Azula is one of the most fascinating and complex villains in children’s media, or indeed in any media. She is both abuser and victim, both deeply cruel and deeply afraid. Often, discussion of her breaks into two camps, either she was born the way she is, or that she was abused, and she was made into the character we see onscreen by that abuse. Either she is a “psychopath” (an outdated term that has been widely misunderstood and keeps shifting in meaning), and she was born the way she is, and she either wasn’t abused, or abuse didn’t affect her, or she was abused, and how she was raised made her into who she is. I don’t think either of those positions are correct. There is no code that says that predators don’t abuse other predators, and there is nothing in the world that makes abuse magically not damaging. I have spent a great deal of time figuring out what makes this character tick, and what made her stop ticking at the end. So how did nurture and nature come together to make Azula? Bear with me, it’s a bit of a story.
I think one of the things that makes Azula so amazing as a villain and a character is that her breakdown is foreshadowed by her earliest episodes. All the pieces are on the board at the very start, you just don’t realize it. So when the breakdown comes it’s all full of callbacks to earlier behavior and it suddenly feels utterly natural that this person you’ve seen as a nigh-untouchable badass mastermind is coming so undone. It doesn’t come out of nowhere, it was there all along from the very start and we simply forgot about it in the interim because she was being so badass and it had no reason to take effect just yet.
–Her speech to the captain about the tides foreshadows her banishing all her servants and advisors. The captain is totally honest with her despite being scared, that they’re not bringing the ship in just yet because of an issue with the tides. Tides are BIG deal in regards to bringing in a ship but Azula doesn’t care and simply wants her will done now and makes it clear she will harm or kill the captain if he doesn’t do the thing he knows is a bad idea. The man is not delaying for silly reasons or to hide a mistake, he is genuinely making a sound decision about how to bring a ship into port, Azula simply doesn’t care she wants what she wants done now and treats disagreement as disloyalty. Azula perceives anyone subordinate as not doing what she wants for any reason at all to be proof they’re not perfectly loyal.
–The one hair out of place with Lo and Li training her. It shows Azula as a perfectionist, and again, as a control freak. She cares about appearences, which probably ties into her status as a prodigy who has long been praised for being such. She needs to make it look effortless and perfect. But after Boiling Rock this starts to slide. In The Southern Raiders he hair comes down fully during her fight with Zuko and she doesn’t even care–hell, she can’t do anything to fix it since she needs her hand to hang onto the mountain. Then in the finale her hair is an utter disaster, showing just how far she’s fallen. Once again it fully comes down while she’s fighting, and by the time the fight is over and Katara has her restrained she’s a total mess.
–Recruiting Ty Lee. This is where we should have known from the start that Ty Lee’s loyalty to Azula is not absolute by any means. Ty Lee wanted to stay with the circus and only left because of Azula clearly threatening her by having the net set on fire. We see it again in Zuko Alone’s flashbacks, where Azula is obviously jealous of Ty Lee being able to do better gymnastics than her and bullies her for it. Ty Lee is only with Azula out of fear and always has been. Of course if it came down to Azula or Mai she’d choose Mai.
–Recruiting Mai. It’s even more subtle than with Ty Lee but they show why Mai will eventually betray Azula in the same episode Mai debuts in. When Tom-Tom, Mai’s little brother, is in danger and a hostage, Azula makes it clear she doesn’t give a shit about that and that the deal should be off Mai’s not as open as Ty Lee is so she doesn’t seem to react as much but it’s the same situation. Azula wants Mai on her team and doesn’t care what happens to people Mai probably cares about. Thing is, the person Mai cares about most is Zuko, who Azula is hunting. Mai betraying Azula for Zuko becomes more and more of a given as the show establishes Mai’s feelings for him. Meanwhile Azula probably assumed that if Mai was willing to endanger her own little brother for Azula, there would be no conflicts of loyalty regarding Zuko…and was wrong. As Mai said, she miscalculated.
It was all there right from the start of season 2.
so u know the “space azula” galra girl, still thinking it would be interesting if she and Keith were sister/brother esp since she’s on Lotor’s side (like a little Azula / Zuko callback, think about itt)
1. Rather than being frozen for a hundred years, Aang dies in the blizzard. The Water Avatar after him dies as a child before she can be discovered, and the Earth Avatar languishes unfound in a poor Earth Kingdom village on the edge of the Si Wong desert until he dies in his thirties in a sand storm. When Iroh is born, absolutely no one is looking for the Avatar in the Fire Nation.
