|Avatar: The Last Airbender/The Legend of Korra character|
|First appearance||"Welcome to Republic City"|
|Last appearance||"The Last Stand"|
|Created by||Michael Dante DiMartino
|Voiced by||Janet Varney
Cora Baker (child)
|Species||Human (Bonded with Raava, the Avatar Spirit)|
Mediator of balance, harmony, peace, order and reconciliation
|Significant other(s)||Asami Sato (girlfriend)
Mako (boyfriend, seasons 1-2)
Naga (animal guide)
Raava (Deity, personification of harmony and concord)
Wan (distant past life, deceased)
Aang (immediate past life, deceased)
Tenzin (mentor), Asami Sato, Mako, Bolin
|Relatives||Unalaq (paternal uncle)
Eska and Desna (first cousins)
|Nationality||Southern Water Tribe|
|Age||17 in Book One; 18 in Books Two and Three; 21 in Book Four|
|Eye color||Light blue|
Avatar Korra (寇柆, kòu lā) 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 balance in the world. The character was created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko and is voiced by Janet Varney.
Korra lives in a fantasy world where a large fraction of the human population can manipulate any one of the four classical elements: earth, fire, air, or water. The art of controlling and manipulating an element is called "bending" within the narrative. Korra is the current incarnation of the Avatar, a reincarnating human in symbiosis with the light spirit Raava who is capable of bending all four elements simultaneously. As the Avatar, it is Korra's duty in life to first master all four bending principles as well as their varied aspects and sub-forms, and use these abilities to maintain order and harmony between humans and spirits in the world.
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 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.
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.
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 psychological 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 formerly going 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.
Book One: Air
After the death of Aang, Korra is born among the Southern Water Tribe. Her abilities as the Avatar first manifest when she easily bends both fire and earth in addition to her native element at the age of four. Soon after, Korra is entrusted to the Order of the White Lotus and trained under them rather than travel the world like her past lives had done to master all forms of bending. (This is later revealed to be for her safety, after she is almost abducted by a group led by a man named Zaheer).
At the beginning of Book 1, the teenage Korra, having mastered the other elements, needs to learn airbending from only living airbending master, Aang's son, Tenzin. The White Lotus elders believe that Korra "lacks restraint" and should first master the spiritual side of being the Avatar, but Korra's teacher and waterbending Master Katara reasons that her son possessed the skills to teach the young Avatar spirituality. Tenzin and his family arrive at the White Lotus compound two weeks later, only to leave due to unstable conditions in Republic City with Korra sneaking off to Republic City, and is eventually taken in by Tenzin after a confrontation with a bending gang and Republic City's metalbending police force. Later, Korra meets earthbender Bolin and his firebender brother Mako, joining their Fire Ferrets pro-bending team after their previous third member quit on them. Although Tenzin disapproves, he allowed Korra to participate as her the movements required in pro-bending helps in airbending training .
In time, Korra learned that the unrest in Republic City is caused by a group of non-benders called the Equalists, led by the mysterious Amon, who seemed to possess the ability to permanently remove the bending of others. While Korra continued to practice and play pro-bending until the championship match, having turned down the ambitious politician Tarrlok's offer to join his anti-Equalist group, she refocused on dealing with the Equalists after they attack the pro-bending stadium. Korra is joined in her attack on the Equalists by Mako, Bolin, and Asami Sato, the young heiress to the Sato Company after her father was revealed to have allied himself with the Equalists.
Unfortunately, Korra's actions causes her to contend with Tarrlok before learning that he is the son of the moonless blood-bending crime lord Yakone whom Aang dealt with years ago. Soon after Tarrlok's disappearance, Amon eventually declares full-scale war against Republic City, with Korra being forced to wait along with Mako, Bolin, and Asami until the United Forces can send military aid. However, only Zuko's grandson, General Iroh, survived the Equalists' ambush as the group split up to take out Amon on different fronts. But as Iroh, Bolin, and Asami find and sabotage the Equalists' airfield and other bases of operation, Korra and Mako learn from Tarrlok that Amon is actually his older brother Noatak. With this knowledge, Korra is able to expose Amon at the cost of all her bending, save airbending. But when it is seemed she had lost all her other elemental bending permanently, Korra's bending abilities are fully restored to her by the spirit of Aang, who also grants her the ability of energybending to undo Amon's removal of people's bending.
