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You're weak, just like the rest of your people! They did not deserve to exist in this world — in my world! Prepare to join them. Prepare to die!
~ Ozai to Avatar Aang.
Fire Lord Ozai, also known as Phoenix King Ozai or simply Ozai, is the overall main antagonist of Avatar: The Last Airbender. He is the Fire Lord of the Fire Nation, the younger brother of Iroh and the father of Zuko and Azula. He is Avatar Aang's arch-nemesis. In Seasons 1 and 2, he is a minor, yet pivotal antagonist and then is the main antagonist of Season 3.
Ozai was born to Fire Lord Azulon, as the younger brother to Fire Prince Iroh, who was favored by their father and who would inherit the throne. He married a generous noblewoman named Ursa, who bore him two children, Prince Zuko, the eldest who was favored by Ursa, and Princess Azula, who Ozai would favor and who would become a prodigy in the art of Firebending. It is speculated that Ozai favored Azula and disfavored Zuko for another reason as well; Zuko was firstborn, just as the favored Iroh had been, while Azula was second in succession just as Ozai had been most of his life.
When his nephew, Lu Ten, was killed in battle Ozai believed Iroh (in his grief) would not be capable as Fire Lord. He asked his father, Azulon to relinquish the title of Fire Lord to him, noting that he would be capable of maintaining the royal bloodline. Outraged by this request, Azulon ordered Ozai to kill his son, Zuko. At first, Ozai was willing to comply with this request. However, his wife named Ursa managed to save her son's life by taking his place. However, instead of being killed, she was banished. Azulon mysteriously died at about the same time (it was revealed in the comic The Search that Ursa had actually procured a poison for Ozai, with which he committed patricide on his father), and at his funeral Ozai was crowned Fire Lord, as Iroh was too sad to accept the role as leader of the Fire Nation.
Later in life, when Zuko was thirteen years old, he attended a military meeting, where one of Ozai's generals suggested that they send a group of soldiers to distract the troops of the Earth Kingdom while they had their other soldiers ambush the Earth army and then overcome the capital of the Earth Kingdom, Ba Sing Se. Outraged, Zuko spoke out against this plan, and he was punished severely: being forced into an Agni Kai against his own father. Zuko was unwilling to hurt his father, and as a result, the Fire Lord blasted his son, creating a huge scar on his face. Ozai banished Zuko unless he found the Avatar, master of the four elements.
Role in the Series
Ozai is mentioned several times throughout the show, but rarely appears. He is first mentioned by name in the episode "King of Omashu", by King Bumi. Most of his appearances are in visions that Aang has or in flashbacks of Zuko's past. The first time we see him outside of flashbacks of visions is in the finale of the first season, where he gives his daughter Azula the orders to capture his son and brother, who he blames for the failure in the invasion of the Northern Water Tribe. However, in all of his appearances prior to Season 3, his face is covered by shadows. In the Season 2 episode "Zuko Alone", his eyes aren't shown.
He appears far more in the very last season of the show, where his face is shown for the first time when he welcomes his son Zuko back home after he helped Azula and the Dai Li "kill" the Avatar (he survived thanks to some mystical healing water) and conquer Ba Sing Se. Throughout the first half of the season, Aang's gang and Zuko see many paintings and statues of him. The night before the Avatar and his allies invade the capital of the Fire Nation, where the solar eclipse will stop any firebending, the Fire Lord holds a war meeting with his children and his general. At this meeting, he came up with the plan to use his newly built airships to commit genocide against the people of the Earth Kingdom, leaving only the Fire Nation and the massively divided people of the Water Tribe left on the planet. This was it; he was evil, heartless and must be put down like a sick dog.
During the invasion, Ozai and many other nobles and soldiers hid in a giant metal underground dome near the capital city. Zuko confronted his father during the eclipse, informing him of his choice to join the Avatar, teach him Firebending and free the Fire Nation from Ozai's tyranny. When he is about to leave, Ozai tricks him into staying by telling him the story of his mothers death, revealing that she may still be alive. When he finishes the story, the eclipse ends and he shoots lightning at Zuko, who redirects it and escapes.