2. Iroh is still the son of Firelord Azulon, still the golden prince of the conquering Fire Nation, and still the Dragon of the West and celebrated general. In fact, he doesn’t have any idea he’s the Avatar until his son dies in the seige of Ba Sing Se.
3. When he goes on his spiritual quest, the spirits basically tell him he’s the Avatar and also a total blockhead. Unfortunately, at the time, he’s really too depressed to do anything about Ozai and the Fire Nation war machine. In fact, he doesn’t start to wake up from his depressive daze until Zuko’s scarring and banishment.
4. So Zuko is on a boat hunting the Avatar with the secret Avatar standing right next to him. There’s no way this is all going to end in disaster. Fortunately, Iroh is a sensible human being who decides he is not going to bother with this Avatar hunting nonsense, so he turns to Zuko and goes: Good news Nephew! You found the Avatar. And now the Avatar is kidnapping you. And we’re going to meet up with some friends of mine from all four nations. Isn’t that wonderful? Zuko does not think it’s wonderful. By the way, this is one of those universes where the Order of the White Lotus holds Zuko captive and forcibly teaches him statecraft.
5. When Iroh goes to the White Lotus and tells them he is the Avatar, Bumi is delighted. He won’t stop cackling. Pakku is horribly disgruntled, both by Iroh being the Avatar and needing waterbending training, and by Bumi’s glee. Also Iroh has to quickly implement a ban on Jeong Jeong teaching Zuko anything, ever.
It’s Araeph’s 1000th post! Thank you so much to all my followers, people who’ve messaged me for discussion, and fans who’ve filled my inbox with such thought-provoking asks. Below is the latest master list of my essays and fiction that I’ve compiled over the past year or so, as well as a few choice reblogs from other tumblr users that are mentioned by name. Have a fantastic 4th of July, everyone!
I don’t have a stupid sob story like you do. I could sit here and complain about how my own mother never really loved me, but I don’t really care. My own mother… thought I was a monster… She was right, of course, but it still hurt.
Prince Lotor talking to Princess Allura and/or the Paladins in season 3, probably
Do you think any little part of Azula ever loved Zuko? While manipulating him in season 3 did she ever enjoy his company? Playing volleyball and getting him from the old family house in "The Beach", encouraging him to go to the war meeting sans formal invite and hiding his secret Uncle visits? All those years ago she warned Zuko about Ozai's plan to kill him and tried to get him to spy on Azulon and Ozai. Wishful thinking?
Yes, Azula loved Zuko. You can see
her genuinely happy about playing with him as kids, before their mother
disappeared and their father started to put more pressure on them both:
I think she still does care about
him, in her own way. She’s genuinely concerned about him, here:
Azula: I thought I’d find you here. Zuko: Those summers we spent here seem so long ago. So much has changed. Azula: Come down to the beach with me. Come on, this place is depressing.
Azula: So…I hear you’ve been to visit your Uncle Fatso in the prison tower. Zuko: That guard told you. Azula: No, you did. Just now. Zuko: Okay, you caught me. What is it that you want, Azula? Azula: Actually, nothing. Believe it or not, I’m looking out for you. If people find out you’ve been to see Uncle, they’ll think you’re plotting with him. Just be careful, dum-dum.
(Listen to the voice acting if you think she’s just being manipulative.)
But that doesn’t mean necessarily
mean she won’t try to kill him. When she shot lightning at Katara in the Agni
Kai, she accepted the risk that Zuko would take the bullet for her,
metaphorically speaking, and didn’t bat an eye. When it comes to maintaining
her grip on power, she is absolutely merciless.
One argument I’ve seen flying around
the fandom that I disagree with is that Azula’s willingness to use persuasion
on Zuko in “The Crossroads of Destiny”, rather than fight against him when she
didn’t truly need his help, showed that she cared about him and wanted him
home. But here is what many people forget, and the reason why she HAD to get
Zuko to come home, regardless of how she personally felt.
Fire Lord Ozai: Iroh is a traitor and your brother Zuko is a failure. I have a task for you…
Does Azula want to capture the
Avatar as a big middle finger to Zuko? Of course. But that is NOT her ultimate
mission as revealed in the Season 1 finale. She was tasked with hunting down
and capturing Iroh and Zuko and bringing them back to the Fire Nation. And
unless she returned with both in hand, she would have failed her original
mission from her father, even if she’d defeated the Avatar. (And we all know
how Ozai deals with failure.)
