Monday, June 25, 2012

TV Series Review: The Legend of Korra

I have decided to start my end of spring/beginning of summer reviews a week earlier than planned since once again I looked at my list of shows and realized at this rate I'm not going to finish up until August (as it is I might have to start reviewing two shows a week, we shall see) and since I finished up Korra about 12 hours before I finished Fate/Zero 2 it's up first! Obviously I haven't had a chance yet to get along with my re-watch of the first show but given that the second season is still in production (so I'm not expecting it before fall 2013 to be completely honest) it'll give me something to do during the break.

The Legend of Korra
 Summary: 70 years after the end of the first series and 17 years after the death of Aang, the new Avatar Korra has masted water, earth, and fire bending and is eager to start her airbending training (despite the fact that she is the complete opposite of spirituality from Aang and as a result has never been able to airbend). But Tenzin, Aang's son and the only airbending master in the world, has other matters on his plate since he is also in charge of governing a new nation, Republic City (formed from the oldest Fire Nation colonies in the Earth Kingdom whose cultures had become so entwined it was decided that it was better to let them continue to co-exist than separate), where anti-bender sentiments are on the rise. Korra decides that she will go to him then and gets entangled in pro-bending, romance, and politics.

The Good: I will admit that Korra isn't a terribly original character if you were to genderflip her, she's rather similar to a lot of shonen protagonists, but I still do love the concept of having a late teenaged, female, not-white, protagonist of a show, not in a school setting, who is, well, brash and young for lack of a better phrase. I do believe Korra grows in the show, not tons but certainly some, but more than that I do hope her presence of tv (combined with stuff like The Hunger Games and Brave) show off that yes, people will watch action shows with a female lead. I do like a lot of the characters on this show regardless, Asami in particular (I do like how she and Korra were female characters but more nucanced than "one is a girly-girl and the other is a tomboy") but also some of the older cast including Tenzin and Lin Bei Fong. I also loved the setting, partially because (as I have made it clear before) I love the 1920s as a setting and technology was always a part of the original show from very early on so I didn't find it jarring. Finally I was amazed at just how political a kids show got to be (yes people, this is rated Y7 or youth, seven year olds, Nick is clearly crazy) and those episodes were my favorite ones of the show. 

The Bad: One big thing that the internet has been practically screaming about for the past few days, yes this show had some serious pacing issues which were most apparent in it's finale. Given how well the original show was paced I cannot believe that the creators weren't aware of the problems here (which I know I know, doesn't make it better) and, based on some information from interviews, I do wonder who made the final call that the show should be 12 episodes instead of 20, Nick or the creators. Again the finale had the most trouble here, it also created some problems with the romantic subplot I wasn't as happy about (although I have no trouble with that subplot as a whole) and I desperately hope that the second season ties up some of the loose ends here otherwise I will be unhappy with it. The show simply had too many things it tried to include (hence my thoughts that it was the decision of Nick, not of Bryke, to make the show only 12 episodes) yet I cannot figure out a way to cut anything major in order to help with the pacing.

The Audio: The Track Team returns in to continue composing for the show and, while I don't think they quite suceeded with the premise of "if jazz was invented by the Chinese" the tracks were gorgeous regardless. There are some more jazzy pieces in this series and there are plenty that make full use of the more traditional instruments that serenaded the original show and really hope that the music gets a full release this time around. As for the voice acting, I didn't like some of the voices oddly enough (Older!Aang and Older!Toph sounded off to me and Dante Basco's character sounded at least five years younger than they looked) but overall I liked the main cast and thought they did a good job throughout.

The Visuals: While there were several shows airing this season that had some great looking fight sequences, such as Fate/Zero 2 and Accel World, they often had so many effects and fast cuts that the fights themselves were almost hidden from the viewer and at times it was hard to tell how good looking everything was. Korra never had this problem and was able to show off it's amazing choreography to the fullest and even when the characters weren't fighting there was a great amount of detail in the backgrounds. I do wonder if Nick plans to release this show on BR (given that the original show was released on DVD I do believe there is at least a DVD release planned down the line), although I'm not 100% sure that the visuals are enough to make me choose a BR over a DVD.

In short, I still love the show but there are certainly problems with it (outside of the finale the biggest problem is that there weren't any downtime episodes to get character development, I think Asami probably had more than Mako and certainly more than Bolin did) but hopefully those next 14 episodes will help. Fingers crossed in any case! 

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