I actually watched the 2-episode premiere of this before I went back and watched A:TLA which I think gave me probably a different perspective on it than most people.
I will say the one thing that was really noticeable after having gone back to watch ATLA was that the animation in Korra really is a step up. The anime art style isn't really my thign, but there seems to be a lot more depth to the animation this time, even just in terms of the richness of the backdrops and stuff. I assume they got a bump in the budget because of the success of ATLA.
REGARDING PLOT... basically I think the whole thing is really clever. I think the idea of tension forming between the benders and nonbenders is a natural follow-on and it's nice that we're not revisiting "one nation splits away from another" in the same way we got in ATLA. I know there's been a lot of uneasiness with how the show has dealt with it so far, but to me it seems like they've set up a surprisingly gray morality for a kids' show. It'll depend how everything plays out, of course, but what I want/suspect will happen is that the season will culminate with people in power (like Korra) realizing that actually yes there is a disparity in the way their society is set up, even if Amon and his group of extremists are going about fixing it the wrong way. In the council meetings we saw with Tenzin for example there only seems to be benders present -- I suspect/hope this will be something that changes by the end of the series. I also suspect/hope we'll get a nonbender character -- maybe Asami but probably not (MORE ON THAT LATER) -- to offer another perspective and say "okay well Amon is a crazy mofo but it's true that x/y/z sucks", and so on. MAKE IT HAPPEN, SHOW.
I also strongly suspect Amon's sobstory identity is bullshit and it will eventually come to light (more explicitly anyway) that he's exploiting a valid cause for more power. I wonder if he's secretly a bender, or what. I'm pretty dubious that what he's doing is actually ~*engerybending at all. However I do not think he is secretly Suki or Ty Lee or Sokka and Toph's bastard son or whatever theory Tumblr has come up with this week lolol.
The other aspect of plot I guess is probending which, w/e I don't care basically at all. I think it's in there to be light entertainment in between the srs stuff, sort of like Quidditch. Next ep looks like it's about probending, probably as a break after two reasonably heavy episodes. That's fine w/e, I don't find the probending that interesting to watch really. I wouldn't be shocked if the Equalists end up having something to do with the tournament/if Amon somehow sabotages it or whatever, but at the same time I wouldn't be surprised if it's just a dumb sideplot that carries on. Ehhh.
I've grown to quite like Tenzin as sort of the ~shoulder angel~ for Korra in most scenarios, the wise mentor type. It'd be nice if this show/verse ever introduced a female mentor type because it could use some, but at any rate I like Tenzin and his family of precocious airbending babies. Meelo looks like Tommy Pickles. GOOD THING YOU'RE HAVING LOTS OF KIDS TENZIN. Repopulate those air temples!
I love Naga/the idea of Naga. I WANT A POLARBEARDOG. I am ambivalent to the ferret weasle thing Bolin owns. I do not even know its name.
Bolin and Mako... hm. I find myself a bit bored by Bolin -- he's the comedy relief but I don't find him that funny most of the time, just sort of immature. I think he seems much younger than Korra and Mako most of the time which makes him stick out a bit, or maybe just clashes with the way he's drawn and makes him seem immature instead of endearing to me. He might grow on me if they round him out a bit and give him stuff to do other than be the sort of dumb kid brother, but IDK. Mako meanwhile I can't really get a feel for, since episode 4 sort of disagreed with most of the assumptions I'd started to make about his character.
I suspect Mako and Korra are the show's ultimate OTP, and I'm sure that means lots of obstacles being thrown in their way first, but the Asami thing is a bit weird. I'd've imagined this sort of ~school of hard knocks~ character to be a bit more closed off about things and not immediately receptive to "handouts" or whatever -- I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with them, it just seems weird to me that Mako had absolutely 0 objection to a woman he'd just met being like HEY I'LL TOTALLY FOOT THIS 30K BILL NBD or taking him to a super fancy restaurant etc etc. IDKKK Mako you are a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a ratty scarf now.
Speaking of Asami, I am pretty eager for this show to get another female character and I also think it's important that the main characters have a nonbender in there given the plot of this series, but Asami isn't really hitting any marks for me yet. She's nice, and she's drawn very nicely (although eyeshadow on cartoon characters -- can we not), but she's very flat nice. So far she's just been kind of... rich and nice and Mako's sugar mama, IDK, I hope there's more to her and that we get more from her. The sheer niceness of both her and her father actually makes me very suspicious of them -- EQUALIST SPIES?!?! -- and I kind of hope this is the case because otherwise... yawn. If I had to guess, I'd put her as an ~Equalist spy~ who eventually grows unintentionally close to/sympathetic to Korra & co and in a moment of truth picks them over Amon. But maybe that's all wishful thinking and she's just there to have money and be nice and like Mako. idk.
And ofc all of this leads me to
THE MOTHERFUCKING AVATAR fuck yeah.
I love Korra. I think she's a really excellent character just about all around. I love the character design, first off -- I like that they've drawn her as attractive but very obviously strong and muscled, rather than a sort of waif-y Disney Princess-style slender. It makes sense that someone like Korra -- someone who trains physically her entire life -- would be well-muscled and strong and I like that they actually animated her that way, even if 4chan thinks it makes her ~ugly. ALSO it's super nice to have a woman of colour as the lead of an action show.
In terms of personality and general character construction, I also love her. This was particularly solidified by episode 4. I think what they've done with Korra is really clever -- they've marked her out as different from Aang, even if the same general outgoing streak is there, and it makes sense given their different circumstances in particular. Korra is very confident and headstrong and action-driven -- Korra would probably not angst for episodes over the prospect of having to kill Ozai. But she's also very naive and very sheltered and clearly hasn't seen almost anything of the real world because the White Lotus group kept her so confined for all her formative years.
So she rocks into Republic City thinking she's hot shit because she's the Avatar and everyone will love her, and she realizes she knows basically fuck all about what's actually going on. A lot of criticism of her/the show on Tumblr is about how privileged she is -- but that's exactly the point of her. She tells the protester that nonbenders are "oppressing themselves", but we're not supposed to think she's right -- her tone, face, etc are very "YOUR MOM!" (and they even have the "that doesn't make any sense!" line right after). Then in episode 4 we see how she reacts to facing something she doesn't immediately know if she can handle. Tarlok manipulates her into joining his police brutality force by playing on her ego, insinuating she's a coward, etc, and it works because it plays into all her insecurities -- she is scared, she's not ~fully realized~ yet, WHAT WOULD AANG DO?, etc.
IDK basically I just love her and think it's so great -- she's such a complex and well-crafted character, with traits that can act as both strengths and flaws (Gryffindor courage is also Gryffindor idiocy!). They've laid groundwork for her character to do a lot of growing and learning and developing, but she's a good person too. AND FRANKLY the world needs more female heroes with the ~weight of the world on their shoulders~, especially ones who aren't white (even if she is only a cartoon). ANYWAY KORRA ILU. PLZ GO INTO AVATAR STATE AND TALK TO AANG IN THE SPIRITWORLD WHILE I TEARBEND.
Also -- does anyone know where to find Korra icons that aren't the animated ONTD-style gif icons?