Everyone knows that a good villain can truly make a series, and what really needs to be said about the "big bad" of Nickelodeon's Avatar: The Last Airbender? Not since Star Wars' Emperor Palpatine has the phrase "cackling embodiment of evil" been so apt to describe a character. Fire Lord Ozai is the ultimate antagonist of the series, controlling the Fire Nation with an iron fist and being the father of Zuko and Azula. The tyrant is driven by pure ambition and cares little for family, friends, or human life in general. He sought to bring about his father and grandfather's ambition to conquer the world to fruition, and he nearly succeeded in doing so. In many ways, the crazy and militaristic Ozai was the perfect arch-nemesis for the peaceful and fun-loving Avatar Aang.
With his high intelligence, mastery of firebending, ability to produce lightning, ambition, cunning, and ruthlessness, there's no doubt Ozai is a compelling villain. He is mentioned many times throughout the show, but rarely appears, which only increases the mystery and mystique of the character. Ozai's main goal in Avatar is to conquer all the other nations and place them under Fire Nation rule, becoming supreme ruler of the world, and defeating the Avatar, who will doubtlessly try to stop him. Ozai was domineering, oppressive, and insatiably power-hungry. Iroh once described his brother as "not the understanding type," and noted he had never known Ozai to regret, forgive, or change his mind.
Here are 23 dark facts about Fire Lord Ozai, one of the greatest villains in recent memory.
23 Dark Origins
Little is known about Ozai's childhood, but it's known that he was born in 53 A.G. as the second son of Fire Lord Azulon and Ilah. He was Iroh's younger brother and Lu Ten's uncle. In a rare tender moment, when Ozai was a baby, someone painted a portrait of him while he was playing on the beach. When he was older, Ozai, much like his father and grandfather before him, attempted to find and capture the Avatar to prevent any possible threat to the Fire Nation's conquests. Like them, he failed.
His father Azulon endorsed the scheme
Ozai showed a concern for lineage early on and sought to add Avatar Roku's bloodline to his own after the Fire Sages predicted this would yield more powerful firebending in his heirs. His father Azulon endorsed the scheme, and this is what led them to track down Ursa, granddaughter of the past Avatar.
22 Hiding In The Shadows
Avatar's creators really knew how to build up mystique surrounding the character of Ozai. For the first two entire seasons of the show, he was frequently talked about but rarely appeared, and when he did it was always in shadow and usually surrounded by bright flames. It wasn't until "The Awakening," the premiere episode of the third season, that we finally saw Ozai's face. When we finally did get to see him, instead of a monster or some kind of fire demon, we saw a normal human being.
The revelation that the dreaded Fire Lord was only a man, however, didn't make him any less intimidating. In fact, it only made Ozai and the enormous power he wielded all the more upsetting. His face was shown from the beginning in The Last Airbender movie, but the less said about that, the better.
21 Wait, I Know That Voice
One of the most memorable things about Ozai is his chilling, sinister voice. He has the kind that sends shivers down your spine. But did you know that Ozai is voiced by none other than Mark Hamill? That's right: the actor who played galactic Jedi hero Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars trilogy (1977-1983) also voiced the main villain of Avatar: The Last Airbender.
He's also voiced other villains
Though perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised, since Ozai is far from the first villain Hamill has voiced: he also provided the voice of the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series, as well as the Arkham series of video games and other DC Comics media. He's also voiced other villains like Niju, Malefor, Colonel Muska, Hobgoblin, Ferris Boyle, Alvin the Treacherous, and Dr. Stankfoot. Hamill was credited for voicing Ozai in ten episodes of Avatar.
20 Burn Them All
Like his grandfather Sozin and his father Azulon before him, Ozai's ultimate goal was to conquer the other nations and become ruler of the world. To achieve this, he was willing to go even further than his ancestors, culminating in his plan to use the power of Sozin's Comet to incinerate the entire Earth Kingdom.
In Zuko's flashback to a war meeting with his generals in the episode "Sozin's Comet, Part 1," Ozai noted that though the Earth Kingdom had officially been conquered following the takeover of Ba Sing Se, its citizens would never submit to Fire Nation rule. At Azula's suggestion, Ozai decided the only way to deal with them was to use the power given to firebenders by Sozin's Comet to burn the Earth Kingdom to the ground, as his grandfather had done with the Air Nomads a century before.
19 Never Served In The Military
You'd think for a country as aggressive, militaristic, and expansionist, as the Fire Nation, serving in the military would be a given for most of its elite. The children of nobles and most of the Fire Nation's ruling class seem to be soldiers or affiliated with the military in some way. But curiously, unlike his grandfather, father, or older brother, Ozai was never a general, nor is he known to have served in the military. Unlike Iroh, he also had no known great military accomplishments, though as leader of the Fire Nation he did oversee the Coup of Ba Sing Se.
