Body, combat and transmission in Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko’s The Legend of Korra

The Legend of Korra an American animated television series created by Michael Dante diMartino and Bryan Konietzko as a sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender reached viewers and fans throughout the world in 2012. The stories take place again in the fictional world of the four nations, where people form tribes or nations relating to one of the four elements. Some of them, the so-called “benders”, can manipulate earth, air, fire or water telekinetically with movements portrayed in the form of different martial arts techniques. The cyclically reincarnating “Avatar” is the one who can master all four elements and keeps or restores balance among the peoples. This task is a recurring motive in the stories of both series and sets the plot each time into motion. In my presentation I will show that the body, combat and creativity form an important part of the bending process, since the techniques and their effectiveness are strongly connected to the abilities of the benders’ mind and body. The body in combat will also be an object of scrutiny. Emptiness and form also come into the focus during the critical approach to the bending process: they relate to the spiritual side of bending and, interestingly, these concepts reflect the views of Tibetan Buddhism from which the creators borrowed several allusions. I will also argue that the body, mind and combat serve as a medium for transmission. The opposition of benders and non-benders and going beyond this opposition will also be reflected upon during the comparative analysis of the two series. A postmodern form of martial arts also appear in the new series: my analysis will also shed some light upon the significance and the difference between traditional and pro-bending.

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