• The male benders in ATLA: Really good. They worked hard to get where they are skill wise and while it hasn't always been easy, they are capable and can hold their own in a fight. One of them was even the Avatar, which is pretty impressive since he mastered the elements at age twelve, rather than start learning at 16 like most Avatars.
  • The female benders in ATLA: Inarguably the most powerful and unmatched humans in the entire world. Prodigies, masters, and creators of subbending styles. One was compared in skill to the Fire Lord at age EIGHT and able to perform one of the rarest and most difficult forms by 14. She couldn't be defeated by another's (even the Avatar's) bending alone. Only faced defeat when fighting two other master benders while on the verge of a complete mental breakdown (officially being defeated by different female bender). Another held an entire city up by a single turret while standing on unstable ground, and then went on to invent her own bending style at the age of twelve. One mastered her element in mere WEEKS, mastered bloodbending and defeated the woman who INVENTED IT the FIRST TIME SHE EVER ATTEMPTED IT, held her own against a master waterbender without ANY TRAINING, and fully healed someone from a fatal wound, making her a master at two vastly different forms of waterbending at the age of 14. A female Avatar quite literally reshaped the planet and created her own ISLAND. AND MOVED IT ACROSS THE SEA. These women shown in the show are not only the most powerful and talented females in their universe, but also in almost any known piece of television or fiction, all while being completely fleshed out and complex characters, not being defined as nothing but 'strong'. Each has their own personality, strengths, and weaknesses.
More Than Just A Cartoon

It’s easy for those who have never watch Avatar: The Last Airbender to pass off the show as just another product of Nickelodeon, but those who have sat down and given the show a chance quickly learn that this series stood far apart from anything Nickelodeon had produced before.

So what made Avatar so different? For starters, it was a linear story with a clear start and beginning. Viewers follow Aang, Katara and Sokka as they embark on a journey to defeat the Firelord. The story grows in complexity with each episode and little details easily brushed off at first often become crucial parts of the series (remember the cameo of Azula sitting next to Uncle Iroh at Zuko’s Agni Kai against his father?). This cartoon has such a deep plot that producers felt it necessary to include a “Previously on Avatar” segment before many of the show’ episodes. No other children’s cartoon- to my knowledge- has had a plot so detailed that a recap was deemed necessary. The very story of Avatar is so complex and beautifully woven that it needs this, and the size of this grand endeavor does not go unnoticed.

Another thing that makes Avatar so much different than an ordinary cartoon is the motives behind the “bad guys”. It’s a classic cartoon motif for the bullies to be secretly insecure and emotionally damaged themselves. There is often an episode that depicts the struggles of the main bully and why they may not be as bad as we think. This is NOT the case in Avatar. The two big baddies of the series- Azula and her father Fire Lord Ozai- are genuinely evil. They show no remorse for their actions. In Azula’s case, she has many clear characteristics of a sociopath. Even when she begins to lose her sanity, she does not see the errors of her ways or beg for forgiveness. Yes, we learn that she is emotionally wounded by her mother’s rejection of her, yet we never see her use this as an excuse. She simply shrugs this off and claims that her mother was right. She owns her evil and wears it with pride. At the final Agni Kai, she genuinely wants to take down Zuko because of the joy it will bring her. She has no remorse or emotional attachment to anything anymore, other than the pride behind her own abilities.

Her father, Firelord Ozai, is even worse. While we get to see brief moments of Azula’s humanity, Ozai never suffers a breakdown like Azula. With the fury of a real-life dictator, he confidently prepares to destroy the world to create a society fit to worship him and him alone. Even after losing to Aang, he is filled with nothing but anger at losing his bending. He isn’t even sorry that he was defeated. Fire Lord Ozai is filled with evil, and Nickelodeon allows creators DiMartino and Konietzko to create characters without any “dumbing down” for children. Ozai and Azula are genuine evil.

With the inclusion of genuine evil comes the presentation of complex and emotionally grappling themes. One of these themes presented early in the series is the theme of genocide- or the destruction of a race of people. Avatar boldly dedicates an entire episode to the discovery of the skeletal graveyard of Aang’s people. This is the first time in the series where it becomes clear that the series will address topics much more series and real-world than penguin sledding. Watching Aang realize that his people were destroyed then left to rot brings the true humanity into the series. This only continues as we see themes of child abuse, internal conflict, parental disagreements and many more.

Avatar may be a cartoon, but it is a cartoon that stands far above the rest of American productions. The series is deep and insightful, with a complexity of characters and true evil and pain.  

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  • The Blue Spirit
    • A secret identity used by a Zuko, a Fure Nation nobleman
    • Used his secret identity to hide his real identity so he can escape his circumstances to stealing food etc for himself and his uncle
    • First used his secret identity so he could try to capture Aang without detection 
  • The Blind Bandit 
    • A secret identity used by Toph Beifong, an Earth Kingdom noblewoman 
    • Used her secret identity to to hide her real identity while she escaped her circumstances by fighting in the underground
  • The Painted Lady
    • A secret identity used by Katara, a Water Tribe peasant
    • Used her secret identity to hide her real identity when she tried to help an impoverished Fire Nation village by bringing them medicine, and sabotaging the factory that was polluting their water supply. 

COUNTDOWN: 3 days until Gladiator’s Fourth Anniversary

And for today one of the more prominent secondary ships of the story: the banished prince and the ex-gladiator he basically eloped with :’D

I may have tormented Zuko and Suki a little more than I should have (@jordanalane gave me permission tho!), but the two of them have overcome constant obstacles in life, and they’re well on their way to finding peace and happiness with each other. Zuko spent ten years at sea in this story, rather than three, and returns home without the Avatar. He returns to find his father won’t see him, to find the girl he expected to marry has found love somewhere else, to find his sister has been working very hard towards becoming their father’s fully acknowledged heir… simply put, Zuko is in a complicated stalemate, where nothing he does will change the tides to his favor.

Suki left her island, which has been taken by the Fire Nation, to join the Superior Gladiator League with her sponsor, Oyaji. She didn’t know of his allegiance with the White Lotus, and she had no idea what was happening when said alliance was discovered. Her sponsor was imprisoned, and she was forced into slavery.

Suki and Zuko had met before, in the Grand Royal Dome, right after one of Suki’s fights. They meet again after Suki is rescued from her utterly monstrous slavers, and Zuko takes to helping her recover from the dreadful experience. His interest in her only grows every day, and she slowly but surely grows more fascinated by the disgraced prince.

In due time, the feelings turned to love. After one catastrophic fight with his father, Zuko decided to take to the seas again: and Suki followed, accompanying him in this voyage that took them to destinations they never expected to reach…

@jordanalane has had a huge deal to do with the building of Gladiator’s Zuki storyline. When she started giving me ideas forever ago, I hadn’t yet decided what I’d do with the story as a whole. But as she brought up more and more ideas, the entire story started to take shape through a blend of her plans and mine! Therefore, their part in this story is very much essential for the overarching plot. I’m always grateful to my little devious partner in crime for all the ideas she’s given me since the first time I mentioned this story to her.

The scene depicted is straight out of chapter 109, and it’s the opening scene as Zuko surprises Suki by lifting her into his arms, just as they’re sailing through the waters near Whaletail Island. A cute moment between them, where they’re the happiest they’ve ever been because they’re together.

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The three people Zuko connects, and empathizes with in Book 2: 

  • At first Zuko has difficulty connecting with Song, but that all changes when she shows him her scar. 
  • While Zuko never had a brother, Zuko lost his cousin to the war, and that’s how he connects with Lee. 
  • Zuko connects with Katara through the absence of their mothers.