The Legend of Korra: A Leaf in the Wind   Rewatch 
December 26, 2015 11:54 AM - Season 1, Episode 2 - Subscribe

After hitting a snag in her airbending training with Master Tenzin, Korra pays a visit to the city's Pro Bending arena in search of inspiration.

This episode brings in the following:
  • Newsreel-style "Previously on" segments, complete with the 1920s' vocal stylings of Shiro Shinobi, probending announcer
  • Probending in general, a hit sport that's taken over the world.
  • The Probending Arena, a shining golden temple on the bay.
  • Korra can't actually airbend, which could entirely be because airbending is opposite her personality (much like how Aang had such a hard time with earthbending).
  • Airbending training involves spiral movements and getting smacked around a lot.
  • Bolin and Mako, probending brothers. Bolin's the cocky earthbender will all the charm, and Mako's the acerbic firebender with all the skills.
  • Tenzin does not understand teenage girls. Jinora makes no promises that her teenage life will be as difficult.
  • There's nothing in the probending rules about the Avatar not playing, as long as they stick to one element.
In this week's installment of "I've heard that voice before":
  • Jeff Bennett, who has done practically every children's cartoon since 1984 is Shiro Shinobi, and nails that 1920s' voice.
  • David Faustino has obviously gone through puberty since his Married With Children days, as he plays the deeper-voiced Mako.
  • It turns out that P.J. Byrne, the voice of Bolin, was also in Final Destination 5 as the douchebag who gets killed in the spa. I am going to have a difficult time with that movie now that I know that.
Plus, the title - no Serenity jokes, pls.
posted by Katemonkey (9 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Oh, Korra, baby, you're such a fiery and ridiculous teenager with all your emotions and need to act and react and do everything. It's absolutely adorable but holy smokes I can totally understand why Tenzin is going nuts. It's just a shame Jinora has such a relatively boring teenage life - I hope Ikki ends up being a hellraiser.

Bolin appears and my heart just melts. Mako's a little more eyerolly, but that doesn't surprise me, because...Mako. So serious. So boring. But I still love these two. For one thing, their street bending is so different from what Korra learned in the compound. She knows the classical styles, she knows how the masters do it, but these two, they must have picked it up from all sorts of people and all sorts of moves, and that's what she'll need nowadays.

(I have a lot of feelings about Mako and Bolin and how they grew up, but I'll save it for later episodes, because right now, they're just rough-and-tumble kids with a lot of heart.)

(But a random moment - when Korra was first announced, I was delighted, because there was a guy named Bolin, and, yo, that's my last name. So what I was secretly hoping for was that a lot of nerdy girls named Kate would write a lot of Bolin fanfiction and then when people Google searched me, they'd get a bunch of that, rather than mine. It didn't work out exactly as I had hoped, but, hey, a realtor in Vegas has been trying to build up her online reputation, so whatever. It works.)

I love how utterly gorgeous the Air Gates are. I keep on meaning to carefully trace the designs on them, and laser cut myself a miniature version, using toothpicks and card and maybe even get them to move when I breathe. Unfortunately, that does require a bit more patience that I have at the moment, as that's a lot of delicate Photoshop work.

But, oh, when Korra suddenly spirals her way through the game, learning how to use those airbending movements in a sport that has never had airbenders, introducing a whole new aspect to the game, it's beautiful.

So, in conclusion: Woohoo!
posted by Katemonkey at 11:59 AM on December 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think the world building is one of LOK's great strengths and it really starts to come to the fore in this episode.
posted by smoke at 4:18 PM on December 26, 2015

This episode still has the searing glory of one of the fondest memories in my mother's reaction...when we first watched this together, and Korra absolutely blew up at Tenzin and started yelling at him, I winced while my mom laughed and pointed and said, "That's YOU!" It still shakes me when I hear how accurate the rage and frustration in Korra's voice is, when she yells at Tenzin, since it sounded exactly like my voice when I yelled at my mom.

This was some time after I got politicized heavily because shit was going down on my college campus with Occupy and police brutality and I started learning about all things Marxist and feminist and basically also was an incredibly repressed teenager who didn't have a space to explore her nascent "fuck the system" self for years, while also did a great deal of protesting and social justice work. I yelled quite a bit at my mother who kept asking me to slow down and be more patient, since she has actually lived through the Cultural Revolution and didn't quite disagree with Marxism, but was more concerned for my health and stability. Oh, good days...we're good now though.
posted by yueliang at 10:54 PM on December 26, 2015 [7 favorites]

I was a little behind on this rewatch and just went through eps 1 and 2 today. It's such a different experience from the first time. I think when this season first aired I felt a lot of impatience, because the sense of scale is so much smaller after ATLA, but that very sense of scale is now the thing I like most about it--it's a smaller story, and that's fine. In some ways I identified with Tenzin, as the scion of that old world, especially with the pro bending stuff, watching it and feeling like what is the point of this, and when are we going to get to the real story? Now I actually find the matches enjoyable to watch.

