These are what we call the 'YMMV items.' Things that some people find in this work. We call them 'your mileage might vary' because not everyone sees these things in the same way. This starts discussions in the trope lists, a thing we don't want. Please use the discussion page if you'd like to discuss any of these items.
YMMV: Avatar: The Last Airbender
Alternate Aesop Interpretation: The Great Divide. It seems many viewers focus on the feud between the clans itself and Aang's solution to the conflict. However, from another viewpoint, the episode is a warning about getting caught up in arguments and controversies where there is no clear logical resolution because it's easier to align yourself with one of the groups. Both clans are telling different versions of the same story about a significant ancestor and don't seem to have any sort of evidence or documentation. Sokka and Katara find themselves weighing in on opposite sides of the feud because of which side of the story they heard first, and because of their views on how to adequately build tents in the dry season.
Azula: sociopathicmanipulative bitch or is she just a product of parental neglect, much like Zuko, but without the benefit of having a loving figure in her life?. Word of God seems to lean at least slightly towards the latter though. The creators have stated in interviews that Azula isn't inherently evil and may eventually get better.
Ozai: Word of God says he got along very well with Ursa when they first married, which could mean he wasn't always this evil. Conversely, it could say some things about Ursa...
Then again, even Zuko mentions that there "was a time when they were happy" (and visited Ember Island together), so it's likely that he wasn't always evil. This was confirmed eventually in The Promise comics.
Combustion Man: All over the place, which is understandable. We still know very little about this guy as a person.
Azulon: Considering how little is known about him and how ambiguous the scenario involving him is, alternate interpretations have cropped up about the order to kill Zuko. Some see it as a sick display of affection and loyalty for his eldest son Iroh, others saw it as a Secret Test of Character that went out of hand, much like Abraham being ordered to sacrifice Isaac in The Bible. It has even been suggested that he never gave any such order—that Azula made it up in order to pick on Zuko, and Ozai went along with the lie in order to gain Ursa's cooperation. One Fan Fic even suggested that when Azulon said that Ozai would feel the pain of losing his son, it was because Azulon wanted Zuko to become Iroh's heir.
Koh: Some people see him as a more neutral force, mostly because his one appearance in the series had him helping Aang. Alternatively, he could be seen as a Bigger Bad.
Katara: Good feminist icon in that she's an Action Girl who doesn't disavow her maternal instinct and still embraces her call to Team Mom or bad feminist icon in that she's hyper-emotional (to the point of allowing their entire overall mission to get sidetracked by her just-add-water instant sympathy for random townspeople who, really, will probably be helped out anyway by them rallying to finish overthrowing Ozai) and has that whole "Hell Hath No Fury" thing that leads her to betray her own ideals (in a very definitely bad way) and never really got called on it by any other character in the show?
Taken to absurd levels when she accuses her own brother of not loving their mother enough and Aang of not understanding her pain (the kid whose entire civilization fell victim to genocide - Aang actually Lampshades this when he reminds her of how much he's lost).
Kyoshi: Of the Avatars seen so far, she's the most inclined to follow the letter of the law. However people of Tumblr seem to be under the impression that just because she doesn't regret putting down Chin the conqueror to save her people, apparently she is now labeled a full on Blood Knight, who apparently loves to battle and kill her enemies. ◊
Toph's Father: After seeing what a powerful Earthbender Toph actually is, as opposed to the helpless little girl he always believed and insisted she was, he still refuses to let her go off on the big adventure training Aang and instead orders that she put under even more security (and she wasn't allowed to leave the estate even before he knew just how powerful she was). When Toph runs away with Aang and the gang anyway, her father hires a pair of wrestlers turned bounty hunters to bring her back, saying Aang kidnapped her. Was he experiencing some understandable Adult Fear, or was he actually more afraid of the damage Toph could inflict on others without anyone supervising her? Maybe a little bit of both? For that matter, did he really believe Aang kidnapped Toph or was he just in denial of the fact that his controlling, domineering ways had finally driven her away?
