Avatar: The Last Airbender isn't a great series just because of the fight scenes and world building. Okay, it's a great series because of those things as well, but the thing that set this show apart from other shows on TV, even the ones meant for adults, is the strength of the writing and the character development. The characters on this show are compelling, consistent, and just all around amazing. I'm not even talking about just Aang, either: they developed even the most minor of characters to the point that every character is someone's favorite in this series. However, few characters have had the impact that one character did, and that character is Waterbending master Katara.
Katara wasn't just a great character, she helped set the bar for what it meant to write a strong female character. She's a major inspiration and hero to kids and adults of all generations because she's such a strong character. There are a lot of things that make Katara a wonderful character, and not all of those things have to do with how strong her abilities are. She's a girl with major strengths and major flaws as well, and that's what makes her great to watch. Without her character and her writing is strong, nobody would really care that she wins most of the fights she's in.
Here are twenty-five things that make Katara one of the most powerful characters in the Avatar series, both in the story and outside of it.
25 She Became A Waterbending Master Within A Year
Mastering the elements takes a lifetime to do. Notice how everyone in the Order of the White Lotus was an old person? Now, think about how Aang managed to get a good handle on all four elements within a year, give or take a few weeks. However, he just got to the point where he could use the elements and then skipped to the rank of master by learning how to bend energy from the lion turtle. Now think about Katara, the GOAT, who learned how to waterbend and became the youngest master by herself with very little guidance.
24 She Learned How To Bloodbend Within A Few Days
Putting aside Katara's talent at Waterbending, she also managed to pick up a technique called bloodbending and master it within a few episodes. Keep in mind, for those who are unaware, bloodbending is when you manipulate the water inside a person and make them do what you want. The woman who taught her was old and had decades to hone the skill. Meanwhile, our hero Katara not only mastered the ability, but she also has the strength of will not to abuse it.
23 She Can Bloodbend In The First Place
Bloodbending is a lot like being able to bend lightning for Firebenders: it's a special technique that not everyone has the ability to learn. On top of that, the people we know who can bend lightning and bloodbend are either not the best people (Ozai, Azula), or grew out of being terrible and became awesome instead (General Iroh). Katara is a great person, but she does have her moments of manipulativeness that probably allow her access to that ability, but unlike Azula who never learned, Katara didn't become a terrible person.
22 She Didn't End Azula Even Though She Had The Chance
A major theme of the finale was choosing to spare your tormentors and not ending them, instead choosing to be a better person and go for a third option that means everyone gets to live. We see this in action when Aang spends the whole finale agonizing over whether to end Ozai and then taking that third option when he realizes that's available. Katara never had that moment of clarity Aang did, though. She was just in a fight with Azula and chose to spare her rather than end her, or worse, make Zuko end her.
21 She Was The Last Waterbender In Her Entire Tribe
The Waterbenders of the Southern Water Tribe were wiped out by the Fire Nation thanks to the Fire Nation being jerks. Katara only survived because her mom took the bullet that was meant for her, allowing her to grow up and become the awesome person she did. Growing up like that was a huge burden, as we see in the show time and time again as we watch Katara and Sokka deal with what happened to their parents. However, she didn't let that tragedy define her and still managed to grow up well-adjusted, more or less.
20 She Was Willing To Leave Her Dad To Get Captured
Katara and Sokka have a complicated relationship with their father Hakoda because while he meant well by leaving them with their grandmother so he could fight in the war, they both felt abandoned by him after their mother perished. Katara had a worse time dealing with that and even after she and her father patched things up, she was strong enough to leave her dad in a dangerous position so she and Sokka could go and help Aang like they had been. Not many people have the emotional resilience to do that.
19 She's Smarter Than Basically Everyone She Comes Across
Let's be real: out of everyone in the main group, Katara is by far the smartest. Sokka gives her a run for her money because he's clever in a different way and in a lot of ways more relatable and even likable in-universe, but when it comes to actual intelligence and cunning, Katara has that in spades. She thinks outside the box when she has to and is willing to do difficult things if it means that the mission gets completed. On top of that, she picks up new skills easily, which is something not everyone in the Avatar world can do.
