As some of you readers may know, Ol' Jude Terror is the father of three kids. A son, Holden Terror, age 4, a daughter, Cora Terror, age 6, and another daughter, Phoenix Terror, age 8. And for a nerd like myself, one of the most exciting things about having kids, besides having proof that I've been laid at least three times (booyah!), has always been the somewhat selfish ability to re-experience the things that brought me joy in my own childhood with my kids. But reality doesn't always work out like you've planned. As it turns out, shows like G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero or the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles don't age quite as well as I thought they would. Sure, my kids enjoy some old shows like Batman: The Animated Series and X-Men Evolution, but to be honest, those were kind of after my time. Luckily for parents like myself, we have Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra.
Though Avatar didn't debut until I was already a full grown adult with a job and responsibilities, and Legend of Korra is currently airing now (the first episodes of Book 3 aired last Friday), children and adults of any age can watch these shows and experience that elusive sense of childhood wonder that, I think, a lot of us chase with all our comic book reading and cartoon watching and toy collecting and all the other geeky things we pursue. I recently rewatched the entirety of The Last Airbender with my kids, an experience amazing if for no other reason that that all three of them were willing to sit quietly through all sixty-something episodes, a true mark of the show's ability to capture imaginations. We followed that up with Legend of Korra Book 1, and at about that same time, after I wrote an article about the Book 3 trailer, a Nickelodeon PR rep contacted me and asked if I'd like an early copy of Legend of Korra Book 2 on blu ray.
That was an easy question - of course I did! Because I would certainly have bought it when it came out anyway!
So they sent it to me, and it's in stores today, and I'd be surprised if anyone reading this isn't already planning to buy it, but in case you have some kind of critical brain injury and are on the fence about this, let me tell you what you'll be getting for the paltry price of twenty bucks.
First if all, as I understand it, Legend of Korra is the only Nickelodeon show to get the blu ray treatment, and with good reason - the animation on this show is so beautiful, it would be a crime to not make it available in high definition. Admittedly, I have a kind of crappy TV (any manufacturers out there want to send me one of those for free?), but the transfers look as good as anything else I've ever seen on it. If anything, they might be a little too good. My wife was definitely able to notice the changing animation quality, as the season was handled by two different animation studios. I'm kind of oblivious to that sort of thing though, and I didn't even realize this was the case until she mentioned it and I looked it up.
The blu ray is loaded with special features, over five hours worth. "Scene-bending animatics" show you how sketches are transformed into fully animated scenes. The commentary features Avatar creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, and they're joined by other members of the crew (though as far as I could tell, none of the actors). This may revoke my geek cred, but I've never been a big fan of watching the commentary on anything. If you're into that, however, it's nice to have the creators lending their insight to every track.
Where the blue ray shines is in the documentary features. There's two of these focusing on the family relationships in Legend of Korra, one for Tenzin's family, and one for Korra's. Avatar and Legend of Korra have always put a ton of focus on relationships, and it's nice to have it laid out like this. It means I can stop telling my kids "hey you know Katara is Tenzin's mom," only to have them roll their eyes at me and say "we know, Daddy." There's also a behind the scenes feature, which is my favorite part though it's the kind of thing that would put kids to sleep, and a half-hour recap of Book 1, in case you need to get caught up and don't feel like watching the entire season.
But let's face it - you're not buying this for commentary, or scene-bending, or featurettes. You're buying it for the episodes, and at twenty bucks for fourteen of them, even before the special features, you're getting a great bargain. Book 2, titled Spirits, introduces a lot of changes to Korra's universe. Her relationship with Mako is on the rocks. Bolin has a burgeoning movie career. The whole season focuses a lot on Korra's supporting cast, with Tenzin and his siblings getting the spotlight as well. We also get a two-part episode explaining the origin of the Avatar, which also offers a nice return to the more feudal feel of the original Avatar series, compared to the industrial, steampunk vibe of Legend of Korra. I won't spoil the plot, but the ending changes everything for Korra and her world, and features basically a Kaiju battle as well.
If you're in a nit-picky mood, there are some things to complain about with Legend of Korra Book 2. The aforementioned animation changes are glaring to some, and I've heard it said that the Kaiju battle detracted from the more personal rivalries that Korra and Avatar are so good at. There's also some question of whether the origin of the Avatar would have been better left vague and mysterious, like the Force in Star Wars. The good news is that if those things bothered you, things are a looking a lot different for Book 3.
Legend of Korra is easily the best animated show on television today, and, along with Avatar: The Last Airbender, one of the best franchises of all time. I'd put it up against any of the cartoons I loved as a kid, and if you've got kids, Legend of Korra is the perfect way to bond and connect with them on a legitimately shared interest without the drawback of having their friends at school ask them "who the fuck is Snake Eyes?" when they talk about watching it. My oldest daughter's favorite birthday present this year was a deluxe hardcover graphic novel, Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise, which she's anxiously reading to fill in the gaps between Avatar and Korra. And whenever I hear stomping on the floor from downstairs, it's a sure bet that all three kids are up there "playing Earthbending." In thirty years, unlike some of my childhood favorites, I think this franchise may stand the test of time, and there could be three generations of Terrors enjoying Avatar cartoons together. Won't that be nice?
For twenty bucks at Best Buy or Amazon (and if you prefer DVD, it's as low as 12 bucks, presumably with less of the special features), you really can't go wrong on this one. For adults, kids, and anyone in-between, Legend of Korra Book Two: Spirits, and the entire franchise in general, is a must buy, and Book Three (next episode: July 11th) is a must watch.