In the world of Avatar, bending is obviously the focus. People are capable of incredible feats, whether it be manipulating the very blood in someone’s body, breathing huge jets of fire, hurling massive chunks of the earth itself at their enemies, or simply scooting around on a big ball of air. But what of the non-benders? One of the show’s major strengths is that it shows that the people without any so-to-speak superpowers are just as capable of handling themselves as the bending population of the cast. So, following on from that, this article is gonna take a look at ten of the most notable and awesome non-benders in the Avatarverse!
(NOTE: Not ranking them in any particular order, here! That would be too difficult a task for I, they’re all great.)
Opener: Honorary Mention: The Animals!
– While not exactly non-benders, so to speak, the animal characters of Avatar/Korra feature very heavily throughout the series, and each of them is important in their own right. The series’ signature sky bison, either Appa or Oogi in this case; the cute, small animal companion, either Momo or Pabu; and particularly Korra’s giant polar bear dog, Naga. All of these have been an essential part of the main cast’s journeys in both series, and they remain one of the most popular aspects of the show with the fans. My own personal favourite here would probably have to be Naga, had I to choose, as you really can’t argue with a giant polar bear dog strong enough to bring down mechs with a tackle.
10: Shiro Shinobi:
– Next up on the list is the oh-so-amusing commentator for Republic City’s pro-bending tournaments (not to mention the narrator of the show itself)! One of the funnier characters throughout Korra, his excitable over-the-top opening/closing narration really setting the tone for the setting, and his actual commentating just being the icing on the cake (“They’re bending my mind!”). A particular favourite moment for both myself and many people is, of course, his continued narration of the Equalist attack on the pro-bending arena, continuing right up until he is electrocuted and knocked out.
9: The Cabbage Merchant:
– …Do I even need to say anything here? Going by the general internet fanbase, one could be forgiven for assuming that the show should, in fact, be called Avatar: The Unlucky Cabbage Merchant, and be entirely about this guy. In fairness to him, he had it pretty rough, repeatedly having his cabbages destroyed in situations that mostly involve the main cast. Thankfully, he eventually gets his break, managing to found a successful corporation by the time of Korra (and it even manages to avoid being destroyed)!
– A character who I found particularly awesome on the first watch through Korra (and of course on the subsequent ones), Pema is quite possibly the single most resilient character in the entire Avatar universe, given that she has to deal with Jinora, Ikki and Meelo. We get to see Pema provide a calm voice of reason throughout the series, both to Korra and Tenzin. She’s a much more reserved character, but we still get a strong sense of her awesomeness (as if giving birth mid-Equalist attack and still attempting to escape almost immediately afterwards wasn’t enough)! Badass.
– One of the more immediately-intriguing characters to me on watching A:TLA, and definitely one of the more complex ones, Jet had an air of mystery and a certain grey morality to what he did that made him extremely interesting. A rather violent character with a tragic backstory, the initial difference between Aang or Katara’s trust in Jet versus Sokka’s dislike of him set up a nice opposed dynamic that continued to pay off throughout Jet’s time in the series. More than capable of holding his own against any bending opponent, Jet’s death and the unfortunate circumstances surrounding it were one of the series’ more dark moments.
6: The Lieutenant:
– Serving as the mysterious right-hand man of the equally-mysterious Amon, the Lieutenant proved right away that he was a villain not to be messed with, effortlessly taking on both Bolin and Mako simultaneously and effortlessly. Granted, as the series went on, the Lieutenant seemed to lose more and more in fights, although this had the effect of showing us just how much of a beating he could take, and still come back for more. A fervent believer in the cause of the Equalists, and an intimidating villain , my own favourite moment of his is when he realises that Amon has been lying to everyone throughout the series, and promptly attacks him without hesitation. And that moustache, too. Yeah.
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– The leader of, and oldest member of, the Kyoshi Warriors, Suki had an interesting change in prominence as the series went on, beginning as a minor character, becoming a major one due to strong fan demand, promptly vanishing for ages, and finally coming back again as a main love interest. This is pretty much only natural, the Kyoshi Warriors are a cool idea and Suki’s the most prominent among them. An action-focused fighter among a cast of action-focused fighters, Suki continues the trend of proving that non-benders are well capable of taking on the bending population and coming out on top.
– We now come to Mai, a girl who manages to balance the “emotionally-distant Goth-ish” archetype with being very, very good at throwing knives at things/people in a way that very few others can. Much like many of the Fire Nation characters, one of the main draws to Mai’s character is her conflicting loyalties (in this case, between Azula and Zuko), something particularly pronounced with her. Ostensibly loyal to Azula, but remaining one of the very few people unafraid to disobey her, and her turning on Azula is definitely one of the series’ more awesome moments.
3: Asami Sato:
– The fourth member of the New Team Avatar, a clever, classy, very mature girl with no small amount of driving skill and the ability to take on even the toughest Equalists, including the Lieutenant himself, in a fight. Coming off at first as something of a typical rich-girl character, she rapidly develops into a complex and much-loved member of the group. Asami’s loyalties are tested perhaps like no other in Korra, when she discovers that her father has allied with the Equalists and is supplying them, and the scene where she brings her own parent down and escapes with the group is all at once epic and heartwrenching. The girly girl to Korra’s tomboy, but as Korra herself points out, ‘girly’ and ‘prissy’ are very much different things.
2: Ty Lee:
– When you can hurl fire or lightning from your hands, cause earthquakes or tidal waves, and you’re afraid of a teenage girl poking you, then you know you’re dealing with someone particularly awesome. Ty Lee is easily the bubbliest of the Fire Nation characters (maybe excepting Iroh), even when she was still an enemy, exchanging cheery dialogue and even flirting with the Gaang. As mentioned with Mai, loyalty tends to be quite a big deal with Fire Nation characters, and Ty Lee is no exception, sticking with Azula largely out of fear but finally turning on her when she threatens Mai’s life. A thoroughly fun character, and my personal favourite throughout A:TLA, you can’t go wrong with Ty Lee.
– It was never going to be anyone else, was it? Sokka, the comic relief, the unintentional ladies man, the idea guy, the legendary WANG FIRE(!), the matter-of-fact guy in a world of element manipulators. Just one guy and his boomerang, it’s not much of a stretch to say that Sokka is the fan-favourite character from the series. Seeming childish and even a little dumb on first impressions, it rapidly becomes evident that Sokka is one of the cleverest members of the cast, his strategies and inventing abilities making him a hugely valuable member of the Gaang. Indeed, I’ve seen it said that Sokka’s battle plans are the only thing more dangerous than the Avatar State, and it’s not difficult to call that true. Easily one of the breakout characters of the series, retaining all of that for his brief appearance in The Legend of Korra (where we see that he hasn’t changed in the slightest), and, as I said, one of the most-loved characters of either series.
Watch The Legend of Korra Sundays at 9am only on Nickelodeon. Visit nick.co.uk/legendofkorra