Tag Archives: #Avatar: The Last Airbender

Z is for Zuko: #AtoZchallenge

Oh, my sweet baby Zuko.

I knew from the moment I chose the theme of Fictional Favorites that it would be bookended by characters from Avatar: The Last Airbender. This post covers a huge character arc, so if you’ve yet to see the show and want to remain unspoiled, move along. Don’t worry; you can come back and read this once you’ve watched all three seasons.

*****SPOILERS for Avatar: The Last Airbender*****

As the series opens, 16 year old Prince Zuko is on a quest to find the missing Avatar. The completion of this task is the only thing that will allow him to reclaim his birthright, win back the respect of his father, and restore his honor.
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Zuko’s drive to find the Avatar defines his every moment, as does his anger. It comes as a surprise to find that he had a decent childhood.
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His mother was warm and loving.

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Then,  his father Ozai claimed the throne and title of Fire Lord.

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Yup; he can also bend lighting.

Zuko’s mother was sent away. The boy was left to the company of his gifted but manipulative sister Azula and the growing disregard and disappointment of his father. When Zuko was 13, he begged to be allowed to attend a military strategy meeting. Speaking out against a plan to sacrifice troops in a diversionary maneuver, he was called out for insubordination by his father. Ozai demanded Zuko reclaim his honor by participating in an Agni Kai, a firebending duel, then stepped up to fight the boy himself. Zuko would not lift a hand against his father, and asked forgiveness. It was denied.
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He was scarred, banished, and set upon a fool’s errand to regain his honour.  This is all Zuko has left, and he clings to it.

Despite his father’s disdain, Zuko is a formidable firebender.
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He’s also skilled with dual blades.
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His very nature is at war with itself: he longs for the acceptance of his war-like father, but finds appeal in the more reasoned, kinder approach of his Uncle Iroh. For a time, it looks as if Zuko might find  peace without fulfilling his quest. Then his sister returns with promises of Ozai’s praise, of a place at his side.

Azula

FYI: she bends lightning, too.

Zuko betrays his uncle and they return to the Fire Nation: Iroh in chains, Zuko certain that his honor will be restored at last.  He’s a prince once more.
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He remains conflicted. He’s angry, he’s moody, he’s given to the dramatic.
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At last, he realizes why he’s so desperately unhappy.

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“I’M ANGRY AT MYSELF.”

His honor was always his to reclaim for himself: his choice, his path.
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Armed with newfound resolve, he confronts his father.

“Zuko: For so long, all I wanted was for you to love me, to accept me. I thought it was my honor I wanted, but really, I was just trying to please you. You, my father, who banished me just for talking out of turn. My father, who challenged me, a thirteen-year-old boy, to an Agni Kai. How could you possibly justify a duel with a child?

Ozai:  It was to teach you respect!

Zuko: It was cruel! And it was wrong.”

He announces his intention to join the Avatar, to bring peace to the Four Nations. He heads to the prison to free his uncle, but Iroh has broken himself out of jail and is long gone. Zuko follows the Gaang, though he struggles with how to approach them. Straightforward seems best.
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Naturally, the team is pretty wary, sending him packing.
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When he steps up to protect them during an attack (of an assassin he had previously hired, no less), they tentatively agree to give him a chance. Appa is totally cool with this.
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He finds his place in Team Avatar gradually. Zuko teaches Aang firebending, though it requires a quick field trip.
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He fights alongside Sokka on a mission to rescue Sokka’s father.
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They form a comfortable friendship.

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On the eve of battle, he is reunited with Uncle Iroh – the man who has been more of a father to him than Ozai ever was. The man he betrayed. The man who loves him and is deeply proud of him.

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As the members of the Gaang disperse to their separate fights, Zuko meets Azula in a spectacular Agni Kai. Seriously, the entire scene is stunning, from visuals to choreography to score.
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When the war is won, newly crowned Fire Lord Zuko is free to make good his promise of rebuilding a kinder world.
“I promised my uncle that I would restore the honor of the Fire Nation, and I will. The road ahead of us is challenging. A hundred years of fighting has left the world scarred and divided, but with the Avatar’s help, we can get it back on the right path and begin a new era of love and peace. “

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#Zuko 2016!

