I watched Legend of Korra “Beginnings” Part 1 and Part 2 last Saturday on Nickelodeon’s website. I was really, really impressed by the animation.
The art style of Wan’s story is a-may-zing. I loved it. These two episodes were animated by Studio Mir, who will be doing more Korra episodes in the future. The style is strongly reminiscent of ukiyo-e and Chinese ink paintings – A.K.A., gor-geous!
See how nothing is just one solid color, and most objects are outlined in black. However, the things that aren’t outlined, like the trees, look like they were painted with ink and have fuzzy edges. The lines of the clouds, too, are heavily stylized.
The characters are not drawn like this, though, which gives the scenes a flatness that actually works out really well. Older styles of art tend to look more flat, so lessening the 3D-ness of the animation makes it seem older; and overall the ukiyo-e style helps establish a legendary, epic atmosphere that matches the story.
The fight scenes looked awesome. Very flowy and beautiful, and the elements (most noticeably fire) are stylized, too. I miss this kind of fighting – we saw a lot of it in Legend of Aang, but not so much in Korra. The influence of Pro-Bending, I guess.
I want to point out the scene when Wan attempts to cross the bridge to the spirits’ hot spring – this is clearly an homage to Miyazaki’s Spirited Away.
There’s a carrot spirit who is obviously based on the daikon (radish) spirit and I think the green spirit is a more cheerful version of No-Face. The green spirit and the yellow spirit’s voices were so freaking cute, too. (I also have a hunch that their healing hot-spring, which was most likely located where the Fire Nation is now, is the same body of water that healed Korra.)
The spirits Raava and Vaatu have really sweet designs, too. They’re not humanoid at all. I think they look like temple roofs with streamers, but I’d love to know the inspiration behind the design.
Story-wise, I feel uneasy, because the only time we’ve seen two spirits represent Yin and Yang were the fish, Tui and La, in the Northern Water Kingdom in Legend of Aang. Neither of them were “good” or “evil”. To insert “good” and “evil” into the Avatar universe feels wrong to me, since, thus far, the only “bad” in that world has come from imbalance. Even Azula and Ozai were portrayed more as mentally unstable than evil.
The whole Harmonic Convergence thing also feels pretty contrived. I mean, Sozin’s Comet makes sense because comets actually exist and say hello to the earth every now and then, but having this epic battle between a light spirit and a dark spirit every 10,000 years… eh. Why do they have to fight all the time? Why can’t they be like the fish and just swim around each other? Or exist as a giant grey ball? Haha.
But I am willing to see where this goes, of course.