Review of Legend of Korra: Book Two

(Spoiler alert!)

Drawing on the mythology from its predecessor, Legend of Korra: Season 2 derives further away from the over-arching plotline of Avatar: the Last Airbender and creates its own legacy with the origin story of the first Avatar, building upon an already intense mythology system with its own twist.

Struggling with her own spiritual side, Korra must embrace the core of her Avatar journey, and with dark cosmic forces looming on the horizon, she must contend with betrayal, growth and loss, with the fate of the universe dependant on her every action.

So, how does it live up?

With lore executed with a grace of an ‘info-dump,’ the unravelling of the origin story itself is stuffed into one condensed episode, occurring during a spiritual healing ceremony wherein Korra must retreat back into herself to look forward – all right alongside a series of peculiar sub-plots that do little but act as filler episodes…it’s a little difficult to say. Somehow they’ve managed to achieve a storyline that is consecutively entangled with incredible thematics and side stories that are vague at best, all whilst incorporating valuable, intricate character arcs that may just be the saving grace of this season.

Legacy, with all its thematic potential, is used to the fullest in this season. With Korra overshadowed by the spirituality of her predecessor, she struggles to live up to Aang’s legacy as the bridge between the Spirit World and her own, a burden that has been overarching since the previous season. Rather than having her change to become more like him, she discovers her own path, encompassing all her mistakes, flaws, and personal baggage in a mature transition to the Avatar she needs to become.

db14d55de56adcf09bebca1bbe7ac848Tenzin, her air-bending (the element most associated with spirituality) mentor, is revealed to be unable to visit the Spirit World, due to his own penance; the roots of which are revealed to be his father’s legacy.
During his venture into the Fog of Lost Souls in Episode 13, in a moment of desperation not to lose his mind, reassures himself that he is Aang’s son. His view of himself is not as an individual, but as his father’s son.
The weight of Aang’s legacy is so strong that it is shown to have influenced Tenzin’s teaching methods in the previous season, where his main goal appeared to be turning Korra into a replica of his father, rather than personalizing her Avatar journey. Tenzin’s eventual re-connection to his own self after confronting the spirit of Aang is one of the most compelling scenes as of yet, and a testament to the depth of character that this series can execute.

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Whilst the thematic components may have been obscured by the poor execution of the season itself, the plotline has revealed intricate details about the Avatar-verse and the lore of the Spirit World itself. Combined with the sheer depth of character development, a recognizable art style and fantastically execute fight scenes, whilst this season isn’t the best there ever was, it’s certainly setting the standard for the seasons to come.

References:

  1. Header image retrieved from https://thenerdsofcolor.org/2014/11/12/why-are-we-forgetting-about-korra/
  2. Image retrieved from http://ind5.ccio.co/mF/f2/uF/db14d55de56adcf09bebca1bbe7ac848.jpg
  3. Image retrieved from https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/db/14/d5/db14d55de56adcf09bebca1bbe7ac848.jpg

 

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Creative Media Curation

Platforms like PinterestYouTube and Spotify are crucial for appreciating, developing and honing my creative interests. My personal Pinterest account, having been used for over a year, is one of the best ways to collate inspirations and curate ideas for personal and academic projects.

Anyone with a Bachelor of Animation is bound to have a place to throw animation-related inspiration, and I am no exception. Whilst this board covers the basics (mouth movements, walk cycles, etc.) my special interest in the Avatar: The Last Airbender shows, with martial-arts-inspired dances derived from the styles on the show, to actual bending sequences used in the episodes. With one my main influences going into the animation industry, it’s no surprise it makes a feature here.

My “academic” account (never thought I’d use those two words in a sentence) is mainly used for developing class projects, for example, Thin Lines, a short-story concept about a disgruntled son given the chance to enact revenge on his father.

In terms of personal projects, mine range greatly from small length stories, isolated character ideas to fully-fledged universes with a planned graphic novella to accompany them.

Having a strong interest in body horror and symbolism associated with it, with inspirations drawn from the likes of Silent Hill, my monster inspiration board contains a plethora of grotesque, deformed creatures, easily influenced by fantasy and religion. I suppose it’s a bit of morbid fascination on my part.


