The Legend Of Korra: Book Of Balance – 12/13 Review

korra 121301

 

And this is the last episode, THE last episode of this series. I’m not the biggest fan of this series but these last two seasons were great. It’s a bit sad to see this series end after it has finally found itself after two seasons but four seasons is already more than what I would have expected after having seen the first season. I’m certainly interested to see what the next project of Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino, the creators of the Avatar-universe, will be. It certainly won’t be Avatar-related and it’s understandable. After all, they started with Avatar: The Last Airbender and then did a sequel of sorts to that. Who knows how their style will translate to a series of a different genre or maybe they will create a new universe for an adventure-like epic story.

Review:

This fourth season has been trying very hard to find a fitting ending for this series and it’s mostly successful in this regard. I’ve liked the third season more but this one is nearly just as good. And still I wouldn’t recommend this series. The third season and this one have done a whole lot to improve this series and actually make it really enjoyable. But I really feel like the shortest way to describe the weakest point of these two latter seasons is “too little, too late”. The ending of the third season was exactly the kind of extreme measures this series needed to take in order to go somewhere with the characters. This fourth season tried to sell the idea that all the villains had a bigger point to convey but it’s a rather weak one – mostly because this is an idea that at most was invented during the third season. Or at least that’s what it feels like.

In contrast to the previous season this one was very conscious of its story (instead of its characters) at every moment. The first couple episodes focused on the return of Korra while Kuvira tightened her grip on the Earth-Kingdom (which was now the Earth-Empire). Then the first confrontations between Kuvira and Team Avatar followed. And it’s really a sign of how great the writing in this series is that despite “losing” an episode due to sudden budget-cuts, the rest of the season neither feels rushed nor feels cheap. This doesn’t really make the recap-episode a good one but it didn’t damage the series one bit. Actually the episodes that followed were all great at keeping its various storylines alive while also nailing the little character-moments which were necessary to stay invested in the action.

Good chara-designs, good animation, art-style and good characterizations are essentially what fuel the first half of this finale. And it really works. The third season had a similar approach for its finale by having a big battle as the key-element of the finale’s plot. This section is very good in not only selling the destruction Kuvira’s mecha can cause but also how desperate the countermeasures of Team Avatar are. The countermeasures get more epic with each attempt and ultimately someone has to sacrifice himself in order to give Team Avatar a chance to take down the mecha.

The sacrifice is one of the least effective moments of this finale. Remember the last time Asami’s dad has appeared? Yep, earlier in the season we saw Asami forgiving her father for his crimes and here he gets a chance at redemption. It’s a very simplistic dramatic arc and the emotional undercurrents of that scene were further undermined by this being Asami’s dad. I mean, Asami is the most underdeveloped, important side-character of this series. Also, the whole thing was rather predictable in how long it took for Asami’s dad to push the eject-button for Asami. But that was really only one tiny moment in an otherwise really engaging action-sequence.

And it’s good that Asami’s dad had been the only one who sacrificed himself. Mako was close to sacrificing himself and in general there were a lot of big explosions where it would’ve been understandable to show anyone being hurt badly in the aftermath of such explosions. It was tense but now thinking about it, what seems more annoying isn’t that there were multiple cheesy sacrifices but just how little Team Avatar was hurt by all those explosions. I know, this is still supposed to be a show that even children can watch but come on: Those characters had to face A LOT of hazardous situations. And apparently the only one who got hurt was Mako and Asami’s dad (who died).

The most interesting element of this action-sequence is the confrontation between Korra and Kuvira. It’s weird to look back on this season and notice how Korra has always struggled to get the poison out of her body but ultimately her problem was apparently more a mental one than a physical one. And that is only because the physical damage apparently can’t be healed. Even during the second confrontation Korra was sure to lose. With one episode having to be sacrificed due to budget-cuts, this series didn’t have a lot of spare-time, of course, but I wished they would’ve delved more into how Korra actually internalizes all the advice she has gotten over the course of this season. Whenever Korra tackled her “situation” the scenes were more about repeating this typical Korra-cycle of somehow regaining her powers, and that all this had been a futile journey is a great notion but one this season didn’t really have time to explore. Instead we got multiple scenes of Korra just not getting what was going on with her and the acceptance of her situation came without any poignant scenes or character-moments. The characters who advised her basically just described the internal journey she should go on but we never saw Korra actually going on that journey by herself.