His next appearance is around three days before Sozin's Comet arrives, which will increase the powers of any firebender to an extreme degree. He appoints Azula as the new Fire Lord, as he will be known as the Phoenix King, who will rule over all the nations and it's leaders. On the day of the comet's arrival, he boards the largest of the Fire Nations fleet of airships and heads towards the Earth Kingdom. While some of the Avatar's comrades take control of an airship and sabotage the rest of the fleet, Avatar Aang, having learned how to use all four elements, destroys the engine of Ozai's flagship and they begin to duel. For most of the fight, Aang and the Fire Lord are equally matched, with Aang using his skill in each bending art to block and evade most – if not all – of Ozai's blows.
Eventually, Ozai began to use his lightning-bending abilities, which backfires when Aang reveals his power to redirect it at Ozai. However, unwilling to kill another human being, he willingly misses the Phoenix King, who begins to overpower the Avatar, forcing him to retreat and protect himself in a boulder. After many strong blows, Ozai shatters the rock with a single jet of fire and sends Aang flying. However, this proves to be the Firelord's greatest mistake. As Aang was thrown back by the blast, a piece of rock pierces the scar on his back where Azula killed him, causing him to abruptly reconnect with the energy of the universe. Ozai attempts to finish off Aang only to be confronted with the young airbender returned in the Avatar State (where he has the power and knowledge of all the past Avatars). He proceeds to overpower Ozai in every way, manipulating the four elements in logic-defying ways, finally pinning Ozai down. Yet, as Aang prepares to deliver the final blow, he falters- still unwilling to take a life- abandoning the Avatar State and releases Ozai.
Ozai calls him a fool and attacks him from behind, but Aang traps him a final time and uses forgotten art called "Energybending" to take away Ozai's bending powers. During the battle, the Avatar's allies, defeated Azula, retook Ba Sing Se and destroyed the Fire Nation's fleet. Completely defeated, powerless, and broken, Zuko (as the new Fire Lord) throws Ozai into prison and interrogates him on the whereabouts of his mother.
While his time in prison, Ukano and the other Ozai loyalists establish New Ozai Society to rid Fire Lord Zuko from power. It ends up with Ukano being sent to prison after saving children from Azula and the Fire Warriors. He later confronted by Ursa, telling him that he had a weak heart as he told her to come back and grovel.
By the time of The Legend of Korra, he has passed away. He may have died of natural causes or may well have been finally executed.
After all these years, I can finally see you, Ozai. You're just a small, small man trying with all your might to be big. Your heart is so small, you've no room for your son, or your daughter, or your brother... or even yourself. Goodbye, Ozai.
~ Ursa confronting Ozai about his true nature.
I finally have you, but I can't get you home because of this blizzard. (*Stands up and looks outside the cave*) There's always something. Not that you would understand. You're like my sister. Everything always came easy to her. She's a firebending prodigy, and everyone adores her. My father says she was born lucky. He says I was lucky to be born. I don't need luck, though. I don't want it. I've always had to struggle and fight and that's made me strong. It's made me who I am.
~ Zuko describing his relationship with his father, Ozai, to Aang in comparison to his father's relationship with his sister, Azula, though Aang did not hear him.
Ozai is a typical warlord, who wants all power and rule the whole world. Ozai's main goal is to conquer all the nations and rule over them under the title of "The Phoenix King". To do this, he attempted to use Sozin's comet to wipe out any remaining forces that opposed him.
Ozai also neglects his own family. He never show any love of his wife Ursa, his children Azula and Zuko. In fact, he only married Ursa through an arranged marriage that he set up due to her being the descendant of the former Avatar, Roku, and Ozai believes that connect his bloodline with that of the Avatar would gives him powerful children for his own use. And even though he appears to treat Azula better than Zuko, that is only because Azula shows more potential similar traits like him, and in truth, he sees both as just nothing but his pawns.
By the time of the series finale and the comics, Ozai seems to lost whatever he got as his former redeeming traits. He manipulates Zuko to follow his tyrannical ways, and threatens Ursa that he will harm her and her family, though both ultimately failed. As Ursa stated, Ozai is ultimately just a small man who try to be big, and possesses no love for anyone, not even himself.