Zhao: What was his motive for rejecting Zuko's help when he was about to die? Zhao may have realized that, by accepting Zuko's hand, the both of them would have died simultaneously. Another idea is that, in his arrogance, Zhao refused to receive help from his teenaged rival, as he felt that being saved from (what he viewed as) an impatient, talentless, hot-headed and overconfident "child", on top of losing the battle at the Northern Water Tribe, would have disgraced his reputation to the public and his peers, damaged his authority over the Fire Nation military, and prompted a demotion. If this second possibility is true, then through death, as well as the Fire Lord holding the blame for the defeat on the Dragon of the West, Zhao managed to gain a slightly more 'merciful' final fate.
Another interpretation is that, through Zuko's rescue, Zhao felt that he would have owed his life to his rival out of obligation for being saved and may have perceived that as an act of submission. Finally, the last interpretation is that, once the Moon rose again, Zhao realized that his supposed "destiny" of being a legend was indeed false, and without this crutch to explain his own misdeeds, the purpose for his existence fell apart before his eyes. Zuko is a male version of Azula to them.
The interpretation that makes the most sense, given his obsession over history and failures, is that he knew that, if he lived and returned to the Fire Nation, he'd spend the rest of his life in disgrace and humiliation, being scorned and shamed for his massive failed invasion of the North. He'd rather die and at least be remembered for "heroically" sacrificing his life, than become like Zuko.
There's even the possibility that Zhao had a moment of Even Evil Has Standards: despite his dislike of Zuko, Zhao couldn't bring himself to drag Zuko down with him to a possible Fate Worse than Death for something that, deep down, he knew wasn't Zuko's fault.
The villagers in The Painted Lady: Are they Ungrateful Bastards towards Katara, or are they rightfully pissed that she engaged in cultural appropriation of their main cultural icon, and purely because it suited her purposes to do so at that? Are they possibly both? Either way, they get over it pretty quickly.
Ursa: Loving and devoted mother who was doing her best to raise her children in a poisonous and dangerous environment, or was she as bad as Ozai in terms of favoring Zuko over Azula, which continued to embitter Azula towards her and Zuko?
Broken Base: Aang's conflict in the finale split fans between those who felt it came out of nowhere and those who felt it was perfectly justified given what we'd seen of Aang to that point. Then there's the controversy over whether the resolution of using the previously unseen Energybending so Aang could stop Ozai without killing him was reasonably foreshadowed or a complete Ass Pull. For the record, the creators had the idea of Aang sticking with Thou Shalt Not Kill in their mind from the beginning of the series, they just didn't have anything specific. But the less said the better.
Complete Monster: Fire Lord Ozai, a genocidal, child-abusing fascist dictator who has dedicated weeks at a time and large portions of his army to hunting down and killing a twelve-year-old and his friends. Perhaps best exemplified in the first episode of the four-part finale, where his reaction to news of rebellions in the Earth Kingdom is to try to incinerate the entire continent. While the aforementioned heinous act is his crowning achievement of irredeemable abomination, he's also manipulated his wife into murdering his father to usurp the throne from his older brother Iroh - and then thanked his wife with banishment from the Fire Nation - and abused his son Zuko, by burning his face for speaking out of turn, and [[spoiler:shooting him with lightning when he decides to join Aang. Furthermore, he also cruelly manipulates his daughter Azula into becoming his perfect little villain, to the point where she completely wrecks her emotional and mental health from the pressure, only to reveal that he doesn't care about her at all, and will discard her as quickly and easily as everyone else. He feels no remorse for any of this.
The continuation of the series through the comics makes him even more despicable. At first the readers are led to believe through a series of his wife's hidden letters that Zuko was actually the secret child of Ursa's Childhood Sweetheart Ikem, which may explain Ozai's contempt towards him. However, the next issue reveals that Ursa lied about Ikem being Zuko's father as a desperate act of revenge against Ozai for forbidding her from contacting her friends and family. What's worse? Ozai knew she was lying but continued to abuse Zuko anyway as a way of fulfilling his wife's wish for her son to never become like him, even promising to treat him like that of a "treacherous dog". This means that all the horrible things Ozai did to Zuko was for no reason other than spite towards his wife. This man practically defines Evil Is Petty to the worst logical conclusion.
