The Zuko/Azula Shipper’s Guide To/Optimistic Interpretation of AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER – a.k.a. Contentbending In Pursuit Of Flamin’-Hot Incestuous Love, a.k.a. Delusions Of Zucest – Part V of V: Episodes 58-61

Finally, the end! All that remains to discuss are the four Sozin’s Comet episodes.

But first: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

Book Three – Fire – Chapter Eighteen – Sozin’s Comet, Part I – The Phoenix King

Without consulting Zuko, the gaang has decided to wait to attack Ozai until after Sozin’s Comet. With Ba Sing Se fallen, they don’t really see the point. This is when we finally learn what was said in that confounded war meeting from way back in Chapter 9.

Zuko enters the room of the meeting. I don’t know if this is the regular throne room or not. The Fire Lord always sits in front of a wall of fire. It could be for intimidation, or maybe it’s just drafty in there. I don’t know. What I do know is that it seems unnecessarily dangerous and wasteful. Anyway, Azula sits on one side of Ozai (criss cross applesauce) and Zuko on the other. Zuko is on the right hand side. What surprises me most about this scene is the fact that his father doesn’t chew him out for being late.

Ozai gets a report from one of his generals. The general says that earthbender rebellions keep them from having complete victory over the Earth Kingdom. Ozai turns to Zuko and asks for his thoughts, since Zuko has traveled widely in the Earth Kingdom.

Zuko is insightful, but he should have kept his mouth shut: he says that they’ll keep fighting as long as they have hope.

Ozai says: “Yes, you’re right: we need to destroy their hope.”

Zuko stutters a little, trying to say that’s not what he meant.

Azula interrupts: “I think you should take their precious hope, and the rest of their land, and burn it all to the ground.”

Ozai seems to get turned on by her idea (but we all figured they were doing it, right?): “Yes! Yes, you’re right, Azula. Sozin’s comet is almost upon us and on that day it will endow us with the strength and power of 100 suns. No earthbender will stand a chance against us.” Ozai explains that just like Sozin used the comet to wipe out the Air Nomads, he’ll use it to “end” the Earth Kingdom “permanently”.

“He likes it! He really likes it!”

“Uh, no, that is DEFINITELY not what I meant…”

They use that word “end” a lot to dance around darker ideas. But “end” really is the darkest idea, isn’t it?

His plan is to reign fire down using airships to destroy everything. And a new world is to be born from that – “a world in which all of the lands are Fire Nation and I am the supreme ruler of everything.”

Everyone claps. It’s kind of like the end of the play in The Ember Island Players, except these people will probably be banished if they don’t applaud. And the first person to stop applauding will get a bolt of lightning to the foreheaad.

Zuko tells the gaang that he wanted to speak out against the horrible plan, but he’s ashamed to say that he didn’t. However, it’s in the next episode that he decides to join the Avatar.

And finally we understand why.

I think I would have been happier if they hadn’t sent Ozai so over-the-top. I guess because they sent Azula right with him.

Their plan to get rid of the hope of the Earth Kingdom is standard war strategy. That’s why you always target the enemy’s heroes and leaders first. I can’t really fault Ozai for deciding on that general course of action.

But I am a little thrown off by Azula’s suggestion. She hasn’t done much killing or destruction so far. The drill would have taken down the wall, but it wouldn’t necessarily have hurt anybody. And when she finally did take Ba Sing Se, it was essentially a bloodless coup. Because that’s how good she is. Aang was the only person who actually got hurt in that action. I would have expected Azula to be a bit more strategic, and a bit less “kill them all” here.

And her and Ozai’s plan doesn’t actually make any sense: the Earth Kingdom is full of Fire Nation colonies and people. Some of these colonies are 100 years old. Those colonists and all of their property would be burned as well. And if Ozai wants the whole world to be Fire Nation, wouldn’t it be better to leave infrastructure in place? No one can live in a wasteland. But I guess he couldn’t be the Phoenix King unless he burned everything down.

You know, from the looks on Azula’s face, it seems like she was only trying to please her father. The way she smiles when he accepts her suggestion makes me think that that was what she really cared about, and not squashing Earth Kingdom rebellions.

Back in the Fire Nation they are preparing for the Comet. Azula and Ozai ride in palanquins to the water, preparing to embark for the Earth Kingdom.

Azula tells her servants to carry her faster. She enjoys “double time” herself, I guess. Hell, who doesn’t?

She apologes for arriving late to her father, bowing behind him. “Good palanquin bearers are so hard to find these days.” If she really was late, then she wasn’t just being crazy-Azula in telling them to carry her faster. And again, Ozai doesn’t seem to care about punctuality. I guess that was a quality she developed all on his own. At least he waited to tell her in person that she wasn’t coming along, instead of just taking off.

In a perfectly normal tone she asks if everything is ready for their departure.

Ozai informs her that there has been a change of plans. Uh-oh.

He calls her Azula, but I only remember him calling Zuko “Prince Zuko”.

“What?” Azula demands.

Ozai tells her that he has decided to lead the fleet of airships to Ba Sing Se alone, and that she will remain in the Fire Nation.

Azula: “But I thought we were going to do this together.”

Ozai: “My decision is final.”

But Daddy!!!!! *stomps feet*

She stands. “You can’t treat me like this. You can’t treat me like Zuko.”

Ah. So maybe being Daddy’s little girl has always been about Zuko…? Me like.

Ozai: “Azula, silence yourself.”

Azula: “But it was my idea to burn everything to the ground. I deserve to be by your side.” Sorry to break it to you, Azula, but I’m not sure that idea was the stroke of genius you and your father seem to think it was.

Ozai makes a very angry face and turns his head suddenly, and it totally seems like he’s going to do something horrible to her, like slap her or burn her, but all he does is say her name again in a reproving tone. And then he comforts her: “Listen to me. I need you here to watch over the homeland. It’s a very important job that I can only entrust to you.”

Azula leans forward, her eyes full of hope: “Really?” Is she being such a little girl because she’s crazy? Or is it because she is a little girl.  I wonder if she’s always like this with her father.

Ozai: “And for your loyalty I’ve decided to declare you the new Fire Lord.”

Azula: “Fire Lord Azula? It does seem appropriate. But what about you?”

Now, her sudden desire to be Fire Lord may seem like it contradicts all of the talk I did about how her seeming lack of desire to be Fire Lord is proof that she loves Zuko, but at this point, can you really blame her? Zuko is a turncoat. He’s not fit to be Fire Lord anymore than His Tea-Loving Kookiness.

Ozai: “Fire Lord Ozai is no more. Just as the world will be reborn in fire, I shall be reborn as the supreme ruler of the world. From this moment on I will be known as the Phoenix King.” It’s quite a spectacle: new banners and flags are raised, there’s a new headpiece involved – it’s very exciting.

A 14 year-old girl being named Fire Lord – I bet that’s one for the record books.

So far she hasn’t seemed crazy at all.

She did come across as a little petulant, though.

This is the first scene we really see between Ozai and Azula. They are formal with each other, but he uses kind words and a kind tone to reassure her. He probably could have shut her down just by being gruff. On the other hand, he could have merely been trying to control her. I really can’t say. Does Ozai love Azula? Or is he simply proud to have a daughter in his image?

Chapter Nineteen – Sozin’s Comet, Part 2: The Old Masters

Zuko finds Iroh, who is near Ba Sing Se, and the two finally reunite. Zuko kneels on the floor of Iroh’s tent and cries and apologizes. He’s still apologizing when Iroh yanks him into a hug, which is the best. I mean, how can you not smile like a happy idiot during a scene like that?

Iroh is crying too. It’s a crying, hugging lovefest.

Zuko: “How can you forgive me so easily?”

Iroh: “I was never angry with you. I was sad, because I was afraid you had lost your way.”

Zuko asks if Iroh will come take his rightful place on the throne. I think that Iroh is the one who should be on the throne, but Iroh, apparently, wants to help retake Ba Sing Se for the Earth Kingdom, and then wants to work in his tea shop again. I’m sure the Jasmine Dragon was a nice place, but seriously?

Have I mentioned to you that I think tea is disgusting? I hate tea.

Lame! Also, strategically, its silly. Iroh is one of the most powerful firebenders around – surely he could be doing something more useful. All they show him doing in the end is taking down banners.

Iroh tells Zuko that he needs to go to the Fire Nation and take his place as heir to the throne. “But Azula will be there,” he warns. How the hell does he know that Azula will be there? That wasn’t the original plan, after all.

“Azula? Grrrr…”

Zuko makes an angry face. That Azula! Grrr…how I hate her! That sort of thing. “I can handle Azula,” he says. Yeah, sure you can. And you can make a living off of open-mike night at the Fire Nation comedy club.

“Not alone,” Iroh says. “You will need help.”

Zuko: “You’re right.” He invites Katara to help him.

“rrrrrrrrr….”

I’d like to think that no one believes that Zuko could take down Azula in an Agni Kai, but they may all be thinking that Azula won’t be alone. She’ll have plenty of firebender guards, plus the Dai Li (well they should be thinking that, anyway). I’m going to choose to believe that neither Iroh nor Zuko thinks Zuko is a match for Azula.

I scoff at his “I can handle Azula.” No one can handle Azula – that’s what makes her so frakkin’ awesome.

“Katara, how would you like to help me put Azula in her place?” Interesting wording. While this may be another case of target-audience-syndrome, I choose to believe that Zuko has zero intention of killing Azula.

And I can’t resist: where is Azula’s place, eh, Zuko?

He doesn’t have a lot of options for help, but in terms of fighting-without-fatalities, Katara is a good choice. He’s already seen her show mercy to her own mother’s killer, and as a waterbender she has a lot of ways of incapacitating without killing, though not as many as an earthbender – they seem to be able to make cuffs very easily. Sometimes Azula can break out of them, sometimes she can’t. If I remember correctly, it has been very inconsistent.

Plus, Katara seems like the option that would tick Azula off the most. “Look, Sister, I’ve come to fight you, and I’ve brought my new luva.”

I think Iroh should have been the one to come with him. He grew up in the palace, the Fire Nation is his country, and this is his niece. He sat idly by while his evil brother ascended to the throne, and he should be helping to mop up the mess produced by his evil brother’s evil seed.  It’s his family.

I’m surprised Katara would be willing to separate from Sokka. If I were her, I would have stuck by him. He’s not a bender, and he may be all the family she has left when the day is through.

On that note, the writers really missed an opportunity by not having a scene contrasting Sokka and Katara’s relationship with that of Zuko and Azula.

Chapter Twenty – Sozin’s Comet, Part 3: Into The Inferno

We get another scene of Azula having her hairbrushed. She’s being groomed and pampered in preparation for her coronation, and she’s eating cherries.

But one of the cherries still has its pit! Oh no! She could have choked! After going about it in a rather patronizing fashion, she banishes the girl who holds the cherries. The girl asks for forgiveness, and Azula decides that she’ll show mercy since it’s a special day, and merely banishes her.

She kind of has a point. It’s possible to eat a cherry with a pit and not choke on it. But if you pop a cherry into your mouth not expecting it to have a pit, but it does, then something could have happened. In The Fifth Element, Zorg, the villain, would have choked to death on a cherry if someone hadn’t been there to perform the Heimlich Maneuver.

Azula is sitting on the throne, which isn’t a throne at all, but a carpet on the ground, only the ground is higher than the rest of the room. Well, you saw back at the War Meeting, but we’ve never seen it from this view before. Behind her the fire is blue. I love it. There’s also some in front of her, cutting her off from the rest of the room. I don’t know why the fire is blue. I mean, it’s blue because that’s her color. But practically, I wonder. Copper chloride?

She is wearing her hair down. Yay! I love to see her looking her prettiest.

We see the Dai Li walking towards her. It’s hard to tell that its them because we can’t tell that they’re wearing green because of the influence of the blue light, but we recognize their hats.

“You sent for us, Princess?” one asks. Personally, I’m of the opinion that all of the Dai Li are in love with Azula. Why else would they have defected so easily? I fully expect them to break her out of whatever institution she is put in after all of this is over. “Is everything all right?” he asks.

Everything is not all right.

Azula: “Actually, everything is not all right. Do you know how long it took you to get here?”

One thing we know about Azula is how much she prizes punctuality. Apparently she didn’t get that from her father, who, as I mentioned, failed to scold Zuko for his lateness to the war meeting.

“Uh…a few minutes, I guess,” says the poor Dai Li guy. I feel like Dai Li is plural, but I don’t know how to singularize it.

I don’t know how long it has been since the end of The Boiling Rock, but if that’s when Azula started to lose her marbles, she has certainly been hiding it well. And if I get my way, then she’s been losing it since the Day Of Black Sun. It has been weeks since then, but I don’t know how many.

Azula: “Five to be precise. In which time an assassin could have snuck in, done away with me, and been on his merry way.”

Come on, Zules! It’s not that easy to take you down. Perhaps she has grown dependent on them? She sure could have used them in The Southern Raiders.

“My apologies, Princess,” says the Dai Li agent.

Azula: “Is this how you plan to treat your new Fire Lord? With tardiness and disloyalty?”

This poor guy. “The Dai Li would never betray you,” he says with a quiet emphasis. And he really means it. Yeah, they are so hot for her.

Azula: “I’m sure that’s just what you told Long Feng before you turned against him and joined me. You’re all banished.”

Yeah, she’s lost it. While their fickle loyalties certainly should be considered, they have already proven themselves loyal to her. Several times over. They’ve left their homeland to follow her there. They helped her during the eclipse – if they were going to defect, that would have been the time to do it. She might have concern that they’d jump ship if it looked like she was losing, but she had no reason to believe that her side was anywhere near to losing.

I kind of love listening to her banish people, though. It’s really funny. I think I’m going to start banishing people too. First, all of my many servants. Then members of my family. And then my pets. I have a cat who looks like Momo. He can stay.

The Dai Li don’t really show emotion, but they lift all of their bowed heads to look up at her in surprise.

“B-but…” begins the head Dai Li agent. This guy is devastated.

“Goodbye,” she interrupts.

They exit, maintaining their perfect formation.

“Please send in the next group on your way out,” she commands.

Well, I’m glad to see that Azula isn’t killing people. Banishment was pretty harsh for the cherry girl, but it’s almost a reward for the Dai Li. They were the ones who left their homes and followed her to the Fire Nation. Now they get to go home again.

I don’t know what she means by “next group”.

The next time we return to her, Li and Lo have come to visit.

“Azula, we have heard what happened. Why have you banished all of your servants? All your Dai Li agents? And the imperial firebenders?”

Azula: “None of them could be trusted. Sooner or later they all would have betrayed me. Just like Mai and Ty Lee did.” She adds the last part heavily, bowing her head. There’s a sadness to it, even though her face is hard.

And everything is explained. She’s paranoid. And it’s all Mai’s fault.

Li and Lo: “Azula, we are concerned for you and your wellbeing.”

Azula turns her eyes towards them in suspicion: “My father asked you to come here and talk to me, didn’t he?”

Uh-oh.

