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Tear Jerker / Avatar: The Last Airbender - Book One

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https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/avatar_book_1_tearjerker_5.jpg
"Goodbye, Sokka. I'll always be with you."
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The Boy in the Iceberg

  • After rewatching the series and finding out the rest of Katara's backstory, this exchange is like a punch in the heart.
    Katara: [while penguin sledding] I haven't done this since I was a kid!
    Aang: You still are a kid!
    • Her people are the victims of systematic genocide and she grew up in a decimated village just scraping by. She's fourteen, but Katara has been an adult with adult responsibilities since her mother's death when she was eight made even worse by the fact that Kya sacrificed herself to prevent the Fire Nation from discovering her Waterbender daughter and killing her. No chance to learn waterbending, fall in love (the only person within five years of her age in their tribe is her brother), or do anything but survive and hope that the war would end someday.
    • Sokka's failed attempt at attacking Zuko in the following episode suddenly seems a lot less funny in the wider context. Like Katara, he had to take on a lot at a young age. By the start of the series, he's wound up in the raid that killed his mother, seen all the adult males leave to fight in the war (which must have been done as a last-ditch effort), and he's trying to live up to the expectations of a 'man' of the tribe and be the warrior his father is.
      • He's not just trying to live up to the expectations of 'a man' in the tribe - as of the start of the series, he's the only "man" left in the village. It's his responsibility to protect the ones who can't protect themselves (which is everyone). The last time a Fire Nation ship came to the village, people - his mother - died. Sokka's not desperate because he's trying to prove his manliness, he's desperate because he's the village's only line of defense.
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    • The whole series manages to put a war into perspective, but what's really tearjerking is any moment involving Hakoda and his children. As much of a warrior he is, he is still a father. He left his children to defend a village, knowing that if anything serious did come their way, his own son and daughter, the last things he has in this world, would be at the forefront of the fighting. Anytime with them together, like in the Awakening and Day of Black Sun, you can visibly tell that while he's proud of Sokka becoming a capable warrior and commander, a part of him is slowly dying seeing his son on the front lines, and he's not able to be there to help Sokka.
    • And this fanart, really drives it home. Be glad you've never had to hunt your dinner.
  • When Katara realizes that Aang must have been stuck in the ice for a hundred years, Aang visibly freaks out and has to sit down, overcome. He likely knows that almost everyone he knew is dead; Gyatso, had the war never happened, would be long dead by this point regardless. And this is before Aang learns about the Air Nomad Genocide!
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The Avatar Returns

  • In addition to being a CMOA for Sokka, the attack on the village is utterly heartbreaking. Sokka knows that he hasn't got a chance, but he's all the village has left. He decided in cold blood to sacrifice his own life in order to maybe give what's left of his family another few minutes to try to run.
  • Katara and Aang looking at each other tearfully as the latter is taken prisoner by the Fire Nation. Especially since it retroactively became a Call-Back to how Hama was taken prisoner, with Kanna watching on. Probably one of the main reasons why Kanna lets her grandchildren leave the South Pole to rescue the Avatar.

The Southern Air Temple

  • One of the single greatest tearjerking moments in the first season was in the series' first Wham Episode. When Aang chases after Momo, he follows the lemur into a tent and discovers Monk Gyatso's skeleton, surrounded by a dozen dead firebenders. Considering that the episode had been very lighthearted up to this point, with Sokka and Katara doing their best to indulge Aang and hide the awful truth from him, the moment where he finally understood what happened was enough to bring on tears. Then he went into the Avatar State, prompting this line from Katara:
    Katara: Aang, I know you're upset... and I know how hard it is to lose the people you love. I went through the same thing when I lost my mom. Monk Gyatso and the other airbenders may be gone, but you still have a family! Sokka and I, we're your family now!
    • Let's also not forget: When Aang finally leaves the Avatar State and collapses in Katara's arms, he finally begins to realize and tragically accept what happened to all the other Air Nomads, if the Southern Air Temple was attacked..
      Aang: I really am the last airbender... (he's embraced by Katara)
    • The end of the episode as well. Appa flying away from the temple with Aang and Momo in the saddle looking back as it slowly shrinks into the distance and is obscured by clouds. He's literally leaving what was once his entire world behind again, but this time with the knowledge that it's pretty much gone and that he, Appa, and Momo are the only things left of it. The music doesn't help.
    • Also, you have to remember that, while Gyatso died a hundred years ago, to Aang, that was a few days ago. He was playing pai sho with Gyatso very recently. He must have already known that everyone he knew was likely dead, but this is the moment that he was really forced to grips with it.

The King of Omashu

  • A small one. Bumi, for all of about 5 seconds, was actually sane when Aang finally figured out who he was. At this point it's a pretty good tearjerker, since he's the only person left from Aang's childhood.
    • His very tone of voice is much softer and warmer than usual. You can just hear the affection in his words when Aang throws his arms around him. Their hug is very much a Tears of Joy moment.
    Bumi: Oh, Aang. It's good to see you.
    • It's the long lasting friendships, particularly when you see Aang and Bumi sliding down the mail chute. Also goes for when it's revealed that Aang's friendship with Gyatso transcends lifetimes, as Roku was also his friend.

Imprisoned

  • This exchange:
    Haru: Katara, thank you for bringing my father back to me. I only wish there were some way—
    Katara: (Turns away) I know.
    • Related to such, earlier the two share how they feel closest to their missing parent, Haru by Earthbending and Katara wearing her mother's necklace, respectively. But at the same time, while they do feel comfort, it still can't replace the presence of their missing parent.
      Katara: This necklace is all I have left of her.
      Haru: And it's not enough.
      Katara: No.
  • Haru’s capture. He had risked his life to save an old man from being killed by a collapsing mine using his Earthbending. What does this man do to repay him? He turns him over to the Fire Nation, seemingly for no reason.
    • Following this up, the scene with Haru’s mother. She had been afraid of having her son taken away after losing her husband. Because he used his Earthbending to save someone’s life, her worst fear became a reality.

The Waterbending Scroll

  • Katara is trying to learn some moves. Aang performs the waterbending moves with ease, and politely tries to show a frustrated Katara how it's done. Katara totally blows up at the poor kid about bragging and being "so incredibly gifted." Aang's lower lip trembles, and he looks like he's going to cry. Katara immediately apologizes for the outburst, but it was sad to see young Aang so hurt, like a real kid his age.
  • In a way, Zuko using Kya’s necklace in an attempt to bribe Katara into telling him where Aang and Sokka were. Her mother was killed by the Fire Nation when she was little. Now here was the prince of the Fire Nation waving her dead mother’s necklace around and taunting her with it.

Jet

  • The scene with the old man. He’s literally just minding his own business walking through the woods when he’s suddenly approached by Jet and his friends. The old man tries to run, but is cornered and pinned down by Pipsqueak. The man then begs for mercy as Jet comes dangerously close to kicking him in the face. It makes one wonder if Jet has attacked other innocent people under the belief they were Fire Nation and how many of them weren’t so lucky to be saved.
  • Katara learning that Jet really was planning on flooding a nearby village in an extremist tactic of getting rid of the Fire Nation. Jet was her first crush and she almost helped him kill several people. Not to mention the obvious regret of ignoring her brother’s warnings in favor of Jet.
    • The way Jet talks about Sokka after he reveals his true nature to them makes it sound like he might have killed him. The audience knows that's not the case, but Katara certainly doesn't and it puts her tearing up and asking "Where's Sokka?" in a very different light.

The Storm

  • Aang’s dream at the beginning, especially when Gyatso appears and asks him "Why did you disappear?" before fading away when Aang reaches out to him. Aang clearly is extremely guilty about not being there to protect his people from the Fire Nation.
  • When the other airbender children wouldn't let Aang play with them, because he's the avatar, seeing him as an unfair advantage to either team.
  • Gyatso: "Aang, I'm not going to let them take you away from me." But Aang was already gone. Both Aang and Gyatso had no idea they were seeing each other for the last time. They never got to say goodbye to each other.
  • Pictured on the main page, we see a 13 year old Zuko get his scar. When he proclaims he won't fight his father, he bows before the Fire Lord and looks up, shaking and sobbing in fear as Ozai stands in front of him. The look in his eyes and the scream that follows is haunting.
    • To say nothing of the look of betrayal, pain, and absolute despair on Iroh's face as he turns away to avoid seeing his brother do such a horrible thing.
      • Even worse when you consider the fact that it basically all happened because he let Zuko into the war chamber with him, Iroh most definitely feels guilty about this.
    • And next to him Azula is grinning like a maniac. If it's your first run through the series, you don't even know who that girl is, and probably didn't notice her at all, but when you go back and see it again, the fact that Azula is enjoying this shit just makes it all worse.
    • After Iroh tells the story, emphasis is added to his story and Zuko's newly discovered nature by cutting to a still frame of him when he was an innocent young kid with a lightning strike transitioning to the present perpetually angry, hurting teenager he is now.
      • The changes in lighting and color palette, and the younger Zuko's smile giving way to current Zuko's steely glare, make this double as Nightmare Fuel.
  • Everyone we see in this episode? The monks, the little airbender children? They're all dead. Every last one.

The Blue Spirit

  • A brief moment when Zuko learns about Zhao increasing his efforts to capture Aang. While Iroh tries to convince his nephew there's still a chance he can find the Avatar before Zhao, Zuko bemoans that his chances are slim due to Zhao's surplus resources. Most notable during this scene is the crack in Zuko's voice and look of absolute despair that crosses his face. A combination of good animation and Dante Basco's performance makes for a brief but tearjerking moment.
    Zuko: "My honor. My throne. My country. I'm about to lose it all..."
  • And of course, there's the episode's Bittersweet Ending. While Aang successfully escaped Zhao's capture and gets the frozen frogs to Katara and Sokka, he's left with the bitter realization that even after their brief truce, Zuko rejected his offer of friendship.

Bato of the Water Tribe

  • Sokka's flashback of him begging Hakoda to let him fight with the men, then crying when they embraced. "I'm really going to miss you".
    • When Sokka and Katara left Aang? No matter how stupid it was for Aang to hide the map to their father, his expression when Katara says she's leaving is heartbreaking.
    • And don't forget when Sokka yells at Aang for hiding the map.
      • If you think about it, just a few episodes ago, Katara told Aang that she and Sokka were his family now. Then news of their father comes up and they seem to completely forget that fact. Aang was afraid that they were going to leave him now that they could find out where their father was (even though they did say they had to stay with Aang, but he had left already). This is shortly after Aang had discovered that everyone he knew and loved (except Bumi) were gone. He would have been completely alone, with no one to help him pull through. This itself is a tearjerker as well.

The Deserter

  • When Aang accidentally burns Katara. Sokka shouting, "You burned my sister!" can bring the tears.
    • Jeong Jeong talking to Katara after telling her that she has healing powers. He laments that his own ability is firebending as he sees fire as destructive if not controlled, and the struggle to control yourself while using it as destructive to the bender.

The Northern Air Temple

  • The Mechanist: When Aang gets angry at him for disrespecting the temple, he very somberly explains that he is there as a refugee trying to help his people, especially his son. When the Gaang finds out that he is making weapons for the Fire Nation, he looks so broken. He did all of this to protect the people at the temple, and to ensure a good future for Teo, whom he clearly loves very dearly.
    • This is also sad for Aang as there was a glimmer of hope for him that at least some airbenders survived the genocide and had descendants. It's not hard to understand Aang's anger at the mistreatment and destruction of his people's culture after finding out he is the sole survivor of a people.

The Waterbending Master

  • The scene where Iroh finds the ship bombed by pirates. His face when he believes that Zuko was murdered was one of the strongest examples of his love for Zuko in the first season. It's the way he frantically yells Zuko's name, sees the wreckage, and then repeats his name in a grief-stricken voice that really drives it home.
    • It's even more heart-wrenching when you remember that Iroh, who already lost his own son, now sees Zuko as if he were his own as well. To Iroh, it's as though he lost a second son, after having already lost a first.

The Siege of the North, Part 1

  • The scene between Iroh and Zuko before Zuko leaves to infiltrate the city and capture Aang really brings home how Iroh's love for Zuko is really no less genuine than, say, Katara and Sokka's mom's love for them.
    Iroh: "I'm sorry, I just nag you because, well, ever since I lost my son..."
    Zuko: "Uncle, you don't have to say it."
    Iroh: "... I think of you as my own."
  • Aang's despair upon returning from attacking the Fire Nation ships, having realized that there are too many for him to defeat. The exchange below really encapsulates the pressure he's under, not just for this episode, but the entire series.
    Yue: "But you have to. You're the Avatar."
    Aang: "I'm just one kid."

The Siege of the North, Part 2

  • When Zuko has an unconscious Aang in that cave and is talking to him about how much his life sucks and all the issues he has. He's really vulnerable at that moment, even though he insists that he's strong and that he doesn't care that he's "unlucky."
    • To add to it, Zuko says that his father considers Azula was born lucky, while Zuko was lucky to be born.
  • Yue's Heroic Sacrifice.
    Sokka (softly): She's gone. (He hugs her body tightly) She's gone.
    • And then what happens after she gives herself up. She appears as a ghost, an angelic, beautiful ghost that whispers "Goodbye, Sokka... I'll always be with you..." before kissing him one last time, and disappearing.
    • When Yue was born, her father had a vision of a beautiful and brave young woman giving her life for the world. He knew all along his daughter was going to die and now, the vision has come to pass.

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