Saturday, June 23, 2012

Rant: The Legend of Korra (End of Season 1)

NOTE: This post contains spoilers for the whole season of The Legend of Korra.

I'm going to say this right now: I did not enjoy this season at all, and this post is going to be all criticisms and complaints. I'll give the show two credits, it's beautiful art direction seen throughout the season, and some good voice acting from the cast.

OK. So, the first season of Korra is all wrapped up and it was terrible. The final two episodes were just the icing on the cake, heh. This post will be about my criticisms and complaints about the entire season, not just the last two episodes. The best way to go about this is by criticizing the source of everything bad in this series (by which I mean The Legend of Korra, not The Last Airbender): the characters.

But first, I want to move attention to the biggest flaw in this series for me: throughout The Legend of Korra, there was never a sign that benders were evil. All we get are the ruffians in the first episode and a sentence where Mako says his parents were killed by a fire bender; other than that, nothing. How is the audience supposed to sympathize with Amon, or for that matter, actually understand where is passion for equality even comes from? A conflict needs an established source, and the equalist conflict, the conflict that is the driving force behind the entire story of The Legend of Korra, has no discernible or impactful source. It's simply: "we gotta stop that bad guy! Why? Because he's a bad guy!". This is just poor writing. OK, with that point out of the way, onto the characters...

Korra - talk about the destruction of a potentially great character. Basically, all of my fears from the first two episodes came true. While it was obvious the writers would pair Korra up with one of the brothers, I feared the resulting romance would result in the destruction of Korra's character into a cliched and poorly executed mess of a character; and that's exactly what happened. Korra's air bending training via playing in the pro-bending tournaments, as well as her development into a less hot-headed person; all thrown out the window for angsty teenage romance. Korra's character was reduced to the lowest common denominator (espeically as a female protagonist) by becoming a girl who acted simply by impulses, whether it be in her juvenile crush on Mako, or her stupid decisions concerning her battles; Korra was not written as a character, but simply a plot device; something many other characters were also reduced to. Furthermore, Korra severly lacked presence in the overall story; I would guess that Mako had more screentime and dialogue than Korra did. Oh, and moping about the loss of bending at the end did nothing for her character, nor did the return of her bending as a result of said moping. Weak!

Asami - a character obviously created solely for the love triangle sub-plot. No, you know what? The romance wasn't a sub-plot. This whole freakin' series was an angsty teenage romance story the whole way through; the "main plot" was there, but it always felt like it was put into the background of the romance plotline. Asami is proof this, as she had no point other than being an obstacle for Korra to overcome to get Mako. Her whole conflict with her father was unnecessary, as it had very poor development and a poor resoltution. Asami could have been a very interesting character; like Korra, she had potential, but it was ultimately wasted on that nemesis of potentially good plotlines: romance.

Mako - tch, what can you say about Mako. Well, because the whole pro-bending thing was dumped after two episodes, I'd say he was created just to be Korra's love interest; and he was executed terribly. He came off as a complete jerk throughout the middle of the season. He was with Asami, but did nothing but kiss her; he rarely interacted with Asami at all unless it was arguing over Korra. He was useless in combat, did nothing for strategy, and was basically present simply to be pretty and be the heart-throb of the series; just an angsty, angry, good-looking bad boy, the kinda guy every girl wants; right Korra and Asami? (Ugh, this series did nothing for female characters).

Bolin - I thought he'd develop into a clever and funny guy, like Sokka. But instead, he was only used for jokes. That's it. There's really nothing more to say.

Tenzin - the one good character in the show. He was mature, strong, caring, and pretty funny. His animations also brought out a lot of his character; similar to Sokka in TLA. Tenzin is the one who really moved the plot along and was actually more of a main character than Korra in the "main plot". Overall, no complaints about Tenzin; his children on the other hand...

Jinora - what is with children in this world being so interested in romance? She's 12 years-old and all she does is talk about boys and relationships; that's it. That's her only character trait. C'mon writers, girls and women can have other interests!

Ikki - basically nothing to say here, but at least she wasn't all boy crazy like her older sister. Heh, maybe the series should've been about Ikki.

Meelo - the one for the kids to laugh at. That's basically it. Tch, so many characters in this series are such tools created by the writers.

Pema - the writers have said before that their fans of Gainax anime, and it shows here; after all, what Gainax anime wouldn't be complete without the manipulating, assertive, succubus female character. Remember little girls: if your man is in the arms of another woman, you get him to be yours by any means necessary; screw everyone else's feelings but yours. Tch, the female characters these writers create...

Lin Beifong - a promising character who was pretty close to being pretty good, but ended up failing due to poor execution. She is basically beaten throughout the series, over and over. Never learning from her mistakes, or applying herself. Why? Maybe the writers didn't want her to upstage Korra? Or maybe their just bad writers? Basically, despite a few cool moments, Lin never comes across as a strong character, despite being an adult alongside Tenzin and the daughter of Toph "Kickin' Your Ass" Beifong.

Amon - he had a good start, but when Tarrlok stole his spotlight, everything just went downhill from there. Amon continued to lose his fearful presence as the "revolution" has less and less emphasis put on it, mainly thanks to all the angsty teenage romance. His resolution was also terrible, as it reduced him to a weakling with Daddy issues.

Tarrlok - the writers must think that we're idiots, because it couldn't have been more obvious Tarrlok was a villain from the first time we see him. His execution in the story wasn't terrible, but it was short-lived and he felt more like a long plot device to get to the climax of the season with Amon.

OK. Let's get into the the final two episodes (the finale); which had me laughing out loud at what I was seeing, especially the last 10 minutes.

