Because fans should be critical, too

Part 4.1 of the Korranalysis is Up!

Here it is! The long awaited, procrastinated, soon-to-be-hated continuation of the Korranalysis! The rest of Part Four will be uploaded in segments such as this one.

A few other notes as well:

– I recently got The Art of The Legend of Korra. In terms of story content, there aren’t many new insights, but the art is, of course, spectacular. It appears that co-director Ki-Hyun Ryu was the Bob Camp of this production, providing the best and funniest character designs, expressions, and animation. It almost makes me glad he didn’t contribute any words like the rest of the creative leaders (DiMartino, Konietzko, and co-creator Joaquim Dos Santos) did. Corny as it sounds, Ryu’s perverse drawing genius speaks for itself.

– I have been seriously considering getting a blip.tv account to upload future video reviews. What’s stopping me is the fact that blip.tv is very much series orientated. So the question is whether I should continue making more video reviews or stop with Korra. There are plenty of animated features and series I would want to examine, but are my inane ramblings worth the effort (let alone the account)? Please give me some honest feedback.

– Finally, video reviews or not, a new blog dedicated to animation in general is imminent! The first article will revolve around Avatar and Korra (naturally), so heads up for that.

That is all. Let the hostilities begin!

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35 responses

  1. rosemon

    Some people say that Korra is almost as bad as Bella Swan. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Twilight, but would you agree? Also, the cast in both books 1 and 2 are heavily male, despite there being male villains. But there have been no female villains in Korra, and all of the good women are motivated/connected by romance to a male character. Do you think Bryke might be “making up” for having a lead female by surrounding her with a lot of dudes, kinda like a lot of 90s Disney films? I guess Bryke, being male, sort of defaults to male-centered-ness with a touch of unconscious sexism, like the idea that series with a female lead MUST have romance or the notion that all girls love bad guys. Which reminds me, some guy on imdb also called Korra a 90s Disney princess TM: “strong-willed/independent” but needs a man to be happy. I could not have come up with a better description for Korra than that…

    August 3, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    • Korra is nowhere near as bad as Bella Swan (even if I found the romance in Twilight more understandable than in Korra).

      The 90s Disney princess is an interesting comparison I’ve never once considered. Something like The Little Mermaid is just as problematic from a feminist perspective, even if it is much more entertaining and coherent than Korra. In both cases, they appear to be a step in the right direction, which is enough for the majority of viewers. Whether one prefers Ariel or Korra ultimately boils down to an aesthetic choice instead of their personalities, which is a terrible thing.

      August 4, 2013 at 11:26 pm

  2. Ian

    Korra: Strong female character? (I hate that phrase too)

    Well written? …sometimes, I really liked her speech to Tarrlock about abusing his power.
    Independent? I think so in a lot of ways, so, yes.
    Inner strength? Bravery when it comes to facing everything but Amon, which to me is a good character dynamic, I was really impressed they had her cry so early, it made her vulnerable and I liked that because up until episode 4 she was just this awesome fighty girl.

    So overall after watching your video, while I can still see where your coming from I still enjoy Korras character a lot, to me theres plenty there, and I don’t blame Korra for getting everything so much as the story itself, which to me isn’t something to blame a character for, for not being challenged. I think this all has to do with book 1 being more plot based than character based, so I think inherently as the series goes on shell be the avatar we want her to be 🙂

    Great review as always

    August 3, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    • We can only hope she grows to become the Avatar she needs to be. I’d gladly bear witness to that.

      August 4, 2013 at 11:40 pm

  3. Charlie

    Ryu is the reason for fartbending. Argument destroyed.

    August 3, 2013 at 11:40 pm

    • I’ll take a sincere fart joke over bullshit feminism any time.

      August 4, 2013 at 12:13 am

  4. rosemon

    I’m not entirely sure how this new format/schedule works. How frequently will you be uploading your videos? And if you do intend to look at other shows, media, etc. then a blip series might be a good idea. Your analysis does make for an interesting series, and others have made analysis series on blip like SF Debris and Foldable Human.

