Monday, October 10, 2016

Top 20 Fictional Trios

Coincidentally (or not), this third installment of my ongoing series on lists of small ensembles in fiction is about teams with three members – the “trios.”

The “trio” is an easily observable dynamic in fiction.  Its structure can come in a variety of ways, but each member conforms to a particular characterization, role, and motif.  This sometimes results to making the characters one-dimensional as individuals, but wonderfully likable and interesting as a group.

A common structure of the trio is that one serves as the “leader” figure – almost always the main character of the story – and the other two serve as “sidekicks”, offering opposite but balancing presences that support the “leader.”  Another one is that two of them have personalities that are polar opposites of each other, with the third’s personality fit of that of a “moderator” to the group – a sort of embodiment of the “ego, superego, and id” relationship.

Here are my favorite presentations of the trio dynamic…

I previously discussed that I prefer Athos, Porthos, and Aramis to be packaged with D’Artagnan and be considered as a foursome.  Thus, they are in that list instead of this list.  However, as a general concept for many, the Three Musketeers are a very notable fictional trio – even the most definitive one.  So let me give them an “honorable mention” spot in this list before proceeding to the official rankings.

“Biker Mice from Mars” is an incredibly silly concept that is obviously contrived to replicate the success of something as similarly bizarre as “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”  All attempts to be like the Turtles failed to come close to being as big and delightful.  But one of the better efforts was, for me, Biker Mice from Mars.  Everything you need to know about the show is in its title.

Throttle, Modo, and Vinnie, the show’s titular trio, are bike-riding vigilantes protecting the Earth from becoming like their home planet, Mars, at the hands of the Plutarkians, alien invaders that siphon a planet dry of its resources.

“Prepare for trouble!”
“Make it double!”
“To protect the world from devastation!”
“To unite all people within our nation!”
“To denounce the evil of truth and love!”
“To extend our reach to the stars above!”
“Team Rocket blasts off at the speed of light!”
“Surrender now, or prepare to fight!”
“MEOWTH, that's right!”

Everyone who grew up with Pokemon knows this iconic introduction.

This Team Rocket unit – made up of Jessie, James, and Meowth – is the regular antagonists of Ash Ketchum in the Pokemon anime series.  But though they are usually greedy thieves, they have also shown a good and heroic side, helping Ash and his friends in several occasions, but rationalizing their actions in order to hide the fact that they aren’t completely bad guys.

The Stepford Cuckoos are clones of Emma Frost sent to infiltrate the Xavier Institute by Sublime, though they eventually shifted their allegiance to the X-Men.  There were originally five of them but two had long been dead. Thus, the Stepford Cuckoos are more known by their Three-in-One (i.e. their chosen X-Men nicknames) moniker rather than the original Five-in-One.

What I like most about them is how weird they are.  Their cold collectiveness and innate creepiness make them outcasts of the X-Men, a team of mutants, who are ironically society’s own outcasts.  And an interesting aspect of their characterization is when each Cuckoo began to struggle for individuality, after having their intellects and personalities linked by their hive mind for a long time.

Aaahh!!! Real Monsters is no animated classic.  But it was one of the cartoons around when I first encountered Nickelodeon (and I extremely loved Nickelodeon as a kid).  Its main characters are three young monsters studying how to scare humans in a monster school.

What I found most endearing about this trio is their creatively weird character designs – especially Krumm’s.  When I encountered Harry Potter years later, the dynamic and character blueprints of Harry, Hermione, and Ron reminded me of Ickis, Oblina, and Krumm.

Who aren’t familiar of their iconic, high-pitched voices, which are adorable at first but get somewhat annoying in the long run?  The recent live-action CGI movies aren’t that great, but I remember enjoying the old animated movies.

15.) ED, EDD, and EDDY
These unlikely friends are brought together by their common love for jawbreakers.  The dimwitted Ed and the smart Edd or “Double D” are constantly dragged by the greedy, scamming Eddy to con their peers out of their money so that they can buy as much of their beloved jawbreakers as they want.

