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Character Analysis: Mako--You heard me right!


Mako at Comic-Con

Note: Upon the publishing of this blog post I shall have received my Earthbending Master, 30-days-straight editing achievement. Woo-hoo!

Since attending the Legend of Korra panel at this year’s Comic-Con, I’ve been hugely intrigued by the many revelations given to us by the creative team behind the new series. The aspect of the new series that intrigues me most is definitely the characters. I’d wager I’m not alone here. One newly revealed character, in particular, for which I’ve developed a strong affinity, is the character Mako. Because of this I even have a costume in the works. That's right, I’ll be cosplaying him at future conventions (so excited)! He’s very similar to me in appearance and in age, which causes a natural inclination, but more than just that: I am also the oldest of two brothers close in age. Like Mako, I am the more serious brother, more assertive and certainly more perfectionist than my younger brother, who’s a lot more like Bolin—the happy-go-lucky type. I can be very critical and intolerant of other peoples’ faults (especially my brother’s), but I’m also my own biggest critic. Despite my often-cynical nature, I’m also very light-hearted and optimistic, but I’m less outgoing and probably a lot more introverted than my brother. Ha, even my element of preference is Fire, whereas my brother’s is Earth! As you can see, I can draw numerous parallels between the characteristics of the Korra duo and our own.

Mako's Legacy

One of the more interesting aspects of Mako is that he’s named after an Avatar cast member: Specifically the late actor Mako, who portrays fan-favorite Iroh. In my opinion, this endows the character Mako with a special status among the characters in the new series—especially since we know he’ll be one of the series main characters to begin with. It would be one thing to give a small cameo, but to have such an important namesake as one of the most integral players is, I think, a clear sign that the creators intend to elevate that character in some way.


During the panel, the oral revelation of Mako and Bolin’s personalities revolved around with this statement by Mike. I seem to remember there being more said, but then again I don’t think it was necessary; the images speak for themselves. That’s the beauty of animation: the artists don’t need dialog to give their characters personality. He seems calm and confident according to the few images we do have, even is the presence of danger, indicating he’s the refined, serious type; smaller eyes make him seem somewhat more distant and scrutinizing, and his thin, defined facial structure indicates maturity and his square shoulders denote confidence. His suave fashion sense gives him a business-oriented demeanor. He almost certainly has a much lighter side to him as well, as anyone who truly is confident and self-respecting has a strong sense of humor.

On the poster, he looks very calm while in his fighting pose. I think the fact that he remains calm in the face of danger is a definite sign that he doesn’t employ a businesslike façade to hide deep insecurity. He’s simply less naïve than his younger brother, so he has a tendency to see the darker side of any issue much more readily. This may lead to some brooding contemplation on his part, and may spark some irrationality since it’s something we’re all prone to. Ultimately, we know Mako is somewhere between Zuko and Bolin temperament-wise, and we have no reason to believe he possesses any personality traits outside of what you would expect from a normal young man. He’s probably more of what Zuko would have been naturally had he not been physically and psychologically scarred at a young age.


"...he's a beautiful man."
— Joaquim Dos Santos

Mako and Bolin wear similar outfits, and they are representative of a more industrial era: dark and desaturated. The colors are less bold and they’re kind of earthy. Bolin’s sash and Mako’s scarf stand out because of their color. Mako’s jacket is really cool, and I’m excited about getting my own just like it. The trim, button straps, and double-breasted look gives it a nice Asian feel, and the pants are knickerbockers popularly worn during the early 1920’s. Coming from a guy, I’d say he’s got good tastes considering the time period. He’s easily one of my favorite characters appearance-wise. I don’t know if I’d call him metrosexual, a label mostly inspired by his scarf, but many characters seen in the trailer wear scarves so it could simply be a popular trend.


I only heard of shipping after I watched ATLA a little over a year ago, and my thoughts on it are thus: I get making fanart and fanfiction speculating about this sort of thing, as people are entitled to, but I try to avoid being biased towards something that's non-canon. That being said, I do appreciate the romantic elements of any story and I think they were handled very well in Avatar. There was more romantic content than I thought there would be (in a “kid’s show”), but no more than I thought was realistic. Aang and Katara’s relationship is easily one of the highlights of the show; very sincere and innocent, and, like the main plot, a development that steadily grows and builds until it reaches a spectacular culmination. I think that the people who did not prefer the Aang and Katara relationship simply forgot about the many subtle cues early on the series signaling the start of something grand.

Now, when it comes to Legend of Korra, things are a bit different: Particularly, the composition of the new Team Avatar. Two of the members this time around are indeed siblings, but they’re both male, and the remaining member is a girl. This means there are two strong candidates for the affections of the lone female of the group. They certainly aren’t the only candidates, but I’d like someone to honestly tell me who else is at this point. Maybe Daniel Dae Kim’s character? Anyways, to me, Mako is the better candidate because he’s essentially the leader. He is, of course, the oldest, but judging by what we know of his personality, a leadership role should come naturally to him. He’s more of the kind of guy the ladies want to impress whereas Bolin’s more of the lovable guy-friend type. I’ve been strongly influenced by this fanon, which is insightfully well-written and manages to avoid dramatically favoring one side over the other. All three members will inevitably develop a strong bond with one another as the series progresses, and these will no doubt manifest themselves in a variety of ways, including cheesy romantic love triangles as Brian mentioned above. And while I favor the Mako/Korra outcome, I personally am hoping Bolin gives his brother a run for his money.

A Matter of Age

One more quick thing, I know that no specific ages have been given, and it’s not a real big issue, but I’m hoping Mako is anywhere from 19-21 and Bolin 17-19, with about a two year difference in between them, so that Mako remains the definitive elder. I also think Korra should be the youngest, at approximately 17, since she’s the Avatar and thus wouldn’t have to worry about feelings of inferiority. Bolin on the other hand could develop an inferiority complex if we were lowest in terms of seniority and is fighting skill didn't compensate. I simply think this is the best structure if the characters are to consistently get along well.

Final Thoughts

While Korra is the central character in the series, I believe Mako will also be given a place of special reverence. He’s named after one of the most well-respected figures in Avatar-fandom, and he’s the senior member of Team Avatar. Like Han Solo or Aragorn, he’s seems to be the type of character I’d most aspire to be.

By the way if this generates some interest I'll probably do a series of preemptive LOK character discussions. Be sure to provide your thoughts in the comments below.

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