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Let's watch Avatar: The Legend of Korra
Shadow Warden

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Welcome to Republic City
Hi! This is Shadow Warden, and this is the first TV Tropes-based liveblog of Avatar: The Legend of Korra that I am aware of. Having liveblogged its predecessor back in the day, I've decided to take a stab at this one. I haven't followed the leadup too closely, but I am aware of the basic conceit, so let me describe it to those of you who may not, for whatever reason, be watching the show with me:

The Legend of Korra is set in Republic City, a modernized metropolis representing the progressive ideals of the last series' protagonist, Aang. While Aang - and most of the original cast - are dead, the new Avatar Korra has stepped up to take his mantle and is going to move to Republic City. Among the various problems she'll face are organized crime, an anti-bending faction, and... well. Let's just get on with this. It's been a while since I've liveblogged and I'm rusty.

Book One: Air: Welcome to Republic City

We have an opening, summarizing the state of the world as it is now. Aang and Zuko won out over evil, established a new integrated republic, best intentions and ideals, and then Aang bit the bullet. The narration is done by Aang's son Tenzin, in parallel to the way Katara narrated in the last series. However, I would contend that this opening is vastly superior, if only for one reason: Tenzin is voiced by none other than J. K. Simmons, whose voice is really rather incredible.

Also, it's clear from even this brief glimpse that the animation has been stepped up a notch. As we segue out of the introduction and to a remote Water Tribe village, we see three figures approach a home. We learn from the couple inside that these three (who are entering) are from the Order of the White Lotus. Apparently they're attempting to find the new Avatar, and have been investigating claims both in the Northern Water Tribe and here in the south. Most of these have turned out to be false. One wonders how they even test for such a thing, but that question is neither here nor there, because the couple has called out their daughter Korra, who demonstrates early mastery of a certain trope.

"I'm the Avatar! You gotta deal with it!"

A young Korra then marches forward, earthbending, firebending, and waterbending in a prodigal display of prowess.

Wait, what.

Hold on. Time out.

We segue out of Korra's display and into a literal firefight some years later. It's pretty cool. More of the upgraded animation is on showcase. She wins handily against a number of competent Firebenders and immediately begins cheering herself; the council on hand, however, who include members of the White Lotus, are not so thrilled. We get the sense here that they aren't too impressed with Korra's lack of restraint, and we also learn that Korra's not too spiritual. Also, Katara is still alive, and considered a Waterbending master. They decide to let her move on to Airbending, and receive spiritual guidance from Tenzin.

Korra brags about her success to her pet... polar bear-dog, it would seem? Naga. They go out for a ride, and we immediately cut to our next scene; the arrival of Tenzin and his family - looks like someone's been busy! Tenzin's a very stoic, straight-man kind of character, standing in marked contrast to his rambunctious children. His wife seems to be an ordinary non-bender, and somewhat resentful of the fact that she's the only non-bender in the family. I smell foreshadowing! Also worth noting is that sky bison aren't extinct, as Tenzin rode one in.

Anyway, Katara is his mom, they're happy to see each other, and it turns out Tenzin can't actually stay there; he has to go back to the city, being one of its leaders, and he can't teach Korra. Obviously none too pleased with this, Korra tries to convince him to take her back, but the Order of the White Lotus will have none of it; seems like ever since Iroh died, they've become zealously overprotective busybodies instead of benevolent agents of balance, though in Korra's case I can see why they'd want to keep her far, far away from anything resembling civilization. Of course, locking her up inside a compound seems to be going to the other extreme. Tenzin also objects, citing the city's instability; pay attention to this, guys, it's going to be a central point of the show.

Korra, of course, will have none of this, and so she escapes. Katara, in a wonderful parallel with the original series, allows her to escape, and in fact encourages her to do so. You go, cool old grandma. Another short scene follows, where she bids her parents goodbye; the moment, sadly, is ruined by poor voice acting on her mother's part, but since they were incidental characters anyway we can just forget them. Our bold new Avatar stows away with her polar bear dog in a steamship and sails off to Republic City.

