Original Air Nomads
- Actual Pacifist: The Air Nomads focused on lives of peace and detachment from worldly desires through meditation. As such they abhorred violence in general and develop styles based on dodging and evading.
- Beware the Nice Ones: They were friendly, easy-going monks that'll never turn away a hungry guest, had no military and according to Turf Wars, accepted people of all sexual orientations without judgment, but Gyatso's remains prove they took plenty of Fire Nation soldiers down with them during the genocide and Aang implied it could only be due to an ambush they went down or they'd still be around.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The Air Nomads are primarily based on Shaolin and Tibetan Buddhist monks and their slaughter and near-extinction parallels that of the invasion and sinification of Tibet by the Chinese Communist Party.
Aang's guardian at the Southern Air temple. He frequently tried to keep Aang from working towards his Avatar duties, preferring what was best for Aang over "what was best for the world"; while he was trying to look out for Aang's well-being, this might have made Aang more reluctant to face his destiny.
- Badass Pacifist: Subverted. He was almost certainly this way before the Fire Nation attacked, but when the chips were down, he killed hundreds of them before he went down himself.
- Cool Old Guy: In the first flashback he appears in, he uses airbending to pie some stern-looking monks. Also doubles as his Establishing Character Moment, as he uses the opportunity to have the Avatar practice his airbending skills.
- Give Him a Normal Life: Towards Aang. The other elder air nomads wanted to jumpstart his avatar training but Gyatso wanted him to have a normal air nomad life until the traditional age of 16. He wants this because he knows that's what Aang wants and thinks that would be better for him.
- Intergenerational Friendship: With Aang. Doubly so because he was also Childhood Friends with Roku, Aang's previous incarnation.
- Last Stand: The skeleton of a pacifist monk, lying on top of a PILE of fire soldier skeletons. Note that when said pile of skeletons were living and breathing, they were powered up a hundredfold by Sozin's Comet. Airbending is also never shown to have any inherently lethal abilities other than Razor Wind over the course of the series at least not until The Legend of Korra, where it was used to suffocate by pulling the air from people's lungs, so this is impressive indeed.
- Meaningful Name: Gyatso was also the name of the Dalai Lama at time. Make of that what you will.
- Membership Token: In flashback, he is shown playing a White Lotus tile, implying that he was a member of the Order of the White Lotus.
- Mentor Occupational Hazard: It wasn't old age that killed him.
- Parental Substitute: Implied to be the closest thing Aang ever had to a parent, let alone a father.
- Posthumous Character: In the main narrative, he is long since dead. We learn of him through Aang's flashbacks.
- Blow You Away: Was an airbender.
- Famed In-Story: Zaheer proclaims him to be the wisest airbender to ever live.
- Flight: He is said to have learned how to permanently float, which is effectively this. Zaheer eventually figured it out for himself.
- Levitating Lotus Position: His locket depicts him doing this.
- Meaningful Name: Laghima is the name of a magical ability believed to come from spiritual practices, such as meditation or yoga. In particular, the ability of laghima is being able to become almost weightless.
- Posthumous Character: Long dead by the time mention is made of him, but obviously factors into Zaheer's motivations in some form.
- The Power of the Void: The verse in his locket alludes to this, though it's speaking of emotional attachment rather than a literal place."Let go your earthly tether,
enter the void,
empty, and become wind."
- Shrouded in Myth: As Zaheer himself notes, Guru Laghima's legend may be exaggerated, but such tales often have some fraction of truth to them. As Zaheer proves in the end, at least one of the myths about him was true, and unaided weightless flight is definitely possible.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Inspired Zaheer when it came to airbending long after his death.
The Air Acolytes
By The Legend of Korra, their numbers have grown, and they have re inhabited the temples left behind by the original Nomads as well as a new one outside of Republic City
The first chapter the Gaang meets.
- Authority in Name Only: Hei-Won and Won-Yee introduce themselves as the co-presidents, through later we find out every member is a co-president. When Aang asks the Yu Dao chapter if they are like this, they dismiss the idea.
- Cuteness Proximity: Momo has this effect on them when they meet Aang. Later a few of them seen touching his tail.