18 She's Willing To Play Dirty And Gets Creative
Katara is one of those people who can seriously play very dirty when she has to. She's not above stealing things she wants if it means she can get ahead (remember the waterbending scroll, guys?) and she's willing to literally get dirty enough to generate enough sweat to get herself and Toph out of a bad situation. A lot of people would freeze in a situation like that and Katara comes out with a solution even the bloodbending woman couldn't believe she'd come up with because it was so out of the box.
17 She's Ruthless About Doing The Right Thing
When Katara sees a way forward, she's going to take that way forward because she knows that's the right thing. She's ruthless about that in a way that Zuko could only dream of, to be honest. She's a lot like Hermione Granger of the Potterverse in this way because Hermione was that kind of ruthless as well. Katara has done things like chase down her mother's slayer and scare the pants off of him because she fully meant to end him. That's the kind of intense person she is.
16 She Shapes Her Own Destiny, She Chose To Do Everything
When it comes to being a chosen one, most of the time people are born into that fate. Aang was, for example. The rest of the time, circumstances make it so you end up forced into a situation where you become the chosen one, which is more akin to what Zuko had to deal with. Katara, and by extension Sokka and Toph, are different because they chose to be part of the story and became the awesome people they became by taking charge of their fates in a way that Aang and Zuko never got to.
15 She's Actually A Strong Female Character
We all know a "strong female character." A "strong female character" is the type of female character who looks like a fully-realized person at first, but turns out to be really flat because the writers made her physically strong to try and hide the fact that as a character, she's very weak. Katara is different because she doesn't have that problem. Her physical strength and abilities don't make her a strong character, her layered and complicated character makes her the icon that she is.
14 She Has Goals Of Her Own That Don't Tie-In With A Boy's
Everyone has goals, and Katara is no exception. Her goals are to become a great Waterbending master and help her friends win the war against the Fire Nation. Those goals aren't just admirable, they have nothing to do with a boy. Sure, Aang is the Avatar and she's helping him win the war, but she'd do that whether Aang or Zuko were involved or not because it's the right thing to do. She's not a manic pixie dream girl to anyone, she's a fully realized person.
13 She Has Love Interests, But Is Not Defined By Them In The Story
As the main female character in a story centered around boys, it stands to reason that Katara is a popular love interest. She ends up with Aang at the end and stayed with him all the way into Legend of Korra, had a thing with Jet the non-bending freedom fighter, had another thing with Haru the Earthbending guy, and then had whatever she had with Zuko, which was definitely a thing, guys. However, she wasn't defined by any of those relationships. If anything, a lot of Jet and Haru's storyline was tied in with hers, not the other way around.
12 She's Good To Other Women
If someone were to tell Katara that women are likely to stab each other in the back for no reason other than that women do that, Katara would probably hurt you with water in some creative and painful way. Katara was amazing to the women around her. Her relationship with Toph is just as beautiful as her relationship with Aang, Sokka, and Zuko. The two fought and all that but Katara never hated Toph or treated her badly because Toph was different than her. If anything, the two were best friends despite their differences.
11 She's Consistent In Her Actions And Characterization
If there's anything about television show writing that can be a major drag, it's the consistency across different mediums and seasons. Chances are the second you read that, you thought of a beloved TV show of yours that jumped the shart a certain way in and got so implausible that you couldn't watch it anymore. Avatar: The Last Airbender doesn't have this issue, which means Katara doesn't have this issue. She's consistent in her character, showing that she is a strong one in more ways than one. Not too shabby, Nickelodeon.
10 She's A Great Mom, Even If She's Super Passive About It
We get to meet Katara and Aang's children in Legend of Korra, and considering how they turned out, Katara must have been a great mom. For one, her eldest child Bumi was such a cool guy that he learned that he could airbend as an adult, not as a child like his siblings did. Kya, the only girl, came out to her family and was accepted for it, showing how accepting Katara and Aang are. Finally, Tenzin taught Korra how to airbend and was the oldest living airbending master at the time of the Legend of Korra series. Needless to say, Katara did a good job raising her children.