I know I ran long with this, and even so failed to touch on particular character beats, dialogue, and moments that make Zuko such a well-realized, memorable character. Flameo, hotman. Flameo.
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And so ends the A to Z Challenge for 2016. Thanks for stopping by, for commenting, for liking, for being the awesome people that you are.

U is for Uncle Iroh: #AtoZchallenge

Uncle Iroh, y’all.

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                             *******Spoilers for Avatar: The Last Airbender********

When we first meet Uncle Iroh, we see the genial companion to the young, brash Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation. We learn he’s fond of food and tea and Pai Sho*.

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As the series progresses, we find out who he was, what changed him, what matters most now, and it’s hard to divorce that from a chronological discussion of character. So. Quick overview. Iroh was the eldest son of Fire Lord Azulon and grandson of Fire Lord Ozai, who initiated the conquest of the Four Kingdoms. A renowned general and exceptionally gifted Firebender, the Dragon of the West was on track to take down the Earth Kingdom stronghold of Ba Sing Se when he received word his only son had been killed in action. Overcome by grief, he abandoned the siege. While he was making his way back to the Fire Nation, his father died, and although Iroh was next in line for the throne, his younger brother Ozai claimed the title. Iroh, no longer interested in power, did not dispute the claim. His once warlike nature gentled; he gained an appreciation for the spiritual and for enjoying life, quite contrary to the Fire Nation’s martial spirit. It’s a testament to his generous nature and decency that he continued respected and well-liked.

When his nephew Zuko was cast out by his father**, given the task of finding the Avatar, Uncle Iroh volunteered to accompany the prince. He viewed him as his own son.

Iroh’s calm is a welcome foil for his nephew’s tempestuousness.
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He’s chill.
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He loooooves his tea.

“I know you’re not supposed to cry over spilled tea, but… it’s just so sad.”

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“Uncle Iroh: Euch! This tea is nothing more than hot leaf juice.

Zuko:  Uncle, that’s what all tea is.

Uncle Iroh: How could a member of my own family say something so horrible!”


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But he loves his nephew just as much. More. But also, tea.

“Uncle Iroh: So this is how the great Commander Zhao acts in defeat? Disgraceful. Even in exile, my nephew is more honorable than you. Thanks again for the tea. It was delicious.

Zuko: Did you really mean that, Uncle?

Uncle Iroh: Of course. I told you, ginseng tea is my favorite.”***

Tea jokes aside, Uncle Iroh is a generous and decent soul.
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and then encourages him to follow his dream of being a masseuse because IROH BELIEVES IN HIM

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Let’s not forget that this loving spirit was forged in heartbreak.

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Brave soldier boy comes marching home.

 

And let’s not forget that he is seriously badass.

“Iroh: Did I ever tell you how I got the nickname, ‘The Dragon of the West?’

Azula: I’m not interested in a lengthy anecdote, Uncle.

Iroh: It’s more of a demonstration, really.”
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He can redirect lightning. I repeat, LIGHTNING.

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By his very nature he’s avuncular. He’s nurturing, understanding, supportive, and full of sage advice.

“Pride is not the opposite of shame, but its source. True humility is the only antidote to shame.”

“You sound like my nephew, always thinking you need to do things on your own without anyone’s support. There is nothing wrong with letting people who love you help you.”

“You must never give into dispair. Allow yourself to slip down that road, and you surrender to your lowest instincts. In the darkest times, hope is something you give yourself. That is the meaning of inner strength.”

When his nephew seems to be following the darkest path, when Zuko allows his uncle to be imprisoned, Iroh’s only concern is for the boy.
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Doesn’t stop him from honing that roast-duck loving body into a MACHINE and breaking out of prison with his bare hands, but still… his first thought is Zuko. Always. And when Zuko arrives at his own decision, forges his own way, Iroh is there. So proud of his boy.

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‘When gifs Make You Cry: The SaucyDryad Story’

The dialogue in this scene guts me, every single time.

