Top o’ the Lot: Battles from Avatar: The Last Airbender
Hello, and welcome to another edition of Top o’ the Lot! It’s been a little while since we talked about Avatar on the site, so we’ll be fixing that today as David and Taylor collaborate to bring you a new list. Among the many things that Avatar does so very well, one that cannot be overlooked is the way the show gives us so many wonderful fights. With the different bending styles on display, the fights on the show combine visual flair and a ton of imagination, giving just about every episode a shot of adrenaline. Today, we’ll be looking at The Last Airbender only, because come on, narrowing even that down to five was already hard enough! But anyway, on to the list!
Honorable Mention: Toph vs the Boulder
David: This fight’s over before it began. In the championship match, the Blind Bandit (Toph) takes on the Boulder (who was voiced by Mick Foley of WWE fame)! After a brief exchange of taunts, Toph senses an opportunity to put the Boulder in a painful situation only to follow-up by knocking him out of the ring. The fight itself is less than a half minute, but is one of the more entertaining fights from the Last Airbender series.
Taylor: Yeah, this one’s just on here because it’s fun. But really, it had to be an Honorable Mention just based on “The Boulder feels conflicted.” Easily on of the best lines in the series, it would have been impossible to leave it out of here. IMPOSSIBLE.
5) Team Avatar vs Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee (Omashu)
David: In what would be the first encounter with Azula, Mai and Ty Lee, Team Avatar learns just how dangerous this trio can be. What was suppose to be a hostage exchange quickly escalates into a full brawl between the two groups, especially after Azula discovers that Aang is the Avatar. Aang escapes with King Bumi via Omashu’s rail system as Azula gives chase. This leaves Katara engaging Mai, while Sokka attempts to take their hostage, Mia’s baby brother Tom-Tom, to safety. Katara’s Water-bending counters Mia’s knife-throwing, and they seem to be evenly matched; that is until Ty Lee intervenes using her Chi-blocking on Katara. Only with the arrival of Sokka and Appa does the fight with Mai and Ty Lee end. In the meantime, the chase on the rails heats up as Azula unleashes repeated fireballs against Aang and Bumi. Despite Aang’s efforts to elude Azula, the Fire Nation’s princess doesn’t relent. Even Sokka, Katara and Appa are unable to help. It isn’t until Bumi intervenes that the chase ends. Ultimately, Aang’s rescue attempt ends with Bumi choosing to remain in Omashu, but before parting ways Bumi gives Aang advice on how to find his Earth-Bending teacher. This battle sets the tone for future encounters that Team Avatar will have with this trio of dangerous girls throughout the second season.
Taylor: This battle certainly has a lot going for it. It did a lot to solidify how badass Mai, Ty Lee, and Azula are, and the chase on the rail system provides us with a unique set pace that delivers fast-paced action. That being said, the fight is kind of on the short side, and as good as it was, there were definitely better fights on the horizon. Speaking of…
4) Team Avatar vs the The Earth King’s Palace Guard
David: After recovering Appa, Sokka suggests one of his boldest, if not craziest, ideas during Team Avatar’s stay in Ba Sing Se. After Long Fang and the Dai Le’s constant interference that prevented Team Avatar from any audience with the Earth King, the team makes a desperate gamble by storming the Earth King’s Palace and forcing an audience with the Earth King himself. In an impressive display of bending and teamwork, the team fights an army of Earth Kingdom troops awaiting them. As the team progresses, the resistance they encounter increases, as Earth Kingdom troops are tossing everything at them. Undeterred, Team Avatar makes their way to the palace steps where Toph performs one of her best Earth-bending tricks during the series: turning the steps into a massive slide. They breach the palace, subdue the remaining resistance and Sokka finally finds that one fancy door. And all this happens in the first few minutes of the episode, making it feel a little rushed considering the remainder of that episode is either Zuko facing off with his inner demons or Team Avatar acting as an Uber service for the Earth King.
Taylor: I’m a big fan of this fight because it’s one of the best displays in the whole series of Team Avatar working as a unit. The group moves like a well-oiled machine as they push their way into the palace, and it’s just damn impressive to watch them mow through dozens upon dozens of opponents. Every now and then, it’s nice to be able to just sit back and watch our awesome heroes be awesome, and this curb-stomp fight is one of the best examples from the series.
3) Katara and Aang vs Zuko and Azula (Ba Sing Se)
Taylor: Coming in third place, we have the two-on-two battle from the Book II finale. With Azula’s plan to topple Ba Sing Se coming to a head, she corners Aang and Katara in the Crystal Catacombs beneath the city. With the help of her brother, whom she recently convinced to betray their Uncle, she takes on the Avatar to complete her scheme. From there, we get one of the most intense fights in the entire series, with some of the most skilled benders in the series pushing each other to their limits at the time. It’s here that we also get our first look at some novel techniques like Zuko’s fire whips and Aang’s earth armor (made of crystals for added visual flare). And on top of everything else, there’s all the interpersonal drama at play. It’s Zuko breaking our hearts by walking down the wrong path, Katara feeling this betrayal, Aang choosing to let go of a part of himself to enter the Avatar State, and Azula having one of her most Azula moments ever, not giving a fig about Aang’s dreaded deus ex machina and just blasting him with lightning. This fight was probably the most emotionally devastating moment in the entire series, and is also just one of the best fights overall.