We pan across the hold she's hiding in; we see, among other things, a very old-timey automobile, another bit of foreshadowing for the technological state of the impending City. They arrive, Korra and her polar bear dog make a hasty exit, and we see another bit of footage from the trailer. Scenery Porn galore. We find out that in this setting, automobiles are called Satomobiles. Korra is of course intent on reaching Air Temple Island, where Tenzin apparently lives, but Naga wants food; so they take off, running down one of the streets. They disrupt car traffic, cause crashes, and some jazz music is playing. While jarring at first, it helps really drive home the difference in mood; this is the big city, not the calm, pre-industrial world of the original series.

They find a food vendor; lacking money, of course, they can't buy anything. Instead, they find the nearest park and fish out of it, with Korra quite practically using firebending to cook her meal. She meets a bush-dwelling homeless bum, who fills her in on the rather obvious fact that not everyone in the city is rich and well-off, and then a cop chases her off, informing her that she can't fish in the park. He resembles a British bobby in many respects.

Now, of course, we come to one of the more fascinating ideas of the new series; the introduction of Amon and his anti-bending political faction.

Hold on a moment.

The speaker, of course, is urging non-benders to join and overthrow the current establishment, and Korra objects; she's not very good at rhetoric, however, and so suffers an egregious verbal curbstomp. She walks away, dejected.

Next scene. Korra's asking for directions, but then some gangsters (calling themselves 'Triads') show up. They're dressed pretty snazzily, and they're hitting up a poor salesman for some money. When he doesn't have it, they start making threats, and so of course Korra steps in to save him. Some banter is tossed back and forth, and the thug eventually says, "Who do you think you are?" She shoots back, all badass: "Why don't you come here and find out?"

Cue a fight scene. Korra does a ton of collateral damage to the shopfronts, but she does beat the Triads up pretty handily. Just as she's finished - tons of wreckage, by the way, this is important - the police show up. As I mentioned before, they're metalbenders, and they're very, very cool.

Of course, while they arrest the three thugs, they also try to bring Korra in for the gratuitous amounts of property damage her would-be heroism resulted in. She, stupidly, resists arrest and tries to run. A good chase scene ensues, and while you can't really blame Korra or the police, I still think she's being pretty dumb here. Eventually, they do catch her, and I bring out the ill-used, dusty crowner:

We cut to the police station, in which we meet my absolute favorite character in this entire episode; none other than one Chief Bei-Fong, Toph's descendant, metalbender, and stone cold bitch. She lists off Korra's list of offenses and shoots down her attempt to play the Avatar card. "You can't just waltz in here and dole out vigilante justice like you own the place!" Seriously, I love this woman, she is all kinds of awesome.

Anyway, Tenzin comes in, and bails Korra out, promising to return her home. While we all know that isn't going to happen, it's nice to see that even without the Avatar being a wanted criminal, no one's going to let her get away with things just because of who she is. It's refreshing to see a show - a children's show, no less - that focuses on consequences to this degree without going over-the-top about them. As Korra exits, Chief Bei-Fong gives her the evil-eye, and Korra gives it to her right back; the sheer brattiness they convey in a split second of animation is truly hilarious to behold.

Korra gets her polar bear dog - it has a canonical name! - back, and she manages to talk Tenzin into letting her stay in the city. It's a bit quick, especially for someone as resolute and serious as Tenzin, but they're running out of episode time so they need to wrap it up somehow. Tenzin relents, Korra's overjoyed, and she hugs him and all his kids at once in a particularly overt display of nigh-Amazonian strength.

Cut to the next to last scene. Korra's being publicly announced and she does a speech to the various reporters and citizens assembled. She doesn't have a plan yet, but she's happy to be here, woo, woo, except—

Last scene. We get introduced to Amon, the leader of the anti-bending faction, using yet more trailer footage; he's a creepy guy in a mask and he ends the episode on an ominous note, citing 'plans' and the need to speed them up.

