Monday, November 11, 2013

"The Guide" gives me hope for The Legend of Korra, Book 2

Avatar: the Last Airbender is my favorite animated television series of all time. set in the same world, and I was very happy with Book One (The Legend of Korra is broken up into books, not seasons, with each book half the length of a regular season). My favorite characters were Lin and Tenzin, and I was eager to see more of their story in Book Two.

Unfortunately, Book Two stumbled right out of the gate and stayed disappointing for many episodes. Things started to turn around in the two-part episode "Beginnings," raising my hopes for the rest of the book. After today's episode, "The Guide," I think I can finally say that it looks like Book Two is turning around and getting good!

The rest of this post contains some serious spoilers for The Legend of Korra.

One of the things I really loved about Book One of The Legend of Korra was that the characters admitted their mistakes and trusted each other. When discussing the show with my friends, I pointed to a scene at the end of the two-part series opener as the scene where I felt like the The Legend of Korra was really something special. In that scene, Korra and her mentor, Tenzin, reconcile after arguing earlier. What really struck me about that scene is that both of them admit that they were wrong. That shows real strength of character, and it also establishes why the relationship between Korra and Tenzin is so wonderful. The theme of trust and cooperation continues through Book One, as Korra and Tenzin, along with Mako, Bolin, Asami, and Lin all learn to trust one another, despite their different backgrounds and outlooks.

Then Book Two comes along and all that trust is forgotten. Korra and Tenzin get in a fight, and Korra leaves Tenzin's tutelage and goes off to study under Unalaq instead. Mako and Bolin have a falling out, to the point that Bolin even refuses to help Mako save Asami's company. Mako and Korra break up. It was painful to see how the relationships that were so crucial and well-written in Book One could be broken so easily in Book Two, often for completely unsatisfying reasons.

It doesn't help that the first part of Book Two was animated by a different studio, Studio Pierrot, rather than Studio Mir, who animated Avatar: the Last Airbender and Book One of The Legend of Korra. Studio Pierrot is more used to working on anime, and it shows: while fight scenes look good, scenes of the characters talking are wooden and lifeless. A lot of times, during a conversation, the only thing moving in the whole frame is the talking character's mouth. It looks awkward, especially when you notice that nobody is even blinking.

Fortunately, things started to turn around in the two-part episode, "Beginnings." These episodes were once again animated by Studio Mir. They told the story of Avatar Wan, the first avatar, and they had some great storytelling, interesting plot, and great animation. As good as these episodes were, I was still nervous about whether the rest of the show would get better, since "Beginnings" dealt almost entirely with a standalone story that did not involve any of the main characters in the show.

Well, "The Guide" has helped calm my fears about the direction Book Two is going. Korra gives Tenzin the genuine apology he deserves. Tenzin, in turn, comes to accept his own shortcomings as a spiritual mentor for Korra. These moments aren't easy for either character, and the strength of the writing gives both characters a chance to grow.

There's still a long way to go. I'm still unhappy with the Republic City subplot. I sincerely hope that Lin Beifong, who has barely had a small handful of scenes in Book Two, is not so easily duped by the triads to believe that Mako is actually a criminal. Similarly, I hope Asami does not mistrust Mako after all they have been through. Given how awesome Lin was in Book One, I suspect she will see through the triad's plot and trace the attacks to Varrick before long, with the help of Mako, Asami, and/or Bolin (hopefully all three).

Book Two looks like it's finally getting good. I believe that "The Guide" was the last of the episodes animated by Studio Pierrot, so it should be Studio Mir from here on out. And I can only hope that the writing continues to improve and soon returns to the high quality of Book One.

If I could give the characters in The Legend of Korra, it would be this:

Get over yourselves,


Trust each other.

Let's see if they take my advice!
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