Before anything else is stated I want it to be known that I do love both Azula and Zuko; so no this isn't gonna be a Zuko hate/bash Zuko article.
So instead of getting straight into the actual matter of the agni kai, I'd like to go over why I think Azula in general is more powerful than Zuko. This I will post from an older article (so if you read this one you may as well just scroll down lol); First and foremost, the obvious; Azula has Blue fire (supposedly hotter than any other fire) on the show. This is something unique to Azula and Azula alone. Where as Bloodbending is not unique to Katara. And metalbending is not unique to Toph. Others have done it before and (in Toph's case) after. Plus Katara can only do it during the full moon whereas Azula's blue fire and lighting are present at all times. And she is very skilled in using both.
The second most obvious is that Azula has lightning. At the time--prior to the Korra era--few benders could produce it and fewer could redirect it. Azula was one of the few who could produce it and most characters have no way to redirect it as only firebenders can do so. In fact water is a rather conductive element for electricity, so the waterbenders would probably be screwed. And of all the people who can bend lightning I think Azula does it the best--with most accuracy and power. Ozai's may be big and flashy, but both times he used it, it was redirected. Where as Azula's usually hit the mark.
And lets not forget that Azula killed the Avatar (you know, master of all for elements, most powerful being in the series). Zuko searched for a whole season and couldn't get him. Azula got him within a few episodes of looking. And she did so rather effortlessly. If it weren't for that Spirit Oasis water he'd have been dead. Azula punched out Cthulhu. To this day (in Lok times) she was the only character to kill an Avatar.
She's a psychopath. If anything that just makes her more dangerous because she lost touch with her morals. And her moves are unpredictable. And because of it she'd probably be more likely to aim for the kill.
Azula also has some knowledge of acrobatics and weaponry. Katara without her bending was shown to be rather helpless and Sokka had to give her a hand. Toph was also rendered rather helpless without Earthbending, that is until she invented metal and Aang had some troubles when he could only bend air. Whereas Azula (as shown during the eclipse) was successfully able to take on 3 benders and one skilled nonbender, all without bending. She knows how to do these crazy jumps and flips and knows how to throw an knife or two. She's also very fast, she maneuvers from place to place with ease. So at the loss of bending she can still kick ass.
Azula was also a child prodigy. As mentioned in The Search, she mastered about 14 forms of firebending at a really young age. 14 forms as a young child. With all the practice and effort she put forth, she's crazy good.
Speaking of which, she practices until she masters. She doesn't just settle at 'okay' she didn't even want one hair out of place. Bending practice is the one of the very first things we see her doing. So she put some time into mastering her element.
She pretty much won every battle she was in. She took on all the Kyoshi warriors. She beat Katara and the gang on multiple occasions. Let's not forget that in The Search she battled a spirit wolf and won.
Azula is also dangerously manipulative. She manipulated the Dai Lee into helping her. That's how she took down Ba Sing Se. She manipulated Zuko into joining her again. She got the Earth King.
She was also shown to have been able to breathe fire like Iroh. It can be argued that she was only able to do that because of the Comet. But if she's still able to breath fire...well then, hot damn!
And last but not least, Azula took the Dai Lee and Ba Sing Se (something that even an army couldn't do). Something the Fire Nation struggled to do in a 100 year time period, she did within a few days. Something Iroh failed to do.
Honestly, I strongly believe that the only reason Katara and Zuko beat her was because she went insane. Plus Azula has no qualms about killing people. And she did beat Zuko...even in the final.
All of this in mind, I don't discredit Zuko he is a very powerful bender. I just think that Azula is more so.
That in mind I think there are two reasons why I think she lost that agni kai. For one she was completely out of her mind at the time. And for seconds it was (when it came down to it) a two on one battle--which is just as dirty as people say Azula's moves were.
Under normal circumstances, on a normal day, I think Azula would have had that one very easily. Many argue that she only won because she played dirty. My stance is very much the same. Of course it's going to be easier to take down someone in an unstable mind frame. He took advantage of her slipping state of mind. That is just as dirty as Azula's foul play.
And to be honest a bit sickening. Yes she was an evil person, yes she had (in a sense) picked the fight but she was a 15 year old girl. A 15 year old girl in the middle of a complete collapse, and he used that to take her down. He essentially kicked her when she was already down. At least she made her dirty move when he was in a sound mind frame.
Toying with people's mental issues (by taunting them with a "no lightning today, what? afraid I'll redirect it") simply isn't something a moral person should do. He knew
that he was taunting someone in a fragile state.
I will however grant him leeway given the situation at hand. It however does not change the fact that using a person's mental ailments is something of a cheap-shot.
Naturally someone will argue that he didn't know she was mentally breaking because it's hard to tell how another person is feeling. But come on he freaking said "I can take her this time, I can't explain it, but she's slipping." Zuko knew damn well that something was off about her. And moreover he realized she was at a disadvantage because of this slipping.
the very reason why he said he could take her on!
