Star Trek Guide

The 'Korra Effect' Keeps Fans Coming Back - Even If They Don't Want To

Avatar: Legend of Korra naturally drew in audiences excited for a "next-generation" continuation of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Next-gen shows have long been a simple and easy way to bring an established fanbase on board with a new cast of characters. Ever since Star Trek: The Next Generation, creatives have exploited this trend. The creators will feature characters from the previous series in the show while still developing new characters. Fans will watch a next-generation series, regardless of how much the fans actually enjoy the series.

While many fans love Korra on its own terms, the series proved more divisive than its predecessor. Despite that, even the people who hated it kept watching, due in part to it being a continuation of something they loved. We could easily call this the "Korra Effect," where fans of an established property loyally watch a next-generation series whether they like it or not.

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Shows Affected by the Korra Effect

There are several shows that embrace the Korra Effect to continue the life of a property that has come to a conclusion. One of the most recent major examples of this is Boruto: Naruto Next Generations, the sequel to Naruto and Naruto Shippuden that shows our established heroes from the prior series raising the next generation of ninja.

Korra and Boruto are far from the only examples of this. Digimon right off the bat started off featuring a new cast of characters in its second season, with its prior cast of Digi-Destined appearing on occasion. Dragon Ball Z was almost like this for the original Dragon Ball, but the old cast featured so often that Dragon Ball Z became a multi-generational saga.

Outside of anime, you can look to comics like The Young Avengers, The New Mutants and Teen Titans, or movies like the recent Star Wars sequel trilogy for examples of the Korra Effect on full display. Arguably, one of the most noteworthy examples of this is The Lord of the Rings, a next-generation sequel to The Hobbit that displaces the old cast while bringing back a few iconic characters.

However, The Lord of the Rings, much like Star Trek: The Next Generation, is often considered superior to its predecessor, so you could argue these examples dodged the particular fan dynamics that define the Korra Effect. Ironically, Star Trek: The Next Generation itself faced the Korra Effect with its sequels, most notably Star Trek: Picard.

How the Korra Effect Works

All of these sequels have fans, with some becoming popular on their own terms distinct from their predecessors. However, they also have a significant segment of hatewatchers contributing to their success. These viewers want to see more of familiar characters after they've accomplished their goals and the fall-out from plot events, and seeing the characters after they accomplished their goals. However, people who watch sequel shows for these reasons may end up disappointed.

A show facing the Korra Effect will anger some number of fans of the original due to changes made to either the formula or characters. Jumping ahead years will result in characters being different, which fans might not like. Such is the case with Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi and Naruto in Boruto, among others. And that's when they actually get to see the characters they want more of! Aang, for example, is dead by the time Legend of Korra starts. Captain Kirk, one of the most beloved characters in Star Trek history, only meets Picard in Star Trek: Generations, only to die when a bridge drops on him.

Be Careful What You Wish For

Fans want more content, but do not necessarily like how the content that is offered affects what came before. A closed series gains a legacy and a reputation for the events contained within its beginning, middle, and end. By adding on past that ending, it affects the greater legacy of what came before.

By making Naruto Hokage, we see Naruto ultimately became a distant, removed father. This affects how we see his quest leading up to that goal. We learn in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi that Luke, Han and Leia's lives were filled with heartbreak after defeating the Empire. In The Rise of Skywalker, we even learn that Luke and Vader failed to completely kill Palpatine, which might ruin what was otherwise a happy ending.

The Korra Effect, ultimately, culminates in some fans asking if everything that transpired in the old series amounted to a good ending. It forces fans to admit "Hey, maybe characters continue to have problems after their happy ending." That can be rough for fans to accept after coming to a conclusion that feels good. The Korra Effect ultimately occurs when fans are disappointed with how a series indicates the future turned out, but keep watching because they want to see more of the old stuff they love. This creates a cycle of optimism meets disappointment meets further optimism.

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