Because fans should be critical, too

Immediate Thoughts on the Book Two Premiere of “Korra” (Yeah, I Watched It…)

  • For the whole hour, I was distracted by how stiff and limited the animation was compared to Book One. If there’s one thing I miss about Book One, it’s the animation and the variety of expressive poses found throughout. Where’s Ki-Hyun Ryu and his amazing influence on that season’s animation?
  • Both episodes felt extremely rushed and confusing, and not in the fun, Mission: Impossible (1996) way. There is so much exposition; the audience barely has time to breath and take in all the information before the next dump of expository dialogue is hurled at them.
  • Is it just me, or was Korra rather…mean in these episodes? She’s hostile to Tenzin, her father, and sometimes even Mako. Maybe if I could comprehend her emotional state, I could empathize. Unfortunately, the breakneck speed of the plot makes that rather difficult.
  • This is by far the fastest Flanderization of television characters I’ve ever witnessed. I never expected to find myself wishing Bolin would just shut up.
  • Mako is Mako. Let’s leave it at that.
  • Paraphrasing: “I thought Avatar Aang ordered the White Lotus to keep watch on me.” Yeah, I did, too. What’s all this talk about Tenzin and her father actually being the ones responsible?
  • My suspicions were confirmed: Korra’s father is just as boring as you’d expect him to be.
  • Where is Korra’s mother? Did she show up at all? Did she even get a line of dialogue? I honestly don’t remember.
  • So they introduce the notion that moving pictures is taking shape in the Avatar universe. The joke is kinda funny, but the cinephile in me wondered why they didn’t poke fun at the greatest urban legend of cinema. Would it have been too obvious?
  • You’ve got to love how Korra relinquishes herself from the subjugation of two men (Tenzin and her father) to willingly subjugate herself to another man.
  • I hate it when things in a new show/film I’m watching only remind me of better shows/films I could be watching instead. The first spirit attack reminded me of the first Kraken attack in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, and Mako’s pre-meditated one-lines reminded me of Hot Fuzz. (Then again, one line from Bolin reminded me of North, and I’d like to forget I saw that one, thank you.)
  • Aubrey Plaza may not have been the ideal choice for Eska (her comedic style, while low key, has always had some flair and liveliness to it), but otherwise, she manages to make Eska pretty funny. She’s honestly the only thing that made me laugh consistently throughout the premiere.
  • Speaking of great comedians, they’re really wasting Maria Bamford’s talent with the painfully limited role of Pema. As far as I remember, she only had one line of dialogue. It wasn’t even funny dialogue.
  • Paraphrasing: “I’m so used to being told what to do that it’s nice to have someone who actually trusts me.” Korra, go fuck yourself.
  • Korra’s father was banished for accidentally unleashing the wrath of forest spirits. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, and say that he never thought to simply turn the water back into snow (or something) because he simply couldn’t foresee the consequences of his actions. In that sense, he’s actually the most human and empathetic character in the new season thus far. So naturally Korra tells him to fuck off and leave her alone.
  • If this season doesn’t end with Korra receiving a slap or a spanking from her father, I’ll be very disappointed.

In other words, I am not very enthusiastic about the things to come in this season. Depending on how the podcast discussion goes tomorrow, I probably won’t be watching any more of Book Two.

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19 responses

  1. Ian

    What podcast exacty?

    September 13, 2013 at 10:11 pm

  2. Dman

    I completely agree with you. This premiere was really bad. I mean, I’m glad they’re in the Water Tribe (I personally think it’s the best looking nation), but the indecent animation (especially compared to book one), was really distracting. Also, where was Asami? She had ONE scene. Is she no longer part of Team Avatar after her break up with Mako? Lastly, the expositions dumps were really awful (even more so than the Tarrlok’s exposition dump from the season one finale). I mean, it wasn’t even well integrated. Me paraphrasing, Korra- “Dad you’re keeping something from me” “Yah, I am. I was banished from the Northern Water Tribe… (goes on to tell in depth flashback). Also- Korra- “We don’t have the Northern Light’s here in the South.” “Unalaq- Yah that’s because you’re spiritually unbalanced, so the spirits don’t dance in the sky and yada, yada yada. Oh, and one more thing; Unalaq’s sudden extremist mentality of destroying the Southern Water Tribe was just ridiculous. I mean, I know Bryke was going for the shock value of it, but we really couldn’t have gotten anymore buildup?

