Saturday, April 14, 2012

City Lights

So now its part two of our premier episode, titled "A Leaf in the Wind". Korra has moved into Tenzin's home, which is situated on an island (known as Air Temple Island) close to Republic City, but not attached. It's populated by Tenzin's family and some monks. There is a noticeable distance between the people who live on the island, and those who populate the city. The islanders seem aloof, not in touch with the city populace. They are set aside and sheltered, and when the inevitable revolt reaches the island doors, I have serious doubts about their ability to handle it, not physically, but emotionally. This attitude is exemplified in Tenzin's oldest child Jinora. She has clearly embraced (or at least is trying to) the air nomad lifestyle. She tries to be very centered, but does get distracted by her younger sibling’s silly antics. Regardless, from the few times we see her air bend it's obvious that she has a graceful mastery of the art. As the kids help to set up the first training session, Korra confronts Tenzin about her apprehension to air bending. All the other elements have come so easy to her, and she's worried about tackling air. This is the first glimpse at uncertainty we see from Korra. Everything has come so easily for her up to this point; she has always had some skill over the other 3 elements. However, it’s becoming abundantly clear that air is completely foreign to Korra; she hasn't found any affinity to it yet. Tenzin reassures her by telling her of the struggles Aang had with earth bending, and explains to her that the most difficult element to master is the one opposite to the Avatar's personality. Air requires patience and subtlety, something Aang possessed by the bucket loads. Korra has more of a gun-ho attitude, which may serve her well in the future, but for learning air, is only going to prove to be a hindrance. So when it comes time to move and think like an air bender, Korra get knocked on her ass, twice, despite Tenzin's explanation of how an air bender moves and thinks. She inevitably goes ballistic and blows up some of the air nomad training panels with a little bit of fire. She struggles so much that when Tenzin offers more advise, she tells him that she thinks the problem is not with her, but his terrible teaching (ouch!). We also see that Korra's difficulties lies not just with air bending, but the air nomad life style. During a meditation session, where she is supposed to sit, and um, meditate, she fails by being impatient. She wants quick, immediate results, tangible returns to the effort she puts in. But, as we have seen from the last series, air bending is all about inner clam, and if you doubt yourself it could cause serious problems. Tenzin's two daughters (even the hyper one) are able to mediate quite well. Jinora is doing an exceptional job, not even reacting to Korra's interruptions. Ikki's face twitches a bit, especially when Korra announces that she's done with meditation and going to get some juice (Daddy, can I have some lychee juice too?). However, it's Meelo who steels the scene with his amazing display of mastery over meditation; being sound asleep! It’s a classic gag where his father tries to use him as an example only to have Korra point out the painful truth. Egg all over Tenzin's face. So with Korra stomping off, Meelo collapsing sound asleep on the floor, Ikki giving her father the stink eye to his denying her some juice, and only Jinora showing any amount of composure out of the four of them, it was not an easy day for the air bending master or his student. Another point I should mention is Korra's constant self distractions during her training. She is always looking elsewhere, either into the distance, or around her. She craves excitement, not this slow boring mediating non bending stuff. This is where the sport of pro-bending steps in.  
Jinora, Ikki, Meelo, & Korra sitting before Tenzin
Our exposure to pro-bending is a very beginners guide. We learn the rules, hear the crowds, and get to meet some of the key characters, notably brothers Mako and Bolin. Bolin is an earth bender while Mako is a fire bender. Bolin seems more along the lines of Sokka, kinda blunt, not really understanding the finer arts of subtlety and surprisingly popular with the girls. Mako is clearly cut from the same cloth as Zuko. We've only see him for 25 minutes and already he's brooding like he's Batman. He has just the right kind of hair and aloof attitude that would have gotten him all the girls if he were in a 80s movie. Throughout the training with Tenzin, Korra constantly indulges in pro-bending. First she starts by reading newspaper articles about the previous days matches, visibly excited at the idea of seeing a match live. Tenzin quickly squashes that notion. Then, while a bunch of the white louts guards are listening to a live radio broadcast of the day's match, Korra secretly sits on the roof of the hut eagerly following along. All characters in the scene are engrossed in the commentary, following along, cheering for Team Fire Ferrets (made up of Mako, Bolin and random water bender guy). However, Tenzin swoops in once again, unplugs the radio, gives Korra another stern warning and then walks away. This however, does little to deter Korra, who quickly escapes by making use of her water bending abilities. There is a moment, just before she hits the water where she bends a tunnel of water towards her body in order to soften the blow of hitting the water from too high. It's effortlessly done, which means she's had plenty of practice. More importantly though, it goes back to the exact same move Aang used when entering water in the original series. Maybe it's because Korra is from the water tribe, but I like to think that this was influenced a little bit from her life as Aang. 