Koh as well, to the point where many fans speculated that he would play a significant role in The Legend of Korra.
Dry Docking: Generally, Zutara shippers have the reputation (whether or not it's deserved is an argument that can light a forum ablaze almost instantly) of projecting romance onto the character they identify with and the character they want to tap. However, it's also common for people to go one step beyond and declare that "ZUKO/ME IS THE ONLY THING I SHIP!!!"
This is gone into in the comic "The Search." It's a bit of base breaking, so watch your step.
Combustion Man is a badass assassin with a mysterious past, a completely unique form of Firebending, and leaves more questions then answers. You do the math.
According to creator commentary, he has an extremely overdeveloped third eye, which makes sense as his tattoo looks like the symbol for an Ajna chakra.
What are the stories behind all of Koh's faces?
Answered in "The Search." He's the son of a spirit called "The Mother Of All Faces," who grants people's faces/souls, it's not super clear. He despises her and loves her at the same time, so he steals the things she grants.
Family-Unfriendly Aesop: Subverted in the case where the series as a whole, but the finale in particular, looked for awhile to be building up to a very Family Unfriendly Aesop: that sometimes Violence Really Is the Answer. Aang spoke with all of his past lives and was told by Roku, indirectly, about how many lives they could have saved if they had "acted decisively," and by Kyoshi and Yangchen how they were willing to do "anything" to save the lives of millions of people, and that as Avatar his duty was to put the well-being of the people of the world over his own path to enlightenment. Kuruk was the only one who provided a clear opposition to the idea, advising Aang to "actively shape your own destiny." Ultimately Aang chose to go with Kuruk's advice and found a way to stop Ozai for good without having to kill him.
The Great Divide: Lying through your teeth is an acceptable and effective way to resolve deeply ingrained disputes.
Fandom Berserk Button: Never, ever, ever, call this show an anime. It's a common mistake, but doing so gets certain people really angry.
"Funny Aneurysm" Moment: When Aunt Wu offers to tell Iroh's fortune in "Bato of the Water Tribe", Iroh says that for a man of his age, there was only one great surprise left and he preferred that to remain a mystery. A year later, Iroh's voice actor Mako had passed away and was unable to finish the series.
Also, in "Jet":
Katara: We were following instinct. Jet:You'll get yourself killed that way.
From "The Great Divide": "Settling feuds and making peace. All in a day's work for the Avatar." Tell that to the people of Yu Dao.
Genius Bonus: Dear lord, everything. Ozai's title in the finale is probably a reference to the Chinese "fenghuang" (the phoenix lord of demons, which is symbolic in and of itself).
The sheer number of accurate details from different cultures is immensely rewarding for anyone familiar with Asian history.
This is not just Ancient Asian history. Many of the best references and parallels are actually from 20th century China and Japan. Ba Sing Se especially will ring a lot of bells for anyone who's been to China lately.
Growing the Beard: In the trope sense, it seems most of the fans agree the show was great from the start but others like to point at various points in season 1 (and up to Season 2) as to where it "really" hit its stride.
Iroh exasperatedly telling Zuko he'll never find the Avatar in the first episode. Once you know Zuko's whole backstory, it comes off pretty damn callous in a rewatch since he's offhandedly saying "Oh, just give up on ever returning to your homeland, family, and birthright and go to bed." To be fair, they had no legit indication at the time that it was anything more than a Snipe Hunt used to manipulate Zuko to keep him from turning face in his exile.
Hama passing down bloodbending to Katara doesn't seem like a big deal until The Legend of Korra, where two of the series' main antagonists are bloodbenders, and they don't need a full moon to bloodbend.
In "The Storm", Sokka describes a dream he had where Momo talked ("You said some very unkind things.") Two seasons later in "Nightmares and Daydreams", one of Aang's hallucinations starts with Momo talking.
The final scene of "The Ember Island Players" can also come off as this, as many fans came away from The Last Airbender with the same sentiments.
Zuko: That... wasn't a good play. Aang: I'll say. Katara: No kidding. Suki: Horrible. Toph: You said it. Sokka: But the effects were decent.
On top of the constant complaints by the characters that their representations in the play are nothing like real life, accurately mirroring fan complaints of characterization and appearance in the film.
