Princess Azula of the Fire Nation has been a favorite among fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender since her introduction. While she may not have a fanbase as large as characters like Zuko, Sokka, Toph, or Iroh, Azula consistently ranks as the most popular villain in the series. It probably has something to do with the fact that she's a compelling character. While Ozai is without question the biggest, baddest evil in Avatar, he never shows much depth besides being a cackling embodiment of evil (voiced to perfection by Mark Hamill). Azula, on the other hand, is seething with fiery personality.
It's not hard to see why Azula is popular. Her obsession with power and her passion for world domination means she steals every scene she's in. She gets some of the series' best lines, most memorable fights, and always seems to be one step ahead of our heroes. Her obvious intelligence and cunning coupled with her sadistic, sociopathic tendencies and descent into madness make her easily one of the most layered and complex characters on Avatar. She's clever, manipulative, and a very powerful female character, even if she's an antagonist. Though Ozai is the main antagonist of the series overall, Azula replaced Zhao as the main on-the-ground enemy of the Avatar and his allies. Even series creators Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko have praised the character, with Konietzko calling her "by far the most complex, interesting, and dangerous villain in the series." DiMartino has said she is his favorite villain in the series.
Here are 20 disturbing things you never knew about Azula.
20 Lurking In The Shadows
Sometimes the hardest things to see are the ones hiding in plain sight; such is the case with Azula's hidden early appearance in the show. While she didn't make her official debut until the last scene of Book One: Water (the first season), Azula was with the show from the very beginning. In fact, she first shows up as the shadowed firebender in the opening sequence for Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Even long-time fans may not have noticed it, but you can clearly see her distinctive flame hair tie and outfit. She bends on cue when Katara narrates the word "fire" to demonstrate the four elements and nations of the Avatar Universe. However, when she's portrayed bending she has orange flames instead of her trademark blue color. This is likely to make an easier impression on first-time viewers who won't know that not every fire bender is able to produce blue flames.
19 Breaking All The Records
Azula has charted a lot of firsts on Avatar. For one, she's the first character we see with the ability to generate lightning, and the only female we've seen able to do so. She's also one of the few characters we've seen able to both generate it and redirect it, the others being Iroh, Mako, and Lightning Bolt Zolt (formerly). Azula is also the only female we see fighting in an Agni Kai, the traditional firebender duel. She's one of only two people (the other being Old Sweepy) who's shown to be able to lie to Toph without her earthbending powers sensing it.
Although she acquired it through"unconventional" means in the form of a Dai Li coup d'etat, Azula was still technically an Earth Queen at one point, which makes her one of only two Earth Queens to reign in the whole history of the Earth Kingdom, and since she was born in the Fire Nation that also makes her the only non-native leader of the Kingdom. Finally, if Katara had not revived Aang with spirit water, Azula would have become the first person to break the Avatar Cycle.
18 Named For A Sadistic Man
Azula was named after her grandfather Azulon, who was the ruler of the Fire Nation before her father Ozai. As it turns out, Ozai couldn't have chosen a better namesake for his power-obsessed daughter. Azulon's reign was marked by its brutality and militarism. Though it was his father Fire Lord Sozin who started the Hundred Year War, Azulon is famous for escalating it. In particular, he's remembered for increasing the efficiency of the Fire Nation war machine and leading several successful campaigns against the Earth Kingdom, resulting in massive territorial conquests.
Azulon was also responsible for the destruction of the Southern Water Tribe, which was annihilated in a genocide under his orders. He gave no quarter to civilians in his attempted to destroy the waterbenders, and ordered the creation of the Southern Raiders to carry out attacks against them. The similarities don't stop there: Azulon, like his grandaughter, was a firebending prodigy from a young age, and was difficult enough to impress that he reacted with boredom to a young Azula's advanced talent.
17 An Arranged Marriage
Many viewers of Avatar probably can't imagine Azula being married, but at one point it could have been canon. In an interview given to a fan site in 2007, series creators Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko said Azula was originally going to have an arranged marriage in the third season. The idea would make sense given Azula's royal status, and likely would have changed a lot about her character arc. The idea was ultimately scrapped.
However, what is interesting is that Azula alluded to marriage only one other time in the third season episode, "The Beach." The episode was set on Ember Island and showed a different side of Azula where she developed a crush on Chan, the son of a Fire Nation admiral, but it doesn't work out after she proposes they conquer the world together. One wonders if Azula was going to be engaged to the original version of Chan, and after the story was scrapped he became the Chan we know. Near the end of the series Azula was also supposed to wear armor with a heavy phoenix theme, but that was scrapped as well.
