|Avatar: The Last Airbender / The Legend of Korra character|
|First appearance||"The Boy in the Iceberg"|
|Voiced by||Mako Iwamatsu (seasons 1-2)
Greg Baldwin (season 2-3, The Legend of Korra)
|Aliases||The Dragon of the West
Mushi (refugee alias)
Lu Ten (son, deceased)
Ta Min (grandmother-in-law)
Iroh Jr. (great-grandnephew)
|Hair color||Gray (originally black)|
Iroh is a fictional character in Nickelodeon's animated television series Avatar: The Last Airbender. Created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, the character was voiced by Mako Iwamatsu in season one and season two and, due to Mako's death, by Greg Baldwin, in season three and the sequel series The Legend of Korra.
A retired General of the Fire Nation, a nation whose Benders utilize the element of fire, Iroh is the elder brother of Fire Lord Ozai. Though he accompanied his exiled nephew Zuko on his quest to capture Aang in order to restore the young prince's honor and birthright, Iroh wanted to help his nephew become a better person than his father.
Iroh was the firstborn son of Fire Lord Azulon, but when the time to choose his successor came, Iroh let his brother Ozai become Fire Lord, as he was grieving the death of his only son, Lu Ten, in the siege of Ba Sing Se. It was believed that Iroh killed off the last of their world's dragons, earning him the title "Dragon of the West", but it was later revealed that he was secretly the dragons' pupil, and thus learned from them to derive his Firebending powers from vitality rather than the conventional rage. He became a Grand-Lotus (high-ranking member) of the international secret society of philosophers, teachers, and warriors known as the Order of the White Lotus.
When the story begins in Book One, Iroh is shown accompanying the banished Prince Zuko in his search for the Avatar, a superhuman whose task to maintain world order made him a threat to the Fire Nation's campaign. Upon discovering the Avatar, Iroh accompanied Zuko. Having learnt of Zhao's plan to kill the moon spirit to cancel Waterbending, disrupting the natural order, Iroh attacks Zhao and is subsequently named a traitor.
During Book Two, he and his nephew are now fugitives from the Fire Nation. After being gravely wounded by his niece Azula and healed by his nephew, Iroh teaches Zuko a Waterbending-inspired technique of absorbing and redirecting lightning. Iroh eventually takes refuge in the Earth capital Ba Sing Se, where he and Zuko operate a tea-house. Iroh is dismayed when Azula convinces her brother to betray them and is arrested while covering Aang and Katara's escape from the conquered city.
In Book Three, held in a Fire Nation prison, Iroh fakes despair while preparing himself for the solar eclipse, during which Firebending does not work. Prior to the eclipse, Iroh reveals to Zuko that he is descended from Avatar Roku through his mother. Once the eclipse begins, Iroh easily escapes prison, described as being a one-man army even without his bending. In the series finale, Iroh is revealed to have called the White Lotus to reveal themselves and liberate Ba Sing Se. Upon being reunited with Zuko, Iroh tells him to become the new Firelord. Soon after Zuko's crowning as Firelord, Iroh takes residence in a new tea shop in Ba Sing Se; the final scenes of the series take place in that tea shop.
In the comic book sequel The Promise, Iroh offers Aang and Zuko advice on the Harmony Restoration Movement. He also reveals a new culinary invention—bubble tea—which Aang and Zuko do not enjoy. Iroh muses he is a man before his time. In The Search, Iroh returns to his birthright as Firelord while Zuko and Team Avatar locate Zuko's mother Ursa. Bored with his new title, he uses his authority to declare a National Tea Appreciation Day.
In the sequel series The Legend of Korra, Iroh is revealed to have used a form of astral projection at the time of his death to become a resident of the Spirit World. In the episode "A New Spiritual Age", Iroh comes to the aid of Aang's reincarnation, Avatar Korra, who had been trapped unprepared deep in the Spirit World. He set her on the right path and welcomed her to visit him anytime, in any of her lifetimes. In "Darkness Falls", having known them in life, Iroh encounters Aang's children Tenzin, Kya, and Bumi when they enter the Spirit World and provides them with hints as to the location of the spirit of Tenzin's daughter Jinora. Korra again encounters Iroh in "The Ultimatum," when she enters the Spirit World in search of Zaheer. Korra explains to Iroh that she is confused and doesn't know how to deal with the threat Zaheer poses to both the newly reformed Air Nation and the world. Iroh suggests that Korra seek Zuko's counsel, as Aang once did.
