Izumi Curtis is a wonderful, chronically ill, kind, friendly housewife who is also an alchemist who will fuck shit up if you hurt her family.
Courtesy of Arakawa’s: There’s no wrong way to approach femininity, womanhood, or asskicking school of thought.
Yet another of the many brilliant commonalities between Bryke’s (Avatar) and Arakawa’s (FMA) defining stories, which explains why they share so many fans in common as well and why I love the idea of crossing them over so much.
They don’t rely on just 3-4 types of characters, let alone 3-4 characters period. They showcase loads and loads of faces, with a very dynamic range of personalities. Aang; Edward; Korra; Izumi (as seen above); Ursa; Tenzin; Sozin; Winry; Sokka; Lan Fan; Greed (also seen above); Azula; Kimblee; Asami; Lust; Ozai; Scar; Toph; Hiroshi; Iroh; Father; Amon; Bumi; Alex; Hakoda; Hama; Pema; Olivier; Bradley; Zhao; Zuko; Mai; Alphonse; Bolin; Riza; Ty Lee; Jet; Ling; Lin; Roy. These names, and those are not even all of them, are those of figures who all share similarities yet differences which make them unique; just like real people.
When Michael Dante Dimartino and Bryan Konietzko created Avatar, when Hiromu Arakawa created Fullmetal Alchemist; they didn’t create stories that said you were unacceptable as a man or woman without a(n) [insert X here] personality or approach to life. Their worlds are a showcase of how any kind of person, with any way of going through each and every day or any great or terrible story behind them, can be weak and/or strong in soul.
RESPECTFULLY SPEAKING: the times Bryke does manage to do it right are the times they get out of their own ways and let their writers improve their story to become more like Arakawa.
Bryke aims for what Arakawa does. They don’t…they don’t always hit the mark. You can be any type of girl, of course, but ultimately and arguably the most important female main character of A:TLA (Katara) just ends up becoming a footnote to the male main character. The fact that the majority of the character development in Korra comes from Love triangles (Pema/Tenzin/Lin; Mako/Korra/Bolin; Asami/Mako/Korra) only really furthers my distinction between the two series, and why I ultimately enjoy FMA much more than A:TLA despite loving both series quite a lot.
Arakawa doesn’t waste time with unnecessary conflict. There are romances, yes, and they go through conflicts, and love and family are arguably the driving factors of the series. But these factors are part of the story, they don’t overwhelm the story, and they certainly don’t eclipse entire characters in favor of some romance triangles. The people who love each other love each other obviously, strongly, and display it through their actions and choices.
A:TLA/A:TLOK…is more concerned with love and lust over-writing the story rather than being a driving motivator. I think A:TLA is not as guilty of this, but certainly by Korra, even Katara’s entire journey was summed up as “she married the Avatar.” The relationships conflict with the actual conflicts and plots and let’s be entirely honest, any time Bryke has tried to characterize a villain, they’ve usually only been a villain, without any of the real nuances there. Which is a shame, Amon would have been the perfect nuanced villain to follow up the very non-nuanced Ozai, or Zhao.
A:TLA did well because of other writers. But Bryke and TLOK didn’t pull anywhere close to FMA for me in this area. It tried, sure, but I wouldn’t say it got there. Hell, we never get an Izumi character from Bryke: Katara’s mother is dead, Gran Gran has little screen time, Pema is only a housewife and an acolyte - it’s Lin who is Not a Housewife and Chose Her Career Instead of the Man who has to save her, Ursa was also essentially fridged/put on a bus for the entire series, leaving the ONLY motherly figure to be Katara who is never shown actually parenting in any flashbacks (or in flashbacks whatsoever at all - badass or otherwise).
So actually I would say that…didn’t really happen as much as we’d like to think it did in A:TLA/TLOK. The variations on women are definitely not as strong.
I think it’s also important to address the fact that the narrative of Avatar, specifically LoK, really only treats its female characters seriously if they are physically capable/know how to fight. Meanwhile, you have characters like Winry, Trisha, Gracia, Pinako, etc. who were still treated as strong despite not even being shown fighting.
LoK also had the issue of shafting pretty much all of their female characters as far as their past and talents other than combat. The closest we got to seeing any of the female character’s other talents was Asami, and basically all we got was “she likes to drive,” which was only addressed in the first place because it was a somewhat masculine hobby. The only talent that we really saw from Korra or Lin was fighting. In contrast, Mako was shown to be somewhat good at cooking, and Bolin was shown to have a good sense of humor. Having the female characters being good at combat is not a bad thing in the least, but the narrative of the show treated it as the only skill that mattered, as well as any other remotely masculine skills.
Compare that to the women of FMA. Winry is not only extremely handy with machines, but she was able to successfully deliver a baby without professional assistance (midwifery in general is treated as an extremely valuable skill). Gracia and Trisha are exceptional cooks. Riza is extremely organized and punctual as far as paperwork and administrative duties. No talent is treated as better or more important than any other, which I think is part of the reason why the development of the main female characters in LoK was so limited. I still loved the show, but I think that FMA was way stronger in that area.