    August 4, 2013 at 8:11 am

    • I’m going to attempt to update at least one video segment every Saturday, two if I’m lucky.

      I haven’t really watched much of SF Debris or any of Foldable Human. If I’m not doing anything different from those two, then there’s no need for me to make my own series.

      August 4, 2013 at 11:48 pm

  5. Dman

    I don’t think your arguments around Korra needing a man for everything is entirely fair. While she needs Mako to finally airbend, and she has her bending taken by Amon, can’t it also be stated that she GIVES the bending back to a lot of the men that had their bending stolen, (presumably of course) like Lin’s metal bending police force? I also don’t it’s fair to call the Legend of Korra sexist. I not trying to be rude, but going by that logic can’t it also be stated that Sokka’s sexism towards Katara led to her freeing Aang from the iceberg, who would eventually stop the war, so in the end sexism saved the world? I think Korra is a strong female because instead of looking up to or down to the males around her, she fights by them, and saves their lives just as much as they save her’s.

    August 4, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    • I not trying to be rude, but going by that logic can’t it also be stated that Sokka’s sexism towards Katara led to her freeing Aang from the iceberg, who would eventually stop the war, so in the end sexism saved the world?

      But that’s the thing: Avatar acknowledges that sexism exists and it does affect characters’ actions. (Also, I think Katara standing up to the sexism is of equal–or more–importance as the sexism itself.) Korra, for whatever reason, eliminated sexism from the explicit equation, making any implicit instances (intention or not) highly suspect. It’s true that Korra gets to do a lot more than the average female character. So did Katara. But Katara was allowed to finish her own battles. Korra doesn’t even defeat Amon or get her powers back in a way that demonstrated any growth or strength as a character. Maybe it’s not exactly sexist–it’s certainly bad writing–but it’s still very suspicious.

      August 5, 2013 at 12:15 am

  6. rosemon

    There are no really good male role models in Korra, though it’s not a huge deal since media in general has tons of other good male role models, what with it being written mostly by men. Female ones on the other hand…well, thinking about your musing on the only competent men being bad and the good men being ineffectual…that’s often the case with female characters. Notably in Disney films and superhero comics of old, where the good woman is weak/needs a man and the strong, intelligent one is evil/independent.

    August 4, 2013 at 10:27 pm

  7. Amonymous

    this is what happens when you try an deal with too many themes and subplots in 12 episodes, it seriously hindered any effective character development for korra, maybe they’ll do a better job in book 2……maybe……

    August 5, 2013 at 2:29 am

  8. Amonymous

    Also how do you think korra contemplating suicide fits into all this?

    August 5, 2013 at 2:49 am

    • At the risk of sounding really fucking cynical and mean about this, I’ll compare it to a shallow high school girl lamenting that she’s not pretty anymore after having getting a brutal scar on her face. She was raised to believe that her beauty measured her worth, and without it, she was nothing, and therefore contemplated suicide. (And then the fairy godmother shows up and restores her beauty, even though the girl didn’t actually learn that beauty wasn’t everything.)

      This may seem like a shallow comparison–let alone a mean one–but Korra strikes me as a shallow character. Being the Avatar entails a litany of expectations and consequences that I highly doubt someone like Korra can even begin to grasp. For example, a dead Avatar doesn’t simply pass away, they spend an eternity as a spirit how aids the next Avatar. But what if you were a fuck-up as the Avatar? You have to spend eternity regretting your mistakes. (Which, in theory, is not all bad: acknowledging your mistakes can help a future Avatar not repeat those actions.) On the other end of the spectrum, let’s say you were a flawless Avatar simply because in your lifetime there were no real challenges? You have absolutely nothing of value to impart to a future Avatar dealing with an actual obstacle. ()

