Avatar: The Legend of Korra – 02

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Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, let the shipping wars begin…

Borra?  Kolin?  KoKo?  Marra?  The possibilities are endless, though it remains to be seen if the “Avatar” fanbase will embrace their favorite pairing with the same passion they did with the first series.  One thing’s for sure – almost everyone who watches will end up being in the camp of one of the two bending brothers, the elder firebender Mako (David Faustino, of Married with Children fame) or younger, earthbender Bolin (P.J. Byrne).  Mako (pronounced Japanese-style, “Mah-ko) is of course named after the beloved Japanese actor who played Uncle Iroh (and passed away just before the original series ended), and Bolin (“bow-lin”) – to me anyway – sounds like one of Tolkien’s dwarves (and thus the bending style seems fitting).  The personalities seem to match the discipline – Mako is hot-tempered and opinionated (his counterpart in the “Avatar” universe seems to be Zuko) and Bolin is solid, “earthy” and even-tempered (a little Sokka-ish).

For my money, I think I prefer Bolin – he seems like the underdog in this triangle, anyway, which is usually enough to get me rooting for a character.  If the flags Bryke are sending up are to be believed though, it definitely seems like Mako and Korra are being set up as the future couple – the ending of the episode with them staring across the bay at each other from their respective towers was about as subtle as a kick in the nuts.  In any case these two are clearly a vital part of the story, not only for the entry they provide into the world of professional bending, but as they seem to be at the core of Korra’s new “Aang Gaang” (now accepting nickname submissions).  And they add a nice element to the chemistry of the story, too – I thought the dialogue between they and the MC was pretty sharp, especially in Bolin’s case.

As to professional bending, that in itself is an interesting plot element.  The idea seems to be teams of three, one from each of the disciplines (with airbending still being almost unpracticed) which implies quite a restriction for Korra once she talks her way onto the brothers’ “Fire Ferrets” team.  The sport is apparently quite popular, with the masses tuned in on radios that continue the 1930’s-style technological bent of the series, complete with an old-school announcer offering play-by-play.  Unsurprisingly Tenzin is opposed to the sport as an atrocity, beneath the dignity of bending – but in a too-neat resolution of his brewing feud with Korra, he realizes that she can actually learn some useful skills from it.

This was a better ep than the first one, with generally sharper dialogue that had some nice laughs – including the banter with Korra and Bolin (“Oh, you implied it.”) and the conversation between Tenzin and his daughters on the subject of their teenage years.  I thought the family dynamic between Tenzin and his children was generally good, but I’m less pleased at the chemistry between he and Korra.  Their mentor-student relationship seems very formulaic and generic to me thus far, and their scenes together haven’t been especially enjoyable.  Again, their disagreement over Korra’s refusal to follow his direction was resolved much too neatly and predictably, and I think her behavior throughout the episode should have made him even angrier than it did.  Indeed, I think Korra is the weak link in the show so far – I’d already grown to like Aang a lot by this point. Fairness dictates that I mention that Aang is supposed to be more likeable than Korra is, but even so, I’m not feeling this Avatar so far.  She’s yet to break free from the bonds of trope-hood and emerge as an individual.  But there’s still time.

I can’t wrap without mentioning the soundtrack again, because it really adds so much to the series.  The Track Team’s work sounds authentically Asian without descending into the kind of cliché that most American movies with an Asian theme succumb to.  So far the best thing about Korra for me is the universe itself, this interesting pastiche of Avatar mythology, rollicking 1930’s American and the exoticism of an Asian port city like Shanghai or Yokohama.  If the characters haven’t caught up to the setting I’m not too worried, because Mike and Brian have certainly earned a good degree of patience from their audience on that score.  As they find their sea legs I suspect the character dynamic and dialogue will become more natural, though I confess I do worry about Korra as a main character.

