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In his early reign, Fire Lord Zuko faced significant resistance from Fire Nationals who regarded his rule as illegitimate and his policies as treason against the Fire Nation. His main opponents were nationalists and reactionaries, many of whom were Ozai loyalists and Fire Nation colonists who wanted to maintain their homes in the face of the Harmony Restoration Movement. These resistance movements were exploited by the rogue Princess Azula, who worked to turn Zuko into an autocrat.

Prelude[]

From the reign of Fire Lord Zoryu, the Fire Nation underwent a significant transformation, evolving into an increasingly efficient autocracy, a shift that would have lasting consequences.[6][7][8] Leveraging the Fire Nation's political power, along with its economic and military prowess, Fire Lord Sozin initiated the ambitious campaign known as the Hundred Year War with the aim of conquering the world. This expansionist agenda continued under the leadership of his son, Azulon, and later his grandson, Ozai, resulting in the establishment of an imperialistic dictatorship. The populace was subjected to political propaganda, instilling the belief that their civilization was superior and that their nation's conquests brought order and progress.[9][10][11] As part of this agenda, numerous colonies were established in the Earth Kingdom, and the Fire Nation successfully conquered most of the world.[7][8]

Prior to the Fire Nation's final victory, their advance was halted by the intervention of Team Avatar, a group that notably included Zuko, the crown prince of the Fire Nation who had turned against his father Ozai. As a consequence, Ozai was apprehended and incarcerated for numerous war crimes, while Zuko was crowned Fire Lord. He set out to reform the Fire Nation and work toward reestablishing a cooperative and peaceful global order.[12] To achieve this goal, he pledged to support the Harmony Restoration Movement, an initiative focused on dismantling the Fire Nation's colonies.[7]

History[]

Buildup of an underground opposition and assassination attempts[]

In the immediate aftermath of Zuko's ascension to the throne, Ozai's loyalists were purged from the government or voluntarily went into opposition.[1][13] Fire Lord Zuko's policies soon faced growing criticism from nationalist factions, both within the bureaucracy and among external groups. More dangerous than these non-violent critics were the emergence of radical militants.[14] A number of Ozai loyalists organized themselves into militant underground movements, with the most notable being the New Ozai Society, led by Ukano.[1][13] Several officials and politicians officially pledged loyalty to the new government while secretly working against it by plotting coups or sowing hatred within the system.[14] Unrest also festered in the older Fire Nation colonies, where ethnically diverse populations vehemently opposed the idea of being forcibly uprooted from their homes. Many colonists, such as Mayor Morishita of Yu Dao, regarded Zuko as a traitor for betraying the colonies to the Earth Kingdom.[7] Despite these challenges, Zuko successfully assembled a cohort of officials who were firmly loyal to his idea of a reformed Fire Nation.[14] Among these supporters was Iso, a high-ranking Fire Nation military official, who provided important support to the young Fire Lord's early rule.[5]

Zuko and Kori fighting

In 101 AG, Kori Morishita attempted to murder Fire Lord Zuko.

During the initial months of his reign, Zuko survived five assassination attempts unscathed. However, these repeated threats left him paranoid and distrustful of the competence of his bodyguards. To bolster his personal security, his followers persuaded the Fire Lord to relocate to an especially fortified tower within the Fire Nation Royal Palace. Regardless, a Fire Nation colonist named Kori Morishita managed to breach all defenses in an attempt to kill Zuko. Despite failing to assassinate the Fire Lord, Kori's action ultimately contributed to the failure of the Harmony Restoration Movement and the retention of the oldest colonies.[7][15]

Furthermore, the failure of the royal bodyguards led Mai to request the Kyoshi Warriors to act as Zuko's personal security following Kori's assassination attempt.[7] While they proved to be more capable than the old security, the employment of foreigners as his guards further alienated Zuko from Fire Nation nationalists.[1] Subsequently, Zuko managed to resolve the colonial crisis by signing a treaty with the Earth King, which required the Fire Nation to pay war reparations to aid in the Earth Kingdom's reconstruction. However, this was another choice which garnered disapproval from certain segments of the Fire Nation population.[16]

Rebellion of the New Ozai Society[]

While Zuko was mostly concerned with the Harmony Restoration Movement and then the search for his long-lost monther Ursa, spending months away from the Fire Nation Capital, Ukano's rebel group continued to grow.[1][13] However, his attempt to enlist Mai in the New Ozai Society resulted in complete failure.[13] Despite not reporting him to the autorithies, Mai consequently began to monitor the New Ozai Society's activities, hoping to intervene if they ever became a threat to Zuko. In this, she was aided by Kei Lo who acted as her mole in the underground movement.[1]

As Ukano was preparing a major uprising, he was eventually contacted by Azula and her followers, disguied as Kemurikage spirits. The rogue princess implored Ukano to speed up his uprising plans, appealing to his nationalism as well as threatening to harm his family if he refused. Utterly frightened, Ukano decided to follow this order despite knowing that the New Ozai Society was probably too weak yet.[1] Unbeknowst to him, Azula was actually using him as a mere pawn; she wanted to keep Zuko in power, and only intended to use the Ozai loyalists to influence her brother's governing style.[4]

Kei Lo helps Zuko

The New Ozai Society's plan to kill Zuko was foiled thanks to defection of Kei Lo.

