Hey everyone! In honor of this weeks special 1 hour whammy of an episode, this week will be a special edition of our Weekly Korra Review! So joining me this week in a special joint review are fellow At The Buzzer Netizens Shaun & Michaela El-ters!
With that out of the way, let’s get this things started!
Obviously, this week’s big reveal was Wan; the first Avatar! What did you guys think of Wan?
Michaela: I love Wan, he’s my new favorite character in this series. Maybe in both series. He’s such an interesting character. I mean, the fact that he’s the first Avatar and responsible for everything the Avatar comes to stand for is awesome, and his growth from a thief to a full-fledged hero is great.
Shaun: I mean… I wouldn’t go that far. FAVORITE IN THE WHOLE SERIES? Even though he’s the ultimate badass and the best Avatar ever, I’m not quite ready to crown him that title yet. Although I will say how they managed to characterize him in only two episodes is pretty incredible. He’s relatable and vulnerable, but also flawed – basically everything you want to see in a “main” character. You root for him almost immediately because of his sincerity, and the fact that he makes some (pretty serious) mistakes and yet is willing to own up to them.
The entire series has shrouded the beginning of the Avatar line in mystery, and I honestly didn’t think it was somewhere they’d ever go just because of the inherent challenge involved. The fact that they did it, and nailed it so well, is a testament to how well written and compelling this character is.
In short, Wan killed it.
Jason: The fact that Wan is a trickster type character is a really nice touch in my opinion. So many real life mythos revolve around a trickster character (from Raven to the Monkey king) is a nice nod to those myths. The fact that “the Avatar” is really just a result of Wan seeking redemptions for a mistake he made is an especially nice touch. It turns the Avatar from some sort of supposed title given to some special humans to a personal story of one human spirit tied to the greater good of both the human and spirit world.
Another big change these two episodes were the art style and the return to Studio Mir for animation. Did you notice the difference? What did you think of the art style?
M: Honestly, I didn’t really notice a difference in the animation. Now the art style, on the other hand, was really pretty and refreshing. The colors are bright, and the way it’s drawn is so unique and appropriate for these flashback episodes.
S: It all goes back to their attention to detail. Small nods to Studio Ghibli films, the mythological, water color art style, the level of detail on the spirit characters – it all made the world really come alive and was great to watch, in and of itself.
J: I personally felt the change in animators was subtle yet noticeable, especially in the action scenes. And obviously the change in style was fantastic. While I’ll agree that the colors were bright and wonderful, I actually felt that the color palette as a whole was much more subdued compared to the regular style (and I mean that in a good way)! It added to the aged and folktale-esque story being told.
As origin stories go, this one was quite a doozey. How do you feel it meshed with what’s been previously established in Avatar?
M: I really enjoyed the new concepts introduced in this origin story, like the Harmonic Convergence and the conflict between Raava and Vaatu. On one hand, it seemed random since none of this was seen in the first Avatar series, but because the battle between the two spirits takes place every ten thousand years or so, it’s not unreasonable for it go unnoticed in the events of the first Avatar series. But since these events are directly tying in with Korra’s latest adventures, I feel like the origin story meshes nicely, adding some additional details about the Avatar State and the like.
J: I’ve seen some people complain that these episodes contracted the original series, specifically in regards to the fact that the “original benders learned from the dragons/moon/bison/badgermoles”. Some have claimed that the Lion Turtles giving out bending is breaking the cannon; but I think they are ignoring some of the things seen in the episode,specifically the brief scene featuring Wan training with a dragon in what is clearly the “dragon dance” that both Aang and Zuko learned in the original series. There is clearly a difference between being “given” an element (like fire) and the art of bending it; as these episodes clearly established when Wan went up against the other humans and had a mastery of fire that they couldn’t even begin to understand.
S: Like I said before, I didn’t think it’s somewhere they explore, but this could easily be another series on its own, and I’d watch the hell out of it. The mythology is so interesting, and they’ve proven they know how to deliver great character after great character. Yes, Wan is great, but Raava was the cutest ever, and they were adorable together. And who could forget the incredible character arches of the momo look-alike and Cat Deer! MAWWWW
As far as Mythos stories go, how do you think this one measures up?
S: Easily one of the best I’ve seen, and I only say that because the odds were sort of against them. They’ve had years of established stories, characters, but most importantly, expectations – one wrong move and the fans would have burned their studio to the ground. The fact that they succeeded in not only telling an immersive origin story, but also in delivering one of the most satisfying episodes in the lore’s history, just demonstrates this creative team is truly elite.
M: I feel that Wan’s tale is definitely a solid Mythos story. I like that it serves such a vital role in establishing the Avatar’s perpetual duty to keep balance in the world. This origin story could have easily failed (especially since they covered it in only two episodes), but despite that they delivered one of the most interesting character arcs in the series in so much depth and detail that there’s no way it couldn’t be a good Mythos story.
