Because fans should be critical, too

Archive for August, 2014

I’m Feeling Better Now, So Let’s Actually Talk About Book Three

First of all, I want to apologize for my last post. It was not written under the best of circumstances. The past week of work was extremely stressful thanks to college move-in week. I’d also been having an existential crisis, particularly regarding my last year of school and what I was going to do once it was over. That wouldn’t have been so bad, but I just had to get hit with the heavy stuff during the weekend. If anything, that should tell you that my depressive state of mind at the time had more to do with my conclusions on Book Three of The Legend of Korra than the show itself did.

But I wanted to be timely about it. I had to write something about Book Three and its finale while it was still fresh in people’s minds. If that meant binging on the last eight episodes I hadn’t seen yet before another long, long shift at work, so be it. I’d rather be a day behind than a week.

Given the circumstances, though, I should have waited a week, or at least a few days. I was in no proper position to write about anything, let alone a series whose quality fluctuates more drastically than my mood. But write I did, and the results weren’t just embarrassing, but downright unprofessional. Whatever point I was trying to make was definitely obscured by my cloudy mental state. I sincerely apologize, and will work hard not to have it happen again.

Now that I’m a little more clear-headed, let’s talk about Book Three.

For a lot of people, this season was a triumphant return to form for creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. Some of you have even said it matches Avatar: the Last Airbender in terms of quality. Some still have bold enough to say it surpasses it! Some have been disappointed, too, saying that it was just another lackluster season. Pretty much everyone agrees, though, that it’s better than Book Two (which, admittedly, isn’t saying much: they could have re-run Book One slowed down and backwards and it would’ve been better than Book Two).

I’m a bit ambivalent on this one, even though there’s actually a lot to like. The storyline and main villain were much more intriguing than last time. While Zaheer could have been more memorable (he’s played by Henry Rollins, for Christ’ sake!), he’s still a formidable opponent: a devout Airbending student convinced of his own intellectual and moral superiority, and believing that true freedom was total chaos. I liked returning to Ba Sing Se, and then seeing it destroyed by the orderless populace. I liked Bolin’s issues with Metalbending, and how it turned out he was actually just a Lavabender all along. I liked the increasing friendliness between Korra and Asami, especially now that they’re no longer after the same man (or any man, for that matter, which is something else I highly approve of). I liked the tension and resolve between Lin Bei Fong and her sister Suiyin. From time to time, especially near the end, the expert mixing of traditional animation and CG animation made for some thrilling visuals.

All these positives, and Book Three was still something of a disappointment. There were a lot of improvements since the first two seasons, but they never fixed what I consider the single most glaring flaw of the entire enterprise: Korra.

After three seasons, I’ve yet to be convinced that Korra is worthy of my sympathy, let alone worthy of being considered a living breathing character with the capacity for independent thought and feelings. I felt this way about Aang, too, so I’m starting to suspect that I just don’t like the way DiMartino and Konietzko handle their title characters. For every moment in which either Aang or Korra displays genuine humanity, there are about five more where their characters seem unfocused and dictated by the needs of the plot. Perhaps the problem is that their personalities are rarely challenged by the obstacles and situations presented by the narrative (as they should be in any worthy fiction). Just how often has Korra’s abrasive and questionable behavior been rewarded rather than punished?

In Book Two, Korra threatens the life of a judge. Sure, it was to find out that the court case against her father was rigged in Unalaq’s favor. Honestly, the problem is not what Korra did; it’s that she gets away with it without any lasting consequences (except progressing the plot, of course). This girl committed a felony in broad daylight, and they really except us to believe that that judge didn’t immediately tell the police, who then put Korra on the Water Tribe’s most wanted list, and made her appear to be a criminal in the eyes her own people? Because that would have been cool and it would have shown the most likely consequences of threatening the life of a government official. (Come on, DiMartino and Konietzko, if you want this anti-government streak of yours to have any positive effects on children, you might as well do it well.) But no, this unsavory act goes unnoticed as such. I guess sometimes heroes have to play dirty to win. (A fair enough moral for children, but again, you might as well do it well!)

To make things worse, the rest of the characters have really lost their luster after two seasons, surely a consequence of keeping them forever bound to their original, defined shtick from Book One. Tenzin gets more neurotic every season, Bolin gets more annoying, Mako gets even more boring, and the writers haven’t given Maria Bamford (the voice of Pema) anything funny to say since Book One. Why insist on casting such talented folks and not utilize what makes them so talented? (This goes back to my problem with the casting of Henry Rollins.)