16 Raised In Royalty
Azula was born to Prince Ozai and Princess Ursa in 85 AG. As the favored child of Ozai, later Crown Prince and then Fire Lord, she grew up surrounded by all the riches and privileges of the Fire Nation nobility. She was an intelligent and sharp-witted child that soon demonstrated an enormous talent for firebending. She became known as a prodigy, which quickly made her Ozai's favorite over her older brother Zuko. From an early age, her father began to raise Azula as his true heir.
Ozai took his daughter under his wing, endeavoring to educate the young Azula in politics. She later attended the Royal Fire Academy for Girls, a renowned school whose admissions were restricted to the daughters of Fire Nation nobility. It was here Azula would meet Mai and Ty Lee, two daughters of Fire Nation noblemen themselves and perhaps the closest thing to "friends" the Princess would have.
15 Shaped By A Jealous Rift In The Family
Believe it or not, Azula and Zuko's childhood was mostly peaceful in the early days, but as they grew older, the siblings grew apart. Both of them would fondly recall reenacting the final duel of the play Love Amongst the Dragons during their frequent vacations at Ember Island, but their family was soon divided by a rift of jealously. While Ozai clearly favored his daughter, Azula felt her mother loved Zuko much more than her. She often attempted to break up their mother/son bonding, which resulted in family quarrels.
Over time, Azula grew increasingly hostile to Zuko and Ursa. Ozai also began to more openly reprimand Zuko for his poor firebending abilities in comparison to Azula's seemingly natural talent. This dynamic of sibling rivalry would go on to shape both Azula and Zuko's lives. The antagonism would reach its peak when Ozai famously remarked to Zuko that while Azula was born lucky, he was lucky to be born.
14 "Azula Always Lies"
The relationship between Azula and Zuko is one of the central conflicts of Avatar. When Zuko was born, there were celebrations all over the Fire Nation. When Azula was born, it was said the entire world seemed to darken for a moment. Zuko was excited when Azula was born, and when Azula was little she adored her older brother. But Azula grew jealous of Zuko because she felt her mother loved him more than her, and Azula in turn was favored by Ozai.
Growing up, Azula got away with everything by blaming it on Zuko. Zuko used to show off his firebending in front of her, making her jealous, and she would swear that she would one day be as good as him. The first time Azula showed signs of firebending talent was setting Zuko's ponytail on fire when he stole her favorite toy. Under Ozai's influence, Azula grew more arrogant, cruel, and manipulative, even as a child suggesting that Ozai should be Fire Lord instead of Iroh and tormenting Zuko by claiming Ozai was going to kill him on Azulon's orders.
13 Blue Flames, Real Power
Another interesting fact about Azula's name is that"azul" is blue in Spanish, Filipino, Galician, and Portuguese, the same color as her trademark fire. Azula is the only bender we see to use blue fire; most other firebenders all bend orange flames, even powerful ones like her uncle Iroh and her great-grandfather Fire Lord Sozin, even while under the influence of Sozin's Comet. Since the blue part of fire is widely believed to be the hottest part of the flame, it's likely that Azula's unique blue color is meant to denote her mastery in firebending.
The creators of Avatar wanted her to stand out as she became the primary antagonist of the second season. Azula's fire burns hotter than most, symbolizing the power she so desired to possess. One idea is the intense blue flame may be a side effect of her volatile personality, while others theorize her ability to summon lightning might have had something to do with it.
12 Not Always The Heir
As obsessed with power and world domination as Azula is, you'd think Ozai was right in the idea that she was naturally born to rule. But let's recall that the Fire Lord's daughter wasn't always Crown Princess of the Fire Nation. Fans of Avatar are used to Zuko being the outcast and Azula being the favored child and heir. While that's certainly the case by the time the series begins, Zuko was the Crown Prince before his banishment. Azula was only given the title Heir to the Fire Lord afterwards, since the title is not strictly hereditary and can be removed at the Fire Lord's wishes.
The siblings traded the title three times: Zuko was the original heir to the throne, but was banished for speaking out of turn at a war meeting and then refusing to duel his father, making Azula the heir. Zuko managed to regain it after the Coup of Ba Sing Se, but the title would be given to Azula once again after he betrayed the Fire Nation during the Day of the Black Sun.
11 The Year Of The Snake
Azula was born in 85 AG, the Year of the Snake according to the calendar of the Avatar Universe, which is based on the Chinese Zodiac's mathematical cycle of twelve animals. The sign seems to suit her personality well: those born in the Year of the Snake are said to be "graceful, intelligent, vain, analytical, scheming and vicious." These are all powerful but possibly negative words that, of course, describe Azula perfectly.