- Fangirl: All of them are this to Aang, especially Won-Yee.
- Psychotic Smirk: Won-Yee flashes one to Katara, after referring to her as Aang's first girlfriend.
- Badass Normal: Even though they are not benders, they are able to use the principles of airbending as a martial art. In The Promise they fought both sides of the Yu Dao revolution and were more than a match for anyone. In The Rift, however, they do not do much fighting, mainly because Aang wont let them.
- Car Fu: Jingbo uses a forklift to try and take out one of the Rough Rhinos, but is stopped from "squishing" him by Xing Ling and Yee-li.
- Fish out of Water: In The Rift they have some trouble rectifying what they know of Air culture with Aang's interpretation, as well as dealing with the Gaang's rather blasé feelings about rules. Not helping matters is Aang and Toph's constant arguing over every decision.
- Innocently Insensitive: In The Promise, not knowing that they were the marks of a Master Airbender, Xing Ling is quite shocked when Aang responds to the reveal that her tattoos are real with anger. In The Rift she wears a head band to try and cover them up.
- Pretty Fly for a White Guy: Take on the trappings of Air Nomad culture without truly understanding it, which Aang at first finds insulting. After they prove themselves, he takes them under his wing so that he has people to share his culture with.
- Ship Tease: Yee-li takes an interest in Toph's metalbending student, The Dark One, in part three of The Rift.
- Tagalong Kid: Jingbo, as the youngest, fills this role in The Rift.
- The Medic: In both The Promise and The Rift they help take care of injured.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: In The Rift Aang enters the Spirit World while he and the three acolytes are having a picnic; they are very unconcerned and continue eating. The only comment made is to reassure the shopkeeper that there is nothing to worry about.
New Air Nation
After Harmonic Convergence passed, non-benders around the globe spontaneously started exhibiting abilities in airbending. Team Avatar and Tenzin's family set out on a quest to gather them up in an endeavor to rebirth the Air Nomad nation. This section covers those new airbenders not covered in other categories. For others, reference Opal in the Beifong Family section, or Commander Bumi in the Tenzin's Family section.
- All Loving Heroes: The New Air Nation seeks to help maintain peace in the world and took an oath not to instigate violence.
- Blow You Away: They have the newfound ability (new to them, anyway) to airbend.
- The Cavalry: Jinora leads them in a combined effort to force Zaheer to the ground when he was about to win, allowing Korra to take him down.
- Combination Attack: The most devastating attack the Airbenders can unleash upon a foe as a group are giant whirlwinds, capable of drawing down flying enemies, blowing away soldiers and slowing down mecha-troopers, or even throwing off the aim of Colossi with Spirit-profaning super-weapons.
- How Do I Shot Web?: Very few of them have any natural aptitude in airbending, so they are incredibly obtuse in its use. Under the tutelage of Tenzin and his children, they eventually get better.
- Impossibly Cool Clothes: After the timeskip, the airbenders dispense with the traditional Air Nomad monk robes and now wear formfitting wingsuits that eliminate the need for a glider staff as a flight aid, though its design still pays homage to traditional vestments with its red-orange-yellow coloration. According to the NYCC 2014 panel, Asami invented them.
- Mass Super-Empowering Event: They all manifested these abilities after the Harmonic Convergence.
- Melting Pot: Since the original Air Nomads were exterminated a long time ago, people getting Airbending through Harmonic Convergence are all non-benders from the other nations. So far, their known recruits include the last descendants of the original Air Nomads (Tenzin's family), a Republic City citizen (Daw), an Airbender acolyte of unknown origin (Otaku), a member of the Bei Fong family from Zaofu (Opal) and several Earth Kingdom citizens, mostly from Ba Sing Se. Tenzin places a lot of effort into teaching them the Air Nomads' philosophy, history and customs in an attempt to rebuild the culture.
- One Riot, One Ranger: Once they take on their watchman-like duties, their low numbers constrain them to invoke this trope. It's not precisely one "ranger", but they send less than you'd expect to handle a crisis. It's deconstructed when the governor of Yi points out that it's not nearly enough to fight the hundreds of bandits in the countryside.
