For those who care about such things, Avatar: The Last Airbender is one of the best cartoons ever made. The show’s focus on character development, crisp animation, east-Asian philosophies, and adult themes mixed with child-appropriate humor, clever writing, and a likable tone made it easy to fall in love with the series. The show was so popular that it earned a spin-off which was an update for an older audience who grew up with the original show. The center of Last Airbender was the protagonist Aang, a time-displaced remnant of a lost civilization. He was childish, playful, and generally a happy-go-lucky reflection of the show’s audience.
The main relationship he shared with any other characters was with Katara, the young waterbender who freed him from his iceberg. He fell in love with her immediately and spent the majority of the series pursuing a relationship with her, an endeavor in which he was eventually successful. This canonical romance gave birth to the Kataang shippers who revel and worship their love, which resulted in their three kids who featured heavily in the spin-off show. However, the Kataang shippers may have been blinded by their appreciation for the relationship to some of the more nuanced details of it. More specifically, they may have overlooked a few not insignificant issues that indicate that Katara and Aang didn’t have an all-too great love life.
20 SHE SHOULDN'T TEACH HIM WATERBENDING
At the beginning of the series, Katara was a waterbending novice, barely capable of maintaining a feeble orb of water in midair. As she traveled with Aang, they grew as waterbenders simultaneously, each growing through their journey to the north pole where they were taught by the same teacher.
After that, Katara assumed the duty of Aang’s waterbending tutor, which doesn’t really make sense considering that they should both be at the same approximate place in their training. In fact, Aang was shown to be more naturally adept at waterbending and capable of picking up the techniques easier.
19 THEY DID THEIR BEST WORK SEPARATED
Both Aang and Katara were intensely powerful benders who accomplished many amazing feats through their powers. However, it’s interesting to note that their most formidable feats were accomplished by themselves and separate from one another. Katara learned her most powerful techniques, bloodbending and water healing, completely without Aang’s aide. And the amount of incredible things Aang accomplished without her are immeasurable.
For starters, he was able to embody the spirit of the ocean, beat Fire Lord Ozai, and impressed the last dragons. In fact, he had to intentionally abandon her to attain his highest form and gain control of the Avatar State, pretty much definitively proving that they are more powerful when separated.
18 THE CAVE OF TWO LOVERS
One of the defining moments in Aang and Katara’s romance was the episode “The Cave of Two Lovers.” In it, Aang and Katara are separated from everyone else in a system of caves on the way to the city of Omashu.
The romantic nature of the story inspires Aang to hint his true feelings to Katara and, after some rom-com levels of shenaniganry, the two almost kiss for the first time as their light goes out. Without the light, however, the pathway of glowing crystals becomes clear and the two are able to escape. The episode is generally never brought up, both in discussion and the show’s lore, because it is, for lack of a better word, cringy.
17 POLITICAL DISAGREEMENTS
Their biggest obstacle came in the comics, where they came within moments of splitting up over political disagreements. Specifically, their fight was over the Harmony Restoration Movement, which attempted to remove Fire Nation colonies following the end of the war. After Zuko had a change of heart and wanted to keep the older colonies in place, Katara agreed with him.
Aang was initially of the mind that all Fire Nation presence in the Earth Kingdom needed to be removed to ensure peace. Their conflict came to the point of violence when Katara had to talk Aang down from the Avatar State to prevent him from ending Zuko.
16 AANG'S GRANDKIDS ARE BETTER WITHOUT HIM
There’s clear evidence that Aang and Katara weren’t the best parents, as evidenced by the emotional and psychological hang-ups of their kids, but the most telling proof that they weren’t fit to raise kids is how their grandkids turned out. Given that Aang never met them, Tenzin’s kids were never directly influenced by their grandfather and they were all nearly ideal children. Sure Ikki and Meelo are hyperactive, but they’re kids and are shown to mature somewhat with age while retaining their energetic personalities.
Free from Aang’s influence, Jinora even becomes a more powerful spiritual advisor than her father, who was so burdened with Aang’s pressure that he was never able to fully embrace his spiritual side.
15 THEY BOTH HAVE PTSD
While to romance between Aang and Katara is often framed as being between two kindred souls who knew from childhood that they were meant to be together, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Even from the first moments they met each other, both exhibited acute symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder.