Though the ensemble had undergone lineup changes through about forty decades of films and TV shows – there had been six actors all in all – only three stooges had been active at a time.

Three Stooges (or the actors behind the characters) were masters of physical comedy – executing their hilarious antics with impeccable sense of timing and well-conceptualized sketches.  Slapstick may seem simple, but the best kind, as what the Stooges had consistently shown, requires a special kind of creativity.

I like all depictions of Josie and the Pussycats – in the original comics, the classic animated cartoon, and the slightly underrated live-action movie.  Though there isn’t much depth in the characters, their songs are catchy (I’m, of course, particularly referring to the soundtracks of the animated series and the movie, since, entertaining their comics may be, their performances are audibly impossible to convey through that medium).  My favorite among them is Melody, since I adore female drummers and her simplemindedness is just adorable.

The Charlie’s Angels TV show had undergone different lineups, but only had three Angels at a time.  But, for this list, I will let the concept of “Charlie’s Angels” be represented by the film version’s lineup – Natalie, Dylan, and Alex.  I watched reruns of the original show, and found them okay, but I had more fun with the movies.  I think the big screen Angels have more colorful backgrounds, more versatile skill sets, and more badass fighting skills.

The old animated series Centurions: Power Xtreme is one of the cartoons I loved watching as a kid in Cartoon Network.  Its heroes, the titular Centurions, are made up of Max Ray, Jake Rockwell, and Ace McCloud.  They are clad in special exo-frames that allow them to be armored with weapons and equipment unique to each individual, making them sort of human combat vehicles.  Max, a Sea Operations Commander, is armed by sea-themed weapon systems; Jake, a Land Operations Specialist, is armed with land-themed weapon systems; and Ace, an Air Operations Expert, is armed with air-themed weapon systems.  So basically, the three are superhero personifications of the Navy, Army, and the Air Force.

Naruto and his friends can be grouped into trios, depending on their Team affiliations.  However, if you take into consideration that each of those Teams are led by a senior – a teacher or Jōnin –  then they’re technically in foursomes, not just trios.  (Hence, Naruto’s own Team 7 is in my list for foursomes.)

The only real trio among Naruto’s generation is the Three Sand Siblings, the children of Sunagakure’s Fourth Kazekage: Temari, Kankurō and Gaara.  At a young age, they were put into grueling training, making them elite ninjas as a result.

Sure, their shinobi Team technically has Baki as their Jōnin leader, but he has never been portrayed of being with them much.  In fact, after the events of the Konoha Crush, Baki was no longer shown accompanying the three of them, as they conduct missions all on their own, without supervision.  My most favorite mission of theirs was the time they were sent to aid the Sasuke Recovery Team.

Personally, I think of Harry Potter as simply another typical “chosen one” protagonist.  He’s a good character, with some interesting facets, but I don’t consider him a great character overall.  That said, he, Hermione, and Ron make a delightful trio.  Harry would have long failed – or died – if he didn’t have his best friends helping him tackle the many perils, puzzles, and challenges that came with being The Boy Who Lived.

Yakko, Wakko, and Dot a.k.a. “The Warner Brothers and the Warner Sister” are the central characters of the classic Animaniacs animated series.  Supposedly, they are cartoon stars of the 1930’s that were locked away in the Warner Bros. water tower until they escaped in the 1990’s.  Their hysterical adventures/sketches often have them interact with famous persons of the past and the present as well as fictional characters from TV and film.

Disney has many notable trios.  Several of them serve as supporting characters, like Victor, Laverne, and Hugo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame); Flora, Fauna, and Mayweather (Sleeping Beauty); and Yao, Ling, and Chien Po (Mulan).  Others serve as minions to the main villain, like Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed (The Lion King); and the Fates (Hercules).  Some are reinventions of classic fable and fairy tale characters, like The Three Little Pigs and The Three Blind Mouseketeers.  While those that were able to headline a feature length film like Donald Duck, José Carioca, and Panchito Pistoles (The Three Caballeros) had descended into some degree of obscurity.