Creating the backdrop in an original universe is just as important as the story itself. For, without the scene, is there even a world to begin with? My setting inspiration board, drawing on a range of different moods, from fantastical to dismal, stimulates ideas for my own personal projects. Whilst the pictures are not solely specific to any one project, they contribute already-existing story worlds and help develop new ones along the way. 

The personal projects I keep mentioning make an appearance here too. In my Bewitched verse, two races, derivative of the stereotypical angels and demons nuance, have boards that encompass real-life cultural influences (locations, dress, appearance) that have allowed me to flesh out their fantasy counterparts. Whilst the ‘seraphim’ and their culture are derived from imperial east Asian cultures and are set in a volcanic region, the inspiration behind ‘cherubim’ culture is drawn from the ancient Egyptian, Greek and middle Eastern eras, with a little bit of Christian symbolism on the side.

Specific original characters (OCs), such as Lamya, the seraph protagonist in Bewitched, also have their own boards. Exploring symbolism, appropriate songs and aesthetics within an individual context has not only help me develop her character arc, but her appearance and moral standpoint as well.

Other examples, from other original projects include:


Looking to the Future

Before looking to the future, we must look to the influences of the past. When technology was growing rapidly during the late 20th century, it fundamentally shook social roots to their core and has since manipulated the socio-cultural trends, redefining everything from consumerism to communication. A world where alienation between us was silently permitted has transitioned into one where instantaneous connections over thousands of miles is made every second, in little more than ten years.

Human desire for connection is one of the driving forces of the booming social media industry, with sites like Facebook surpassing the likes of Google as the highest trafficked site in the United States in 2010 (Sherman, 2011). Beyond drawing connections between brands and consumers, Facebook and similar sites reinforce our embodied relationships and help to form new ones.

So why does social media have such a prominent influence on our future?

Because it’s likely that inter-human connection is only going to become more prominent. With the rise of virtual reality headsets, it’s likely that our two needs for connection and entertainment may combine into a new era of augmented reality.
The augmented reality glasses have been a pop culture item that is reoccurring throughout futuristic movies, and whilst the idea might be far-fetched, the concept might be implemented in more widespread devices such as smartphones and other hand-held devices.

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Retrieved from http://www.augment.com/how-augmented-reality-works/

In the future, you might be able to look at a complete stranger through a camera and browse their general information with ease, or immerse yourself in games that encompass all five of your senses, thinning the line between the digital and the real.

Augmented reality systems, whilst innovative, are scarily closer to widespread commercialisation than many might think. With the rise of AR viewers, browsers, and games (Pokémon Go, anyone?) it’s likely that this trend will develop in the very, very near future. Whether or not we stay immersed is up to us. 

References used:

AUGMENT (n.d.) How Augmented Reality Works. Retrieved from http://www.augment.com/how-augmented-reality-works/

Sherman, A., (2011) Facebook passes Google as most visited US site. Retrieved from http://archive.boston.com/business/technology/articles/2011/01/01/facebook_passes_google_as_most_visited_us_site/

Header image retrieved from http://journal.frontiersin.org/journal/communication

Media & Identity

*Header image made by me.

Media and morality are interlinked. Anything from moral conviction to changing social attitudes can be expressed – visually, lyrically, literally. For me, media is intrinsically linked to the moral development of viewers especially in the way it challenges people to rethink the ideas presented within it.

When we cross into the morally grey threshold in film and animation, we begin to start questioning whether or not the depictions of morally wrong behaviour through media is glorifying, or at its worst, condoning.
 When A Clockwork Orange was released, the UK media reported a spree of alleged copy-cat crimes, where a 16-year-old boy had beaten someone to death in a manner mirroring that of the film (Bugge, 2013). Coincidence, or influence? Can the fictional world of violence really drive people to commit similar atrocities?

It’s no denying that, to some extent, media that we expose ourselves to influence our moral convictions – positively or negatively. A network report in 2010 revealed that positive representations of LGBT characters on television led to a noticeable change in attitudes towards them (GLAAD, 2010).

