Because fans should be critical, too

Announcement: Schedule for Dual Retrospective Complete

For the past few days, I’ve combed through the episode lists of Avatar: the Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra to figure out a way to review them side-by-side while taking into account the difference in their number of episodes (Avatar has a total of sixty-one episodes, while Korra has fifty-two). The schedule I’ve devised perhaps doesn’t completely rectify this problem, and yet somehow that may work in this retrospective’s favor. We shall see.

So here’s the plan: starting next Saturday, I will alternate between reviewing Avatar and Korra. The first week will focus on Avatar, the second on Korra, then on Avatar, then on Korra, etc., etc. What episodes I review and how many of them will vary as the weeks go by, especially since I want to conclude both series at the same. Depending on how significant the individual episode is, it will either receive its own weekly review, or be lumped together with one or two or even three other episodes. In other words, I will no longer be giving each and every episode its own personal write-up for a few reasons. One, it’s too arbitrary and time-consuming, especially if I want to post once a week. Two, I’ve already done that Avatar, and absolutely refuse to do the same for Korra. Three, this isn’t about ranking each episode so much as making note of the emotional high points and low points of each series as they progress. And fourth, and pettiest of all, so much of Korra past Book One is such a blurry mess in terms of quality that attempting to dissect each episode on its own terms is all but impossible.

And this all comes back to the general thesis I had in mind for both series: Avatar, even when it wavers in quality, manages to overcome to the inherit limitations of television animation and maintain a strong and specific emotional core because of its unified narrative structure and unique vision, while Korra ultimately falls apart because its narrative is so fragmented and shaped by forces and values that don’t grow organically from within but rather are imposed from the outside (hence why Korra and Asami’s surprise union at the series’ finale, while cathartic for some audience members, makes little to no sense from a narrative standpoint).

It will be interesting to see how this develops from week to week, and I definitely hope to get more than a few different voices in on this discussion. I definitely can’t wait to start watching Avatar again, even if means sitting through Korra one more time. Let’s do this!

P.S. I’ve finally created the Research Hub page for all Avatar/Korra interviews, articles, and the like. Expect more to come.

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4 responses

  1. Ian

    Can’t wait! Definitely looking forward to this!

    So two things that might help you in your rewatches is to maybe listen to the few commentaries that Mike and Bryan and the crew did for Avatar, as I think theres a lot of interesting information in most of them, especially in regards to the ones with Aaron Ehasz, of which I think there are few.

    The second thing I would encourage paying attention is notice how ALIVE Avatar: The Last Airbender is. Almost always something is moving, whether it be clothing, people, or the most important one, Momo. Watch. Momo. He is almost always doing something and as Ive rewatched the show I’ve noticed just how much subconsciously I think Momo makes the viewer get sucked into the show. He is almost always doing something in the background, and hes actually a useful part of the show, even helping out the characters in their dire moments like in the Waterbending Scroll or the Drill.

    Maybe I’m over-exaggerating but there is something so alive about Avatar that is so lacking in Korra, where the only thing really moving is whoever is the forefront of the scene. Otherwise they may as well be on a stage set as far as it feeling like a world.

    Just my thoughts. Thanks for the Update Marshall!

    March 18, 2017 at 4:32 pm

    • I will definitely be listening to all the commentaries I can get my hands on (being the antiquated curmudgeon that I am, I only have a DVD player, so no Blu-ray commentary for every episode of Korra in the foreseeable future). The Dong Bu Feng tumblr will be of some assistance in that regard, but I should really invest in upgrading my gear.

      You’re absolutely right about how alive Avatar is compared to Korra, at least Books Two through Four. Book One, for my money, is still the pinnacle of what can be achieved in television animation on this side of the Pacific, reaching almost Gainax levels of technical brilliance. Of course, technical brilliance don’t automatically equal soul, which Avatar has in spades and Korra only has once in a blue moon. Momo is a fantastic example, especially compared to Pabu, who only exists because of how successful Momo was. I can’t remember a single time that Pabu was anything but cute. Momo, on the other hand, was not only extremely agile and handy, but capable of expressing a wide range of emotions, making him a bottomless pit of background entertainment. (I’m guessing this has to due with the fact that Momo’s behavior was largely inspired by that of cats, those mischievous and mystifying rascals. Whatever animals inspired Pabu clearly didn’t hype up the writers and the animators as thoroughly as cats can.) Momo could very well be the heart of Avatar.

      Sadly, comparing much of Korra to a stage play is all too apt. I dread watching Books Two through Four for much of that reason. Thank God I’ll be watching Avatar alongside it.

      March 22, 2017 at 3:23 pm

  2. Rosemont

    It’s great to hear back from you as usual, I cannot wait to see your new content soon. In the meantime, I’ve found something recent for your Hub Page about David Faustino and his character Mako:

    http://www.hypable.com/septbender-the-legend-of-korra-david-faustino-exclusive-interview/

    March 18, 2017 at 10:39 pm

  3. Rosemont

    Not related to Korra but I found an article about why Zootopia’ core premise falls apart

    http://www.cracked.com/blog/why-talking-animals-are-bad-way-to-talk-about-racism/

    The gist is that it started as a cute animal story first, and a racism allegory second, muddling up its message and unintentionally throwing out all sorts of bad implications. I’d say that if Korra began first as a mere action story first, and a political allegory second, it could have the same kind of core problem, albeit to a larger extent in execution.

    March 23, 2017 at 2:24 pm

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