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|Avatar: The Last Airbender / The Legend of Korra character|
|First appearance||"The Boy in the Iceberg" (2005)|
|Created by||Michael Dante DiMartino|
|Portrayed by||Dev Patel|
|Alias||The Blue Spirit (alter ego)|
Lee (refugee alias)
Junior (refugee alias)
Zuzu (nickname from Azula and Kiyi)
|Title||Prince / Crown Prince (Avatar: The Last Airbender)
Fire Lord (Sozin's Comet and Legend Of Korra)
|Significant other||Mai (girlfriend; formerly)|
|Bending element||Primary: |
|Age||16 (Avatar: The Last Airbender)|
17 (The Promise)
18 (The Search)
87 (The Legend of Korra)
|Hair color||Dark brown|
Zuko (祖寇, Zǔ Kòu) is a fictional character in Nickelodeon's animated television series Avatar: The Last Airbender. Created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, the character is voiced by Dante Basco and is portrayed by Dev Patel in M. Night Shyamalan's 2010 film The Last Airbender.
Zuko is the Crown Prince of the Fire Nation and a skilled firebender, meaning he has the ability to create and control fire through martial-arts techniques. He is the eldest child of Firelord Ozai and the older brother of Princess Azula. Before the events of the series, Zuko is exiled from the Fire Nation by his father and told he must capture the Avatar, a unique spiritually powerful individual who could threaten Ozai's plan for global conquest, in order to restore his honor and right to the throne. Zuko is accompanied and advised in his search by his uncle Iroh. In the first season of the series, he is the primary antagonist to the Avatar. Over time, however, Zuko loses faith in his father's tyranny, feels guilt for his crimes, and begins to sympathize with those the Fire Nation has oppressed, eventually joining the Avatar to restore peace.
In "The Deserter", Zuko's name was listed on a Fire Nation wanted poster as "祖寇" (zǔ kòu). In "Tales of Ba Sing Se", his name was written as "蘇科" (sū kè) on his segment's title card.
Zuko lives in a fantasy world where the human population consists of four nations: the Earth Kingdom, Water Tribes, Air Nomads, and Fire Nation. Some individuals can telekinetically manipulate one of the four classical elements: water, earth, fire, or air; the art of controlling and manipulating an element is called "bending". The Avatar is the only individual who can bend all four elements. 100 years before the beginning of the narrative, Firelord Sozin, then the ruler of the Fire Nation, carried out a genocide of the Air Nomads as part of his plan to conquer the world for the Fire Nation.
A few years before the events of the series, Zuko voiced opposition to a general's suggestion that inexperienced Fire Nation soldiers be used as bait in a battle against the Earth Kingdom. Firelord Ozai, Zuko's father, ordered Zuko to submit to an Agni Kai, a ritual duel fought with firebending, to teach him respect. Zuko accepted the challenge believing that he would fight the general who proposed the plan, but instead he faced Ozai. When Zuko refused to fight his father, the Firelord burned his face, scarring him over his left eye, and sent him into exile, telling him his honor would be restored only if he captured the Avatar. Zuko's uncle, the decorated general Iroh, joined him as a companion and tutor.
Creation and conception
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The Blue Spirit design was inspired from a Dragon King Nuo mask from Chinese drama. His mask was made blue, because the creators thought that a red mask would give away the Blue Spirit's secret identity to the audience too easily.
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Avatar: The Last Airbender
Book One: Water
At the beginning of the series, Zuko is introduced as the main antagonist who is searching for Avatar Aang in hopes of reclaiming his honor. Throughout the season he is hot on the Avatar's trail, at times both helped and hindered by Iroh. Zuko competes in his quest against Zhao, an ambitious Fire Nation admiral also seeking the Avatar. When Zhao captures Aang, Zuko disguises himself as "the Blue Spirit" and rescues Aang from Zhao's fortress to prevent Zhao from accomplishing his goal. Later in the season, Zuko escapes Zhao's assassination attempt against him, with Iroh's help. During the invasion of the Northern Water Tribe, Zuko captures Aang, but both nearly die in a snowstorm before they are rescued by Aang's friends. Zuko encounters Zhao and attacks him, but the Ocean Spirit abducts Zhao before the fight is concluded. Zuko attempts to save Zhao from the Ocean Spirit, but Zhao is too proud to accept Zuko's help. Ozai thereafter assigns Zuko's younger sister Azula to capture Zuko and Iroh due to Zuko's failure to capture Aang and Iroh's betrayal during the siege.
