To my readers:
Unfortunately, I’ve run out of articles to post under this series, so my post regarding Katara/Aang will have to be the last in the Navem Eos line. Within the next year, I shall be coming up with a new series of posts to talk about which will hopefully last longer.The Traditional Catholic Weeb
You are probably looking at the title of this post, and thinking “Wait, this isn’t an anime-related post”. You’re right, I do not consider Avatar: The Last Airbender as an anime in any shape or form. It was created by a Western media company, Nickelodeon, and there ends the matter. However, the goal of Navem Eos this whole time is to provide an insight to my favorite romantic shippings, and in that context, this is definitely one of my favorites. I love how this show manages to put a balance between intertwining the action and love story aspect of the series, leading to a conclusive and enjoyable story, worthy of the self-imposed title of “The Last Good Show On Nickelodeon”. What I find extremely weird about the shipping community of this anime though, is that it’s been 12 years since the show ended, and despite the conclusion, there still remains a huge following of those who actually prefer pairing lead heroine Katara with villain-turned-hero Prince Zuko. It makes no sense and continues to boggle my mind the justifications they make for this. In posting this, I hope to relay my support for the Katara/Aang ship, and quash any claim to Katara/Zuko being the best ship.
In the midst of a century-long period of war between the Earth, Fire and Water nations, Katara and her comedian brother Sokka, siblings from the dilapidated Southern Water Tribe discover Aang, the last surviving member of the Air Nomad tribe, and his flying bison Appa, trapped within a giant block of ice, and manage to free him. Sympathizing with his plight, Katara offers to take him in and treat him as her personal responsibility. Upon discovering that he is the long-sought after Avatar, the master of controlling the four elements and the one needed to bring balance to their broken world, along with a run-in with some Fire Nation naval battalions, they instigate a quest to join forces with him, in the hope of bringing order to the warring nations and a swift end to the century-long feud. Along the journey to help him become a master at bending the elements of Earth, Fire and Water in addition to his own Air skills, a romantic bond also flourishes between him and Katara.
EXHIBIT A: THE CAVE OF TWO LOVERS
Initially, when Katara and Aang start off, they are seen as good friends, with Aang having a one-sided crush on her. He tries all sorts of antics to impress her, such as riding the waves while at Kyoshi Island or finding the perfect gift to give to her from a volcano. Katara sees Aang likewise, at this point, as just another “one of the guys”, second only to her own kin, Sokka. This relationship remains more or less in the friendzone up until the second episode of Book 2 (Earth Kingdom chronicles), in the episode Cave Of The Two Lovers.
While en route to Omashu, the trio come across a gang of hippies who lead them through a complex maze known as The Cave Of Two Lovers – built as a secret passageway for two lovers from warring clans to meet in secret. Here, the tension between Aang and Katara begins to intensify further, and at one point in their exploration, Katara suggests to kiss Aang as a potential means of escaping from the tunnels – one which Aang awkwardly rebuffs as being too out of touch with the current situation, which causes a sticky situation between the two. They do eventually kiss each other, an even which coincides with a serenade of bright green crystals providing the answer to their search for an exit.
In this episode, Aang and Katara’s romance begins to bloom and their reactions to being around each other for such a prolonged period of time are perfectly indicative of such. From here on, they continue to support each other even more and continually drop hints to acknowledge their mutual feelings for each other.
EXHIBIT B: UNDYING OPENESS TO EACH OTHER
As the series progresses, both Aang and Katara have shown a strong ability to be open with each other. After Aang discovers the remains of his old friend, Monk Gyatso, and has to come to terms with the fact that he is the last remaining airbender, Katara sympathizes, and bonds with him over that matter, herself understanding what it was like to lose a parent (or, in Aang’s case, a parent-like figure) to the throes of death. Together, the two of them are able to set aside their own differences, if they had any, and work towards the common goal of eliminating the Fire Nation’s influence from their homeworld.