“He thinks I can’t handle the responsibility of being Fire Lord.”

Sorry to break it to ya, babe, but you can’t. Not in your current state, anyway.

“But I will be the greatest leader in Fire Nation history,” she asserts.

“I’m sure you will. But considering everything that has happened today, perhaps it would be best if you postponed your coronation,” suggests one of the old ladies.

Uh-oh.

“What?! Which one of you just said that?” Azula snarls.

Li and Lo each point at each other.

Azula: “What a shame. There’s only one way to resolve this: you two must duel each other. I order you to fight an Agni Kai.”

Duh Duh Duh

Only it’s false build up, because Li and Lo inform us that they are not firebenders.

Hee.

We still don’t know who these ladies are. Relatives? Nannies? But it’s nice to see non-firebenders able to rise so high in Fire Nation society. According to certain sources, they are her firebending mentors.

Azula: “All right, fine. Lo, you’re banished. Li, you can stay.” But Azula points at the wrong one, leaving them confused.

This scene is pretty funny, I like it a lot. Azula looks absolutely beautiful, even as she’s obviously crazy. Plus we learn why she’s losing it, and she garners our temporary sympathy (and my unconditional sympathy). We now know that she has sent everyone away, group by group. The paranoia vis-à-vis her father is interesting. She’s afraid that he doesn’t think she can handle the job. Apparently Ozai has instilled the same desire to please in both of his children, Azula is just the only one who ever manages to do it.

Is it just me, or does Azula totally look like human Ursula from The Little Mermaid in this scene?

Ursula? That’s funny. It’s a diminutive of Ursa. It means “little Ursa”, which is exactly what Azula is. And both names end in “ula”. Azula’s diminutive ending is a coincidence – her name is actually formed from Zula, to match Zuko and Ozai, and azul, which is Spanish for “blue”.

So, speaking of blue, I just love seeing Azula wander around in her blue fire during this scene. It’s so magical. She really is a goddess. Maybe I should change the name of all of these posts to “A Love Song For Azula, With Casual Mentions Of Zuko And Why She Should Bang Him”.

Azula leaves the throne room in order to get ready again for her coronation. She’s in front of a large mirror, asking it who is the prettiest of them all. It’s you, hon. I don’t know what room she is in. It isn’t square like her and Zuko’s bedrooms are.

She is putting up her hair. She shouldn’t, because it looks SO much better down, but that’s not the style in the Fire Nation apparently.

She gets her finger tangled up in the ribbon, and decides that uncooperative hair ought to be banished from her head.

The beginning of this scene gave me a real scare: I thought she was going to go Audrey Hepburn on me and chop it all off. I think without exception that women look better with long hair. Morena Baccarin and Charlize Theron might be able to pull off the short, choppy look, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t look better with long hair. I can understand why a person might want to go with a drastic haircut in order to individualize herself, but if she expects me to tell her it’s cute and mean it, then she’s in for a disappointment. There are only a few types of women who aren’t going to get a raised eyebrow from me for having super short hair: 1) patients undergoing chemo, 2) women living in situations where water is scarce, or where it is very cold 3) professional athletes, particularly those who work in water, 4) lifeguards or aquatic instructors, 5) women who have sworn not to grow out their hair for religious or mourning reasons, like nuns, or Lois on Big Love who sheared her hair off when her daughter committed suicide, 6) performers/leaders who often wearing wigs or headpieces (like that evil bitch Cleopatra on Rome). I know what a pain in the neck long hair can be – my hair is very long and tangles easily, and it’s a lot of work.

But how can anything compare to that feeling when it sweeps across your back? Do you know else I love to do? Stand thigh-deep in water, dip my head in, and flip by hair back over my head, spraying water everywhere. But it’s not about the spraying, it’s the way it feels, the way it pulls my scalp. Kind of like a royal hair combing. If she cuts her hair, she won’t get to feel that.

I don’t know why I felt like venting. I guess so that you could understand my distress when I thought that Azula was going to get rid of her luscious locks. I want her to be her prettiest, especially for her prize fight with her brother.  Unfortunately, her hair is the only pretty thing about that scene.

“All right, hair: it’s time to face your doom,” she says, lifting up a pair of scissors. Mwa ha ha ha. I wouldn’t call someone crazy if they said that, except that she might actually be trying to punish her hair for betraying her. I talk to inanimate objects all of the time – and imaginary readers – but I’m not actually delusional. I don’t think…

Azula is animated a little bit differently beginning here, I think. She has dark bags under her eyes. Her hair becomes more jagged – even before she cuts it. I mean, you see this picture, right? It doesn’t look anything like her. The only thing that looks typically her is the fact that she’s dressed in red.

Azula admires the job she did in the mirror with a disturbing triumphant smile, but then we hear a voice: “What a shame: you always had such beautiful hair.” The “camera” pans left, revealing Ursa behind Azula in the mirror’s reflection.

Azula’s smile fades.

“What are you doing here?” Azula asks. Her tone is…a little wistful. Surprised, hesitant. Disbelieving. But not at all angry or demanding.

“I didn’t want to miss my own daughter’s coronation,” the apparition replies warmly.

Azula: “Don’t pretend to act proud,” she exhorts skeptically, bitterly.  “I know what you really think of me. You think I’m a monster.” The bit of anger in Azula’s tone dissipates completely into regret, discontent, despondency. I don’t know if there is the perfect word to describe it: suffice it to say, you can tell from her tone that she doesn’t like that her mother thought/thinks she is a monster.

Yay!

This means that there is something good inside of Azula. If she really was the monster that she fears her mother thinks she is – that she pretends to be, then she wouldn’t care what her mother thought of her. But she clearly does care. This is the second time her displeasure has been referred to, and the fourth overall reference to Ursa’s maternal horror.

“I think you’re confused,” mirror Ursa replies. “All your life you’ve used fear to control people, like your friends Mai and Ty Lee.”

Azula turns her eyes to herself in the mirror. The “confused” comment makes her open her eyes a little, like it’s an invasion of her privacy to reveal such a truth.

At the mention of her fear tactics, she looks down a little, like it’s a sad truth.

And then at the mention of Mai and Ty Lee she looks even further down, and closes her eyes in pain.

Then she snaps back. “What other choice do I have?” she demands, whipping around. “Trust is for fools. Fear is the only reliable way.” She grabs the table, and stares down at the floor.

Then she lifts her eyes up: “Even you fear me.”

“No: I love you, Azula. I do,” Ursa replies motherlyly. Comfortingly. Warmly.

Azula’s lip quivers. She shuts her eyes tightly. She’s on the verge of crying.

And then we do see tears falling from her face.

But then she freaks out, and throws her hairbrush at the mirror.

The vision of Ursa disappears, and Azula drops down and cries.

While it’s inconclusive, I think we’re to assume that Ursa was a hallucination. The hallucination doesn’t mean she’s crazy – plenty of not-crazy characters have similar visions, particularly of the dead or long-gone. In fact, I’m sure that if Iroh had ever died, Zuko would have had visions of him just like this one that Azula had of her mother.

It’s better if it was a hallucination. While it would be nice to think that Ursa wanted to come see her daughter, and wanted to tell her that she loved her, we’re so much better off if these doubts and confusion are coming from within Azula, that her questioning is self-driven.

So I love and hate this scene. I hate it because it gave me hope. When I was watching this for the first time, I flipped out when I saw this scene. I could feel the hope for some sort of Azula beginning-the-path-to-redemption deal rising up in me, and I was terrified of the disappointment. I tried to murder the hope, to smother and strangle it by lowering my expectations rock bottom, but it didn’t work. So that’s why I hate this scene.

But of course I love this scene as well. For a crazy hallucination, it was quite lucid. In fact, she almost rehabilitates herself right then and there. She faces her two fundamental problems: 1) she doesn’t believe that her mother loves her, but she wants her mother to love her, and 2) she is incapable of trusting anyone, and has been broken by the realization that she can’t control everyone with fear. It’s all there – everything needed to make her better.

And Azula realizes it’s a hallucination. Even though she talks to it, you can tell that she never believes that Ursa is really there. That’s why she throws the brush at the mirror.

All along, Azula has been jealous of Zuko. That’s why she’s so mean to him. Right? I mean, one could make that case. I don’t mind it, as long as it doesn’t put Azula at too much of a disadvantage. I prefer them to be equal. It gives her a good motivation for wanting to be an only child. Of course, in movies it seems like the surviving sibling is usually worse off than before the favored child dies.

There’s so much here making Azula into a real person and not just a cruel, emotionless conquistadora. But it’s all pretty straightforward, so I won’t beat a dead horse.

In the next scene with Azula, it is her coronation. We’re at “I now crown you Fire Lord-“ when the guy stops because Appa is coming. As far as I’m concerned, that’s far enough for her to be considered Fire Lord. The guy never should have stopped.

This coronation isn’t nearly as impressive as Ozai’s.

Appa lands, and Zuko is standing on his neck: “Sorry, but you’re not going to become Fire Lord today.”

Damn it, Zuzu! Five more minutes and she could have been Fire Lord without any question. Convenient timing, eh?  She should have had herself crowned the second after her father declared himself the Phoenix King.

Zuko jumps down. “I am.”

Azula laughs. “You’re hilarious.”

Katara joins his side. “And you’re going down.” On me.

JK.

The number of viewers who want Azula to be a lesbian is alarming to me as a Zuko/Azula shipper. I mean, it’s hardly even a statistic, but still, it’s annoying and hilarious. It’s probably mostly guys. I’m not used to being this interested in a show that has so many guy viewers, so I’m sure this is typical. I’m not going to take the time to refute it – I don’t really feel the need because there isn’t any proof, whereas there is proof that Azula is in to guys. But I think it’s funny. It’s also sort of insulting, like Azula can’t think and behave the way she does without taking on the persona of a man. She’s a kickass warrior like a man, so she must like women like a man does. I find it insulting.

Check out this funny cartoon, and be sure to go visit it at home on the very entertaining lolbender website. The amount of movie-hate was expected, but still made me sad. But it’s still a very funny post host.

I’ll admit that when I first read that Azula cracked after being betrayed by Mai and Ty Lee (before ever having seen the show), it certainly seemed to indicate that her love for them was stronger than what we would typically see between friends (or maybe I just don’t have as strong of bonds with my friends). But we learn that Azula didn’t go off the deep end because she lost Mai and Ty Lee – it was because their act of betrayal resulted in nothing sacred holding. Azula’s entire system of belief, the foundation upon which she had built her life and her conduct, was shown to be flawed. That’s why she loses it. To feel betrayed one has to trust, and Azula never truly trusted Mai or Ty Lee. I think from her behavior while speaking to her fake-mom you can see that Azula blames herself now more than she blames Ty Lee or Mai. Mai and Ty Lee are representative, both Azula earlier (with Li and Lo), and fake-Ursa here say “like” Mai and Ty Lee, using Mai and Ty Lee as examples rather than as roots.

Anyway…

One of the few servants still left in the palace is about to put the crown on her head, but she tells him she wait. She shouldn’t have.

She stands and tells Zuko that if he wants to be Fire Lord then they should settle it “just you and me, Brother – the showdown that was always meant to be: Agni Kai.” I was with her all the way to “Agni Kai”, and then grew disappointed when I realized she wasn’t talking about a roll in the hay. Zuko and Azula have always had two appointments with each other and fire: one is this fight, and the other is in bed.

Of course, what I really want Azula to do is drop down on her knees and begin crying. Zuko would break in an instant. I want her to refuse to fight him.

I think this is the first time that she has called him Brother. That’s such a royal thing to do. We certainly don’t do it in the U.S. anymore, except for down south I met a family in which the parents, when speaking to their children, referred to each child by their title. Like “go get Brother: it’s time for breakfast”, or something like that. And the children did it too, though probably not as much.

I wonder if they decided to make Azula crazy because there was no other way that she’d go down. Think about it: if she hadn’t sent them away, she would have the imperial firebenders and the Dai Li. There’s no way that Katara and Zuko would win that fight. So the writers decided to make Azula paranoid so that she would send everyone away from her, afraid that they would turn on her. Plus, her craziness gives Zuko and Katara an edge in the fight.

Off in the Earth Kingdom, Ozai and Aang are battling it out. Aang has never been in the same room with Ozai – they’ve never spoken, never been anything but phantoms to each other – Ozai is in the middle of burning down the larger part of the entire world, not to mention having spent years trying to capture and “end” Aang, and yet Aang still tries to plead with him, telling him that they don’t have to fight, if Ozai would only stand down. Telling him that he has the power to stop everything.

And yet Zuko, about to battle his own sister, with whom he ran on grassy hills, with whom he played volleyball not that long ago, who is a bitch, yes, but who has also comforted him on several occasions, given him another chance, and neglected to kill or rat him out several times, and he doesn’t even bother? He doesn’t even try. You know: “Please, Azula: we don’t have to fight. I don’t want to fight you.” Or maybe he does want to fight her, and that’s why. Or maybe the difference is that Aang thinks he might have to kill Ozai, whereas Zuko is only planning to incapacitate Azula.

Good girls have gone bad. Very bad. They’ve gone crazy, in a bad way. Like Jean Grey going Dark Phoenix in X-Men III, or Willow going Dark Willow at the end of the sixth season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Something set them both off. And they were both eventually talked/hugged back. Aang in the Avatar state is sort of the same deal. Now Azula’s trigger may have been a little bit more self-inflicted, and her “going dark” may have been a little less supernaturally influenced, and her good may be more deep down and in the future than in her origins, but I still think that the parallels are insightful. I wish I could have been there to try and talk sense into her. Of course, I’d need to learn some defensive skills first.

But my point is that Zuko didn’t even try. He has seen more good in her than anyone else (with the possible inclusion of Ty Lee), but he didn’t think that she was worth trying to save? Not even trying? I really want to slap everyone in that family. Probably more than once. And probably in more than one place – Zuko, at least.

On the other hand, I’m glad that he didn’t try and fail. It would have been nice to see that demonstration of love and hope from him, but seeing her reject it would have been a couple of steps backwards. I guess it’s almost a toss up.

Zuko accepts her challenge: “You’re on.”

Azula smiles evilly. She can’t have been too impressed by their showdowns in The Boiling Rock and The Southern Raiders if she’s so willing to take him on here.

Katara turns to Zuko and asks why he’s doing this when it’s so obvious that Azula only challenged him to an Agni Kai because Azula knew she couldn’t take them both.

Does she know that? I mean, it would certainly be challenging. Azula wasn’t doing so well against Katara in Crossroads Of Destiny. But if she caught her by surprise with her lightning, she could take her out. She could kill her. And let’s not forget about the comet, which is supposed to be making Azula super powerful.

Except wait: everyone seems to have forgotten about the comet. The power of 100 suns? I certainly didn’t see it. Maybe a little in Ozai’s fight. And Iroh does mention that he feels very powerful. But in this fight between Azula, Zuko, and Katara? It could have been just any old day.