More surprising is the fact that the Fire Princess shares this birthday with the caring, motherly Katara and the bright and bubbly Ty Lee, both Avatar characters who don't seem to share Azula's mean streak or megalomaniacal worldview. Perhaps one's birth sign is not necessarily a predetermined destiny set in stone that one is helpless to change, and a person's choices truly determine their fate. Or, maybe the signs are complete hokum (hey, just like real-life astrology).
10 A Lady Never Apologizes
Literally the only person Azula has ever apologized to is Ty Lee for hurting her feelings after calling her a tease. This episode, "The Beach," is also the only time in the franchise where we see Azula express genuine remorse. Azula doesn't have the most apologetic personality, so it has to be exceedingly rare for someone to be on the receiving end of an apology from her.
Azula is known for her domineering and sadistic personality, but apparently she's not completely inhuman, and there are exceptions to her behavior. I guess that's one of the things that makes the Avatar Universe so compelling even though it started as a kid's show: its characters are memorable, fleshed out, and feel real. One of the many reasons the legacy of Avatar: The Last Airbender has lasted so long.
9 Bending Lightning To Her Will
Azula was highly skilled in firebending, studying harder than any of her peers. From a young age, she was capable of feats even elite benders could not easily perform. She was even capable of lightning generation, one of the rarest forms of firebending and a form considered to be unteachable. Even Aang was never able to master lightning-casting. This arguably makes her one of the most powerful firebenders of her time.
Azula is very difficult to defeat in single combat due to her excellent firebending and hand-to-hand combat skills, agility, cunning, and intelligence. She was able to hold off the combined attacks of Aang, Katara, Zuko, and Toph simultaneously. She is known for using her bending in previously unseen ways like jets of flames, whirling disks, and powerful shields of fire. She's shown to fight for long periods of time without tiring. Azula is able to propel herself in a manner similar to a rocket using her flames, essentially allowing her to fly for short distances.Best of all, she can breathe fire. And that's just awesome.
8 Overthrowing The Government
If there's any feat in the story of Avatar that proves Azula's status as a master strategist, it's when she engineered the downfall of the Earth Kingdom. She succeeded in conquering Ba Sing Se, the city that was thought to be impenetrable, usurping the throne of the Earth Kingdom and gaining control of its capital city in one stroke. The Coup of Ba Sing Se proved that Azula was a master at manipulation and intimidation, and possessed a talent for persuading people to obey her.
Azula orchestrated the grand move along with her allies Mai and Ty Lee. The trio disguised themselves as Kyoshi Warriors and infiltrated the city, taking control of the Dai Li, the city's feared secret police force, and with their support overthrew the Earth King. Ba Sing Se and the entire Kingdom were immediately placed under the Fire Lord's control. Azula's coup was a huge defeat for opponents of the Fire Nation and a major turning point in the series towards more complex, "adult" storylines.
7 Deep Mental Instabilities
Though she is undeniably a great fighter and tactician, Azula has been shown as mentally ill and emotionally unstable, a condition that would grow worse over time. From childhood, Azula believed that her mother loved Zuko and thought her monstrous, which she admitted to be true but it still hurt. She aggressively strived for nothing less than perfection in order to impress Ozai. After being betrayed by Mai and Ty Lee, her mental state gradually declined, especially after events drove her and her father apart, and she became obsessed with killing Zuko.
As her sanity unraveled, Azula began to show symptoms such as psychosis, paranoia, and hallucinations of her mother. She also had sociopathic tendencies, as demonstrated in "The Day of the Black Sun" where she can lie without changing her heart rate or breathing. It's revealed in the graphic novel The Search that Azula was admitted to a mental institution in the Fire Nation after her defeat by Team Avatar. Fans have noted that Azula's mental illness shows symptoms similar to paranoid schizophrenia, including psychotic episodes, hallucinations, and paranoia.
6 Without Her, There'd Be No Fire Nation
Azula was the main factor which contributed to the defeat of the attack on the Fire Nation capital during the two-part episode "Day of the Black Sun." Because the solar eclipse rendered firebenders powerless, the invasion was supposed to quickly defeat the Fire Lord and bring an end to the Hundred Year War. Instead, Ozai had already been aware of their imminent attack for months because Azula had intercepted the invasion plans when they infiltrated Ba Sing Se. The failed invasion also exposed the fact that Aang was alive, which Azula revealed she had suspected.