J: Agreed. And like I mentioned before, the fact that the Avatar’s duty is one born of personal duty instead of divine decree is a fantastic addition to the Avatar Mythos as a whole. The creation of the Avatar was not something born of fate or the gods, but one man’s struggle to do what’s right and fix his own wrongs. This is something that I think more mythos stories could use; a dash of personal responsibility.
In regards to the struggle between Raava and Vaatu, what do you think is in store for Korra moving forward?
M: Korra’s going to have a big fight coming her way. I’d like to think she can handle it, but I also think it’d be cool if she almost lost and Wan aids her, since he’s the best. I’d also like to see how the other character’s stories tie in to her overall mission to stop Vaatu.
S: I have some theories, but a lifetime of Lost obsession has taught me it’s better to keep them to myself. What I will say is that I hope learning about Wan opens up a new side of Korra and introduces her to a new perspective that she had previously ignored. At first you’d assume I mean “spiritual awakening,” which is the thing she’s always lacked, and while I’m sure that will definitely be part of it, Wan was great because of his good naturedness and ability to see the good in everyone. He was as powerful a mediator as he was a fighter – he was a truly balanced human being, and Korra could use some of that. I’m excited to see how her arch develops now.
J: Originally I thought there might be some sort of “dark” Avatar out there, but in light of current revelations both myself and many others on the web are convinced this season will see the birth of a Dark Avatar by seeing the fusion of Vaatu with Unalaq. Although, personally, I think it would be quite the twist if someone like Mako decided to bite the bullet and trap Vaatu within himself instead. If Raava and Vaatu are supposed to be “whole” together, than I think it would be an interesting twist to have both Avatars “combined” together via a romance. Two lovers, ever at odds, forced to oppose each other forever…
What about the connection between Raava and the Avatar line? Is this an example of an origin done right or just another terrible midichlorian debacle?
M: I think the connection between Raava and the Avatar line is really cool. The fact that Raava is responsible for the Avatar’s limitless power is a clever plot point, rather than having the Avatar as some some ultimate being born into the world to keep balance. There’s a lot more to it, which I appreciate, and it helps to flesh out the Avatar’s state of being even more so than before.
J: The fact that the “Avatar” is actually now a literal Avatar is also a move that could not have possibly come sooner. We are no longer just calling the Korra or Aang “the Avatar” just because, but because we now see them for what they truly are: The Avatar of Raava.
S: No, it was great, and don’t ever talk to me about Midichlorians again.
What do you think lies in store for Korra going forward into Season 2, especially given what we’ve learned now about the Avatar mythos?
M: Since the episode ended with the ominous announcement that the Harmonic Convergence is just a “few” weeks away, Korra isn’t going to have a ton of time to prepare, given the conflict with her uncle and the civil war between the Northern and Southern Water Tribes. She’s going to be under a lot of pressure, that’s for sure.
S: The obvious parallel now is how similar in plot device this is to the original series, with Sozin’s Comet being the impetus and driving force for everything, the looming disaster that sheds its shadow over all the proceedings. However, I’m surprisingly okay with that – I think it gives the series some gravity and direction, and is going to tie in nicely to the other developing plot threads that are happening. And maybe, if we’re lucky, we might even find something meaningful for Bolin to do! HAHA NO I’M JUST BEING CRAZY.
J: The real question, for me at last, will be just how much Korra remembers. Sure she knows she’s the Avatar, but how much has returned to her? Does she even remember Mako or Tenzin? I guess we’ll have to wait and see!
So then I guess all that’s left is to rate the episode. So rate it.
M: These are definitely my favorite episodes in this second season of Korra. Wan’s characterization was extremely well done, and his backstory is intense and compelling. We’re finally given a greater conflict on par with Aang’s struggles to end the Hundred Year War, which I think is exactly what this series needed. I adore these episodes and I can’t wait to see how they affect the story of Korra!
S: Easily the best episodes of this season, and possibly the best of Korra, period. It’s dense with rich storytelling, powerful writing, great plot development, brilliant art design, and resonating characters. It’s the shot of adrenaline the plot needed to tie everything together, and when you consider how much they managed to fit into the episode, the pacing is pretty stellar. Revelatory and self-contained, this story was game-changing, and a slap to the face of any whiny fans. “We have everything covered, guys. Just sit back and enjoy.”
J: A lot of people have been worried about where Korra has been going this season and concerned that the magic is gone. Well, it’s not. And these episodes prove it. The team behind Avatar and Korra deserve major props for what they’ve accomplished here because the quality of their work is stellar and it shows. These two episodes will certainly go down as two of the best, if not THE best episodes of Korra/Avatar ever, and they may very well be two of the best episodes of television period. They’re that good.