Written a lot about this — Korra and Korrasami with Makorra

I  actually posted a lot about this on Tumblr as fans are well, indignant or disappointed. Many are fans who are gay or who intensely love or ship gay pairings were offended by Bryan’s statement of “hetero-lens” due to its widespread spectrum implicit in the arena of homophobia. I, on the other hand, thought the comment was meh to  me because it didn’t really  feel I was in that category. This reviewer who has spent the majority of 2014 being indoctrinated into queer or even heteronormative homosexuality to the point that TPAB actually thought that all I watch is otome or queer animes is pretty much salient with the fact that I am/never was homophobic. I enjoyed some of the pairings in the otome show, saw potency in them and actually critiqued the execution of those shows.

I even wrote one of the longest reviews on this blog on critiquing and also praising Sekaiichi Hatsukoi which is a gay anime which pulled no punches.  I really liked Queen’s Blade which is a lesbian anime, though a bit directed towards guys, had all the lesbianism, no holds barred, in its glory for the whole series. I loved Maria Watches Over Us which is a lesbian anime directed towards girls. I loved Cardcaptor Sakura and thought that Tomoyo loving Sakura or even Touya loving Yukito to be very well handled. I wanted Touya ending up with his teacher not because she was female but because I liked teacher-student pairings at that time but really hated the other character liking her teacher and marrying him after her high-school graduation :/ though it was a totally heterosexual pairing. Because though it was not illegal it wasn’t to me tastefully written. I actually like Domoki liking Watanuki in xxxHolic and don’t like those other girls who fancy/like Watanuki aside Yuko Ichihara. And even that after layers of interactions and understandings comes about.  One of my favourite anime, also directed towards girls is Revolutionary Girl Utena which shows Utena and Anthy as bisexual characters and mostly lesbians, full frontal, in the animated movie retelling Adolescence Apocalypse.

So, this opinion and article will articulate most of my feelings on the series and also on the pairings that survived. It will be long, span paragraphs and I decided after half-writing it I should also push this through some pages so please bear with me. Thank you if you read all throughout the way  and Thank you for reading a bit. Honestly, this article took a long time to write — I was exposed to more material, got tired and procrastinated or cogitated a bit more. Yet I wanted this to be a comprehensive read of what I thought about Korra the series, the character and also Korrasami and Makorra. I will put briefly that I had higher hopes for the series but they were not met and as you will see this is more than any shipping or anything else.

It has to do with how  TLA was handled and how LOK was handled: both  are different shows and may deal with different things but have some core elements. It is the same way  you might judge a reboot or even the different installments  of the Final Fantasy series. It  was mostly how  LOK was written independently in itself. How  it  was budget cut a lot by both Nick and how Bryke had many problems with Nick that eventual made this an internet only show that was also facing cancellations. So much so that Book 3 and Book 4 followed one after the other. Also, though  I personally have nothing against Bryke I do think as writers and creators who were facing a lot of pressure that they did do some mistakes and mess up. Also Nick initially did not like that Korra was a girl and wanted her to be a guy because the Aang formula was pretty much potent still and in these series people  for some stupid marketing reason and cultural biases want the main protagonist being a male and not female.

The TLA team was larger, had more writers and obviously many discussions amongst Bryke and those other people so many more ideas and expansions of concepts  were apparently plausible  and executed. Bryke originally wanted Toph and Azula to be guys and also wanted a love triangle between Katara, Aang and Toph so obviously that idea was scrapped by many  others pitching in their ideas. Asami was initially also meant to be a villain I wouldn’t have minded if that happened because I think Spysami is pretty more interesting than thinly written Korrasami. Or, she may have been a double agent that would  have proved volumes about her dexterity in general. Makorra was, as I read from Tumblr,  described as the perfect pairing by Bryke themselves and how Korra and Mako were right for each other and “soulmates” — so I think Bryke’s Korrasami was done almost like a last minute thing. In fact, I don’t think they did away with Makorra either which is telling in the  finale episode. I think they were confused at what to do really and thought that keeping both pairings open but focusing a bit more on Korrasami was the only thing they could do to “salvage”  the series because before this finale  many people had heavily, explicitly, inexorably critiqued Legend of Korra both critics and fans alike.  So, LOK had a lot of problems since Book 1 that had  to do and nothing to do with Makorra and pairings and stuff.

