>Seems to be the real deal to me, and it strikes me as exactly
>something Ozai would do, from what little I know of him.
There also might be pragmatic reasons at work here. Muspelhiem is planning to win, of course. But Ozai, despite being a thug, is also a thug who usually has contingency plans. Having a living catspaw as opposed to yet another demon general requires very little effort on his part and could potentially pay dividends if it turns out there's still a Midgard after this campaign. And with the resources at his disposal giving an Azula who is probably starting to get slightly weathered (even given extended lifespans, still being a galactic asskicker in your mid-seventies has to be taking a toll) a quick wash-and-wax is pretty trivial.
>One of the themes I see over again is the notion that Ozai
>consistently fails to account for the changes in Azula since he's seen
>her last--a mistake Akio made when facing Utena.
Less forgivable an oversight for Ozai than for Akio, although Akio is a lot smarter than Ozai. Akio was juggling a lot of bombs at the time, and his plan involved Utena not actually showing up, and certainly not showing up being ready to lock and load.
(That must be getting annoying to Akio at this point, really. So far he's started two cosmological engineering projects that he planned extremely well only to have them both foiled by people he had no possible way of foreseeing arriving suddenly arriving.)
But Ozai actually had time to sit down and plan this shit out, which means mistakes that ought to be obvious are all the more egregious.
>The dead don't grow,
Is this actually true in the context of UF? Because it has unfortunate implications for a lot of beloved characters who are members of the Einherjar, for example.
You could make the case that the damned don't grow, but that has unfortunate implications for Nanami Kiryuu, and also seems to be at odds with the fact that demons have been known to defect out of the Pit and join the good guys.