Airspeed’s Editorials – Korra Book 1 in Review
So here is my second editorial. My first one about the comics was received pretty well so I will continue. Lets get straight into the topic for this post.
Korra Book 1 in Review
I suppose I should begin with why I chose this topic. I chose last weeks topic because I really felt the comics were not getting the praise or attention they deserve. I chose this topic for a similar reason, I feel Korra is, too often, criticised heavily for not really doing that much wrong. I see so many points brought up about how bad Korra is on places like tumblr, but rarely do I see people there talk about how good Korra book 1 was. On the whole I think Book 1 was received very well, but when you actually look at people’s general opinions on the Book it is on the whole quite negative. There are people out there who hate on Korra a lot, for some very unfair reasons in my opinion. So in this post my aim is not to tell you all that you should not criticise the show, but rather to put Korra Book 1 in perspective and really look at it from a balanced view point.
I have a lot of little points I want to cover and no idea how to really structure this post so I will start with the first point to pop into my head. Nostalgia over Avatar The Last Airbender has made many people have a negative view on Korra. I have said it since Korra was first announced that we would eventually get to the stage where the Avatar fandom has “Geewunners” (A term that comes from Transformers, where some transformers fans dislike everything except G1 transformers and are unwilling to be open to anything else), when I look on tumblr now I see this in abundance. People’s opinions on Korra based completely on the involvement of the ATLA characters and a completely closed mind to the new Korra characters.
I grew up with ATLA too, but I have always said that Korra has the potential to eclipse the original show. Especially after Book 1 and now that we know a lot more about Book 2 Spirits. So I do find it very difficult to read many of these reviews where everything in Korra is referenced to something ATLA did better, for me that is the exact wrong way to view and analyse Korra as a show. Korra and ATLA are very different shows in terms of story and structure, not to mention it is judging one show on 12 of its 52 episodes and the other on its full run of 61. Korra by the end will be 4 books that each told their own almost contained story, with some plot points and character development being the ongoing things between Books. ATLA was one big story told over 3 Books. Outside of direct references from one show to another I rarely if ever compared the two shows since they were so different. So I do really not agree at all when I see people bash Korra in an effort to show that ATLA is better, both shows are great and great because they are different to each other. It is for this reason that when I hear people criticise the finale of Book 1 Air by saying “Korra getting her bending back was too quick, she should have spent the next 3 books relearning the other elements”,I say “why not just rewatch ATLA to see someone learning Fire, Water and Earth”, Mike and Bryan have said in nearly every interview about Korra that their aim was to make something different and they did that on purpose, why would they then make their second show have the same basic character progression for its lead character. It was lucky that they managed to find a way to integrate the older ATLA characters into the story of Book 1, I appreciate it, but I really do think that some sections of the fandom completely overhypes the flashback moments to further criticise the new Korra characters. I completely understand the love of Aang and the others, Aang is my favourite character ever, but I understand why he and his friends are not the focus of Korra. The creators want Korra to be liked for being The Legend Of Korra not The Legend of Korra mainly focusing on ATLA characters. If they caved in to some fans pleas and turned Korra into a show focusing on flashbacks, when do you stop, when can the Avatar universe explore characters other than Aang and co. I have so much respect for Mike and Bryan for deciding from day 1 on Korra to do something different, they took a risk and it worked for me, they have said it themselves, if you want more on the ATLA crew read the comics.
To summarise my thoughts on this point. Why can we not just all accept that Avatar The Last Airbender and The Legend Of Korra are both amazing shows, the two best shows Nick has ever put out. They are both part of the same universe, but why make it a contest as to which is better and wait until Korra ends and then see which show you enjoyed more. Watch Korra for what it does, not what it does not do or what you think ATLA does better. And come on, was ATLA the best show ever after just 12 episodes, it needed time to warm up, just like Korra does. We all took a chance on a new and unique show called Avatar, lets give Korra that same chance. Remember what Bumi said “Open your mind to the possibilities”
Coming on to my second point. I often see so many people base their whole view on Korra Book 1 solely on one or both of these things: Mako and the romance. I have lost count of the number of reviews I have seen where people review all of Book 1 by just talking about how much they hate Mako and hate everything related to the romance plot of the show. First of all there is so much more to Korra than the romance. A fascinating plot about the equalist movement and Amon’s plan, all the time happening while Tarrlok attempts to gain power in his own way. The character arc of the main character Korra as she experiences so many things for the first time like: Being afraid, losing her identity, an inability to learn an element and much more. Even just discovering the Avatar world again 70 years on was a treat.