And still it’s a great development that Korra ultimately didn’t “win” against Kuvira. The conflict wasn’t solved by her beating the shit out of the evil guy. Rather in the end it’s really just compassion that brings down Kuvira. It’s a cheesy line to say that love conquers all but the way Kuvira ends up losing the battle is very subtle. While fleeing into the spirit-vine-forest she discovers her gun and thanks to the surrounding spirit-vines, the weapon goes haywire and basically turns into a “nuclear bomb”. Kuvira was always bent on just winning the battle but then when things go wrong and is unable to turn off her weapon she faces certain death for the first time – except Korra is saving her life. And then they end up in the spirit-world as the giant explosion has created a new spirit-gate.

The dialogue that follows is the pivotal moment of the confrontation between Korra and Kuvira. What really sells this scene is less the dialogue itself but the body-language and voice-acting of both Zelda Williams and Janet Varney. Korra empathizes with Kuvira’s goals and struggles but also reprimands her for letting her problems push her down that road where she ended up being a villain. At the beginning of the dialogue Kuvira just cowers before a standing Korra and is full of spite and stubbornness but as the dialogue progresses and Korra, never once getting angry, articulates her understanding for why Kuvira has acted the way she did, Korra is suddenly sitting down as well and actually lowers her head a little bit. Rather than expressing the anger and self-righteousness the Korra of the first two seasons would’ve expressed she just pities Kuvira for having done the things she has done while ignoring the voice of her conscience. And it’s great to see a villain actually giving up at such a moment. The more stereotypical development would’ve been for Kuvira to get angry and be evil for evil’s sake rather than see reason. It’s a great way to show actually a victory that feels like something a matured Korra would go for.

And this is the point, though, where I will have to reiterate how this is just “too little, too late”. Actually, I feel like we’ve already reached that point with the third season where Korra already wasn’t the rather annoying, headstrong girl she had been during the first two seasons. And while the third and fourth seasons have done a lot to improve Korra’s character, the first two seasons were a weak foundation for a fulfilling character-arc that would span the whole series rather than just singular seasons. The third season and this one have been great but they didn’t really do enough to change the bad stuff that were leftovers from the first two seasons.

In fact, even the great third and fourth seasons couldn’t solve one of the biggest problem-cases of this series: Asami. I mean, what the final moments of this series show is a rather strong indication of a homosexual romance between Korra and Asami. I’ve talked about this before but the reason why that moment of blushing from a few episodes ago might’ve been a teaser is because the series hasn’t really spent a whole lot of time developing the relationship between the two. I also said that they might as well go for the romance because that’s at least one way to define their relationship and it really seems like the series went for that one. Seriously this really isn’t a depiction of a good friendship anymore when two people insist on a vacation alone while beginning said one holding hands. If Asami had been a well-developed characters this actually might have been a great moment where Korra and Asami sort-of accept their closeness that was only subconsciously expressed before. As things are, this dalliance between Korra and Asami is more or less an invention of this fourth season. I just can’t say if this turn of events either fits Asami’s character or just doesn’t. Asami’s character is just too underdeveloped for one of those options to make more sense than the other.

Ultimately this season has ended on a good note. This finale has been great. The season has been somewhat great as well. But the series as a whole…? Despite this fourth season’s attempts to link all the previous seasons with this one, the whole notion of it never rang true for me. And it doesn’t help that Korra’s journey as a character basically was a coming-of-age-story with all the trials and tribulations of a brat not knowing what to do with her life until she had learned all those pesky little lessons life throws at you in these kinds of stories. And it doesn’t help that the series really only explored Korra becoming more mature with the start of the third season. In the first two seasons Korra’s immature behavior was used as a plot- and story-device. It took far too long for this series to realize that nobody wanted to see Korra win the day despite herself.

The Korra of the third and fourth season that wanted to do better was far more compelling to watch but those two seasons never had enough time to really delve into these issues. What happened in the third season was really just housecleaning as it focused more on exploring the entirety of the cast (with the exception of Asami, of course) and that was great. Naturally Korra just had become a somewhat better person all of a sudden in the third season and then she got poisoned by Zaheer. The third season saw Korra taking a step into the right direction and thanks to the trauma of the poisoning Korra immediately took three steps backwards in terms of character-development.