- Order Reborn: The whole point of their story arc in Book 3 is to rebuild the Air Nomads after they were exterminated by the Fire Nation as the starting point of Last Airbender. Regardless, their numbers are still fairly small, as noted in the Book 4 premiere.
- Reality Ensues: Despite Tenzin's claims that the Air Nation would fulfill Korra's duties during her recovery, that ultimately was not the case. While the new Air Nation were able to help out a number of people in the Earth Kingdom and proved to be a good fighting force, their numbers are far from being enough to keep a large continent stable. This allowed for Kuvira to take over the nation since some of the areas had no choice but to submit to her since the Airbenders were not enough to save them. Continued on in Turf Wars, they can put up a good fight, but they still call in Korra's team against the triads.
- Took a Level in Badass: Following the Time Skip, the new Air Nation has evolved into a global peacekeeping force, albeit one spread thin on account of the Earth Kingdom being a large continent and their own membership being somewhat small. Still, the mere sight of Kai and Opal in airbender gliding suits was enough to scare a bandit gang raiding a village, so they must have a good reputation.
- We Help the Helpless: After Korra gets waylaid by the Red Lotus, and President Raiko voices concern over the state of the world during her convalescence, Tenzin and his airbenders take up the mantle of upholding the well-being of the world in her stead; a stark contrast from the detached nature of previous Air Nomad culture before the genocide. They may not be successful, but they'll do their best.
An Earth Kingdom citizen and new airbender thanks to Harmonic Convergence. He takes up the offer to join the Air Nomads to escape the police chasing him.
- The Ace: Downplayed. Though not nearly as trained and skilled as Jinora or Tenzin, he is probably the most intuitive of all the new airbenders with the power, save perhaps Opal.
- Ambiguously Brown: Noticeably on the browner side of the Earth Kingdom.
- Annoying Younger Sibling: Initially acts like this towards Mako and Bolin, given his lying nature and ungratefulness. Kai ends up getting Mako and Bolin lost in Ba Sing Se.
- The Artful Dodger: He seems to be very comfortable with his life in the streets and likes to steal way too much. He even robbed the family that tried to adopt him. Some time under the Dai Li's boot disabused him of this tendency.
- Badass Adorable: Averted, initially given his backstabbing ways. Played straight after his brief imprisonment.
- Beta Couple: He and Jinora qualify probably to every other (non-married) couple, including Bolin/Opal, given that the couple have the least drama or relationship problems.
- Big Ol' Eyebrows: Has thick eyebrows.
- Big Damn Hero: Thanks to surviving P'Li's blast, he was able to fake his own death and determine this fellow students' location and the Red Lotus' plan with them. He also managed to save Bolin and the others as the Northern Air Temple was crumbling to pieces.
- Bratty Half-Pint: He's a self-centered, ungrateful troublemaker with some serious attitude problems. Mako sees him as nothing more than a nuisance, but the others try to justify Kai's behaviour by the fact that he's still just a kid.
- Brilliant, but Lazy: Pre-Character Development, even though he proved to be quite talented, Kai only used his airbending skills to steal from the rich.
- The Bus Came Back: Somewhat, while he reappears for Book 4 episodes 11, 12, and 13, he doesn't speak at all in any of the episodes.
- Character Development: Goes from screwing over anyone who helps him for his own gain, getting into trouble, to then being willing to sacrifice his life for his fellow airbenders over the course of Book 3. Lampshaded by himself during the Season 3 finale; when Mako mentions how he used to give Kai a hard time, and Kai says that he probably deserved it back then.
- Child Prodigy: He appears to be the most promising of all the new airbenders during "Original Airbenders" in terms of skill.
- Child Soldiers: Was almost forced to becomes one when he was captured by the Dai Li.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Before Character Development, Kai had no problem using people for his own gain.
- Demoted to Extra: After playing a main role in Book 3, he is prominently seen with Opal helping an Earth village in episode 1 of Book 4 and then isn't seen again until episode 11, where he has a non-speaking role, additionally the case in episodes 12 and 13.
- Disney Death: Blown out of the sky by P'Li. He comes to a few hours later when a baby air bison licks him while he's hanging upside down from a little tree.