9 Doesn't Stumble Into Her Waterbending, But Actively Works At It
Many TV series protagonists, anime heroes, superheroes, and more often stumble into their abilities. They're gifted with abilities and then suddenly they become good at these abilities because the story demands that they do. Katara doesn't do that. When we meet her, she can barely waterbend at all, and over the course of three seasons, she goes from novice to master with a lot of hard work and creativity. She's a role model not because she's powerful, but because she works hard and got that power for herself.
8 She Taught The Avatar To Be A Master Despite Being A Novice
Imagine being the only person you know with a special ability that no one can teach you how to use because they don't have the ability. You work at it in hopes that you get a handle on your abilities, but you're not having any luck. One day, you meet someone else who can do what you do, but there's one problem: they're worse at it than you are and it's your job to teach them, or else the world is going to end. That's a tall order, but Katara did it. She didn't just become a master, she taught the Avatar as well.
7 She's One Half Of A Great Example Of Fictional Siblings
One thing a lot of shows get wrong nowadays is the sibling relationship, but with Avatar: The Last Airbender, that was not an issue because we had Katara and Sokka. The two disagreed on a lot and fought a lot, but they loved each other and were extremely loyal to each other. That's how siblings are and a lot of times fiction can really get that wrong. The creators of the franchise also got this right with Katara's children, showing how great the writing was.
6 She Gets Basically Everything She Wants At Any Point
Let's be real, if anyone won every fight they were ever in, it was Katara. Everyone else is forced to take a loss at some point, but Katara never does. When she wants to learn waterbending from the Northern Water Tribe, she gets her way and breaks a very old rule to do it. When she and Toph are captured in season three, she gets out of the situation and we get to see how creative she is in a jam. She wins the fight against Azula that Zuko couldn't after years of fighting her. That's only a handful of examples, too!
5 Comes Off Like She's Calm, But Really Fights
Katara tends to come off as mature and serious about the mission and for the most part, she is. However, she's also the person who has the most fights with the rest of the main characters. She's constantly clashing with Sokka and Toph because of personality differences, among other things. She was the last person to trust Zuko and only really let her guard down once he found the guy who ended her mother for her. She's even fought with Aang a time or two and Aang almost never fights with anyone.
4 She Has Friends Who Will Fight For And With Her
If the show were just about Katara, we might find ourselves not as fascinated with it and the Avatar franchise might not have endured for so long. Part of what makes Katara great are the people she surrounds herself with. It's not just the strength of one character that made this show great, it was all the characters together. It's much like life: individually we as people are awesome and have great potential, but together we are basically unstoppable.
3 She Wasn't Made The Team Mom, But Took That Position Herself
Katara tends to be the Team Mom in the story, even in Legend of Korra when she is a mother and grandmother. She takes care of Aang and Sokka all the time and she tends to take a motherly tone with Toph. Chances are, this is because Katara didn't grow up with her own mother and she becomes a nurturing force in other people's lives to cope with that trauma, which very clearly affects her throughout the series. She wasn't forced into this position like many other characters like her are, she took on that title herself.
2 She Doesn't Have To Perish To Be A Great Character
There's a phenomenon in fiction where a female character is made to perish, often in a horrific and emotional way, to help develop a male character. This is called stuffing the character in the fridge, referencing a famous plotline in the Green Lantern comics. Thankfully, there's none of that in the Avatar series. Katara and the other female characters don't have to perish to further the story, and they certainly don't have to perish to benefit a boy.
1 She Influenced An Entire Generation As An Example
More than anything, Katara didn't just influence the fictional world she lives in, she influenced a whole generation of girls and women who saw themselves on television, often for the first time. She was a fully formed character who was light-years ahead of her time considering the fact that many people thought cartoons weren't a source of good storytelling adults could get behind. As a young teenager who spent her adolescence watching Katara and her friends grow up, I can say that this character is powerful not because of her role within the story, but her role in the real world as well.