“I know,” Zuko says, acknowledging that he sees what Azula is trying to do. He still has this suicidal desire to face her, but at least he’s not being so stupid about it as before. “But this time I can take her,” he says confidently, and I want to punch him and the writers. It’s bad enough that Azula has gone crazy and will inevitably lose – but she’s not even scary anymore? It’s just not fair!

Katara replies: “Even you admitted to your uncle that you would need help facing Azula.”

Thank you, Katara! For the primary female protagonist I have always liked you more than I normally would, but sometimes you really outdo yourself. She clarifies the fact here that Zuko and Iroh weren’t talking about Azula’s helpers – they were talking about her and her alone when they said that Zuko couldn’t take her on all by himself and win.

And I’ll go into this now: damn straight he couldn’t take her on alone and win! She’s a firebending prodigy. Zuko can practice as hard as he wants to but it won’t matter because Azula wasn’t just born with talent – she’s a perfectionist. She’s used her firebending just as much as Zuko in combat (don’t you think?), and she practices. We see this in The Avatar State and Zuko Alone, and it’s all that we need to see. She works hard to get better at firebending. Zuko has two advantages: he has studied with the firebending masters (the dragons) – but did this actually make him a better firebender? I don’t know. It helped him understand fire better, but Azula doesn’t have that problem.  The second advantage is that he knows how to redirect lightning. This is the biggie. But he’s had this skill since the middle of the second season, and it has yet to give him the ability to defeat her. Of course, she hasn’t used lightning on him since then. But that just shows that she’s not dependent on it.

So, Katara cheers us up, but Zuko makes it even better by saying, “There’s something off about her. I can’t explain it, but she’s slipping.”

This is good in two ways: 1) he thinks he can beat Azula not because he’s suddenly now good enough, but because she’s not at 100%, and 2) he’s observant about her. He’s been there for about 30 seconds, they’ve exchanged a handful of words, and as far as I’m concerned she hasn’t shown even a fraction of the crazy she’s cradling inside of her, and he already knows that something’s “off”. Zuko isn’t a people person. He doesn’t know people. He doesn’t know how to read them, or manipulate them. But here, in an instant, he can tell that something is wrong with Azula. Then he makes things even better by saying that he “can’t explain it”. That draws an intimate hoop around him and Azula that excludes Katara. He’s essentially saying: “trust me, I understand her, you can’t see it but I can.” Yip yip!

What’s bad here is that Zuko takes advantage of the crack in Azula’s armor to fight her rather than get through to the human inside.

Now, the animators of this following scene, the scene of the Agni Kai, are getting dirty glares from me. If you’ll recall, Agni Kai are fought shirtless. I don’t know if that’s for a show of masculinity, or to leave the chest exposed to fire, but we’ve seen two Agni Kai, and they were both done shirtless. Plus it’s summer, so it’s totally hot out. I’m not sure what proper attire for a woman in an Agni Kai is – probably not bare-chested, though wouldn’t that be a hoot? Point is that there should have been a lot less clothing in this scene. I guess the showmakers, since this is a Y7 show, had to cut down on the intense, incestuous eroticism of this scene by leaving their characters fully dressed.

Boo!

Azula gives him a bit of a strip tease, but unfortunately all she removes is her overcoat.

She looks like she’s about to boogie. Reminds me of that dance from Gamer.

“I’m sorry it had to end this way, Brother,” Azula says. She doesn’t really sound sorry. Not even I can contentbend around that tone. But there is the possibility that instead of just being plain old mean and crazy, she’s strategically trying to throw him off his game by hurting him by implying through her tone that she couldn’t care less about him.

“No, you’re not,” Zuko replies. *whimpers* I don’t like that exchange. Maybe Zuko just thinks that Azula never loved him and never will, and has try to harden himself. Or maybe they’re both just facing the truth that they’ve always wanted to fight each other. And by fight each other I of course mean fµ©k each other.

She doesn’t respond as she gets into position, keeping the creepy Dark Knight/Joker expression on her face. Her non-response could either be a concession of truth or a denial. I would have expected her to say: “You’re right. I’m not.” But she doesn’t…

So, I know they’re trying to make her look crazy, but the animation of Azula is way off in this whole scene. I mean, did they inject her in the cheek with a muscle relaxant? Or did she get some plastic surgery done for her “special day”? Because that is NOT her face!

She shoots first, of course. She has never not shot first. You have to admire that about her. Somehow Zuko manages to meet her halfway with his orangey-yellow fire even though she started first. He does some pretty cool jumping around – some new firebending moves he’s picked up, I’m sure. And I’m sure that him doing them, as opposed to Azula’s simple spinning around is supposed to show us what Zuko learned at the temple and how his firebending is purer or some scheisse like that, but in Zuko Alone we saw lil’ Azula doing some pretty darn fancy footwork, so they had better not try and feed me something about her inflexibility or stationary habits.

For about the billionth time we see his fire and her fire meet in the middle, and I’ll spare you my billionth joke about it being sex by fire proxy. It neither neutralizes, nor explodes. *will not make a comment about inconsistencies in bending*

But instead it swirls around each other. Does this look familiar? Because it looks EXACTLY like the special fire that the dragons used to teach Aang and Zuko their magic fire lesson. Do you remember Zuko’s remark? “Their fire was beautiful; I saw so many colors. Colors I’ve never imagined.” And then Aang says: “Like firebending harmony.” Yeah, I’ve got my own ideas here about “harmony” and things “never imagined.” What’s even more important, however, is the idea that Zuko’s fire meeting Azula’s fire creates something magical and beautiful and firebendingly pure. And I can’t believe I never remarked up on the interestingness of Zuko noticing the color of the fire in that scene in The Firebending Masters, because the fact that Azula’s fire is blue is certainly a substantial part of her identity and not something that’s forgotten.

They continue to shoot fire back and forth. It’s pretty much a draw. At one point Zuko is shown sliding backwards as he blocks some of her fire, and then it’s followed by a scene of Azula panting.

Intense, incestuous eroticism.

I’m not going to describe their duel blow-by-blow. They both do some pretty impressive stuff. Azula propels herself around, kind of like she’s doing roller derby except WAY faster, which helps her avoid most of what Zuko’s sending her way, but then he creates a circle of fire all around him, and it hits her like a sonic boom, knocking her onto her tush. Whatever happened to the Azula the cat? She isn’t just knocked down, but she actually bounces a couple of times, like a skipped stone. Ouch. Of course, it’s only seconds before she’s back on her feet. The good news is that it knocked her hair down. I hope it doesn’t get in her eyes – maybe she should have chopped it all off. I mean, if it’s going to make the difference between winning or losing the duel then I’m all for a dramatic cut.

You know, I have to make a note of the music during this scene. It’s very slow and moving. It’s sad. Like funeral music. It’s not your typical drum-heavy battle theme. It really takes into account the gravity of the moment: the significance of this duel because it’s kind of a deciding moment, but even more than that, the sadness of brother fighting sister.

“What? No lightning today?” Zuko taunts. We’ve never really heard him taunt her before. Bad sign, methinks. “What’s the matter? Afraid I’ll redirect it?” While Azula probably already knows that he can redirect lightning because Daddy told her, if she didn’t know, Zuko’s an idiot for revealing that. Unless he’s trying to warn her…

Well, obviously he’s trying to get her to use lightning so that he can redirect it towards her. Of course, the one time we saw him do that, all it did was mess up Ozai’s hair. I don’t think we’ve ever seen redirected lightning actually hit a person. And redirecting lightning can be incredibly dangerous – exhilarating, but terrifying, as Zuko describes it. Iroh said that if you send it through your heart, it can kill you. If Azula learns how to distract him properly while he’s redirecting the lightning, she can gain the advantage again.

Speaking of ways that Azula can gain the advantage: when she hit Aang with lightning while he was in the Avatar state in Crossroads of Destiny, this apparently blocked his last chakra, or some such thing. He has been unable to go into the avatar state all this time. He somehow manages to unblock it again during his final battle with Ozai. But I wonder if it could be blocked again?

So, it’s not looking good for Azula. She has yet to land a hit on Zuko. She’s hardly whipped, but she has been hit twice, and she’s out of breath, while he’s taunting her. I don’t like it, and I don’t buy it. I just have to keep reminding myself that she’s not at the top of her game, she’s slowly going bananas. Or she already is bananas.

“Oh, I’ll show you lightning,” she taunts back, gathering it.

Zuko looks pretty sexy as he prepares himself to redirect it. (But he would look sexier without a shirt!)

I was biting my nails off during this scene the first time I saw it. I was so afraid that Azula was going to fall right into his trap.

But she doesn’t.

She shoots the lightning at Katara.

While she hasn’t lost the Agni Kai, it’s still a pretty desperate move. I think she must forfeit the Agni Kai now. I don’t know the rules, but I can’t imagine that attacking someone on the sidelines, particularly someone that your opponent cares about, is allowed. I don’t think Zuko probably cares all that much for Katara – why should he? But that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t care that she is about to get fried.

He sees that he’s not the target, and jumps to intercept the lightning. I guess he can’t block it unless he’s standing in place – that’s good to know. What other explanation is there for why he didn’t block it?

Now, I don’t like Azula’s treachery here. Just because a bad guy is a bad guy doesn’t mean that they don’t have standards. But then again, this sort of thing does smack of Azula. If it was anything but an Agni Kai, I’d think it was awesome. But what she did here was totally dishonorable, and that rubs me wrong. It’s not Azula that rubs me wrong, but the writers, who made her do it. What I dislike even more than the fact that she cheated like that is the fact that she was so desperate that she had to. I mean, her best way of winning was to hit Zuko with lightning, and in order to that she either needed to get him on the move, or to take him by surprise while he was distracted with something else. I’m sure she could have managed that.

Don’t forget: in The Chase, Azula was facing off against Katara, Sokka, Toph, Aang, Zuko and Iroh, and she managed to shoot Iroh with lightning. Not only does he know how to redirect lightning, but he was looking right at her as she did it. And she still managed it.

I comfort myself a little bit by reminding myself that while Azula took advantage of Zuko’s niceness and the fact that he acquiesced to an Agni Kai even though he could have had Katara’s help from the start, he took advantage of the fact that Azula was off her game.

Anyway, Zuko cries out “No” melodramatically, takes the hit, and falls to the ground. Thank God that I was too busy shipping Zuko and Azula to ship Zuko and Kutara, because I would have been intense about that (it’s just like your classic vampire love triangle, I always come out on the losing side, just like I would have here) and all of these teases, all ending in nothing – well, that would have turned me into Azula.

I think Zuko is just being a nice guy, here. This has nothing do with how he feels about Katara, specifically. Although I’m sure he recognizes that she is a very good person (after the way they bonded in the crystal cave), and is loved by Aang, etc., etc.

Katara cries out his name and comes running towards him.

So, it’s totally possible that Azula assumed that Zuko and Katara were an item – after all, Katara was the one who accompanied him here, and they had been spending all of that time camping out – and attacked Katara out of jealousy. Who’s to say that isn’t so? Azula’s on edge here – she’s losing her inhibitions.

Azula laughs hysterically as Zuko lays sparking on the ground, and she looks completely and totally deranged. I’d like to think that hurting Zuko so badly put her over another edge entirely. She’s off the even deeper end now. I am contentbending here: she is seriously crazier than she has been yet. Her hurting Zuko was the only stimulus for that. (Well, and her not doing as well as she expected in the Agni Kai, I admit) We don’t see her face immediately after Zuko accepts the blow, so we don’t know if she looked surprised, or dismayed or jealous, or what.

So, the blow to Zuko isn’t instantly fatal, but he isn’t going to be getting up any time soon.

Katara calls out his name, and comes running over. Azula blasts lightning in front of her, preventing her from coming any closer. WTF? Why didn’t she hit her? Katara was totally off guard (which was very stupid of her, but another matter altogether), and we know that Azula can produce very strong lightning that can affect a rather large area, so I call bullsh!t on the idea that Azula missed Katara, and ridonkulous on the idea that she didn’t try to hit her. But, if she wasn’t trying to hit her – which is certainly how it appears me after studying the video, especially in light of her response, which isn’t how I would guess Azula would respond to a miss – then she was trying to keep Katara away from Zuko. I think Azula just didn’t want Katara’s grubby little waterbender hands on her Zuko. I can understand that she wouldn’t want her healing Zuko, because then Zuko might be back into it. But how would Azula even know that Katara is a healer? She would have no way of knowing.

Chapter Twenty-One – Sozin’s Comet, Part 4: Avatar Aang

We get a bonus episode. The symmetry bothers me, but I can’t complain about more Zuko and Azula.

Zuko struggles to get up, but can’t, and falls back down. Katara again tries running towards him (she’s got it bad for that boy), but Azula again shoots at her. This time we see Katara block the blow with water. But seriously, she’s just got this little bit of water around her fist, and Azula has the power of 100 suns. Right.

Zuko lifts his hand as if he’s going to firebend, but he’s not strong enough.

“I’d really rather our family physician look after little Zuzu, if you don’t mind,” Azula says. She has stopped laughing maniacally, for the moment, thank God. I suppose the implication in this statement is that Azula does know that Katara can heal, but that’s not necessarily the case. In fact, this could be confirming the fact that Azula doesn’t want Katara touching Zuko, but that Azula does indeed want to save Zuko’s life. Yeah, yeah – I know, she could just be saying that, but I don’t think that she is.

Azula shoots lightning at Katara, who takes shelter behind a column. And the column stopped the lightning why? In The Avatar State, Iroh redirects Azula’s lightning towards a very distant cliff and it’s incredibly destructive. But a direct shot at a nearby column doesn’t do anything?

“Zuzu, you don’t look so good,” Azula taunts. I guess she needs to rub it in after doing so poorly in their Agni Kai. If she wanted to kill Zuzu, he’s a sitting duck. She had plenty of reason to kill him, and with Katara running from her, she would have had plenty of time to do it.  She spared him.

Azula chases Katara, and Katara runs, evading the hits and hiding. I understand that the show was looking for a conclusive ending – so either evil triumphed completely and all of the good guys died or went to jail (NOT an option for a kids show), or Azula died, or Azula was captured. It had to be one of these endings. So obviously I would rather that Azula was captured than that Azula died. So Katara surviving Azula, and managing to trap her, is really the best way for this to end. I realize that. But still I can’t help but complain – Azula, using the power of Sozin’s comet, not to mention her everyday abilities – really should have made tenderized meat out of Katara in a matter of a few short minutes.

Azula finally gets Katara cornered (she thinks), and stalks her down: “There you are, filthy peasant.” While I don’t approve of name-calling, Azula isn’t totally unjustified. We know how much she likes being groomed, and she is a member of the royal family. With respect to her being jealous of Zuko, this is the ideal insult for her to use on Katara, because she called Katara two things that are the most opposite of herself. She might as well have said: “you are undeserving of Zuko because you are a filthy peasant. I am a clean, meticulously-groomed (in fact, I just got a haircut today) member of royalty.” In fact, she was named ruler of her land. Top dog. Big cheese. Jefe.