I will now address Mako and the Romance. I personally have no problem whatsoever with Mako and really do not understand the amount of hate the guy gets. First of all lets look at him outside of the romance arc, he is insanely protective of his little brother, knows how to get things done, responsible and a very powerful firebender. If he had any negative or thing he needed to develop on it was that he is too serious and at times not very honest with his feelings. I will begin with my main reason for not hating Mako of the romance in Korra, I found it to be realistic and well done, everything does not always work out, it is overly dramatic, feelings get hurt and people get over things, it is what happens in real life and Avatar’s strength in characters has always been the realism in an unrealistic world. In the romance plot we see both his strengths and weaknesses as a character. When he dates Asami he is very loyal and makes her feel safe, but we know from K102 and K103 that he did develop some feelings for Korra before he met Asami. I always assumed that had Mako never ran into Asami that eventually Mako and Korra would have gone out themselves, but at the time he meets Asami nothing has happened between himself and Korra. I think most issues come in K105 and afterwards. I think it is important to state that it was Korra who kissed Mako not the other way around. In K107 we see that Mako’s loyalty is so fierce that it almost becomes a negative with Korra over the Hiroshi accusations, in the end I think Korra realises that it was a difficult thing to believe and that of course Mako would side with his girlfriend. I think Bryan in the Korra episode commentaries described most of the rest of the plot well when he said something along the lines of, “Sometimes it takes something tragic to show you how much you feel about someone” which was always how I saw Mako looking after Korra post K109. Now of course he is not perfect, he is not honest with Asami or Korra all the time, but he was confused, he had two girls who he liked and that liked him, what was he to do. We were all ok with Katara being confused in 316, why can’t we accept that Mako was too. I love the scene in K111 where Mako and Asami break up amicably, we see Mako has developed, he is super honest with Asami here, while he realises that it is Korra he loves more, he will always have feelings for Asami and he is sorry for how their relationship turned out. A lot of fans say Asami came out of Book 1 with nothing going for her, but lets not forget she has 3 close friends she did not have before in Korra, Mako and Bolin not to mention people like Lin, Tenzin and his kids.
Now obviously nothing is ever perfect, for the same reason I will say Kataang in ATLA is rushed a bit because there is no relationship development scene between the confusion of 316 and the kiss in 321, Makorra is a little bit rushed, but what Makorra has is that at the end of Book 1 the two are together so there is still 3 books to develop the two as a couple and characters.
I want to talk about my own criticisms of Book 1 now, because it is only fair that in a post where I talk about over negativity and try to be positive myself that I show that I too have issues with aspects of Korra Book 1. My main complaint is that I felt that the book was rushed in its conclusion, not to the point where multiple episodes were needed, but I did feel like K112 needed 2-3 minutes more to wrap up some things and explain other things. Mainly how Amon captured Tenzin and his family after we all clearly saw them get away, never once mentioned in the show how they ended up captured. Secondly I did feel like I needed a more in depth explanation in the show on how Amon’s bloodbending taking bending away ability worked, I know now thanks to explanations from Mike and Bryan, but I felt Katara could have perhaps said something more than “I can do nothing” even just “His bloodbending has blocked her chi paths, even my bloodbending experience is not enough to heal her” would have been fine for me. I would have liked Aang to perhaps making it that extra bit clearer why exactly she unlocked her airbending and her spiritual side. I got from the scene that it was her with no bending still willing to put herself on the line for someone else, utter selflessness that unlocked it, but I think some viewers may not have got it. I just feel that the ending requires you to tease out the explanations in too many cases, when 2-3 minutes more could have made it all easy to understand.