Now by the end of Season 2, Azula
had tried to take Zuko and Iroh prisoner twice before, and each time, they’d
escaped because they were a formidable team. They’d had each other’s backs for
years in exile, the way we see them in “Winter Solstice, Part 1.” Remember,
when Iroh and Zuko fought together in “The Awakening” and again in “The Guru,”
they beat Azula plus the highly skilled Royal Guard, and Azula plus the highly
skilled Dai Li, all on their own. The reason Zuko got captured in “The Guru”
was because he separated from his uncle when the temptation to challenge his
sister became too great.
From this, Azula learned that Zuko
and Iroh were too much to take on as a united front. However, if she could prey
on Zuko’s weakness and get him to abandon Uncle, then Iroh would be a) without
combat support and b) less of a flight risk. Sure, it helped to have Zuko as a
fall guy in case Aang wasn’t really dead, but that was just icing on the
tactical cake. “Divide and conquer” was her surest way of delivering Zuko and
Iroh back to her father, just as the Firelord commanded.
Can we talk about how Mai being abused made her how she is? Calling an abuse victim abusive for acting a certain way because of their abuse is victim blaming. Mai isn't a bad person her parents are.
Thank you for sending me this ask, anon, because it’s something I want to talk about.
There are abusers who were themselves abused, and who abuse out of a misguided attempt to cope with their own abuse. Such abusers absolutely exist, and Avatar: the Last Airbender has a few of these, most prominently Azula. However, this is not Mai, and I have already written a lot about how Mai’s behavior is not abusive.
But here’s the thing, Zuko, during his time in the Fire Nation before leaving to teach Aang, is not happy, and for that matter, Mai isn’t happy either. This is only to be expected. Not only are Mai and Zuko both trying to deal with the abuse their parents heaped, and continue to heap on them, but they are both in a current abusive relationship at the time, with Azula. Both of them are under tremendous stress from this past and continuing abuse, and neither was magically able to be happy in spite of currently being abused because they had someone who loved them.
This is held up by anti-Maiko shippers as proof that Mai is wrong for Zuko, and even abusive. Obviously she’s the wrong girl, because if she was the right girl, Zuko would be happy and cured of all his woes, even though all of the troubles he had before are still going on, and out of Mai’s control. This is both rank sexism, and a wild misunderstanding of what love is like.
In fact, abusers like Azula are corrosive to all the other relationships their victims have, especially the relationships between their victims. It’s incredibly difficult to sustain a relationship in the face of an Azula. This is why Mai and Ty Lee’s friendship, and also Mai and Zuko’s romance are so remarkable.
And both Mai and Zuko act in tremendously unhealthy ways throughout their time together before Zuko leaves to teach Aang. This behavior isn’t abuse, but there are lots of unhealthy behaviors that aren’t abuse. Both of them are still being abused. They don’t have the safety to step back and say “is this coping mechanism doing me good? Is it good for the people around me? does it work?” They are both still living in that state of fear and crisis that abuse brings. Holding Mai responsible for this is the very height of victim blaming.
I’ve never been much good at preparing for Valentine’s Day, and I usually kinda wing it every year with any sketches I hadn’t unveiled yet. And for once, I got ready on time! (in fact, I was ready before time so I shared this fanart on my Patreon because I needed someone to see it, hehehe…).
So I bring to you my newest fanart, and quite possibly the one I’m most proud of these days.
The title and little epigraphe for it are from a song that has been around for quite a while now, a song I adore with all my heart. A song I associate a lot with Sokka and Azula, especially once they’ve reached this very important point of their relationship, of course.
What point is that? Well… just what do you think Sokka might be holding? :’D
(Probably open it on a new tab because Tumblr’s ruined the resolution…)
Iroh stands before his brother, demanding that the water
bender be treated better.
“She is only a girl,” Iroh argues, “Eight years old and
already alienated by your actions.”
“She is my prisoner,” Ozai says, not looking up from the
papers in front of him, “And she will be treated as such.”
“Don’t you think it would be better to treat her as a
guest?” Iroh asks, “If you treat her as your own, she may warm up to you.”
“Why would I want the water bender to warm up to me?” Ozai
sighs, becoming tired of his brother’s pleading.
