July 16, 2014 by baldaufbr
In the midst of applying for teaching positions and other such “real life” business like avoiding responsibility and remembering to stay hydrated, I’ve been hard-pressed to come up with something to write. My usual skimming of the facebook feed didn’t turn up any leads and my favorite websites didn’t hand over any topics in which I can pretend to be an expert or have any particularly mind-blowing thoughts to share. Dolphins talk to each other and have human-level mental capacity. Duh. They should have rights, same as people, same as bees, same as everything else. Gardens can and should be built on walls. Yes. Let’s all do that. Some places on Earth are crazy beautiful. Thank goodness there are some of them left to see in pictures.
So, try as I did, no ideas were to be had. Admittedly, watching 20 episodes of The Legend of Korra in the last 36 hours maybe didn’t help.
I should note, however, that I didn’t enjoy the first season of Legend of Korra and I’m still very skeptical of most plot points. It’s improving, and doing so quite quickly, I might add, but at the end of season two they very bluntly (at least it seemed so to me) addressed one of my main concerns—ok, complaints—about the show: it’s not Avatar: The Last Airbender.
I didn’t know what to expect when I found out they’d be making a sequel to The Last Airbender, excitement and hesitation battling it out up until it aired. My first impression was not good. I was less than pleased that in the span of fifty years that pass in between the two shows literally centuries of tradition have been thrown out the window, bending is flippant and unimaginative not to mention evidently no longer governed by the laws of nature, and apparently the Avatar doesn’t need to know how to learn anything ever. She can just keep being arrogant, hot-headed, and rash and when all else fails there’s the Avatar state that she doesn’t know how to use properly. Doesn’t matter, though, because even after having the spirit that gives her power ripped out and all but destroyed she can still defeat the opposing force who is, you know, stronger than ever. Throw on top of it the fact that the Avatar is now a friend to Industry when in the original series they illustrate how factories and production thrown the world out of balance, but rather than learn from that and show sustainable growth in society they just ignore it completely, using cars, motorboats, airplanes, and all other manner of pollutants without question, concern, or regard to HOW those things are made. Add fuel to the flame by providing almost no character development for an entire two seasons and we have ourselves a problem.
Did I mention I maybe watched this too quickly? Like I said, the show is improving at an impressive rate, but I think the show makers were unaware of one crucial fact. They are making a sequel to the single greatest cartoon that has ever existed. Period.
I am perfectly aware that any sequel must turn a new leaf and I am grateful that they wrote this directly into the show. However, I simply cannot strongly enough impress upon the makers of this show the gravity of their transgression when they consistently change all of the wrong things. Which is really just my obnoxious way of saying, stop what you’re doing and do better.
A Few Thoughts, Impressions, Comments, or Notes about What Makes Avatar: The Last Airbender the Calvin and Hobbes of Cartoons which Should Be Used as Guides, Boundaries, Rules, a.ka. Unbending Law When Developing The Legend of Korra:
1. Depth: In Three Parts
Characters—The brilliance of Avatar: The Last Airbender was that it never wasted a character. Each of the main characters, including the antagonists, had an undeniably developed personality complete with good days and bad days, strengths and weaknesses, and growth throughout the series. The episodic characters, recurring or otherwise, beautifully exemplified the culture of the episodes location. Whether humorous, vilified, or misunderstood, every characters served a purpose worthy of note.
History—While each character had a story and a history that came to light at some point in the series, the land did as well and we were reminded of it at the beginning of every episode. “Water, Earth, Fire, Air—Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony. Then, everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked. Only the Avatar, master of all four elements, could stop them, but when the world needed him most, he vanished…” Accompanying this world history, we also see the history of each nation, deeply rooted in their customs and traditions, made all the more prevalent by the description and education around bending each element. One character eventually expresses explicitly how much can be learned by studying and incorporating knowledge and methods from other nations.
Ideas—Avatar had a knack for tackling really important, difficult issues in an easily accessible and wonderfully mind-blowing way.
2. Humor—From Sokka’s ridiculous antics, to Iroh’s old-man funnies, to consistently forgetting that one main character is blind, to the world-traveling cabbage man, this show had a remarkable command of comedic finesse. Every character had a good sense of humor uniquely their own and they all knew how to laugh at themselves and the others. Even the animals, who I wrongfully neglected to mention in the Depth portion, added to the humor. Not only did they do well with spoken humor, but the physical humor was always present. Using some classic-anime methods to portray humorous reactions, but also incorporating pure hilarity in simple presentation, the show is full of moments that leave you in fits of laughter.
3. Movement/Animation—Slapstick or not, I’ve already covered how well they animated humor, but they also did an incredible amount of research into animation martial arts. Where most animation blurs fighting to great affect, Avatar blows them out of the water with precision. They correctly animated every movement, making the bending effects all the more powerful for it. Take this humorous little jaunt as an example:
4. Music—It’s beautiful, original, and used optimally. What more can you ask for?
5. Epic Storyline–I’m not really sure how to qualify this. (1) Write story. (2) If epic, keep. If not, discard. (3) Revise. (4) Repeat. That’s all the help I can give you, Korra.
It’s not that Korra is bad. It just needs to be better to live up to its predecessor—you know, like Girl Meets World.