Buff Iroh is probably one of the most surprising turnouts in the series. Yes, we knew Aang would beat the Fire Lord, but one thing we didn’t count on was the tea-loving, fat-belied, duck-eating older man to get ripped and become buff Iroh suddenly. Instead, he went from eating with much gusto to sporting a full set of abs.
Iroh was a retired Fire Nation general, a former Crown Prince of the nation, a Grand Lotus of the Order of the White Lotus, a firebending master, and a wise mentor to his nephew Zuko. He was the elder son of Fire Lord Azulon and Ilah and the older brother of Ozai. Iroh’s well-known ability to breathe fire and his claims of “slaying” the last dragon earned him the honorary title “The Dragon of the West” became “Buff Iroh”.
Prelude to The Buff Iroh
Several things led to the capture and imprisonment of Iroh. In reality, Iroh was a grand lotus of the secret society, the Order of the White Lotus. The Order of the White Lotus, which transcended the boundaries of the four nations. The organization has members spread far and wide across the world, even in desolate, remote villages of the Earth Kingdom.
Iroh and Zuko sought their aid in avoiding the bounty hunters Master Yu and Xin Fu, who temporarily decided to seek the two fugitives from the firebending nation rather than pursue the Avatar and Toph. However, on short notice, the Order managed to produce fake passports and other paperwork to smuggle Iroh and Zuko into Ba Sing Se.
They managed to get into Ba Sing Se to start new lives for themselves, which was the safest route for the duo to take.
With the help of the Order of the White Lotus’ Iroh and Zuko were able to make their way to Ba Sing Se, disguised as refugees. Once inside, a series of events occurred. Events like Iroh getting them jobs at a tea shop. While on a day off, Iroh spent the day shopping in the city.
During his travels, Iroh displayed his kindness and his skill as a teacher. He granted wisdom and help to all those he encountered during his day of shopping. He later held a small memorial service for Lu Ten, marking his late son’s birthday, and tearfully said he wished he could have helped Lu Ten and that he would ‘see him again.
After weeks in Ba Sing Se, Iroh was given a chance to run his own tea shop, but Zuko had other plans. After he became aware that the Avatar was in Ba Sing Se and had lost his Bison, he devised his own plans.
When Zuko attempted to capture Appa, Iroh confronted Zuko and told him rather bluntly to stop trying to live the life people said he had to live. In addition, Iroh convinced Zuko to give up his alias as the Blue Spirit. After this event, Zuko became ill as a result of his actions under Lake Laogai.
Iroh explained that they were incomplete conflicts with Zuko’s image of himself. Nevertheless, he cared for him like he would his own son. Through the ordeal, Iroh reassured Zuko that when he came out of his illness, he would be the “beautiful prince” he was always meant to be and remained confident that Zuko would be the one person to redeem the wrongdoings of the Fire Nation.
Soon after, he became better with a positive and chippy side. This was even much weirder than his actions under Lake Laogai. He was excited to run a tea shop and became even more hopeful.
Azula, planning a coup would put a stop to all that. When Azula offered Zuko a chance to reclaim his honor by helping take over the Earth Kingdom capital, he agreed. Iroh, taking on Azula and the Dai Li warriors, had to take on Zuko as well, much to his pain.
He would have laid down his life as he had to stand down. He was last seen defending the lifeless body of the Avatar as he ordered Katara to get him out. He gave them time to escape before he peacefully allowed himself to be captured. Iroh made eye contact with Zuko before turning away, expressing shame at his nephew’s decision.
Iroh Imprisoned So He Became Buff Iroh
After this, Iroh was imprisoned. He never said a word even as Zuko would secretly visit him in the tower where he was being held prisoner. After a few trials to visit, he eventually summoned the courage to go, after threatening the guard to keep silent about the visit.
Zuko tried severally to talk to his uncle, only to have Iroh turn away from him and say nothing. Zuko later brought food to Iroh and asked for his help. Iroh continued to remain silent, causing Zuko to become angry and storm out of the room. A single tear rolled down Iroh’s face. The pain took for him to behave that way towards his nephew, who was a son, was overwhelming.
Iroh Loved Zuko More Than His Own Father
While Iroh was in prison he became the buff Iroh, the Warden, Poon, came to give Iroh his food. Poon mocked am intentionally disheveled Iroh as he scrambled for the food after he had tossed it on the floor. He even scooped what had fallen onto the ground into his mouth. As soon as Poon was gone, he became more collected, wiped the stray hair out of his face, and calmly finished his meal in peace.
This time, he only ate out of the bowl. Iroh was shown again, calmly lying on the ground, deep in thought. Suddenly his eyes widened, and he began aggressively doing bent-knee sit-ups. This was the process that led him to be buff. He had been doing these exercises at every chance he got, which was almost every time.
Later, Iroh was still mocked and ridiculed by Poon while still feigning insanity, as was his habit at the prison. Nevertheless, Iroh continued to train in Poon’s absence. At this point, he is shown to have upgraded to straight-legged inverted sit-ups.
He kept up the facade of loneliness and desperation in front of Poon. Iroh was seen to be training whenever he was not being watched. He became very much able to perform difficult exercises, including inverted crunches, inverted push-ups, and one-handed pull-ups.
Still keeping his jailer unaware, Iroh had managed to recondition his body to a more intimidating form. He had even managed to lose his pronounced signature belly that we came to know him with. He slyly hid his belly by stuffing spare clothing under his robes. This was to dissuade his jailer and keep them in the dark. Buff Iroh is a surprise we were not ready for but delighted to have in the series.