Avatar: the Last Airbender is a great show, and I have many friends who’ve watched it, including with their children, a point I touched upon in my post about demographics, and as such I was quite excited for Avatar: The Legend of Korra. I liked that show fine, and had been quite excited for season 2, which aired this year. One Saturday I woke up to watch that week’s Legend of Korra, only to find out that we had a double feature on our hand, and quite a double-feature it’s been.
“Beginnings” comprises episodes 7-8 of Korra’s 2nd season, and transports us 10,000 years into the past, to the birth of the first avatar, Wan. Alongside Wan’s story, we get to see the birth of bending, how humans finally emerged from their confined walls (almost zoos), and how darkness found its way into the world, as the world of spirits separated from the material plane. That is quite some “Just So Story” (Rudyard Kipling, for anyone wondering what I’m referencing).
Tales of creation, tales of beginnings, which feel truly epic, and to truly explain the world are something many storytellers try to replicate, to wildly varying levels of success. This one struck a nerve with me, it was well-told, it was accompanied by good music, superbly-fitting animation (which Studio Mir had been in charge of for these two episodes, the style reminded me somewhat of the first Samurai Jack film), and a great story. We observe the birth of the greatest human to have ever lived, only to find out that he’s a rascal, whose closest kin in cartoons is Aladdin, we get to watch a story of an innocent mistake, and the attempt to set things right over countless lifetimes, a story that combines Pandora’s tale with Prometheus’s.
Beginnings, the birth of Avatar Wan, shows us how the world as we know it in the show came to be, and grants us a rare gift, an explanation, filling a void we didn’t even know we had. Even if you had only watched Avatar: the Last Airbender, even if you hadn’t watched Avatar at all, the 45 minutes you can spend watching this tale would be well-spent. This truly had been, not an epic, but an experience of mythic proportions.
P.S. I know Avatar isn’t an anime, but at its weakest point, it’s still better than 90% of the anime out there, and I love it, so there :P
So, dear readers, any moment this year where something you’ve watched/read exceeded the limits of media, or where you’ve felt a “blast from the past”?
And now, here are thoughts shared by others, related this time to cartoons, or just being completely engrossed by a show:
Falconhaxx: Little Witch Academia:
I watched it after I heard about the LWA2 Kickstarter, and it completely blew me away. It looked so anime, but it also looked so good. It looked like what cartoons looked like to me when I was a kid, and I mean that in a good way. And it was so fluid. Of course, I had already seen some shows with great animation(KyoAni and Ufotable shows), but this was still a great experience. Consequently, this made me excited for Kill la Kill and everything else Trigger has made(Inferno Cop) or is making(Inferno Cop 2), which I consider a good thing. And I really Should watch Gurren Lagann some day.
ClearandSweet: Studio Trigger saves anime:
No sarcasm here. Not making anime, but animating stories. Redeeming us from our self-inflicted pandered-to monotony. Being global and forward-thinking enough to do a Kickstarter. Being different enough to change the industry, familiar enough to prevent marginalization, skilled enough to make me anticipate each Thursday.
Vintagecoats: CG Anime has an escape hatch – gdgd Fairies:
I was originally led to this program by an Anime World Order episode, so I would be remiss not to link that. A lot of the polygon attempts at producing television anime have some serious problems associated with them. Many of them try really hard to ape the design sensibilities of “regular” anime, and look all the more janky as a result. At the same time, due to normal production requirements, many anime comedies don’t allow for a whole lot of adlibbing.
What gdgd Fairies does then, is decide it just wants to look like a low budget video game. Use the most basic or royalty free models one can get their hands on out outside of the actual fairies. Structure it like a talk or variety show, with many different recurring segments that will make up each episode week to week, so that even if a joke or a sketch is bombing, the viewer will know it will be over soon and they’ll be doing something else. Have whole sections be improv sessions by the voice actresses, throw things at them and get their genuine reactions while they still try to keep in character. Have transitions be made out of little five second games like I Spy or Rock Paper Scissors. Make all your next episode previews be complete farces that each individually parody the preview style of a different successful anime, because the team itself has no idea what they’ll actually be doing next week anyway.
The whole thing has the air of a program that was a lot of fun for people to work on and make, and a lot of that comes through. It all works surprisingly well, and may very well get into my top shows of the year because it does such a swell job at being dealt a pretty rough hand (CG anime, improv comedy, etc) and generally being able to totally get away with it.
clicky_pen: The Legend of Korra: Beginnings:
This was the closest I have ever come to a spiritual experience. I had chills almost entirely throughout the two episodes, and afterwards I laid around in bed just soaking it all in. I’ve been a huge fan of the Avatar universe since the very first episode aired years ago, and watching these episodes…just felt right. It felt like I was finding a part of myself I had been missing.
aesdaishar: Discovering Mushishi:
I feel my picking up of this show warrants its own category, because it has had such an impact on my “spiritual awakening” so to speak. It helped me appreciate what was around me so much more, and it helped me accept that it is ok to go against my Christian upbringing, that life was to short to be miserable trying to fit into a mold that I obviously didn’t fit in.