Because fans should be critical, too


Announcement: New Retrospective Will be Up by Wednesday

Promises, promises. I’m honestly thinking of abandoning the idea of these self-imposed, frequently missed deadlines altogether. On second, I won’t do that, because how else will I learn to discipline myself?

In any case, I want the “Winter Solstice” retrospective up by Wednesday, followed by “And the Winner Is…” on Saturday. Then after that, the next Avatar reviews–which will encompass four episodes–will take two weeks to do a write-up on. (From now on, the general aim will be one week for one to two episodes, two weeks for three to four.)

So I haven’t given up, even if “And the Winner Is…” was, admittedly, a bit demoralizing. Suffice it to say, it’s no longer the shining beacon of competence within the ruins of Korra that I once felt it was. Aw well.

Announcement: Next Retrospective Delayed Until Next Saturday

My retrospective review for the “Winter Solstice” episodes of Avatar: the Last Airbender won’t be posted until next Saturday. By then I’ll have actually had the time and energy to work on it. This week has been crazy busy, culminating on Saturday with the wedding of a good friend of mine. It’s out of state, so I’ll be away for the entire weekend. Once I get back, I can resume my work here. I was hoping I could get this one done in the midst of all this, but it just wasn’t working out. I’d rather put it off and give it the proper due than try and rush this thing (especially for these episodes, two of the best in Book One and in the entire series).

Speaking of proper due, I haven’t been true to my word in responding to my commenters  on the days I established. I swear I read all of them, and they’ve all been insightful in one way or another. For instance, latenightscribe’s last few comments taught me all about head writer Aaron Ehasz’s ideas for the Book Four that never happened because of the production of the live-action trilogy (that also never happened) , and how “shipping” created rifts in the writers’ room. The behind-the-scenes drama of Avatar and Korra is becoming just as interesting–if not more so–as the series themselves. I may write something on this in a post separate from the retrospective when I have the time.

For now, sit tight and I’ll be back next week with the retrospective on the two-part “Winter Solstice.” All I’ll say about them now is that they reminded me just how wonderful Avatar really was. This retrospective would not be nearly as tolerable if I had to watch Avatar and especially Korra straight through on their own. Even a terrible episode of Avatar is more inspiring and forward-thinking than any episode of Korra past Book One, so I’ll gladly sit through Korra every other week if it’s means watching Avatar again.

Announcement: Next Retro Review Pushed Back One Week; Research and Responses

The next Retrospective review is getting pushed back to next Saturday, April 29th. I won’t bother you all with the details, but let’s just say that a few days back, I experienced a “debilitating relapse” that all but wrecked my mental faculties for the rest of the week. I’ll be back on track by Sunday, by which point I’ll recommence with the Retrospective and the research.

Speaking of research, I want to say thank you to everyone who sends me links to interesting interviews or articles on Avatar and Korra. I’ll be adding them to the Research Hub. I also need to get better with responding to any and all comments I get, so I’m going to reserve Wednesday and Saturday as the days I respond to all new comments. We’ll see if that works out better.

In general, I want to thank everyone who’s been with me on this long, crazy ride to review Avatar and Korra (AGAIN). This entire process is always fun and educational for me, especially seeing what other folks feel and think about these two shows. To have created two shows so rich with ideas and intrigue is no small feat, and whatever my qualms with the quality and execution of either show, DiMartino and Konietzko deserve a good deal of praise and respect.

Thanks again for all the love and support. Have fun, be safe, and choose life!

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.

Announcement: New Page for Research Material

While I have no delusions of this re-vamped Avatar: the Last Airbender retrospective becoming some kind of professional thing (i.e., no MLA citations), as I’m amassing all of these articles and interviews, I figure it would be a good idea to create a specific spot on this blog where it can all be collected and viewed for easy reference, by myself and anyone interested who’s interested. There is a lot of great stuff out there and more seems to pop up every other week (just two weeks ago, Nick Animation’s Youtube channel posted an interview of co-creator Bryan Konietzko and co-composer Jeremy Zuckerman discussing the music of Avatar and The Legend of Korra).