Ozai is shown to have some respect for the Fire Nation's military, but only in that it serves as an extension of himself and served him and his forefathers. In military meetings, he's shown to have little regard for soldier's lives and uses them solely to his advantage.
18 Shortest Reign
As Fire Lord, Ozai's reign was the shortest of all the known sovereigns of the Fire Nation, ruling for only five years from 95 A.G. to 100 A.G. This is in contrast to an impressive 78 years of rule by his grandfather Sozin, and a further 75 by his father, Azulon. Ozai's lack of time on the throne is because he was defeated and imprisoned by the Avatar following the Battle of Wulong Forest.
Ozai was the most powerful leader
Despite his relatively short reign, Ozai was the most powerful leader in the history of the Avatar Universe, being the absolute ruler of the entirety of the Fire Nation, overseeing colonies throughout the Earth Kingdom peninsula, eventually controlling both its capital city and provincial capitals, and controlling the former Air Nomad territories, such as Whitetail Island, that were used as military bases for his troops.
17 Had A City Named After Him
Omashu was the second largest city in the Earth Kingdom, second in importance only to Ba Sing Se. It was a regional capital ruled by King Bumi, until it was conquered by the Fire Nation during the Hundred Year War and was rechristened"New Ozai" by Princess Azula in honor of her father. Ukano, the father of Mai and Tom-Tom, was appointed Governor of the city, appointed by Fire Lord Ozai himself.
After the conquest, New Ozai underwent massive industrial construction to suit the needs of the Fire Nation, with many ordinary buildings being turned into smog-belching factories to make weapons, armor, and tanks, for the war. They also leveled the old palace and built a new one in Fire Nation architectural style, and just to make it clear who the new ruler of the city was, built a massive statue of Ozai (with exaggerated muscles) on the mountain peak.
16 Arranged Marriage
In Ozai's early life, his father Fire Lord Azulon sought to add the lineage of Avatar Roku to his own, in order to ensure a more powerful firebending bloodline. Motivated by a prophecy that such a union would bring great power to Azulon's lineage, they tracked down Ursa, the granddaughter of Roku, and Ursa was forced by Azulon to marry Prince Ozai in an arranged marriage, in spite of the fact that she was in love with another man named Ikem.
After Ozai and Ursa were married, Ozai revealed to her at a banquet that she would be expected to break all ties with her friends and family in order to devote herself entirely to her new duties to the Royal Family, and to him. Ozai then kissed his new bride, telling her she now belonged to him. This would set the stage for Ozai's deteriorating relationship with Ursa.
15 Nearly Cast Out His Son At Birth
After their wedding, Ursa gave birth to Zuko two years later. However, when Zuko was born, his parents were not sure at first if he was a firebender. Ozai remarked that he "lacked that spark in his eyes." Considering that it would bring great shame upon him and his family if a firstborn son of the Royal Family of the Fire Nation turned out to be a nonbender, Ozai originally planned to cast his infant son over the palace walls.
He would continue to treat his son with disdain
However, both Ursa and the Fire Sages pleaded with the cold-hearted Prince to abandon this idea and give Zuko a chance. Ozai eventually gave in, though he would continue to treat his son with disdain throughout this life, and this wouldn't be the last time his pride and lust for power damaged his relationship with his family.
14 Daddy's Girl
It's no secret Ozai always favored his daughter Azula over her older brother, Zuko. From the time they were children, Ozai showered praise on his cruel and sadistic daughter and acted as though Zuko could do nothing right. The rift in the Royal Family is central to the character development of Ozai, Ursa, Zuko, and Azula, and defined the course of all their lives.
In Ozai's brutal worldview, skill and accomplishment determined a person's worth, which led the cunning firebending prodigy Azula to become his favorite child, while he ignored and abused Zuko. Ozai frequently tortured Zuko by portraying him as inferior to Azula, once remarking that she was "born lucky," while Zuko was "lucky to be born."
Eight years before Avatar Aang was found in the iceberg, Ozai's older brother Iroh launched the six-hundred-day siege of Ba Sing Se, but abandoned it when his son, Lu Ten, was struck down in battle. Ever ambitious and looking to seize an opportunity to increase his power, Ozai went before Fire Lord Azulon, asking him to revoke Iroh's birthright, allowing Ozai to inherit the throne instead, since Iroh was without an heir but Ozai had two children.