At least Book Three boasts a very interesting plot, which has been more than enough to compensate for the lack of character development. As commenter JMR noted, though, this may be part of the problem. DiMartino and Konietzko have steadily made their plotlines very intellectualized and complicated each season. The overabundance of plot over the course of a thirteen-episode season surely suffocated the amount of character moments and development they used to have in the twenty-episode season of Avatar. Interestingly enough, of all the overarching plotlines in the Avatar universe, the one for Avatar is the simplest: stop the Firelord from destroying the world. Not very complex—and borderline cliché—but, as it turned out, the perfect springboard on which to develop interesting characters, explore Eastern teachings, present a few complicated moral dilemmas, and create a show for kids that was, for once, different and substantial.

Intellectually, DiMartino and Konietzko may have grown beyond Avatar, but artistically and emotionally, they haven’t, and this definitely had an effect on Korra. Their willingness to tackle tougher and more complex morality tales is admirable, but their reach barely but surely exceeds their grasp. Their ambition to explore the dark sides of humanity is suppressed by their (or the Nickelodeon Studio’s) need to cast all ambiguities away with a happy ending. It’s the same problem that many say often plagues Steven Spielberg’s more mature works (most notably in Schindler’s List).

Book Three is different, though. By the end, Korra has been in a wheelchair for two weeks with no sign of true recovery. She’s also probably in a depressive state because, as some viewers have theorized, the importance and significance of the Avatar is coming to an end. I sincerely hope this is true, because it builds on character possibilities that presented themselves in the finale of Book One (before those possibilities were shattered by the cheapest, narrative-destroying resolution possible): when the one thing you thought defined you is taken away from you, how do you go on living a meaningful life? This was the question facing Korra when Amon took away her Bending (except Airbending, naturally), and this was the question the narrative refused to answer, instead providing a flimsy Deus ex Machina, and justifying it with the notion that Korra had reached “rock bottom” and thus deserved her powers back. I’ve already elaborated on my problem with this, so I shall end this train of thought now.

But now at the end of Book Three, the problem re-emerges, the only difference being the details: if the world no longer needs an Avatar, and that’s the ideal and identity that Korra has defined herself by, what good will her existence be anymore? No Deus ex Machina to push away the question this time: instead, the last shot shows Korra with a single tear running down her face. (Perhaps this is the same shot and the same tear that Book One should have ended on.) Now I’m eager to see if the final season actually addresses this question by actually challenging Korra to find her own solution to this question rather than have the narrative give her yet another easy escape. Will Book Four be the season where Korra finally grows up? If the Avatar is rendered obsolete, will she find a reason to keep moving on? Or will DiMartino and Konietzko shoehorn another reason to restore her to her original, obnoxiously bland self?

I’m willing to find out. Whichever way it goes, it’ll finally bring a close to this discussion of whether Korra is overall a good show or not. As for now, I can say that Book Three is better than Book Two, but not Book One. Yes, Book Three is more satisfying overall, but nothing has ever matched the thrill and anticipation of watching Book One unfold (before the very end, of course). There’s not a single episode can even match the visceral excitement of an episode like “An the Winner Is…”

Wait, what am I saying? Yes there is! It’s called “Long Live the Queen.” My next post will be completely devoted to that episode!


Finally, I Watched the Rest of Book Three

There’s a moment in one of the final episodes of Book Three of The Legend of Korra that epitomizes my core problem with much of the series. Before all the fighting begins in the Northern Air Temple, there’s a touching little moment between Zaheer and P’Li, his girlfriend and a Combustion Lady, in which they essential express their love and gratitude for each other. It’s a quiet, understated moment between two of the antagonists that, in being so quiet and understated, illuminates them as actual human beings with feelings and vitality.

Then, as if to provide a parallel, there’s a moment in which the protagonists all say their farewells and expressions of love to each other before the big battle. And yet this moment between our heroes rings false next to the moment between our villains. Perhaps it’s because the music suffocates the emotions with its bombastic emotional cues (has anyone else noticed that the music by the Track Team gets louder and louder every season?). Perhaps it’s because a moment like this seems forced and redundant given that we already know the bond between each of the characters. Or perhaps it’s because, throughout the course of this season, not one of the protagonists managed to emerge with the same degree of humanity that Zaheer and P’Li capture in their little moment of love.