After swimming the distance to the city where she enters the pro-bending arena, Korra unsuccessfully tries to sneak around. However, Bolin, who happened to be walking around when she gets caught comes to her rescue. It's a funny moment. While we watch Korra getting yelled at by an old earth bender who threatens to turn Korra in, Bolin can be seen in the background walking, does a double take, runs his hand through his hair to slick it down, and then goes marching in. Clearly he's rescued other girls from a similar fate. He tells the old guy that Korra's with him, as in they're together. Korra quickly admits that she is there with Bolin, but not in that kind of way. It kind of blew up in Bolin's face with him going, oh no, I didn't mean like that, and I couldn't stop laughing, as I've tried similar moves on girls only to have it blow up in my face like it just did for Bolin. Bolin then shows Korra around the stadium, eventually leading to the arena, where she gets front row seats to the match. Bolin tries to impress her some more when his brother walks in. Mako quietly asks Bolin why he keeps bringing his fan girls into the dressing room (really, they go after Bolin over Mako?), and then Korra is introduced to Mako. She is already somewhat familiar with Mako from the radio broadcast she heard. She starts gushing over him, clearly taken aback from his skills that she's heard, and his good looks. Could Korra have been any less obvious about her attraction to Mako? I wonder how Bolin would feel, though it seems he gets enough attention from the girls, as seen when The Fire Ferrets walk onto the area,  a girl can be heard chanting Bolin’s name (I still don't get it but good for him). Mako is dismissive of Korra, and when the match begins, clearly focuses on the opponents at hand. While fighting, Mako is clinical. While Bolin is just as skilled, he lacks the focus that Mako posses and gets caught flat footed more than once. Random water guy sucks. No more on him. Mako's fighting style is very boxery; he had strong punches of fire to off balance his opponents, while being light on his feet. He's quite a talented guy, and holds the team down when both his other team mates get eliminated, even winning an entire round by himself. When Bolin climbs back into the changing area after Mako wins it for the team, Bolin triumphantly asks Korra what she thinks. What does she think? What does she think? She's so excited by it that she just grabs Bolin by his shirt and then shoves him away. Mako continues to be dismissive of Korra, but she gives him as good as she gets. This is the kind of training she has wanted; action packed, where there are immediate rewards to moves and where she has to be quick on her feet. She asks Bolin if he could teach her some earth bending moves. He's more than willing, but because of her water tribe outfit, he doesn't know how his earth bending moves would translate to her water bending style. She quickly informs Bolin that she is a water, earth, and fire bender. This news only helps us to cement Bolin as the current Sokka replacement with his well timed "Mm hmmm! I'm very confused right now." Of course Mako, who has been paying close attention, doesn't miss a beat and realizes who she is, immediately apologizing. A little bit of a training scene, and we find out the Mako and Bolin live at the stadium.
Korra, Mako & Bolin
The next day, after Korra blows up half the air nomad panels, she once again escapes to the stadium. There she finds Mako and Bolin sitting in the changing room looking glum. Water bender guy (him again!) hasn't bother to show up after his poor performance in the last match, which means The Fire Ferrets will be disqualified from participating. They need one more person to fill the ranks, and Korra gladly jumps at the challenge. At first she struggles with the constraints of the sport, knocking people out of the ring illegally, all the while being targeted as the noob in the arena. Then she makes the mistake of bending both water and earth at the same time. The refs call a time out where they discuss what to do. It's at this point we should travel back the Air Bender Island, where Tenzin is trying to figure out why his teachings aren't working on Korra. His wife gently tells him to give the girl some space. Tenzin quickly looks at is daughters and demands that their teenage years not be full of that much turmoil. Jinora responds with a well placed "I make no such promises." When Tenzin goes looking for Korra, he enters the White Lotus room to discover that they are busy listening to the radio matches once again, and not really watching Korra. When Tenzin asks them where Korra is, only the radio answers; "You've gotta be kidding me. She's the Avatar folks! Playing in a pro-bending match!" A visibly upset Tenzin tells the White Lotus to not bother getting her, he will go himself. Tenzin must have felt quite let down and betrayed. The White Lotus guards are not doing the job they are supposed to, Korra is clearly going against his wishes and teachings, and now he must be questioning his ability to teach as he has failed at every turn with Korra thus far. Back to the arena, Korra is getting it from all sides. She's used to more space, and probably a slower paced, older style of combat. However pro-bending is fast and furious and she gets knocked around quite a lot. When Tenzin arrives, he confronts her about his displeasure at her participation. He feels that pro-bending goes against the tenants of classic bending combat, and that it is counter intuitive to his teachings. For him, the two worlds cannot coexist, and he only has respect for one type of bending. Korra dismisses him, going as far to say that she realizes that this is the type of teaching she requires, and that she has decided that she doesn't need to learn air bending! A surprised Tenzin states the importance of the Avatar learning air bending to be complete. Korra chooses to walk back to the area to finish her match and is immediately pushed back, almost being knocked out. Tenzin is in the stands watching from the shadows. It's now, with her back against the wall, Korra calms herself and begins to use some of the air bending techniques Tenzin has been drilling into her. She twists and turns and surprises her opponents, leading the team to victory. A similar moment happened with Aang while he struggled to learn earth bending from Toph in season 2. With his back against a wall, Aang finally was able to earth bend to save Sokka's life. Tenzin is surprised at the turn of events, but happy. He realizes that he was wrong about pro-bending fighting; it's not as uncivilized as he thought. It's a great moment of youth learning from the elder, while in turn the elder learns from the youth. After leaving the stadium victorious, Korra goes back to the island to apologize to Tenzin for her behavior, and Tenzin apologies for his narrow mindedness. Both characters have learned something valuable during the events; for Korra, sage advice can be invaluable and help when stuck in tight spaces; for Tenzin, keeping an open mind at any age will only help broadening it; learning only ends with death. The final shot is of Korra siting in her window, smiling and staring at the stadium, while at the same time, Mako is longingly looking towards the Air Temple Island (hint hint).