Furious at his son, Azulon refused to remove his firstborn son's birthright, and as punishment ordered Ozai to eliminate Zuko, so he could feel Iroh's pain. Knowing that Ozai would do anything, even exterminate his own son to become Fire Lord, Princess Ursa pleaded with Ozai to spare Zuko's life. Ursa would help Ozai poison his father so he could rise to the throne and spare their son's life at the same time.
12 Seized The Throne
In order to save Zuko's life, Princess Ursa was a skilled herbalist, and concocted an untraceable, colorless, and odorless poison, and gave it to Ozai to "do as he wished" with it. Ozai agreed to the plan on the condition that Ursa leave the palace and never return, imagining that he himself would be poisoned one day. When Ursa tried to take their children with her, Ozai assured her they would be safe as long as she stayed in exile, though he would hunt them all down should she ever try to take his children. Ursa gave Ozai the concoction, and he snuck into his father's room that night to poison him.
Azulon was found deceased in his bed
The next day, Azulon was found deceased in his bed and was quickly cremated. The Fire Sages then announced the former Fire Lord's supposed passing wish: for Ozai to succeed him to the throne.
11 Famed For Industrialization
Though he was a tyrannical leader and absolute monarch, under Ozai's rule the Fire Nation underwent a massive build-up of industry and achieved enormous technological advancements. The Fire Nation's economy would remain the most powerful in the world, and its strong industrial sector and advanced technology enabled it to not only maintain a strong military, but launch the Hundred Year War and nearly conquer the other nations.
Under Ozai, the Fire Nation invented new tech like airships and the tundra tank. Because of this, Ozai's rule is often associated with industry. This can be seen in Ozai's official portrait in the Royal Gallery, in which the flames in his hands are black and the foreground is decorated with metal cogs, smokestacks, and pipes. When the Fire Nation conquered territories such as Omashu or the Northern Air Temple, it was their standard procedure to industrialize to suit their needs.
10 Yes, He Was The Best
Ozai was a firebending master, and prior to his defeat by Aang, was easily the most powerful firebender in the world. He was extremely skilled in combat, able to hold his own against a full-fledged Avatar at the height of his powers during Sozin's Comet. Ozai is also one of the only three people who could generate lightning, the others being Iroh and Azula. He was shown as able to propel himself through the air with fire and use his firebending to devastate large swaths of landscape with little effort.
Ozai is the most powerful firebender. Period.
In Avatar Extras for Book Three: Fire, Avatar writer Joshua Hamilton provides commentary in the form of on-screen bubbles. One factoid shared was simply, "Fact: Ozai is the most powerful firebender. Period." Another comment on another episode also confirmed, "Ozai is well known as the most powerful firebender in the world."
9 Once Saved Zuko From Drowning
It's hard to believe now, but Ozai actually attempted to be a good father in his early years, Zuko and Azula both shared this view in the first part of The Search trilogy of graphic novels. While the family was still young they made frequent trips to Ember Island for vacations, which would be fondly remembered by all of them years later. After the family's relationship had been torn apart. During one of these trips, Ozai actually saved Zuko's life.
On a vacation around the year 87 A.G., the young Zuko nearly drowned after the tides pulled him into the sea after trying to rescue a turtle crab from a hawk. Seeing the tides pulling his son under, Ozai dove into the water and rescued the drowning toddler, who spent the remainder of the day being comforted by Ursa. Ozai would later muse about his early attempts to actually be a good parent.
8 Not Exactly Fatherly Love
After his wife's banishment, Ozai continued to blatantly play favorites with his children, being psychologically abusive towards both of them and physically abusive towards his son. Ozai made Zuko's life miserable because he perceived him as inferior to Azula and a failure of a prince, but also because of an incident from his infancy.
In the graphic novels, it's revealed that despite being expected to sever all ties with her past, Ursa was secretly writing letters to Ikem, her former beloved before Ozai. She suspected the servant she charged with delivering her letters in secret was taking them to Ozai, and included a passage where she referred to Zuko as being Ikem's son. When an enraged Ozai confronted her about it, it confirmed her suspicions. Though Ozai knew this was just wishful thinking on Ursa's part because he had her watched 24/7, he punished them both by not treating Zuko like his son and grooming Azula as his true heir.
7 "You Will Learn Respect... And Suffering Will Be Your Teacher!"
When Zuko was only thirteen, Ozai challenged him to an Agni Kai ("fire duel"), simply for speaking out of turn during a war meeting. When Zuko begged forgiveness and refused to fight, Ozai burned his face and banished him from his country. Ozai never expressed any remorse for this cruel action, claiming it was to teach his son a lesson in respect. Zuko could not return until he captured the Avatar, a task meant to get rid of him since Ozai, Azulon, and Sozin, had all failed.