And that was the moment that the series—or the season, at least—ceased to be known as The Legend of Korra and instead became The Tragedy of Zaheer. Despite my belief that Henry Rollins brought little of his natural intensity and charm to the role (which may have been intentional, considering Zaheer’s extreme adherence to Airbending detachment, but then why hire Rollins in the first place?), Zaheer usurped Korra as the main character in my mind. His passion won me over, as well as his cunning: he’s like a master chess player, swiftly and constantly evaluating every move he can make to eventually dominate his opponent. Ultimately, his heart was in the right place even if his head wasn’t: one can imagine a man of his intelligence and dedication being a great leader of peace and order if he hadn’t subscribed to the notion that true freedom meant pure chaos. The rest of the season grew to be about his demise rather than about Korra and company’s victory.

That’s when I started to get depressed, because I knew just how badly Zaheer and friends were doomed to fail. But they were defeated not by the wits and will power of their enemies, but rather by the conventions and necessities of the narrative. Zaheer has to lose because he’s the villain, and not only does he have to lose, he has to act like a villain throughout much of the series so that the audience gets without a doubt that he’s a villain. This involves borderline sadistic cruelty on his part.

For example, when he, P’Li, Ghazan, and Ming-Gua give Tenzin the beating of a lifetime, the focus is strictly on Tenzin’s willingness to suffer for his cause. If the filmmakers were smart, they would have added a close-up of Zaheer with an expression in which one could read “restrained respect.” Surely someone as headstrong and reverent (in his own way) as Zaheer would have a gleam of admiration for Tenzin’s choice to keep fighting against all odds (after all, didn’t he wait out thirty years of prison without losing hope of escape?). That moment never comes, probably because such complexity would potentially rob the climatic battle between Zaheer and Korra of the catharsis that comes from seeing the evil doers go down. It’s a bit unfair to needlessly rob a character of their humanity for the sake of the plot, wouldn’t you say?

Speaking of unfair, let’s discuss the nastiness involving the death of P’Li. And let’s be honest: we all saw her death coming from miles away. We saw it coming the moment she was introduced as a Combustion Lady, and we knew her death would involve turning her own power against her. Her Combustion powers also alleviated the filmmakers from having to develop her character too much: all Avatar fans know—they just know—that anyone with those powers has to be bad. Just like in Book One, where Bloodbending automatically makes you an evil person—I’m neither refuting nor affirming this, but clearly the filmmakers are—so too does having Combustion powers. P’Li’s death was destined before we even had a chance to recognize the person she was beneath her role in the story. Not that there were many opportunities, but once she and Zaheer had their moment, I believed that what they had was real. Nothing brings out the humanity of a character more than displaying their capacity to love and to suffer (you could even say that the two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive).

I had no feelings about P’Li before this moment; I was merely counting down the episodes until she’d be dead. But once it happened, I became sad for her, because no person deserves to die, especially not as gruesomely as she does. But alas, she was merely a pawn for the story, expendable once her usefulness was over, systemically betrayed by a narrative that refused to grant her anymore than a fleeting glimpse of humanity.

Not that it was totally for naught. When Zaheer realizes that P’Li is dead, his shock immediately gives way to passive acceptance. Like the master chess player he is, he concludes that the loss of one piece, even a very powerful one, liberates him to focus on the remaining pieces. And with P’Li gone, he no longer has an earthly attachment, so he can achieve the next level of Airbending enlightenment: flying. In a way, Zaheer becomes closer to God. And that’s the tragic element of his story: for all his studying of the past Airbenders and all his mastery of the forms, it was his love for P’Li that preserved his humanity and maintained his (admittedly feeble) connection to the needs of others; she balanced his intellectual pretenses and ambitions with emotional stability. Once that was taken away from him, his emotional side was consumed by his intellectual side, which demanded that he take his Airbending training to its logical conclusion: total emotional detachment. Zaheer has gained the world and lost his soul.

