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.
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!
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.
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
As suggested, I’m going back onto a set schedule so that I can get each episode review out in a timely fashion. I’ll do my best to make sure there is a new episode review every three days (if it’s a two-parter, it will take five days). If for some reason I fall behind schedule or miss a day due to some unforeseeable complication or personal problems, I’ll let you know as soon as I can. Otherwise, this review schedule is in effect starting yesterday.
Over the past few days, I’ve been contemplating whether the Retrospective reviews should be placed on a whole new blog entirely and, on the other hand, whether I should completely get rid of the older episodes reviews. As I read through those old reviews, it’s rather painful to see how limited and hyper-subjective they were, and how little they might contribute to anyone else’s enjoyment and appreciation of Avatar. The Retrospective should rectify this, but that means the older reviews will be utterly useless except as archive material. Should I leave them be, move the new reviews to a new blog, or get rid of the old reviews entirely? Any feedback on this matter would be much appreciated.
– Marshall Turner
In light of the increased workload that has plagued me since the last post, I’ve been very neglectful of this blog over the past few months. That wouldn’t have been so bad, except that I promised to start the Avatar: the Last Airbender retrospective way back in February. That was a terrible lapse in judgment on my part, and I apologize to everyone still around for my absence.
Here’s the deal: I won’t be able to devote much attention to this blog again until May. By that point, all my priorities will have been straightened out, my classes finished, and my ultimate destiny decided. However, I’d rather not keep this blog so empty as I have these last few months, so I’ll want to post something to bind the time. I’m not sure what, though.
Lately, I’ve been absorbing a lot of animated features, series, and shorts through Netflix, the school library, and my own collection. If you’d all like, I can begin posting a few non-Avatar cartoon articles on this blog and then transfer them to the fabled animation blog when I have the time. They wouldn’t be too long or intricate (especially compared to the Avatar episode reviews), but it would be something. If anything, it would help me exercise my writing abilities in preparation for the heavy duty stuff later on. Let’s see where this goes.
Thank you all for your patience and support. Until next time!
– Marshall Turner
If I’ve devoted less time to this blog then usual, it’s both because the end of The Legend of Korra has left me relatively unmotivated, and because my work schedule just became more hectic than I could have previously imagined. The next four months I will be preoccupied with several different projects, most of which have superseded the blog in significance.
That’s not to say I haven’t been working on future writings, the pending animation blog, and the upcoming Avatar: the Last Airbender and Korra retrospective (which will start in February). I simply have to fit them into my overall schedule to make it work. If anything, this could improve my writing, since every word and second will count much more this time around.
So bear with me a little longer, guys. I’m still here, just insanely busy and doing the best I can.
– Marshall Turner