Mai was exceptionally skilled at throwing stilettos, a self-taught ability she developed out of boredom. Using small knives similar to ninja shuriken concealed in her robes, she was capable of besting numerous benders at once despite not being a bender herself. She was recruited by Azula along with Ty Lee to capture her brother and uncle, as well as the Avatar and his friends.
Dark, brooding, stoic, and gloomy, Mai was usually bored by whatever situation she was in, and took little interest in anything around her. Her lack of emotion was due to her controlled upbringing by her politically-motivated parents. Her apparent apathy tended to irritate others, such as when Zuko described her as "just a big blah", and when Ty Lee described Mai's "aura" as "dingy and gray". Mai's lack of emotion and constant calm contrasted heavily with Zuko's passion and temper.
Mai was also one of the few people not afraid of Azula. While aboard the Fire Nation drill, she vehemently refused to enter the slurry water to pursue Sokka and Katara, unconcerned with the consequences of disobeying Azula's order. This also seemed to imply that she had a dislike for messy things.
Like Zuko, Mai seemed to be against the idea of needless killing; more often than not, she chose to disable foes rather than outright kill them during battle. She generally achieved this by using her weapons to pin their clothes, usually the sleeves, to a vertical surface.
Despite her stoic nature, it appeared that her relationship with Zuko tended to bring out her more passionate traits. When Zuko returned to the Fire Nation, Azula told him that Mai had been in a strangely good mood. Zuko and Mai argued frequently, but when Azula started toying with them, and mocked her boyfriend after forcing him to reveal why he was so angry all the time, Mai soothed him by assuring him that, even though she had trouble showing it, she did love him. Later, she was shown genuinely enjoying spending time with Zuko, and both were shown ordering the palace servants around. She also showed deep concern when he fretted over why he was not invited to a war meeting hosted by his father, and later when he admitted that while in the meeting, he did not feel like himself. She confronted Zuko about leaving her, saying that he broke her heart. After the confrontation, she saved him from the prison guards who were cutting the line of the gondola Zuko was in and told Azula that she loved him more than she feared her.
Despite their previously unpleasant encounter at the Boiling Rock, Mai was more than happy to reunite with Zuko after the Hundred Year War ended. She reaffirmed her love for Zuko and celebrated the War's end with him and his friends. Her love for Zuko remained strong as she was unwilling to break up with him again. Now that Zuko had finally found his way and was at peace with himself, and threats such as Fire Lord Ozai and Azula were defeated, they could be together again and she could be happy.
Mai was a master marksman, able to skillfully hit targets from a distance. This skill, also known as "stilettos", involved shuriken knives, and hand arrows, a skill that apparently started with her throwing knives at her bedroom wall out of boredom. She had a deadly accuracy with these weapons and used them to pin her opponents down, even if she or the target was moving, which also helped against benders as they primarily needed their hands and arms to be free to bend. Her skill was great enough to defeat powerful benders and multiple opponents. While she usually pinned her opponents down with her stilettos, she had been seen throwing them in a way that would cause severe, and possibly fatal, injuries, such as when she attacked Aang and Katara, and Toph. Her skill was enough to incapacitate several prison guards without killing or injuring them. Mai was also shown to be able to slide across surfaces on her side. When attacking the guards on the Boiling Rock, she was able to attack and dodge by throwing a knife and diving onto her side, gliding across the metal surface in one fluid motion.
- The name Mai (明—pronounced identically to the English word and name "May") means "brightness" in Japanese. Mai is also the Cantonese pronunciation of Mèi (袂) and means "sleeve of a robe", which is where she hides her weapons. Her name could also be a reference to Mai which means "dark" in Japanese. In Japanese, it could also mean "dance". Mei (美) which in her case is spelled Mai, means beautiful in Mandarin Chinese. The Taiwanese translation of the show has her as 梅 (méi), meaning "plum blossom".
- Mai's hairstyle was based on the Chinese traditional "ox horns" hairstyle. Like many traditional Chinese hairstyles, Mai's hair was bunched up and tied into buns on the top, with the rest let down below shoulder-level. Her hairstyle should not be confused with the odango hairstyle, which was popularized by and refers to styles in certain anime.
- Due to the severity and violence of her attack methods, Mai's daggers were never actually shown hitting a person directly. Rather, they were just barely blocked or dodged. However, when they did hit, they were always aimed at the target's sleeves or clothing and were merely meant to disable the target. The closest these knives were shown to hitting in the show was when Katara was fighting Mai in Omashu; when Mai threw a flurry of knives at her, Katara used her waterbending to knock wooden boards into the air in front of her, causing the knives to hit the boards only inches from her face.
- Though Mai was most often seen using knives and daggers, she could also shoot arrows from the holsters on her wrists and ankles.
- There was a goof in "The Beach" episode when Ty Lee said that Mai had been "an only child for fifteen years", even though her brother is actually two years old, as she has only been an only child for thirteen years. Additionally, the official Nick website confirmed that she is really fifteen years old.