Braving the Elements (2021) | Podcast Review
by Elena Brand
I get it, it’s been overdone: The Office, Gilmore Girls, and Scrubs are only a few examples of high-grossing TV shows that are the topic of a re-watch podcast. Actors of these shows have taken to watching their own shows from the pilot through to emotion-packed series finales. In weekly instalments, the hosts present their thoughts and reactions to each episode and fill the listeners in with memories from behind the scenes.
courtesy of Spotify
What makes the Avatar, The Last Airbender podcast stand out? Unlike most other re-watch podcasts, Braving The Elements comments on an animated series. The series has been commended for its illustrations and animation design and has won various awards in these categories. As co-creator Bryan Konietzko puts it during his appearance on the podcast, the team opted for an ‘unsustainably’ detailed approach to creating a cartoon series. The podcast conveys this passion for art and the importance of authenticity and attention to detail when it comes to representing various Asian cultures that were at the core of the series’ inspiration. The creators paid homage to a selection of traditional fighting. Konietzko and martial arts master Sifu Kisu talk about how combat illustrations for each nation of the Avatar world came into existence. Kisu became the primary consultant for the series’ fighting sequences and it was his idea that each element should have its own unique combat style: Tai Chi for Water, Baguazhang for Air, Hung Ga for Earth, and Northern Shaolin for Fire. “(…) We had Kisu come and teach the artists. (…) I wanted the artists to feel what these poses felt like. (…) You’ll draw things differently if you have some muscle memory.” (Konietzko, Episode 13 of Braving the Elements)
With what they call ‘foreshadow reports’, hosts Janet Varney (the voice of Korra) and Dante Basco (the voice of Prince Zuko) put events from the current episodes into relation to future events without giving away too much for first-time watchers.
This makes it a spoiler-free podcast, but it also illustrates how well-thought-out every single episode is and how coherent and connected the plotlines are across multiple seasons.
There have been various guest appearances like creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael DiMartino, who talk about the series’ influences such as Studio Ghibli and Cowboy Bebop. So far, the hosts have also been joined by not only the voices of Aang, Sokka, Suki, Tyro, and King Bumi but also by production manager Eric Coleman, writer John O’Bryan, and voice director Andrea Romano to give an insight into work in the creative industries and how listeners might find foot in similar jobs.
Overall, this podcast is unique in its focus on art and creativity, which represents the series’ attention to detail and shows what it takes to achieve world-building at this level of brilliance. I can only recommend that long-time fans check out the podcast to enjoy the show in a more intimate and social setting.
For anyone who has only heard about the genius that is Avatar: the Last Airbender, listening to Braving The Elements after watching each episode is the perfect way to make the most of the experience.