Book Two: Spirits
In Book Two: Spirits, taking place six months after the Anti-bending Revolution, Korra travels to her homeland alongside her friends and Tenzin's family for the Glacial Spirits Festival. She greets her uncle and chief of the Northern Water Tribe, Unalaq, and her first cousins, Desna and Eska, both of whom unnerve her due to their detached nature and their general dislike of her. Later during the night, Korra is attacked by a dark spirit which she, her father Tonraq, Mako and Bolin were unable to defeat before Unalaq purifies it. Frustrated with Tenzin and Tonraq for keeping her in the compound of the Order of the White Lotus when Aang wanted otherwise, Korra chooses Unalaq as her new spiritual mentor, as the saddened Tenzin leaves for the Southern Air Temple. In "The Southern Lights", learning of her father being exiled from the Northern Water Tribe for angering spirits, Korra accompanies Unalaq to the South Pole to restore the Spirit World portal located there.
But once Korra returns home after opening the portal, she finds her village under Northern Water Tribe occupation, who want to force traditions her people previously threw away. Soon after her parents were unjustly arrested, Korra learns that Unalaq set up her father just like with his exile. After freeing her father, Korra and her friends flee to Republic City for support of the South in the now-ignited civil war between the two Water Tribes. But after Korra is unable to get support from the United Forces, she uses a speedboat to travel to the Fire Nation to convince them to help the Southern Tribe (due to the good relations since the end of the Hundred Year War). She is then attacked by Desna and Eska, who were assigned by their father to capture the Avatar as she is needed to open the Northern spirit portal. However, Korra is attacked by a massive dark spirit and dragged beneath the waves with her cousins assuming she is killed.
However, having lost her memory as the exposure to the dark spirit is destroying her spirit, Korra is later revealed to be alive and washed up on a shore somewhere in the Fire Nation where she is discovered by two Fire Sages who bring her to a nearby fire temple. As Korra is lowered into spiritual healing waters to cleanse her of the dark infection, she encounters her past lives before meeting the first Avatar, Wan, and learns of the origin of the Avatar Cycle when Wan merged with the light spirit Raava to seal her counterpart: The dark spirits' leader Vaatu. With the knowledge that the upcoming Harmonic Convergence would release Vaatu through the unsealed portals, Korra heads to the Eastern Air Temple to receive help from Tenzin. But with Jinora guiding Korra into the Spirit World, it only allowed Unalaq to force Korra to open the northern spirit portal.
Soon after, Korra and Tenzin's family return to Republic City to gain assistance from Team Avatar in stopping Unalaq before Harmonic Convergence. However, learning that Tonraq and the rebels have been imprisoned, Korra's group is captured after arriving back to the Southern Water Tribe as they learn Unalaq's true goal is to absorb Vaatu and become a Dark Avatar. Unable to stop Unalaq from achieving his goal, Korra ends up being separated from Raava and having to watch the spirit be destroyed as the Dark Avatar proceeds to attack Republic City. But, with some guidance from Tenzin, Korra energybends a giant astral projection of her spirit to pursue the Dark Avatar and she is able to retrieve a reconstituted Raava before purifying Vaatu out of existence, with Unalaq being killed in the process. After Korra uses the Harmonic Convergence to renew her connection with Raava, although her connection with the past Avatar incarnations are lost, she decides to keep the spirit portals open so humans and spirits can co-exist. She gives a speech to all the Southerners about Unalaq's defeat and that the Northern fleet is returning home. She declares both tribes will remain allies, but both are now independent and Tonraq is now the new chief of the Southern Water Tribe. In addition, Korra renounces the Avatar's role as the bridge between two worlds, but declares that she will still use Raava's light spirit to bring peace. She concludes her speech with announcing that Harmonic Convergence has shifted the planet's energy and that the world is now entering a new age, as various spirits roam the skies above.