Katara’s maternal instincts are likely derived from witnessing her mother’s demise and the prospect of vengeance. Aang had a tendency to misdirect, project, and avoid his issues over abandoning his culture and being lost in time. He also demonstrated a consistent lack in ability to process his anger, often snapping and yelling at his comrades over his perception of their failures.
14 AANG KEPT HER FROM SEEING HER DAD
In one of the most despised episodes of the entire series, “Bato of the Water Tribe,” also featured a moment that probably should have destroyed Katara and Aang’s relationship. In the episode, Aang intercepts a letter that would provide Katara and her brother information on where their father, who they haven’t seen for three years, might be stationed and give them a chance to see him. Worried that they might abandon him, however, Aang hides the letter from them.
Katara’s father was at war and could have died at any time. If Aang had prevented the water tribe siblings from seeing their father, there’s no guarantee that they would have ever seen him again.
13 THEY GAVE THEIR KIDS INADEQUACY ISSUES
If there’s one thing that could be gleaned from the Legend of Korra spin-off series, it’s that Aang and Katara weren’t the best parents. The oldest, Bumi, was born a non-bender and even in what appear to be his mid-50s, and after an illustrious military career, was still dealing with the inadequacy issues imparted by his father who always wanted an airbending child.
His sister Kya was so affected by her parents’ pressures that she spent several years traveling the world by herself before being forced to return to the south pole to take care of her co-dependent mother. Tenzin, the only airbending child was denied a childhood by his father hoisting the burden of an entire culture on his young shoulders.
12 THEIR RELATIONSHIP GOT WORSE IN THE COMICS
The romance between Katara and Aang was a slow build on the show, developing infrequently from beginning to end. After the show ended, the generally laudable comic series took over the narrative and fumbled their relationship worse than a clumsy wide receiver. After affirming their relationship, the series depended entirely on an unfair dynamic between the two.
Katara was jealous of Aang constantly flirting with other girls closer to his own age, Aang bragged about being able to kiss her to everyone who would listen, and neither could think of a better pet name than “sweetie.” Overall, their romance just sort of went on automatic in the comics.
11 THEIR KISS AT THE END WAS WEIRD
The only time when Katara and Aang’s romantic relationship really picked up steam was in the final season of the show, culminating in the final scene of the original series where the two finally share a reciprocated kiss. As romantic as the tone was, it was offset somewhat by the atmosphere between the two leading up to that moment.
Mere episodes earlier, with the looming threat of genocide, death, and continued global war hanging ever-present over their heads, Katara was still uncertain and upset over Aang’s advances and made that abundantly clear to him.
10 THEY WORKED BETTER AS FRIENDS
The Kataang relationship was present throughout much of the series, but was only addressed and developed a few times at sporadic intervals. For the vast majority of the series, their relationship was one of matriarch and dependent. Aang needed Katara to keep him humble and focused while Katara’s motherly nature made her want to keep Aang safe.
Put bluntly, they were friends and their relationship worked well in that regard. But whenever romance was forcibly inserted into the equation, Katara began questioning how she felt about Aang and stated openly that she was uncomfortable with his affections. I.E. red flags that they probably should just stay friends.
9 THE AGE DIFFERENCE
Though Aang is technically over 100 years old, he’s biologically only 12. And though Katara herself is only 14 at the start of the series, the gulf between a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old is far greater than that between a 30-year-old and 32-year-old.
Despite having moments of genuine sage wisdom, Aang’s everyday behavior is more on par with an 8-year-old than anyone in his actual age bracket. This might not be his fault as his isolated, holistic upbringing instilled in him a strong sense of detachment, which might have prompted some of his more selfish actions, but even the most mature 12-year-old should not be making out with someone two years older.
8 IT WAS A ONE-SIDED RELATIONSHIP
When Aang was freed from the iceberg he’d been trapped in for the past hundred years, his first instinct was to fall head over heels in love with Katara. However, she didn’t see things the same way for quite some time. In fact, during the entire series, their romance was viewed through Aang’s lens with little to no input from Katara’s opinions on the matter.
In fact, she made it obliquely clear from the beginning of the series that she saw Aang more as a little brother or pseudo-child rather than a potential love interest, a view that didn’t change until very late. And even then, she was more embarrassed and confused by Aang’s affections than reciprocal.
