Mike Dimartino and Bryan Konietzko’s incredible animated series, The Legend of Korra, has stunned audiences with not only its storytelling, characters, and music, but also with its stunning artwork. The Art of the Animated Series books have showcased not only the detailed and breathtaking paintings, but also character sketches, model sheets, storyboards and more, alongside insider commentary from the creators.
The Fourth book in the Legend of Korra series was released this year and rounds it all off.
We begin with a forward from creators DiMartino, Konietzko and producer Joaquim Dos Santos. Avatar began a little over ten years ago and it has grown so much over the years that as the creators come to the end of production there is a lot of emotion and exhaustion. Konietzko begins his forward in this fashion:
“We survived. We made it to the end. There were days, weeks, months, and even years when I wasn’t so sure we would see the finish line. I never thought anything could be more difficult and stressful than producing Avatar: The Last Airbender, but The Legend of Korra proved me wrong.”
He goes on to praise the creative team and pours respect and admiration on all of the artists we will see throughout the book. As a long time fan, it is so great to see the creators spending so much time and effort to make sure the people who worked so tirelessly and spectacularly get the credit and recognition they deserve.
The book goes on to showcase so much of the details, both small and large, that it would be almost impossible to categorise them all. Much of the breathtaking scenery is displayed in its full glory, and so are the character designs and storyboards. Below I have included a few of the highlights.
In amongst these examples we see commentaries from the creators. The details on Republic City are particularly interesting to me. Within the show the Spirit Vines have set up residence in the metropolis and it was up to the engineer Asami to figure out a way to have the human world and Spirit Worlds coexist in some way. Much like Korra, she has to find a way to balance the two worlds. Perhaps this is why the pair would later fall in love. But besides the in-story complications, this also led to artistic challenges. drawing a city that is built amongst supernatural vines and vegetation led the artists to spend hours pondering over the best way to portray this melding of two worlds.
Further, the spirit world itself seems to have been an artistic playground for creativity. The artists were able to expand their imaginations in every direction back in the second book, and now with the show returning to the Spirit World, we get to see even more of the strange and unusual things they have come up with. This final season saw something of a more subdued Spirit World, however; it was one of colours and impressions, a world going through its changes in a dignified manner while the human world descended further into chaos.
Speaking of chaos, we have the character designs here for Kuvira, the new empress of the Earth Nation, ironically determined to bring about order. She was designed to be a mirror of Korra, to be the darkness that she could have been. They are similarly built, physically, and both have a fierce determination to achieve their ends. While Korra has been away from the world recovering from her physical and psychological trauma, Kuvira has been gathering power, building an army, and preparing for her great conquest of the entire Earth Nation. While Korra’s skills are rusty, Kuvira is at the top of her game, and the artists go to great lengths to show it. In her uniform, her movements, and her expressions, they manage to give her all the authority and strength her character demands.
To gush over every aspect would make this article almost as long as the book itself. One thing that I will give special attention here is the final sequence of the final episode. Konietzko goes to great lengths to give us details on these final shots. We are treated not only to the full storyboard, but to a full page of the final image of Korra and Asami, lost in one another’s eyes. Aint’ it sweet?
The perfect ending for them, and for the world of Avatar.
All of the Art of the Animated Series books are available now at any bookshop that sells books. From Avatar: The Last Airbender, to the Legend of Korra books one through four.