Book Three: Change
Two weeks after the events of Book Two: Spirits, which marks the beginning of Book Three: Change, Korra is placed in a difficult situation since she could no longer seek the aid of her past lives for guidance. In fact, her decision in keeping the spirit portals open have caused a difficult transition for the residents of Republic City, especially when spirits begin moving in, and Korra is eventually banned from the city. At that time, it is revealed that the Harmonic Convergence had an unforeseen effect as some non-bending people became airbenders. This gives Korra a new mission to help Tenzin rebuild the nearly extinct nation of the Air Nomads after 170 years by recruiting these new airbenders. The search takes Korra and her friends to the Earth Kingdom where they attempt to convince the Earth Queen Hou-Ting to help them, only to learn she is secretly abducting her airbending subjects to serve as her private army. Korra mounts a rescue mission, parting ways with Tenzin to find more airbenders across the Earth Kingdom, while he and the airbenders head to the Northern Air Temple.
At the same time that Korra began her journey to the Earth Kingdom, a criminal named Zaheer escaped with his newly gained airbending powers and freed his three allies from their custom made prisons before they resume their focus on capturing the Avatar prior to their imprisonment. Korra encounters the quartet during her stay at Zaofu, a city of metal led by Lin's half-sister Suyin Beifong, who teaches her to metalbend while picking up Suyin's daughter Opal - who is revealed to be an airbender. When Suyin's trusted advisor Aiwei is revealed to be an ally of Zaheer, who helped him enter Zaofu in an attempt to kidnap Korra, Korra's group tracks him down to the Misty Palms Oasis. Learning that Aiwei entered a mediated state to meet with Zaheer in the Spirit World, Korra follows and witnesses Zaheer dispatch Aiwei. Unaware that his allies are going after her body as Asami gets her to safety, Korra learns that Zaheer's group and Unalaq are members of the Red Lotus, an offshoot of the Order of the White Lotus that formed after the Hundred Year War with the purpose to restore the world order through chaos and anarchy.
By the time Korra regains consciousness, she finds herself and Asami have been captured by the Earth Queen's soldiers, who intend to bring them back to Ba Sing Se. They manage to escape and reunite with their allies at the Misty Palms Oasis, Korra learning that Zaheer has murdered the Earth Queen with Ba Sing Se placed in utter chaos. Matters worsen when Korra learned Zaheer took over the Northern Air Temple and, after consulting with Lord Zuko, agrees to turn herself in to save the airbenders taken hostage. However, with Suyin devising a divide and conquer strategy, Korra learns too late that Zaheer went back on his word - which results in a fight that ends with Zaheer escaping with Korra after the death of his lover P'Li. From there, Korra is taken to a cave that the Red Lotus stationed themselves in, where the full extent of Zaheer's plan is revealed: subjecting her to a metal-based poison that would trigger the Avatar State so that Korra's death would end the Avatar cycle. This serves as a part of the Red Lotus' goal to restore the world to what it was before the lifetime of Wan.
Although Korra attempted to resist the poison, while subjected to hallucinations, she ends up entering the Avatar State while managing to break free of her bonds. While her friends deal with Ming-Hua and Ghazan, Korra pursues Zaheer outside the cave and fiercely clashes with him before the poison takes effect. Luckily, Korra is saved from Zaheer's suffocation when Jinora and the rest of the newly freed airbenders combine their powers to trigger a massive cyclone that sucks the two combatants in, with Korra using the last of her strength to drag Zaheer to the ground with her remaining chain. Although Suyin managed to get most of the poison out of her system, the ordeal affected Korra on a psychological level. Two weeks later, allowed to return to Republic City, a wheelchair bound Korra attains Jinora's induction as an airbending master. The ceremony also doubled as Tenzin's announcement that the new Air Nomads, in the wake of the chaos caused by the Red Lotus, with the chance that some members are still active, will become a traveling force for peace while Korra recovers from her poisoning.