First, there was the backstory. My first problem here was the absurdness of Yakone altering his face; how does such technology exist in this world setting when they're just now making airplanes? Then, you have the woman who becomes Yakone's wife. Are the women in this world just so desperate that they'll fall for any man who walks their way?!? This guy is a freakin' gangster whose probably killed many people, and a woman falls for him? It's not like he was trying to start over and repent for his misdeads; why should we assume his character was any better than when he was a gangster? Was he really so nice a guy she'd marry him? I find that really hard to believe; so I'll say she was only in the story to have Amon and Tarrlok; after all, what are women good for other than making babies? Am I right? (I'm kidding ladies). Oh well, the whole backstory was a very forced scene anyway that was done to simply make us feel bad for these terrible people. This backstory wouldn't have been so bad if it was near the beginning of the series when we just met Tarrlok, but its way too late to try and make us feel sympathy for these people who've already established themselves as evil. But, let's say the backstory did get to you, and you actually felt bad for Amon and Tarrlok; well, too bad, because they die anyway. How stupid was that!?! What's the point of going out of your way to make us feel sympathy for the two villains of the series, just to have them die anyway, and by their own hand, no less. Terrible writing!

So Amon and Tarrlok's resolution was weak; how about our main characters? Well, even worse!

Now, I thought Korra losing her bending was a great thing. This way, we could see her strength come from somewhere else; maybe she would use her wits or apply her bending skills to physical martial arts, or ..... or she can just pull a Goku on us and use her strength of will to air bend. Now, I would've been fine with this, if the writers actually took the time to explain exactly how Amon was removing people's bending using blood bending, but they never do. So Amon can only take away bending that people know how to do, but there's nothing stopping them from learning other forms of bending? That's ridiculous! Shouldn't it be all or nothing? I don't know, because it was NEVER EXPLAINED!!!

But, it doesn't matter any way, because the writers pulled a deus ex machina and gave Korra her bending back because, you know, she's the avatar, and plot-armor and all that. Oh, and Korra and Mako love each other now, because you know, when (attractive) teenagers spend time with each other, they have to fall in love! But, how does Asami feel about all this? Who the hell cares! Screw her feelings! Makorra is where it's at!!! (sarcasm)

Really, the last ten minutes of the finale just had me laughing the whole time. The writers showed absolutely NO creativity. Instead, they just made everything go right back to normal. Were there any lessons learned? NO! Were there any casualties? NO! Was there a moral for the audience? NO! But, you know what, I bet Mako's getting lucky tonight, and that's all that matters. Oh, and Korra learned air bending, hoo-freakin'-ray! And all it took was finding a man you were willing to save. Way to go Korra!

Honestly, I didn't want to hate this series. Despite having some problems with Avatar: The Last Airbender, it was still an enjoyable series with some good characters, great animation, and some great writing. The Legend of Korra has none of that. The creators tried to make Korra one cohesive story going from episode to episode, instead of creating stories that stand on their own like in TLA, and I think that's where Korra fell apart; there's just a complete lack of focus. And why did the writers focus so much on the romance? It's not as if romance can't be written well (though it's not as if it was done particularly well in TLA either, but still better than Korra's), and it's not like a romance story with these characters couldn't have been good, but if you're going to try and create a setting in conflict and create a story around said conflict, don't constantly detract from it with angtsy teenage romance. Write a romance story instead. Focus, dammit, focus! 

Really, everything wrong with this series comes right down to the writing. 

Alright, that's it for this rant. Sorry for anyone who read this and enjoyed The Legend of Korra. This is just my opinion, you're absolutely free to refute everything I said here and enjoy the series; however, I stand by everything I said in this post. 


  1. I must say I agree with you. I was a huge fan of TLA, but this was just a weak form of that. I really don't like the fact the story 'finishes' here. There are no real loose ends left and it's a 'living happily ever after' ending. Seriously that's not what I'm looking for in a freakin' season 1 finale. Son I'm dissapoint.

    1. Yeah, I was hoping for an ending similar to the TLA season 2 finale, where everything just looks grim; have us on the edge of our seat, you know.

  2. "Oh, and moping about the loss of bending at the end did nothing for her character"
    Well... she DID feel like committing suicide. Not very much beyond that, no.

    Villain obviousness is not a problem. Think of the guy who fucked with Zuko or even the Joker.

    Plastic surgery: Your first problem is way earlier than this, it's there in the setting itself. (And did you even research it?)
    Yakone's wife: unjustified rant. The viewer knows nothing about this part of the backstory. Do not presume.

    "Terrible writing!"
    So, a character only have the right to be interesting if she/he survives the end of a story? Seriously? What's the brilliant argument for this? On a softer way, I can mention: Lennie Small, Baleia, Werther, Snape, Ned Stark, etc. Also, death, sometimes, is inevitable.

    "The creators tried to make Korra one cohesive story going from episode to episode, instead of creating stories that stand on their own like in TLA, and I think that's where Korra fell apart"
    The arcs was weak, not non-existant. Less rant and more precision, please.
    "to make ... one cohesive story from episode to episode, instead of creating stories that stand on their own"
    I did not understand. Are you using a exclusive or cumulative sense? Because, I'll tell ya, the exclusive sense makes no sense.

    Energy bending was present in the first series. It is a VALID and DEDUCTIBLE factor. And the writters used it. The point is not it being used, but HOW it was used.

    "Was there a moral for the audience?"
    ... ?

    I agree with many of your points and, ultimately, that the Korra's 1st season sucked. But you should try to be more precise.

    (You seem to have strong feelings about woman stereotypes. I wonder, ha.)

    1. You make many valid points, but I did this as a rant rather than a critique, meaning I didn't put too much thought into this post other simply putting my thoughts on the page. If I were to do a critique on Korra, it would come across as much less negative, heh.