Zuko's grandson is named Iroh and is a general of the United Forces, the armed services of the United Republic of Nations.
Easygoing, friendly, and dryly good-humored, Iroh treats his self-imposed exile as an extended vacation. Something of a hedonist in his old age, he shows more interest in relaxation and amusement than in the pursuit of the Avatar. Despite his age, Iroh is seen flirting with various women throughout the series, and has been addressed as "handsome" on multiple occasions. Nevertheless, he is a seasoned and wily strategist, a powerful Firebending master, and a mentor to his nephew. Unlike most Firebenders shown, he holds great respect for the neighboring peoples and willingly opposes any common threat. In "Tales of Ba Sing Se", it is suggested that his perpetual optimism and generosity are a form of post-traumatic growth resulting from the death of his son Lu Ten. This can be seen in his song "Leaves from the Vine", which he sings on the anniversary of Lu Ten's birthday.
Iroh is particularly fond of food, good tea, the strategy game Pai Sho, and pleasant music. He later displays skill at playing the pipa and other musical instruments. Most likely because of his love of tea, he is an amateur botanist, though his misinterpretation of some plant characteristics leads him to accidentally poison himself. His character is best shown in his relationship with his nephew, Zuko, upon whom he imposes introspection.
Instead of anger, Iroh based his bending style on the original firebending wisdom of the dragons and teachings of the Sun Warriors from whom he learned and whose secrets he kept. This philosophy emphasized the beauty and life-giving qualities of fire; thus, Iroh firebent without resorting to anger, hate, or lust, unlike his brother, niece and most other firebenders of his time. It is hinted throughout the series that Iroh is more skilled than his brother, Fire Lord Ozai, but they are never shown in contest, and Iroh himself once stated that he did not know if he could defeat his brother. Most notably, he is also the inventor of a unique technique involving the absorption and redirection of lightning; Fire Lord Sozin possessed a similar ability to redirect heat. His bodily strength, speed, and agility are belied by his rotund form, but are suggested to improve further during his incarceration. Besides the Avatar, Katara, and Zuko, Iroh is the only character in The Last Airbender shown able to see spirits whilst in the physical world.
Iroh was an extremely positively received character in the series. He was seen as Zuko's foil with him being the elderly, mellow and wise individual and Zuko being the young abrasive naïve prince. Iroh and Zuko's relationship was praised for its authenticity and humor. Iroh is described as a "mystical buddha" who served as Zuko's moral compass. In some circles Iroh was viewed as an inspirational character, with his quotes on the series described as encouraging. While many of the series other major characters were maturing throughout the course of the series, Iroh was already a "changed man" who already suffered tremendous loss and "matured" through that loss. Iroh's vignette in the episode "The Tales of Ba Sing Se", was described as an "emotional gut-punch" by reviewer Rebecca Pahle. Reviewer Hayden Childs characterized Iroh's vignette as "a lovely piece of storytelling" and praised Mako Iwamatsu's "amazing performance" in the character's short story. Reviewer Matt London admitted to being "reduced to tears" while watching Iroh's vignette. He praised Iwamatsu's performance in voicing the character, while characterizing Ozai stealing Iroh's birthright as the next Fire Lord as "almost Shakespearean". Reviewer Keval Shah termed the scene where Iroh sacrificing himself to allow Aang and Katara escape Azula in the season two finale, "The Crossroads of Destiny", as "emotional". Shah praised the "superb development" of the character.
Iroh's appearances in the Legend of Korra series was also well received. Iroh's advice to Korra where he states "Even in the material world, you will find that if you look for the light, you can often find it; but if you look for the dark, that is all you will ever see." was observed to bear a striking resemblance to philosophies contained in Rhonda Byrne's work The Secret. Iroh's introduction into the series was observed as a plot device to help Korra, who at that point was a somewhat unpopular character among fans and critics alike, become a more likeable protagonist.
Appearance in other media
Shaun Toub plays Iroh in the feature film The Last Airbender. This version of the character is not as comedic as his cartoon counterpart, but retains his role as mentor to Zuko. Unlike other Firebenders in the movie, who require a source of fire to bend, Iroh can generate fire merely by using his chi.
He also appears in the video game Avatar: The Burning Earth, as both a character in the main story, and in multiplayer mode.
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