And here where it gets tricky for me. The final episode presents the deciding match between Zaheer and Korra, poisoned and in the Avatar State. The battle is brilliant executed on a technical level—once again, the filmmakers show themselves very adept at mixing traditionally-animated characters into computer-generated three-dimensional backgrounds—but emotionally, it’s a stalemate. Zaheer has just lost his last bit of humanity, so it’s no longer a question whether he should be terminated with extreme prejudice. Korra, on the other hand, never amounted to an actual human being in my eyes, so I’ve never cared one way or the other whether she succeeded or not. To exacerbate the issue, she’s now in the Avatar State, which by definition is her God-state. And since Zaheer reached his God-state once P’Li died, what we’re watching is the final battle between two individuals we’ve ceased to care for beyond the fact that one represents “good” and the other “evil.”

It’s the Book Two finale all over again (but with better visual effects)!

By the end, I just didn’t care. I didn’t care that Zaheer was brought down by the new Airbender recruits. I didn’t care that Korra was barely saved from death by poison. I didn’t care that Zaheer would probably never be in another episode of Korra for the rest of the run (though he did deserve a more conclusive arc). I didn’t care that Korra was rendered handicapped by her traumatic fight. I sort of cared about and was happy for Jinora’s promotion to master Airbender. Finally, I didn’t care about Korra’s single teardrop that closes the season.

I didn’t care much for anything at that point. I just wished I was dead.

Every episode following “Long Live the Queen” wore me out. Every succeeding episode got darker and darker. The amount of suffering handed to some of these characters bordered on sadism. If this was the filmmakers’ attempt to match the dark intensity of the Book Two finale in Avatar: the Last Airbender, it was a miserable failure (especially without Avatar head writer Aaron Ehasz to provide the necessary balance).

Or maybe they were trying to match the darkness of Game of Thrones, but in a kids’ show. Maybe this is the lasting influence that The Dark Knight has plagued contemporary filmmakers (don’t tell me “Long Live the Queen” wasn’t at least partially inspired by The Dark Knight Rises). I’m pretty sure creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko are fans of Game of Thrones and other shows. (For the record, I hate Game of Thrones: its relentless, vomit-inducing, almost childish nihilism may have been tolerable in prose, but as a television show, it’s unwatchable.) I know for a fact that DiMartino loved Man of Steel, that pathetic attempt at adding grimness to a Superman movie. I’m not criticizing DiMartino and Konietzko for being influenced by any of these works, but I found the darkness in these final episodes to be uncomfortably excessive.

(Not to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the darkness in these remaining episodes was the real reason Nickelodeon pulled Korra off of television. Who wants to be depressed by an episode of Korra and then be depressed by everything else on television?)

It was this disconnect between the rigidness of the narrative and the attempt at grim realism that finally did me in. I don’t understand why it’s so difficult for me to just accept the work of these two. I’m not that hard to please, I swear! I watched the movie Get Smart the other day. You know, with Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway? I loved it! It’s one of the funniest movies ever made! You should check it out!

Sorry about that. I lost my train of thought. Writing about Korra is just as depressing as watching Korra, and I just wanted to talk about something that actually made me happy. I think the death of Robin Williams is finally hitting me. Fun fact: the day before he killed himself, I took a personality test, and guess who was one of the people the test said I was most like?

Sorry again. I’m done writing. I might be done with Korra, too. I don’t think I can stomach the disappointment of even one more season. I’m not angry, as I was with Book One and Book Two. I’m just tired. I’m tired of writing the same thing over and over again. The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. I learned that from one of Robin Williams’ stand-up bits.

Good night, friends.

Announcement: Finished Final Episode of Book Three…

…but I won’t be able to share my thoughts until later this evening. On one hand, it’s because I must go to work. On the other hand, I’m still trying to piece together my thoughts on the season. On the other other hand, I need some distance from the initial viewing experience. The end of this season left me exhausted, exhilarated, and deeply, deeply depressed. I’m still trying to figure out why. Hopefully by tonight, I’ll be able to articulate these lasting impressions.

In the mean time, I’ll really happy to see everyone discussing their own feelings on the season. Even the disagreements are civil and respectful. Keep it up, my friends! I can’t wait to join in!

Announcement: “Korra” Book Three Viewing Not Done Yet

I still have two more episodes to go. I was hoping to be done with all of them before work, but I miscalculated my chances. Therefore, I won’t be able to even start a concise and conclusive review until at least tomorrow.

The last episode had Korra bound by ropes and about to be “poisoned.” I’m excited to see what happens from here, and that only should tell you have thoroughly I’ve been enjoying these past few episodes. I wish I didn’t have to wait until tomorrow to finish the series (let alone formulate my thoughts), but such is life.

