Korra Episode Review – K408 Remembrances
Written By – Joshua Hamilton, Katie Matilla and Tim Hedrick
Directed By – Mike Dimartino
Animated By – Studio Mir and Studio Pierrot
Budgets. Never did I ever expect I would need to start off a review of Korra by talking about the budget for the show, but now that Nick have actively affected the content that we get to see, I think it is important I bring this up. As I am sure most of you know, the reason that this episode is a recap/clip episode is because Nickelodeon cut the budget of Book 4 by 1 episode forcing Mike and Bryan to either fire some of the crew early or do a clip show and limit the amount of new animation. They rightfully chose to keep their crew and do what they could with this episode.
So there is a reason why this episode is as it is, but at the same time as a reviewer, I have to be fair and review this episode as a normal episode. Yes the budget is a factor, but I am not going to just praise this episode for “Doing what it could”, it remains an issue that this episode happened in the middle of a, so far, excellent season and the final season no less. For me the budget factor keeps me from flat out criticising the creative decisions of the people who made this episode, which is how I felt after I first watched the episode before I had read about the budget cut.
So lets begin. Overall I think this is simply an average episode, nothing in it is really bad, but at the same time there is also nothing massively notable here. For an episode called “Remembrances” I don’t think I am going to remember much about this episode by the end of the season outside of it always being remembered as “The Korra Clip Show”, which is a big issue for Korra which is such a good show overall. Korra is not average and this is just an average episode, and unfortunately this being an average episode means it ends up bottom of the pile in terms of Avatar and Korra episodes. This happening in the final season, makes me so annoyed at Nick, Book 4 has been excellent so far and this has brought a run of 7 great episodes to a crushing end. The one beacon of hope is that Mike and Bryan knew about the budget cut well in advance and so knew they basically only had 12 episodes, so the other 12 episodes are unaffected by this budget cut thanks to the heroic sacrifice made by “Remembrances”.
There are a few nice moments here and there and the episode is enjoyable and extremely watchable. I don’t think this is a skippable episode as there is just about enough here to make it interesting throughout. There are about 5 minutes of completely new animation and then a few edits made to previous scenes with Chibi reaction faces and funny features added to scenes from Book 1-3. You can clearly see this episode was done on a low budget, but also that the crew had fun making such an odd episode. They really tried as hard as they could to make this episode something unique and interesting, I definitely appreciate the effort, but I still have issues with the execution of this episode.
We begin with Mako recapping his love life with Wu, Tu and Yin giving comments throughout. We get an interesting enough opening scene with Mako training Wu to be tougher and Wu showing an interest in Mako’s life. The little comments are interesting, but only a few actually tell us some new thought on a scene. I liked that Mako started and ended his recap by saying how much Korra changed his life and how she inspired him to put others before himself. It was nice to see Mako super honestly say what Korra means to him, though I still have an issue with this statement as it makes out that Mako is selfish at the start of the series, when he has always been fairly selfless always caring for his brother and Korra. I think this could have been worded better.
The other issue with Mako’s recap is that is completely focuses on the romances and really shows how little we have got of Mako outside of romances, they point this out and try to make it an in-universe thing where Mako has only cared about relationships and now needs to find out who he is without a girlfriend. Again I get the idea they were going for, but they seem to be trying to make up for writing mistakes made with Mako by saying that in-universe Mako was focused on the wrong things. Where was the focus on some of the other big moments for Mako, becoming a cop and moving up in the ranks etc. The only other notable thing here was Yin saying that Mako is like his grandfather when it comes to romance, which is an interesting note about his grandfather who we have never met. All in all, Mako’s recap makes me hope so badly that he gets a big moment in the remaining 5 episodes, it is fine and minus some writing things that bugged me enjoyable to watch.