But among Disney trios, Donald Duck’s nephews – Huey, Dewey, and Louie – stand out the most.  Through the extremely delightful Walt Disney comics (published by Gladstone and Universal Records) and shows like Ducktales and Quack Pack, this duck trio won me over due to their amusing juvenile waywardness, enthusiasm for adventure, and impressive resourcefulness and quick-thinking.

Magic Knight Rayearth was the first anime that introduced me to the “magical girls” subgenre.  I even liked it better than the more popular Sailor Moon.

Its protagonists are the Magic Knights, three eight-grade girls from three different schools.  They were summoned to the magical world of Cephiro by the Princess Emeraude to save it from Zagato – or so they thought.

5.) MUGEN, JIN, and FUU
Samurai Champloo is easily one of the most overlooked anime gems in recent years.  It centers on the wandering trio of Mugen, Jin, and Fuu.  Mugen and Jin are actually rivals that are polar opposites of each other.  Mugen is a foolhardy, boorish, hot-tempered vagabond, while Jin is a composed, stoic, reserved ronin.  However, both are fierce fighters and are keen of fighting each other to the death to see which is better.  But before they can carry on with their duel, they find themselves in a situation wherein they owe their lives to Fuu.  In exchange for saving them, she obliges them to help her to search for “the samurai who smells of sunflowers.”  And thus, this unlikely trio goes on a delightfully wacky adventure.

This mystery-solving teenage trio is among my most favorite fictional detectives ever.  They are basically the Hardy Boys, if the Hardy Boys are made up of three members instead of two, have more diverse personalities, and are acquainted with legendary director Alfred Hitchcock.

As what I previously wrote about them when they made the cut for my favorite female characters list:
The Powerpuff Girls are awesome.  You have to watch their well-written show to really appreciate them.  In a nutshell, they are supposed to be the perfect girls made from “sugar, spice, and everything nice” that gained superpowers (and maybe life?) due to “Chemical X” (yah, it’s an insane origin.  But there’s a lot of insanity and quirkiness in this show.  Again, you have to watch it to really appreciate it).  The Powerpuff Girls have to balance kindergarten and superheroing – fighting crime and monsters, or saving Townsville from any crisis – before their bedtime.
Plus, they have a very catchy theme.

Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends is a classic superhero animated series that sees Peter Parker (a.k.a. Spider-Man), Bobby Drake (a.k.a. Iceman), and Angelica Jones (a.k.a. Firestar) as college students in Empire State University.  They live together in Aunt May’s home, and team up as the “Spider-Friends” to fight various Marvel supervillains.

In the Marvel Comics universe, these three characters rarely band together.  In fact, Firestar was an original character created for the show, though she would shortly debut in the comics as well.  Nevertheless, seeing these three characters teaming up in their show is pure glee, making me wish their friendship and history of collaboration had been canon in the comics.  Web, ice, and fire are a strange mix, but they made it work terrifically.

At that moment during the Council of Elrond when Aragorn pledged his sword, Legolas his bow, and Gimli his axe to Frodo in his quest to destroy the One Ring, I just knew that those three were going to be the Lord of the Rings characters that would interest me most.  Others would also sign up for the journey after Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli did – forming the Fellowship of the Ring – but, barely halfway, the Fellowship would disband, and when they went their separate ways, the fragment of the Fellowship that I became most fascinated most was the trio of Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli – “The Three Hunters,” as what Aragorn called themselves.  They would set out to rescue Pippin and Merry, rally the Rohirrim, recruit the Army of the Dead to save Gondor, and lead an army to distract Sauron so that Frodo and Sam could fulfill their mission: reach Mt. Doom, destroy the ring, and save Middle Earth.

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