Powers and Abilities
In his prime, Ozai was an extremely powerful and skilled firebender, being perhaps the most powerful bender of any kind in the world of his time, with the only ones deemed capable of rivaling/surpassing him being Avatar Aang and his older brother, Iroh, although Iroh, himself an immensely powerful firebending master, acknowledged while he could contend with Ozai, he was not fully sure he could defeat him. Sokka also stated that Aang at the level he was with only three elements at his disposal and even after he had became proficient in Firebending would still lose against Ozai. Ozai's bending style was extremely liberal and stressed overbearing, internal force, taking full advantage of the rage-fueled firebending style to produce flame jets and fireballs of considerable potency, which he could notably do without needing to charge, as shown in one of his practice sessions while not yet Fire Lord. While Fire Lord and sitting on his throne, he was shown capable of manipulating the ambient fire surrounding it with sheer will alone, making it flare and dance without requiring any gestures. Ozai was deeply in touch with his firebending abilities, as seen when he was able to detect when his powers returned immediately following a solar eclipse from deep underground in a bunker.
Under the influence of Sozin's Comet, Ozai's firebending was noticeably enhanced and he would display his surpassing prowess and power as a Firebender by single-handedly producing waves of fire larger than entire teams of regular comet-enhanced firebenders working together. He could also produce high-heat explosions and condensed jets of flame for close combat with the same destructive power. The blasts of flame he could produce were powerful enough to travel long distances without weakening, shatter stone, and propel him through the air at high speeds for extended periods of time. He was capable of fighting Aang on equal grounds and even gaining the upper hand despite Aang's mastery of all the four elements, albeit granted he had not at the time achieved full mastery over all of them and was not at the height of his abilities, only being overpowered when Aang entered the Avatar State.
Following his defeat at the hands of Avatar Aang, Ozai was stripped of all of his firebending powers, rendering him relatively helpless.
Ozai was one of the few master firebenders of his time able to generate lightning, and was far more skillful than it than his daughter Azula, with only Iroh appearing to equal his prowess. While the solar eclipse had just waned, he was immediately able to generate an enormous bolt of lightning with both hands in seconds that gave Zuko more trouble than he had with Azula's lightning. When empowered by the Sozin's Comet, he could near-instantly project large, violent strikes of lightning that spread over wide distances and was of such intensity that it caused the entire sky itself to be briefly seared, nearly being able to overpower Aang's lightning redirection, causing the Avatar considerable pain, ultimately making him briefly collapse from the strain despite being successful.
Physical Strength and Reflexes
Despite his middle-aged appearance, Ozai was in outstanding physical condition, with his physical durability and resilience being so great that he was able to resist gales of wind made by the Avatar which shattered the solid rock around him and a large burst of water and quickly recover to continue fighting with little injury and he was capable of greatly exerting himself against Aang without showing any strain before ultimately being overpowered. His outstanding speed and reflexes also allowed him to easily keep up with Aang's own extremely fast bending attacks and even managed to at times hit him and he was even able to dodge and react to some of his attacks when he was in the Avatar State.
In addition to his firebending, Ozai was known as a capable and patriotic leader, beloved by his people for his intelligence, charisma, and courage. Under Ozai's short tenure as Fire Lord (only five years), the Fire Nation saw the greatest industrial revolution it had known in over one hundred years, which contributed greatly to his legacy. While he had no military career to speak of, Ozai's rule saw the most successful campaigns of the Hundred-Year War, including the decisive victory at Ba Sing Se. Ozai was also a progressive and wise leader, as he recognized ahead of his time that the separation of the four nations was halting progress - unfortunately, his ambition and ego made him decide that the best way to unite the nations would be under Fire Nation rule. Like his daughter, Ozai had a natural disposition towards manipulation, using his cunning to secure his own political power. After his bending was removed, this became Ozai's greatest weapon, as he attempted to control his son Zuko from prison – goading his son to follow in his footsteps.
Iroh is a traitor, and your brother Zuko is a failure. I have a task for you.
~ Ozai orders Azula to capture Aang.
Ozai: Father, you must have realized as I have, that with Lu Ten gone, Iroh's bloodline has ended. After his son's death, my brother abandoned the siege at Ba Sing Se, and who knows when he will return home. But I am here, Father, and my children are alive. Azulon: Say what it is you want! Ozai: Father, revoke Iroh's birthright. I am your humble servant, here to serve you and our nation. Use me.
~ Ozai begs Azulon to promote him to be the new Fire Lord.