Book Four: Balance
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. However, while regaining her ability to walk, Korra learns her near-death experience caused her to lose her ability to enter the Avatar State. While Korra intends to return to Republic City, she instead decides to travel the world in solitude to rediscover herself in order to restore both her connection with Raava and her sense of purpose in a changing world. Korra eventually comes to the Earth Kingdom, which has begun to suffer civil strife when Kuvira, who was formerly Suyin's bodyguard before taking advantage of the power vacuum to establish the Earth Empire, refuses to return authority to Prince Wu, the rightful heir to Ba Sing Se. Korra's search for a means to reconnect with Raava leads her to the Foggy Swamp. There, Korra receives aid by an elderly Toph Beifong who reveals that Korra still has traces of the Red Lotus' poison in her body. Toph also explains that a part of Korra, frightened to resume her Avatar duties due to all the pain she suffered at the hands of her previous enemies, did not want the poison taken out. Luckily, found by Ikki, Meelo and Jinora, Korra manages to let go of her past trauma while removing the remaining traces of the mercury poison from her system. From there, Korra learns Kuvira's army has surrounded Zaofu and attempts to reason with her before forced to engage the despot in a duel.
But, despite letting go of her fears, Korra is unable to maintain the Avatar State to fight Kuvira and escapes on an air bison back to Air Temple Island to talk with Tenzin - who she believed would help her. After Asami and Tenzin console her up over her self-doubt, Korra learns that Kuvira is harvesting the spirit vines that were a by-product of the Dark Avatar's attack on Republic City. When Korra learns that Jinora is being held captive by the Spirit Wild's spirit vines, which are responding to Kuvira's men harvesting spirit vines from the Foggy Swamp, she confronts Zaheer in the hopes that the sight of him imprisoned would allow her to overcome the spiritual block keeping her from entering the Spirit World. Explaining that Kuvira's actions were not of his design, a remorseful Zaheer guides Korra to the Spirit World where she is able to fully reconnect with Raava as she frees the spirits of Jinora and the others from the spirit vines' grasp.
After learning of Kuvira's plan to attack Republic City with a weapon powered by the spirit vines, Korra attempts to ask the fleeing spirits for help. However, not wanting to be used as weapons by humans like during the Dark Avatar's attack on Republic City, they adamantly refuse to aid the Avatar. This forces Korra and the others to deal with Kuvira on their own, eventually destroying the giant robot that Kuvira's weapon was attached to. Korra's battle with Kuvira ended soon after when the latter loses control of the cannon after it crashed into the spirit vines, with Korra unknowingly creating a new spirit portal - this transports her and Kuvira into the Spirit World. There, now understanding what motivated Kuvira, Korra convinces the despot to renounce her rule over the Earth Kingdom and surrender to the United Forces. Some time after Kuvira's arrest, Korra comes to the conclusion that her tribulations and the numerous world-changing events she have caused helped to make her more compassionate towards others. However, despite this revelation, she still feels that there is more she can do for the world. Korra is then joined by Asami, they have a heartfelt conversation, and decide to take a well earned vacation into the Spirit World. They enter the Republic City portal together, while holding hands and looking into each other's eyes - marking the beginning of their romantic relationship.
|This section requires expansion. (November 2013)|
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.
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".
After the series finale aired on December 19, 2014, the show received many very positive reviews from the media. Vanity Fair called it "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 said the show "delivered tons of superbly animated action", and predicts 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".
Fan reaction to Korra and Asami's relationship has generally been positive. In response to criticism that the relationship was thrown in to appeal to fans who "shipped" Korra and Asami, 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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- Robinson, Joanna. "‘How a Nickelodeon Cartoon Became One of the Most Powerful, Subversive Shows of 2014". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 19 Dec 2014.
- Robinson, Joanna. "‘Legend of Korra Creators Officially Confirm Your Suspicions About That Ending". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 22 Dec 2014.
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