Exploring the confines of what is considered socially or morally acceptable is critical to the freedom of media, and particularly what drew me to watch, read, listen and create. Inventing stories and creating characters isn’t just about creativity – it’s about challenging human nature.

My own take on this is a developmental story arc hopefully transitioning into a web-comic, featuring short animatics, within the next year or so. Rather than relying on preconceptions, it forces you to look beyond the first layer and delve into individual morality. An angel with a cause to protect his people jeopardises the lives of others; a crime so immense that revenge is the only absolute course of action; grief blinding a demon beyond any ability to make a rational decision – is any of it justified? Depends on your perspective, which is exactly what I want audiences to explore within the narrative.

The core of a great media piece is not only the story, but the themes behind it – the message that transcends all cultural and political boundaries within the universe. Ambition and downfall in Macbeth, censorship and illusion of freedom in 1984. Media itself is an untapped reservoir of influencing potential, and when bound by the laws of creative freedom, it’s available for anyone to take advantage of, and it’s something that people in the film and animation industries have been tackling for decades. Good job team. 

Further reading…………….http://mediasmarts.ca/blog/media-and-morality

References used:

Bugge, C., (2013) The Clockwork Controvesy, The Kubrick Site. Retrieved from http://www.visual-memory.co.uk/amk/doc/0012.html

2009-2010 Network Responsibility Index, (2010) GLAAD. Retrieved from http://www.glaad.org/files/NRI2010.pdf

Image retrieved from http://411posters.com/2016/04/a-clockwork-orange-by-nikita-kaun/ 

What brought me here?

*Header image by me!

It is hard to pinpoint one’s creative ingenuity and desire to produce on a single artist or movement…For me at least, it’s always been the freedom of expression that drew me into the creative industry.

It’s the limitless nature of media that is so intriguing to me, the things we can do – challenging the ways we perceive social norms; values, social critique, exploring the boundaries of morality, exposing fraudulent and heavy power imbalances, disassembling the hierarchy of human nature and construction of emotion, challenging the amount of empathy we should or shouldn’t provide – all within the comfort and freedom of a fictional universe. It’s not an everyday person that unmasks the false reality around us – we can’t all be Julian Assange and disclose thousands of government secrets – but it’s everyday people that explore, challenge and debunk these concepts through media.

Take, Avatar, for example. Not the blue people, I’m talking Avatar: The Last Airbender, one of the most compelling and rich animated series of the last few decades. It unearths the tales of immigrants, torn from their own country and heritage through war with the complexity and individualism amongst each character rarely seen in this form of media. Immigration within our own political sphere is a touchy subject. Refugees are too often written off as “invaders” and degraded by government policies, mainstream media and even prominent social figures (I’m looking at you, Mr. Trump).

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We’re too often exposed to ethnocentrism (basically evaluating other cultures based on the own pre-conceptions and standards of our own) and avoid exploring the perspectives of those within other cultures. Zuko, a former fire-nation prince, has to challenge these preconceptions in order to pursue what is morally right. The realisation that his almighty nation might be undergoing the wrong path, despite being fed the opposite his entire life, is fundamental to his character arc.

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What Avatar does is presents stories of diverse people with different cultural backgrounds, allows us to empathise with them, showcases them as realistic – and often relatable – people, all within a media piece that isn’t necessarily an attack on post-modern society. It’s presented at base form as a story of a boy desperately trying to restore balance to the natural world. And I’m not even getting into the kick-ass animation yet.

Now, guaranteed, a Bachelor of Animation isn’t going to get me a one-way ticket into a director’s chair to write the next big morally-challenging media jam-packed with social commentary and progressive ideology…but it’s a start. It’s something I know I will enjoy, and will no doubt take my artistic journey to the next level. The pay is just going to be another bonus.

References

  1. Image retrieved from https://quantummultiverse.wordpress.com/dvd-avatar-the-last-airbender-season-3-release-date-premiere-2015jpeg-318aa4_1280w/
  2. Image retrieved from http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/avatar-the-last-airbender/articles/99446/title/zuko