The Fire Princess was instrumental in the failure of the mission by Team Avatar, not only because she obtained the plans ahead of time from the Earth King, but she fought on the front lines against Aang and his friends. By delaying them reaching Ozai until the eclipse passed, Azula almost single-handedly fended off a foreign invasion that made it all the way to the palace and the Fire Lord's secret underground bunker. Without her, it's quite possible the Fire Nation would have met a swift end.
5 Azula Gets Stuff Done
Though she didn't make her first appearance until the end of Book One: Water (not counting her shadowed appearance in the opening), Azula has been involved in most of the major events of Avatar: The Last Airbender. She is present and involved in almost every plotline and subplot of the series, including becoming the main antagonist at the end of Book Two: Earth, remaining a prominent villain assisting Ozai in Book Three: Fire, and still plotting and manipulating Zuko and others in the graphic novels.
Since her introduction, Azula has been involved in pursuing Iroh and Zuko, renaming the conquered city of Omashu to New Ozai, pursuing the Avatar's group, overseeing War Minister Qin's scheme to use a giant drill to breach the walls of Ba Sing Se, and masterminding the game-changing coup that followed and conquering the city. She was the one who persuaded Ozai to burn the Earth Kingdom to ashes using the power of Sozin's Comet, and finally, she was essential to the Fire Nation victory at the Day of the Black Sun.
4 You've Heard Her Voice Before
Chances are you've grown up hearing the incredibly prolific voice work of Grey DeLisle, the voice actress who provides the voice of Azula. Her body of work spans animation, films, and video games. Among her most famous voice roles are Mandy from The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, Vicky from The Fairly OddParents, Sam from Danny Phantom, and Franki Foster, Duchess, and Goo from Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends. She has also voiced Daphne in Scooby-Doo cartoons since 2001.
DeLisle provided the personality that made Azula a believable character, and became famous in the world of video games for voicing Catwoman in the Arkham Batman games and others, Jeanne in Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2, and additional voices in Minecraft, Mortal Kombat X, and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. In addition to her voice acting, DeLisle is also a successful singer-songwriter with seven albums of country music to her name.
3 Calling Him A Quitter
Iroh may have sent the young Azula a doll from the Siege of Ba Sing Se, but that doesn't mean the Fire Princess had a high opinion of her uncle. Family doesn't count for much among the royal family of the Fire Nation, and even as child Azula was disrespectful towards her uncle, referring to him with names such as "His Royal Tea-loving Kookiness." This feeling would be further aggravated after Iroh famously abandoned the siege of Ba Sing Se after the death of his son, Lu Ten, in battle.
Azula torched the doll her uncle sent her from the Earth Kingdom and called him a "quitter and a loser" for failing to capture the city. The power-obsessed Azula saw it as a tactical error and a sign of ultimate weakness that Iroh let his feelings compel him to abandon a potential military victory for the Fire Nation. Ironically, Iroh's own secret Order of the White Lotus would be responsible for liberating the city from the Fire Nation forces.
2 Responsible For His Nickname
Throughout Avatar: The Last Airbender, Azula calls Zuko by the nickname "Zuzu," a name he has had since childhood. "Zuzu" is a nickname made up by Azula herself. The first time she tried saying her brother's name, she couldn't pronounce the hard "k" sound, so she simply called him Zuzu instead. At the time, Zuko didn't mind and likely saw it as a term of affection from his sister. But as their relationship soured he regretted not taking action to rid himself of the name.
When she was younger, Azula adored her older brother and followed him everywhere, but changed her attitude when she saw Ozai look down on him. She began to look down on him too as she cultivated Ozai's favor. Later, Azula would use "Zuzu" as a diminutive nickname for Zuko, likely because Zuko disliked being called by it.
1 She's Still Active
While Avatar: The Last Airbender the television series concluded in 2008 and its sequel, The Legend of Korra, aired from 2012 to 2014 and signaled a new era for the franchise, the story of what happened in between is ongoing. Since 2012, Dark Horse Comics has released a series of graphic novel trilogies continuing the story of the Avatar TV series. Since then the graphic novels The Promise, The Search, The Rift, and Smoke and Shadow have been released, with the most recent trilogy being North and South, which released its final part earlier this year.
The graphic novels are sure to please fans by continuing the story of Aang, Katara, Sokka, Toph, and Zuko before the events of The Legend of Korra. Azula has also played a prominent role in the novels, particularly Smoke and Shadow, which show her still alive in captivity due to her psychosis, but still able to plot to overthrow Zuko or persuade him into being a tyrant. It just goes to show that even in defeat Azula remains a formidable opponent, and she will likely be a major antagonist in the Avatar franchise for many years to come. Time will tell what plans Azula still has up her sleeve.