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  1. H

    So it's not enough for you to just take sides in the Chihayafuru shipping war, you have to take sides in this one eh? 😛 As for names for the new gaang the best one I've heard so far is Korral but I'm sure someone will come up with an even better one soon.

  2. K

    I am not shipping anyone yet, going to wait for more interaction. But I am sure I will ship the characters who will end up together, I usually do in the end. 😉

    But awww I like Korra. I like that she is flawed in a very different way than Aang. I also like Tenzin a lot. He seems so severe at first but I love how he shows a lighter side to him (when he cheers at the pro-bending match).

    So far the only character that didn't do it for me was Toph's daughter, but I think it's too early to judge her.

    I have to admit my favorite moments was everyone listening to the match on the radios.

  3. I'm not down on Korra yet, just haven't warmed up to her.

    "Korral" is pretty good – I like it!

  4. D

    I've also heard of "Korralition" for their name, haha, it's kind of clever and also fitting for their situation in-series.

  5. F

    almost everyone who watches will end up being in the camp of one of the two bending brothers,

    Everything I know about Avatar I learned from /u/ (which definitely skews my perspective), so I find this statement hilarious.

  6. H

    The original show had some insane shipping wars (which are still going on to a degree almost four years after the show ended) so I have no doubt that Enzo is right on the money. Hell, I think people starting shipping Korra with the brother's back during SDCC when the character designs were unveiled, a good portion of the fandom probably already is in one of the camps. XD

  7. F

    That wasn't, quite, my point.

    You know what /u/ is, right?

  8. Well, we're three weeks before the official premiere and there are already 5800 shipping war posts on avatarspirit.net…

    Apparently "Borra" and "Makorra" are the prevailing labels at the moment. Can't say I much like the sound of either, even if I used the former myself. If you're going with Mako, why not KoKo? Much catchier – might win the war right there…

  9. e

    Hmmm, 'borra' in my mother tongue is a naughty slang for 'semen' :p

    Well, hunting for this ghost leak again…

  10. L

    This is as good as any anime I'm watching right now. ^_^

    And where did you watch this? The quality is amazing… unlike my LQ stream.

  11. There are diamonds in the rough, a veritable torrent of them in fact (720 karat) if you search carefully.

  12. D



    Geez, people.

  13. That's LQ though, isn't it?

  14. H

    Actually it looks pretty good, it might not be full HD but it's far from crappy (also, that 720 stream had to come from somewhere and from the original site sounds like a good bet).

  15. L

    The official site does look a lot better than what I had ^_^;

    thanks Da5id

  16. D

    Gonna agree that this episode was better than the first, not that the first was bad at all. But this one definitely had a lot more focus in its plot, and had the benefit of introducing the other two main characters. Also, can't really blame Bryke for the quick resolution, as sloppy as it was; Korra was slated for 12 episodes originally, and they were already written and shipped out by the time the team got greenlit for another 14 episodes. So, at least for me, I'll allow the story the time to unfold in 12 episodes, though given the themes, environment, and advancements that they should explore in addition to the main plot, it'll probably be a bit rushed.

    Just gonna say that from this episode alone, both shippings were given attention, seeing as Bolin was pretty taken with Korra at their first meeting and they already have a good relationship given how similarly they think. Meanwhile, Korra admires Mako's offensive style in the ring but is turned off by how quickly he tends to shut her down. It's also worth noting that she seems pretty upset at his attitude, and it's only when he warms up to her at the end that she's happy to talk with him. So yeah. I didn't find her to be interested with either of them in particular, but rather the sport that they were competing in.

    tl;dr This episode had some ship tease in both directions that, with shipping goggles, can heavily lean either way.

    For that note, I'll say that the other trailer Nickelodeon has released regarding the season's content has quite a bit of Mako/Korra ship tease, and that's what makes me believe that they'll be the ones hooking up in the end, not so much the stuff in this episode.