I know that Azula is off her game here, because she continues to approach Katara, even though she should have been suspicious of the fact that Katara was holding her ground, and glaring. Katara obviously had a plan. Katara waits until Azula steps over the drain, and then pulls the water out from there and locks them both in ice.

Katara is able to manipulate the ice around her and manages to bind Azula’s hands and feet with a chain. It’s a good plan, but I don’t see how it would have worked. Azula should have been able to blast that ice away.

It comes down to one question: Does Azula need to move and breathe in order to firebend? Well, in The Beach (as well as all of the Fire Lord portraits) we see fire coming out of the palms of her hands. She had to move her hands in order to get them into a position where the fire wouldn’t hit anything, but she never makes any firebending movements in order to produce that fire.  She may need to breathe in order to produce fire out her mouth – I don’t really know. But even if she did have to move, Katara has to melt the ice in order to move Azula’s hands together to be tied up, which means that Azula should have been able to move her arms right before they were bound. It’s possible that she can’t produce fire while submerged in water, but that doesn’t seem right. Explosions happen under water. They don’t burn well, but as long as the source is strong enough, there will be that initial fire. That’s all she should have needed to break out of the ice. Also, in The Siege Of The North, Zuko approaches the city from underneath, and has to come up through the ice. His fingers burn orange, and he is able to melt the ice enough to punch through it. And I doubt he was even trying very hard. Plus he was working vertically, Azula would only have to to it horizontally. Plus, Sozin’s comet!!!!! It’s not supposed to be an extra cup of coffee: both Roku and Ozai made it sound like the firebenders would become incredibly powerful.

Anyway, Katara gets Azula chained up, and then chains her to the grate over the drain. Whatever. Couldn’t Azula have melted the chain? Or melted the grate and ripped the chain out and made a runaway. The grate had just been frozen by Katara, so the rapid change in temperate should have weakened it. I’m overthinking this, right? I just hate to see my beloved Azula taken down.

Katara runs over to Zuko and heals him. It’s not a romanticized moment at all. He says, “Thank you, Katara,” and she cries and says, “I think I’m the one who should be thanking you.” And she’s right.

When Aang was hit by lightning and died, Katara had to use spirit oasis water to bring him back, and then he was comatose for several weeks. When she heals Zuko here, he’s up and walking around with in a few seconds. That tells me that he would have recovered without Katara’s help. And that Azula didn’t send a fatal blast Katara’s way, which was very generous of her. She sent a fatal blast at Aang, and that wasn’t during SOZIN’S FRAKKIN’ COMET!!!

Azula is breathing heavily – out of anger, I suppose, because she should have her breath back, especially someone in peak physical shape, like her. Then she begins to hyperventilate.

And then she heaves fire out of her mouth. I’m not 100% sure whether this is an angry groan, or whether she’s literally flipping out and can’t control it, but I’m leaning towards the latter. There’s something kinda sexy about the way she’s writhing around, tied to the grate but still able to move quite a bit.

Zuko is staring at her. Katara puts her hand comfortingly on his back. I guess she can tell how upset he is at seeing things like this.

And then Azula begins sobbing. She stops breathing fire, and begins wailing, while tears pour out of her eyes. This girl is totally out of it. I’m embarrassed for her, with Katara and Zuko watching! Especially Zuko. He has never seen her weakness before – unless he heard her trying to hit on Chan.

Finally we see Zuko’s face, but it’s hard to read, as Zuko’s face often is. And we finally get a little bit of shirtless action in the Agni Kai: his shirt is still hanging on him, but it’s totally ripped down the middle, sort of like his chest. He’s got a very large mark in the middle of his ribs where the lightning hit. God I hope he has that scar forever. Aang still has his – and he was healed with spirit oasis water. Poor Zukey: a scar on his face from his father, and one just below his heart from his sister. Damn you, animators: why did you put that scar right where his heart is?

Anyway, back to Zuko’s expression: its much calmer compared to Katara, who is horrified. And scared too, I hope.

Katara bows her head, a sort of respectful gesture for Zuko. It’s sort of like she’s making herself go away, so that Zuko can be alone, but she leaves the hand on his back to comfort him.

I almost think the lack of expression on Zuko’s face shows that he doesn’t know what to feel. This isn’t triumph. This isn’t what triumph feels like. In war there are no winners.

Katara lifts her eyes to Zuko, and it’s like she’s expecting him to meet her eyes, but he never removes his gaze from Azula.

This whole time, Azula is crying in the background. It’s the crying of the incredibly broken, of the shattered. But it’s just crying.

And that’s the last time we ever see her or hear about her. That’s it.

So, anything could have happened. I hate to admit it, but Zuko could have killed her. I obviously don’t think that he did, or that he would have. And he does go to visit his father to ask there their mother is (it cuts away before we hear Ozai’s answer), and it seems like he would have mentioned Azula’s “passing” to him. But its possible. Its possible that Azula escaped right then.

Crying often represents a breakthrough. Crazy people don’t normally cry, am I right? They don’t. When they cry, it means they are getting better. Now, this defeat obviously wasn’t very good for Azula’s self-esteeem, and she must have very low self-esteem if she had to control people through fear instead of trusting them through love. So she’s going to need to work through that. But I see no reason why Azula couldn’t have gotten over her crazy. It’s true, she didn’t have a loved one to reach out to her, like Jane Grey or Willow, but maybe that hallucinated moment with her mother will finally get through to her, and break down her crazy and her complexes.

While watching Azula get defeated was VERY painful for me (although I do take comfort in the fact that I think it was a defeat forced by writers and not dictated by circumstances, and I take comfort in the fact that Azula was not “her best self” as Damon would say, not to mention the fact that she never actually lost the Agni Kai, and might still have won it, and the fact that if she hadn’t sent away her guards and her Dai Li she might have won the battle without even getting up), it’s rather rewarding that two of the four main characters had their final battle with her. And Zuko especially, of course. All along it was all about his father and his honor, but his final battle was against Azula. She was the one he had to face. How appropriate. I mean, how could you not ship them? If they were step siblings, or childhood friends, or cousins – how many more people would be shipping them? Seriously. It would be, like, everyone!

So, I mentioned before that I read on the always reliable internet that the shows creators said sometime somewhere that Azula spent the rest of her life in the loony bin. While I am glad to hear that they don’t think that Zuko killed her, I am majorly pissed. Ozai spending the rest of his life in jail is totally fair. He wanted to burn down the world and make himself king of the pile of burning rubbish. Except for one picture of him as a laughing baby, him sort of comforting Azula, and a vague reference from Zuko to a time “when we were actually happy”, Ozai is never shown to be anything less than b-b-b-bad to the bone. He has zero redeeming qualities.

BUT THAT IS NOT THE CASE WITH AZULA! She is shown to love Zuko and her father (your miles may vary), and to not want her mother to think that she is a monster and to be deeply frakked-up by the lack of love from her mother. She also clearly cared about Mai and Ty Lee. Plus she made herself loveable in The Beach. And she’s way too awesome to end up this way!

So, frak you, writers and Nickelodeon! Azula doesn’t deserve to spend the rest of her life in an asylum. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. She’s simply too awesome for that. Azula was crazy, yes. I admit that that girl was off her rocker. BUT SHE WAS NOT THE KIND OF CRAZY THAT YOU DON’T COME BACK FROM! Her behavior was extreme, but it made total sense. Her hallucination was almost palliative – at least it could have been if she had been encouraged instead of pushed off the edge by the showdown with Zuko which came almost immediately after. And let’s not forget her breakdown crying at the end. Ozai didn’t cry. That’s because Ozai is evil.

Have I made my point? I’ll sum it up: Azula is rehabilitatable. She can be rehabilitated. Her heart and her mind can be cured. I wish I could dive into the show and do it myself because I know exactly how I would go about it.

Nobody spends the rest of their life in a mental health care facility!!!!!

Sorry, writers, I don’t hate you, I’m just angry.

We get a scene with Mai and Zuko. Kill me now. She shows up, leaning against a wall.

He’s in bandages, getting dressed. “Mai, you’re OK? They let you out of prison?” I guess for all he knew, Mai was dead. He didn’t seem to care too much. He asks if this means that she doesn’t hate him anymore, and she says, “I think it means that I actually kind of like you,” or something very much like that, and they kiss. They’re nothing but hormones. And their relationship is nothing but cheesy, corny, boring, contrived, nauseating, unearned, and cold comfort. And you can quote me on that.

No, writers, I guess I do hate you.

I’ve included a picture of them looking at each other as they pull away from their kiss.  Feel free to enlarge it and print it out to use as your new dart board. Or better yet – throw daggers at it. I know I will.

And then Mai says: “But don’t ever break up with me again.” And pounds him with his index finger. He looks scared – I’m going to count that as him not being ready to commit, which = him not being sure he really likes her that much. I never thought I’d say this, but I know a very nice girl who lives in Ba Sing Se and likes tea, Zuko. Maybe you guys could learn how to juggle together. Or better yet: Ty Lee – the sweeter, prettier friend.

Speaking of Ty Lee, she becomes a Kyoshi warrior. Because that’s the perfect solution to a life of trying to assert your own identity: joining a group of women who wear so much make-up it had might as well be a mask, dress exactly the same, and for all intents and purposes act as a unit. Plus, they’re Earth Kingdom! Traitress.

Zuko and Aang have a nice moment, hug, reminisce, talk about the greatness of the world they are going to build together. Yeah, they hug. It’s as awkward as it sounds.

Zuko gets crowned. Usurper!

When Zuko visits his dad in jail, he does express hope that his time in there will put him on the right path, like Zuko’s time in exile. If he has that hope for his dad then you just KNOW he’s got to be holding out for Azula.

They all hang out in Ba Sing Se at the end. Yeah, Zuko’s a great Fire Lord (!) A couple of days later and he’s already taking a vacation! This is why Iroh should be in the Fire Nation. Zuko is still just a teenager. He has grown a lot, but should he really be in charge?

Sokka does a painting of everybody to “remember the good times”. Mai thinks he made her look like a man. Yeah, Sokka’s bad (!)

“Aang! This isn’t Marc Cherry’s house!”

It ends with Katara and Aang kissing. I don’t mind them getting together. My normal inclination would be towards Zuko/Katara, but since I’m in favor of Zuko/Azula, Aang/Katara becomes preferable. Although he’s still only 12. And she’s 14! When you are 14, 12 seems really young. A 14 year old girl is in puberty – may have already finished puberty (I had), a 12 year old boy probably hasn’t even started yet. So, that’s kind of…weird. Two years isn’t very much of a difference – but it’s never more of a difference than at that age. Or a one year old and three year old, probably. Those two periods of life.

So, I would prefer Katara with Sokka, obviously. But my intensity for Zuko/Azula really dampens all other feelings. So I’m not begrudging Katara and Aang what they get.

But I don’t think the show should have ended with their kiss. Their romance was the most prominent romance, but it still wasn’t central. They should have kissed earlier, and then it could have ended back in Iroh’s house. Or better yet, it could have ended with Zuko’s coronation.

Phew. Done. So, I’m worried about Korra, and what her 70 years in the future will tell us about Zuko, Mai, and Azula, and any children produced from them. I’m hoping she’s never even mentioned. I would prefer it if Zuko was never mentioned, but if he is mentioned (which seems likely, from the hints I’ve read), I hope there isn’t much of substance to it. He died ancient, and happy. Something like that. No doubt Mai will have become his wife and the mother of his children. They’re not likely to mix that up. No Mai was struck by lightning and killed during the full moon storm of the year of the great flood, or anything like that. Azula would be wise to do her killing under guise of a storm.

So, I don’t think there is a prison out there that can hold Azula. She saved herself when she fell from the airship, and she has showed incredible ingenuity in other situations, such as when she used those cuffs to zip along the gondola line. If Iroh can escape, I’ve no doubt that Azula can. Plus she’s got sex appeal on her side: she could seduce her guards. I don’t care how muscly Iroh got while in prison: he wasn’t going to be seducing anybody. And If I’m this loyal to her, there’s got to be someone else out there in her world. What about Li and Lo? They always seemed to have a soft spot for her. And I’ve already mentioned the Dai Li. Plus, Azula isn’t a quitter. If Hama can learn bloodbending while in prison, and Toph can learn metalbending, then I’ve no doubt that Azula can learn something equally kickass.

We’ve also got the next two movies (probably) on the horizon. I hear that Shyamalan may not be directing them, but I’m not sure if he’s writing them or not. I wonder who I’ve got to f*#k in order to get the redemption arc I want for Azula…

Yes, in this moment, I do care that much.

I suppose you’re wondering what kind of future Azula could have? I think there is a place for her in Fire Lord Zuko and Avatar Aang’s era of peace and love: quietly plotting in prison. No, I’m (mostly) kidding. Well, I’ve done some thinking about this. She could coach volleyball (I swear, she is not a lesbian – hee), she could make glass (the perfect way to put her lightning skills to use – you have seen Sweet Home Alabama, right?), or she could be a firebending master – a teacher. Now, I’m not sure any of these vocations would really satisfy her. She’s a warrior. This is only a bad thing because she’s on the bad side, right? Being a fighter isn’t a quality that’s always maligned. She just needs to find her niche. She could still lead armies – she’ll just lead them to do good things.

And this doesn’t really have anything to do with anything, but I kind of feel like the whole Blue Spirit thing, and Zuko’s sword skills, didn’t go anywhere.

Want more? I did a post on my final thoughts, including a list of comparisons of Azula with others in similar situations, and a list of my favorite Zuko/Azula fan creations.

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34 Responses to The Zuko/Azula Shipper’s Guide To/Optimistic Interpretation of AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER – a.k.a. Contentbending In Pursuit Of Flamin’-Hot Incestuous Love, a.k.a. Delusions Of Zucest – Part V of V: Episodes 58-61

  1. lenissa pereira says:

    i really think they should have another book about the avatar series because once you start watching you cant stop. Its so weird that Aang and Katara have realtion even-though Aang is a bald guy with arrows and stuff. Well i am happy that Zuko is crowned firelord nut did he find his mother ursa. When firelord ozai banished Ursa from the palace where would she go. Where would zuko find her. the next book should be based on this perhaps. And how their vacation prospers and also how does Zuko rule fire nation. Will there be peace still.

  2. Anastasia says:

    You are a competent writer. And a patient one too. I’ve written a bit myself so I must admire the amount of work you put into these posts. Now about the subject at hand: I must agree that the writers were quite definitely trying to pass a few things under the radar with Azula and Zuko. I don’t look for incestuous undertones in shows and I couldn’t help noticing a few things here and there with the royal siblings. You made a few good points I hadn’t even considered and made it a fun read to boot. Good job. I think I’ll be accompanying this blog from time to time.

    • Shipcestuous says:

      THANK YOU!!!! Thank you for commenting, and for writing such nice things. Yes, these Avatar: The Last Airbender posts were quite a bit of work, and only someone who had done something similar could really understand just how much.