Final impressions:

I can't believe I have to wait until April for more of this. I love the blend of styles, and I love the shift away from the original series; jazz music, a huge metropolis, and an Avatar with completely different issues than Aang ever had. I feel that Korra's attitude is meant as a subtle illustration of the anti-benders' point - they object to boastful, arrogant, oppressive users of bending power. Is it any coincidence that literally the very next scene, the police have to bring in Korra on dispensing vigilante justice and causing huge amounts of damage to public and private property? I'm sure they did that on purpose. This is by far the most fascinating idea the show has going for it, more so because there's no easy solution at work here.

I do also like the way that shades of grey have been worked into not only the Avatar herself, but into the Order of the White Lotus and the other 'good' characters. One can only hope they'll give these dimensions more exploration; it took the original show quite a while to entrench itself in moral complexity, but with hints of it here in the very first episode, I'm hopeful. It feels like a very grounded, very mature series so far, but one with a good sense of humor that keeps things from getting too gloomy. I'm looking forward to seeing the second episode.
19th Mar '12 2:00:23 AM flag for mods
comments
Yeah, I agree with you that Korra showing off 3/4 Bending styles was a bit too much. However, the rest of the pilot was very good, and shows that the series has a TON of potential and may very well have the writing to pull it off. The design and style of Republic City is phenomenal. I love how they managed to give it a New York/Hong Kong style and fuse it with the Avatar Universe in such a natural way. The initial portrayal of the Anti-Bending movement, actually reminds me alot of Deus Ex Human Revolution, in regards to the Aug/Anti Aug movement, and for a kids show to be tackling a subject like that is pretty damn impressive. Also liked the Call Backs to the original series, though wasn't much of a fan of the whole "Zuko's Mother" one. A bit too obvious for my tastes.

Overall, a great return of one of the best cartoons of recent years, can't wait for the rest of the series.
Emperordaein 19th Mar 12
I loved your Last Airbender LB, plus the Elfen Lied one that was sadly abandoned (well, the manga's better anyway). I'm saving myself for the actual airing so I didn't read beyond the introduction, but I'll definitely be following this.
Eegah 19th Mar 12
How did you manage to see this episode before it premieres this April?

I'm glad you're the one doing this liveblogging rather than...that other guy who did that godawful "critical" Avatar The Last Airbender liveblog. You know how to "get" the series.
ManwiththePlan 19th Mar 12
The episode was leaked, thus explaining how I was able to watch it.

As for that other liveblog, I would hardly call it godawful; I thought it stood rather well on its own merits and took the show to task on a number of small problems. While it is not the style of liveblogging I do, I thought it was very, very good, and if nothing else you have to respect the effort and analysis that went into constructing it.
ShadowWarden 19th Mar 12
It really lost me as soon as he criticized The Southern Air Temple for the A and B plots not being related. Ever think maybe they don't have to be related to be good, and you should try expanding your horizons of what a cartoon's narrative structure can be?
Eegah 19th Mar 12
@Eegah: That sounds like a question you should be asking him, on his liveblog, and not rhetorically on mine. :P For the record, I think they're thematically related.

But, to address the broader opinion here, the reason you acknowledge Korval's liveblog as 'godawful' and 'poor' is because it challenged a lot of things that you enjoyed about an entertaining work of fiction. In terms of objective analysis, the other liveblog was very clear and forthright about its intention to dissect and criticize its topic. Any of you were free to stop reading an opinion you disagreed with.

The real reason it's stuck with you, and the real reason you still remember it so well instead of just letting it drop away, is because it makes you uncomfortable; and the reason it makes you uncomfortable is because, buried under whatever things you might disagree with, there were some honest, valid points that don't share your same sense of suspension of disbelief or forgiveness for the smaller failings of any work of fiction.