Book Two: Earth
In the second season, Zuko and Iroh travel the Earth Kingdom as impoverished refugees, pursued by Azula. After briefly quarreling and parting ways with Iroh, Zuko reunites with his uncle against Azula. When Azula wounds Iroh, Zuko nurses Iroh back to health and Iroh teaches Zuko the rare firebending technique of redirecting lightning. Zuko and Iroh travel to the walled city of Ba Sing Se and find employment at a tea shop in the slums. Zuko reluctantly adapts to his new life until he learns of Aang's presence in Ba Sing Se and attempts to steal Aang's pet bison Appa. However, Iroh convinces Zuko to abandon his quest and let Appa go. Azula infiltrates the city to stage a coup and arranges a trap for Zuko and Iroh. Zuko is imprisoned together with Aang's friend Katara, and the two share a brief moment of compassion before Aang and Iroh come to rescue them. Azula convinces Zuko to betray Iroh and the Avatar. In the resulting fight, Aang is wounded and Iroh is arrested.
Book Three: Fire
In the third season, Zuko returns to his country a hero, with Azula giving him credit for killing the Avatar; but Zuko suspects that Aang survived and hires an assassin to ensure Aang's death to cover up Azula's lie. He learns that his mother's grandfather was Avatar Roku, Aang's predecessor. He begins a romantic relationship with his childhood friend Mai, but continues to feel guilty and uncertain of his decisions. Eventually Zuko decides to turn his back on the Fire Nation and help Aang overthrow Ozai; he confronts his father about his cruel treatment and the Fire Nation's destructive effect on the world, before leaving to join Aang. Although they initially reject him, Aang and his companions grow to accept Zuko as a member of the group after he proves his loyalty to them. He trains Aang in firebending, and the two journey together to meet the last dragons, from whom they learn that firebending can be powered by the energy of life, rather than rage.
When Zuko is finally reunited with Iroh in the series finale, he tearfully apologizes for his mistakes and gets his uncle's forgiveness. Refusing the throne himself, Iroh suggests that Zuko become the next Firelord, citing Zuko's "unquestionable honor". Arriving at the Fire Nation capital with Katara, Zuko duels Azula for the throne. When Azula faces defeat, she forces Zuko to place himself in the path of a lightning bolt aimed at Katara, wounding him. Katara defeats Azula and heals Zuko. After Aang defeats Ozai and wins the war, Zuko becomes the new Firelord, promising world order and harmony with the aid of the Avatar.
Graphic Novel Trilogies
Avatar: The Promise
Following Zuko's crown ceremony, seventeen year-old Zuko asks Aang to promise to kill him if he ever becomes like his father. Aang reluctantly agrees. One year later, Zuko is working with the other nations to return captured colonial lands to the Earth Kingdom as part of the Harmony Restoration Movement. Kori Morishita attempts to assassinate Zuko in retaliation for forcibly relocating the multicultural residents of the Fire Nation colonies. Zuko travels to Kori's hometown, Yu Dao, where he meets people of Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom ancestry living and working together. Zuko becomes conflicted and consults with the imprisoned Ozai, who advises Zuko that whatever decision he makes is inherently the correct choice because he exercises the power of the Fire Lord. Zuko decides to break from the Harmony Restoration Movement. The Earth King responds with a military force of his own and Zuko is forced to lead troops to Yu Dao to protect the Fire Nation civilians. In the battle, Aang and Zuko clash. However, Katara convinces the Earth King that the colonies are neither Fire Nation nor Earth Kingdom, but rather a multicultural people. Peace is restored, and Zuko realizes that forcing Aang to make the promise was a way of distancing himself from his responsibilities as Fire Lord. He releases Aang from the promise, and the two reestablish their friendship and trust.