There's also Aang's "Wait, is that a woman playing me?" Aang's stunt double in the movie is female.
The first tie-in video game featured steampunk-heavy people who believed bending to be the source of the all of the world's problems as the antagonists. Now look what's happened in the first season of The Legend of Korra. Somewhere, "the Maker" must be laughing her ass off.
Memetic Sex Goddess: Every young female character on the show, but especially Katara, Toph, Azula, Mai, Jin and Ty Lee.
Mis-blamed: Some people claim the energybending in the finale was thrown in as a Deus ex Machina in order to avoid killing on a kids' show. Except that Mike and Bryan had that idea as the resolution of the conflict in the series bible from the beginning. And death has been dealt with plenty of times in the show before, so this was again, not a case of Executive Meddling censorship. Aang was never going to end the war in a violent way.
Moral Event Horizon: Zhao crosses it by killing the moon spirit, which indirectly leads to Yue's death.
Fire Lord Azulon crossed it by ordering his grandson's death.
Long Feng when he brainwashed Jet, and then killed him as soon as he came to his senses.
In-universe, Zuko feels his father crossed it being willing to commit genocide instead of dealing with a few rebellions. This breaks Zuko of his need to get his father's love at all costs.
Sokka: I always knew the Fire Lord was a bad guy, but his plan is just pure evil.
For the viewers, Ozai has a candidate for this trope almost every time he appears onscreen. The only time he didn't do or try to do something really horrible was his appearance in "The Awakening", when we finally got to see his face.
Sozin when he abandons Roku to die and then wipes out a race of people.
Sozin is an interesting example as he actually realizes that he crossed this and regrets it by the end of his life, ultimately realizing that all his success was meaningless because it wasn't worth the cost.
Narm: Some consider Zuko's reaction to Iroh being attacked by Azula in Book 2 chapter 8 to be this.
Narm Charm: Despite being somewhat narmtastic, Zuko's comment on Mai's beauty ("You're so beautiful when you hate the world.") comes across as being rather sweet and romantic, albeit in an awkward, emotionally repressed teen sort of way. Considering who the little moment is between, the awkwardness of exchanging 'romantic' comments is arguably why it's adorable.
It helps that the "I don't hate you" "I don't hate you, too" followed by the kiss that comes afterwards is Played for Laughs.
Also Zuko's practice attempts to become a good guy and join the Gaang in the beginning of Season 3.
Even Azula has her moments of this when she tries to seduce some of the boys in the beach episode.
Never Live It Down: Kyoshi is the most direct and pragmatic of the known avatars, but is flanderized by fans into being a Blood Knight who breaths and eats violence just because she took responsibility for Chin the Conqueror's death without a second thought and outright advising Aang to kill Ozai.
Some fans still mock Zuko for needing someone to help him defeat Azula in their final battle, despite the fact that he was clearly winning before she targeted Katara.
Despite being initially targeted at elementary school-age kids, the show become quite popular (likely even more popular) among preteens and teenagers.And young adults in their twenties. And not-so-young adults.
Toph being a girl rather than a boy was supposed to appeal to the female demographic... which it did, but the showrunners probably weren't expecting her to be equally popular with teen to college-aged men.
One of the Avatar video games on the XBOX 360 is popular among achievement hunters due to ease of getting 1000 points.
If you buy that it wasn't intentional on the part of the creators, which is a very hard sell. For most people the question is: was Azula messing with Zuko's head...or is she really trying seduce her brother?
It gets even more complicated when there are indications that it is not entirely one-sided. See the Incest Subtext entry on the main page for details.
Rooting for the Empire: Azula's ability to provoke this almost rivals Grand Admiral Thrawn. People want to see her win simply because they know it will be awesome to watch.
Her conquest of Ba Sing Se without lifting a finger is something that must be seen to be believed.
Ships That Pass In The Night: Teo, the wheelchair bound guy, and Ty Lee, one of the most acrobatic girls around, have some moderate popularity, despite the fact they never interacted and probably never saw each other. Fanfics that ship them usually include a mention of them meeting at Zuko's coronation to get around that problem in the easiest way available.