I do have other criticisms, but they are so minor it would be nit picking. So I will address some common criticisms that I, personally do not agree with. Pro Bending is boring is one I often see. While I agree that it means we have fights where bending is not at its expressive and powerful best, it makes so much sense in the world at that time that they would have bending as a spectator sport. I love the fact that a whole sport with full rules was invented for this series, I enjoy the pro bending fights in part due to the amazing commentary from Shiro Shinobi which adds so much atmosphere and excitement. They are very well shot and animated to show some of the strategy and how the game is played across the 3 zones. In terms of the story I thought it was perfect to give the benders this shining beacon of a sport that benders and non benders can get together and enjoy and then have that be the place where Amon makes his first big strike against the city. It is so symbolic that Amon shows the power of non benders by taking out the place loaded with benders. It did also show that there is more to do in the city for Korra than just train Airbending, that she joined a team and managed to get the hang of airbending in part due to the new style of the arena.
Bolin not getting much development, I agree he was not the most developed character, but he did get some development. Look at Bolin in K103 presented before Amon, he is powerless, he does not even attempt to fight Amon, then look at K112 where he is the one to charge in on Naga and take the fight to Hiroshi. That is development, he learns through the experience with Team Avatar to be brave and to be able to do things on his own without his brother by his side. He is a character that I feel will get his time in the upcoming Books, there are 40 more episode we have not seen yet, not everything needs to happen in the opening 12.
I will end this post by talking about some of my favourite aspects of Korra so far.
I loved the way the bloodbending plot was weaved into the present day story and the flashback story all to come to fruition in the finale with the amazing flashback story of Tarrlok and Noatak. It was such a clever way to use a power introduced in 308 as a kind of Halloween spooky ability and make it into something epic. A tale of kids whose lives were changed forever when they discovered they were benders, a father who became obsessed with revenge and ground his kids into the ground teaching them an ability solely to carry out that revenge. The kids going against their father, but in the end doing exactly what he wanted, they could never get out of the shadow of their father. In an amazing 7 minutes at the end of K111 our two villains are turned into understandable characters who you just get. The reason for the equalist movement is revealed as well as it being a sham. Not to mention the explosive ending to the brothers story (bad pun, I know), it was shocking and utterly saddening and I think for this plot alone Korra Book 1 should always at the very least be classified as good.
The Voice In The Night in my opinion is the perfect example of showing fear in a character not at all used to it. It masterfully expands upon the previous episode by using her fear of losing her bending as the plot of the episode, add to that the introduction of Tarrlok who wants her to actively fight Amon and you have a perfect conflict in the episode that shows the powerful and strong character of Korra still has her weaknesses. Her breaking down and finally letting out how she truly feels to Tenzin is such an emotional moment, for Korra to straight up admit she is frightened is big.
When Extremes Meet is probably my favourite episode of Korra so far. It did the Korra-Tarrlok conflict perfectly, the use of the media for both of them as a tool to get one up on the other was a great use of the technology jump between series. You can feel the anger building between the two until it comes to a head in the heated conflict in the council chambers. It is arguably the most violent bending battle in the show and really lived up to the title it was extremes meeting. Add to this moments like Tarrlok rounding up all non benders just for protesting blatant discrimination against them and Korra not being able to do a thing about it without vilifying herself in the media, “You’re our Avatar too” is a fantastic line that hits Korra hard.
I think I will wrap it up here, in the end I suppose the title is not the best judge of the whole editorial, but I think I got across what I wanted to say. I feel Korra Book 1 is too often and too easily brushed aside as being bad, just for the sake of making ATLA or the upcoming book 2 look better. I am not saying it is without flaw, I have my criticisms too, but I will always be balanced and present my positives as well as my negatives. My problem is that sometimes I go on tumblr to look up some general reaction to Korra and I come out feeling bad for liking the show as much as I do in a sea of criticism, I remember the initial reactions to the final episode and it was nowhere near as bad as it is now, has the year+ break made people see Book 1 in a more negative light. In Korra Book 1′s case the positives for me outweigh the negatives by a lot. Lets all be happy that we have a new Avatar show on tv, lets all remember that there are still 40 episodes to come that will more than likely have what you found to be missing from these first 12 episodes. I am excited for Book 2 coming up in September, but until then I am going to celebrate Book 1 for what it did, it brought Avatar back to our screens for the first time in 4 years. Lets not get too cynical or negative about what is one of not the best animated shows on tv now. Lets enjoy the Korra ride like we we all did with ATLA all those years ago, we all owe it to ATLA to give Korra its chance to shine.
What I want to know in the comments is simply, Overall do you feel Korra Book 1 is overly criticised by some sections of the fandom ?
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