David: In the climatic fight that tops off Book 2, we are witness so some of the best drama the series offers. Just as we start to see Zuko as something more than the series antagonist, he betrays Iroh and Katara when Azula offers him the restoration of his honor. It’s an excellent moment when we see the two prolifes of Zuko face, signifying his internal conflict. Aang and Katara working together are more than a match for Azula, and she realizes it. And that’s when Zuko strikes, turning it into a two-on-two fight. Both teams are evenly matched, as the siblings even swap opponents. There’s a brief exchange between Zuko and Katara, which we could tell Zuko’s betrayal really affected Katara. It isn’t until the intervention of the Dai Le agents, that Aang must choose to let go of his attachment to Katara and enter the Avatar State. Emerging from his crystal shelter, he is struck down by Azula. Which might be the closest someone has gotten to killing the Avatar while in the Avatar State. Only by the advent of Iroh is Katara able to escape with the injured Aang. This fight will have lasting repercussions going into Book 3.
2) Zuko vs Azula (Final Agni Kai)
Taylor: Holy cow, I love this fight. It’s easily the most beautiful bout from the entire show, with Zuko’s orange flames and Azula’s blue ones, both being boosted by Sozin’s Comet, creating an amazing spectacle. Even beyond all the eye candy, though, this fight is special because of the way that it brings the pair’s sibling rivalry to a close. Zuko manages to prove that he’s become an equal to his sister, though she still wins by cheating (which itself is good display of her cunning). But as many rightly point out, the fight also serves as a fitting and tragic finale to Azula’s arc, as her decent into madness is reflected in the somber attitude of the music, even as the action reaches levels the show hadn’t seen before.
David: This fight takes sibling rivalry to new heights. The rivalry between these two is no big secret, perhaps best displayed by Azula’s repeated attempts to usurp the succession from Zuko. Which Ozai does name Azula his successor. This fight, in a lot of ways, demonstrates the differences between the two siblings and matters are only made worst by Azula’s descent into madness. As Taylor stated, the fight itself is beautiful, colorful and the accompanying music is very fitting. The colors blue and orange are themselves opposites on the color wheel, once again telling us that these two are exact opposites. Ultimately, Azula focuses her attention on Katara in a vivid display of lightning. A costly mistake that would allow Katara to be the one who ends this fight.
Taylor: I kind of wanted this fight as the #1 spot, but David talked me out of it, and he was right to, because really, the winner had to be…
1) Aang vs Ozai
Taylor: So, yeah, that last episode was pretty damn good. Coming in at Number 1, we another bout from the series finale, as well as the culmination of the central story line: the battle between Avatar Aang and Fire Lord Ozai. The fight itself is jaw-dropping and beautifully choreographed, with Aang making use of all four elements against Ozai’s over-the-top, comet-boosted firebending as they race around the landscape. But as amazing as the fight itself is, it’s made even better by the way the show built it up. In the case of Ozai, they built anticipation masterfully, keeping the Fire Lord looming in the background for most of the series; they gave us little peeks here and there, but for the most part, he stayed in the shadows (literally, in Book I). By the end of the show, the wait had become maddening, so when we finally see him cut loose with his power boosted under Sozin’s Comet, his power seems overwhelming. As he uses his power to devastate the landscape and fly through the air, he seems like a genuine monster.
Aang’s struggle, though, is of a different sort. For you see, fighting Ozai is only half of the battle for him; he’s also fighting to live up to his responsibilities as the Avatar while staying true to himself. Aang not only defeats Ozai by tapping into the Avatar State, he also does so without compromising himself.
The power on display is amazing, the fighting itself is excellently paced, and on top of everything else, it provides an excellent end for Aang’s character arc. Put it all together, and you have the best fight in the series.
David: This is one of the rare instances when a villain truly lives up to the hype. We knew that this fight was coming from the very first episode of the series and the showdown between these two was nothing short of spectacular. With the boost in power from Sozin’s Comet, Ozai is more than a match for Aang even with all four elements at his command. Despite his best efforts, Aang cannot best Ozai. It is only when Aang is able to reconnect with the Avatar State, that the battle turns in his favor. The very landscape bends to Aang’s command as the battle reaches it climax. When the opportunity present itself, not once but twice, Aang will not kill Ozai. In the end, Aang found another path to defeating Ozai and remain true to his Airbending heritage. Like the Agni Kai between Zuko and Azula, we see the colors blue and orange once again signifying that Aang and Ozai are truly opposites. The moments after this fight shows us that the Avatar has returned balance to the world.
There you have it folks, our Top O’ The Lot: Top 5 Battles from Avatar: the Last Airbender. We’ll be back at a later date with another Top 5 list covering the battles from the Legend of Korra, but first I need to go back and rewatch Korra before that one. See you a couple of weeks with another Top!