    September 13, 2013 at 11:27 pm

    • Did she really say, “We don’t have the Northern Lights here in the South”? If that’s true, that’s the most hilariously incompetent line I missed. And you’re right: the virtual absence of Asami was pretty upsetting, and Unalaq’s announcement as a villain (which, come on, we all saw coming) was just plain bizarre.

      September 14, 2013 at 12:22 am

  3. JMR

    As much as there are a few things I do like about the new episodes (Mako is less of a jerk (though I still hate how desperately they’re trying to make us like him), Korra actually apologizes for her earlier jerkdom, the uncle still seems pretty interesting), I just… I can’t stand what they’ve done to the spirits.

    The spirits in A:TLA were diverse, they represented all manner of different aspects of the natural world, they had an air of dignity about them. Even Koh, a giant centipede with a transformable face, had a certain grace to him.

    LoK’s CGI gremlins on the other hand just feel wrong. They’re manic and samey and boring, completely detached from any sense that they represent nature, or are a force of nature to be reckoned with. They give me the same feeling the mech suits did in the first season: they feel like they belong to a different show.

    Honestly, I think the weirdest thing though is that I feel just completely… flat. Like, I’m not filled with rage or anything. I just by and large don’t care. I do have to wonder how much of it is a lack of quality and how much of it is a reluctance to engage with this show after getting so badly let down by Season 1.

    September 13, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    • I agree with you about the Spirits. The ones in Avatar: the Last Airbender truly were unique and individual, and now they’re completely homogenized.

      And I felt exactly how you felt about the premiere. In fact, when I finished watching them, I had trouble just remembering all that happened. That’s how little I was invested. At least Book One got under my skin with its unfortunate implications. Hell, even the Book One premiere garnished a strong reaction out of me.

      I think that’s a testament to DiMartino and Konietzko’s integrity: their message may have been completely wrong-headed, but there was a singular vision that one could argue against. I’d be hard pressed to tell you what the Hell Book Two is even about on a basic plot level.

      September 14, 2013 at 12:35 am

      • Amonymous

        its a good thing there’ll be more kinds of spirits later on in the season (as far as i can tell from the trailers)

        September 16, 2013 at 5:13 am

  4. rosemon

    I’m seeing lots of people on tumblr saying that they don’t care anymore either (at least people that aren’t “Avatards” or “avatwihards-those who are in it for Makorra who are as bad as twilight fangirls”). I completely agree about the spirit designs, they look like generic RPG monsters, like something from Final Fantasy or Kingdom Hearts. I really think you shouldn’t do this to yourself, watching book 2, thought people have mainly been live-streaming it. However, the only thing I liked was the scene with Jinora looking at her granpa’s statue and all the others. No dialogue and all imagery, really nice and nothing like the rest of the episodes. There is a serious downgrade in the animation, probably because Mir wanted to focus on the Boondocks. Do you think ratings might drop? And have the videos been delayed a bit? I see that school has already started…

    September 13, 2013 at 11:53 pm

    • Can you link a few of these tumblr views? I’d being interested in seeing their thoughts.

      I think I may call it quits for Korra. I’m going to finish the Korranalysis, though: it may not be completely relevant anymore, but I’d hate to leave it incomplete. And yeah, school is delaying the videos for a little while. They will be done.

      As for the ratings…well, I think you got it right: anyone who’s not an “Avatard” will probably write the show off as a total, impenetrable bore. The minimal pleasures that came with Book One (that is, the pleasures that convinced me to not only buy the art book, but the DVD on the cheap) are completely gone.

      September 14, 2013 at 12:52 am

      • JMR

        See, I kind of wish I could just leave LoK behind. The problem is I love A:TLA too much. Jeebus, I’ve probably watched that show at least eight times. That means that as much as season 1 was a horrible letdown, gods do I want to love this show. It’s really a testament to just how whacked out the first season was that someone like me, someone who should have been an absurdly easy sell, could be turned into one of it’s more vocal critics.