Next up is Korra’s recap when she is talking to Asami and later Tenzin. I like that the basis for this comes from Toph’s line to her in a previous episode about how the world doesn’t need her and there being no point in fighting Kuvira as a new villain will always come up. Asami plays the Katara to Korra’s Aang here as she constantly tells Korra that she is needed and the positives she has brought to the world, while Korra just focuses on her mistakes. The issue I have here is that Korra’s negativity here comes out of nowhere given what she did learn from Toph in the end, I get that the two episodes focus on different angles about the villains, Korra was still fighting those old fights in her head a few episodes ago and here it is more about new villains popping up. But I think the end goal in each episode is the exact same, Korra realises she is needed again and is set on doing her best again. The comments throughout this recap add no new interpretations as I think most fans clearly saw the positives and negatives of all of Korra’s choices. This side of the story gets better when Tenzin arrives.
He agrees that new enemies will always spring up, but that you can learn from them and improve yourself from dealing with them and that is exactly what Korra has done. He then notes how much Korra has grown from the start which is just a rewording of his radio call to Korra in K307. Korra’s recap is a perfectly fine way of showing Korra lose confidence and gain confidence, the problem is that we have already dealt with this this book, Korra at the end of the last episode and at the end of this episode for me are the same, this was a sudden issue brought up and dealt with.
Finally we get to Bolin and Varrick. It is far and away the most visually interesting part of the episode, but also the most confused in terms of the aim of this episode. I would love to comment on how everything Varrick says is hilarious and funny, but that would be me saying “It was funny” over and over again. This section is meant to be Bolin’s recap, but instead of us getting a full on recap of Bolin’s story, Varrick tells a crazy story of his own mixing up multiple character arcs and giving them to Bolin. While interesting and funny, it really limits the amount of focus Bolin gets despite this being Bolin’s recap, instead the focus is on how odd and eccentric Varrick is. Yes, Varrick is very entertaining, but in this episode him being so over the top felt a bit jarring to me given that he is still dealing with Zhu Li’s betrayal, obviously this will be dealt with going forward, but for full on continuity I wish that perhaps Varrick needed to be snapped out of Zhu Li thoughts into telling this crazy story to distract him.
What I do love in this section is the one time Bolin does comment on events. When Varrick mentions Bolin’s relationship with Opal he goes on and on about how beautiful and amazing Opal is and suddenly realises that she will probably never speak to him again ans starts to sob, Varrick then for the only time in his tale adds in something to cheer up Bolin, he mentions that Opal forgives Bolin and kisses him giving him power. This does cheer up Bolin and give him hope that their relationship can still be a thing, it shows that as odd as the Varrick and Bolin relationship is they are friends and Varrick does want to cheer up Bolin. And in general how highly Varrick thinks of Bolin that he would tell such a crazy story with Bolin as the amazing hero.
There may also be a foreshadowing of what Bolin may do in future episodes. Varrick says that in his story Bolin leads an army of airbenders against the villain and helps win the day, if Bolin actually reunites with Opal, it would be cool to see him lead a bunch of airbenders into battle against Kuvira.
In terms of the humour I really did enjoy the 4 villains teaming up via a phone conference call. It was so absurd, but brilliant.
This episode is effectively Korra’s version of The Ember Island Players, but comparing that episode with this one really highlights how limited the crew were with this episode. That was a recap with no clips, instead all new animation. I am sure the crew would have loved to be able to do something really clever like that, even something as simple as showing the clips remembered by the characters in full chibi animation was probably too much given the budget.
Overall, the episode is fine. It is neither aweful nor very good, completely middle of the road and while that would be perfectly acceptable for most shows, Korra is not most shows and thus this episode stands out like a sore thumb in terms of quality, a real outlier. Â As I said at the start, Nickelodeon is at fault here and this for me is really the final straw. I have been very optimistic about the future of Avatar going forward in terms of another show, but at this stage I am wondering why on earth Mike and Bryan would want to work with Nickelodeon again after forcing them to make this decision. While the immediate future of Avatar looks good with 5 episodes of Korra to go, set up very well by the first 7 episodes, the future post Korra doesn’t look so good, when really Avatar should have absolutely no doubts going into the future.
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