Featured TV on DVD Review: The Legend of Korra - Book Two: Spirits
August 3rd, 2014
The Legend of Korra is a follow-up to Avatar: The Last Airbender. That cartoon earned a lot of praise and became a favorite among many people becoming popular enough to be adapted into a movie, which we will never speak of again. When a new series was announced, some were a little worried. It would have big shoes to fill. However, the first season was greeted with nearly universal praise. Can the second season continue this high level of quality.
The Legend of Korra focuses on Korra, the latest of the Avatars, but as we learned in the first season, she is not exactly the most mature Avatar. (At least I assume that's true. Aang wasn't really mature either, but there has to have been better ones in the past.) She was too eager to learn fighting without learning to be more balanced and centered. This hurt her last time when she had to deal with the Equalists, those who would ban bending.
This time around, Korra is still a little immature and wants to train faster than Tenzin, her trainer, thinks is wise. While in the south with her people for an annual festival, the leader of the Northern Water Tribe, Unalaq, claims the Southern Tribe has lost their spiritual way. This is why the spirits are angry and have been attacking ships in the south seas. He thinks this problem has extended to Korra and wishes to train her, something Tenzin and Tonraq, her father, both reject. There is a further complication, as Tonraq and Unalaq are brothers. She tries to get advice from Mako, but this usually ends with her yelling at Mako for agreeing with Tenzin or her yelling at Mako for not being decisive and saying what he thinks. So as to emphasize Unalaq's case, a spirit attacks the village in the night and only Unalaq is able to handle it. Because of this, Korra decides to end her training with Tenzin and train with Unalaq.
... Okay, I have something to say at this point, but it will be a major spoiler for both season one and season two. Do not read, unless you want to know the what major twist in both seasons reveals. In Season One, the man antagonist is Amon, the leader of the Equalists. As soon as the Equalists were introduced, I knew their leader would be a Bender. It just seemed so obvious at the time. Likewise, in the second season, as soon as Unalaq started talking about spirits, balance, and how only he could teach Korra what she needed to know, I knew he was the one who was summoning and controlling the spirits. It just seemed so obvious at the time.
Fortunately, that's the only major complaint I have with the show so far. The writing on this show is excellent, both the main plot and the side plots. Not only do we have the spirit world main plot, but we also learn more about Tenzin's family, which while it doesn't have the same epic scope as a battle between light and dark spirits, does add to the emotional scope of the show. Asami Sato is tangentially related to the main plot. Her father, Hiroshi Sato, was involved with the Equalists and after he went to prison Asami assumed control of the family company, Future Industries. Unfortunately, because of her father, Asami has been having trouble keeping Future Industries afloat. There's also a more comedic B-plot involving Bolin and Eska. At first Bolin is madly in love with Eska, then he meets her and she scares him. She scares him so much that he can't break up with her. The writing also extends from the major plot points to the individual characters, who are truly brought to life by the great voice-acting.
And we can't ignore the action. The action in The Legend of Korra is fantastic, both in terms of scope and in terms of technical quality. This isn't action for action sake or a series of fights that are little more than two characters screaming at each other, while their powers levels rise about 9,000. There is dramatic weight to the fight scenes. Even knowing how the climatic battle would end (season three has already begun, so it is no surprise who survives) it was still engaging. Additionally, the animation quality of the action scenes is stellar. It is not theatrical quality animation, but for a TV series, it is some of the best you will see.
Extras include audio commentary tracks for every episode, as well as animatics for select scenes for every episode. Disc one also has a five-minute featurette on Tenzin and his family. Disc two has three featurettes. First there is a nine-minute recap of season two. The Re-Telling of Korra's Journey is a 34-minute look at season one. Feuding Spirits: Korra's Family is a five-minute look at Korra's family dynamic. It is the only extra on the DVD, so there are a lot of exclusives on the Blu-ray.
The video is good, but not great. The Blu-ray is in 1080i, not 1080p and there is some concern with the native FPS. It is still a step up from the DVD, especially with the colors and contrast, but it is not quite as good as it could have been. The audio is better with excellent use of the surround sound speakers and plenty of directional effects.
On the downside, the Blu-ray costs $25. That's not a bad price-per-minute for a TV on DVD release, but the DVD costs just $15, so it is a big step up.
The Legend of Korra - Book Two: Spirits is absolutely worth owning. I'm not 100% sure which format is the better deal. The DVD is nearly featureless when compared to the Blu-ray, but the Blu-ray costs $10 or 67% more than the DVD.
- Submitted by: C.S.Strowbridge
Filed under: Video Review