sheds light on depression
-Core Group of Lovable Characters
-Memorable musical score
Other Aspects You Might Appreciate:
-Breathtaking animation and art
LOOK. JUST LOOK.
-Engaging and on-point voice acting
I don’t know if this is really a selling point because I’ve never seen any other animated shows to compare it to, but I think the voice actors for this show are amazing.
-Heavy Spiritual and Socio-Political Themes
Next time on The Legend of Korra: Egalitarianism, Imperialism, Terrorism, Anarchy, Totalitarianism and Dictators oh my! In all honesty though, get ready for some heavy hitting themes that mirror modern day issues.
-Representation (Race and sexual orientation)
With the Fire, Earth, Water and Air Nations based on Japan, China, the Inuits and Tibetans respectively, you can bet that there is an expansive array of cultures and races depicted on screen, which is always good.
The sexual orientation point is just one big spoiler that you have probably already seen on the internet after the Book 4 finale but I’m still going to refrain from spoiling it for you. Let’s just say there are bisexual characters and their relationship is nuanced, mature and altogether amazing.
Plot: Drawn in a style strongly influenced by Japanese animation, the series is set in a fictional universe in which some people can manipulate, or “bend”, the elements of water, earth, fire, or air. Only one person, the Avatar, can bend all four elements, and is responsible for maintaining balance in the world. The series follows Avatar Korra, the reincarnation of Aang from the previous series, as she faces political and spiritual unrest in a modernizing world. (From Wikipedia)
I’m going to start off by saying that this show is the reason that I haven’t been posting anything on this site for the past month, which is really saying something. It’s very difficult to pull me away from Buffy, but The Legend of Korra has managed to captivate my mind and heart and has yet to let go. We’re in our honeymoon stage, as anyone else who gets swept up in a new fandom can relate to. It will take awhile for the obsession to simmer down and take a comfortable seat in my heart rather than me thinking about it and watching it 24/7. So this is my formal apology for neglecting you Buffy fans for the lack of postage.
Moving on, before I get into details, I‘d also like to state the obvious: Yes, this is an animated show. Yes, it aired on Nickelodeon before being pulled of air and put online. I am here to tell you that this knowledge should not scare you away from watching the show. The Legend of Korra transcends ages and demographics, and instead offers something for everyone. The show offers well rounded villains who promote causes that can easily be mirrored with real world issues and movements. The main character of the show, Avatar Korra, goes through hell and back, all the while striving to stay true to herself and the world she is destined to bring balance to. Her comrades are wonderfully fleshed out, many breaking regular character stereotypes to create a cast of friends that you can’t help but feel apart of, just like the Scooby Gang. The themes of the show provoke much thought and all tie together to create a compelling and moving narrative when viewed as whole. Sounds a lot like a certain show we all know and love, huh? I just hope that whoever is reading this honestly gives the show a try without writing it off as a kid’s show (which isn’t even a bad thing in the first place but may scare older viewers away). Age is just a number in the grand scale of things so don’t let labels stop you from enjoying an amazing television show.
Lastly, The Legend of Korra (which I will hereon refer to as TLOK) is set 70 years after Avatar: The Last Airbender (ATLA), which is a Nickelodeon animated series that aired from 2005-2008. This may also sound familiar to you because M. Night Shyamalan made a piece of shit live action movie based off the series. People don’t like to talk about this and prefer to pretend that it doesn’t exist. MOVING ON, ATLA is a beloved show and highly critically acclaimed, but it is not absolutely necessary to watch it before watching TLOK. However, a lot of the characters that appear in TLOK and events and settings that are mentioned in it will have a much higher emotional impact on you if you view at least some of the ATLA episodes. You can also watch the series’ concurrently if you’d like. I watched TLOK first and began watching ATLA concurrently as I made my way through TLOK’s first season. It was actually fun to watch this way, piecing together things as each series progressed. It’s up to you to decide how you want to view!
Now, on to my reasons why you would enjoy the show if you liked BTVS:
Great action and fight sequences
One of BTVS’s strongest points is it’s iconic fight sequences. Angelus vs Buffy in Becoming Pt. 2, BUFFY VS FAITH, Willow vs Glory, and so much more. There’s just something about watching someone poetically kick the living shit out of a villain. It’s great entertainment, and something that TLOK more than delivers on. The wonderful thing about the show is that the martial arts used within it are based off of real fighting styles, and the animators strive to portray the movements as realistically as possible. This works in wonderful conjunction with the elements that the characters are able to bend. For example, Firebending is based off of Northern Shaolin:
And Earthbending is based off of Hung Gar:
The animators incorporate the prominent points of these martial arts and combine that knowledge with the element in question, producing magnificent visuals and thrilling action and fight sequences. Throughout the four seasons (referred to as Books) you will witness grand battles against villains, often including high scale military weaponry and machines and many bending variations based off of the core 4 elements. Believe me when I say the preceding gifs are just a mere taste of what the series has to offer.
Strong female leads
Korra is accompanied by an unbelievably diverse cast of strong women. The show features girls and women of all ages, and each and every one of them is greatly important to the story. Among the mix is a police chief, a mother, an heiress/CEO/BRILLIANT GENIOUS, a child prodigy, multiple highly skilled martial artists, and more. There’s someone for every woman to relate to. I can’t say much more about these great characters without spoiling their arcs, but I will say that many of them subvert clichés and it’s quite fun to watch.
