Zuko x Jin – The Romance That Could Have Been

I am currently watching Avatar: The Last Airbender for the first time since I was like 12 years old, and only now do I realize how many subtleties and great story elements I missed out on as a child. Yes, as a child, I loved the series for being a fun adventure with a very charming cast of lead characters, but as an adult, I now see just how much depth each character is given, even some of the minor ones.

I am on the third season right now, but one episode from the previous season that I really enjoyed was the 15th episode, titled”The Tales Of Ba Sing Se”. I’m sure everybody brings it up for Iroh’s heartfelt and somber singing of Leaves from the Vine, and I admit it, it’s a beautiful short story and a wonderful send-off for Iroh’s voice actor, Mako, but the tale that I’m upset not more people seem to bring up is the Tale of Zuko.

Note: MOST OF THIS IS MY PERSONAL OPINION, you are free to think what you want.

In this segment, Uncle Iroh prods Zuko into a date with a local Ba Sing Se girl, Jin, a melon vendor, who is interested in Zuko.

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Zuko reluctantly agrees, and they set out on their date, with Jin being the playful and proactive one from the get-go.

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The date is awkward at first-

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But it’s clear the both of them are interested in seeing where this goes. Jin takes him to a romantically atmospheric spot, and finds it barren of light. In a surprisingly risky and out-of-character move for the usually paranoid Zuko, he risks firebending to light the area they are in just to make some girl he only met that day a little bit happier. That’s the first time I’ve ever seen Zuko do something so thoughtful without the need of a life-threatening situation to force his morals to come out.

He just likes the girl that much.

You have to understand how weird this is. This is one of the exceedingly rare times we see Zuko have a genuine smile in the series that wasn’t a flashback or a facade. Just enjoying the lights with a pretty girl by his side.

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Which makes me really sad that this happens-

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This is the worst ship sinking I’ve seen since the Titanic

In the end, upon Iroh asking Zuko if he had fun, we are led to believe Zuko’s just going to mope again as he slams the door shut, and Iroh looks downcast, but surprisingly, Zuko answers with a soft “It was nice.” Such a simple moment that touched my heart, especially after knowing Iroh’s past with his own son.

The simple reason I love this segment was it shows us a side of Zuko we’ve never seen before, and that is the fact that he’s a friendless teenager. Being not only royalty but banished royalty at that. True friendships aren’t exactly a luxury he has, let alone a romantic relationship. Seeing the usually angry or reflective Zuko awkwardly trying to carry a conversation with a normal girl is both adorable and kind of sad.

Of course, it’s not just Zuko who gets the spotlight here,but Jin, his charming and bubbly date. What I like about her the most is how well she can read the mood, and ends up being the proactive one in their date.

Making conversation and lighthearted jokes that somehow don’t piss Zuko off, prodding him towards socializing, and dragging him to places she finds fun, she’s the perfect foil to the abrasive and anti-social Zuko.

Their date was the most human I’ve seen Zuko, at least at this point in the series. Ever since his failure in the North Pole, he’s closed himself off emotionally, and when he does show emotion,it was only ever anger at whoever was around.

Which leads me to my final point: I don’t like ZuMai.

No, wait-

Hear me out. I’m not ENTIRELY against Mai like a lot of anti-ZuMai fans are. I think she’s a decent enough character, but it’s really off-putting when I started the 3rd season and she is suddenly in a relationship with Zuko, and a very rocky one at that.

It is never explained why Zuko likes her, and vice versa. The only indication we have of any affection was a flashback showing us she had a crush on him, and it’s clear from a lot of their interactions that they’re on-off on their relationship. At this point, Jin has way more on-screen romantic interactions with Zuko than Mai.

There simply isn’t any chemistry between Zuko and Mai. We’re just suddenly expected to believe that Zuko “loves” this person he hasn’t met in years and only as a child. Yes, we get a few moments here and there,but even from a narrative standpoint, I just don’t see how the two can work and IMPROVE one another. Zuko clearly doesn’t learn anything about being friendlier or warmer to people from her, and neither does she since they fight so much, and Mai has no strong beliefs one way or the other,unlike Zuko.

Oh, and spoilers from the A:TLA comics-

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They break up. For real.

Without spoiling more than that,it’s a result of Mai realizing how much Zuko hides from her, and her own abrasiveness finally reaching a boiling point.

This is purely wishful thinking from here on out, but my wish is that Zuko, a Firelord, marries Jin, an Earth Kingdom peasant woman. Think of how interesting that storyline would be.

Jin now has to learn a completely different culture and lifestyle from her own,just as Zuko did during his time as a fugitive posing as an Earth Kingdon refugee. Zuko, the ever-busy Fire Lord, learns how to better show his emotions, needs and wants to the people he cares about because Jin is emotionally well-adjusted and very outwardly affectionate (unlike Mai) and while she nay bumble the noble stuff from time to time, they make it work.

Not only that,but the significance of the FIRE LORD marrying not only a commoner,but a commoner from another nation than his own at that, would be a great prelude to the conception for the idea of Republic City, the first major settlement where the four nations can and eventually do interact in relative harmony. It would also set a precedent for benders in high positions of power being with normal non-benders before the time of Korra.

No offense to Mai,but her schtick is literally being blah,and it’s not like she makes any effort to be otherwise. She shows emotions in tense moments, and she has her own demons to work through,but storywise, I just don’t find their relationship all that interesting. She’s a politician’s daughter, so there’s no huge strides being made there, and while she was proactive about her affection compared to Zuko, Jin was even moreso.

At the end of the day, from both a narrative and character development standpoint, Jin x Zuko is simply way more interesting than Mai x Zuko. Finally, I honestly find them cuter together, because Zuko only ever acts like a mopey boyfriend around Mai, while he’s a bumbling sweetheart during his date with Jin.

And really, isn’t fluff all that we want in life?

All fluff belongs to their respective artists.

13 thoughts on “Zuko x Jin – The Romance That Could Have Been

  1. aaaaaaaa…. you made me remember those days when I used to wake up around 5 am in the morning because at this time alone this anime used to telecast in my country and it had no repeat telecast….
    My eyes that time were swollen and hardly could see anything as I just had wake up….. Mannn… those days…
    I am also gonna start watching it again….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. this article is everything… i was so sad when i rewatched the episode (this is my third rerun of the series), and was flung back to my moping state of “zuko and jin should have ended up together: in this essay i will,”… if only…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. yes I totally agree! The short amount of time Zuko and Jin spent together was so interesting to watch that if we ever saw them reunite and spend more time together it would be way more satisfying than Zuko and Mai.

    I also disliked Zuko and Mai’s relationship. To me it has a lot of red flags…both in terms of relationship issues and having flaws with how it fits into the overall storyline. Rumor has it they get back together in future comics, but I’m hoping it isn’t true…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Definitely agree !!! Way better , besides would be interesting seeing jin becoming the lady of the fire lord , a lil cliche ? Yes but i would love see that cuz would bring another point showing the changes on cultural root of the fire Nation .

    Liked by 1 person

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