I will say this, though: “Long Live the Queen” may be the single best episode of The Legend of Korra since “And The Winner Is…”

It might even be better.

Announcement: Second Draft of “Frozen” Video Review is Finished

Draft number two of the Frozen review is complete!

One of the commentators of this blog jokingly suggested that this video review was instead turning into a documentary about the state of American animation and how nostalgia is ruining the prospects for something better. To be honest, the more I write, the more the review seems to be turning into just that. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing remains to be seen.

For now, though, I must take at least a week away from this latest draft. A little distance will more clearly reveal where there’s room for improvement. Before I begin writing again, certain measures will be taken:

– Yet another viewing of Frozen, this time perhaps with friends who can provide different opinions

– Research on a few things Frozen. So far, my analysis has only been based on what I’ve gathered from the film itself. Research could potentially make for a much more well-rounded argument. Maybe delving into “behind-the-scenes” stuff will even clarify certain aspects, including things that should have been apparent in the film itself, and maybe even things that were never clear to me thanks to my limited knowledge. Who knows. Hell, I already found a transcripted interview of co-director/screenwriter Jennifer Lee discussing the writing of the script in great detail.

– A basic re-evaluation of the structure of the entire review. Moving some sections around, adding new ones, removing pointless/redundant ones, etc., etc., etc. Business as usual.

Frankly, you could call this whole project an “obsession” and I would not be the least bit offended.

Also, I’ll be binging the rest of Book Three of The Legend of Korra tomorrow, which is when the finale will air. It’ll be interesting seeing how each episode holds up back-to-back-to-back. Hopefully this season will actually be worth it!

Now I’ve Seen Episodes Four and Five of Book Three

You know what I really want to see? I want to see a novelization of The Legend of Korra. Better yet, I want to see the graphic novel adaptation of Korra. There’s more than enough wonderful story material here that could flourish in a medium free from the Nickelodeon executives, free from the demands of children’s television entertainment, free from prejudices against animation as nothing but “kids stuff.” Sure, the joy of movement and vocal presence that animation excels in will be lost, but at least the content could be given the full exploration it deserves. (It might also solve the problem of that crappy dialogue.)

If Korra is indeed the best American animated children’s program on the Internet right now (which it is), then it’s less because it is a good show and more because it provides such a fertile ground for the imagination to roam. It’s got great ideas within it, but they’re rarely allowed to blossom within the confines of television animation for children. Is it a bad sign that some fanfictions can create more convincing portrayals of the characters than the show itself can? (Not necessarily, because the written word can delve into the psyche of individual characters in a way that moving images never could, but never let that fact excuse poor writing on the show itself.)

Thoughts such as these more or less drifted through my mind as I watched episodes four and five. They weren’t bad episodes, as far as I can remember—episode five is probably my favorite thus far—but for the most part, they were boring and unmemorable.

The only thing I can remember from episode four with crystal clear precision is the opening scene where Brother Zaheer and friends break his girlfriend out of prison. Is wasn’t as exciting as the other prison break sequences, but it still held my attention. I was also genuinely shocked when Brother Zaheer revealed himself in episode five before immobilizing Kya and escaping.

I also clearly remember the hostility between Lin Bei Fong and her sister, Suyin. I was certainly not expecting an actual emotional response to much of Book Three, but the ending of episode five took me by surprise. Lin’s cold responses to Opal, Suyin’s daughter and a new Airbender, and Opal’s tearful reactions were bad enough. But to see Lin tear up once Korra left and after telling her she was a bitter lady who would never change? That was brutal! And that was the end of the episode! Now I want to know more about both Brother Zaheer and the Bei Fongs.

These were the only things that really resonated with me, so I’m having a difficult time remembering anything else. I remember that Korra and company helped the captive Airbenders escape from the Earth Queen’s clutches. I remember Suyin’s and Lin’s back stories. I remember Bolin performing a joke told much better in The Lego Movie. I remember more bullshit reasons as to why Korra was isolated during her Avatar training. That’s it.

It’s not so much that I don’t remember much from these episodes so much that I have no desire to revisit them anytime soon. As much as I loved the situations with Lin and Suyin and Brother Zaheer, they only constitute the beginning and the ends of these two episodes. Everything in between was just filler to move the story along. Still, what hit home for me is just enough for me to continue watching and to see where my favorite scenarios lead to. So more fool me, as they say.

