Asami and Korra
Asami and Korra

It’s been one year since Nickelodeon’s cult hit series The Legend of Korra, came to an end. Widely praised for its high quality animation, music, voice acting and storytelling, the fantasy series seems to have had a lasting effect on the rest of the industry. In much the same way its predecessor, Avatar the Last Airbender, broke the mould on several levels, Korra seems to have let loose a plethora of new avenues for animated entertainment this past year.

When the final episode aired a year ago there was a considerable cry of joy from much of the fandom, flooding the internet with disbelief and excitement over the relationship between main hero Korra and her new girlfriend Asami. Reactions from fans were all over Youtube.

It’s strange to think back on that time now; one of the issues people kept bringing up before the finale was “they’d never allow it”, speaking of the network executives. A same sex romance on children’s television, especially in America, was thought of as unthinkable. Yes, fans may make headcanons and fan art, but how could a big, corporate entity like Nickelodeon allow this to happen?

Steven and the Crystal Gems
Steven and the Crystal Gems

Now, a year on, things are different. Other shows like Steven Universe and Adventure Time, big names in the US cartoon market, are pushing the envelope even further. Indeed, Steven Universe may in some ways be something of a spiritual successor to Avatar the Last Airbender – it delves into many of the same themes, but doesn’t go quite as gritty and dark as Korra.

Steven Universe has developed its female characters – and there are a lot of them! it’s amazing – more than half the other series on Cartoon Network combined. It should come as no surprise that the show has embraced diversity, having numerous same sex romances, challenging what gender identity means, and giving children a male hero who challenges almost every male hero stereotype.

Bubblegum and Marceline
Bubblegum and Marceline

Adventure Time, meanwhile, has slowly but surely been developing a subtle romance between two of its female leads, Princess Bubblegum and the vampire queen Marceline. I’m told that the accompanying comics push this subplot more to the forefront, but the show itself is clearly making big hints at it and one wonders if the studio is feeling under pressure to allow it.

One of the big drawbacks that faces this kind of openness and diversity within animation for children, is that networks often fear losing contracts with other countries who will refuse to broadcast such things. Hopefully this is an issue that will gradually gain more traction and won’t let the people who hold the purse strings stifle creativity in the name of placating the violently political stagnation.

The Legend of Korra is looking at a future in comics, too. The creative duo behind the Avatar franchise, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, are working on graphic novels for the series that will explore Korra and Asami’s relationship in more detail. Konietzko has also stated that the comics give them more freedom to explore certain themes and relationships that they couldn’t in the show, either for time constraints or studio discomfort.

ThreadworldsOne year on and The Legend of Korra still has a dedicated fanbase. Indeed, it was still one of the top shows blogged about on Tumblr for the year, beating continuing shows like Adventure Time, Gravity Falls, and The Simpsons. It’s safe to say that the fanbase is still there and still eager for more.

DiMartino and Konietzko are also working on their own individual projects, Rebel Geniuses and Threadworlds respectively. I wrote about these previously HERE.

You may also want to check out my interview with Janet Varney, voice of Avatar Korra.

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