Around 102 AG, the New Ozai Society prepared to strike, planning to kill Zuko as he was returning with Ursa to the Fire Nation Capital. Having identified Kei Lo as mole, Ukano told him false plans so that he would transmit them to Mai as well as the Fire Lord, thereby luring his enemies into an ambush. As the rebels hoped, their opponents fell for their trap. The Fire Lord and his allies set up a decoy convoy that was dispatched along the official route from the First Lord's Harbour to the palace. This convoy was attacked by a small diversionary group of New Ozai Society militants who were easily defeated by Fire Army soldiers, Kyoshi Warriors, and Mai. At the same time, the rebels' main force assaulted Zuko's actual caravan in the woods near the capital, and almost suceeded in killing him as well as his family. However, the Fire Lord and Kei Lo held Ukano's followers off long enough for reinforcements to arrive with a hot air balloon. Thus bolstered, the Fire Lord'a allies defeated and captured most of the New Ozai Society. Ukano managed to escape.[1]

"Kemurikage" conspiracy[]

Ukano incites a riot

No longer hiding the Safe Nation Society's true beliefs, Ukano incited his followers to oppose the "imposter" Zuko.

After the failure of Ukano's uprising, Azula kidnapped children in the Fire Nation Capital. By using their Kemurikage disguise, Azula's followers made it appear as if the spirits were angry at Zuko's rule, thereby undermining the population's support for him. To exploit this, Ukano set up the Safe Nation Society that publicly claimed to protect the citizens from dark spirits. In truth, it acted as conduit for Ukano to spread his nationalist and reactionary ideology.[17] Before the Safe Nation Society could gain enough momentum to actually threaten Zuko's government, however, Azula instructed Ukano to organize a riot in the capital. Despite his misgivings, Ukano obeyed. Just as the princess had hoped, the riot resulted in the destruction of the Safe Nation Society while furthering Zuko's trend toward authoritarianism. He organized a curfew, mass arrests, and used the Fire Army to keep the population under control. Azula believed this kind of governance to be ideal.[4]

Zuko confronts Azula

At the crypt of the first Fire Lord's advisor, Azula revealed that she was playing both sides to turn Zuko into a ruler in her image.

Before Zuko descended into tyranny, however, Avatar Aang and his other allies discovered Azula's hideout in the Garden of Tranquil Souls. There, Zuko's forces freed the kidnapped children with Ukano's help who had begun to question his allegiances. Azula also revealed to Zuko that she intended to become the power behind the throne, aiding Zuko by turning him into an autocract. Despite him rejecting her vision for the Fire Nation, the princess maintained her stance before disappearing alongside her companions. Later on, Zuko publicly apologized for his aggressive policies during the Kemurikage crisis, promising to do better in the future.[4]

Dissident splinters and piracy crisis[]

Following the Kemurikage crisis, plots against Zuko's government continued. Despite the surrender of Ukano, a number of New Ozai Society members remained at large and committed to their dwindling cause; they still posed a threat.[16] Elements of the Fire Warriors also began to operate without Azula's direction, targeting Zuko and his allies.[14]

At some point, dissidents began to plot the murder of Zuko's supporter Iso. The plot was discovered by Pin-Yi, a young petty criminal. He tried to warn the authorities, but no one initially believed his claims about the assassination plot. At the same time, some Fire Warriors also learned of the conspiracy and sought to exploit the potential murder of Iso for their own gain, hoping to incite a riot in the capital to undermine Zuko's reign.[5]

Meanwhile, an ex-Fire Warrior, Ningka, was able to take control of the Crimson Sails Armada, a powerful coalition of outlaws and rebels based between the Fire Islands and the Earth Kingdom. Under Ningka's direction, the corsairs launched a large-scale campaign against the Fire Nation's shipping. In this way, the Crimson Sails Armada caused not just great damage, but also threatened international relations, as one ship captured by the pirates was the Zeisan's Hope, a vessel transporting reparation payments from Fire Lord Zuko to Kuei's government.[3] This incident seriously threatened to worsen the tense relations between the Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom, yet Zuko was also unwilling to just yield to the corsairs' blackmailing. Knowing that his military was already spread thin and wanting to avoid too much attention regarding the missing reparations, the Fire Lord sent a team of freelance agents,[3] consisting of Xi, Honu, Kahola, He Xing, and Bin[18] to learn what had caused the Crimson Sails Armada's sudden aggression and recover the stolen reparations.[3]

Fire Warriors abandon their leader[]

Granary ambush

A failed attack by the Fire Warriors on a granary eventually led to the group abandoning Azula.

