Episodic Review: The Legend of Korra 01 & 02

Earth. Fire. Air. Water.

Daw, it’s been too long, Avatar.

When Avatar: The Last Airbender first aired my sophomore year of high school, I was a bit skeptical about seeing an American show that borrowed heavily from Asian elements (ugh, no pun intended) not only in terms of artistic style, but in terms of culture and the whole slew of subcategories that that breaks up into. It was able to create a brand new world and get the viewer to understand the basics of things and a sign of where things are going in the first two episodes.

By the time the finale of A:TLA aired a mere day or so after my graduating high school, I was completely absorbed in the series. To think that two guys were able to make such a character rich story spanning for three full seasons, covering (almost) every loose knot by the end of the series is just ridiculous to me. The fact that the team behind the series was very strict about wanting to tell a story in X number of episodes and stopping after that was also something very… un-American. With all the shows state-side with seasons in their double digits and showing signs of wear and tear over time, it was good to know that there were some people in the industry that still insisted on keeping things on their terms.

So when I heard that a sequel series was coming out, I wasn’t sure what to think of at first.

Book One: Air

Almost four years after the final Chapter in Book Three: Fire aired, we finally get an “Air” title card. And while I get that Korra will be focusing mainly on Air as her final element to master, I can’t help but think the title for the season seemed a bit tacked on. Then again, Water, and Earth being the titles for A:TLA’s seasons one and two have just as little to do with the actual goings-on with what actually happened during the majority of those seasons, so I guess it all fits.

Makes me wonder what’ll happen if Nick actually follows through with passing off half-seasons as full seasons. There’s been reports that the full series will span two seasons, with 26 episodes total. Will both seasons be categorized under “Air” or will one of the other elements get their own season again? Or will there be another element to base the next season off of entirely? *brainsplosion*

They probably got two minutes of screen time total, but I can’t help but feel attached to Korra’s parents. Two low class water tribe members giving birth to the next Avatar just sounds like the premise of one of Oprah’s book of the month titles. It’s just so… feel good-y. Dunno on the appeal of said story to lonely housewives cutting themselves over the fact that they don’t get OWN with their cable bundle, but whatever.

So this is our new Avatar. She looks like she’d be one of Lilo’s hula classmates. Yay for people of color breaking through in animation!

Initial thoughts on Korra herself: she reminds me of one of those jocks that aren’t necessarily friends with you in high school, but would say hey to you when walking down the hall and give you a high five during class when you mention a particularly good teacher zinger under your breath. She’s very much the opposite of Aang in every respect, but she still comes off as likable enough.

Also, dem biceps.

Okay, so you’ve got the Statue of Aang-erty…

… the Toph statue…

… Katara’s a Master alongside the White Lotus…

(btw, was a bit disappointed that the White Lotus went from badass underground society of extraordinary gentlemen to bodyguards that don’t let the Avatar out past dark. Could there be random factions that broke off to carry on with their traditions of badassery?)

… but we’ve yet to see a Sokka anything. Could he have made his own school for non-benders to take on a weapon? Did he spend the last years of his life bumming around in his estate paid off by the royalties he makes in movie cameos? Either situation warrants a statue.

I thought this was weird when I first saw it.

Usually, sequels either tend to stick as closely to the main work’s timeline as possible or jump so far ahead in the timeline that whatever happened in the past won’t flood into the current series’ plot. With LoK, it’s different. 70 years have passed, so we’re far from focusing the new plot on the immediate generation following the first show, but who we’re presented with in the generation after that one is a bit of a mishmash. Tenzin’s kids are too young to have a plot follow them and carry the series, and Korra seems a bit too old for Nick’s general demographic to care about.

Meanwhile, you also have the progression of the world itself to worry about. So much has happened in 70 years! There’s radio, automobiles, more peaceful-looking blimps… what next? Television? Rubber shoes? Robot maids?

Also, negative points to Ikki for being such a troll and interrupting the fanboys’ Jinora’s question about Zuko’s mom.

Still, she’s gotta be my favorite out of Tenzin’s kids. Jinora just seems too plain Jane, and Meelo seems… special. Ikki’s the perfect mix of cutesy, yet troll-ish. Also, her default face is :3 which is just too… adorbs. Yes, her cuteness warranted the shortening of “adorable” into a shorter but probably less accessible term.

Quite the amount of diversity in Republic City. Not only is marrying someone 20+ years your senior acceptable with Tenzin and Pema (who I’m assuming is Earth Nation based on her eye color), it also looks like we’re getting some mixed families going on as a result of this. Katara’s kids seemed to be either/or when it came to bending abilities, and it seems like the tradition continues with families like Mako and Bolin, but I’m still holding out on the possibility that generations into the future, people will find that kids with multiple bending powers will result from long-term mixing of the nations with the Avatar simply being the first of the bunch to be like this. Wow, that sounded dumber than I thought. Fangirls feel free to steal the idea for your fanfictions. I ask for no credit.

