So the premier of Legend of Korra, much like it’s predecessor, was built into two episodes. Unlike it’s predecessor though, the episodes aren’t just one big episode; there’s a very definitive line from one episode to the next, so I’ll be reviewing them as such.
Welcome To Republic City
This was a good episode, but it had a few systemic problems that I’m hoping won’t come up in the future. More on that in a moment. Here, we have the obligatory introductory episode: first we see what remains from the old series (Katara is still around, looking almost exactly like her grandmother), we’re given insight into who our new heroine is (basically imagine a cross between Toph and Sokka personality-wise, with Katara’s body shape), and the vague overtures that will give us our myth arc for the series. Nothing out of the ordinary.
I got a bit of a kick out of the new architecture. I’d known ahead of time from promotional materials that this series essentially takes place in a steampunk version of “The Roaring ’20s”, but even knowing that doesn’t prepare you for the system shock of seeing actual Model-T styled cars, backed up on a highway, against zeppelins and other facets from the old series. It’s a little jarring, but once you’ve watched for awhile, it feels more natural.
The animation, I might add, is gorgeous, though someone really needs to tell Korra to stop dancing whenever she talks. She looks like someone who constantly needs to pee, and while I get that it was done to show how restless/energetic she is, it still feels like they’ve overdone it.
The plot itself is alright, but it’s got a big problem with pacing. Too many characters, doing too much stuff in too little time. This would be fine if we were halfway through the season, and everyone had already internalized the characters involved, but this is supposed to be the introductory episode. They’ve gotta slow things down.
Kind of a personal gripe, though this doesn’t affect my perception of the episode’s quality: How exactly did Korra grow up to be so aggressive? I’m not complaining about that specific trait of her’s; I actually think it’ll make her character really dynamic and complex in later episodes. No, what I’m bothered about is how she got so aggressive from living in the South Pole. I mean, this isn’t like the original series where characters like Sokka became aggressive because of the constant threat of the war, or where Katara became a sort of muted shy character (I am talking, of course, about the beginning of the series, and NOT her later character development) for similar reasons. But why is Korra like this?
Overall, it’s a good episode, but kind of falls flat at times, and I’m not sure how well it works as an introductory episode to the new series.
(Try not to get too pissy about the scores, I grade everything on a normal curve, which squashes most of my scores into the 3-7 range. So basically, anything above or equal to a ‘5’ I consider to be watchable. Maybe I’ll do a blog post explaining later.)
Leaf in the Wind
What was really striking in this episode was the portions given over to the pro-bending fights (I know it’s a goofy name, but just roll with it). Aside from the WWF homage that gave us Toph, there wasn’t a lot of insight into the “professional” sports played in the Avatar world, and it’s been long overdue.
Also long overdue? A return to form. Most of the problems that existed in the previous episode were absent in this one. The episode was slow enough that the audience is able to figure out what’s going on, but still knew well enough to kick into high-gear when the fight scenes started. This episode, in addition to starting to teach Korra how to Airbend, also introduces the two new characters that we’re going to quickly become familiar with: Mako, and Bolin (Bo-lin? Bol-in?). I feel like the episode spent a little too much time detached from Korra, but it wasn’t a major issue, and the episode does well at least spending a requisite amount of time on her character development.
Just from a technical aspect, the fight scenes were actually really interesting, owing largely to the fact that there have been virtually no scenes in TLA where each side had more than one type of bender. I mean, sure, the “Gaang” had a composite diversity of talent, but exactly how many of their opponents could say the same? I know that’s kind of a function of the setting (firebenders == villains, everyone else == heroes) but it’s a curious artifact I didn’t notice until seeing this episode.
I’m glad Korra got at least one big scene of character development in this episode. I’ve been latently worried that Korra might turn out to be a bit of a “Peggy Sue” (Derived from, but not identical to a “Mary Sue”) in this series, but it looks like my fears were for nothing. Korra has some character complexity to her, and it’ll be for the better.
I feel like Bolin and Mako’s introductions were rushed a little, and I actually got confused for a moment if Korra and Bolin were supposed to have known each other from “Way Back When”, because the dialogue was kind of awkward, but I’m sure this’ll get better later on.
Overall, this was a very good episode, and it gives me great hope that this series will turn out as spectacular as the original show.