The third season of The Legend of Korra came to a close recently after a short and rocky season of scheduling, and now that it’s over we can recount it in all its glory. I’d like to begin by asserting my general stance on the season early on, such as to provide my review with a continuous theme, so allow me to announce that Book 3 is definitely my favorite season of The Legend of Korra but not by a large margin. That being noted, let’s jump into the nitty-gritty!
Every season of The Legend of Korra presents us, the audience, with an engrossing story, but it’s the quality by which the storytelling is executed in Book 3 that makes it the crème de la crème. Narrative focus was a definite strength in Book 1, and it’s once again a critical component of season three, although put to better use since Book 3’s story is so well told. As one may recall, seasons one and two were practically split down the middle as far as plots are concerned. Book 1 featured pro-bending in the first half and the Equalist revolution in the second. Similarly, Book 2 was composed of a Civil War storyline and a spiritual one. Book 3, on the other hand, combines its two central plots (the Red Lotus and the rebuilding of the Air Nation) for a more “equal” experience (Amon would be proud).
With the Red Lotus uprising as the season’s backbone, the attention shifts primarily to story arcs contained within the main plot. What begins in Republic City moves to Ba Sing Se, then to Zaofu, and eventually to the Misty Palms Oasis. The last four episodes have a distinct continuity to them that resembles an individual story arc as well. Functioning in arcs allows the season to showcase a variety of settings and characters that contribute to the story both in their respective side stories and to the primary plot, all at a solid pace. This makes possible one of the season’s greatest strengths and most flawed attributes.
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Zaheer is Superman! That’s what I learned from The Legend of Korra Book 3 finale this past Friday, a spectacular effort to bring the series’ most ambition season to a close and leave an inkling of how Book 4 could potentially pan out. Now, where to begin? What I find most striking about the finale in its entirety is that there’s a particular sense of “rawness” to it. It took me a while to figure out what choice of word could most accurately describe the episodes’ general mood, but once I determined that word to be “raw,” things just kind of clicked. So what do I mean?
Both episodes of the finale offer an experience unhampered by insane spiritual/supernatural occurrences and are ultimately void of common Avatar tropes such as warfare and destruction (things that usually turn finales into miniature wars purely to ramp up the stakes). Everything seems grounded and centralized around the characters (it’s their story after all), and the emotional moments, of which there are many, are naturally implemented. This is the rawness I’m referring to, and it creates a far more engaging experience than what the finale would embody otherwise. While a huge Pearl Harbor-reminiscent battle (Book 1) can be impressive, and a showdown between giant spirit Korra and Unavaatu (Book 2) is no doubt thrilling, the confrontations active in the Book 3 finale take place on a more personal level. The animation is another body of work I’d consider to be “raw.”
I got the impression during my viewing of the finale that the visual component appears to be a little flat in comparison to past seasons, but I soon connected that aspect back to the overall grounded nature of the finale. Rather than relying on flashy special effects or a morphed visual style like Book 2’s finale (which looked great in its own way), ‘Enter the Void’ and ‘Venom of the Red Lotus’ are presented with a sort of cleanliness. What makes the animation so impressive is the raw talent (See what I did there? I used the word “raw” again!) behind the pencil and paper. Everything is so well drawn, especially in the last episode, and the attention to detail is expertly realized, from the ripples of clothing to changes in facial expressions. These episodes don’t need to coat the animation in sparkles and make-up because there’s nothing to hide. Studio Mir attributes heavily to the series’ success, and the Book 3 finale is no exception.
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