Zuko announced his intention to join the Avatar and defeat Ozai
The only time Ozai acknowledged Zuko and actually felt proud of his son was when he helped his sister Azula conquer Ba Sing Se and allegedly killed the Avatar (in reality it was Azula who "killed"Aang, who survived the ordeal thanks to Katara). Eventually, Zuko announced his intention to join the Avatar and defeat Ozai, upon which the Fire Lord attempted to eliminate him.
6 Cloak And Dagger
Though Ozai clearly prefers physical strength and military might over mental manipulation or intrigue, he was shown to be sneakier and more cunning than his predecessors. Actions of his such as using palace servants as spies to observe Ursa, poisoning his own father Azulon, and going behind Iroh's back to seize the throne.
Though Azula would be the more manipulative of the two, ultimately, Ozai wasn't above using any tactics to his advantage and always gave her plots his full support. This is shown in the Coup of Ba Sing Se, which placed the capital under his personal control, and Azula and Qin's plot to pierce the walls of the city with a massive drill. Ozai also sent Azula to find Iroh and Zuko under false pretenses as part of a plot to arrest them both, proving once again he wasn't above using sneaky tactics.
5 Even Betrayed Azula
Ozai is a cruel leader. His merciless and power-hungry nature might be due to his failed relationship with his father, Azulon, who always favored Iroh over him. Ozai himself would be a heartless father to his son, believing him to be a failure, challenging him to a duel when he was only thirteen, then burning his face and banishing him. He even banished his own wife.
Azula is crushed when Ozai tells her she can't come
Though Ozai favored Azula, the high expectations he placed on her led her to demand absolute perfection of herself and become paranoid, which contributed to her mental breakdown at the end of the series. Azula dedicated her life to pleasing her father. She acted as a lunatic because that's how Ozai raised her, she looked down on Zuko because Ozai told her to. Azula is crushed when Ozai tells her she can't come to the final battle, and gives her the title of Fire Lord when it no longer means anything.
4 The First And Last Ruler Of The World
At the peak of his power, Ozai ruled over nine-tenths of the world, far more than any other character in the history of the Avatar Universe. He created the title of Phoenix King for himself, intended to dignify his coronation as supreme ruler of the world. The name came from the mythical firebird that periodically ignites and then emerges reborn from the ashes, the same way the new world would arise from the ashes of the Earth Kingdom. When he took the title and crown, he renounced the title Fire Lord, giving it to Azula.
The title was only held by Ozai for two days before his defeat in the Battle of Wulong Forest, which would finally end the Hundred Year War. After his defeat, the position was abolished, making Ozai the first and last ruler of the Avatar world.
3 Talk About Defeat
The Hundred Year War ended in strategic defeat for the Fire Nation, with its leader defeated, its fleet of airships destroyed, and its occupied territory liberated, including Ba Sing Se. Avatar Aang, having become a fully realized Avatar capable of bending all four elements, faced off against Ozai's firebending, enhanced by the power of Sozin's Comet.
At the end of the battle, Aang used energy bending to strip Ozai of his firebending permanently. He was subsequently stripped of his title of Phoenix King and Fire Lord, and was arrested and imprisoned for his crimes against the world. Though Ozai would no longer have bending or a throne, he would continue to influence events from his cell, constantly trying to tempt Zuko into becoming an authoritarian leader like him.
2 Loyalists Wanted Him Back On The Throne
After Ozai's overthrow, some reactionary rebel groups formed with the sincere belief that life was better in the Fire Nation under his rule. Led by Ukano, Mai's father, they sought to restore glory to the Fire Nation and reinstate Ozai as Fire Lord, calling themselves the "New Ozai Society."
Deeming Zuko a traitor and usurper, Ukano founded the society, whose name was a reference to the name Omashu, given during his time as governor. They remained underground for half a year before launching an ambush on Fire Lord Zuko's convoy to force him to abdicate. Though their plans have met with failure, it's amazing that nostalgia for Ozai is still so strong, which only goes to show the influence and lasting power of his short reign.
1 Popular Fire Lord
Believe it or not, in spite of an extremely ruthless attitude and absolute dictatorship, and the fact that he lost the Hundred Year War, Ozai was implied on several occasions to be a respected and even loved Fire Lord to his people. It's easy to see why: while Ozai was a cruel and ruthless leader, he also displayed strong leadership, intelligence, cunning, and shaped world events to his will.
A respected and even loved Fire Lord
Finally, for a former absolute monarch, Ozai was shown to have thought that was way ahead of his time, being one of the first people to say that Aang's ideas about maintaining the separation of the four nations was halting progress, and favoring a union of nations. This was one of the earliest references to the concept of the United Republic of Nations.