Love is in the Air.... bending
Cue dramatic music, roll credits, show over, and boy was the two part premier fun. While we still don't know much about the various bad gangs, or the anti-bending revolution in the first two episodes, there will no doubt be time to explore these events. We are also still kept in the dark regarding the fate of much of the "Gaang" from the last series, but I have no doubt we will come to know the truth. Another factor in the show that I have failed to discuss thus far is the soundtrack. The Track Team, the guys behind the original series, have outdone themselves. The music compliments the show so well, and it’s obvious, after working on the show since 2005 that they get the world of Avatar. You could just close your eyes and listen to the soft music that plays while Korra is in the water tribe, or dance to the jazz music as Korra runs through the streets of Republic City. And finally, despite only appearing in the opening credits thus far, Aang’s presence looms all over this series. This is not only because Korra is his reincarnation, or that his son and grandchildren are front and center, but because Republic City is also a part of his legacy. The fate of the city is the fate of Aang's memory, and right now there is turmoil in the Republic. Things will have to change if he is to be remembered well. Aang's shadow looms over the city, and not just due to the giant Aang statue that adorns the harbor. We are reminded of the big shoes (like Kyoshi big) that Korra has to fill, but I think she's up to the challenge. Another great episode in the bag.

Posted by: DogFish

1 comment:

  1. I would like to blog :0(

    How do I blog with you guys here?