      Which brings me back to the suicide. What if Korra actually did it? What lesson is she imparting for future Avatars? That your worth is measured solely by Bending and nothing else? Not wisdom, personality, inner balance, peace keeping skills, practical advice, a sense of humor? And then Korra joins the long line of spirits of Avatar? The rest of them probably died of natural causes, but she killed herself because she felt unworthy. She’d be the laughing stock of Avatar purgatory! And to take this self-destruction to its logical conclusion, let’s say that Korra–to spare herself the embarrassment and humiliation of being the only Avatar stupid enough to kill herself–gives the next Avatar shitty advice so that he/she winds up getting killed in the Avatar State? The Avatar now no longer exists, but at least Korra doesn’t have to feel like the idiot anymore.

      I’ll stop here because this has gone too far, but this should give you an idea of the level of respect and sympathy I have for people like Korra. In the end, if she’d said something like, “Fuck it! I’m still the Avatar! I gotta deal with it!”, I’d be overjoyed by her revolve to not only keep living, but to keep contributing the world anyway she could. But that didn’t happen, because she’s an idiot, and so are the writers.

      August 12, 2013 at 12:49 am

  9. rosemon

    I’m only saying this as an avid watcher of blip series: I think that you are a lot more critical/in-depth than some of these other analysis series on blip (and there aren’t many analysis series to begin with on blip, just plain review series), which is a good thing. Even classics like Ren and Stimpy are only reviewed, but nobody ever talks about their themes or analyzes the design/cinematography from an artistic standpoint like you do. There aren’t many people, on blip or even youtube, that criticize problematic things that are generally well-liked. There are, however, dozens of Nostalgia Critic clones on blip, but their lack of originality doesn’t stop them from making a lot of videos. Also, there are hardly any reviews/analyses of either Korra or Invader Zim on blip…

    August 5, 2013 at 9:57 am

  10. JMR

    I was reading this blog post about the Contract with the Reader, and couldn’t help but think of LoK, especially as it relates to Korra herself.

    I think one of my biggest disappointments with Korra as a character is how much we’re promised we’re going to get out of her story only to have so much left unfulfilled or (possibly worse) poorly fulfilled.

    Take when Tenzin tells her at the end of the second episode that she needs to learn that “being the Avatar is about more than fighting.” You might then look at the rest of the show and come to the conclusion that the Equalists are a perfect setup for teaching her this lesson: a group of people representing a deep, institutional social issue that can’t be solved via punching faces. It’s a problem that can get her out of her comfort zone and force her to solve her problems diplomatically instead of physically.

    The problem of course is that physically is exactly how she solves the problem. Air-punching Amon out a window reveals that he’s a liar, and that the Equalists are a sham and they collapse with his outing. See kids? Violence can solve all your problems! And Once Again The Day Is Saved and the contract is broken. Not only are we cut off from understanding the serious social issues at work here, the growth we were promised from Korra as a character is undermined. Now, maybe if LoK were a more clever show I may be able to explain this as a witty reversal of the audience’s expectations, but LoK isn’t a very clever show.

    August 5, 2013 at 11:33 pm

    • I clicked on the “this,” but it didn’t link anywhere. .Is this the blog you were talking about?

      August 6, 2013 at 10:39 am

      • JMR

        Yes indeed. Something funky happened to my link apparently.

        August 6, 2013 at 5:54 pm

      • Now that I’ve read the blog post, I absolutely agree with it and you.

        There were so, so many potential setups in this series that never receive a payoff. I’m honestly under the impression that everyone involved in this show (from Diko to the voice actors to voice director Andrea Romano to Studio Mir) were so taken by the success of Avatar: the Last Airbender and the spin-off’s intentions that they failed to see how empty the actual product was turning out. It happens, but this time there was no backlash. Korra seemed to work, and there it did. It’s a sort of self-congratulatory wankfest. I wonder where all the Prometheus critics were when Korra was on. (Then again, has the mainstream ever truly given a shit about any animation that wasn’t Disney or Pixar? Maybe that has something to do with all of this….)