The two of them share a strong emotional connection with each other, and that leads them to be more than willing to risk their lives to secure the well-being of the other. Aang, for example, has offered many times to help Katara’s well-being such as teaching her Northern-style waterbending in spite of said tribe’s laws against such, recovering her necklace when it was stolen, and holds her opinions in high regard whenever the troupe is planning something. During one of his sessions with Guru Pathik, he even goes as far as to reject anything that could give him immense power, such as the Avatar State, to secure a good future with her; and he consults his previous lives seeking an answer on how to balance his duties and his romantic tension.
On the other hand, Katara has acted for Aang’s well-being as well; looking after him when, for example, he was struck by Azula’s lightning bolt at the end of season 2, calming his nerves when he becomes restless due to the precept of fighting the Fire Lord or after seeing the botched Ember Island story about them, and always encouraging Aang to be at his very best. At one point, she even asks
the in-show embodiment of John Cena Toph, who was teaching him Earthbending at the time, to be more encouraging towards him and not give him the Mickey-Rocky treatment – which leads to him being able to successfully navigate the art of such .
EXHIBIT C: A BOND THAT LASTS BEYOND THE PLOT
Of all the characters in the series, Katara and Aang take the lead when it comes to the most times that a pairing has kissed or hugged each other, with second place probably going to Sokka/Suki or Zuko/Mai. To the best of my knowledge, they have been depicted kissing each other at least six times in the series, including the most notable being the one at Uncle Iroh’s tea shop as the very last scene – a fullest confirmation of their already established romance.
Even beyond the animated series, as well as in the comic-based continuation of it, Aang and Katara continue to manifest their romance with the ultimate act of marrying each other, and raising Tenzin, Bumi and Kya. Their marriage lasted long and was happy, successful and filled with plenty of peace. The love lasts even long after Aang passes away; 73 years after the story ends, Katara, by that time 89 years old, holds fast to the memories of her childhood with Aang with a fond, yet sentimental reminiscence. If that’s not a definitive sign of true love, I don’t know what planet you live on.
Some things are so apparent in life, you’d think that everyone should be able to understand them without question. But in the world known as the fandom community, anything goes, even some of the most absurd ships that no sane person would ever come up with. Avatar: The Last Airbender is no exception to this, sadly to say. Quite frankly, I honestly don’t know why people started shipping Zuko and Katara together, but I have a gut feeling that it has something to do with the aftermath of Book 3, Episode 16. In that episode, Zuko, in order to gain Katara’s trust after he defects from his nation, helps her to seek out and get revenge on the person who killed her mother years ago. Although she does not forgive the latter, she does finally accepts Zuko as part of the team, realizing the genuineness of his repentance, and consequently disowns any grudges she held for what he had done in the past. Ok, fair that she does hug him in doing so – but that was in acknowledgement of forgiveness – the same kind Christ administered to St. Dismas on the cross. Now consider the eventual flaws with a Zuko/Katara pairing:
- Katara and Aang’s bonding has been around longer than Zuko. Katara and Aang’s bonding has been in effect for two whole seasons – meaning that they’ve had more time to develop a fling for each other, interact and put their feelings into perspective. Zuko, on the other hand, only gets it with only four episodes left in Book 3, after that it’s the Sozin’s Comet finale. It’s basically impossible for Zuko at this point to one-up Aang for a shot with Katara because the bond by then is solidified beyond the point of erosion. Not to mention, it wouldn’t be complete without any signs of beyond-friendly gestures aside from this, which fortunately do not happen at all.
- Zuko already has Mai going for him. They even share one moment in the series where they plainly tell each other that they love each other in their own special way: by saying “I don’t hate you”. She also kisses him at the end before he is crowned as Fire Lord, noting how much the two missed each other prior to this ordeal. Granted, she breaks up with him in the comics to pursue another guy, but even that shtick doesn’t last long; she admits that she still has a thing going for Zuko.