- Everyone Has Standards: Kai may be a thief who has no problem with backstabbing, but being kidnapped by the Dai Li showed that he draws the line of doing actual physical harm to other people.
- Expy: DiMartino reveals: "He was a little big of Aang, a little bit of Wan — we wanted to have an adventurous kid with a slightly shadowy background."
- Friend to All Living Things: Kai takes an instant liking to the baby sky bison and hurting innocent creatures is a major anger point for him.
- Greed: Kai will do anything for money, including betraying the people who saved him.
- Happily Adopted: Zigzagged. While the family he was taken into were decent people, Kai repaid them back by stealing their money. He tried again with the Krew and screwed them over, but after tangling with the Dai Li he truly turned over a new leaf.
- Heartwarming Orphan: Zigzagged. He lies to Team Avatar about how he lost his parents and the revelation that he stole his adopted family's money. Makes it even worse with him backstabbing Team Avatar, after they saved his butt. Then he a Took a Level in Kindness.
- I Got Bigger: In Book 4, Kai has gotten taller, muscular, and his voice is deeper. This is lampshaded by Bolin.
- Instant Expert: He shows excellent potential as an airbender, performing fluid, effective attacks without any prior training. Given many of the traits of being a thief meld well with airbender principles, it makes sense that he'd take to it. Later on, when training at the Northern Air Temple, he's clearly the best of the bunch.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He abuses the trust of the Krew to escape punishment, clearly not intending to join the Air Nomads. He also robbed his adoptive parents. And later robs Mako and Bolin... However, he later shows he's not that bad. While in Dai Li custody, he goes out of his way to help the fellow Airbenders who were captured alongside him, and try not to hurt them. There's also his relationship with Jinora that brings out his better side.
- Just a Kid: Everyone, especially Lin Beifong treat him as this. However, he is no mere child and doesn't like being treated as one.
- Kleptomaniac Hero: Before turning over a new leaf, Kai was prone to stealing money off of unsuspecting people.
- Laser-Guided Karma: He gets kidnapped by Dai Li officers after his temptations of stealing gold from the middle ring citizens of Ba Sing Se get the better of him.
- Marilyn Maneuver: Uses his airbending skills for this to get close to wealthy Ba Sing Se people, helping them recompose themselves while stealing their wallets. In the finale, Jinora uses this same ability to steal the cuff keys from her captors.
- Meaningful Name: One of the few meanings of his name in Japanese is "restoration", which alludes to him (along with others) restoring the Air Nation.
- Mysterious Past: Other than him being an orphan, his entire background is shady.
- Not So Different: Kai apparently isn't too different from Mako and Bolin back in their Street Urchin days. The brothers have opposite reactions to this; Bolin sees Kai as a surrogate little brother in need of guidance, while Mako sees Kai as untrustworthy.
- Official Couple: With Jinora in Book 4.
- Opposites Attract: Kai, the sneaky, stealing (before Character Development) Jerk with a Heart of Gold became an Official Couple with Jinora, the polite, rule-abiding Nice Girl.
- Out of Focus: He only appears in the first, 11th, and final two episodes of Book 4 (and only gets any dialogue in the first), which is a step-down from his primary role assumed in Book 3.
- Parental Abandonment: He lost his parents under some circumstances, but his story about bandits killing them was clearly a lie.
- Pet the Dog: Keeps a fellow imprisoned Airbender safe, at the cost of being put in solitary.
- The Power of Love: Trounces the Drill Sergeant Nasty who grabbed Jinora.
- Puppy Love: He and Jinora obviously like each other.
- Put On The Bus: Disappears for ten episodes in Book 4 after appearing in the first episode.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: He is the Red Oni to Opal's Blue Oni, which is best demonstrated in "After All These Years": when the food they had prepared to give to an impoverished village was stolen by a bandit, Kai still jumps right after the said bandit without thinking of a plan, especially after his suit was slashed - an extremely reckless move that could have cost him his life had he been alone. When he begins to lose control and is falling to his death, Opal doesn't move just yet. She waits and listens before taking action.
- Shipper on Deck: Was concerned over the relationship problems between Opal and Bolin.