        August 10, 2013 at 3:46 pm

  11. rosemon

    I guess Mr. Turner’s not so excited, but someone finally put up a higher quality version of the rebel spirit episode, still not perfect, but much better: http://benditlikekorra.tumblr.com/post/56943059446/rebel-spirit-full-episode-guide
    But that intro makes me gag, cuz as you’ve said, Korra didn’t actually defeat Amon, Tarrlock did!

    August 7, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    • Dear Lord…this has to be some of the most horrendous writing (especially the dialogue) I have ever witnessed. I almost couldn’t get through the whole thing because it was so bad.

      August 7, 2013 at 11:29 pm

    • JMR

      I caved and watched it too, and honestly to me it was just a big fat “Meh”. Still hate them trying to force Mako on us as this ‘nice, understanding guy’. Don’t like how the complete reorganization of the Republic City government is relegated to the “Previously On” segment. Don’t like the continued intrusive CGI presence. Don’t like how there’s no build up to the whole “spirit attack” thing. Similar to the whole “Hey just so you know we completely redid the government of Republic City, it just sort of happens , robbing it of any sense of payoff (It definitely shows symptoms the same problematic breakneck pacing of the last season).

      The only reason I say it was meh instead of that I hated it is that I’m genuinely interested in the Uncle character. Which definitely makes me wonder all the more if either of the Bryke duo had crappy parents and an interesting Uncle, those two things constantly come up in their work.

      August 8, 2013 at 6:30 pm

      • I’m going to write a whole post dedicated to this thing. This thing absolutely infuriated me.

        But for now, I feel compelled to share a dream I had last night, directly caused by watching this thing. The spirit attack–which, you’re right, had no setup–was actually the one effective scene in the episode (in fact, any scene where no one is talking is an effective scene, but I digress). It inspired my dream, which was me watching/living the next episode. Apparently, the Uncle was teaching Korra that to control and calm a spirit, you must “meld” with it. (That had to have been inspired by Pacific Rim, but didn’t something similar happen in Avatar‘s “Winter Solstice, Part One?”) Being a novice, she tries to “meld” with a relatively smaller spirit. Unfortunately, it winds up taking over her mind, and uses her body and the Avatar State to destroy half a village. It was pretty frightening. And as a result, everyone was just as afraid of Korra (initially their savior) as they were of the spirits. What happens next?!

        I have no idea why I had the dream, or why Rob Paulsen was in it–he voiced a character who gets snatched up by a spirit–but let me tell you: if something similar were to happen in the next episode, I’d probably give Book Two another chance!

        (Then again, my dreams are terrible fortune tellers. The night before the Book One finale, I dreamed that the last episode would simply feature Korra, Mako, Bolin, and Asami eating in a restaurant recounting their whole adventure, Pineapple Express-style. Right down to the “You didn’t like me?!” and “Can we all be best friends?” bits. It’s fun to dream.)

        August 8, 2013 at 8:02 pm

  12. rosemon

    Would you count Tahno’s “come-on” to Korra in episode 5 as an “acknowledgement” of her gender (even though it’s not a good one)?
    Anyway, if you think the writing in Rebel Spirit is bad, the writing in Erica David’s Korra novelizations is even worse:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=lXkP1jbFkAsC&printsec=frontcover&dq=korra&hl=en&sa=X&ei=mEEEUubMGfTI4AOe3IC4BQ&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=korra&f=false

    http://korraman.tumblr.com/post/55048352512/excerpts-from-the-legend-of-korra-novelization-part-2

    She takes liberties by making the characters even more unlikeable (Pema, Korra, Amon, even Bolin) than in the show, or whitewashing certain events.

    August 8, 2013 at 9:12 pm

  13. JMR

    I don’t know why but it won’t let me reply directly to your last post, so I’ll do it here.