Korval's writing is intelligent, direct, and ruthless, and while certainly it contains some points of subjective fact that any of us are free to agree and disagree with, this doesn't change the fact that he articulated his criticisms in a way that you cannot simply dismiss out of hand. Or, alternatively, the fact that someone as apparently intelligent as Korval is can find fault in a show you like makes you feel insecure and defensive about your tastes.

As fans of Avatar, this bothers you. Notice how two of you have taken the thinnest opportunity to disparage his work on a largely unrelated liveblog - and no, this liveblog simply being a related work isn't enough of an excuse. One comment in particular - "[...] you should try expanding your horizons [...]" - reeks of ad hominem.

If you want to argue with him, his liveblog is here: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/lb_i.php?lb_id=13083663820B12460100 and I'm sure there are other ways of contacting him. You're free to answer me on this point, but I'd like to ask that my liveblog not be a vehicle for bashing Korval's opinion. He's entitled to it.
ShadowWarden 19th Mar 12
AH SPOILERS
RobbieRotten 20th Mar 12
btw, i didn't like the critical review either. too much bitchy nitpicking about shit that doesn't matter
RobbieRotten 20th Mar 12
Just saw episode 1, and loved it. I actually got tears in my eyes at Katara letting Korra go just like Gran-Gran let her go, and I think she even has the same actress now. I'm also really on edge regarding whether Toph and Zuko are alive.
Eegah 24th Mar 12
I don't think either of them are; we've already seen Chief Bei-Fong, and it's my hope that descendants of Zuko will show up, but I'm not holding out hope for the main cast of TLA.

After all, it's silly to pine away after Toph and Zuko when we have Chief Bei-Fong instead. She is my personal Ensemble Darkhorse.
ShadowWarden 25th Mar 12
I do like the episode. Though I did feels free to take its time (especially since it's not a multiparter the way "The Boy In The Iceberg" was). We get very little of our antagonist or even Korra's actual "goal" for the show other than a vague "learn airbending" and "do... something about republic city". The stakes if you want to call them. That said, it's clear they are saving this for later, and the character building and world building more than makes up for it.

I really want to know how Chief Beifong ended up so ... different from Toph. She's like almost the mirror opposite. Feels like it's be a good story .

Kinda sad Sokka is dead. Would've loved to see a grown up version of Sokka. Like an older, snarkier version of Piandao. Oh well, there's still flashbacks.
Ghilz 25th Mar 12 (edited by: Ghilz)
She's not the opposite, she's just has the same type a personality applied to different circumstances, she's just as stubborn about the Law as Toph was about doing what she wanted.
AgentRook 27th Mar 12
One thing that impressed me: Korra could lift Tenzin + his three kids at once. Girl's got borderline superhuman strength!
Ghilz 3rd Apr 12
Why is this in Anime?
AgentRook 10th Apr 12
Okay, if I said something wrong about Korval's liveblog, let me clear things up now. Calling it "godawful" was extreme of me, I know, 'cause it did have alot of redeeming qualities and I could understand the mindest alot of the time. However, Robbie Rotten of all people, said it best:

btw, i didn't like the critical review either. too much bitchy nitpicking about shit that doesn't matter

That's exactly how I felt about it. I hate nitpicking and there's a fine line between it and critical analysis. Far too often, Korval tore apart every bit of character and plot moments that he didn't like or thought logically shouldn't happen and wrote them off as "bad writing" or worse, "Komedy." *cringe*. I mean, wow, way to be a buzzkill about a good show. That is not "intelligent, direct, and ruthless": it's just a pretentious form of Fan Dumb. I am not bashing his opinions themselves, I am bashing the douchey, nitpicky way in which he delivered them.

and if nothing else you have to respect the effort and analysis that went into constructing it.

This I can do.
ManwiththePlan 17th Apr 12
^ Not to mention, Korval had way too much character bashing in his liveblog, particularly towards Katara and Toph.
ManwiththePlan 17th Apr 12
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