“You want to use her,” Iroh states, “It would be far easier
to manipulate someone who loves you, than it would be to manipulate a depressed
prisoner who despises you.”
Ozai pauses, he finally looks up to his brother and raises
“She can’t be caged up forever; let her be free to walk the
palace,” Iroh says, “Even if she is under guard, just let her go outside when
she needs to, let her interact with other people. Don’t treat her like a
prisoner, and she could become your greatest asset.”
Iroh watches as his younger brother rubs his chin in
“Alright,” Ozai says, “But any harm she causes, will fall on
your shoulders, brother.”
Iroh bows and accepts full responsibility.
When Iroh returns to Katara’s room she doesn’t even look at
him. Katara sits on the floor, staring at the wall.
“Katara,” Iroh says, leaving the door open.
“I don’t feel like practicing today,” Katara says.
“Then how about we go out to the gardens,” Iroh says, this
draws Katara’s attention, she stands up quickly and her eyes widen.
“Really?!”Katara beams. Iroh nods his head and immediately
Katara bounds over to him at takes his hand.
Iroh takes Katara outside and lets her explore the gardens.
Zuko is in the training room with his sister, the training
room is a special room; every royal learns how to bend here. The room is fire
proof and has several pools of waters for benders to jump in, in case they set
themselves or others on fire. Zuko has been setting himself of fire a lot these
past days, his mind is distracted and tired.
“This is the fourth time today,” The instructor sighs as
Zuko drags himself out of the pool, “Prince Zuko, you must focus your mind.”
“I am focused!”
Zuko whines, “It’s not my fault.”
“Yes it is,” Azula sighs, putting her hands on her hips in
distain, “Everything is your fault.”
“Leave me alone, Azula,” Zuko snaps.
“Make me.” she snaps back, igniting fire on her fists.
Zuko lets out a war cry and attacks his sister, he throws
fire at her relentlessly, but it is still he who has to jump into the pools.
A movement from outside catches his attention as he pulls
himself out of the pool.
“Who is that?” Azula asks, staring out the window at Katara,
“Is that father’s special prisoner?”
The instructor nods his head.
“I thought she wasn’t aloud outside,” Azula says, walking to
the window, “Has father changed his mind?”
Zuko’s little heart is racing and a small smile creeps onto
his face as he stares at the waterbender.
“I want to meet her,” Azula declares, turning to her
brother, “Oooo, Zuzu has a crush.”
“What?!” he gapes, finally looking to Azula, “No, I don’t!”
Azula giggles and then skips to the door, Zuko quickly
chases after her.
The instructor pinches the bridge of his nose and lets the
children leave, concluding that they may benefit from a break.
Katara lays on her stomach near the pond, her finger stirs
the water, taunting the koi that swim near the surface while Iroh sits near the
tree, sipping on tea that servants brought out.
Katara watches the koi, her eyes following their movements,
but a ball of fire hits the surface of the water and Katara screams and bolts
to her feet and scrambles backwards as the koi dart into the deeper water.
“Azula!” Zuko shouts, running up behind his sister as Azula
laughs, “We’re not supposed to bend out of the training room!”
Katara’s heart is hammering in her chest, she looks to the
prince and princess.
“I’m Princess Azula,” she introduces herself and raises an
eyebrow at Katara, “You’re supposed to bow.”
Katara falls to her knees and presses her forehead to the
“She doesn’t bow properly,” Azula says, “Why is she outside?”
“She is allowed outside,” Iroh says, from his spot under the
tree, “Your father has agreed that she has earnt some freedom.”
“You can stand,” Azula says, Katara bolts to her feet and
watches the princess, assessing whether or not she is a threat.
“You’re pretty,” Azula says, looking Katara up and down, “You
can be my friend.”
Katara is taken back by Azula’s declaration. Azula links
arms with Katara and they walk the gardens, eventually resorting to playing tag
Katara likes playing with Azula and Zuko, she laughs and
enjoys herself so much, that she is sleeping peacefully when Zuko comes to her
And so the children grow together, Iroh teaches Katara to
bend the water in the pond, showing her attack moves, Iroh also takes over Zuko’s
teachings, training him in the garden with Katara where his mind is more
Katara has trouble learning how to bend with no one to show
her how it’s done, Iroh does his best to try and show Katara, but he is not a
waterbender. Katara tries her hardest, but when she fails, it often ends in her
screaming in a fit of rage, making the water explode onto herself of those
Ozai commands that she learn hand to hand combat as well as
weaponry, Katara leans with Zuko and Azula in the training room, Katara is
better at hand to hand combat.