In the fourth season Korra abandoned her duties and struggled with her loss of power. Until then Korra’s physical supremacy had been one of her trademarks. And she does this and that in order to remove the rest of the poison so that she would regain her strength. Meanwhile, everyone helping her along the way is telling her that her loss of physical power is as much a mental problem. That’s when this finale proposes the idea that Korra had needed to suffer the impotence imposed by the poison in order to understand Kuvira’s troubles. First of all, I don’t think that logic holds up when closely examined unless Korra thinks she was fated to understand Kuvira and in order to do that she had needed to go through the “trial of the poisoning”. Rather than having Korra regain her power (for the millionth time since this series has been beating that drum A LOT since the start), Korra finally just didn’t get her power get but instead simply became a better person. Four seasons and we finally got a Korra that not only takes her job seriously but also tries to be a good person while doing it. Usually it’s a bit cheesy to annotate an ending with “This is just the beginning.” but seriously… It took this series four seasons to reach a point it should’ve reached at the end of the second season. But the first two seasons were mediocre at best and so the other two seasons picked up the slack and at least got the series to a point it should’ve already reached during the second season at least. This is one of those series with a better second half but the second half really isn’t good enough to redeem the series for its rather weak first half.

Episodes-Rating: 8.5/10

Season-Rating: 8.5/10

Series-Rating: 7.5/10

Random Thoughts:

  • Varrick really stole the show this season. Before this season he always has been a very entertaining side-character and this season rightly gives him a lot more attention. John Michael Higgins’ stellar voice-acting and the manic characterization of Varrick really made this character one of the consistently most entertaining elements of this season. Varrick’s romantic arc with Zhu Li may be more sentimental than anything else but it still is a rather effective arc thanks to how effective Varrick as a character is.
  • Prince Wu has been a character that has improved during the course of this season. Although I don’t really like how the second half of this season has made it a running gag for Prince Wu to say sensible things to the surprise of everyone present. I mean, we never learned just how exactly he suddenly gains these wise, inspired ideas. He was less annoying because that running gag but it didn’t really sell me on the idea of him as a full-developed character.
  • I wonder if Nickelodeon will try to sell sequel-comics like they did with The Last Airbender or whether they’re just done with this franchise. Well, considering how Nickelodeon treated this series, it wouldn’t surprise me if they just drop all the support for this franchise beyond producing DVDs/BluRays for Legend Of Korra.

About M0rg0th

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

Posted on December 19, 2014, in Anime, Reviews, The Legend Of Korra: Book Of Balance (S04) and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Ha, how awful Nickelodeon has been with this series! If only since the beginning they hadn´t rushed the stuff, if only that season could have been kept developing as a two core or something with all the consecquences it should had! I´m serious, that plot thread of the non benders? They were swiped away, who cares about the innocent by-standers? we the GODS have the power and we must destroooy!! And such. I was hoping Kuvira could be a charismatic non bender leader, now that would have been a real challenge as a story! She doesn´t has any power! except for the support of her people!
    Also, I find a little underwhelming the whole Kuvira relationship with the family of Sun or whatever–the sister of Lin. Who was her again? Ooh, we just had a flashback of her being around doing something and being a lackey, then all of a sudden— she´s engaged with this guy and ruling a semi dictatorship! Hurray! But how did that happened? That´s the real deal, all those retcons really doesn´t work for me in this series, I don´t remember Aang going around saying “aaah, do you remember this thing the flame reign did? you know, the thingy that happened…between episodes?” nope, everything was there since the beginning, they just played it all with the whole consecquences and natural flow of the story/ character interactions. Even if this series wasn´t planned as throughoutly since the beginning, they should have been more open to these kind of details, maybe some mention of “uuh and the earth kingdom is in a power struggle or being ruled by a biatchy woman!” or maybe “Korra, there were reasons why you were isolated from the world! other than keeping you as a care free world ignorant avatar!… because we need to rehash the whole Aang-who-doesn´t-know-how-much-the-world-has-changed thing”
    That´s what really peeves me xD
    But whatever, can´t wait for the comics on the next avatar in the cycle or whatever! Hahaha
    By the way, excellent reviews you have here, keep it up!

    Like

    • “Ha, how awful Nickelodeon has been with this series!”

      I bet the only thing people will remember this series for will be the Korrasami-ending. All the shit DiMartino and Konietzko had to wade through in order finish this series and get it aired is unbelievable.