I won’t  lie that I fast-forwarded to  the last scene in LOK to see what happens because by this time I was kinda bored and wanted to know what happens to Korra and by Book 3 and 4 the hints of Makorra were pretty high I wanted to see if they patch up, after some time of course because  some time even passed for Kataraang to happen. I was impressed with the spirit portal which became like the equatorial region of their world and that was awesome.I loved the  last scene music and ambience but the pairing made me very unhappy because it was just too rushed and scatterbrained to be a beautiful buildup.

So to continue, though some fans of Makorra are homophobic; most of us  aren’t. This is due to the fact we come to this show after years of watching anime shows from its infancy dealing with heteronormativity, queer sexualities (both straight and gay), performativity, and also the construction/reconstruction of identities. So, as most of us  are in our late teens and twenties or even forties we are already nonplussed by homosexuality rather accepting it wholeheartedly as a romantic-sexual outcome. We have relegated our “hetero-lens” a long time ago even before The Legend of Korra or The Legend of Aang/The Last Airbender premiered. I have criticised Korra on numerous occasions and none of them were solely on ships. As listed below:

Legend of Korra, Book 3: “Change”  Criticism

Korra Season 3 Comes to An End

I am not partial. I have enjoyed gay pairings and straight pairings with equal zeal. I am not infected with “hetero-lens” — also I have accused Korrasami of a “hetero-lens” too. That one is that of heteronormativity. As a friend of mine stated gender or a critique of gender was not established in Korra. Korra is, as Anime Live Reactions put it eloquently, stereotyped as a strong woman/person of colour becoming bisexual and lesbian to validate her strong, “tomboy” existence. Asami’s sexuality has always been a game. She is a doll, a feminine debacle, and having Korra, a masculine, pair up with her reinforces a heteronormative way of looking at things. It essentialises that the  avatar spirit is  a “male” spirit with or without past lives because Wan, the first avatar, pretty much is shown to be in a relationship with Raava, a female spirit.  Lesbianism, gayness or even straight-on  heterosexuality is not about binary images but heteronormativity and performativity does reduce it to such.

Korra cannot be alone or be in a heterosexual relationship because that also incinerates the  heteronormative way of looking at heterosexual relationships. Makorra ending in a bad note now encapsulates and also mediates on the fixation that strong men and women cannot mix. This stereotype is nothing new. If Mako and Korra could end better we would not point fingers at this rather Bolin and Korra’s chaotic end was foreseen on a lack of attraction on Korra’s part and even Bolin does not date Eska due to her domineering and inhospitable personality. Korra and Bolin are strong and do have chemistry but they end amicably, on good terms, there is hardly any name-calling and finger-pointing between them. Bolin does not  ever bring up that Korra broke his heart by kissing her brother nor that he wanted Korra to apologise much because they went through things that allowed forgiveness and friendship to happen. Ironically, even Bolin and Eska’s breakup  and later encounter seemed both comic but also reasonable and realistic. It was apparent that they both have considerably, without a doubt moved on. The way Mako and Korra interact are still as lovers even by the end of Book  4  breakup or no breakup  they just do, both context and subtext affirms it as a romance with mutually concerted feelings — it’s pretty confusing.

Legend of Korra Book 4:Balance Episodes 1 & 2

Korra came back early.

Was it anticipated. No.

I was genuinely, pleasantly surprised 🙂

I was not happy with Season/Book 3 and I was hoping that Korra Book 4 would be better. So far, it is. It is asking integral questions about authority and also how misshapen and totalitarian authority can be when power is not rightly exercised.

As fans has suspected Kuvira from Book 3 is the main antagonist of this Book. Like Ozai and also Hyoung-Ting, Unalaq and Amon (won’t include Zaheer as he was not trying to be leader rather just get rid of the Avatar), Kuvira has become corrupt with power. In so far that she is now exiled from the Metal City of Zang Fu (I think that was what it was called) and is trying to reunite the Earth Kingdom and being labeled as “The Great Uniter” by her supporters and enemies alike, both with admiration and disdain.