7 THEIR ROMANCE WAS UNNECESSARY
While they were one of the primary pairs of the show, Katara and Aang’s relationship was only focused on in a handful of episodes in the original show’s three-season run. And those episodes tended to be considered weaker or filler between more significant arcs. Overall, their ship was not integral to the narrative of the show, both figuratively and thematically. You could remove all the Kataang content from the show and it wouldn’t change anything.
It wouldn’t even effect the series’ general quality, only improve it slightly. This might have been an issue in the writing staff as central breeding pairs are a trope in most shows, animated or otherwise. But just because stereotypes exist doesn’t mean they have a purpose or need to be used.
6 ZUKO WOULD HAVE BEEN A BETTER MATCH FOR HER
The main rival of the Kataang ship is the Zutara vessel, the faction of viewers who believed that Katara would be better off with the series anti-hero Zuko. And they’re probably right. Zuko and Katara have expressed an interest in each other before, launching their ship in the first place, but it’s more because Zuko is more mature and, for lack of a better word, attractive than the alternative.
There’s also the pretty significant matter that they both have similar emotional baggage. Katara has issues with her father abandoning her for the war, Zuko has problems with his father being a dictatorial jerk, and they both lost their mothers at a young age due to the intricacies of politics and conflict.
5 THEIR PERSONALITIES NEVER CHANGED
One of the most important aspects of fictional characters is how they change. Round characters are indefinitely more interesting than flat, one-note characters. And while Aang and Katara are in no way flat characters, they didn’t change much within the confines of their relationship. That is to say, while their presence in each other’s lives changed the others’ personalities, they did not change all too much to each other after their childhood.
As seen in Legend of Korra, Katara is just as maternal and wise as she was in her youth. Korra’s brief flashbacks to Aang’s life demonstrated that he grew somewhat more serious as he aged, but was still immature enough to pose for pictures of him doing his marble trick.
4 AANG DECIDED HOW MANY KIDS THEY HAD
One of the biggest decisions a long-term couple can make together is if they want to have children. It’s a choice that, if made in the affirmative, can never be taken back, and if they do decide to have kids, they both need to determine how many kids they want or can afford to have.
While Katara never said anything on the subject, their kids were more than happy to discuss how Aang was insistent on having children until at least one of them developed airbending so he had a surefire way to pass on his near-extinct culture. Presumably Katara was more than happy to have three kids with Aang, but if Tenzin had turned out to be a water- or non-bender, he would have demanded that she continue.
3 SHE LIVED WITHOUT HIM FOR 20 YEARS
It’s stated in Legend of Korra that Aang died when he was 66. Given that Katara is approximately two years older than him, that means she was about 68 when he passed. By the end of the spin-off series, Katara was 89, according to the official wiki.
That means that she had around 20 years to live, grow, and evolve as a person without Aang around. In all likelihood, if Aang had somehow returned to her after all that time, he might not even recognize Katara as the same woman he fell in love with. As far as the series is willing to tell, Katara’s only company after Aang’s death was her daughter, the Order of the White Lotus, Korra, and infrequent visits from her other children.
2 SHE HAD A CRUSH ON JET FIRST
Kataang shippers tend to consider the start of the relationship to be the moment Aang saw Katara. He looked at her through rose colored glasses the moment she broke him out of the iceberg, framing her in light and a romantic breeze. It took Katara a little while to come around to having feelings for him, but she had a few different non-starter relationships along the way.
The first, and by far most impassioned of these, was with the freedom fighter Jet, who she met all the way back in the first season. Her crush was apparent and strong enough that she was disproportionately upset when she saw him several months later. She may have wound up with Aang, but she clearly had stronger initial feelings for Jet.
1 THE (OLDER) AGE DIFFERENCE
Despite only looking like a pre-teen, Aang is actually over 100 years old. He was born and raised before the start of the 100-year war at the Southern Air Temple. Upon learning he was the reincarnated Avatar, Aang was surprised. He and Appa were caught in a ferocious storm that sent them below the waves.
In a moment of self-preservation, his Avatar state activated for the first time and he bent himself into a frozen iceberg, which preserved him as he waited for a century beneath the seas near the Southern Water Tribe. The series is riddled with Aang’s hang-ups about his long-dead culture. It often causes rifts between himself and the other characters.