Azula continued her agenda to mold Fire Lord Zuko into an authoritarian leader, focusing more on small scale operations in an attempt to achieve this goal. Azula led a squad of Fire Warriors to a supposedly lightly guarded grain distribution center to disrupt the food supply for the Fire Nation. Fortunately for the guards, they caught wind of the plan and set a trap with the aid of Ty Lee. Once the Fire Warriors destroyed the decoy crates, the trap was sprung. More guards appeared and a fight broke out, with Azula managing to escape with two other Fire Warriors, although one was captured. The botched raid led to discontent with the Fire Warriors' leader and founder. After the princess refused to sanction a mission to rescue their captured comrade, the other Fire Warriors ditched Azula and later set up a new camp. They subsequently freed the captive from the raid. Though initially wanting to punish her former followers for their defection, Azula ultimately decided to leave them alone, and opted to seek out new people to lead and another place to rule.[19]

Aftermath[]

The opposition movement against Zuko ultimately failed to remove him as Fire Lord,[2] although it influenced some of his decisions and policies.[7][4] The failure of the Harmony Restoration Movement ultimately led to the formation of the United Republic of Nations.[20] Overall, Zuko steered the Fire Nation away from its imperialist past, restoring its reputation throughout the world and greatly helping to maintain peace. The nation and its people began to work to redefine themselves away from the terrible crimes of their past, without losing their traditions, heritage, and thirst for innovation.[21]

Zuko remained in power until he stepped down from his position in 167 AG, passing the throne to his daughter Izumi.[2][22] She maintained her father's disdain for the Fire Nation's imperialist and expansionist past.[23]

References[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 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.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 DiMartino, Michael Dante (October 23, 2014). Legend of Korra Live Community Q&A: Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. Avatar Wiki. Retrieved on October 23, 2014.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game. Starter Set, Adventure Booklet, pg. 5.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 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 Three (April 12, 2016), Dark Horse Comics.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game. Core Book, Version 1.0, 2022, p. 266.
  6. Yee, F. C. (author), DiMartino, Michael Dante (author). (July 21, 2020). Epilogue. The Shadow of Kyoshi. Amulet Books.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 DiMartino, Michael Dante; Konietzko, Bryan; Yang, Gene Luen (writer), Sasaki of Gurihiru (penciling, inking), Kawano of Gurihiru (colorist), Heisler, Michael; Comicraft (letterer). The Promise Part One (January 25, 2012), Dark Horse Comics.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Ehasz, Elizabeth Welch (writer) & Spaulding, Ethan (director). (October 26, 2007). "The Avatar and the Fire Lord". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 3. Episode 6. Nickelodeon.
  9. Avatar: The Last Airbender: Legacy, page 11, The Hundred Year War.
  10. Hicks, Faith Erin; Hedrick, Tim (writer), Wartman, Peter (artist), Matera, Adele (colorist), Betancourt, Jimmy (letterer). Katara and the Pirate's Silver (October 13, 2020), Dark Horse Comics.
  11. DiMartino, Michael Dante, Konietzko, Bryan (writers) & Filoni, Dave (director). (June 17, 2005). "The Blue Spirit". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 1. Episode 13. Nickelodeon.
  12. DiMartino, Michael Dante, Konietzko, Bryan (writers) & Dos Santos, Joaquim (director). (July 19, 2008). "Sozin's Comet, Part 4: Avatar Aang". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 3. Episode 21. Nickelodeon.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Yang, Gene Luen (writer), Hill, Ryan (artist), Heisler, Michael (letterer). "Rebound" (May 4, 2013), Dark Horse Comics.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game. Core Book, Version 1.0, 2022, p. 77.
  15. DiMartino, Michael Dante; Konietzko, Bryan; Yang, Gene Luen (writer), Sasaki of Gurihiru (penciling, inking), Kawano of Gurihiru (colorist), Heisler, Michael; Comicraft (letterer). The Promise Part Three (September 26, 2012), Dark Horse Comics.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game. Core Book, Version 1.0, 2022, p. 70.
  17. 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.
  18. Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game. Starter Set, Cover.
  19. Hicks, Faith Erin (writer), Wartman, Peter (artist), Matera, Adele (colorist), Betancourt, Jimmy; Starkings, Richard (letterer). Azula in the Spirit Temple (October 31, 2023), Dark Horse Comics.
  20. DiMartino, Michael Dante, Konietzko, Bryan (writers) & Dos Santos, Joaquim, Ryu, Ki Hyun (directors). (April 14, 2012). "Welcome to Republic City". The Legend of Korra. Book One: Air. Episode 1. Nickelodeon.
  21. Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game. Quickstart, Version 1.0, 2021, p. 5.
  22. From older Welcome to Republic City online game, originally on Nick.com. Game now broken, archived at The Lost Lore of Avatar Korra - Fire Lord Zuko.
  23. Hamilton, Joshua (writer) & Graham, Ian (director). (November 28, 2014). "Beyond the Wilds". The Legend of Korra. Book Four: Balance. Episode 9. Nick.com.
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