        Because of my love for it’s predecessor, I’m trying an experiment. I want to try to watch Season 2 as if Season 1 just doesn’t exist. I want to try as best I can to give this show a clean slate and start over. It’s not that I necessarily want to forget the things I hate about season 1, particularly the political bullshit, but ultimately I need to come to terms with the fact that I’m just never going to enjoy the first season. It pushes all the wrong buttons and rubs me all the wrong ways, and no amount of whining on the internet is going to change that.

        In the end, believe it or not, I still see potential in this show, and I don’t want to miss what could be perfectly fine show because I’m too stubborn to give it a second chance.

        September 14, 2013 at 12:12 pm

      • I understand your position, even if I don’t agree completely. I certainly love The Simpsons, but my DVD collection isn’t going beyond season eight when it’s finished. And King Crimson may be the band that inspires me the most, but I can count on one hand how many of their albums are worth owning (and they’d been making music for thirty years!). Still, it’s a testament to their former greatness that I gave even their lesser works a shot or two before giving up.

        And seeing as I have no real choice in the matter, I’ll see if Book Two gets any better along with you. You’re certainly right that the this show is bursting with potential. I really wish I could be a writer on their staff and be given full reign with these characters and situations. They really don’t know what they had here.

        September 18, 2013 at 8:30 pm

  5. rosemon

    Writingfail.tumblr.com
    Angerfish.tumblr.com/tagged/lok-whining
    Rhazade-waterbender.tumblr.com/tagged/legend-of-korra

    These are the main ones. If nothing else, your videos will be relevant for these folks, as they always love a good critique of this show (and this show is ripe for critique, don’t get me wrong).

    September 14, 2013 at 10:05 am

  6. OldGregg

    How did you feel about the Eska/Bolin relationship? I honestly think that the implications of it are horrible. I mean if Eska was a male and Bolin a female, people would be outraged at the abusive undertones of it. Not only is it another way for Bryke to shit on Bolin’s character, but it’s an even more unhealthy relationship than Mako/Korra. God, I just can’t believe how far Bryke has fallen since A:TLA.

    September 15, 2013 at 2:38 am

    • I agree that the implications are, on the face of it, pretty brutal. But at the same time, I think P.J. Byrne and Aubrey Plaza are gifted enough comedians that they make the situation funny in spite of the odds. If only the animation acting was good enough to support that claim, then I’d wholeheartedly say this was my favorite aspect of the entire premiere.

      Then again, maybe I’m just really hopeful that their arc will end with Bolin being a man and, recognizing how dreadful the relationship is, breaking the whole thing off. I can imagine Byrne doing something similar to what Ed Helms did at the end of The Hangover (without the expletives, of course).

      September 18, 2013 at 8:40 pm

  7. Alan

    I feel like this time, they tried way too hard to be funny. I think that they succeeded for most of it, but it sometimes fell flat and I only laughed out loud for one. Also, although the animation does seem rushed IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR IT, the drawings are still very beautiful and gorgeous to look at. I would like it if you at least gave the good things about the episode too, because it wasn’t all that bad. The spirit designs were very generic and I do think that they introduced way too many characters in such little time. But, I think the show does introduce an interesting plot of a civil war. It could still be very good if they do it right.

    September 15, 2013 at 9:04 am

    • That’s just the thing. The drawings are beautiful individually. The problem is when they’re set in motion (read: when they’re animated), it doesn’t work nearly as well. I’d probably even be more forgiven of the generic spirit designs if their movements are more inspired. As it is, the entire production just feels like a run-of-the-mill anime, which is not how Book One felt at all.

      As the humor, yes, they tried much too hard and too frequently. But the civil war aspect might be interesting, as you said, so we’ll see.

      September 18, 2013 at 8:44 pm

  8. Amonymous

    dude come on you keep saying you’ve given up on this show, just admit it, you’re gonna watch every single episode no matter how bad it gets

    September 15, 2013 at 11:02 pm

    • Well, I want to continue podcasting with the people at AvatarLegends.net, and if I have to watch Book Two to do it, I’m game.

      September 18, 2013 at 8:45 pm

  9. About the animation, the animation studio that did the animation for last season will return in episode 7 and continue for the rest of the series; so if you don’t like the current animation that will change in the future.

    September 24, 2013 at 7:41 pm

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