This is shown in Episode 1 titled “After all these Years” which is taking place after three years of the Book 3 climax. A lot has happened, Republic City has finally accepted Spirits and the Spirit Wilds are flourishing with a good coexistence (we also see the homeless guy that Korra met on the very first episode make good friends with many; funny that he is still homeless right though?) .  Asami has become a person charged with a trans territory rail line construction which she successfully completes that allows Ba Sing Se and Republic City have constant travels. She is hit on by Prince Wu whose Aunt was Hyoung-Ting and though he is not as eccentric as his aunt he is as prideful and foolish. Mako is ordered to be his bodyguard and this is a job that he wants desperately to get out off though does properly (though by the penultimate moments of this episode we hear that Wu wants Mako too much to be his bodyguard and personal relations to be secured doesn’t allow Mako to get out of it).

The Air Nomad are now dressed differently. Their clothes now accentuate a wandering nomadic aerial mobile design as in acrobatic with gliders attached to their clothes like stunt performers. Kai has grown up and is in a long distant relationship with Jinora and Opal with Boilin. Boilin has become from comic relief to Earth Kingdom soldier, so has Varrick and Ju-li. Batar, Opal’s oldest brother is engaged with Kuvira, which is also a cause of family friction. Opal thinks Batar and Kuvira has betrayed her mom. If you guys recall Suyin was anti-monarchy all the way and now her own are beelining for it — not a good situation.

Opal and Kai has come to aid a kingdom that are being attacked by robbers. Ever since Zaheer killed Hyoung-Ting we saw Ba Sing Se in chaos and now still some remnants remain. Opal and Kai are not warmly greeted as the village leader wanted more recruits but they show themselves capable of administrative fair ways of solving a situation. This is antithetical to Kuvira who has a lot of authoritative power. She captures a bunch of bandits by putting metal around their arms eyes and feet then bundling them up as heavy sacks (how Nowatak and Torlak were shown to abuse wolves in Book One). Then when one of the bandits try to apologize she even seals her mouth with metal. Then she says the only way they can save themselves is by relinquishing this lifestyle and just opt to join her. The bandits, fearing for their lives, do as they are told. Kuvira smiles that despot’s smile of triumph.

Then she attempts to bully the village leader into signing a contract of protection (like Yakuza and Mafia and dirty politicians do) saying that she will help them with food, water and troops only if he supports her. There is a campaign for her also by many people who want her as new Earth Queen and not Prince Wu (leading to  a humourous pie in the face in crowd where Mako saves the dude and reminds him, while he gasps, that he is allergic to bee stings not strawberry). The village leader rejects her offer.

There is a gulf between Opal and Boilin because of this. Opal is angry at her brother and Kuvira for ditching her mother, the matriarch of the steel clan and also going so far out away from all the clan stood for (and then suddenly hearing they are engaged made her angry). She does not like Boi8lin helping Kuvira but Boilin believes reuniting and helping the Earth Kingdom is his calling. Then Opal and Kai attempt to get supplies but they are stolen by robbers (bet Kuvira was behind that) prompting the village to sign the contract making Opal become more frustrated and Boilin more confused.

The end shocks everyone. Everyone thinks after three years Korra is finally making a full recovery reappearance to Republic City. Tonrak is surprised and says that Korra has been writing for six months from Republic City and that she is okay and doing well.

So, where is Korra?

Hair cut short. Using only one bending style. Earth. And Wearing green clothes of the Earth Kingdom she is fighting in a cage match of sorts with another woman but loses. The owner comes and angrily gives her due but of course  says she lost him some. Then remarking that she loves “like that Avatar girl” and what happened to her. Korra truthfully answers she doesn’t know.

While in episode we see the ravages of power and totalitarian that Zaheer and even Amon was afraid of (yeah their execution was batshit crazy but not all their ideas were) we also see the vulnerabilities and caustic repercussions that comes through poverty. The fact that in three years no one is really helping these villages is sad.

Also while Kuvira is getting mentally and physically strong, psychologically preparing herself for power, authority and the confidence she is earning in getting a chance to be Queen — Korra has lost a lot of Avatar qualities and is now shown to be unstable and weak. I think this is why they decided to pair off two women in the end as a form of acceptable dichotomy. After all all the main villains has been male and she defeated all of them but none of them were once her protector and comrade but now this one is. This fight I think is going to be the most important and difficult fight that Korra will ever fight as both the Avatar and Korra.