      And Korrasami isn’t even such a great romance. It has its moments and the conclusion of this series is very romantic and valuable as a showcase of bisexual lovers on TV… but overall, it’s a romance with a great conclusion and a lot of secretive hints and teasing as build-up for it. First of all, you barely get to see Asami in this series and of the few times you see them together even fewer hint at a romance. Korrasami just sort-of appears in the third season and it simply becomes fact at the end of the fourth season. Between there and then barely anything resembling a romantic arc happens.

      “Also, I find a little underwhelming the whole Kuvira relationship with the family of Sun or whatever–the sister of Lin.”

      Yeah, that wasn’t very inspired drama but good voice-acting and a good dose of earnestness helped in that regard, I felt like. Especially Zelda Williams’ performance as Kuvira helped a great deal to sell that character.

      “Even if this series wasn´t planned as throughoutly since the beginning, they should have been more open to these kind of details, maybe some mention of “uuh and the earth kingdom is in a power struggle or being ruled by a biatchy woman!” or maybe “Korra, there were reasons why you were isolated from the world! other than keeping you as a care free world ignorant avatar!… because we need to rehash the whole Aang-who-doesn´t-know-how-much-the-world-has-changed thing” ”

      Well, the production of this series has always been a little bit troubled or at least rather stressful. In the second season they tried to outsource the animation more and the result of that was a step-down from the usual quality. And the first and second season were pretty much self-contained arcs that only had little hints of an overarching story in the form of character-arcs that continued where the first season left off.

      It was only in the third and fourth season when the story-arcs started to find ways to tie it all together for the sake of a series-finale. And honestly, that sort of self-reflective perspective had helped a great deal in improving the quality of the storytelling. It didn’t solve all the show’s problems but at least it did solve some of them.

      “But whatever, can´t wait for the comics on the next avatar in the cycle or whatever!”

      Can Nickelodeon do that? Anyway, I know that the show’s creators don’t plan to do anything Avatar-related in the near future. Understandable after what they had been through.

      Like

      • Haha, no, of course they won´t do a comic series very soon! I haven´t heard any of it, but it wouldn´t surprise me, given the offspring of people wanting to continue it with their own OCs and fanfictions, but they never listen to fanfictions and people, right? Hahaa, who knows!?

        maybe they did, all that Korrasami, as you said, was pretty much out of the blue! I mean, only the fanboys were sailing that ship, and even then, it was pretty much out of the blue! I think you can trace the beginnings of some kind of relationship way back in first season, when Asami was all over competing with Korra and such, yeah, that episode in the car race track? Hahaha, I didn´t even thought about them in such a way, but I guess people is sick of those love polygons, so they thought it would be kwel to have a veery different relationship for once! Forget the douchy, let´s get going together, femme power!

        But the thing is, that would have been awesome not in the way of “whiiine we were hurt by this azzhule! let´s forget about men and give each other support!”

        Because you can see that kind of stereotypical lesbian reasons in fiction a lot! The man has been bad let´s turn to the women! Or something? I would have bought that better if they didn´t begin with the makorra and mako asami in the first place, maybe just mako having a crush on them but being regularly let down, now that would be a real change!

        Whatever, I have read better fanfictions on this regard, where Korra found her secret feelings and just followed them throughoutly without inhibitions, and that would have been so in character for her, she didn´t seemed to have any of these in the first few episodes, well, she just kissed mako all of a sudden! why not the same with Asami?If only she weren´t such a pointless side character, if only she would have done more! I wanted more from her, of all the other team avatar guys she was the most interesting, yeah, even more than korra (I mean, who doesn´t?) at least she didn´t needed contrived reasons to justify her role and protagonism! Ha, if only…

        Oh, and yeah, the voice acting in this series has always been their strong point! Maybe the animation can be sloppy at times, very animesque in the sense of being lazily done, and sometimes downright ugly! xD but the voice acting has always been nice, and even if the characters were incomprehensible at times in their motivations, psique, pathos and such, at least their voices were competent!
        Is like those movies where you have a cast full of dummies, a dumb story and more, but also you have this veteran actress/actor who don´t matter with whom she/he acts, they always do great! And you can tell “they have never had a bad partner in their movies!” But is not that, is just that their sheer genious keeps everything else together!
        Too bad that didn´t work well when they change the antagonists every other season, right?

