Iroh and Zuko are some of the best characters in Avatar: The Last Airbender and are favorites to many of the fans of the show. Zuko is a complex character with tons of development and growth from seasons one to three. Iroh is a wholesome and wise character who has reformed his violent ways and gives the rest of the characters advice whenever they need.
The two characters feed and grow off of each other a ton and would not be the same without one another. Iroh acts more as Zuko’s father than Fire Lord Ozai ever has and sees Zuko as his own son. The two share a remarkable bond that leaves many in tears of joy and sorrow depending on the arc of the series. Iroh typically is considered the best character in all of Avatar, but here is why Zuko may also be up for consideration.
10 Zuko – Redemption Arc Done Successfully
Many authors and creators have tried to replicate Zuko’s amazing character journey from being the main antagonist of the series to one of the major protagonists. Zuko began his journey searching for the avatar in order to restore his honor with the fire lord and nation. He constantly had this inner battle, feeling like he just wasn’t doing the right thing. However, for most of the series Zuko didn’t know what the right thing was. He ends up facing his father and telling him that he has been wrong all along, and decides to join and help the boy that he has been trying to capture all along.
9 Iroh – Always There For His Nephew
Iroh seems to have always been there for his nephew, Zuko. He knows he has had a troubled upbringing with his mother’s disappearance and father’s harsh criticism and banishment. Iroh acts more like a father to Zuko than Ozai ever has or could, even with simple acts such as hugging the Zuko when he is down, taking care of him when he is sick, and reminding him to stay warm in the freezing north pole. Iroh always seems to show up when Zuko is in a pinch and would risk his life for the boy.
8 Zuko – Relationships Built
Throughout the series, Zuko felt like he didn’t really have anyone by his side. Iroh was there but was considered to be a “lazy old fool” in Zuko’s angsty teenage outbursts. He didn’t really have any friends either and was only surrounded by crewmen. Zuko built all the friendships and relationships he had from the ground up. With Iroh, Mai, Aang, Katara, Suki, Toph, and Sooka, he needed a lot of recovery work once he finally got his head onto his shoulders.
7 Iroh – Knows Right From Wrong
Even though Iroh is an ex-war general from the fire nation, he seems to always know the difference between right and wrong. He knows that what the fire nation is doing is bad, he knows that the avatar mustn’t be captured and surrendered over to Ozai. He also contests Admiral Zhao when he kills the moon spirit, knowing it will uproot the natural order of the world.
He often argues with his nephew to see these ways, to see that how his father embarrassed and punished him in front of everyone was not honorable or just. He saves the Aang and Katara from Zuko and Azula even though he has been “helping” Zuko find him all along. Iroh knows that Aang must live in order to stop Ozai and the war.
6 Zuko – Learns Right From Wrong
While Iroh already knows right and wrong, Zuko learns it through the progression of the show. At first, he does what he thinks he must in order to retrieve his honor. He doesn’t care about the consequence of giving the avatar to the Fire Nation. In fact, he doesn’t even believe what the invasions the Fire Nation are doing are wrong, and how could he when he was raised by the royal family. This is just another aspect of Zuko’s redemption arc, but he learns for himself that the war is wrong and helping the Aang is right.
5 Iroh – Makes The Best Tea
Iroh definitely knows how to make some amazing tea and often does this to ease other characters. When he first meets Toph, without knowing she is actually on the enemy team, he offers her a cup of tea and advice. The two quickly become friends due to this interaction. Iroh makes friends with a number of characters because of his tea, a trait that is both elegant and refined, much like his Pai Sho games. These two elements act as secret keys to his involvement in the White Lotus organization, which shows that Iroh has been ahead of the game for the entire series.
4 Zuko – Grumpy, Relatable Teen To Self-Aware Hero
As mentioned in his relationships developed category, Zuko began the series as an angsty, grumpy teen. He constantly ridiculed Iroh as any 16-year-old boy would. He was “too cool” for lame things and hated his Uncle’s vague and mystical phrases.
However, overtime Zuko became sensitive to his Uncle’s ways and learned that its a way of expressing himself and his love for Zuko. Zuko also became a softer character and realized the error of his ways in the past, reflecting on how ridiculous he was.
3 Iroh – In Touch With The Spirit World
Other than Aang, Iroh is one of the only living characters in Avatar: The Last Airbender to be in touch with the spirit world. At the beginning of the series, we could see him reacting to Roku’s dragon flying past above him. It is the first episode Aang goes to the spirit world in general so seeing Iroh so attuned to it is a nice feature. It also explains why he reacts so harshly to Zhao’s idea of killing the moon spirit. He knows the consequences and knows that the spirits bring balance and are meant to be sacred.
Fans also get to see Iroh residing in the spirit world after his death in The Legend of Korra.
2 Zuko – Always Tries His Best, Even If He Doesn’t Succeed
Even while Zuko was still an antagonist, that never stopped him from trying his best at everything he did. He was trained to master fire bending from Iroh and proved to be an excellent fighter time and time again. As the Blue Spirit, he abstains from using bending and just focuses on his sheer power and skill with his blades. He never gives up or goes down without a fight against any character, which is why his pursuit of Aang and the group make it so difficult for them.
1 Iroh – Wisdom To Any Who Ask For It, Even His Enemies
Time and time again, Iroh proves he is a just and righteous character. He gives anyone advice who needs it, even if they don’t know it yet. Just like with his first meeting with Toph, he also is kind to Aang when they first meet and speak to one another. Aang is confused about his affections towards Katara and doesn’t know how to go about them. He asks Iroh his opinion and receives some wonderful advice that shapes Aang for the next season.
Iroh also helps a young man in the episode “Tales of Ba Sing Se” who tries to steal from him. The man has a horrible stance, which Iroh quickly corrects and then pours the man a couple of tea and talks to him about life. By the end of the conversation, the thief realizes this is no life for him and claims he will continue to try and reach for his actual dream.
Iroh and Zuko are two of Avatar's best characters. But which one of them gets the nod as best character overall?