This is where, if the series pulls it off,  LOK is going to be more mature than TLA. Yes for once they got some stuff down after Book 2 right. Yes, more mature. Because Balance isn’t about I think learning any new bending or just making a tyrant pay for their crimes. It’s about Korra keeping her title, spirit, selfhood, body and soul intact, focused, preserved, synchronized and finally evolved. Because all the battle she is fought now has attacked her personhood in these ways and it has made her break — Kuvira may do more damage than all three guys combined. How will Korra survive this? Will she herself break the Avatar chain to show that people can make hope for the future without avatars? I am actually excited to see what happens.

That is why the episode 2 is rightly called “Korra Alone” (a nod to ATLA’s “Zuko Alone”) and like Zuko who decides to travel alone to reclaim his title and earn it as noble, just prince of the Fire Nation Korra too now reclaim herself and also earn her Avatar title. Korra’s body is so badly undone after the poison that she can’t walk and she can’t properly eat or sleep. Her mother becomes rightly worried and says though they had agreed not to interfere with her recuperation she is not getting better so she must go and visit Katara.

It is a grueling process of recovery with Katara. She gets frustrated but when after six months of physical therapy at least allows her to walk she decides to go off to Republic City because she wants to be Avatar again. Actually, she first loses with fire benders in a training (a nod to first season’s first episode where she was able to completely take each and every one out) then on her journeying she loses to common bending thieves (a far cry from Book One Korra who takes on Triple Threats and actually throws a fire bender throw  a store’s glass window). Not to mention what also gets to her is that Tenzin thinks that she should not be ashamed of her convalescence but Korra isn’t used to feeling weak. Unlike Aang who fostered a sense of vulnerability losing his culture, kin, fellow benders (which Katara mentions as a sense of spirit uplifting so Korra can finish her therapy)  Korra has been strong o entitled to strength so she cannot understand how weak feels.

This was the epiphany I was waiting for the entire Book 3 so I am happy Book 4 delved into it. Korra has been avoidant of her weakness in situations; she tries to forget Amon, Unalaq and even the Red Lotus but she can’t anymore. Korra must acknowledge that she is human and that she has both weakness and strength. She must acknowledge her spirituality. Of course, Korra doesn’t necessarily at first. After losing the fight with bandits she cuts off her hair to sever her ties to Avatar position and throws away her water tribe arm band and decides to fight in underground Earth Kingdom battles. She had tried to meditate in the Spirit World’s tree of time unable to reach Raava. The spirits, a cute yellow and green one especially, wants to help. But Korra refuses. Like Zuko she is used to feeling alone or doing things alone.

This episode was a masterpiece in showing Korra; of all the Books this one episode actually did a magnificent character sketch on Korra. Who and What she is and feels. Korra thinks by fighting she can reclaim herself and that is where she errs. The spirits have rightly realized that Korra’s problem is spiritual.

Korra’s mind now emits an old, poisoned still long-haired Korra all wild as she was in the end of season 3 and that Korra is winning the battle because she is strong and ruthless with a vengeance. Korra encounters her especially when she is weak or is in horrendous doubt about what to do. And she gets beat up a lot by this chaotic Korra projection.

The yellow and green spirit, disguised as a dog, comes to Korra and growls at the chaotic emittance making Korra realize that this is real. The spirit wants Korra to acknowledge that her problem is spiritual. Then he skillfully if not without a fight with chaos Korra leads her to a periphery between Spirit and Normal world where Korra succumbs to her wounds and collapses. Person who helps her get better as she awakens after some time is none other than an old Toph who affectionately says it’s good to see “Twinkle Toes” again.

This was a very well written episode. I am happy they finally acknowledged that Korra needs a spiritual overhaul. But one thing I think as a fan I notice is that Zaheer is not really her only “mad man” that enabled a weakened Korra. All her opponents till now has gotten through to Korra in a bad way. In this way I think LOK is more mature than TLA because Ozai did not feel so personal to Aang as all these villains were. Now I wanna see how Kuvira and Korra fight.

It was nice what Katara said to Korra during her therapy that she doesn’t know what is beyond the pain but wouldn’t it be interesting to know?

Korra now must become a balance of both her as a person and Avatar and to do that she must be united in mind, body and spirit. And maybe then in the end she might be the last Avatar. The world’s balance might be decided as a new era of people being people and the Avatar cycle coming to a fruitful and good end.