    I think the reason the dialogue is so clunky is that they’re falling into the trap of trying to do way too much all at once again. We introduce, what, five or six named characters in this episode? We also set up Mako as a cop, the new relationship dynamic between him and Korra (*shudder*), Asami as President of Future Industries, spirits attacking people, the uncle finding the south’s lack of faith disturbing, and Korra as fully realized Avatar (*double shudder*). All that and probably more I’m not remembering in the space of ~22 minutes. Because of this, all the dialogue is turned into stilted exposition to try to tell about all this stuff that’s going on all the same time instead of introducing things at a slower and more naturally and showing us.

    In comparison, episode one of A:TLA’s second season only focused on what had happened last season enough to allow us to get our basic bearings again. After that, it’s allowed to tell it’s own story, and one of the more interesting ones of the show, I might add. It allows things like introducing Toph to take place later so that the season can develop at a more digestible pace. In LoK land, however, the breakneck pace returns and we have to do everything NOW NOW NOW. It’s why I didn’t like the spirit attack scene. There’s no build up, no tension, and so I can’t put out of my mind that this is the first episode and so obviously nothing serious is going to go down. I know ultimately everything will turn out alright because it has to due to the fact that we still have a whole season to go.

    I can’t speak much for whether your dream will turn out prophetic or not, but it did remind me of a great YA series I read as a kid called The Bartimaeus Trilogy. In the series, an alternate history Earth is dominated by “magicians” who don’t actually do magic themselves but instead summon spirits to do it for them. At one point some of the magicians realize that they can summon the spirits directly into themselves and use the spirit’s powers to do magic of their own. Eventually the spirits (who hate the magicians for enslaving them) reveal that they have the power to completely overwhelm the magicians and possess them and chaos ensues as they run about alternate London blowing people up with magic and such. Those were good books.

    August 8, 2013 at 10:59 pm

  14. rosemon

    http://www.wired.com/underwire/2013/08/legend-korra-webisode-mako-bolin/

    Man, they somehow didn’t have the time to put this backstory in the show itself, so they put the brothers’ younger days in three extra shorts!? Wouldn’t it be better if this was given to us in spades in episode 3?

    August 9, 2013 at 9:29 am

  15. Ok, I kinda agree with you about her not being a strong female character— Kinda, but you cannot forget the fact that she is a Teenager girl who has been pretty much locked up in an ice fort most of her life. So her going to Republic city is pretty much her facing reality. She even said that she has had stuff given to her all her life, that she never really need money before (This was when they needed money to enter into the Pro-Bending finals or whatever and Bolin asks if she might have a secret Avatar bank overflowing with money). So No she’s not a STRONG female character, but that’s only because she’s still learning! You cannot really bash her and compare her to Asami and Lin Bei Fong. Those two females have experience on their side, they KNOW reality. Korra was sheltered most of her life and they didn’t even want her to come to Republic city at first. & The fact that she’s a teenager makes it worse. Teenagers are insecure about EVERYTHING. They want to feel this sense of belonging somewhere and all that other stuff. As they mature, then they realize their place in society and who they are as a person. Before she came to Republic city, I’m pretty sure there weren’t any boys her age there so boys weren’t an issue or on her mind back then.

    *Sigh* My point is:
    Give Korra a chance! You make it sound like she’s a terrible, emotional wreck who has no complete inner strength at all. For example, I’m pretty sure it took some strength for her to tell Mako that Asami is going to need him and whatnot after thy found the huge factory under Asami’s mansion. It’s kind of like “If you love something, let it go.” type of thing. So Korra is learning. Just don’t forget: 1. She’s pretty much now experiencing the harsh realities of life. (She was sheltered most of her life) & 2. She’s a teenager trying to find out who she really is.