Flawed, realistic, and nuanced main character (heavy identity exploration)
Buffy Summers is beloved because we get to see her as a wide-eyed girl at 16, thrown into a crazy world of demons and vampires and a whole bunch of other shit that no 16 year old should have to deal with, yet Buffy does with finesse. We get to watch her grow throughout 7 seasons as she makes tough decisions, loses friends, family and even herself along the way but nevertheless always manages to find the light within her and those around her. Her journey closely mirrors that of Korra (thought Korra welcomes her destiny as a “chosen one” whereas a part of Buffy always longs to be a normal girl). Korra starts out as a brash, bright-eyed, hot-headed young Avatar eager to bring balance to the world and embarks on various journeys that not only enlighten her but change her as well. Korra has great successes – but she also has great failures. She’s prone to jumping into things without a plan which can either turn out amazing or horribly wrong. She struggles with her identity. She embraces yet also shuns her Avatar status at times. Korra is fiercely protective of her friends. She loves. She lies. She makes mistakes. And it’s these traits that make her so lovable and interesting. She’s such a well-rounded character and her journey from Book 1 to Book 4 is nothing short of riveting and beautiful. It’s also worth mentioning that physically, Korra is not your usual female heroine and is instead depicted as very strong and muscular without being overly sexualized like a female comic book character. It’s a nice change.
Sheds light on depression
The sixth season of Buffy is it’s most polarized, mainly because it dares to delve into very dark territory, exploring the depths of Buffy’s depression among a whole host of other hardships that the Scooby Gang fights through. Depression is often something that is glossed over in TV, which is actually surprising considering what the main characters of television shows usually go through. Perhaps writers shy away from the depiction of depression because they worry it may dampen viewer’s spirits. Maybe they don’t think it’s worth showing at all, because television should be an escape from the real world. These are all somewhat valid points – but we live in a changing world where representation in all forms is becoming more and more important as we progress as a society. Buffy, as in most aspects, was ahead of it’s time in dedicating a whole season to examining the toll that depression takes on a person and those around them. TLOK follows suit, though on a smaller scale. (Remember, at the end of the day it is aimed at younger viewers and can’t get too dark, but believe me it goes pretty far.)
Throughout the course of Korra’s journey, she is beaten and broken down in more ways than one. She reaches a point where she has lost all hope in the world and herself, and the show takes the time to show us Korra at her lowest, because it’s important to see. We can relate to a character more and understand them better when we see them go through a cycle of emotions and feelings rather than just seeing them as an impenetrable, confident hero all the time. The fact that the writers made it a point to dedicate a season arc solely to Korra’s depression and her journey to overcome it and find herself again goes to show you that they are not afraid to get their hands dirty and depict all facets of Korra and her progression as the Avatar and as a woman.
Core Group of Lovable Characters
While Korra’s Krew didn’t have quite the same effect that the Scooby Gang had on me, they are nonetheless a team to root for, charming and loveable each in their own way. Korra’s Krew is comprised of Bolin and Mako, two bending brothers who quickly befriend her and provide comic relief and romance, respectively. Asami, heiress to her father’s company Future Industries and Korra’s Airbending Master Tenzin round out the group, adding pragmatism and wisdom into the mix. And I can’t forget Korra’s animal companion Naga, who is always there for her 🙂
Memorable Musical Score
Christophe Beck is our king. From “Remembering Jenny” to “Sacrifice”, I think we can all admit that this man’s moving music has made us tear up more than once. If you’re a fan of wonderfully crafted, moving and scene-fitting music, you are going to fall head over heels in love with Jeremy Zuckerman’s score for Korra. From thundering tracks to accompany fight scenes to peaceful reveries as Korra and her friends contemplate their next move, each Book features a soundtrack that is equally urgent and peaceful. For a preview of the amazing-ness to come, just listen to the end credits theme:
The Buffyverse is very large indeed; it boasts it’s own lexicon, demon lore, vamp history and rich character stories that overlap with Angel: The Series. There’s video games and comic books that continue to build the universe. The show itself created a wonderfully three dimensional world that to this day feels real and familiar; locations like The Bronze, Spike’s Crypt, Angel’s Mansion, Buffy’s House, hell, even the graveyards that Buffy patrols all come together to create a rich universe that feels realistic and lived in.
The Avatar Universe is equally rich. TLOK looks like it takes place in a time that resembles America in the 1920’s. The music is similar, the technology is evolving fast, and the city is industrializing. All of this is a stark contrast to it’s predecessor, ATLA, which looks as if it takes place in Ancient China. Aside from the scenery and time period difference between the two series, each one manages to introduce new history to the Avatar Universe in multiple different ways. This is why, again, you might want to watch ATLA before you watch Korra or concurrently simply to gain perspective on the Avatar Universe. Because it’s huge, and amazing, and can be done no justice in a summary by me that can’t include any spoilers.
In conclusion, The Legend of Korra is a wonderfully crafted show that embodies everything that makes a television show great. It is entertaining yet thought provoking. It will make you laugh, cry, and hold on to the edge of your seat as Korra and Co. fight for justice and the good of all people. You’ll come for the visuals and music and stay for the heartwarming character interactions, identity exploration and positive messages.
So what are you waiting for?? Go watch Korra now!!
WHERE TO WATCH:
Books 1-3 are on DVD now.
Amazon Prime has instant streaming for Books 1 and 2.
I watched most of the series via Anime Joy for free. There are minimal pop-ups.
Nickelodeon appears to have a few episodes streaming for free online.
Additionally, since the episodes are so short you can probably find them on Youtube as well. Just be aware that a lot of the videos have to make the voices lower so that the content doesn’t get removed due to copyright reasons. This is highly humorous to someone who has seen the series already but it will be annoying for first time watchers.
Enjoy, and I hope you end up loving The Legend of Korra as much as I do!
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