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Friday, September 26, 2014

Legend of Korra: Book 2 Review

The Legend of Korra: Book 2, the second season that continues the story of Avatar Korra and her companions.
Going into season two, I have heard that some fans were disappointed, while other still considered it overall strong. After watching Book 2, I can say that while The Legend of Korra continues to be a very good series, it falters at times in this second season, whereas season one was consistently strong.
The Good: "The Beginning" episode arc is truly amazing!, Epic conclusion, Impressive second half action sequences, Aubrey Plaza!, Strong animation, Tenzin's storyline is intriguing, Bumi and Kya are fun new characters, Steven Yeun!, Surprise cameos, Explores the past of the Avatar, Miyazaki and Watanabe influences, 

The Bad: Weak first half, Dull and obvious villain, Where's Lin Beifong?, Some really dumb moments, Lacks sophistication in first half, 

Plot: 6.5/10- One of my favorite aspects of Book 1 of The Legend of Korra is how mature the storytelling remained throughout the series. Very rarely did the series seem to feel as though it was for a younger audience with complex themes and character dynamics. 
Unfortunately, the first half of Book 2 devolves into the "kid's show" territory several times with it lacking the magic and sophistication present in the previous three seasons of Avatar/Korra. It felt like everything was just going through the motions with the exception of one storyline, which I will discuss in moment.
Thankfully, after episodes seven and eight, "The Beginning," which may be the best Korra has to offer with some stellar storytelling of the Avatar's origin, the stakes raised and the plot becomes more focused towards it epic conclusion, which does a lot to make up for the disappointing first half. The only consistently positive aspect of first half is Tenzin's side story with his siblings Bumi and Kya, which both explores the years between Avatar and Korra and the history of the world.

Characterization: 7.8/10- Despite Korra being my favorite character from the first season, she is not nearly as likable in Book 2 with her making some dumb choices and not seeming to do a lot in the first half. Getting to see her relationship with her parents is a strong point of her development in the first half, with the second half arc redeeming my opinion of the character. Overall, Korra is still cool character, and it is nice seeing a female that actually has flaws and needs help, but still kicks butt when the time comes. Also, the relationship drama is not as good as it could have been with some awkward decisions being made. By the end, I was satisfying by the outcome of the relationship drama, but it took a while getting there.
After Korra, Tenzin and his siblings Bumi and Kya and the exploration of their relationship with their father, Aang, is the most interesting aspect of the season, granted, I usually enjoy sibling bonding/conflict storylines. Tenzin grows a lot as a character throughout the season, and by the end, I have to say that he is my favorite part of Korra, and I am not even an Air Nomad fan.
Mako, Bolin, and Asami all go through character development, even if said development is a little too slow and occasionally backtracking at times. Mako's new job as a Police Officer makes him more interesting as he does some detective work, and Bolin is as dumb as ever, but everyone's final character arc in the last four episodes is satisfying.
While the identity of the antagonist is blatantly obvious by the first episode, I will not "spoil" who he is, but ultimately, he is an incredibly weak villain, particularly compared to Amon of last season.
Aside from the villain, my biggest disappointment in the character department is the almost complete lack of Lin Beifong, who was one of the best parts of the previous season. *Massive Spoilers* Why even give Lin her Bending back if you are not going to use her!? *End Spoiler*

Action: 9.2/10- Since Book 2 is more about the Spirit World, a large portion of the first half is more about fighting Spirits with Bending, rather than other Benders, so the action scenes are not as visually exciting. Fortunately, the final action sequences in the last four episodes are truly spectacular, maybe even the best the Avatar/Korra franchise has produced.
Acting: 9.5/10- As with the first season, the acting in the series is top notch all around. J. K. Simmons is the standout best of the returning cast as he added a surprising amount of emotion and depth to his character. 
Of the new cast, Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation, Scott Pilgrim) plays a side character, and considering how much I enjoy her completely deadpan and pessimistic delivery in all of her work, getting to hear her in the series is a lot of fun. Steven Yeun of Walking Dead fame plays an important role during the series' best episodes, "The Beginning," and his performance is particularly strong. Janet Varney as Korra is not as consistently strong as she was in the first season, but by the later episodes, her performance was quite good. 
Art Style: 8.5/10- While season one's animation was nearly flawless, season two's animation seemed a like a step back to a small degree. Maybe the icy tundra is just not as interesting as the city of the first season, but something about the style seemed slightly off. According to sources, Studio Mir, the studio behind the first and third seasons, only animated episodes 7 and 8 ("The Beginning" story arc), and the last four episodes, which also happen to be the best episode of the season, whereas Studio Pierrot (Tokyo Ghoul) and Nickelodeon Animation Studio animated the rest of the series, which is noticeably lower in quality. 
On the positive side, the two part story arc, "The Beginning" features a drastically different art style that is heavily inspired by ancient Japanese art work, as well as featuring heavy stylistic influences from the work of ShinichirĊ Watanabe, who is the director behind such anime as Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, and Zankyou no Terror. In addition, some elements of Hayao Miyazaki's work like Spirited Away can be seen in certain aspects as well.

Soundtrack: 9.5/10- Jeremy Zuckerman nails the score, using many of the same tracks as the previous season.

Humor: 6.2/10- One of the biggest flaws in the first half of the season is the lack of quality humor. Most of the humor during the early episodes was distracting and detracted from the overall experience.
Entertainment Value: 7.5/10- At certain points during the first half, I was bored due to the lack of sophistication. After "The Beginning" the series "rights the ship" so to speak and brings back the fun action and more complex storylines.

Overall: 7.3/10- When Book 2 is good, it's amazing, and when it is bad, the series is nearly unbearable. However, thanks to an impressive finale, one near perfect story arc, and consistently strong production values, The Legend of Korra: Book 2 manages to redeem its disappointing first half that almost had me lose faith in the series.

Closing comments: Despite being difficult to get through at times, Book 2 is still worth watching because "The Beginning" is truly special, and Book 3 is a must-watch.

Recommended for: Animation fans, Anyone that watched The Last Airbender, Fantasy fans, Action fans,

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4 comments:

  1. That's sad to hear there is a weaker season but most shows have them at some point. Hopefully the next one recovers and gets back on it's feet. :) And that's so cool about Aubrey Plaza and Steven Yeun! Whenever I get around to this show, I'll look forward to hearing their voice work!

    ~Jamie

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    1. It is a lot like the Walking Dead's season two, since it also had some excellent episodes among some major problems. But yes, Plaza and Yeun are highlights of the season!

      -James

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  2. Great review! :) I agree, season 2 was definitely the weakest season so far, but it still had some awesome moments, especially the Avatar Wan episodes! Loved those, were really great! I really loved seeing the origin of the Avatar and it was just so well done. I think my problem with Korra at times was that she needed help more than Aang(or so it seemed); I'll have to go and re watch all the shows at some point and see how it actually played out(and, I think her personality rubbed me the wrong way in season 1 for some reason. I like her now, though, which is nice, since I like a good, awesome female character and I think it's great that they had a female Avatar be the lead). Looking forward to your review of season 3! :) Have you seen the season 4 trailer? It was released today! :)

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    1. Thank you! :) Those Avatar Wan episodes were so amazing! They really delivered among some lackluster episodes. Well, Aang rarely had any real fight scenes with powerful enemies until the final episode, whereas Korra has fought some of the toughest enemies of the franchise, so I don't mind her getting help, since it makes her more human. However, she really did seem unlikable in this season, but I agree, she has been great in the last season! :) Thanks for telling me about the trailer, I posted it today.

      -James

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