Maybe I love Uncle Iroh so much because he’s the kind of person I want to be. He makes me believe I can shape my life, tragedy and depression and everyday crap bedamned. You can be strong and sweet, badass and kind, and you can always find some manner of delight in a cup of tea with a stranger. Still working on it, but I aim to live my life in a way that would make Uncle Iroh proud.

* which turns out is super important to his character, because this is the AvatarVerse and the smallest details matter.
**more on that on Day Z
***later on it’s jasmine. I only mention this because jasmine is MY favorite, and that connects me to Iroh in a way I will defend as Important and Real

 

 

S is for Suki: #AtoZchallenge

I have a type.

There is a very specific sort of person I admire, and whom I aspire to be: determined, caring, focused, kind, and capable of kicking butt when necessary. My type is the Cheerful Badass. The best possible example can be found in yet another character from Avatar: the Last Airbender.

*****SPOILERS FOR AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER******

Suki is leader of the Kyoshi Warriors, a band of female warriors protecting an isolated island in the Earth Kingdom. Their stylized make-up, armor, and dress mimic that of Avatar Kyoshi.

However, they rely on martial training rather than the bending arts. In particular, they use fighting fan technique.
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They easily capture Team Avatar, believing them to be the enemy. While that issue is readily resolved, Sokka (protector of his own tribe, for all that he’s barely more than a boy) expresses disbelief they were taken down by a bunch of girls. Suki delivers a repeat performance of her abilities.
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A chastened and impressed Sokka asks that she train him. She agrees, on the condition that he follow all of their rules, make-up and dress included. He does so with humility and respect.
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He later apologies for thinking of her only as a girl, not a warrior. Her reply: “I’m a warrior, but I’m a girl too.”
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Inspired by Team Avatar, the Kyoshi Warriors leave their isolated stronghold to help others in the war-torn Earth Kingdom. Suki and Sokka do meet again, and though they fully have their own character arcs, they are an excellent complement to one another.
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Her team readily defends those in need (oh hai, Appa!).
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Suki continues to fight despite capture by the Fire Nation. Imprisoned in an inescapable jail, she handily takes down the Warden.

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Hey there, Sokka.
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Free from the Fire Nation, Suki becomes a fully fledged member of The Gaang. She and Sokka might not be benders, but they are FAN AND SWORD*!
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All manner of adorableness follows:  Aang’s training, the Ember Island Players, sand sculptures, beach parties; it’s a delightful respite. Then the real world asserts itself. The Fire Lord, the final battle, await. There’s a moment, though, in the final battle – Sozin’s comet is blazing toward the world, empowering the fire benders. The Gaang is divided, fighting multiple enemies. The Fire Nations armored air ships are scorching the earth. Sokka and Toph have done all they can; their ship is going down and they are making their peace…

…and in comes Suki.
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Swinging off a freaking air ship in the middle of a literal fire-fight. Strong. Assured. Beaming.
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Cheerful badass.

Best.

 

*the name of my tumblr, because I am a dork.

 

M is for Momo: #AtoZchallenge

***SPOILERS for Avatar: The Last Airbender***

Previous-subject-of-this -challenge Aang‘s journey to his native Southern Air Temple was rough. He came to terms with the fact he truly had been away for 100 years, that everyone he knew was gone, that the Air Nomads were no more.

In the echoing stillness, though, was an ebullient shining light: the last winged lemur.
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Energetic and inquisitive, Momo quickly became an integral member of the Gaang. The animators of the series enjoyed giving him business (affectionately referred to as ‘Momoments’). Watch him in any given scene: he’s always engaged, always into something. Certainly he has some sweet dance moves.
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He pulls off some serious gravitas.
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His friendship with sky-bison Appa is endearing.
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The aftermath of Appa’s abduction by Sandbenders is hard on Momo. He never stops looking for his very large friend.

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All Of The Tears: brought to you by ‘Tales of Ba Sing Se’

Even so, he’s willing to step up for whatever is needed. Lemur-hat? Check.
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He’s at the Avatar’s side until the very end.

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But then Aang sends him off so that Momo can be safe… tears welling even now.

Momo: adorable. Loyal. Clever. The best.
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