      Like I admitted, I often can’t help but look for incestuous undertones, but it does seem like even people who don’t tend to do that noticed some stuff with Zuko and Azula, and it was great to hear that from you, too.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the read. I tried to lay out all my points in the most entertaining way possible. I think I made a few good points, and a few silly points, but my intention was to make it fun to read for fans of the couple and/or the show, so I’m very pleased to hear I succeeded in that with you.

      Thanks again!

  3. Azula IS a cheater that’s what she’s known for besides her level headed thinking and awesome skills lol. Iroh wasn’t looking at her at ALL he was looking at ZUKO, at least I think. He WAS looking to his left lol, (if you can recall it was AANG, ZUKO, SOKKA, AND KATARA THAT WERE LOOKING AT HER IROH WAS DISTRACTED WHICH IS WHY SHE AIMED FOR HIM) Azula is an opportunist and everything she does has an angle. When she gave Zuko the credit for killing Aang, it was because she still had a suspicion that he was still alive. Which is the reason why Zuko questioned this “oh so kind gesture.” Azula wasn’t always crazy, and even when she went bananas she always planned ahead. Theres an angle for everything she does, remember, “Azula ALWAYS lies.” I understand you’re an Azula fanatic but let’s be real she’s not just so undefeatable that she can just beat anybody. If she was she wouldn’t need Mai, Ty lee, or the Dai li agents. I’m not saying that I don’t think zuko would have won if it hadn’t been for her disadvantage, but Zuko is a good fighter after what he and Aang had discovered. It was mentioned a couple of times on the series that the reason Zukos firebending was not as great as it should have been was because his firebending was fueled by rage and retaliation ( his determination to restore his honor). Also recall that as a child, and even up until the 3rd book, Zuko was always looking for Ozai’s approval as Azula was searching for Ursa’s. She knew that, amd she knew how he felt about wanting to feel welcome by his own father. He had it worse when you really think about it. He was banished at 13 and a mark left on his face permanently as a constant reminder of how Ozai felt about him. Ursa never left any marks on Azula. Now in my oppinion, a child should never have to feel like they need to earn their parent’s approval, it should come naturally. But zuko ALWAYS had to work for his father’s approval and never got it. Even when it seemed like he did, it was never really there he’d only liked him for a short period of time and only for something that he didnt even do, but Azula did and once again, because she had a suspicion that the avatar was still alive. She did it to save her own ass. Azula didnt HAVE to work for Ursa’s approval, she just felt like she did. Ursa loved her dearely it was Azulas own guilty conscience because Azula knew that she was a F*cked up individual to people. This is displayed about Azula thrroughout the ENTIRE SERIES. Another thing, they’re brother and sister, WHY IN THE HE’LL WOULD THEY WANT TO HAVE SEX THAT’S JUST DISGUSTING. I have a brother of my own, so maybe that’s why I can’t this the idea of this bizarre attraction between them but, whatever lol.

  4. And I totally agree with you about Maiko, I am Zutara ALL THE WAY, and I COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY Quote you n what you said lol. I enjoyed you’re review I really did I don’t want to come off as disrespectful please don’t take it that way 🙂

    • Shipcestuous says:

      Well I’m glad to see that we can agree about Zutara vs. Maiko. Even aside from the fact that I think Katara and Zuko would have made a much healthier and balanced relationship than Mai and Zuko, I still feel like the writers teased Zutara without ever paying it off in a satisfying way, and I think that was a shameful treatment of the large number of Zutara fans.

      I certainly don’t hold it against anyone who doesn’t ship incest at all and don’t like the idea of Zuko and Azula as a couple. I’m impressed you read through all I wrote even though and enjoyed it you aren’t supportive of that pairing, because I certainly wasn’t subtle. But I think it’s great that you can do that. I could never read five long text posts about Zuko and Mai’s relationship, LOL. Your comment/review was very thoughtful, which is how I know you weren’t being disrespectful you were just engaging in a knowledgeable discussion about the show and the characters.

      It’s true that I am an Azula superfan, and I didn’t like to see her lose so I did my best to discredit her defeat. I was probably too hard on Zuko’s firebending skills – because you’re right, once he was able to firebend from a place other than rage, he became much better at it. Zuko might have had it worse than her, being banished, having that scar, never getting the approval from his father that he wanted. But he had Iroh. And even though Azula had her father’s approval, she never had his love the way Zuko had Iroh and Ursa’s love. And I don’t think that Azula’s fear that her mother never loved her is unfounded. Azula was a wicked child, and it’s hard to blame Ursa for not loving Azula the way a child needs to be loved, but that doesn’t change the fact that Azula, deserving or not, did not get the love from her mother that she needed. I think there’s evidence enough of that in the flashbacks. And considering the fact that Azula went mad, I think her emotional trauma was deeper than Zuko’s, even if she doesn’t have a scar to remind her of it every day.

      I of course agree that Azula giving credit for Aang’s death to Zuko was a plan to protect herself because she didn’t think that Aang was actually dead. Zuko suspects this and he’s right. But I don’t think that Azula is completely lacking in love for Zuko. I tried my best to prove that in what I wrote, but I could understand someone not agreeing with me. Ultimately I think Azula is played on the show like a villain, but she’s shown to be not just smarter and capable and sneaky, but emotionally complicated as well. Far more than most cartoon villains.

  5. Randal says:

    And so, a few days after reading (most of) this series of posts, I come across this: http://www.vocaltwit.com/4595

    It seems your interpretation has some powerful allies.

    • Shipcestuous says:

      OMG. Grey DeLisle is obviously the best. She even mentioned Tumblr, my home away from home.

      Thanks for sharing! The idea of Azula having Zuko take her to prom because all of the other boys are scared of her is hilarious. And appropriate.

      • Randal says:

        It’s from her tumblr. She apparently has one, as of a day or two ago. (if you didn’t know already) There’s a link on her twitter.

        There are a bunch more of these, including an azula-voicemail and azula-ordering-pizza. They’re absolutely hilarious.

        • Shipcestuous says:

          I didn’t know! I can’t wait to listen to the others. I think it’s great she’s so involved with the fans. I already went and found her tumblr and it looks like a lot of fun. Thanks for the info!

        • Shipcestuous says:

          Oh, and Dante Basco did a response for Zuko! Did you see it? http://www.vocaltwit.com/4599

          • Randal says:

            I most certainly did. And I’m still sniggering at the memory.

            I’m not typically -involved- in fandoms or tumblrs or whatnot. When I like something I’ll google it and search for other people’s interesting bits of meta-analysis and essays (i.e. this blog) but I don’t typically join communities and such.

            But now I find myself visiting her tumblr every day and considering making an account to follow it just to make sure I don’t miss any. (Latest: Azula reading “50 shades of Grey”)

            She’s amazing. (And by “she” I mean both Grey DeLisle and Azula, of course.)

            • Shipcestuous says:

              I instantly followed her tumblr but I follow many of them so I always miss stuff. But I cannot miss her reading 50 Shades of Grey. Thanks for the notification!!! If there was ever a good reason to start a tumblr it would be to follow her.

  6. Rochester says:

    I’ve always wondered about Azula’s comment in “The Southern Raiders” about celebrating becoming an only child. Maybe it’s just Grey DeLisle’s great voice acting, but it almost came off as…insincere. Less “I hate you, brother dear, so die!” and more “I love you, and I am seriously pissed that you betrayed me, but I will do my best to pretend that I don’t really care, so HA!”. Just my two cents on the issue.

    I really disliked Katara being shoe-horned into the Zuko/Azula finale fight. I get that she was the writers’ pet character, and got favored a lot, but it seriously undermined Zuko’s character progression to not have him be the one to actually defeat Azula and prove that he was no longer the scared, little “Zuzu” that she could manipulate as she wished. Not to mention the way Katara defeated Azula was absolutely retarded (she froze her? What? Did the writers forget the ending of Book 1 where Zuko melted the ice that Katara froze him in? And that was just his normal firebending. Azula had Sozin’s Comet to power her up. How come she didn’t do that?), although I kind of find it hilarious that Zuko knew a firebending move that Azula didn’t, which led to her defeat at Katara’s hands.

    Mai and Zuko…I could have liked them, if they got more development, and if Mai had more of a personality. As it stands, the writers seemed content to just write her and Ty Lee as Azula’s two sidekicks with little personalities of their own. I could have sort of seen Zuko and Ty Lee (angsty firebender and cheery acrobat? Yeah, I could see some sparks there…), but again, we don’t even know much about her except that she had sisters that looked like her, and that made her feel unappreciated by her parents. Once more, we need more personality.

    Not a fan of Azula the lesbian. I could see some other girls crushing on her (although in the case of Ty Lee, it really struck me as her laying the praise on as thick as possible, lest Azula incinerate her on the spot), but Azula herself being into girls just seems too…predictable.

    Also, not sure if you read the comics, but at the end of The Search, when Azula’s basically gone bat-shit insane, it’s Zuko that manages to bring her back to (mild) sanity by saying something to the extent of “I care about you, and I will never give up on you!”. Azula seems to mellow out quite quickly after that declaration, so that could be taken as a Zucest moment.

    Off-topic, but I never liked Aang/Katara, mainly because a) I’m not really a fan of Katara and her self-righteous crusader routine, and b) Aang always struck me as kind of asexual, to the extent that when we got episodes with Aang/Katara shipping, it actually threw me off because of the sudden difference in Aang’s personality. One of the many reasons I though the original ending of Avatar, where Aang goes off by himself after Ozai’s defeat to search for any trace of remaining airbenders, without a sappy romantic relationship, to be far superior.

    • Shipcestuous says:

      Yes, I agree that Azula sounded insincere in The Southern Raiders. She has never wanted to rid herself of Zuko. Her efforts to bring him back home in season 2 were genuine (and successful).

      I enjoy your resentment of Katara. I don’t dislike her but she could be so self-righteous at times, and she did insinuate herself into things that were none of her business. It’s been awhile since I’ve read what I wrote in this post, but I know I must have made it clear how much I dislike that Katara was a part of Azula and Zuko’s showdown, and that she was the one who defeated Azula in the end (although Azula was off her game – it was really her destabilized mind that defeated herself).

      I think Mai and Ty Lee had a lot of personality, though they weren’t very complicated people. I suppose they were lacking some well-roundedness, though. I understand Azula/Ty Lee as a ship – it has the same appeal as Zuko/Ty Lee, but as far as what we saw on the show, I think Ty Lee is just a sweet and encouraging person, and a good friend.

      I haven’t read the comics, but that’s an interesting piece of information from The Search. Good to know.

      And I agree with you about Aang. Maybe it was just because he seemed like a child, but he seemed rather asexual to me as well. I can’t really imagine him with anyone. He’s just so…monk-ish.

  7. Adaya says:

    Hi!
    Remember a while ago I asked you if you were going to do a blog post on The Search?
    Well, let’s just say it pleases me that you haven’t read it as yet. And, as someone who has, I would suggest that you don’t bother reading it at all. It was such a huge disappointment that I can’t even begin to point out it’s flaws, because I believe that the comic in itself is a huge flaw. One would say that there is a lot of material for zucest shippers in it, since they interact quite a bit, but it’s just so badly handled that I can’t even…
    And somebody pointed out at the scene in the end where zuko shouts that he wants to help Azula, well, he had had PLENTY of chances to actually help her, which he genuinely overlooks, and it’s not until she is running off into the woods with tears streaming down her face that he finally decides that it’s time to actually help her. The plot, the characters, the treatment of a mentally ill ,troubled person, everything has been handled in the worst way possible. It’s not only a disappointment for Azula fans, but also for fans of other characters as well, such as Zuko. Gene Yang has managed to woderfully f-up a plot that had great potential. And I’m sorry If I seem a bit extreme here, but I really had high hopes from these comics, and they were shattered into smithereens. As an Azula fan, I wasn’t just disappointed with the way her character was handled and how things turned out for her, but genuinely offended.
    Well, long story short, Zuko doesn’t bother, Ursa doesn’t bother, Team Avatar doesn’t bother about her in the end. We see Zuko and Ursa having a sweet reunion where Azula isn’t even MENTIONED. I would delve more into all that is wrong with it, but I’m pretty sure that if I did, this comment will never end xD But If you want to read some well thought out elaborate criticism of the fic, it’s there on tumblr. I can give you the link to some good ones if you want.
    Anyway, overtime, my interests have shifted from pairings like Tyzula and Zucest, to Sokkla. Blame it on good fanfics by excellent writers.The ship has me hooked like nothing ever had before. And it makes a lot of sense, really. But of course, Zucest finds its own little place in my heart, as long as I ignore the fact those ridiculous comics even happened.
    Anyway that’s that for The Search. I also wanted to tell you that I always did and still do enjoy reading your blog. And not just for Avatar, but for all the other TV shows and movies that you cover. I too find myself intrigued by some sibling relationships they portray on screen. I understand that some people must be creeped out by it especially those who have siblings themselves seem to have a major problem. I too have an older brother, we have a perfectly normal sibling relationship, but I still ship some some siblings on screen, so frankly, I don’t get why or how people justify their problem with incest shipping with that reason.
    Anywho, I’ll say it again, great blog, keep up the good work! Looking forward to more entries from you!

    • Shipcestuous says:

      Wow, that is so DISAPPOINTING!!! Please don’t feel bad about ranting – your outrage is my outrage. I had a feeling that no matter what happened in the comics, I wouldn’t like it more than what I would come up with in my own imagination, but to see Azula’s character disrespected like that just makes me furious. I’m sure there’s lots of well-written and elaborate critique on tumblr and in other places, and it pleases me.

      I hope you will feel free to ignore the comics. I choose not to accept them as canon, and I have no trouble doing so.

      I’m sorry to hear you’ve mostly moved on from Zucest but I’m glad you’re feeling so much enthusiasm for Sokkla. That’s fun.

      And thank you for your last comment. I really appreciate your words of support for the blog. I am so disappointed in myself that I haven’t produced more posts but it’s still alive. I’ve reached a point where I feel like a commentary is only worthwhile if it’s very thorough, but the more thorough it is the more overwhelming the project becomes, and that’s sort of where I am. That’s my excuse for not being more prolific, anyway.

      And I agree with you about not quite understanding why people having a sibling is their reason for not being able to ship incest. Clearly that’s just not an issue for those of us who do have typical sibling relationships with our siblings and still have incest ships.

  8. Himitsu says:

    It’s been awhile but I finally got to read the last part of your awesome guide. I’ve enjoyed every section. I hate Azula’s ending in the ATLA cartoon series. I can see why the writers went that route; Zuko and Katara vs. sane Azula and the Dai Li would have ended differently. Zuko has never beaten Azula. I don’t care what the wikia says. I also agree he had no intention of killing Azula. I always thought it was strange that people were saying Zuko would have killed Azula. Also, I like to think he brought Katara with him because he knew he’d need a healer for him and/or Azula.