The first season has some pacing issues, I think (and the resolution of the question of who Amon is and where his powers come from has never really sat right with me, just because it's such a flagrant violation of the 'rules' established in ATLA), but it does really effectively establish the world and the characters. It's also nice to watch this keeping in mind what the show eventually becomes. The character arcs sketched out here do come to fruition, in largely satisfying ways. A lot is made of the differences between Korra and Aang but this time around I actually see some of her playfulness and excitement as shared with him, and, intentionally or not, it seems like Katara acknowledges that a little bit when she sees her bouncing away excitedly and smiles.

Also, maybe it's just the crappy DVD masters that serve as the source for every version of ATLA available now making it worse, but the animation in this first season of LOK looks dramatically better than that of ATLA's first season.

And Janet Varney is never not excellent, right from the start.
posted by Kosh at 5:37 PM on December 28, 2015

Yeah, the DVD quality is way better for Korra than ATLA. Being in widescreen format means that current TVs show it off better, too. The computer animation is tastefully done and adds a lot of depth and motion. But ATLA did have some pretty amazing animation starting around halfway through the first season. Its hand-painted backgrounds will be especially hard to beat.

My favorite little touch in this episode was a gust of wind that follows Tenzin as he turns and walks off-screen.

Compared to the awesomely creative combat in ATLA (where they seemed to come up with new unexpected uses of bending in every single fight), pro-bending seems kind of tame. They're basically just playing dodgeball, launching missiles at each other again and again. As a sport it makes sense that it’s more formalized and rule-bound, but I’m curious whether they’ll mix up the tactics more in later episodes.
posted by mbrubeck at 11:03 AM on December 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

Compared to the awesomely creative combat in ATLA (where they seemed to come up with new unexpected uses of bending in every single fight), pro-bending seems kind of tame.

You can kind of tell that the showrunners got really into MMA between ATLA and LOK. This works really well for Korra's brawler personality and synthesis between bending disciplines, and the way the styles of the different elements have blurred together more is an interesting worldbuilding detail. On the other hand outside of Korra herself I don't think LOK is quite as good as ATLA at showing characterization/narrative through how people fight, but maybe I'll change my mind on rewatch.

(But don't get me wrong, there's a lot of REALLY awesome bending to come.)

I love Tenzin and Korra's mentor-student relationship, and Korra's familial interactions with the cloudgrandbabies (cloud = air + water). Meanwhile it's interesting in retrospect how hard this episode leans on establishing Mako and Bolin as major characters in comparison to others who are kind of introduced in passing and turn out to be as if not more important.

Those shots at the end of Mako and Korra staring across the water, though. Gorgeous!
posted by bettafish at 3:50 PM on January 8, 2016

These first two episodes really made me excited for finally seeing this series. Transitioning from the past into a (retro) present, moving from the (arctic) country to the big city, learning that there's strife between the haves and the have-nots, but the three four kinds of benders are working together! Korra is full of excitement and wonder! She's important, but as Atreides mentioned in the last thread, the new avatar isn't really seen as something that special - sure, there's a huge news gathering when she announces that she'll be residing in Republic City, but now that everyone knows it, she's not swarmed by fans and the public looking for a hero.

In fact, the reporters all asked "What are you going to do here?" Her answer? Learn. "honestly I - I don't exactly have a plan yet. See, I'm still in training ... all I know is Avatar Aang meant for this city to be the center of peace and balance in the world, and I believe we can make his dream a reality. I look forward to serving you!"

So we see her learning more this episode, and while there was some murmur in the crowd when she threw some earth bending into her Probending match and she was identified by the announcer as The Avatar, she almost tempered expectations by not being the instant hero of the bout.

She learns fast, but no one really needs a hero now, so there's less pressure for her. I think she puts more pressure on herself, particularly because she was a triple threat at such a young age, so air bending should also come easily. But it doesn't, and she has little patience for quiet reflection and trying to learn what has otherwise been second nature to her.

So goood! I love this show, thanks for the FanFare posts and these discussions!
posted by filthy light thief at 8:20 AM on January 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yeah, Korra's situation is a great subversion not just of Aang's story but of the Chosen One concept in general -- she's a destined hero, but right now has no destiny to be the hero of.
posted by bettafish at 5:04 PM on January 14, 2016

I guess I'm hooked already as I got all teary eyed when she started air dancing to avoid getting hit in the ring. D'aw!

I really like how well planned and engineered the probending arena was and the rules for the game. It made a lot of sense and it felt like a real thing.

So pretty. I loved the animation of the 2000 year old air bender boards and the last scene of the two teens gazing across the water.

I'm kinda with Korra, though, that Tenzin might not be the best teacher. I mean, having her try to do that elegant air bending obstacle right away when she can't even flutter a newspaper yet? Talk about ASKING for her to burn shit up.
posted by jillithd at 12:49 PM on March 25, 2016

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