Avatar: The Search
In the sequel to the first comic book adaptation of the cartoon series, The Search, Zuko sets his younger sister Azula—now sixteen—with his father Ozai to discuss finding his long-lost mother Ursa. It is later revealed that Azula has access to letters written by Ursa to Ikem (a possible paramour), hidden away by Ozai. It is also revealed that Azula wishes to kill Ursa. Later, Zuko finds a note Azula concealed, saying that Ursa wanted to return to her hometown but refrained to protect Zuko. Ozai lied to Ursa and told her he had Ikem killed. In order to save Zuko's life, Ursa made Ozai a toxic potion he could use on his father Azulon and become Fire Lord. After her banishment, Ursa returned to her hometown and found Ikem still alive but with a new face and name given to him by a spirit to protect himself. Ursa is granted a new face as well, but chooses to have her memories of her children erased because she cannot bear the pain of having been separated from them. She then marries Ikem with her new identity and they have a daughter together. Azula tracks their mother down and almost kills her but is stopped by Zuko. Without her memories, Ursa apologizes for not loving her enough and abandoning her if she really is Azula's mother. Azula's mind is still broken and she runs off into the forest, rejecting Zuko's offer to help. Ursa has her old face and memories restored and also apologizes to Zuko, who does not blame her. In the following comic story arc, The Rift, Iroh mentions Ursa and her new family are visiting the Fire Nation capital with Zuko's support.
Avatar: Smoke and Shadow
Zuko is escorted back home to the Fire Nation's capital by Team Avatar to assist his mother, Ursa, and her new family adjust to royal life. Unfortunately, an ancient prophecy is foretold that Zuko must be dethroned immediately or annihilation will befall the country. A group of creatures known as the Kemurikage begin stealing children and the New Ozai society, a secret society dedicated to dethroning Zuko, start trying to cause problems to bring Zuko down. Zuko works with Mai and Aang in order to restore order, however, he acts ruthlessly with his people after his sister Kiyi is taken. Later, it is revealed that Azula had planned the whole thing despite apparently coming to terms that her destiny was not to become Fire Lord. Zuko realizes how similar he was acting to her and apologizes to his country for being a poor ruler and becomes determined to be a better one.
Avatar: The Legend of Korra
Book One: Air
In The Legend of Korra, now eighty-seven years old, Lord Zuko had aided the late Avatar Aang in the creation of the "United Republic of Nations" after the Hundred Year War. The creators of the series revealed by the time of the series, he has abdicated his position as Fire Lord in favor of his daughter, Izumi, and travels the world, usually on his dragon Druk, as an ambassador for peace. He is memorialized by a statue at Republic City's Central City Station. His grandson Iroh (also voiced by Dante Basco) serves as a general of the United Forces alongside Aang's eldest son, Bumi.
Book Three: Change
Making his debut in Book Three: Change, Zuko is revealed to have been working with the Order of the White Lotus to keep major threats in check while Korra was still in training. Most notably, he worked alongside Sokka, Tenzin (Aang's younger son), and Korra's father Tonraq to thwart an attempt by the criminal Zaheer and his Red Lotus followers to kidnap Korra when she was a child. Fourteen years later, Zuko learned of Zaheer's new air bending skills and subsequent escape. He enlists Korra's father Tonraq and her cousins, Desna and Eska, to keep the last of Zaheer's allies from being freed, but their efforts were unsuccessful. When Zaheer fatally suffocated Earth Queen Hou-Ting and gave an ultimatum to Korra, Zuko immediately returned to the Fire Nation, fearing the anarchists would target his daughter. Zuko briefly councils Korra regarding the situation before he departs, and is surprised to learn that the Avatar has spoken to his long-deceased uncle in the Spirit World. When Zaheer is defeated in the season finale, Zuko attends Jinora's ceremony as airbending master, and expresses concerns about the lingering threat of the Red Lotus.
Book Four: Balance
Zuko makes a final non-speaking appearance in Book Four: Balance, attending the coronation of Prince Wu with his daughter, Izumi, and the other world leaders.
Despite his youth, Zuko has demonstrated great agility and strength. His chief education in this is derived from his uncle Iroh; flashbacks reveal that Zuko's skills were subpar as a preteen, but that they improved dramatically under Iroh's tutelage. He is twice shown to be a match in combat to his sister Azula, although he lacks the emotional discipline to generate lightning. He is depicted throughout the series as both powerful and skillful in both martial and aesthetic applications of firebending.
Zuko is highly skilled in Firebending which utilizes Chinese martial arts techniques of Changquan, Shaolinquan, Lóng Xíng Mó Qiáo and Xing Yi Quan. The series' creators consulted a professional martial artist in the design of the show's fighting style. Firebending represents the element of power, and is categorized as the most aggressive of the "four bending arts". Firebender discipline stresses self-restraint and breath control as a means of directing and containing the fire manifested. Poor breath control means dangerously poor control of any fire generated. For this reason, breathing exercises are one of the most critical first steps for beginning firebenders.