    I’ve never watched beyond Aang and Ozai’s fight. It was too depressing after hearing we never get to see Azula. I have seen the screen caps for the Maiko thing. Your interpretation was great. When I first saw the caps I thought he had no intention of letting her out of prison but she was out so he was going to roll with it. I am going to go with the “he just didn’t seem to care” thought now. I believe the writers kept showing Mai and Zuko kiss to force Maiko on people. It’s a kids show if they kiss a lot it must be love (rolls eyes).

    IMO, all that kissing isn’t worth a hill of beans compared to the Azula/Zuko bedroom scene and Zuko’s Azula as a dragon dream ☺. I just realized Zuko had a dream with Azula as a dragon wrapping herself around him. She spoke in a seductive tone. She asked about when he’s going to bed and saying he should just give in. Then days later Azula says she needs him. Iroh says look into your heart, and Zuko chooses Azula. A couple of episodes later we get the bedroom scene. Love the build up but it is a kids show so the scene ends with only a satisfied smile on Azula’s face. Next we get a Maiko kiss fest in front of Azula, to distract us. Then we get a close up of a jealous Mai being sent away by Azula. If only ATLA were an anime Zucest teasing would have been front and center and there would be less Maiko kissing. We’d have more Zucest fan art, too.

    I wanted to add one point about The Search Trilogy it does support the theory Azula was not born evil. I hate when people say that. Her parents were selfish and did not love her like they should have. The siblings were abandoned, but at least Zuko got a lot of attention and love from his mom before she left. The Search does shine some light on the type of person Ursa was before and after she left. The story was written as if the writer really wanted to avoid deeply exploring Azula and Zuko’s relationship. It had some possible moments but he would quickly shift away. They maybe were setting up for an Azula Trilogy because it left fans wondering about Azula’s fate.

    Sorry for the long post. I get hyped over talking about my ATLA OTP. I’m glad you took the time to write about them. Thanks 🙂

    • Shipcestuous says:

      Thank you again for saying such nice things about my commentary and for sharing your thoughts and discussion.

      I love your idea that Zuko brought Katara because he wanted to have a healer on-hand. I know he must have had such a sense of foreboding, like either he or Azula was going to die for sure, the agni kai would only end that way. But I don’t think he would have killed her if there was any other way. No matter what he loved her. I truly believe that. She loved him too, it was just buried more deeply.

      I also agree that Zuko (/Katara) never beat Azula in any fair fight. I didn’t need Azula to be victorious, but to make it seem like like she legitimately lost a firebending duel is ridiculous. And I also hate it when people say she was born evil. She was a mischievous child for sure, cruel even, but I don’t like to think she was born evil.

      Yes it does seem very much like The Search tried to avoid the Zuko/Azula relationship. I still haven’t read it but that’s my impression from all that I’ve heard.

      Zuko and Mai do kiss a lot. I do think it was one way that the writers were trying to sell Zuko/Mai. It didn’t work on me at all, lol.

  9. Mac says:

    “He sees that he’s not the target, and jumps to intercept the lightning. I guess he can’t block it unless he’s standing in place – that’s good to know. What other explanation is there for why he didn’t block it?”

    See “Bitter Work.” The redirection doesn’t work correctly unless you take the lightning in one hand, shove it down into your stomach, or “Sea of Chi”/seat of the body’s energy, according to traditional Chinese medicine, and then out through the other hand. The stomach, being the energy place, can take it — other organs, not so much. Zuko was caught by surprise and shoved the lighting DIRECTLY into his heart, which ought to have killed him if Katara were not a healer — that was the reason Iroh refused to test him (without more practice — I believe if he hadn’t stormed off Iroh would have continued to work with him on it) in “Bitter Work.”

    So it’s not the standing in place so much as the being prepared. This is only his second time doing it. (And yes, it was an idiotic an unnecessary thing to do, but my baby Zuko is and has always been an idiot, for all I adore him. Plus I’m sure the directors just wanted to animate a cool lightning scene.) The redirection path had to be *exact* or it would be deadly, and sudden leaping through midair put Zuko off-balance. Not only was he not unable to send it through the proper path because of having to be in midair at the time, he actually SHOVED it right into his heart in a last-minute effort to keep it away from Katara. So not only did he go and defibrillate himself, but he was also unable to release all of the electricity, because wrong path. Thus, some of it just remained in his body, frying him, until it faded. It was basically a suicide move. For Katara. All the melancholy music is very appropriate.

    I do think Zuko cares about Katara quite a lot by this stage. Partly because of guilt (many reasons), partly because I think he admires her dedication to Aang (and I think women who can kill him, or at least are good at sounding like they can, turn him on, to be honest), and I think they all did develop a decent friendship by the end, there, though the pacing by the second half of the third season was so bad it would be easy to miss. He — because he is Zuko, and a weirdo and an idiot — engineered that whole trip to find her mother’s killer just so she would like him. (I just mean like him at all, not necessarily romantically.) He’s physically attempted to protect her from harm in other situations, by this point. And he shows her the exact same respect he shows Uncle Iroh, when he does that thing from Korean culture where he sits and waits outside until the people he wants to make amends with comes to the door. (And she was nice to him when he was afraid to go talk to Iroh. Zuko’s an emotional boy, and not that many people have just been nice to him.) They’re friends. I became convinced they were friends the first time he called her “Katara” — he spent two and a half seasons threateningly calling her “peasant!” or calling her nothing at all, a perfect mess of overprivileged and yet still abusive upbringing. “Katara” sounds good in Dante Basco’s voice.

    (Aang does not work as a love interest for anyone because he is a BABY, and he should be allowed to be one. He is 12 and acts even younger, while at the same time everyone on the show talks about how motherly Katara is, how she acts *older* than her 14 years, and how she was forced to be even more motherly when half her tribe died. To the point where she has to stop him from going off to PLAY WITH THE OTHER CHILDREN in the Western Air Temple, to sit down and plan like an Avatar. He is not old enough to be forming lifelong romantic partnerships. He’s not even pubescent. I don’t know why this series was so hellbent on pairing up children, I really don’t, but by strictest technicality I am old enough to be their mother and I find it all gross.)

    I hate this depowering of Azula. I don’t know how they could have resolved her storyline otherwise, but I miss my lovely perfect sociopath. And it was a side effect of lousy pacing that they just left her there and had to tell people her ultimate fate via comics and Internet. Damn if Grey DeLisle didn’t sell it, though.

    • Shipcestuous says:

      Thanks for that info about the blocking! Very helpful.

      We’re definitely agreed about Aang and Katara. It’s like you said – he was only 12, and acted younger than his age. She was 14, and acted older. They were mismatched at this stage, and the last thing Aang should have been thinking about was lifelong romantic love.

      And we’re definitely agreed about the depowering of Azula as well. In a way it had to be done in order for the good guys to win, but it wasn’t fair to her or her character. Whatever has appeared in the comics or been said by the TPTB is not canon for me. And I’m grateful she hasn’t appeared or been mentioned on Korra yet. I’m much happier imagining my own fate for her.

  10. Mac says:

    Oh I am DYING over the prom tweets!!

  11. kate says:

    Kay I read the first three or so articles where you completely analyze Zuko & Azula’s relationship & skimmed the rest, cause I’m lazy but you did a great job breaking down their relationship. I honestly believe that the incest subtext is there & at times not even very subtle (the whole Azula being a dragon & tempting zuko in his dream thing, Zuko barging into Azula’s room & she acts all seductive.) It’s just plain to see, I do believe you might read a bit too much into things at times, lol, but you did make some valid and legimtate points that are easy to overlook (why does azula have to break up zuko’s date, why couldn’t he be eating instead). & it’s not like the writers are exactly afraid of making incest subtext (which goes over most kid’s heads) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXEGMus7W_8 , this scene in Korra has a twincest joke at the end, lol. Also not sure if you picked up on this but I find it funny that Azula’s pickup line towards Chan completely failed, the whole, “We can be the rule the earth” yet guess who it worked on back in Ba Sing Se? lol, granted it was used in a different context but it’s still funny, point is there is legitimate subtext goin on between the two & it’s not like just pitting Katara & Sokka together cause that would just be completely left-field.

    Anyways just gonna warn that this gonna be a long post, but I’m so glad you liked Ty Lee & Zuko together or at least better than Mai. I have so many problems with the Mai/Zuko relationship & I don’t even hate Mai as a character. Her sarcastic quips are hilarious (the whole exchange between Zuko over him halfassedly trying to please her by giving her a shell made me die of laughter) & her fighting style is cool, however she just doesn’t have ANY chemistry with Zuko at all especially once Zuko’s reformed & joined the gAang. At best maybe mopey, emo season 1 zuko & parts of Season 2 but they’re just too different & alike in all the wrong parts. She’s too dour & drab which would just suck him down & vice versa, if they were gonna go for the childhood friend than Ty Lee seemed like a much more obvious (if even almost cliché choice to go for), you know perky upbeat girl & mopey emo guy. I think Mai would be great with someone like Sokka lol, her sarcastic quips with Sokka’s bad jokes would be great to see.

    Another problem was that their relationship just hit us like a mach truck & came out of nowhere. There was no development for it at all whatsoever, we just see them kiss. I was like WTF? Like come on, you couldn’t at least develop their relationship for an episode or two before you get to that phase? Not to mention there was nothing at all suggesting they were together before other than Mai’s little crush that zuko was oblivious to in childhood, honestly she just felt like some sort of boring love interest meant to make Zuko’s stay in the Fire nation (after betraying Iroh) more tempting & pleasing. Also is it me or did they hardly enjoy each other’s company other than when they’d just make out. The other half they’d be bored of each other, their relationship was a purely physical one where they made little effort to emotionally connect with each other. It was just flawed on every level. & zuko breaking up with Mai in Boiling Rock did not move me at all but was more of a relief, hell even Zuko look relieved when he dumped her and had that look in his eyes that was “Sorry babe, but no I’m not really, but you know the Fire nation comes first. I’ll see ya around, maybe”.

    Zuko breaking up with Jin was 10X more soulcrushing for a myriad of reasons. He had to hide his past & couldn’t be himself for fear of hurting her, himself (you know he’s scared that it’ll be the ending of Zuko alone all over again if he tells her who he really is), hell the fact that he was actually enjoying himself for once as a regular teen, but the most heartbreaking thing was that he was truly warming up to her. He spent most of the date reluctant and encumbered, hell even agitated but went through with it cause he didn’t wanna hurt her feelings. But by the time he does that ostentatious fire trick thing by the fountains you could tell he was enjoying himself, and that really got to me. If I had to make a comparison between Jin & Mai, Jin would be that sorta annoying but well-meaning friend who invites you out a lot but helps you come out of your introverted shell & help you discover things about yourself. Whereas Mai is that really drab person who’d constantly make snappy remarks and just bring in a gloomy mood, I mean there are times for friends like that but I really don’t see a person like that being Zuko’s love interest.
    I also can’t get over how, well, presumptuous it was of Mai to assume Zuko would’ve wanted to get back with her after officially breaking up with her in Boiling Rock (for what the third time) and he was surprised to even see her like he thought she died or something. Honestly expecting she was entitled to zuko kinda regresses her character especially after having that highlight where she ends up saving zuko even though he hurt her. What she did would be like if katara broke up with zuko (I know hypothetical) but the latter saved her from lightning, he ends up living and expects to get back with her cause of that… What the hell, well it seems like I hate mai but I really don’t I just feel like the writers shat a brick with that and tried to force zuko to have a last minute love interest cause of the kataang ending but in reality ended up angering militant zutarians with that compensation ship more than anything. Loll.
    I know I’m rambling but did you notice and find it interesting how two of the same girls who were crushing on Sokka also might have arguably had one on Zuko. I’m talking about Toph & Ty Lee obviously, lol, except that both their crushes on Sokka were overt and explicit whereas Zuko’s were a lot more ambiguous and debatable. Toph stopped crushing on Sokka, coincidentally (?), around the time Zuko showed up and was rather clingy to him. Made the effort to cheer up him during the play & admitted that her faux abusive punches were her ways of showing affection while getting all mushy. Than there’s that obvious clinging to him while aang was lost & spilling out her heart to him but looked offended when Zuko blew her off.
    Ty Lee’s “crush” is interesting, I actually wonder how close Zuko & her actually are or if they are merely childhood friends by acquaintances. I mean she did seem to want his attention when he “broke up” with Mai and looked disappointed when he said he’ll make a fire rather than cuddle with her, lol, though that could just be chalked up to Ty Lee being a typical flirt and wanting attention. Than there’s the “I know you” bit which could be interpreted in a number of ways. First they could be really good friends & maybe Zuko was just angry that’s why he snapped at her and thought he was close enough to insult her that it wouldn’t hurt. I doubt that though they rarely interact with each other in the episode, when she seemed to say it under her breath, rather than assertively. I just think that they’re childhood friends by acquaintances that knew each other for a long time but don’t really interact each other much or are particularly close, but maybe she genuinely thinks they’re closer than they are because of that, and there’s zuko being zuko who pushes away most people who are close to him when he’s angry (like Iroh). & lastly the whole “I know you” bit could be her saying I’ve watched you for a long time but you never paid attention to me, I dunno. I know I maybe reaching but still, I like how if Ty Lee did have a small crush on Zuko it’s ambigious (same for Toph’s) compared to Sokka’s out & out obvious crushes.

    Wow this is really long, lol. Anyways I wanna talk about Korra & how you wanna consider it non canon. & I am so with you in that, I haven’t watched it, lol, but I honestly feel the idea of Korra was a mistake. I would love nothing more than a new series set in the same avatar world but with a different plot & characters, because the core idea of the avatar world is really cool. It’s worldbuilding is like star wars, LOTR, Harry potter level so they really dropped a deuce making it 70 years into the future. I’ll explain, first I’m so with you in that I DON’T want to know about the gAang (& Ozai & azula & any character really) eventual fate. They all have a finite journey which was for Aang to be a fully realized avatar & end the 100 year war, & for Zuko to be a great firelord & restore his nation’s honor, lol. Which they pretty much did, I can’t be the only one that really doesn’t give a shit about Ursa’s fate can I? (Speaking of which the comics are dreadful for so many reasons) but part of the fun that a lot of prequels, sequels, and Expanded universes fail to do is leaving an air of mystery to the world, to the characters, and to their eventual fate. We don’t need to be spoonfed what the gAang are doing after the war, how their relationships are like, who their children are (the fact that there are sooo many legacy characters and children of the gAang who are prominent characters in the show distresses me greatly), whether Zuko ends up surpassing Iroh in being a firebending master, if Katara & Aang actually stay together, whether zuko forgives his father, etc. All these should be left to the viewer to interpret, when you spoonfeed the audience everything and leave no stone unturned you risk making the world look plastic & artificial really quick. Who cares about Ursa’s fate? The show should’ve left context clues that would have people either guessing she died in exile or live with another family, that’s PART OF THE FUN. Which korra (and the dreadful dreadful comics don’t seem to get).
    If they were gonna make a sequel series than making it YEARS, generations even into the future after a bunch of avatars succeeded Aang and have maybe one or two possible legacy characters at most. Like one who may or may not be a descendant of Katara/Toph/Zuko and give clues to either side. As far as approaching the gAang is concerned they should be treated like myths and legends. A statue for zuko/Aang (and whoever else) would befit them and maybe have people speak highly of them. That’s it. The problem with legacy characters is they just feel lazy and are pandering to fans of past characters more than anything, imo…
    Ofc the ideal followup (and honestly obvious one) would be a prequel series way in the past like gee idk the first avatar. They actually made a bunch of episodes dedicated to Wan the first avatar, why they didn’t make a series out of that makes me facepalm hard. They even have a distinct and different artstyle from kora & ATLA, THAT’S how you make a sequel or prequel. Just look up avatar wan & tell me that wouldn’t have been a perfect idea for a prequel series…

    Anyway I ranted hard & kudos to you if you end up reading my word vomit. But I just wanna leave off recommending two series. Berserk (the manga) and monster (anime or manga doesn’t matter). Both those series have brother incest subtext in them, lol, and are great. In Berserk although the characters don’t appear much later two half sibling who don’t know they’re related end up really close with the sister falling for the brother but the brother realizes he’s her sibling. I mean it’s a very good story regardless & the main character goes through a lot of change like zuko, just a warning it’s incredibly graphic & bloody so beware of that turns you off. & monster has fraternal twins but with a sociopath serial killer (really handsome though) who has contempt for everyone except for his one sister that he has an obsession with, lol.