- Most important: pairing Zuko with Katara would impugn with his growth as a character. Prince Zuko’s story arc is basically the Avatar equivalent of St. Paul; an initial persecutor of Christians turned into one of the greatest missionaries of the early Church. Like the former, over the course of Book 3, we see how Zuko is tormented with the decisions he made in the past, comes to terms with them, and filled with a true desire for repentance, makes it his penance to make amends with Aang, Uncle Iroh and resolve their differences. He renounces all his worldly honors, and is prepared to denounce even his own family to pursue what he believes is right: to join the very forces he had sought to destroy before. It would make no sense for him to play hook-up with Katara because it would defeat the whole purpose of his character arc! In other words, interfering with Aang’s dynamic with Katara is not his lane to drive in.
So there you have it: my reasons for backing Katara and Aang’s pairing. Through their strong emotional bond, expressed through their mutually protective desire of one another, their willingness to be open to each other and the canonical fact that their level of romantic intensity far exceeds that of any other pairing this entire show, it’s a wonder how people try to subvert this and replace it with some other wacky pairing. A Zuko/Katara pairing would pretty much shatter the legitimacy of the story’s cohesion and just make no sense in full context of what just happened; meanwhile, Aang and Katara are there to provide a suitable character-based balance to the war-torn backdrop surrounding them. As a result, it nourishes the already amazing story of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and when it comes to this, I’ll have to quote my favorite character, Toph: “Are you kidding me? I wouldn’t have casted it any other way!”
BONUS STAGE: OTHER SHIPS I ENJOY
Since this is my last issue of Navem Eos, I thought I’d just briefly conclude with a list of my other favorite shippings that unfortunately I didn’t have time to explore, as well as a brief explanation on why I like them but couldn’t address them here!
Kazuto Kirigaya / Asuna Yuuki (Sword Art Online): Sword Art Online was one of the few anime that I picked up when I went back to university in the fall of 2018, and one of the first few anime I’ve reviewed on this site (see this and this). I really enjoyed the relationship dynamic between lead characters Kirito (IRL alias Kazuto) and Asuna, seeing them get to know each other, settling into their cozy cabin, and working together to overcome the struggles they faced and extending that beyond the realm of a game – proving that sometimes, “Buying gf” in a video game might work out in your favor. Sadly, in later series as far as I’m concerned, this relationship dynamic gets diluted as the series progresses in favor of other shticks (Sinon, Yuuki, and Alice to name a few), but I still look back at this being the #1 Sword Art Online ship. The reason why I didn’t cover this was because I felt it was too common and something that everyone in the anime sphere is practically familiar with.
Yugi / Rebecca (Yu-Gi-Oh): You’ll be surprised that I actually don’t ship Yugi and his close female friend Anzu together, even though the vast amount of hints exist that they like each other more than just friends. I ship Yugi and Rebecca, a minor character whose grandfather has a mutual connection to Yugi’s because… honestly I just think the pairing is cute, that’s all. I don’t have any other reasons to back it up, which would not make for a good post (remember, no emotional blabber!) and I’m too lazy to go back and review the entire first Yu-Gi-Oh anime. What I can afford to tell you is something my best friend from high school told me: that Anzu’s not exactly in love with the non-gamer version of Yugi, and I think there’s merit to that claim.
Atsuko Kagari / Andrew Hanbridge: Little Witch Academia‘s main heroine meets this British royal and falls in love with him. They share plenty of moments together which help reshape the latter’s opinion on the relevancy of magic in this timeline, an opinion that he, along with his father, originally did not share. It takes Akko a lot of talking to him and convincing through actions until he finally gives up his Modernistic takes on magic, and eventually acknowledges that there is a place for such even in modern society. Sounds a lot like the plot of Pope St. Pius X’s Pascendi Dominici Gregis (1907). I love Little Witch Academia, but suffice to say as much as I found this interesting, I just think it’s high time for the Navem Eos ship to move on (no pun intended).
And with that, I close out my Navem Eos series! Hope you enjoyed reading about all my favorite anime pairings throughout this journey.