Water is cool and soothing, Earth is steady and stable. But Fire... Fire is alive. Has the potential to create or destroy. It breathes, it grows. Without the Bender, a rock will not throw itself! But Fire will spread and destroy everything in its path if one does not have the will to control it!— Master Jeong Jeong (Avatar: The Last Airbender)
Firebending involves "external styles" that prioritize one's legwork (as opposed to the arms) and emphasizes "kicking over hand fighting"; the highly technical kicking strikes are meant to "extend as far as possible" without compromising balance. This is intended to sacrifice defense for optimized preemptive strikes and attrition warfare. Zuko's interpretation of firebending uses long, aggressive techniques that explode and drive through the opponent; quick, successive attacks that utilize momentary bursts of extreme "explosive" power; with fundamentally strong movements' and the usage of powerful, quick manoeuvres.
Zuko is skilled in "Dao duel-wielding", as in the episode "The Blue Spirit" wherein he withstands a large number of adversaries. In "Avatar: The Lost Adventures", it was revealed that he studied under Master Piandao, his uncle's colleague and Sokka's master sword fighting instructor. Zuko has also demonstrated an ability in stealth and unarmed combat, as when able to infiltrate a Fire Nation fortress, the Northern Water Tribe's city, and the Dai Li's base in the Earth Kingdom without detection. His proficiency at stealth was also utilized during the episode "The Southern Raiders" in which he and Katara stalked and cornered the former commander of the eponymous Raiders in his home village without revealing themselves. Avatar Extras revealed he has abnormal hearing and that he is also naturally gifted at playing the Tsungi horn (though he is never heard playing).
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (December 2016)
Zuko's character has received largely positive reception from critics and audiences alike. He is considered by several critics to have one of the best redemption arcs in television. Tory Ireland Mell of IGN thought it was "painful" to watch Zuko try to win the trust of Team Avatar as he was "completely vulnerable, and no one cared." Mell found his reunion with Iroh to be "heartwarming". Zuko was listed by Paste Magazine as the best character from the Avatar universe, with writer Zach Blumenfeld noting his complex transformation and redemption story over the course of the series. Dante Basco received praise for his portrayal of the character.
- "Dante Basco". 2005. Retrieved 2008-03-31.
- Konietzko, Bryan; DiMartino, Michael Dante (2010). Avatar, The Last Airbender: The Art of the Animated Series. Dark Horse. p. 62–63. ISBN 978-1-62115-798-4.
- The Lost Scrolls: Fire, page 159 of The Lost Scrolls Collection.
- "Nickelodeon's Official Avatar: The Last Airbender Flash Site". Nick.com. Retrieved December 2, 2006.
- Director: Ethan Spaulding; Writer: Elizabeth Welch Ehasz (April 7, 2006). "Return to Omashu". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 2. Episode 3. Nickelodeon.
- "Kisu - Filmography by TV Series". IMDb. Retrieved 2013-10-21.
- Ehasz, Aaron (writer) & Spaulding, Ethan (director). (June 2, 2006). "Bitter Work". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 2. Episode 9. Nickelodeon.
- Hedrick, Tim (writer) & MacMullan, Lauren (director). (October 21, 2005). "The Deserter". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 1. Episode 16. Nickelodeon.
- Director: Dave Filoni; Writers: Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko (2005-06-17). "The Blue Spirit". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 1. Episode 13. Nickelodeon.
- "Zuko Alone". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 2 (Book 2). Episode 7. 2006-05-12. Nickelodeon.
- Hamilton, Kirk (September 18, 2018). "Avatar: The Last Airbender Is One Of The Greatest TV Shows Of All Time". Kotaku.
- Moon, Heather (March 8, 2018). "Powerful: 20 Things That Make Zuko From Nickelodeon's Avatar: The Last Airbender Strong". thegamer.com.
- Bassi, Isha (October 3, 2018). "I'm Still Not Over Zuko's Redemption Arc On "Avatar: The Last Airbender"". buzzfeed.com.
- Curran, Brad (June 21, 2020). "Avatar: Zuko's Redemption Story Is What Kylo Ren's Should've Been". Screenrant.
- Mell, Tory Ireland (July 16, 2008). "Avatar: The Last Airbender: "The Western Air Temple" Review". IGN.
- Mell, Tory Ireland (July 22, 2008). "Avatar: The Last Airbender: "Sozin's Comet" Review". IGN.
- Blumenfeld, Zach (June 21, 2016). "The 20 Best Characters From The Avatar Universe". pastemagazine.com.