  17. b

    I like how the bendings have new and different styles than before.
    Makes the fights and matches more interesting. Pretty much what I love about Avatar, the incorporation of real martial arts in the bendings(unlike it's movie counterpart…)Wish Airbending got some popularity as well there.
    These new guys who seem to be part of the gang are interesting as well.
    I've never really jumped on any ships on TLA so I don't think I'll be joining the shipping wars here. Have fun with that.
    Korra…is still too tomboyish and hardheaded. Not yet warmed up to her.
    But it's still early so let's just wait and see.

  18. I'm not going to be playing sides in the shipping wars either, but you can't write about the Avatar universe without acknowledging it as it's a huge part of the fanbase. I didn't really care that much about Zurata or Kataang, because TBH I didn't think she had much romantic chemistry with either of them. The most interesting relationship in the show was actually Aang and Zuko (though it was certainly non-romantic Bryke hilariously trolled the fans with that in S3) and in a way, that was the relationship that drove the entire show. And set up the premise for Korra, now that I think about it.

  19. M

    Your right I think the show was about Aang and Zuko. In the 3rd season Zuko's uncle Iroh was telling him how he was fated to be his alley and all. If Zuko was told that in the 1st season he would have never even given it a thought. Just to show that the series was driven by it. not good at explaining myself i'm sure you'd do a MUCH better job at that 😛 hope you get my point 😉

  20. A

    Korra is still a LOT better than "fam" I dont particularly not like her, I dont particularly like her as well. . .there are times I wish shed just sit the fuck down and relax. but I dont understand that brian and mike are making her the complete opposite of Aang personality wise, unfortunately the "hot headed main character with ppwers meeting a reality check after she/he fucks up and injures or kills someone in a world setting that looks at people with powers as threats" troupe is very strong in just the first two episodes. . . .I really they dont use that TIRED CLICHE as a plot point for character development. . .I hate when authors do that.

  21. M

    Not much of a fan of "hot headed main character" and she did get on my nerves in this episode when she destroyed "a thousand year old" historical monument and not feeling the least guilt and accusing her teacher to not be good enough even though she wasn't listening to a word he was saying but…

    I loved the first series, and the more I watched the more I learned of the characters and liked, (took me a few episodes to warm up to Toph but then loved her) so I'm going to wait and see.

    The first series made one of my favorite characters of all times, Zuko, which in my opinion was an evolution of a character. I loved how his character evolved throughout the show, which was slow but felt authentic.

  22. A

    Really? All I could think as I watched is, "I hope she screws up bad." her character is spoiled, hotheaded, rude, and unappreciative. There's nothing likeable about her. Almost everything comes to her easily. The whole "I can't airbend," is a trite flaw. She didn't prove to me she had conflict at all. There was a lack of inner conflict in living up to the Airbender name. No self-doubts at all, which doesn't make sense given her background and the worldview. Totally unconvincing character. Maybe I'll come around to her, but I wish she WOULD kill someone. Her characterization thus far is very superficial. She needs to screw up so there's CONFLICT. Inner and outer. She seems like a brainless fighting machine. Even hotheaded characters should have balance. Even most shounen heroes have a balance of character.

  23. A

    Oh look, the hypothetical show is no longer hypothetical.

    My postion on the shipping is the same as the previous series. Setting on my comfy sofa, eating popcorn and enjoying the after-episode carnage lol. You have fun Enzo bringing the Avatar ship-war to your blog.

    I don't now man, I think you are bing waaaaay too hard on Korra. I honestly like her a lot more than I did with Aang at this point (though I grew to love him as the series advanced) and now that I seen these two episodes, I think that she also sounds fine.

  24. Chalk that up to personal tastes. She's fine – she just seems very cliché to me so far. And the VA definitely sounds too old.