        Ok, rant apart, could you imagine what would have been of this series if they had just focused on Amon and red lotus, with Kuvira acting in the background? Wow! 3 major antagonists playing all together pulling the strings on the world! I can only imagine Amon taking advantage of red lotus ambitions working together while Kuvira was unifying earth kingdom, everyone causing troubles at the same time! dividing Korra´s attention, demanding more actions to be taken by the protagonists! I feel they have been pretty reactive to the whole world threatining situations, at least Aang was on a journey to attain power in order to defeat the big baddie, but this team avatar was just pointlessly wandering until troubles knocked their door!

        Wow, way to be passive heroes! And also, they never ever listened to what the baddies were saying, thereally had good points sometimes, the non benders? the tyranic rulers? what about the forgotten earth people? I dunno about uncle nobody, he was just… mmh trying to become big and red or something xD it confuses me what did he achieved! But whatever, I really liked they tried to colour in shades de big baddies, but I couldn´t see the bigger picture they were pretending to achieve with them, so sad…
        Thank for answering, by the way.

        Like

  2. LOL, don´t know how I did knew, even though I was joking! But now it is official, they are going to make the ” the comics on the next avatar in the cycle or whatever”, they are not about the next avatar, but they are about a whatever thing. So, whatever, it was predictable, I guess….ign.com/articles/2015/07/10/comic-con-the-legend-of-korra-graphic-novel-series-announced I wonder if at least they are going to tell a compelling story or something…

    Like

    • Yeah, I mentioned the possibility of sequel-comics in the review as well but also just as I suspected: The only thing we focus on is the Korrasami-relationship as the legacy of this series. And it’s quite hypocritical how Nickolodeon supports a sequel-comic for this series. After all, when the series aired Nick couldn’t see it end fast enough! That drama surrounding the third season (“Now we’re suddenly airing it without any marketing… What, there’s a fourth season, just continue releasing it, let’s just get it over with… *a few months later* Ah, fuck it, we aren’t even gonna air it anymore, just watch it online…”) is one of those prime-examples you can point at to show why now a lot of quality-TV is released in places like Netflix for example (Daredevil comes to mind in that regard). The old model for how TV-channels work simply doesn’t work anymore.

      But now that the series has gained huge popularity due to Korrasami, all of a sudden there’s going to be a sequel-comic. Well, good for them, although, I don’t know what the creators of Avatar think about that. All the interviews they did around that time made clear that they weren’t interested in doing more Avatar-stuff. But if the comics sell well as well… who knows, maybe Nick will approach them and all of a sudden they actually DO want those two creators to make more Avatar-stuff.

      Like

  3. Yeah, it seems a little fishy from their part on taking this opportunity to milk the show even more. But still, since the thing made the show so popular postmortem was the korrasami progressive relationship, I hope that can lead them to be more open towards that kind of shows where there is more than just the regular conservative content. Well, I´m not expecting nor wishing for something too polemic, but more representation those social groups that in this actuality aren´t minorities anymore.

    You know, I hope for this to be an open door for something more openminded in the content of the tv shows. At the same time, I don´t see it being the case (not too soon, but who knows) because I know the only reason the show became so popular was because the masses expropiated it through the internet, let´s be realistic, the tv broadcoast doesn´t have the same popularity it had years ago, so the people that liked that much the korrasami in internet is not like the people who loved the kataang in open tv.

    And obviously, like disney, nickelodeon isn´t going to receive with open arms shows that try to comunicate out loud that kind of contents, or who knows… they can have their own version of adult swim!

    But if we take the case of korra as an example, the creator said that they were afraid to show the growing relationship between the girls in a more open way because, even if it wasn´t strictly prohibited, they knew it was going to be problematic with the broadcaster. And maybe that´s why it was moved to the internet! Because they really wanted to be honest to their ideals and the best way was to show it in a medium more open-minded and whatever.
    But I´m sure it was due to the loss of tv viewers too (lol).

    And yeah, the creators said they weren´t going to have more avatar material, but even though, it seems they too got caught in the hype train! because they are going to participate in the art and story writing section, well, it is going to be canon at least. And at the same time, they both have a new project, one for each, and those even look far more interesting that milking the korrasami cow or whatever, in fact, I will like to check those out! (comicon 2015, those are all new news!! don´t remember the names and details, lol cartoonbrew.com/books/avatar-korra-cocreator-michael-dimartino-to-write-geniuses-novel-series-115674.html , especially threadworlds seems, oh, so alluring)

    Like

Please Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: