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Avatar: the Last Airbender
by yo go re

When this girl grows up, Buckcherry is going to write a song about her.

Azula is the power-hungry daughter of Fire Lord Ozai and the younger sister of Prince Zuko. Twisted and manipulative, she delights in torturing her brother and she is a deadly Firebender in her own right. Azula intends on getting the Avatar first and she is determined to keep her brother from regaining his royal title no matter what.

It's funny to think about this now, but back when Avatar was airing, and Zuko was the series' villain, fans took the fact that the firebender silhouetted in the opening credits was clearly a female to mean that Zuko's sister was going to be the one to teach Aang firebending, and thus would be the heroic member of her family. ...yeah, we were all way wrong! See, this is why listening to fan theories is a giant waste of time. [That's Mephisto! She's going to introduce mutants! --ed.]

The Azula figure looks much more like the cartoon version than Katara did (which is to say, I didn't feel the need to directly compare her to the animation models to make sure she looked right). She's got a sinister grin on her face, and a few loose strands of hair on her forehead - because, as we all know, "loose hair" is the number one signifier of losing your grip. She's supposed to be 14, but the sculpt makes her look older.

Azula wears what is presumably traditional Fire Nation garb: it's dark colors - red and black with gold accents - and has a very martial feeling, as though she's wearing armor even in her daily life. Also her shoes curl up to points at the toe, because the Fire Nation has a vaguely "Fantasy Persian"/"Ancient Imperial Chinese" feeling to its culture. Props to not putting her in some stereotypically "girly" outfit, either: she's like Phasma, wearing standardized clothes that are tailored to her, but not intended for showing off. The armor covers the shins, knees, upper arms, and torso, with a "skirt" piece and loincloth hanging below the belt, and a bit of a shawl over the shoulders.

The articulation here is mostly the same as it was on Katara: swivel/hinge joints in the ankles, hips, wrists, elbows, and shoulders; double-hinges in the knees; swivels in the thighs and waist; and a balljointed chest and head. The elbows are a little weird, since the size of the sleeves pevents them from bending very far, but at least she doesn't repeat their range of motion with a swivel in the biceps. Firebending is based on Northern Shaolinquan, and Azula definitely has the joints needed to achieve some cool poses.

Mattel never made an Azula, and they never would have (because "girl") but if they had, you can bet they'd have given her some kind of big, flame-shaped missile launcher. We feel confident saying that, because that's what they gave Zuko. DST, in contrast, has given her a bunch of extra hands (straight for martial arts strikes, gripping for holding accessories, or the fists she's wearing in the packaging), plus one more left hand that's got the first two fingers pointed and is firing lightning. The lightning is chunky - more like flames than electricity - but maybe they're trying to split the difference between the two? The extra plastic on the hand, meant to help hold the lightning in place, sticks out too far and thus makes it look like she's got extra fingers on top of her other fingers.

This Series 2 release comes with the same elemental effect Series 1 Aang had, just molded in translucent blue instead of clear plastic. You know, to be fire instead of air. (Just Azula's fire: she's the only one whose flames are hot enough to be blue rather than red.) It's a big swoosh with two loops at one end; is she supposed to hold onto those? Stand in them? Handcuff other figures with them? It's a weird piece. finally, she has the same modular display stand we saw with Katara, though neither she nor either of her flame effects have holes to really utilize it.

Something Diamond Select could have done, though? An alternate head. Azula's already got the unhinged slasher smile, but why not go further? Give us a version with her hair fully down and her mouth open in a wicked cackle. Ah well! Just the fact that they made her is a triumph for fans and collectors, because it's not like anyone else was going to.

-- 06/05/21

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