  25. e

    I really agree about the music here… it's really boosting the feel of the show. Fantastic work with the ost.
    Korra is still too much in the 'brawl over brains' bordering on one-note camp for my taste but we're still just at the beginning here. On the other hand I'm getting accustomed to her voice… it sounds very mature for her character at present, but not exactly *unfitting*. 'Vocal' foreshadowing 😀 ?
    Aaang's grandchildren are still adorable and entertaining.
    About the brothers, uh-uh, not boarding any ship yet.
    From a non-shippy angle, my ogle-at-the-hunk side quite likes brother Mako's looks, while Bolin so far seems nicer and refreshingly boy next door appereance-wise. Again, too soon to build a preference, if any. Character development/exposition will be key.

  26. m

    Funny, I had lots of trouble liking Aang at first, almost took me half of the first season until I completely warmed up on him.. I liked Korra instantly right after the first few minutes of the first episode.. :>

  27. D

    No problem about the link, guys!

    Enzo, are you going to cover this show on RC too? And if not, could you?

  28. RC doesn't really cover non-Japanese material, so no chance. I don't think I'd have time anyway, to be honest.

  29. K

    I thought it was interesting to finally see what an airbending lesson looks like. I thought Tenzin would be more calm and level-headed, so I was thrown off a bit by how he acted. It must be strange when your student is the reincarnation of your father.

    I still find all the technology somewhat jarring, since science and bending seems to be polar opposites.

    As a side note, airbending would be completely OP in professional airbending.

  30. m

    I really liked this episode because it really reminded me of why I liked Avatar so much the first time around. The bending action was amazing, the soundtrack was fantastic, and more importantly the dialogue between the characters made me lol on many occasions (I even slapped my knee a few times). And to me, that's what Avatar is all about. I mean the plot and character development are great, but in what other show do you get the kind of humor we got from Avatar on a regular basis??
    But yeah, I can't wait to see where this legend goes.

    I was also really happy when Tenzin came out of his shell a bit at the end with some "Avatarish" thoughtful words about patience.

  31. D

    Whoops; an animated Makorra kiss confirmed


    Still no word on whether it's really happening to them, someone dreaming, etc. It's at least animated though so yeah. Dang, these promotional videos are really leaning towards that pairing.

  32. g

    ah you blogged about this a few weeks ago but i finally brought myself to watching it this weekend. just couldn't wait any longer for the official premiere. the character design for this episode was just too attractive to me. (especially the new love triangle boys which is such a cliche that i fall deeeeeeeeeeeeeep down into..)

    i really liked this episode, like, REALLY liked. and i can't wait for more. and it was just so charming and the new plot elements were also just too interesting. and i have to thank you for pointing out that korra, who may or may not be an amazing lead character to me. i was just thinking that "man, i loved this episode..but there was one thing that was kind of dry.." and it was her! she's awesome, i like how she's the avatar (of course) and her personality but she's a little dry for some reason..

  33. A

    I think everyone will pick up subconsciously on how superficially she's writeen. She's got the energy, the attitude, but she makes no sense. IF she was labeled an "Avatar" as a child, she SHOULD be feeling some pressure. But she doesn't feel pressure at all. She doesn't have any small moments where she feels afraid of her destiny, or pensive and wanting to know about Aang.

    Almost everything comes easily to her. There are no repercussions for her foolish actions or rudeness. She disobeys and is rude and is…rewarded by the storywriters. She somehow succeeds wherein most stories a failure, (i.e. The game/match) would be used to teach her a lesson and allow her to grow. This makes her dry and unlikeable and takes away her humanity in the first 2 episodes. She doesn't fit in her background or her world.

    I think she's stupid as Hell. When she gets there and sees normal ppl being bullied by benders… She has NO thoughts in her head about it. She plays hero but has NO internal conflict about…anything! Not her destiny, not her power, not her shortcomings as an airbender, and not the politics or the world around her. She is disconnected from the world they've built, and that really sucks. "With great power comes responsibility and/or corruption."

    I wish she's screw up badly, because SOMETHING needs to save her superficially written character!

  34. C

    Because she's the avatar Republic City deserves, but not the one it needs right now.

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