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Review: The Legend of Korra – Book Two: Spirits DVD Set

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The Legend of Korra has had a bit of a rough road, fandom-wise. From the get go, it’s had some big shoes to fill after Avatar: The Last Airbender, and many folks I know have kind of a love-exasperation relationship with the series. We love Korra, we’re exasperated with… Bolin/Eska, to pick one example. But if I had to hazard a guess, I’d say that most fans are still interested in picking up Book Two on DVD, for one reason: “Beginnings” Part 1 and 2, the story of the first Avatar, Wan, and the spirit Raava. So let’s go down the special features so you can get an idea of what’s packed in with Book 2.

The set includes one featurette, “Feuding Spirits: Korra’s Family,” four episodes with audio commentary from series creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael DiMartino and other folks working on the show, and two “Scene Bendings,” which is a cheeky way to say side-by-side comparisons of animatics to final episode footage. The two scenes given this treatment are the first fight between Korra and a rogue spirit, culminating in Unalaq dissipating it with his water bending; and Asami and Bolin’s first meeting with Varrick. It’s interesting to see an action heavy scene contrasted with a dialogue/character one, but to be honest I found the side by side presentation of the animatic and final scenes a bit visually overwhelming. Your mileage may vary.

“Feuding Spirits” offers some neat insight into Konietzko and DiMartino’s thoughts on family in narrative, as they point out that the classic hero archetype often lacks a family entirely, often being an orphan, a long-lost scion, or an independent adult. Naturally, previous-series-protagonist Aang also fell into that category, and it’s clear that they were excited to bring her family into the story, with Book 2 set primarily among the Water Tribes instead of Republic City.

Frankly, my biggest complaint about the DVD set is similar to complaints about the series as a whole: not living up to an expectation that was perhaps too high. I just assumed that there would be commentary tracks for “Beginnings” Part 1 and 2, the biggest addition to the lore of Avatar‘s setting since the finale of Last Airbender itself. I would have loved to hear Konietzko and DiMartino talk about the genesis of Raava’s character, the decision to reveal the Avatar as a literal bridge between humans and spirits (not just a defacto one), and whether this secret prehistory of humans, spirits, bending, and the Lion Turtles was always a part of Avatar‘s backstory, or invented during the process of writing Book 2. But, alas, the commentary tracks are for “Rebel Spirit,” “The Southern Lights,” “Darkness Falls,” and “Light in the Dark,” the first two and last two episodes of the season, respectively. 

The commentary, while dry at times (even for somebody who’s usually really excited to hear the details of television writing) contains some neat gems. For example, there’s a drill down on one of the inspirations for Korra’s character, female MMA fighters, and the ways in which that has affected both her personality and her visual design, as well as some amusing explanations of the horror that was returning to the Avatar Statue Room, a notoriously difficult set to animate with the show’s limited access to 3D effects. The creators also share some of their regrets, noting that they could have done more to establish that following Aman’s Equalist campaign, the all-bender council of Republic had been dissolved and a non-bender president had been elected, tying up thematic loose ends from Book 1. The commentary track that included series music composer Jeremy Zuckerman also pleased this music-lover’s heart. 

All in all, if you’re a big Avatar fan, you’re already after the DVD for the Wan episodes, if not the whole season. A lack of commentary on them probably isn’t going to stop you, and it shouldn’t, because it’s still a fun season, leading into this weekend’s explosive premiere.

Previously in The Legend of Korra

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