|"For centuries, my sisters and I haunted the warlords of the Fire Islands. For their crimes, we haunted them."|
|— A Kemurikage explaining her nature to Aang.|
The Kemurikage are spirits that haunted warlords in the Fire Islands centuries prior to the formation of the Fire Nation. They became part of Fire Nation legend after they departed from the mortal realm, feared by children from the Fire Nation Capital as they supposedly abduct young individuals who misbehave.
Prior to the establishment of the Fire Nation, the disaggregated Fire Islands were subject to territorial warfare and controlled by a series of warlords, who were known to be cruel and ruthless. The most notorious was Toz, a warlord who had control over several villages and demanded annual tributes from each village. One year, a village refused to provide him with offerings, which prompted the warlord and his men to raid the settlement and abduct the village's children as punishment. The children were never seen again and their mothers died of sadness.
Shortly thereafter, the Kemurikage, the spirits of the grieving mothers, began to haunt Toz and his men. They drifted into the warlord's encampment in the middle of the night and abducted children, causing Toz's men to abandon him out of fear. The dark spirits continued to haunt other warlords for centuries until the Fire Islands were united by the first Fire Lord.
The Kemurikage became part of Fire Nation legend and were immortalized in a mural depicting the history of the nation located within the Dragonbone Catacombs. The story of their origin was written on a scroll outside of the crypt of the first Fire Lord, with whom they remained closely associated. Although the scroll suggested that the Kemurikage continue to haunt the Fire Nation due to their "insatiable sadness", they returned to the Spirit World after the unification of the islands.
The legend evolved over time as a way to build character and deter misconduct among children. To this end, parents from the Fire Nation Capital told the story of how the Kemurikage were a group of spirits residing in the mountains who come in the night to abduct children that misbehaved. Michi and Ukano were told of this fable as children, and the two familiarized Mai and Tom-Tom with the legend many years later.
Impersonation and reawakening
In 102 AG, a group of female firebenders impersonated the Kemurikage and coerced Ukano into assisting them in overthrowing Fire Lord Zuko. The group abducted Tom-Tom and several other children in the Fire Nation Capital, which attracted the attention of the Fire Lord, who enlisted the help of Avatar Aang given the apparent involvement of dark spirits.
Alongside Mai and Kei Lo, the two visited the Dragonbone Catacombs underneath the High Temple and learned about the history of the Kemurikage from a mural depicting the history of the Fire Nation. After Mai read the scroll about the origins of the Kemurikage, a wisp of smoke appeared from the mural and led Aang to a sealed crypt in which the first Fire Lord was buried.
Shortly thereafter, the wisp of smoke morphed into the form of a woman who addressed the Avatar before recounting the story of her and her sisters. The spirit insisted that their sadness receded as a result of the first Fire Lord's actions, which brought the warlords to justice and ushered an era of prolonged peace. She reiterated the fact that the Kemurikage haven't set foot in the mortal realm since the unification of the Fire Islands, prompting Aang to conclude that the individuals responsible for the abductions were impostors.
The Kemurikage leave characteristic clouds of smoke as they move and can morph into wisps as a means of inconspicuous travel. They can appear and dissipate at will like many other spirits.
The Kemurikage are also capable of conjuring images, as one of the sisters was able to project an image of the first Fire Lord while conversing with Avatar Aang.
The Kemurikage are agile spirits that drift and abduct others during the night.
- Smoke and Shadow trilogy
- The title of Smoke and Shadow is a direct reference to the Kemurikage, as the name is formed by the combination of the Japanese words kemuri (煙), meaning "smoke", and kage (影), meaning "shadow".
- The Kemurikage were created from unused concepts for the show that revolved around female warriors from the Fire Nation, basically acting as the Fire Nation equivalent of the Kyoshi Warriors.
- The Kemurikage are the only known individuals to transcend into the Spirit World following their deaths aside from the Painted Lady and Iroh, and the only spirits that developed through these means to have turned dark.
- The Kemurikage are the second known spirits to have been impersonated by humans, the first being the Painted Lady, who was impersonated by Katara.
- The Kemurikage's supposed habit of abducting children who misbehave is similar to the habits of the Bogeyman and Krampus, who lure and abduct misbehaving children.
- DiMartino, Michael Dante; Konietzko, Bryan; Yang, Gene Luen (writer), Sasaki of Gurihiru (penciling, inking), Kawano of Gurihiru (colorist), Heisler, Michael; Comicraft (letterer). Smoke and Shadow Part Two (December 16, 2015), Dark Horse Comics.
- DiMartino, Michael Dante; Konietzko, Bryan; Yang, Gene Luen (writer), Sasaki of Gurihiru (penciling, inking), Kawano of Gurihiru (colorist), Heisler, Michael; Comicraft (letterer). Smoke and Shadow Part One (September 23, 2015), Dark Horse Comics.
- Sunu, Steve (December 1, 2014). Exclusive: Yang Guides Avatar: The Last Airbender through Smoke and Shadow. Comic Book Resources. Retrieved on December 1, 2014.
- Yang, Gene Luen (March 2, 2017). The Comic Elements of Avatar and Korra - ECCC 2017. Retrieved on July 30, 2020.
- Hamilton, Joshua (writer) & Spaulding, Ethan (director). (October 5, 2007). "The Painted Lady". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 3. Episode 3. Nickelodeon.