The Legend of Korra IV.7

We have reached the half-way point in the fourth series of The Legend of Korra.

In Reunion, Korra finally returns to Republic City. There, she meets her former air-bending teacher, Tenzin, and his family.

Before long, she is also reunited with Asami, and her former boyfriend, Mako.

But now, a question: which is the superior art form – films/TV or books?

Surely, the answer is books because they are capable of telling a story much more fully than a film or television programme.

In the latter two, time restraints mean that narratives have to be told quickly using just a very few scenes. As a result, the story can come across as being rushed.

Take, for example, Korra’s reunion with Asami. After Korra greets her, they enter a restaurant for a meal with Mako (and Prince Wu).

The occasion starts well but trouble quickly arrives as Mako discovers that Korra wrote to Asami during her three years away but not him. He goes into a sulk.

The conversation moves on, and Korra asks her friends what they have been up to. Asami tells her that she has visited her father in prison.

Korra, not unreasonably given how Mr Sato hid his defection to Amon’s side from his daughter, asks Asami if she can trust him. Asami explodes. “You think I don’t know what my own father is capable of?!”.

Korra backtracks only for Asami to drive home her attack. “You don’t get to disappear for three years and then act like you know what’s best for me.”

I can see why Mako, and especially Asami get annoyed, but is it likely that these friends, filled with the joy of being united with one another again, could so quickly find fault in each other?

In a sense, yes, but what makes this scene problematic for me is that we see nothing of the lead up to it; nothing of the inner tension in Asami or the broken hopes in Mako that cause them to erupt or sulk at the restaurant. Instead, we go from happiness to anger without any explanation.

By contrast, a book would be able to flesh out the tensions that lead to the confrontation much more fully.

So, does this prove the superiority of books?

Maybe, but I wonder if TV programmes or films would look so rushed if we looked at them in a different way.

For example, instead of seeing them as books on the screen, why don’t we see them as kinds of (epic) poetry, condensing, leaving to the imagination, and even repeating not because the art form is weak but because that is what good poems do in order to keep the audience’s attention.

Insofar as The Legend of Korra, is – as the title suggests – a mythological story, it really benefits from this interpretation. Thus, whereas before the restaurant scene came across as being rushed we now recognise it as the poet letting us work out the the details of (for example) Asami’s anger while he gets on with the business of telling the main story.

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