Poor Zuko flinches every
time Katara is knocked down.
Then, one afternoon, a year after Katara’s arrival, Ozai
comes to check on her progress. She is practicing water whips in the pools and
Zuko is sparing with Azula.
“Zuko,” Ozai says, after he notices his son stealing glances
at the waterbender, “Pair up with Katara.”
“What?” Zuko asks as Katara’s head snaps up at the mention
of her name.
“I want you two to spar,” Ozai says, he claps his hands and
Azula steps out of the ring.
“With swords?” Katara asks, stepping out of the pool and
looking to the weapons rack.
“Bending,” Ozai commands.
Katara looks nervously to Zuko, she has never bent against
another bender before, but she does as she is told.
Katara faces Zuko and then bows, now properly, thanks to
Zuko bows back and then goes into a fighting stance; fire
ignites on his knuckles.
Katara summons water from the pool and then takes a deep
breath, she does not want to fight Zuko.
“Fight,” Ozai commands.
Katara attacks first, she bends a water whip and snaps it at
Zuko, Zuko defends himself with a fire wall. When the water hits the fire wall
it sizzles and turns to steam.
Katara attacks with all that she’s got, she ends up getting
the better of Zuko, she avoids his fire and snaps him several times, causing his
clothes to become drenched. If Katara knew how, she’d have frozen his clothes.
“Come on Zuko,” Ozai snaps from the sideline.
Katara steals a glance at the Fire Lord, she can see his
anger, his disappointment at his son. Katara turns back to the fight, Zuko has
a ring of fire around him, sweat gleams on his forehead, he’s trying his best,
but he’s also pulling his punches, only throwing attacks that he knows Katara
Katara steadies herself and readies for Zuko’s attack, her
hands out in front, ready to summon water. Zuko sends the ring out, it races
towards Katara quickly, but Katara doesn’t summon her water quick enough.
She screams out in agony and falls to her knees as the fire
bites at her hands.
Zuko’s eyes widen in horror, his fire immediately extinguishes
and he takes a step towards Katara.
“I give up!” she shouts, hanging her head and holding her
burnt hands out in front of her.
Ozai smiles as the smell of burnt flesh fills the room.
“Well done, son,” Ozai congratulates, clapping his son on
the shoulder and pulling him away from Katara.
Zuko’s eyes are still wide, horrified at what he’s done,
Katara is crying, and it’s all his fault.
Katara stands and bows to Zuko, conceding to his victory.
Ozai stays in the training room with his children, helping
them himself, showing them how to strike a blow that will cause the most
A glow catches Ozai’s attention, he turns to see Katara in
the pool, her hands under the water that is now glowing.
“What are you doing?” Ozai says, walking over to Katara as
she continues to sob.
Katara sighs in relief as the glow fades, her eyes widen in
shock when she pulls her hands out of the water, to find them completely healed.
“How did you do that?” Ozai says, Katara turns around
quickly, only now noticing his presence behind her.
“I don’t… I don’t know,” Katara stammers, “my lord,” she
Ozai jumps into the pool and grabs the girls hand, he
inspects it closely, but finds no burn marks.
“Incredible,” Ozai muses, “Do it again.”
Before Katara can ask what he means, he pulls out a knife
and cuts a gash across her palm. Zuko and Azula both flinch when they hear
“Father!” Zuko gapes, one look from Ozai has him silenced.
Ozai puts Katara’s hand underwater and holds it there,
watching the water slowly turn red.
Katara’s eyebrows knit in concentration, she focuses on the
pain in her palm and the water starts to glow blue again.
When the glow fades, Ozai pulls Katara’s hand from the water,
it’s completely healed again, not even a scar remains.
“Very interesting,” he says again.
Ozai goes to cut his own palm, intending to have Katara heal
his own wound, but he sees the glare on her face, he can see the hurt in her
eyes. Ozai knows it is possible that Katara wouldn’t heal him.
So instead, Ozai gets out of the pool and cuts Zuko’s palm.
“Zuko!” he hears Katara scream, immediately the little girl
is by his side, standing in front of his shocked son and summoning water to her
Katara heals Zuko in an instant, Zuko doesn’t even have a
chance to register the pain, his wound is closed quicker than he can blink.
Ozai rubs his beard in thought, he walks out of the room
without another word.