The Bad Rap: Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender

Here we go with another round of The Bad Rap! For those of you new to the scene, the bad rap is a series that is updated bi-monthly on some of the best anime characters we just love to hate. Sometimes it helps to see them from a different perspective to tell why they might have been portrayed the way they were.

So on today’s episode, we are talking about the infamously bad fire nation princess, Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender.


I know what you’re thinking. How can anyone possibly find any redeeming qualities in Azula? She is her happiest when she is either watching her brother being tortured or when she is actually torturing others. Honestly, I had little compassion at all for her throughout the majority of the series and fondly remember first watching as a kid hating every moment she took screentime away from Aang and the gang. But that last season changed my perspective of her. Well, after I grew up and re-watched the series for the umpteenth time.

You probably know by now that reading between the lines for most of these characters will illuminate a lot of layers. This is certainly true for Azula. Just take a look at the flashbacks of Zuko and Azula during their childhood together. From the very beginning, Azula is regarded as a prodigy. Her skill was impressive and with this she felt that she solidified an unshakable barrier between herself and her father’s undeniable wrath. Zuko was not nearly as gifted and while he struggled all of his life to be accepted by his father, Azula was struggling on her own to make sure that she didn’t fall into the same category as her brother. Because as she saw it, as long as she was still seen as better than Zuko and Zuko was still the black sheep of the family, she would always hold favor and would become the fire lord as she so rightfully deserved.


The problem with this is that there is only so far a person can go to maintain acceptance when that acceptance is based on conditions. Once finally getting the position she so desperately wanted, she cracked. And cracked hard. So, is Azula truly as terrible as she comes across as on A:TLA? Um, yes. She deserves the spot for sure. However, it is definitely my observance that she was raised to live this way, in a lifelong battle with her brother from the beginning. Because if she fell out of favor, that would mean the end for her in a family quick to kill and banish the weakest links. She did what she had to do to survive, and the reason why it is so easy to dislike her is because while she fought hard to stay on top, she just happened to enjoy the brutality of the fight.

What do you guys think? Did you get this impression toward the end of Avatar: The Last Airbender, or do you have a different point of view? We’d love to hear your take in the comments below! ✌

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