Also props for the fire bender triad’s “fresh off the boat” line. Yay for socially aware yet kinda awkward to hear in my cartoon dialogue?

Additional yay for tying up a female in the least sexist-looking way possible. Dunno what it is, but just based off of character design, Korra comes off as a strong female character that doesn’t have to have the most curvaceous of bodies to give off said message. She’s well built and strong, but probably won’t be making a cameo in the latest Lupin III any time soon (awesome new series if you don’t mind that kind of stuff, btw). It does a good job of not coming off as overkill in either direction.

…back to the character building with the lost generation. It’ll probably be more likely than not that Tenzin’s generation will be used to better explain events that happened in the 70 year gap than Korra’s generation. Here’s to hoping the characters themselves get some decent fleshing out and are used for more than just time skip explanations.

At the least, it looks like we’ll be getting some fleshing out with Chief Bei Fong. Toph was kinda encroaching into the obnoxious Lindsay Lohan wild child territory that I wonder what made her decide to go into law enforcement. Did metal bending not do so hot elsewhere?

And on a general note…

So…

much…

facial distortion. Not exactly surprised to find out that one of the guys that worked on The Boondocks moved on to work on this show. With all the undertones of the four nations being equated to real-world nationalities, it’s something of a nice fit.

“I didn’t mean to assume you’re from the Water Tribe. I actually know a guy from there, so that makes it okay somehow..?”

Yep… nice fit, indeed.

So ever since his quick appearance in the first teaser trailer for the series, Bolin’s been made out to be the series’ Sokka. While he does share some characteristics with him, I still feel like he’s his own character (and btw, totally deserves to be released from the friend zone that Korra has left him in).

For some reason, I didn’t really have a problem with Bolin being an earth bender and thus being kinda stout, but seriously, is every fire bender a good-looking aloof bastard that ends up getting the girl with minimum effort? Not fair. And totally bender-ist against earth benders. They move earth! What other undertones do you need?

Pro-Bending looks pretty ballin’. And not a quaffle and snitch in sight. Seriously, good job with making me get the basics of a fictional sport with just one scene. Not sure how Korra being part of the team will be used to progress the plot, though. Will they be traveling out of the city for other games? Will Korra-sanity spread far and wide across the nations?

So how do the people of Air Temple Island actually uh… function? I take it they’re free to leave the island any time they wish (wouldn’t want Tenzin to be a cult leader or anything), but it seems like all air bending culture’s been isolated from the rest of the goings-on in Republic City. I mean, you’ve got integrated sports, integrated crime organizations that apparently share the name of real-life crime organizations all missing the element of air. Given Tenzin’s feelings towards pro-bending, I’m assuming that’s not a coincidence.

“Air bending is all about spiral movements.”

Calling that season two will be Book Two: Spiral Energy. “Aang is dead. He’s not here anymore! But on my back, and in my heart, he lives on in me!”

I always found it really weird whenever I saw the Avatar wear clothes outside of their nation. Seeing a young Roku out of his fire nation garb in the flashback episode and Aang in anything outside of his airbender garb had a similar feel. Still, brings home the point that Korra’s literally out of her element.

The “fish out of water” feel was especially poignant here. Going to piano classes when I was younger only to see fetuses play Chopin was discouraging enough, so it must suck hard to be the Avatar and be upstaged at doing nothing by a bunch of kiddies. Also take note that Ikki is able to maintain her nyan-face even when meditating. Daaaaaw.

And now for the major antagonists. The general concept of the anti-bending movement was brought up slightly in the first episode, but the way Amon and his little henchman that reminds me of Beetle from Ultimate Spider-Man were brought up at the end of the first episode didn’t exactly match the general feeling when he first showed up on the political poster. While I’m sure he’ll be a major part in the series, you can’t just dump him at the end of the first episode with this feel of epic-ness when the last time you saw the guy’s face (mask?) was in a minor scene. Still, it’s Avatar, so I’m sure the series will be awesome as the weeks past. And if anything, we’ve got funny fan-art to make up for any bumps in the road the series might go through.

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About daemoncorps
Gabe (daemoncorps) has been writing about anime and the like since 2005, but has been babysat by it for much longer. He primarily spends his days distracting himself on twitter or writing for Fandom Post until he realizes he has a weekly webcomic (tapastic.com/series/scramblebouquet) to work on. He also just finished writing his first full-length graphic novel about unemployment (https://tapastic.com/episode/293804).

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