Zuko: After I leave here today, I'm gonna free Uncle Iroh from his prison and I'm gonna beg for his forgiveness. He's the one who's been a real father to me. Ozai: Oh, that's just beautiful. And maybe he can pass down to you the ways of tea and failure. Zuko: But I've come to an even more important decision. I'm going to join the Avatar and I'm going to help him defeat you. Ozai: Really? Since you're a full-blown traitor now and you want me gone, why wait? I'm powerless. You've got your swords. Why don't you just do it now? Zuko: Because I know my own destiny. Taking you down is the Avatar's destiny. Goodbye. Ozai: Coward! You think you're brave enough to face me, but you'll only do it during the eclipse. If you have any real courage, you'll stick around until the sun comes out. Don't you want to know what happened to your mother?
~ Ozai and Zuko's confrontation.
Zuko: What happened that night? Ozai: My father, Fire Lord Azulon, had commanded me to do the unthinkable to you, my own son, and I was going to do it. Your mother found out and swore she would protect you at any cost. She knew I wanted the throne and she proposed a plan, a plan in which I would become Fire Lord and your life would be spared.
~ Ozai reveals the truth about Zuko's mother.
Ozai: Your mother did vicious, treasonous things that night. She knew the consequences and accepted them. For her treason, she was banished. Zuko: So she's alive? Ozai: Perhaps. Now I realize that banishment is far too merciful a penalty for treason. Your penalty will be far steeper.
~ Ozai before attempting to kill Zuko.
Ozai: Yes you're right, Azula. Sozin's Comet is almost upon us, and on that day, it will endow us with the strength and power of a hundred suns. No bender will stand a chance against us. Shinu: What are you suggesting, sir? Ozai: When the comet last came, my grandfather, Fire Lord Sozin, used it to wipe out the Air Nomads. Now, I will use its power to end the Earth Kingdom ... [Zuko looks astonished. Cut back to Ozai smiling.] permanently. [The shot changes to an aerial view of the map which Ozai walks to the center.] From our airships, we will rain fire over their lands, a fire that will destroy everything; and out of the ashes, a new world will be born, a world in which all the lands are Fire Nation and I am the supreme ruler of everything!
~ Ozai announces his plan to his officers.
Azula: Sorry I'm late, father. Good palanquin bearers are so hard to come by these days. So, is everything ready for our departure? Ozai: There has been a change of plans, Azula. Azula: What? Ozai: I've decided to lead the fleet of airships to Ba Sing Se alone. You will remain here in the Fire Nation. Azula: But I thought we were going to do this together. Ozai: My decision is final. Azula: You ... you can't treat me like this! You can't treat me like Zuko! Ozai: Azula, silence yourself. Azula: But it was my idea to burn everything to the ground! I deserve to be by your side! Ozai: Azula! Listen to me. I need you here to watch over the homeland. It's a very important job that I can only entrust to you. Azula: Really? Ozai: And for your loyalty, I've decided to declare you the new Fire Lord. Azula: Fire Lord Azula? It does seem appropriate, but what about you? Ozai: Fire Lord Ozai is no more. Just as the world will be reborn in fire, I shall be reborn as the supreme ruler of the world. From this moment on, I will be known as ... the Phoenix King.
~ Ozai appoints Azula as the new Fire Lord while he becomes the Phoenix King.
It's time for this world to end in fire, and for a new world to be born from the ashes.
~ Ozai beginning to launch attacks.
Even with all the power in the world, you are still weak!
~ Ozai to Aang.
You are right, I do have the power. I HAVE ALL THE POWER IN THE WORLD!
~ Ozai beginning his final battle with Aang.
It's time for this world to end in fire and for a new world to be born from the ashes!
~ Fire Lord Ozai
Ozai in The Last Airbender portrayed by Cliff Curtis
Many of Ozai's characteristics, including his serious nature with a small amount of humor, and his favor of physical strength over mental manipulation, is likely modeled after Darth Vader, an iconic villain of the Star Wars Saga. Additionally, both are a younger brother figure to a mentor of the protagonist (Iroh and Obi-Wan), and turned evil due to being consumed by hatred and jealousy. They're also the father of one of the protagonists (at least by the time they serve as the main villain), whom they attempted to turn evil but eventually failed. Both are also using strategy, and were built-up to be the figure that one of the heroes (Aang and Luke) was destined to defeat. Interestingly, Ozai's voice actor, Mark Hamill, also played Luke Skywalker, Vader's son.
It was also stated that the flashback scene of his Agni Kai challenge with Zuko in "The Storm" is based on Vader's confrontation with Luke in The Empire Strikes Back.
Although, there is a difference: While Vader redeemed himself, Ozai did not. In other words, Vader could have become like Ozai if he let jealousy completely consume him.