Welcome back to another venture into the world of antagonists and this time we are taking a look at one of the most critically praised cartoons of all time, Avatar the Last Airbender. There is a lot one could do with this series, whether it’s debating the structure of the show and the influences of Buddhism upon it or discussing the messed up lineages of each nation over the course of both Aang and Korra’s stories. There is a plethora of material to cover, but the one thing I’ve always wanted to look deeper into is the Fire Nation royals. Zuko, Iroh, Azula, Ozai, all of these characters help to create one of the most divisive family dynasties I have seen in what could be considered a children’s show (even if it really doesn’t feel like one). Technicalities aside, each of these characters has their own imprint at the original story of Aang. Though when it comes down to it, the two siblings of Zuko and Azula are by far the more interesting characters to study because of how different their experiences with family are. I will save Zuko for another day, but Azula on the other hand I feel deserves her dues. Will she stand out more than her brother or will her fire merely be unruly and unrefined? Is she just a bland cold-hearted monster or a complex character worth sympathizing with?
Next up on the Hunt for the Great Antagonist is one of the antagonists from the cornucopia of characters that is Naruto. Zabuza Momochi is bar none one of the most impactful antagonists of my childhood. I remember still starting out watching anime when I came across Naruto and started on this arc. I was used to two dimensional antagonists or monsters of the week, but I was surprised to see one with nuance. One that could make me cry. Zabuza Momochi is a one off antagonist in Naruto only being used at the very beginning of the series for one full arc. A menacing first opponent for Team 7 and considered to be one of the most dangerous rogue shinobi in the Ninja World. That huge sword isn’t meant for show. Is Zabuza one of the greats however? Is he able to stand the test of time or is he best forgotten as a footnote in the spanning generational story of Naruto?
The Hunt for the Great Antagonist is a series that will spoil elements from the series surrounding the antagonist and most likely key points within the series itself. You have been warned.
I have always loved watching antagonists since as long as I could remember. Those characters that become obstacles to the protagonist’s goals. Creating the tension within the series, whether it be in a menacing way like classic horror villains or merely testing their character like bullies from high school dramas. These characters can steal the screen if the writers and directors are not careful, overwhelming the protagonist with just their presence. That is why we, from time to time, award the work or idolize these antagonists for what they bring to a series. Whether it was the ground-breaking and career defining role of Heath Ledger as the Joker or the sinister revolutionary Char Aznable hell-bent on vengeance for his family. We love them, love to hate them and sometimes even admire them. So in this new segment I am going to take a look into antagonists all across the entertainment media and judge them on criteria that is essential to a great antagonist.
So starting off the Hunt for the Great Antagonist I decided to go a little bit off the beaten path. I’ll get to the well-known juggernauts at some point, but I also want to look at other antagonists that often aren’t highlighted. Luo-Lang is one such antagonist that, while considered to be in one of the best action sequences in anime, does not get much attention. Many do not know that name, let alone know the character behind the fight sequence. That chilling menace he brings to that scene alone is worth noting, and to be in the one of the best fight sequences in anime he makes for a slightly less generic starting point for this sequence. So let’s peer deeply into those cold and lifeless blue eyes of his and see if Luo-Lang is a well developed antagonist or merely a one hit wonder!