Saturday, 14 December 2013

Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Search, Part 3 by Gene Luen Yang

 

This series was such a roller-coaster of building expectations, mediocre deliveries, and astonishing bad endings...

For any fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender, there was always that great mystery: where is Ursa, Zuko and Azula's mother? Where was she while her husband maimed their son? Where was she while her daughter spiralled into madness? Where is she now?

In this series Zuko finds some clues to his mother's whereabouts and decides to try to find her with the help of team Avatar and, to my delight, his sister Azula.

I was so excited! Not so much for Ursa, but for Azula. I always thought the original show did her a disservice. She was such a complex and fascinating character - the best firebender, power hungry, ruthless. But she was frail, too. She suffered because she knew her mother hadn't loved her, thought she was a monster. She struggled in her relationship with her brother, she hated him but still cared for him in a weird way. So it felt like a complete cop-out that they simple wrote her off as "crazy" and that was that.

So I was hoping for some closure, some resolution with this series. It has a promising start: we see what Azula and Zuko's childhood was like, how their father pitted them against each other, how Azula was, even then, not quite right. And we see Zuko try to rebuild a relationship with his sister. 
Then it started going a bit south: Azula, instead of getting some character development, starts hearing voices - her mother trying to kill her, setting her brother against her. 
And in the final one it's all about Zuko. Zuko finally finding his mother, Zuko finally having closure, Zuko, Zuko, Zuko...
But she was Azula's mother as well! And her neglect and cowardice hurt them both - yes, Ursa lost her memories - but she did so willingly. She willingly abandoned her children and forgot about them. Then went and had another kid - a daughter, whom she loved and was devoted to... unlike how she was with her other children. Of course Ozai was a horrible husband and father. But are we supposed to see Ursa as some kind of sympathetic character here? What kind of a mother abandons her children to her psychopath husband who tortures and manipulates them? 

So Azula is left off even worse than when the show ended, even crazier, and now with the certainty that her mother really didn't love her enough. Wow. 

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