The Legend Of Korra: Book of Change – 06/07 Review

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This third season has been really good so far. Although after that ending of the 2nd season I really would’ve expected spirits to play a far bigger role than they have done so far. I mean, the spirits play a VERY tiny role so far, although the frequency with which people now meet spirits should have a far bigger impact on human society than is shown in this series. How should humans respond to all these new sentient beings in their environment? Originally I had expected this season to be about that. But what this season has delivered instead seems to be more interested in the personal change of various characters. And trying to tackle such personal issues really has helped this season to create some interesting little stories.

Review:

So far this is probably my favorite season of Legend Of Korra. But naturally there’s one thing that apparently will never change in Legend Of Korra: Its villains suck. None of the villain-moments seem particularly threatening or terrifying. The biggest reason is that those villains seem rather one-dimensional. They all have special bending-powers and they want to find the Avatar. That’s really all there is to them. And add to that the fact that these scenes are monotonous as well and I don’t really get what this season is going for with its finale. I mean, the last two villains of the series haven’t been that great either, but at least there was some sort of purpose to their actions. Zaheer and his companions just sort-of act like villains while VERY slowly finding out where the Avatar is currently.

In many ways I would rather see more episodes dealing with little episodic stories like this series has done so far. This season finally delivers these smartly written little emotional fables that made the first Avatar-series so great. Sure, bending looks cool and this franchise has stylish-looking fights because of that but the real strength of these current episodes is to show emotional depth without resorting to characters wasting time while pondering their fate. The great thing about these emotional conflicts is the way they always very quickly lead to interaction or result from such interactions. This gives these episodes a very dynamic feeling.

The sixth episode ends the Lin-Beifong-arc basically and it finds a very simple way to explain Lin’s hostility towards her sister. What was so great about this sisterly conflict is that it didn’t feel forced in any way. Lin had a genuine reason to stay away from her sister. This sort of melodrama is based far too often on unreasonable behavior and misunderstanding stuff in the weirdest way. But on the other hand, this episode also aptly shows what distancing yourself from another person can lead to. Lin’s attitude towards Suyin is based on the past and Lin had never really tried to reconnect with her.

Even more interesting are the flashbacks Lin is having. The acupuncturist claims that this acupuncture will help her resolve her inner conflicts and summon buried memories for that reason. But the actual flashbacks are a subversion of what flashbacks generally do. Flashbacks are about delivering new insights or information to force a character-development. But for one, Lin is only proven right in her dislike towards Suyin as she remembers the highpoint of their sisterly conflict and what Suyin’s behavior has led to. And Suyin seems like a genuinely bad person in those flashbacks and even while Lin isn’t flawless, it’s very clear why she wouldn’t forgive Suyin so easily. And that’s the other thing this flashback subverts: It doesn’t help Lin to forgive Suyin. That flashback mostly just makes things worse (and it also serves as exposition for the audience, of course).

The conflict gets resolved through a confrontation but other than previously, it’s not just Lin delivering barbed comments and being generally a real sourpuss. This confrontation leads to an outright fight. And again this episode avoids the obvious route for such a scene because it doesn’t end in some cheesy dialogue where Lin and Suyin reconnect suddenly. What instead happened was Lin just blowing off some steam that has built up since that moment during the flashback. And after she had gotten that off her chest she could act like a reasonable person. There weren’t any of these sudden transitions where for the sake of the plot people would go from hating each other to being BFFs in a matter of seconds. Trope-wise there are more than enough stereotypes that would’ve been cheesy but could’ve shortened Lin’s character-arc quite a bit. But it’s in Legend-Of-Korra’s favor that the series never has gone for these sorts of cheap plot-developments in this episode.

Korra has been more of a side-character in the sixth and seventh episode. But she really has grown as a character. While it doesn’t really excuse some of her weaker character-moments in the previous two seasons Korra really has become the heroic character she’s meant to be as the Avatar while still retaining her sense of individuality. But the seventh episode really delivers the clearest moment that shows off her personal growth as a character. It’s when she’s giving Tenzin sound advice on how to solve his problems. I mean, Tenzin spells it out that she has grown as a person but what really sells this moment is how level-headed Korra seems in that moment. In the first season, she probably would’ve just lashed out at Tenzin and told him to stop bothering her with his problems.

The seventh episode has to be my favorite episode of the season so far. That episode is efficiently structured. It basically focuses on four characters: Tenzin, Kai, Jinora and Bumi. But the rest of the airbenders have some little character-moments as well. Again, the story-setup is very basic and simple and there are tons of cheap ways to create a formulaic plot for this story. Rather than subverting specific tropes as what the sixth episode did, this episode sells itself by being completely character-driven.

This episode is just full of little character-moments and more than letting these characters express themselves, there are character-developments as well. And it all comes together in a very organic way because of how most character-moments happen in interactions. The story goes from character to character and shows their different ways to deal with the current situation. And it nicely leads to this moment where it seems like everything’s falling apart. Yet it’s that very threat that brings all the character-developments together and lets things end on a happy note. The sky-bison-hunters are more practical than elegant as far as plot-devices are concerned but it nicely ties together all the developments of the episode. But more than just resetting a status quo without the conflicts from the start of the episode, it’s clear that the characters have indeed grown.

Really, the only real flaw this show has right now is that it builds towards a confrontation with Zaheer. At this point it’s still completely unclear why anything Zaheer does should matter to the audience. I mean, let’s not kid ourselves: Korra WILL beat Zaheer in the end… or something like that. But even more than not knowing why it should matter, nothing in this season’s worldbuilding and setting really complements Zaheers actions. The same way he just got his air-bending out of nowhere, his involvement in the plot seems to be equally sudden. Zaheer has gotten lucky to escape his prison and so he… just resumes being a big baddie? I’m still baffled how bland and uninteresting Zaheer’s villain-team is so far. There isn’t even a HINT of them being something more interesting. Sure, they seem to have some sort of bigger goal in mind by hunting the Avatar but that goal isn’t based on anything. It’s just a random thing the audience isn’t aware of yet. Zaheer and the other villains seriously lack personality to sell this ‘elaborate scheme’ no matter what it turns out to be. But there are still six episodes left in this season, so they better use those to turn Zaheer & Co into more compelling characters. Otherwise, this series will have a real problem when the finale comes rolling around.

Episodes-Rating: 6th Episode: 8.5/10 7th Episode: 8.5/10

Random Thoughts:

  • The past couple episodes really have focused on the side-characters and the new characters. Well, and Bolin, of course… he still has to serve major comic-relief-duty. But Korra, Mako and Asami were barely relevant. Only Korra has gotten some perfunctory scenes here and there, although they were important ones as well as described. But Mako and Asami…? They might as well not exist for all the relevance they have.
  • So, is Team Avatar staying the Metal Clan city until Zaheer catches up to them? Or will we see Team Zaheer wreck the Metal Clan city a little bit after having missed finding the Avatar yet again. This series really should make more use of this reversal of the formula. Usually, it’s the hero chasing a villain who’s somehow always a step ahead.
  • Kai’s still a real troublemaker. And even after seeing Jinora captured by these hunters, I still doubt he will do anything different the next time around, there’s a chance for some dangerous fun that could create problems for everyone involved.
  • Tenzin’s class has a nerdy guy with glasses who’s called Otaku. ‘Nuff said…

 

 

About M0rg0th

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Posted on July 19, 2014, in Anime, Reviews, The Legend Of Korra: Book Of Change (S03) and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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