The so-called "Ozai's Angels" trio - Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee. An intriguing group of friends that teamed up and provided Team Avatar with most of its problems in Book Two, and also revealed themselves to be a more normal group of people, getting quite a backstory episode.
However, their relationships and emotions are an area which really, hasn't been seen explored, and there is a lot that can go into this.
What will be looked at within the confines of this blog, not necessarily limited to what is listed:
- Azula's control over the group
- Relationships between the three, primarily with Azula
- What prompted Mai and Ty Lee to betray Azula
- The impacts in the future
Azula's control Edit
There was no doubt in either of our minds that Azula wielded control over the group via her powers, becoming the leader instead of just a friend.
Reeling Ty Lee in Edit
It did not take long before Azula showed just how much she could pull her friends in. We saw it come out in 1-203 - she came to Ty Lee, recruiting her for her mission. Ty Lee naturally denied, but then came the circus performance that night, which Azula "requested" to see.
All of a sudden, Azula is requesting that the Circus Master set the net on fire and release all the wild animals while our acrobat is performing her act. Ty Lee's look suddenly shifts to great fear which Azula has inspired in her. Now, isn't it a bit coincidental that after Ty Lee declines Azula's offer, the princess is at her performance, requesting that her friend's life be basically put in danger?
Suddenly, Ty Lee turns and accepts the offer. Sayeth our ultimate waterbender...
It was definitely clear that she didn't want to go, but felt very much obligated to.
And that obligation was derived from fear. Azula had demonstrated her control - she forced Ty Lee into the mission.
There is also no doubt that Azula used threats to keep her friends in check.
[Azula] can shoot all the lightning she wants at me, I'm not going in there. - Mai
I never expected this from you. The thing I don't understand is "Why?". Why would you do it? You knew the consequences. - Azula
This will tie in a little later, but again, we both agree that this also demonstrated how Azula had turned to power threats to make sure Mai and Ty Lee did not drift "elsewhere".
However, did Mai realize what these threats were? If so, why didn't she tell Ty Lee? Why not tip her off?
Possible reason: "She could have hidden the truth to protect Ty Lee. She probably saw that Ty Lee did admire Azula and didn't want to mar that image and cause any upset to her friend." - Ultimate
Well, Mai did seem to care more about Ty Lee than she did Azula, yes? She did not appear to like Azula at all, outside of her being an escape from Omashu. More on that in relationships, but, Mai seemed to be more weary of Azula's threats, and that finally came to a head in 1-315, when she broke free of this control.
But regardless, the use of threat was apparent in holding her "friendships".
Now here is where things start to get interesting. What kind of relationships did the three girls share? Were there signs of a real friendship or was it all just a lie? How was Azula's relationship with the other two girls?
Azula and Mai Edit
I love Zuko more than I fear you. - Mai to Azula
The relationship between Mai and Azula appeared fractured all the way through. At first, Mai followed Azula to get out of Omashu, which she of course openly stated her hate for. A possible reason is that she knew Azula was manipulative - we point to her short interaction with the princess in 1-302 when pulled away from Zuko. She gave her a bit of a nasty look as if she knew what was going on with her. The statement about Azula shooting lightning also relates to this - she apparently knew Azula was also threatening - something confirmed later - and was not as willing to follow her.
In our opinion, Mai did not like Azula and knew what she was up to on multiple occasions. She was also more willing to defy the princess, especially out of love for Zuko (315). Recall, it took Ty Lee until the final confrontation to show any defiance, whereas Mai was more open with it.
Azula and Ty Lee Edit
Gosh, you're so confident. I really admire that about you. - Ty Lee to Azula
Sure, Ty Lee had an admiration for Azula. However, this is a really deep relationship in terms of details and what went into all that happened between the two.
By far, in our discussion, this was the most intriguing part.
These two had a nice friendship in their younger years, seemed real. They even teamed up to play a trick on Zuko and Mai, playing on the latter's crush. When Azula found Ty Lee at the circus, our young warrior could not have been more excited to see the princess. But, suddenly, that all changed when Azula wanted to see Ty Lee's performance after the latter declined a spot on the princess' mission.
Then we know what happened next. Suddenly, "Azula called louder."
The question remains - was their friendship real after this?
We believe that there are details that say no, because:
Ty Lee only stuck with Azula out of fear.
Behind this is the threat that was mentioned earlier in the control section. Azula later expressed that there would be consequences for stepping out of line to Mai. Clearly, Ty Lee knew this - she was nervous about how to pick when the other girls were locked in confrontation at the Boiling Rock - and she finally was able to shed that fear and stand up for her true friend, Mai. It was apparent that Ty Lee was at a crossroads, knowing that Azula was about to fry Mai for stepping out of line.
Furthermore, the 1-203 case as mentioned above. You know the words - "Azula called louder!". Yeah, like that just happens after she asks to set a safety net on fire and release dangerous circus animals. Herein was Azula's ultimatum - "Join me, or there will be consequences."
Were there signs that Azula actually cared about Ty Lee?
Let's look at 1-305.
As we know, Azula was crushing on Chan pretty hard. All the meanwhile, Ty Lee was surrounded by a multitude of guys. After escaping, she gets to a frustrated Azula. The princess of course upsets her, but right thereafter, quickly apologizes. This is a point that people point to to say that Azula still did care about Ty Lee. Maybe so...but have a listen to this potential counterpoint:
Azula only sought Ty Lee's advice to get help with Chan and faked care for her to get it.
What supports this? Take note that when the Fire Nation friends are on the sands of Ember Island later, surrounded by the fire. Ty Lee was called a circus freak by Zuko, which was laughed at amusingly by Azula, and Ty Lee starts getting upset. Azula does not react besides a "Here we go 9_9" type thing. This young girl is opening up about her past and her supposed "friend" just gets annoyed? A bit concerning about their friendship. If she did care, she would likely not have scoffed at Ty Lee's backstory or laughed at her getting insulted.
So, is it just as possible that there is a new conclusion here? Maybe. Just maybe.