    • Shipcestuous says:

      Hello!

      I am so glad that you commented, and I am so glad that you wrote so much!

      I don’t know if I believe that Zuko/Azula context was on purpose, and yet when you look at a couple of the scenes between them you really have to wonder. It doesn’t seem likely that it could have gone unnoticed by the production team. I definitely read too much into a lot of it, but I knew I was doing that and it was all for fun. Sort of like throwing a bunch of stuff at the wall – some of it will stick.

      You make a lot of excellent and well thought-out points about Zuko and Mai’s relationship and I agree completely on all counts. Mai and Zuko’s personalities do not complement each other, there was no proper build-up or pathos, and Mai was very entitled at times. I do not think they would have had a lasting or happy marriage. I would have much preferred him with Ty Lee, and I suppose it is a little cliche since they were such extreme opposites in personality, but Ty Lee was friends with Mai and Azula so I think she likes that kind of person and I think Zuko most particularly needed someone who could balance him out. You have some really interesting ideas about Ty Lee’s potential crush (and the comparison with Toph). I agree, I don’t think Ty Lee and Zuko were ever close, and she was always just Azula’s (and eventually Mai’s) friend to him, an acquaintance.

      We’re on the same page about TPTB spoonfeeding an endgame to the audience, and how it shouldn’t be done. I mean, with the ship wars between Katara/Aang and Katara/Zuko shippers, you would think the showrunners would have leaped at the opportunity to leave it a little open-ended and make everyone happy (or everyone a little unhappy, as it usually works, lol). Almost always I prefer to imagine my own futures for the characters so I really hate being shown anything definite or anything too far into the future.

      I think we always have the option to accept or reject anything in terms of our own personal canon, but I feel perfectly comfortable only taking the ATLA series – what we saw onscreen – and ignoring the comics and Korra. Of course I’ll always have to preface by stating that, but it is what it is. And I say that as a person who actually did watch all of Korra.

      (And speaking of that twincest joke about Desna and Eska – I’ve never been totally sure what the TPTB intended with that, but it’s hard for an adult to hear that and not think of incest. There’s always the possibility that Eska was lying about Desna sleeping in the tub. But even if it’s totally true, whose mind isn’t going to go there first? Not kids, of course, but dirty-minded adults.)

      I really enjoyed the Wan part of Korra too. I do think a prequel would have been a much more interesting setting for another series. But I usually think that.

      I really appreciated reading all of your thoughts about ATLA. I know what I wrote was really crazy and really long so I’m really happy you gave it your attention and bounced some opinions back at me.

      And thank you so much for those recommendations. I think I’ve heard of Beserk but Monster is new to me, and actually I think I know someone who was looking for a dynamic exactly like that so I can’t wait to pass it on. Thank you!!!

  12. kate says:

    I posted this a bunch of times, but I don’t think you received it. I apologize for the inconvenience if you have.

    Again long post is long

    I’m glad you enjoyed reading my word vomit :D. I don’t think I expressed myself as eloquently & concisely as I like but just getting these scrambled thoughts out of my head was cathartic, and it’s nice to give some additional food for though. Anyways I wanna clarify that I didn’t skim because I thought your ideas were crazy or cuckoo, it was literally laziness, and I’ll go back and read the last few articles more carefully. & I also wanna say that you did a good job substantiating some interesting subtext that definitely was probably not intentional and that you are very astute. I.e. the whole not inviting Azula & Zuko to the party but inviting Mai & Ty Lee, like they invited Zuko’s girlfriend but not him & his sister? Also why didn’t they invite Zuko? I mean I could understand excluding Azula, rude as it would’ve been, cause she did come off as extremely cuckoo & socially awkward in that volleyball game (poor Azula) but Zuko just seemed like a normal, athletic teen in that volleyball game & it’s obvious he’s a chick magnet. I guess they might have seen how well they worked as a team in that game & just assumed they were a tag team couple? & than there’s the whole Zuko (& Azula) always barging into each other’s business while the latter is doing something intimate (like Zuko being on a date or hell even just barging into her room like that).

    I also wanna say that while turning Azula insane during SC made sense from a narrative standpoint, part of me wishes she was totally sane during that Agni Kai. Like it would’ve been a much better fight (aesthetically & story wise for zuko) to show how much Zuko grew and that he can finally face his sister to a standstill & possibly come out on top. & maybe have azula go insane there when she realizes that zuko caught up to her & that he can’t be manipulated all while zuko taunts her, idk, I also just wanna say that their Agni Kai was the most beautiful fight in the series though and was really pleasant to watch. Just seeing those blue and orange flames engulf each other was really neat, kinda makes me wish that sozin’t comet came more often or that firebenders are kinda underpowered without the comet, lol.

    Also did you feel that the series did a poor job handling Ozai once the third season came around? I mean for the first two seasons they did a terrific job building him up as this mythic and dreaded all powerful bender that not even Aang has a chance against, & it worked for the most part. Also his “reveal” in the first episode of S3 when Zuko bows before him & he welcomes Zuko back was one of the most brilliant scenes in the show, like I literally chills when he said “Welcome Home” & they finally finally revealed his face. Unfortunately for the rest of the season he ended up being cast aside and we had little reason to give a shit about him. I’m not saying they should’ve made him sympathetic or anything like Azula, he works best as a completely unsympathetic antagonist, but it would’ve been nice to at least give him better motives than just ROW ROW BURN THE EARTH KINGDOM TO THE GROUND and rehash sozin’s plan of genocide. Sure it made him despicable but he ended up being this sort of evil “force” to fight against rather than an actual character like Azula. I dunno an episode detailing his past and his relationship with Iroh (which the show did not really get all that into unfortunately) would’ve been nice. It’s obvious they had had an Azula/Zuko relationship with trying to compete for their father’s affection. So something, anything, characterizing him more other than EVIL TYRANT OVERLORD would’ve been nice. Also he really didn’t get enough hype, either, it’s really telling when so many people think that Azula, Bumi, and Iroh were more powerful than he was. The only one who would make sense from a narrative standpoint is “arguably” Iroh, other than that no one else should be able to challenge him (even without sozin’s comet). I mean Azula obviously has the potential to be stronger than him & I could see why people would think bumi is stronger (they all have more impressive feats)but from a narrative sense it’d be bad writing if your main villain isn’t even the strongest character in the series. Just some food for thought, not sure if you agree. Basically they should’ve showed him doing more things but I guess it would take a truly talented writer to hype him up as really powerful yet saving the best for the finale, unfortunately they just didn’t do anything. The most impressive thing (and I admit this is impressive) was his ability to generate lightning like immediately after the eclipse and he’s in tuned enough with his firebending to sense that he has his bending back, also he shot out that lightning really quickly.

    I wanna expand on my Ty Lee “crush” on Zuko theory cause I feel I did an inadequate job with that & it feels like I just pulled stuff out of thin air. Anyways I wanna reiterate that the whole “I know you scene” is great and it shows how well complicated and muddled their relationship was. I mean if Ty Lee truly was closer to him & just thought of him as a really good friend than I feel she would’ve been more assertive with the “I know you” & not hesitate to argue back with Zuko, like they would’ve fought pleny of times before. She looked taken aback by Zuko completely directing his anger at her, like she wasn’t used to this side of him or something, and like I said the I know you was muttered under her breath like she was hoping he wouldn’t hear it. Then there’s the mournful look in her eyes that part of her wishes they were closer, idk, like I said I still feel I’m reaching but that quote and the whole way the scene looked just gave off “I care about you, and know you more than you think” vibes but is completely one sided on Ty Lee’s part with zuko being oblivious to it. Also I don’t know how I forgot this but ofc this is kinda important but also ambigious again was when she told Mai it’d be nice seeing zuko again (forgot exact episode) but it could mean she’s just eager to see an old male acquaintance and see how he’s grown “physically” (ahem). Or it could be specifically directed at wanting to see him again, lol, I look to much into things. I don’t feel like expanding on Toph’s crush on Zuko is really necessary (unless you want me to) but I feel like there’s a mountain of evidence for that, with the cherry on the top being the whole “I’M GOING WITH ZUKO” scene. But even without that I’d still maintain the position that toph had a crush on zuko except it’d be a bit more subtle, I honestly feel her crush on Zuko was actually stronger than her crush on sokka even if the her crush on the latter was more obvious (if that makes sense).

    Also would you have preferred more The Beach esque episodes? Not like as in the same tone, but more episodes with Zuko hanging out with Azula, Ty Lee, Mai and doing something maybe a mission that they all had to do, idk, anything. It would’ve been cool to see them all work as a team & give them like a dynamic that’s a foil for the gAang, S3 honestly dropped the ball with that (and a bunch of things). It would’ve also made Zuko’s leaving the Fire nation (and dumping Mai for the third time) at least more resonance.

    I’m curious as to your thoughts on Zutara, I mean I know you think they look weird together (& I sorta agree) but I believe they have really good chemistry (almost too good). Hell they actually (I’m sure this is unintentional) seem like the foil or anti Mai/Zuko. Where they are similar & different but this in time in all the right places, i.e. Both are very much driven by passion (a thing he criticized Mai for lacking) & are just headstrong, have similar pasts, and all that stuff. But Katara is very caring and compassionate person whereas Zuko is a lot more standoffish and dour. It’s easy to see why the pairing is so popular (& I’m by no means it’s biggest fan) even before The Crossroads of Destiny, but once Zuko ended up joining the gAang it seemed like the show just exploded with zutara moments. Like I honestly can’t see how some people are willing to turn a blind eye to them or say they’re non existent (even if they don’t like the pairing). I mean the pairing in my opinion pretty much parallels Jetara to a T. & I’m not talking about zuko being a “Bad boy” (lol), but like how when zuko tried reforming and joining the gAang she acted like some scorned lover and was extremely critical of him (not unlike Jet). And hell even the whole healing him in the finale reminds me of when Jet kicked the bucket, except this time, he survived (cause you know he’s a main character and jet isn’t lol). Aside from the parallels I just feel like they were extremely close (maybe not even realizing it) & if zuko joined the gAang earlier I honestly believe a full on love triangle would’ve blossomed (not saying I would’ve wanted that but still). And while a lot of people like to point out both of them being mutually skeeved out during the play when the actors depicted them as a couple, the whole Jun “I see you worked things out with your girlfriend bit” is almost exactly like people who are in the buddy buddy stage would’be reacted. It’s like they know they look like a pair & are aware of it at this point, if they really didn’t see that they would’ve reacted much more calmly and just denied it in a different way, idk.
    That said I don’t think the pairing is perfect, people who call it cliché & Twilightish do kinda have a point, but it’s still loads better than Kataang imo. Which Katara for most of the show treated him like a son or brother (and no not like azula with incest subtext there). Like you said the whole symbolism of katara catching aang in Ba sing se hearkens back to that statue of mary and Jesus & like you said whenever she hugs him it’s almost always like a son. I’m with that other commenter who said that Aang should’ve just went looking for the air nomads & if they wanted to give Aang at least one way to grow and change (he remained relatively static during the show) letting go of his crush on katara woud have been a decent one. I honestly would’ve preferred none of the characters in the gAang to get together, they all just seem to much like a family. Sure they have crushes but I feel like a lot of are just a phase that they’d grow out of (Toph to Sokka) & they really only have each other for most of the show. Back to zutara though, although people like to bash kataang cause Aang looks like he’s 10 & katara looks like she’s 14, I wouldn’t really play that card considering Zuko looks 18-19, lol. I do wish more characters were around Korra/Zuko’s age and looked the part, so it wouldn’t be so weird shipping them but also because they really do look too young

    I’d just like to say while I try to be neutral regarding Korra, a lot of stuff about just rubs me the wrong way (WAAAY to many prominent legacy characters or children of the gAang being important). Still I do like the concept of Zaheer, and the whole being an evil airbender fascinating, like the complete antithesis to Aang. Though I am way to curious not to ask, since you watched the series, is Mako as bad as the fans make him out to be? Like from what I gathered most people expected a new zuko character but he’s only a zuko clone in drawing fangirls in, but supposedly has the depth of a snail. Like they all just blame him for being the catalyst to some unnecessary love triangle, and other than that he has no characterization outside of that? How much of that would you agree with?

    When I was talking about a carefully handled legacy character who may or may not be a descendant of one of the gAang I actually had Mako & Bolin’s grandmother in mind. For a while I thought it was confirmed she was the girl Zuko dated back in Ba Sing Se but apparently not, that one letter difference in her name completely changes it. Of course it is a bit of a coincidence since they even look similar and both come from Ba Sing Se, but the fact that it’s never compared is perfect & I hope they don’t admit or deny it either.

    I never really thought of the twincest joke between Desna & Eska as meaning much, but the fact that she looks at the camera for a second pretty much breaking the 4th wall is a clear nudge nudge wink wink, get that out of your heads you dirty shippers from the writers. (I thought she was looking at Bolin at first).

    & lastly I think you’d really enjoy both Monster & Berserk. Like I said while the two half sibling in Berserk don’t appear till the latter half, they remain prominent secondaries throughout and their whole relationship is really put into focus in their flashbacks. I think it’s an intriguing dynamic. As for Monster, it’s actually cool because it reminds me of Zuko & Azula’s relationship in the sense that while they’re siblings (twins as a matter of fact) one ended up being a productive member of society and a straight A student while the other is a remorseless serial killer likened to Hitler or the anti Christ himself. It really does the whole nature vs nurture thing or whether people are truly evil theme explored fully. They also make up the image for the tvtropes incest subtext page, lool.

    • Shipcestuous says:

      Hmmm, I only received this comment once, so I’m not sure why the others didn’t go through. But if you’re worried because they’re not posting right away, that’s because I moderate all the comments first.

