The Legend of Korra – Book Two: Spirits (DVD review)

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The Legend of Korra – Book Two: Spirits is now available on Blu-ray and DVD! With the return of Korra, Mako, Bolin, Asami, Tenzin and his family, take on a new threat after the defeat of Amon and the conflict within Republic City. The 14-episode set chronicles Korra’s journey as a disturbance in the Spirit World forces her to take action and acquaint herself with the origins of the Avatar Spirit.

To those new to The Legend of Korra, this takes place a generation after The Last Airbender. Aang’s time is over and the next Avatar, Korra, has taken the mantle of responsibility. Already mastering most of the elements, this Southern Water Tribe native only has the Air element to master. Under the tutelage of Aang’s son, Tenzin, Korra is guided through the skills of Airbending. Only until she confronts the Amon and his Equalist regime does Korra learn more about herself and to master the element of Air.

Book Two begins when the South and North Water Tribes are forced to unite as the Spirit Portals come into flux. The millenia-old Harmonic Convergence, a global event, is soon upon them and it threatens the balance of all existence, as it does to the Avatar Spirit. Now given this situation, we have to take into account that The Legend of Korra doesn’t have the fluidity of The Last Airbender when it comes to an overarching story. The Last Airbender had an overarching villain and event (Sozin’s Comet), with each Season/Book having a subset to that story. The Legend of Korra has major stories per season. While I understand that Mike and Bryan were limiting their approach based on whether or not they were picked up for another season, there are times where some things felt rushed in Book One: Water.

With Book Two, much of the pacing and content that may have been an issue in Book One are not present here. You still have Team Avatar (Korra, Mako, Bolin, and Asami) in their continuing development of their characters and their relationships. The arc of Bolin becoming a propaganda movie star was interesting, creating a socio-political dynamic which exemplified the effects of propaganda on war efforts, while also affecting the relationship between Mako and Bolin. Korra had to make some hard decision on whose side she was on. She also fought an uphill battle with family without the aid of Republic City. Asami makes some sketchy partnerships in hopes of re-establishing her family business in the aftermath of Book One’s events.

Some of the things I really liked were Aubrey Plaza’s (Scott Pilgrim vs the World) involvement as one of Korra’s cousins and the other star-studded additions that filled out Korra’s family. There is also Steve Yeun (The Walking Dead), who played the First Avatar in three episodes, who I felt did a fantastic job as a voice actor. Often times when I see live-action actors, I get really skeptical when they do voice-over work, as several stars in early animations were not as effective.

The animation is still amazing, sharp, and intricate, and it no longer was restricted to Republic City. While there are segments going back to Republic City, the urban sprawl is not as prominent as the frozen tundra. While a frozen tundra can sound pretty boring, they do use blues and greens to illuminate the landscape. Some of the more amazing sights are when they deal with spirits and go into the spirit world, all which possess a very lively bunch of colors reminiscent of a Miyazaki film. (I’d like to point out that in those flashbacks of Wan’s era, the art environmental art direction takes on a painted watercolor setup in the vein of old Asian calligraphy art.)

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DVD Special Features

Due to the vast amount of material, only four of the episodes contained audio commentaries. In addition to those commentaries, two scenes were shown side-by-side with their animatics, giving viewers an idea of how they mapped out the action. The DVD also has a segment called “Feuding Spirits: Korra’s Family” which is an in-depth look at Korra’s entire family dynamic, from her father to her uncle with interviews by creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko.

Now, not to completely rag on the DVD, but the Blu-ray has audio commentaries for all 14 episodes rather than the DVD’s four. There is also 17 scenes given a side-by-side comparison with their animatics, sketches, and layouts for Book 2. There’s an “Inside the Book of Spirits” where you get a behind-the-scenes look at the making of The Legend of Korra: Book 2. Show creators Michael and Bryan go through the creative process from story concepts to scripting to the animation phase. “The Re-telling of Korra’s Journey” chronicling Korra’s journey, leaving her home in the Southern Water Tribe to going against the Equalists in Book 1. This also has the “Feuding Spirits: Korra’s Family” featured on the aforementioned DVD.

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Just a reminder for those that don’t know, DVDs have a maximum resolution of 720p, while Blu-ray scale at true 1080p. The audio specs are: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish 2.0

Being currently part of the animation industry in Southern California, I really enjoyed listening to the commentary by the cast and crew of this series. In one particular commentary, Michael DiMartino remarked, “I love these Camel-Yaks. That’s a solid Avatar blend there.” He is referencing the designs which mix two actual animals into a hybrid for the Avatar-verse. They also bring up initial concepts being Four spirit portals that were akin to corresponding with the Seasons. Bryan eventually had to cut back that idea. Usually when the team was divided on ideas, Bryan would come in as a tie-breaker. And that all took place in one episode commentary!

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While the commentaries don’t offer too much in terms of episodic commentary, there is a wealth of behind-the-scenes information and banter which elaborate the culture of the production. The cast and crew are very honest about the trials, the troubles, the fan feedback, and the fun in their discussions.

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Whether you get it for DVD or Blu-ray, any fan of the Legend of Korra should get their copy of Book Two: Spirits, then enjoy The Legend of Korra – Book Three: Change as it appears on Nickelodeon Fridays.

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