It's OK That Kya Is Not a Master Waterbender

Throughout The Legend of Korra, there were so many skilled Benders introduced that the talents of some were only ever seen in snapshots and a scant few fights. While Team Avatar may have been in a new brawl every episode, characters like Avatar Aang's daughter Kya often fell to the wayside, only having a few moments to prove what they could do. But those moments are more than enough for some fans to claim she and characters like her are just as deserving of the status of a master-level Bender.

But not everybody can be on top. In order for Avatar to showcase a full range of talent, there need to be characters who are the best, characters, who are the worst and characters who are somewhere in between. Kya fits firmly into that last category, and that's for the better.

RELATED: Avatar: 5 Skills the Next Avatar Could Learn to Become The Most Powerful Bender in History

In the original series, Avatar: The Last Airbender, the main cast was made up of some of the best Benders in the world, with their only real competition being the White Lotus masters that helped show what top-level Benders could look like. The sequel series, Korra, expanded the cast to include even more characters while focusing on a far wider range of abilities and proficiency in fighting. The Waterbender Kya, introduced in Book Two primarily as a supporting cast member, provides a perfect example of a character who can excel in areas other than fighting.

Trained by her mother Katara, Kya was considered one of the best healers in the world and used those abilities to help save Jinora's spirit when she was under threat from Unalaq. Indeed, even apart from her bending skills, Kya was a valuable source of sage advice, easing the edge of her brother Tenzin's harsh personality and quelling family conflicts with her easygoing personality. Throughout the series, there were really only two fights she participated in and, considering that she was beaten in both of them, it would be difficult to make the case that she is a top-tier Bender worthy of ranking among the best of the best. And yet it still happens among the fandom.

RELATED: Legend of Korra: Mako is Avatar's Most Underrated Firebender

The phrase most often used in Kya's showings against the Red Lotus is that her ability to "hold her own" in fights that she lost showcases those top-tier talents, and to a degree that is certainly reasonable. She faced off against Zaheer on her own, cornering him to a point where he tried to flee. When she went toe-to-toe with him, she certainly lasted longer than the White Lotus guards he dispatched easily throughout the series. In her later battle alongside her brother Bumi against Ming-Hua and Ghazan, she did much the same, though was ultimately overwhelmed by their attacks and thrown off a cliff.

As admirable as those showings are, however, it doesn't bode well for ranking Avatar fighters if anybody who can briefly fight a master Bender are themselves considered a master. If Kya's performance alone against Zaheer justifies her mastery, then what would that make Tenzin, given his own ability to overcome Zaheer in a solo confrontation? Avatar's world is a much richer and more complex place if the Benders that inhabit it range across a whole spectrum of proficiency in their talents. A binary between "bad" and "master" is overly simplistic and reductive to a world so rich in variety in other ways. When Kya has so much else going for her, it is gilding the lily to try to also claim that she is one of Korra's best fighters.

RELATED: Avatar & Korra Stars Use Podcast to Break New Ground with the Animated Classic

Kya's character works amazingly well for the supporting cast, and even past the series' ending, she provided a valuable heart-to-heart with Korra when it came to the characters discussing their sexuality. Such a topic until then was largely relegated to fandom guessing, but out of Kya's mouth, it felt so natural it fit perfectly within the Avatar world. With so much focus on Tenzin's family in the series, Kya represents a wise and easygoing voice found nowhere else among the family.

There is no real reason for her to be some hardnosed fighter, and if combat were really such a core aspect of her character, it would only seem odd that she was so uninvolved in the action of the rest of the series. Seeing herself as a healer and capable emotional support to those around her, it makes sense that Kya would only really fight when necessary and resign herself to other roles offscreen. So the next time the question of Kya's skill comes up and the argument about how good she is for "holding her own" against the Red Lotus rears its head, consider the wider problems her mastery brings. She's simply not the best, and that's OK.

KEEP READING: Avatar: Why All Air Nomads Can Bend - And What That Says About Nonbenders

Even If You Slit My Mouth: The Japanese Urban Legend Behind Kuchisake-Onna
Related Topics
About The Author
Brenton Stewart (1028 Articles Published)

Brenton somehow earned a college degree in the middle of a multi-decade pop culture binge he continues to this day. His interests range across philosophy, literature, and the arts to comics, cartoons, television, and Dungeons & Dragons. Follow him on Twitter @BrentonStewart6 or reach out by e-mail at [email protected] if you have nice things to say!

More From Brenton Stewart

You May Like Also

  • Avatar: 5 Skills the Next Avatar Could Learn to Become The Most Powerful Bender in History
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
  • the best Benders in the world
  • Legend of Korra: Mako is Avatar's Most Underrated Firebender
  • Avatar & Korra Stars Use Podcast to Break New Ground with the Animated Classic
  • a core aspect of her character, 
  • Avatar: Why All Air Nomads Can Bend - And What That Says About Nonbenders
  • My Hero Academia: One Popular Pro Hero Didn't Even Choose His Own Name
  • avatar the last airbender
  • Dragon Ball Z: Who Was Really Stronger in the Gotenks vs. Super Buu Fight?
  • From Sailor Moon to Lucky Star: The Iconic Anime School Uniform, Explained
  • The Bruce Lee Connection: How the Martial Arts Master Inspired Cowboy Bebop's Spike Spiegel
  • Banished From the Hero's Party Is the Perfect Alternative to Modern Isekai
  • So I'm a Spider, So What? and Bunny Girl Senpai Audiobooks Announced
  • Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut: The Space Program Finally Warms Up to Irina
  • DC's Robins #1 Comic Review
  • Marvel's Star Wars Life Day #1 Comic Review
  • Marvel's Hawkeye: Kate Bishop #1 Comic Review
  • DC's Superman Son of Kal-El #5 Comic Review
  • Marvel's Hulk #1 Comic Review
  • Marvel's Darkhold: The Wasp #1 Comic Review
  • A Creepy My Hero Academia Theory Explains Why Deku Was Quirkless
  • Demon Slayer vs. Dororo: Which Is the Better Anime?
  • The Anime Season Release Schedule Is Evolving - Here's Why That Matters
  • The Official Avatar Cookbook’s Tastiest Sweets - Perfect for Holiday Dinners
  • Dragon Ball Z: The Majin Buu Saga's Most Shocking Plot Twists
  • Cowboy Bebop: 5 Essential Anime Episodes to Watch Ahead of the Netflix Series
  • Boruto Manga Reveals Naruto Still Has a Key Power
  • Green Blood: A Western Manga For JoJo Fans and Cowboy Aficionados
  • Why Does Every Avatar Have an Animal Companion?
  • The Best (Healthy) BL Anime on Funimation
  • Fruits Basket: What Tohru Honda's Zodiac Sign Says About Her
  • Naoki Urasawa's Pluto Is an Astro Boy Reboot Done Right
  • Watch full movie for free, click here daily update 👉