Romance is hardly the biggest theme in Avatar: The Last Airbender. But fans have very strong opinions about whatever few instances of romance we do see in the series. Here are my thoughts on some of the romantic relationships in the series.
Of course, we have to start by discussing Aang and Katara, since they’re the main couple. There are both positive and negative aspects of how this relationship was executed. What I think is great about this relationship is that Aang and Katara are friends long before they ever become a couple. This allows them to develop a strong bond from the start. It’s heartwarming to see such a close and supportive friendship on screen.
In addition, I enjoy the conflict that ensues when Aang’s feelings aren’t reciprocated by Katara. In fact, Katara doesn’t display any feelings for Aang whatsoever in most of the episodes. This leads Aang to try multiple times to work up the courage to tell Katara how he feels about her, which provides suspense, since we as the viewers have no idea how Katara will react. She doesn’t seem to know that Aang is interested in her in that way, and we want to know if she’ll be surprised or suddenly realize her own feelings for him. This makes for some thought-provoking conflict.
Also, Aang’s crush on Katara creates suspense because we aren’t sure how Sokka will react. Will he be surprised? Will he be okay with their relationship? On one hand, Sokka knows Aang is a trustworthy and kind person at heart. Then again, this is Sokka we’re talking about, which means that there’s the possibility that he might overreact out of shock. Moreover, Aang and Katara are skilled at keeping their feelings for each other hidden in Sokka’s presence, so if they were to reveal their feelings to him, it would be quite unexpected for him. There’s no way to tell how he would react.
But one of my qualms with the relationship is that Aang is twelve years old, while Katara is fourteen. A lot of us will agree that that age gap is a little too strange for our liking. I wonder why Nickelodeon didn’t make Aang thirteen and Katara fourteen, or Aang twelve and Katara thirteen instead, if this romance was planned for from the beginning. On top of that, Aang comes across as particularly childlike and carefree for his age, while Katara comes across as very responsible and motherly for her age. This only makes their age gap more pronounced. All in all, these are the reasons for and against Kataang (the term fans often use to refer to Aang and Katara’s relationship) that I see after re-watching the show.
The next couple I’ll discuss is Zuko and Mai. They work surprisingly well as a couple, especially since neither of them seem like people who would be open to being in a relationship at all. Both Zuko and Mai are closed-off characters who don’t reveal their emotions to other people, so how would they ever be able to bond with each other? It turns out that they do seem to make each other happy. We hardly ever see them smile around other people, but they do smile around each other. Who would have thought that these two characters would get along so well?
But Zuko and Mai’s relationship is certainly not written as well as it could have been. At the beginning of season three, we are led to believe that, since they had crushes on each other as children, they immediately realized their feelings for each other and began a relationship. I only wish we could have seen exactly how they got together, though. It would have been interesting to see what made Zuko fall for Mai again, especially since one would think romance would be the last thing on his mind at this point in time. In this way, an opportunity was missed to give the viewers more insight into Zuko’s character.
But the reason I’m not a big fan of Zuko and Mai being together is that Mai isn’t the most fascinating character. Well, she is mildly interesting in the sense that she’s passionless about everything except Zuko. That certainly makes her a unique character, but there isn’t much else to her. We aren’t given a reason for why she is friends with someone as cruel as Azula or why she loves Zuko, so there is very little information provided to flesh out her character. On the other hand, Zuko is such a complex and dynamic character that he deserves to be with a character who is equally as complex and dynamic. Seeing Zuko with someone who isn’t characterized nearly as well as he is makes their relationship much less satisfying to watch.
That was an analysis of two of the main relationships in Avatar: The Last Airbender. The depictions of the different relationships in this show are not entirely to my taste, but they are definitely fun to analyze.
Featured image via ODYSSEY