If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Woo, Korra is back everyone! And man, do I feel bad for not re-watching the previous season before the new episodes aired, it hasn't exactly placed me in a great position for reviewing them. But luckily, it wasn't as bad as I expected and I only needed 10 minutes searching up character names and storylines afterwards to get back to speed. So with that out of the way, the next adventures of the Avatar are here, with plenty of hype and expectation behind what the animation team can deliver. The teasers promised some spectacular visuals and set up a very interesting story, so how does the opening fare?
The first episode opens several months after the events of the season one finale, showing where the characters are now in the aftermath of the Anti-Bending movement of Amon. Mako is part of the police force, and Asami is determined to save her father's nearly-ruined company. Korra still struggles to master Waterbending and Tenzin suggests a trip to the Air Temples where she may be able to improve her connection to the Spirit World. But Korra is increasingly irritated at the level of control being placed upon her life and her duties, but the team sets out to their first location of the Southern Water Tribe.
The Glacial Spirit's Festival taking place there allows them to meet Korra's uncle Unalaq, leader of the Water Tribes. Clear signs of distaste and rivalry grow between him and Korra's father Tonraq, as Unalaq is disappointed at how the festival has lost its roots of being a spiritual time and is now more of a carnival. He warns of dark spirits attacking ships and their growing ferocity, which prompts Korra to want to learn the techniques of controlling spirits. Their adventures from here-on focus heavily upon the strained relationships between the family members, and Korra desperately trying to break away from the controlling ways placed upon her.
This opening episode has a lot to say, and a lot of information to get through as it shows where everyone is now and starts building up the frame for this new season. From new characters and relationships, to delving into the spirit world and more tales from the past, there's a lot to digest. And if I have to be honest... it feels like too much at times. The episode starts immediately with not a whole lot of build up, and there are many sequences that last just seconds before it is on to the next story piece we need to pay attention to. It felt like high ambitions by the writers, but didn't fully work out in practise.
We do get some interesting changes in personalities, such as Tenzin becoming more of the family man after his exit from the Council. It's funny to see him be like the father swamped by his over-energetic kids, and the inside jokes and teasing he gets from his siblings, it works very well I must say. The same can be said for Asami, who appears to have really taken the events of the season one finale better than I expected. She's determined and knows exactly what she wants to get while negotiating a deal with a Water Tribe businessman. Who turns out to have a greatly entertaining sequence with some very good comedic writing placed in. It was a small aspect to the story that got enough attention to make it work just right, which I wish some other elements had too.
Animation-wise it is just as you would expect, it is all fantastic. The team has a whole new expanse of design to work with from the inclusion of the dark spirits, who have some very effective designs to them. Their neon-colour palette, angular bodies and sweeping movements give them a proper sense of threat as well as presence. It is a different form to those seen in "Avatar: The Last Airbender" who had designs based on animal forms, but it is a good inclusion here too. I liked the musical score a lot which had plenty of depth and range to it, and the lighting is even better than before.
But now on to the Elephant-Rhino in the room which have probably been waiting for me to bring up if you have seen the episodes, and that is Korra herself. You might assume that in this season she would have grown in spirituality and some form of self control, but not even slightly here. She is if anything, more of a whiny, arrogant bitch than ever before. I know that the episodes were illustrating her strained connections with Tenzin and those helping her as well as her frustration in mastering the abilities to become the Avatar. That is made very clear and is what everything pivots around and relates back to. But fuck's sake... she doesn't have to be this single emotion all the time. It goes as far as her making some awful decisions based on nothing except moodiness, and saying things to her father and friends that no self-respecting person would ever say. Even if this all is leading towards her learning lessons from her actions the hard way like Aang did with learning responsibility, it all just makes her look like a petty, snobbish teenager.
I wish that this wasn't such a problem for me, but it really dragged down scenes within the episodes. Having this happen now and then wouldn't be an issue, but I sincerely hope it is not a phase Korra must overcome over the space of half a season. Especially when there were so many things I enjoyed here. It left a slightly bitter taste in my mouth, but hasn't reduced my interest in this series. It's early days and there's a lot of potential to the framework of the story they set up here. Maybe like season one it will take a few episodes to fire on all cylinders... that's what I'm crossing my fingers for at the very least.
Thanks for reading! ^__^