- The Sneaky Guy: Kai (pre-Character Development) could steal money with hardly anyone suspecting something.
- Sticky Fingers: He is a magpie for gold and doesn't care about who he hurts to get it.
- Street Urchin: A status Mako believes makes it unlikely that Kai has an honest interest in rebuilding the Air Nation, or an interest in anything other than himself for that matter.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Kai is a street urchin, artful dodger, will do anything for money, and is shipped with Jinora. Sounds a lot like Skoochy, Mako and Bolin's "friend" first seen in Book 1.
- Took a Level in Badass: By the time of "The Ultimatum", he's much braver and more altruistic. By the end of the episode, he is the Northern Air Temple's only hope left.
- Took a Level in Idealism: At first, Kai only went with Korra and the others to escape punishment. Through being captured by the Dai Li, rescued (again) by Team Avatar, spending time with Jinora, and training as an Air Nomad transformed Kai tremendously; he became a selfless individual who now strives for peace.
- Took a Level in Kindness: In the episode "In Harm's Way", his harrowing experience in Dai Li captivity and the camaraderie built with his fellow captive airbenders has mellowed him. He is still a magnet for trouble, but for the more light-hearted kind.
- Tuckerization: Josh Hamilton, who wrote the first episode Kai appeared in, named Kai after his son.
- Ungrateful Bastard: He was adopted after losing his parents, but repaid that by robbing them blind, and then also proceeds to exploit the hospitality of Korra and company. He loses the ingratitude after running afoul of the Dai Li's conscription/enslavement program for convergence-manifested airbenders.
One of the people empowered with airbending by Harmonic Convergence, and the first recruit to rebuild the Air Nomads.
- Back for the Finale: Daw gets a line in the penultimate episode in the two-part finale, still sporting the shaven head and now sporting the Airbender Wingsuit like his comrades.
- Badass Moustache: He still keeps the mustache even after otherwise going bald, but levels up in the airbending department.
- Bald of Awesome: He didn't get it willingly, but it certainly comes in handy when it lets him sense danger from behind. Afterwards, he becomes a vocal advocate of head-shaving.
- Blow You Away: Gained airbending thanks to Harmonic Convergence. At first, he suffered from severe Power Incontinence, but thanks to Tenzin's rough training (and shaving) he is now much more refined, down to being able to sense minute disturbances in the very air around him.
- Bring My Brown Pants: Invoked in "A Breath of Fresh Air."Tenzin: It is absolutely my pleasure to meet you, Daw. I have never met a new airbender before. Well, at least one whose diapers I didn't have to change.
Daw: Actually, I just fell off a bridge...so I could use a fresh diaper right about now.
- Butt-Monkey: Suffers from this quite a bit in Book 3. He has Power Incontinence when he first gets airbending, is often on the receiving end of Meelo's Drill Sergeant Nasty tendencies, and gets his head shaved by Tenzin only to learn seconds after that it's actually voluntary. The latter at least turned out to be a blessing in disguise when it let him sense an attack from behind, and his misfortune ended after that.
- Character Development: Daw goes from being terrified of his new Airbending powers to accepting them as an unexpected blessing.
- Driven to Suicide: Implied, as he ended up on top of a bridge and looked suspiciously like he was thinking of throwing himself off. Thankfully, Korra talked him out of it.
- I Just Want to Be Normal: He really didn't want airbending at first (not surprising, since he didn't have any control over it), but after talking with Korra he decided to give it a shot and become an Air Nomad.
- My Significance Sense Is Tingling: His bald head allows him to sense an incoming attack from behind. Beforehand, he was despondent that he learned head-shaving was elective after having it done to him. After experiencing the benefits firsthand, he then tries to convince other air nomad recruits to go bald as well.
- Power Incontinence: He has a very hard time controlling his new airbending, and almost jumps off a bridge to stop endangering people until Korra talks him down. He's gotten over it by mid-season.
- Took a Level in Badass: While he isn't an Airbending master by the end of the series finale, he shows more acceptance and control over his airbending than he did in his first appearance.
One of the new post-Harmonic Convergence airbenders. Despite the urgings of his mother and the Krew, he refuses to do anything with his new powers.
- Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: In particular his overbearing mother, who alternately gushes over him or talks about his basement dweller habits, especially after he finally does join the Air Nomads.
- Basement-Dweller: His mother urges him to join the other airbenders just so he will move out of the family home, but he refuses (initially).
- Character Development: When Ryu first appeared, he was a lazy, Basement-Dweller who wanted nothing to do with the New Air Nation, but, by the end of Book 3, he officially joins. Three years later, Ryu now has a job and takes it seriously, though his coworkers still don't think too highly of him. In addition, Ryu is rather disgruntled at his parents visiting him. He then plays a minor, but vigorous role in the final battle against Kuvira.
- Comic-Book Fantasy Casting: His appearance is based on Ki Hyun Ryu.
- The Friend Nobody Likes: It's apparent that the other airbenders and even Korra (by evidence that she'd voice such an opinion in that context to Jinora and Opal) don't have the highest opinion of him after he joins the Air Nomads.
- Hikikomori: He's not a very outgoing person, to say the least. His mom was desperate to get him out of the house and interact with living people for a change.
- Knight In Sour Armor: He is seen at Jinora's ceremony in traditional airbender robes, indicating that he did eventually join the Air Nation. However, his body language indicates that he's less than enthusiastic. He's like this at his new job, especially when he has to put up with his doting parents or clueless annoying tourists.
- Like Father, Like Son: We get to see his father in "Beyond the Wilds", and it's pretty clear which of his parents he takes after.
- Refusal of the Call: Completely uninterested in becoming part of the new Air Nation, despite his mother's best efforts. Though the season finale reveals he was eventually talked into doing it.
- Skunk Stripe: In Book 4, he's bleached most of his hair save a stripe from the top to the back, the overall effect being that his hair roughly matches the pattern of a sky bison's fur. This is to reflect Ki Hyun Ryu bleaching his hair since Ryu's last appearance.
- Strong Family Resemblance: This◊ shot of Ryu with his parents shows that he inherited all of his physical looks from his father. The only differences being in hairstyle and Ryu having slightly more Perma-Stubble than his father along with also having dyed most of his hair blond.
- Took a Level in Badass: Goes from a lazy Basement-Dweller to an active Air Nomad who has shown proper control over his airbending.
- Took a Level in Idealism: Ryu became more serious about his Air Nomad work.
- Voiced by: Carlos Alazraqui
A non-bending Air Acolyte who gains airbending after Harmonic Convergence. Due to his previous training, he is already an expert in Air Nomad culture and history.
- Ascended Fanboy: He was a former Air Acolyte (devoting himself to studying the Air Nomads' culture), who then became an actual airbender through Harmonic Convergence.
- Jumped at the Call: He had already chosen to devote himself to the Air Nomads' culture long before he became an Airbender, so there was most likely little to do to convince him to join.
- Meaningful Name: "Otaku" is a Japanese slang term for someone overly enthusiastic about a certain topic; i.e. a "nerd."
- Nerd Glasses: A small, round pair because he's based on the
- Teacher's Pet: Is far more interested in Tenzin's history classes than most of his fellow airbenders.
A baby Sky Bison calf that Kai befriends in Book 3. He becomes Kai's Sky Bison companion.
- Badass Adorable: Introduced as a baby Sky Bison and managed to carry five people, four of whom were grown adults.
- The Cutie: A baby Sky Bison? Adorable!
- Giant Flyer: He doesn't start off as one since we see him first as a calf, but he grows into one after the Time Skip.
- Loyal Animal Companion: After Kai rescued a bunch of the baby bison in "Original Airbenders", one of them takes a shine to him, and Kai dubs the calf "Lefty". After the three year Time Skip, he's grown to full size and serves as the bison mount for Kai and Opal when on deployment.
Opal's pet sky bison with chronic respiratory ailments.
- Abhorrent Admirer: Opal is not particularly pleased that the bison chooses the airbender.Opal: And no, you can't pick another one. Trust me, I checked.
- Giant Flyer: Leaky his nose may be, he's still a faithful sky bison mount to Opal.
- The Pig Pen: Constantly running nose, slobbery, and Toph remarks that Juicy smells worse than Appa.