    P.s- The whole Mako being a jerk thing… Yeeaaa… He might be but I think that’s just the stress of trying to always look out for his brother, handle the finical issues, and trying to keep a steady job (if you can recall him coming home saying he’s found this new job at the power plant that has good pay. Hence, hinting at my ‘trying to keep a steady job’ point & yes this was the same episode where Bolin wasn’t home at the time and Mako bought his little bro his favorite dumplings.)

    August 17, 2013 at 2:39 am

    • Andrew

      I think you’re sorta missing something. Few people are objecting to flawed characters on principle, but in this story, pretty much nobody reacts realistically to Korra and Mako. This is what makes too much of what happens in this show feel like annoying pandering to teenagers. Mako and Korra aren’t bad characters on paper, but the execution is pretty awful. Not to mention, they both had weak voice acting, and even though the drawings were attractive, for some reason the “animation” acting really falls flat.

      August 18, 2013 at 3:25 pm

      • Hmm, so it’s not really the characters. I think I see what you’re saying so it’s the way the story writers let those two characters interact on the show with others. It’s a plot/story flaw that makes them seem bad and on top of that, their voice actors aren’t all that great :/ I understand your point of view. Maybe it can improve this season? I hope it does… It seems as if characters are taking on more responsibility and whatnot (Makos a cop now & Asami taking over her fathers business) but I’m not going to give up on the show yet, I’m still going to hope it gets better.
        & in reply to your other comment, I think she should be more emotionally stable now considering the fact that she has some experience, is the full-blown Avatar, and seems to connect more easily with her Avatar State. But in general 90% of female teenagers have self esteem issues, but yea maybe hearing about it all the time can get annoying. & I wouldn’t say Korra was privileged.. That’s not the best word to use because it is not like she asked to be the Avatar, the responsibility was… I guess, given to her. But I wouldn’t use the word privileged, because being the only that can save the world is very stressful :/

        August 18, 2013 at 5:45 pm

      • @ KorraTheeMaverick:

        In a way, I kind of envy you. You’re still referring to Korra as if she’s a real person worth caring about and who may improve in the next season. For me, Korra no longer registers as anything but a cypher and an excuse for whatever creators DiMartino and Konietzko want to indulge in and explore in their unstable fantasy world. As such, I have no interest in Korra as a “character,” let along a “strong female” one. I have no interest in Book Two, for that matter.

        @) Andrew:

        1) I agree with you about the terrible execution of these potentially neat characters, and about how tired we are of typical female vulnerability as it’s portrayed in most fictions.

        2) That said, I’ll disagree with on the voice acting, at least as far as Mako is concerned. I think David Faustino did a fine job with the role–particularly at the start of the series–even if the script did him no favors. Janet Varney (the voice of Korra), on the other hand, is completely bland and replaceable. I still think they should have gotten someone with a stronger vocal presence, like Cree Summer.

        3) I’m glad you mentioned the animation acting. I’m currently working on my first post for my animation blog, which will deal directly with the acting in Korra. There were some strong instances of acting in the series, but it was all for naught.

        August 28, 2013 at 1:51 pm

  16. Andrew

    On the other hand, maybe a huge portion of why Korra’s emotional vulnerability falls flat is because most modern tropes on female vulnerability period are becoming trite and by the numbers? Maybe as a culture, we’re just kinda sick of narratives about the neuroses/self esteem issues of privileged teenage girls.

    August 18, 2013 at 4:31 pm

  17. rosemon

    I’m confused, Mr. Turner, you said that Asami was “passive-agreesive” in the series finale, and said she wasn’t strong. And now you say she was strong in this video?

    August 19, 2013 at 9:52 am

    • When did I say that? I may have changed my mind since then, but tell me when I said it so I’ll know the context.

      August 28, 2013 at 1:51 pm

  18. rosemon

    You said so in your quick first impressions of the Korra finale, which was way before you re-watched the series and began making videos.

    August 28, 2013 at 5:40 pm

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