Spoiled by the Format: The invasion of the Fire Nation on the day of the solar eclipse is built up as the final confrontation, and the final blow to end the war. Too bad it happens in episodes ten and eleven out of twenty-one.
A group try to force Aang into the Avatar State. It works, but Aang almost destroys the complex and everyone inside.
Iroh using firebending to heat his tea while him and Zuko are pretending to be Earth Kingdom refugees. Zuko even hangs a lampshade on it ("For a wise old man, that was a STUPID move!")
Though some Alternate Character Interpretation exists- was the Dragon Of The West making a boneheadedly stupid move, or was he merely distracting Zuko to get him away from a group he thought might influence is nephew poorly, whilst simultaneously casting very slight doubt on himself and Zuko, ensuring the two wouldn't be on the best of terms?
Zhao killing the moon spirit, and right in front of Aang to boot. Best. Idea. Ever.
Despite having to reassure Wan Shi Tong that they wouldn't use his knowledge for war and violence, and him being suspicious of humans since the last one burnt down a section of the library and murdered a spirit with the knowledge, Sokka announces quite loudly that they will use the information they have to destroy the fire nation.
Gashwin, the Sandbender most responsible for stealing Appa. In addition to his Suspiciously Specific Denial when Katara first mentions that Appa was stolen, when Aang confronts him, he tries to defend himself by claiming he didn't know Appa belonged to the Avatar. Problem is, Appa is the last Sky Bison in existence, belonging to Aang, the last Airbender in existence, both very well-known facts. Who else could he have possibly thought Appa belonged to? Of course, if he did actually know he was stealing the Avatar's Team Pet, that makes him even more of an idiot.
What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?: While it seems to be primary a kids show, it does has its fair share of horror and especially in the third seasons deals with a series of very tough issues. The main character is the lone survivor of a genocide during which an ethnicity was completely wiped out and the 100 year long war seems to have spared not a single family from having lost relatives in combat or war crimes. Some episodes in the 3rd season even deal with an assassin hired to kill the protagonists and one of the heroes setting out to kill the murderer of her mother.
About the only tell (aside from the squeaky-clean language) is when characters are strangely incapable of outright suggesting they will kill each other. Further, while some characters are shown dying in the series, their deaths are never depicted outright (poked fun at in "Ember Island Players"). However, sometimes even Never Say "Die" can get lifted - such as showing Gyatso's remains a whopping two episodes into the series.
This show has two diametrically opposed Woobies at the same time, in Aang and Zuko especially after "The Storm" where we learn about Aang's feelings of guilt over running away from home and Zuko's abuse and exile at the hands of his own father (demonstrated nicely here).
Katara in episodes such as "The Southern Raiders".
Sokka gets some of this from time to time, too, especially in "The Waterbending Master", "The Siege of the North", and "The Boiling Rock".
Then there's Azula, who goes from one of the greatest Magnificent Bastards to The Woobie over the course of only four episodes. And it actually works.
Appa during Season 2 - the episode "Appa's Lost Days" has him go through a certain level of Hell.
Even the pathetic and powerless Ozai after the end of the war is Woobie-ish for some.
Iroh, in an Iron Woobie kind of way, in that he doesn't let it show very often. For most of the series, he looks like a funny, yet awesome character who always has Zuko's best interests at heart... But then we find out that he lost his son in the siege against Ba Sing Se that he led, and it goes downhill from there.
Ty Lee, considering her childhood of neglect, the fact that she only befriended Azula out of fear, or that all she wanted was to be a circus performer but Azula basically bullied her into giving up her dream to join her in her hunt for the Avatar.
Then there's Suki, as noted in Fridge Horror, due to her time as a prisoner-of-war in Boiling Rock. Horrible treatment aside, guards regularly let other guards enter prison cells to rough up the prisoners, and given the actions of one female guard, male guards sneaking into female prisoner cells isn't uncommon. Given the fact Suki is pretty ready to put Sokka down until she realizes its him when he makes a pass at her and the way she acts in general before it happens, combined with the 'favourite prisoner' theory, its entirely possible that Suki was at some point victim of Prison Rape, or at least an attempt at it.