A mentally sound Azula can beat Zuko. And I still think it's fair to say that a crazy Azula had a decent chance. Taking up a totally different mentality than in the above paragraph; psycosis could make a person thrice as dangerous (at least in Azula's case) as they no longer have touch with morals. The moves become unpredictable and therefore harder to counter.
To put this all together Azula was not thinking clearly. Her insanity was taking away most everything that made Azula dangerous; her carefully kitted plans, her quick thinking, and her cunningness. Granted she retained some of that quick thinking and planning. But on any other day--in any other episode--Azula could have taken down Zuko--and she did in The Chase and The Avatar State.
Which brings me to him bringing in assistance;
Zuko himself stated that he "needed help to take down Azula" and that's why he bought Katara along in the first place. It was established that he didn't think he could take Azula down on his own.
And he bought that help with him; essentially they tagged teamed Azula. When Zuko fell he tapped Katara in and she finished the job for him. Which in itself was unfair. Katara hadn't been fighting prior; she was full in energy and unharmed. Azula was already worn out; think of a video game in which you have to fight like 10 minions and a boss--by the time you get to the boss your hit points are depleted terribly. And therefore beating the boss is significantly harder. The big difference is that in a video game you can get power ups and healing potions; Azula had no means of healing herself. Basically Zuko wore her down so by the time Katara got to her (between the insanity and the lack of energy in comparison) she was an easy beat.
Of course one can argue that Azula wouldn't have even been able to take Zuko down so she just hit Katara instead. Let's be honest if Zuko didn't play dirty in bringing Katara in the first place that wouldn't have happened. I hate to blame the victim; but come on she saw the large blasts of fire, she knew the danger, she should have moved farther back from the fight. And again, her very presence was kind of a dirty move. 2 on 1 isn't the fairest means of fighting either. I also didn't interpret that as a last ditch 'I don't think I can win' move. To me it came off as using the surroundings as a morbid advantage. Let's be real--Katara should not have been speculating from that close up--again that was a flaw of their own making. I believe that Azula still stood a firm change even when knocked down.
Speaking of playing dirty. Not only was it somewhat so to bring a second person along. But it was also rather dirty that he used her mental ailment against her. Zuko knew darn well ("I can take her this time...she's slipping") that she was in a fragile state of mind and exploited it through the very mockery that got him zapped. It isn't exactly a fair fight when one of the opponents is clearly in a not-right state of mind. But I already discussed that. So, yes Azula fought dirty, but she was certainly not the only person to do so.
So by all means Zuko lost. Katara won for him. He was well aware of his options (to take the hit for Katara or let her get hit and keep going for Azula). And he took the moral high ground--don't get me wrong that's not a bad thing at all, it's really noble--but in choosing to do the right thing, he, himself had chosen defeat.
People also argue that Zuko had the upper hand the entire battle. To which I respond that I disagree; Azula had gotten some pretty critical hits in. They were pretty evenly matched throughout the fight. Zuko had some pretty close calls himself. That's how a fight tends to work in shows and literature; both sides are pretty evenly matched to keep the suspense. It would be rather unrealistic for Azula to not stumble at least a little. And tables turn constantly in battles. Who's to say Azula would not have eventually gained the upper hand. She is very smart, very calculating, and very dangerous. However it is possible that she wouldn't have been able to. Azula is an intelligent chess-master, an opportunist (in reference to aiming for Katara rather than Zuko) who saw an opening (which again could have easily been prevented) and took it.
Frankly it was a rather tactical move. Katara was (sorry fans) dumb enough to get in the crossfire and Zuko didn't think it through by letting her stay there. Is a solider going to lower his gun because another enemy solider gets in the way? Doubtful. Is a solider going to lower his gun because a civilian wandered onto the battlefield (in a perfect world, yes, but) in the real world, no. And as stated above; Zuko chose to shield her, by all means he did not have to.
It had nothing to do with knowing he could counter, it's a weighting of options. I'd rather take a shot at something I knew would work 100% than at something with a 50/50 chance--especially if I knew the outcome would be the same both ways. Azula is a strategist
I've also seen it argued that Azula was afraid. And that's why Zuko's mockery worked so effectively. She was not
afraid by any means. She was rather quick to take him up on the challenge for someone who is 'afraid'. The only time I think she was truly afraid in that battle was at the end when she knew
And when it comes down to it Azula played that Agni Kai no dirtier than Zuko did in attacking someone who was mentally and stable...and with an ally on his side. If he can do that, Azula can use that ally against him.
Tying this back into her insanity; I think that this wouldn't have been as dirty a move if she wasn't loosing it. On a normal day she'd have also been able to take them both. She held her own very well when it was all of team avatar + Zuko and Iroh. So I think she'd have been capable of taking down two...if she wasn't losing her shit. But it wasn't a normal day, and she was losing it, so the move was dirty.
Overall when it comes down to it I think Azula would have won if not for being tag-teamed and more over if she hadn't went nuts.
And to wrap up the playing dirty bit; I think her 'cheap shot' was more of a strategic thing given the situation. And wasn't any less clean than Zuko bringing Katara along in the first place.
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