Key Things I Noticed While Rewatching Avatar
When Zuko returns to the fire nation Ozai says, “I’m proud of you Prince Zuko.” But Zuko doesn’t light up at the remark. Why? Because Ozai has never said he loves Zuko, but Ursa has.
Paralleling that scene is the mirror scene when Azula really shows signs of mental instability.
In the mirror scene Ursa says, “I love you Azula, I do.” And Azula replies with, “Don’t pretend to be proud.”
What I can conclude from this is a few things:
- Neither of Azula’s parents have directly stated that they love her until it’s too late, and even then Ursa isn’t really there.
- Because Ozai never said ‘I love you’ to ether Zuko or Azula, Azula replaced the word love with “proud.” Because Ozai only ever says he’s proud of Azula. He never says that about Zuko.
- On the flip side Ursa only says she loves Zuko, so logically Zuko would know that his father’s pride isn’t really love.
- Azula, on the other hand, would equate the ‘I love you’ from her mother which was only reserved for Zuko, to the ‘I’m proud of you’ from her father that was only reserved for her.
Iroh warns Zuko of what despair can lead to. It’s a path that causes you to “resort to your lowest instincts.”
- Zuko’s lowest instinct manifests into this compulsive, and obsessive, search for an idealistic sense of honor. The thing is, you give yourself honor. And once he realizes that his father can’t restore that for him he at least has Iroh to support him.
- As for Azula, hers becomes a desperate self preservation. There’s no one left to trust, and no one who isn’t trying to undo her. Her friends betrayed her, her father turned her away, her brother is attacking her, and the avatar is already messing things up. She, unlike Zuko, has no safety net. Which is what makes their two stories so similar and different. Zuko’s despair causes his lowest instincts to occur earlier on when it’s almost safe to do so. Azula’s happens at the end when there’s nothing to help her with them.
Then there’s the reiteration throughout that, “Azula always lies.”
- In reality she doesn’t. When she says, “dad’s going to kill you,” we find out in the comics that he was.
- When Azula says returning home would restore his honor she was right, it restored his perception of honor at the time. It restored the idealized honor Zuko always wanted.
- While it is pictured that Azula is a good liar, especially in the scene with Toph, what makes her so good is that she‘s not lying. She’s telling the truth.
The next interesting thing I thought of was when Azula says, “I’m about to celebrate becoming an only child.”
I always wondered why she’d say that when Zuko was banished, and she essentially became an only child. Until I realized:
- Zuko still influenced her life directly and indirectly.
- Despite him being out of the picture for so long he’s still so deeply rooted in her story line.
- She takes on the large projects that ultimately lead to her false sense of prowess, and security, so when Ozai abandons her the blow is twice as hard.
- She only became part of the effort because Zuko failed.
- Mai betrayed her because of Zuko
- Her mother left because of Zuko.
- She had such high expectations to succeed because of Zuko, because she saw first hand what happened if you failed.
- Zuko’s quest to find the avatar also interfered with hers.
- To Azula, all of the negative outcomes in her live have happened because of Zuko, whether he was physically there or not.
But one thing I think a lot of people overlook are the little hints that they really do love each other.
- When Azula falls there’s genuine concern on Zuko’s face for the slightest moment when he says, “she’s not gonna make it.”
- At the beach, Azula is the one who makes Zuko leave the old beach house because it’s ‘depressing’ but it seemed to me that she really didn’t want him to be alone.
- Then there are the rare scenes where they fight side by side and you can really see how well they work together.
- There’s a bond between siblings that’s unbreakable no matter what. It’s like my mom and my aunt. My aunt is not exaclty the best person (I won’t get into details) but my mom always says. “No matter what, she’s my sister and I love her. I wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to her. It doesn’t mean I forgive her, but even still…”
- Then the part just before the fight where Azula says, “I’m sorry it has to end this way brother.” And Zuko replies, “No you’re not.” It’s not a scoff or sarcasm, it actually sounds a bit sad. Like he expected her to pull out all of the stops , but part of him hoped against hope that it wouldn’t come down to an Agni Kai.
- Not to mention there’s no way Azula was always like that. Children learn behaviors as they get older. There had to be a time where she was just small and innocent and Zuko genuinely was her big powerful brother.
- In that moment Zuko probably thought about the baby Azula he used to love, and then he’s faced with the reality that he has to be the one to destroy what his father created.
There’s just so much to their dynamics that is overlooked or unconsidered. And I absolutely refuse to write Azula off as just an evil character like so many do. Because when things start out, is Zuko all that different from her? He’s angry, impulsive, willing to kidnapped a twelve year old boy, be cold to his uncle, and more. He had to learn. He just had the opportunity to do so.