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What You Never Noticed About Aang And Zuko's Hair In Avatar: The Last Airbender

Thanks in large part to the rise of streaming services over the past decade, classic shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender have found new life with a whole new generation of viewers. The series kicked off in February 2005 before reaching its end in July 2008 on Nickelodeon, where it amassed a committed following. Since it arrived on Netflix in May of 2020, however, that fanbase has grown significantly. While many chose to revisit the show out of nostalgia from when they watched it as kids, others decided to give it a first-time go-around in response to the remarkable amount of well-deserved praise it receives.

Sitting at an impressive 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, The Last Airbender is widely considered one of the finest animated TV shows in history. The series immediately welcomes viewers into an incredibly rich world full of backstory and deep lore. Not to mention, it's also a masterclass in character development, specifically through two of its leads: the titular Avatar, Aang (voiced by Zach Tyler Eisen) and the villain-turned-hero, Zuko (Dante Basco), whose contrasting individual journeys contain many interesting narrative parallels.

Some fans have been apt to point out that an interesting visual motif cues this symmetry in Aang and Zuko's character arcs: their constantly evolving haircuts.

Aang and Zuko's hair mirrors their personal changes

As pointed out by user hottytoddy098 on Reddit, the writers behind Avatar: The Last Airbender used Aang and Zuko's hairstyles to signify the progression of their character arcs. To elaborate, Redditor shigogaboo chimed in with some clarification on this point, saying "Aang shaves his head to help tie him back to his Nomadic roots, showing he's a ready to embrace his destiny. Contrarily, Zuko releasing his hair is him casting aside the rigidity and structure of his princely duties, effectively turning his back on his 'destiny.'"

For the majority of the series, Aang goes completely bald aside from his signature blue arrow tattoo — that is, until Zuko's sister Azula (Grey DeLisle) strikes him with a bolt of lightning. As a result, he enters a coma and his hair regrows, so when he wakes up, he looks like a totally different person. He uses his new look to his advantage to sneak under the Fire Nation's radar. However, this covert operation only lasts a handful of episodes before he once again shaves his head, ushering in his return to form and reigniting his desire to continue his Avatar training.

While Aang ditches his hair to become more in-tune with his cultural identity, Zuko does quite the opposite. A stalwart symbol of the Fire Nation's tradition and order, he spends the first season seeking out Aang to eradicate him once and for all, thus regaining his place as the one, true Crown Prince. As hard as he tries, his plans didn't exactly work out. After Zuko abandons his quest to prove himself to his father, he chops off his ponytail, and starts down his path to redemption.

All this just goes to show how detail-oriented the show was. Creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko certainly went a long way to cement their series legacy as one of the most thorough and thoughtful cartoons to ever reach the small screen. It's no wonder they're particular about any new attempt to adapt it.