Hopefully, if time allows, this new page will be implemented by the end of this week, and all this great material can slowly be compiled onto it. Who knows, maybe some people would like to contribute to the reference pool with interesting articles and/or interviews they’ve come across themselves. Rosemont, a long-time follower, frequently links me interesting articles and posts relevant to Avatar and animation in general (including just recently linking an article on the declining quality of Disney animated features up to Moana).

In the meantime, I’m busy with this and other projects (and my day job, ugh). So stay tuned and thanks once again for your patience. And Happy Valentine’s Day!

…But I’ll Be Back (Again)

My God, it’s really been over ten months since my last post!

What could I have possibly been doing all that time that didn’t involve updating this blog on a regular—if not frequent—basis? Has life finally gotten the better of me so that I can’t see the use in yet another re-evaluation of Avatar: the Last Airbender and/or The Legend of Korra (especially when so many others out there have taken that burden upon themselves)? Is my mental health such an issue that I’d rather wait until I had it under complete control than continue writing out of fear that the blog would de-rail into another emotional train wreck?

Or did my enthusiasm for Avatar simply fade away as I’ve gotten older and grown more accountable to my responsibilities as an adult?

To that last question, the answer is absolutely not. If anything, my appreciate for Avatar—as well as my relative disdain for Korra—continues to grow as time goes on. As an animation lover and a sucker for plain old good storytelling in any medium, Avatar has thoroughly secured its place in my heart and imagination.

I never planned to be away from this blog for so long (let alone without warning or without any updates on my state of mind or when I’d be back), and all I can do is apologize to those who remained loyal and checked up on this blog every now and then for something new. My negligence is inexcusable, especially since I continue to receive new comments and messages every month.

On the plus side, however, these past ten relatively Avatar-free months may have given me the proper distance and clarity needed to give this retrospective idea another shot. That said, it won’t be a continuation of the retrospective I’d already started. No, I’ll have to start from scratch again, from episode one, with current insights and citations.

However, since starting from the beginning won’t necessarily mean on a weekly, episode-to-episode basis. I’m not certain what my schedule will be (or if there’ll even be a schedule), but I have an idea for the format: this time, instead of going in strict chronological order from Avatar to Korra, I’ll simply review them both at the same time, starting with the two-part premieres of both series and ending with their respective multi-part finales. Of course, this parallel reviewing style won’t yield perfect results, since Avatar contains sixty-one total episodes, while Korra has fifty-two. However, with a little maneuvering, this could work pretty well, especially if, like me, you’re privy to the idea that Avatar only got better as it went along, while Korra only got worse. In that respect, such parallel reviewing could be extremely illuminating.

Don’t expect to see any of this to take root until the beginning of 2017. As of now, this is the only project I’ll have in the foreseeable future (that Frozen project, for instance, has been put on the back burner). In the meantime, I’ll be doing as much preliminary work as I can, including gathering and listening to/reading interviews, any behind-the-scenes stuff I can find, notable opinions from other Avatar writers, etc.,etc.

This time we’ll get it right. No question.

Announcement: Another Late Review, Konietzko’s Upcoming Graphic Novel

I had a minor incident occur during the holiday weekend, so I’m a bit behind schedule. The next retrospective review (“The Waterbending Scroll”) won’t be ready until Wednesday, July 8th.

In the mean time, Avatar and Korra co-creator Bryan Konietzko is working on a graphic novel called Threadworlds that won’t be released until 2017. He gave Entertainment Weekly a little interview about it. The one interesting fact in this piece (I say one because, frankly, Konietzko has never been the most interest interviewee) is that, at the peak of Korra‘s production, they were producing thirty episodes at a time. That certainly explains a lot about the waning quality of that series since Book Two, and much of the blame has to go to Nickelodeon for burdening them with such a heavy workload. I’m very interested to see how Threadworlds turns out, especially since this time it’s the result of a singular vision. Good luck, Mr. Konietzko!

– Marshall Turner