“For Kids” or “With Kids in Mind?”: Thoughts on Writing for Children

A few days, my initial angry reaction to the first episode of Book Three of The Legend of Korra was posted on The Last Airbender reddit page. While the exposure briefly raised my viewing ship (for the first time ever, I reached and surpassed the 1,000 views mark in a single day!), it predictably didn’t win me any new supporters. I only wish they could have seen my follow-up post, in which I re-evaluated that initial reaction with a more reasonable one regarding the entire three-episode premiere of Book Three. Even reading a few more entries from the entire blog (which at least a few of the newcomers might have done) would give them a better idea of where I’m coming from when it comes to Korra and Avatar: the Last Airbender.

Not that it should change any of their own feelings regarding the shows: it’s safe to assume that, if much of your Internet time is devoted to a sub-reddit of any kind, your mind is pretty much made up. Additionally, Internet havens like this generally delve a lot deeper into the mythos and infrastructure of their respective series’ universe than I personally am willing to devote time to. My concerns have always been a little closer to the surface and how Avatar and Korra function as pieces of storytelling. This is how the average viewer will see them (after getting over the initial “is this anime” phase, of course), which is why I find the execution of the stories just as important as–if not more than–the actual content. Intellectual ideas must always be presented within appropriate and imaginative storytelling if they hope to have any chance of reaching the audience.

Which brings me to this fascinating comment from the reddit page that has set my mind ablaze with contemplation for a few days now:

redditor on dialogueInterestingly, the comment does nothing to refute the second-half of my accusation, which was that the dialogue also lacked personality and invention, two qualities that can go a long way in making even the dumbest dialogue a joy to behold. Just look at Star Wars.

But moving onto the broader point: I agree that writing dialogue (and stories in general) with a younger audience in mind requires a heavier leaning towards directness and simplicity than it would be required if written strictly for adults. But “direct” does not automatically equal “obvious,” nor does “simple” automatically equal “stupid.” If anything, simpler writing requires more care and effort because the writer has to be able to suggest complexity and ambiguity in other ways, often times specific to their medium. And these complexities can be suggested within, around, and between the simplicities themselves.

It’s not the complex ideas that I’m opposed to in Korra. If anything, I’m happy that such notions about change and perspective are being given some light in a children’s show. No, I’m opposed to the way those ideas are so blatantly and insipidly presented. It would be one thing if the overarching ideas gradually took shape based on the amusing and natural interactions of the characters, but because the idea has taken precedence over the dialogue, it feels like a lecture rather than a story. Thus, potentially heartwarming scenes–such as the one where Tenzin talks his kids about what the new emergence of Airbenders means to him and to the world–are ruined by the writing’s failure to make the characters and their emotions seem real to us. Sure, I like the ideas, but as a casual viewer, I don’t want to be lectured. I’m want it to be entertained.*

Stories must resonate emotionally before they can stimulate us intellectually. What children lack in intellectual, they make up for in feelings and in imagination, and that’s precisely what anyone producing children’s entertainment should be catering to. As a kid, I distinctly remember being captivated by The Iron Giant long before I could even begin to ponder its underlying themes of death, the Cold War and its effects on America, the threat of nuclear annihilation, what makes us human, etc. No, what kept my attention was the endlessly entertaining, and eventually touching, story of the protagonist Hogarth and his friendship with the titular iron giant from space. I may not have understood the forces that shaped the story, but I understood enough for it to resonate as a kid. So upon re-watching the film as an adult, I was shocked by how mature and complex the context of this charming story between boy and machine really was. And it made the main story that much better.

This is what should be obligated of works designed for children and adults. The stories we tell kids should resonate more powerfully as they grow up and experience more of life, not fade in significance. The key is to find a balance between entertainment values and intellectual values so that the story intrigues you in the beginning and sticks with you when it’s over. The Iron Giant achieved that balance. Frozen did not, and neither does Korra. And isn’t it ironic that a show whose main conceit is bringing balance to the world doesn’t bring that kind of balance to its own story?

*Martin Scorsese once said, “For better or worse, the American filmmaker is first and foremost an entertainer.” Perhaps DiMartino and Konietzko consider themselves above such American notions, having taken their influential cues and mindsets from anime. If this is true, then the writing of Korra is as much a victim of snobbery as it is a lack of imagination.