      First I’ll thank you again for the Berserk and Monster recs!

      I should probably preface any discussion of ATLA with the fact that I’ve only watched the series once (plus whatever I rewatched while writing my commentary), and that was four years ago. And I also haven’t re-read this commentary since then. so I’m a little rusty on a lot of the details.

      I’m a really lazy reader too. I skim all the time. Even stuff that if smart or that I’m really into. So I totally get it.

      I didn’t like the decision to turn Azula insane, but maybe mostly because I’m just a huge Azula fangirl. In a way it might even be better, because I would have been crushed if Zuko had beat Azula in the Agni Kai with her faculties in fact. Their Agni Kai really is one of the most beautiful sequences in the entire series.

      I agree with what you said about Ozai. Some aspects of his character were done well – the reveal of his face, things like that. But he was never a three dimensional character. With Azula and Zuko’s devotion to him, it’s hard to imagine that he was never more than that. I do wish they had made him more of a person. I think it would have been a better story for it.

      I do think that one could postulate a Ty Lee crush on Zuko based on the evidence there. I ship it, so I’m all for that interpretation. I think the lines of dialogue you mentioned (the whispered “I know you”, for example), could go that way for sure.

      I would have loved to have more episodes like The Beach. Not necessarily in tone, but just seeing the four of them interacting. I really just wanted more fire nation and more Azula. Just more more more. And like you said, it would have made an interesting balance for the gaang and also would have created more tension for Zuko’s decision to leave.

      I support Zutara vs. Kataang (and Jetara) for sure. It is cliche in some ways, but not in a way that would bother me. I love the yin/yaang complementary aspects of their relationship. Fire vs.water, Katara being a healer while Zuko comes from a place of anger and destruction. Katara’s nurturing and kind side, while Zuko is solemn and quiet and not warm or helpful towards others. I think that all made for a very interesting dynamic. And some of their scenes were very shippable, like when she’s healing him, and her hurt after he sides with Azula in Ba Sing Se, and then their sparring in the first season when they’re definitely enemies. To me it’s the ship that makes the most sense. I think it should have been endgame.

      I wondered about Bolin and Mako’s grandmother in Ba Sing Se. I do love how they never indicated anything, and yet it might have been her. I don’t really mind legacy characters, even 5 billion of them. The only problem I have is when it gives too much away about what happened with the original characters and how things ended for them. Obviously with Katara still being alive, and her and Aang’s children being main characters, we learned everything about them. But we met Zuko’s grandson and he gave nothing way.

      I didn’t hate Mako. I didn’t find him particularly interesting, but I didn’t hate him. He and Korra were probably my least favorite characters from Korra, though. Yeah, I just didn’t really care about him too much. I definitely think his greatest attribute was being good looking, but I wouldn’t call him the absolute worst. I agree, he doesn’t have a lot of characterization outside of the love triangle, but I love his relationship with Bolin. It never got enough attention.

      Thanks for all the discussion! It’s great to talk about the show.

  13. kate says:

    No problem, I’d love to hear your opinions on them if you get around to reading/watching them, I’m especially interested on your thoughts on Johann/Nina’s relationship in Monster, lol.

    I’m actually the same; it’s been years since I’ve watched ATLA front to back. I’ve seen a bunch of S3 & S2 episodes a bunch of times though, but I just keep up with the fandom sort of. So I’m kind of aware of the show through that, I do need to rewatch it front to back one of these days.

    Azula turning crazy makes sense but it could’ve been done without, although to make her not crazy they’d have to change a few things like all the way back to Boiling Rock. I just feel like it also undermines Zuko’s growth as well since he’s gotten a lot stronger since he trained with the dragons & he’s also a lot more composed & in control of his emotions. It’s interesting, but I’m not sure who’d edge it out if a totally sane Azula faced Zuko in the finale. In the boiling rock while they did seem even, Zuko had Sokka’s help. Even during Southern Raiders while Zuko seemed more offensive, I think a subtle way the creators were trying to show that Azula still edges out Zuko was her ability to save herself from falling to death whereas Zuko would’ve straight died if it weren’t for the gAang’s intervention.

    As for Ozai, yeah pretty much. He didn’t need to be a sympathetic character like Azula or anything, but even just flat out more characterization would’ve been great. To see him like emotionally manipulating Zuko & Azula more into thinking he cared about them. His reveal was a great scene for a number of reasons, especially when contrasted with Katara crying to her father & you could tell her father actually cared about her. Whereas with Ozai he was a lot colder, even while congratulating & commending Zuko you could tell it wasn’t like unconditional love or anything. While I hate to bring up Berserk again the main character’s (Guts) relationship with his adoptive father is very similar to Zuko with Ozai. He obviously very much wants his approval and affection but his dad was just cold and abusive, but he still had some moments that made Guts think he cared about him. It ends up messing up him so much that he still thinks he was a good father all the way into adulthood, sad, I know.

    Season 3 while not bad and even enjoyable really dropped the ball with a lot of things. We should have had more characterization for Ozai, same for Azula, & hell Mai & ty lee would’ve been nice. But the pacing and choice for some episodes were just baffling. Like we didn’t need two episodes for Boiling Rock, Katara got wayyy to much spotlight (if they were gonna focus on the gAang so much dedicate an episode to Toph at least), and she really came off as the creator’s pet at times. She got a lot of characterization almost an unnecessary amount, plus her beating Azula under Sozin’s comet is laughable. Regardless of if someone considers Katara a bigger prodigy than Azula (although I highly disagree with that) or would beat her in a neutral setting, still her beating Azula under those conditions is about as laughable as Azula beating Katra in a boat in the middle of the ocean under a full moon. It doesn’t matter of Azula’s crazy she should’ve been able to completely roast katara. Speaking of which I’m with you in that bloodbending is stupidly overpowered, if they were going to have something that ridiculous for waterbenders than make sozin’s comet come more often or give the other bending elements broken abilities. But yeah I veered off topic and into a rant, anyways more The Beach like episodes with I guess Zuko, Azula, Ty Lee, & Mai doing some sort of mission or heist or anything would’ve been amazing to see. We really needed more interaction with those four but under a different type of episode, and it really would’ve been a great foil for the gAang.

    I’m glad you like Zutara (I think), I like it, but I’m not its biggest fan or anything. Honestly what made me a fan was probably the fandom & the huge amount of amvs, fan art, and fanfiction it has. This vid in particular was extremely well edited & was probably the one that made me a fan. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1L9ZhXT3EgE . & while I hate to bring up Mai/Zuko again I think the reason why I dislike it so much is cause once Mai and him became a pair she pretty much lost everything that made her cool. She was like some sarcastic ninja esque assassin that could go toe to toe with benders, yet once they became a pair she was defined by her romance with Zuko. & while I may seem hypocritical cause I really like Ty Lee/Zuko at least Ty Lee being all giddy around him when they make out would be in character for her whereas with Mai it just felt off. I would still be critical (extremely actually) if they both just became a pair out of nowhere but at least they have chemistry unlike Mai/Zuko.

    I should preface that my dislike for legacy characters is all on me & somewhat irrational, I just feel like many times legacy characters are pandering to fans of past characters (like Toph) & that just because said character is a child of whoever we’re supposed to automatically give a shit about them. Granted they may be written well (I’m really not judging any legacy character in the show since I haven’t watched it) but I always would prefer if said character was built from the ground up and after we get to know them really well we just casually learn that they’re the child of X character. So it comes off a lot more nonchalant and not a big deal. & you’re spot on with the legacy characters giving too much info about past characters who we really don’t need to know about. If said character didn’t give away that much than I’d be totally cool with it. I also find it hilarious how soooo many people are holding out for Suyin’s father to be Sokka, and hell there was even a vocal minority who wanted the Bei Fong sisters’ father to be Zuko, like wtf. First of all Toph got over her crush for both of them, & secondly both of them were oblivious to it & were in a relationship & treated her like a little sister. I mean I thought her crush on both of them were cute (especially Zuko’s) but just no, I’m not sure if Suyin’s father’s identity is revealed but if it isn’t I hope it stays that way, same for Zuko’s wife/Izumi’s mother.

    Speaking of which were you disappointed at how weak Zuko came off in Korra, you’d think he’d have a much better showing despite being 90, but no he gets fodderized and used as a stepping stone to show how powerful the bad guys are. Which is a terrible way to treat the character as it leaves many people even wondering if he actually became a firebending master or got soft, and I don’t really think age is an excuse either since Bumi was 110 and one of the most powerful benders in the old series.

    Well that’s unfortunate about Mako ( & Korra) & makes me want to put off watching the series or hell even watching it at all. I was hoping for a zuko esque character who has a lot of internal struggle & goes through change, but all we end up getting is a pretty face who’s the center of unnecessary soap opera drama. What a shame, I should preface that I didn’t exactly expect or want him to have the same exact trajectory with Zuko, or have any character in Korra have the same exact Villain turn good guy trajectory as that’d just be rehashing Zuko’s journey but still I was hoping there’d be a character like that.

    Also while I don’t think you read the comics, do yourself a favor and treat them as nothing more than glorified fanfiction backwash. I read The Promise & my oh my was it terrible, the extremely gross & saccharine relationship between Katara & Aang where they act like sick lovebirds and call each other nicknames like sweetie. What’s funny is despite all this katara still acts like some over protective mother figure towards Aang like he can’t fight his own battles or defend himself, & Aang still acts like a little kid. & it’s not that I dislike couples who are together (or cause of my dislike of kataang, I’d feel the same way if it’s zutara and it was that sickeningly sweet) cause I thought Sokka/Suki were not overly sentimental & mushy. It seems like the writer tried to capture their personality in the show but just utterly failed & instead makes them obnoxious caricatures with everyone acting completely stupid and wacky. I swear Zuko’s idea to have Aang kill him if he turns out like his father is extremely dumb but what’s even worse is when Aang & katara go to visit him, he ends up having the guards attack them on sight. Katara of course was hellbent on murdering them, & when zuko goes to restrain her Aang goes all avatar state ready to kill his friend over that. Seriously, Aang couldn’t even kill Ozai yet we’re supposed to believe he’d kill his best friend over such a minor dispute (although zuko acted like an idiot for the whole shoot on sight thing). Not to mention it regresses Zuko & katara’s relationship since they were extremely close by the end of the show. Ugh, oh yeah & Mai & Zuko broke up, but why do I feel like this is just forced drama meant to keep us on our toes but we all know that it’s gonna be sunshine and peaches at the end of the day & they’ll get back together?

    Anyways I ranted again, & I don’t feel as satisfied with my rant or that it was really eloquent but meh. Also I apologize for veering this offtopic & away from Zuko & Azula’s relationship, lol.

    • Shipcestuous says:

      Veering off topic is totally fine! I went off topic all the time in my commentaries – it’s just what happens.

      Yeah, I was never a fan of Katara freezing Azula like that in that final battle. I’m grateful to Katara for finding a way to save Azula’s life, and I could definitely see Azula’s overconfidence being her downfall, but like you said, she was superpowered by the comet and should have given a much better showing against a waterbender. Although I do think the waterbenders are a little overpowered, especially compared to the other types of benders, though the show has always done a good and creative job of showing how they’re all capable of awesome things. It doesn’t make any sense to me why bloodbending is something separate from waterbending, but the ability to bloodbend is basically a checkmate.

      Yeah, if they introduce a character who is someone’s child and expect you to care about them without giving them good characterization or giving them any worth in their won right then that’s pretty stupid. But it still think it works for the audience sometimes. I guess it really depends on the person. But it’s important for the character to be about more than just being someone’s child. Not just an excuse to tell lovey-dovey stories about their parents or whatever.

      I barely even remember Zuko being in Korra. (Korra didn’t always have my full attention, I have to confess.) Which gives you some indication of what a terrible job they did with him. I thought his grandson was pretty interesting and could have been what Mako should have been, but he wasn’t in it for very much.

      Yeah, I don’t think I would ever read the comic in a million years. I already thought it was pretty bad but you’ve made it sound even worse. I would be highly surprised if Zuko and Mai didn’t get back together eventually.

  14. Avery says:

    I know I’m very late boarding the Zucest train, but here I am! (I also ship Sokkla, but that’s irrelevant). You certainly have an eye for detail! I’m thoroughly impressed with your episode-by-episode in-depth analysis. I agree that your interpretation is optimistic, but so what? You gave all of us Zucest shippers that much more hope! (Ugh, I hope I don’t sound like Katara here). I particularly found your argument about Azula starting to lose her mind due to Zuko’s betrayal (rather than her friends’ betrayal) quite compelling.

    This is actually the ONLY incest ship that I support. I would personally find Katara/Sokka to be pretty gross, not that there’s any evidence for that on the show, and I’m also not judging anyone for being into that. But there’s just something about Zuko and Azula that seems so obvious and perfect. Too bad ATLA wasn’t on HBO : )

    I read all of the comics, and am waiting not-so-patiently for Smoke and Shadow part 2 to come out next week! I REALLY enjoyed them. The Search actually does have a lot of Zuko/Azula moments, which are greatly contrasted to Sokka’s and Katara’s relationship. I have a fan theory about Azula’s return in Smoke and Shadow, but I don’t want to possibly spoil anything! In the meantime, I’ve been reading a lot of Zucest fanfiction. One of the more recently published stories really stood out to me because it made Zucest seem possible even after the first Smoke and Shadow book. Not to mention that it’s hilarious and sexy at the same time, and the fan art is rather delicious. I’ll post it if you need some more optimism!

    Anyway, thank you very much for your interpretation! I wish had discovered it sooner. It was truly a pleasure to read.

    • Shipcestuous says:

      Thank you so much!!!! I am so happy that you enjoyed reading what I wrote and I feel like you really understood what it was supposed to be, certainly not an objective analysis.

      I’m glad you’re enjoying the comics and that Zuko and Azula have had some interactions in them. I think it’s great people are still writing Zucest fanfiction that are comics-canon compliant. It’s great to know that shippers are still active out there. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the context for that fic but certainly feel free to recommend it. This page gets some hits so I’m sure some people who would find the rec really useful would see it.

      Thank you again for the message and feedback, I really appreciate it!

      • Avery says:

        There are certainly active shippers out there! Unfortunately they are vastly outnumbered by Zutara and Tyzula shippers. I cannot get behind those for whatever reason, especially the latter. But still, it’s amazing to see how lively the ATLA universe currently is, considering the original series ended in 2008!

        I recently read your follow-up with your fanfic and fan art recommendations. Thanks so much for that – I read through every fanfic on your list! Here is my recommendation: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/11643166/1/Iroh-s-Sage-Advice

        I really hope the author doesn’t mind me sharing her work (assuming the author is female based on the profile). It’s only because I enjoyed reading it so much! Any fan of the cartoon should appreciate its humor, and the lemon and fan art are really HOT. Plus, I thought it was clever making Zuko have the more dominant role since it matches their current position in the comics, with Zuko being Fire Lord and Azula trying to overcome her demons. There are *minor* spoilers for those who have not read the comics.

        I look forward to reading more of your work!

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