Meelo puts his leadership skills to the test when he, Ikki, and Jinora are sent by Tenzin to retrieve the Avatar from hiding in the latest installment of The Legend of Korra. An appropriately light-hearted adventure ensues, complete with sky-bison transportation, wingsuits, and macaroons!
It’s immediately evident in the early stages of the episode that the writers know exactly how to write Tenzin’s kids, which is crucial to the episode’s success since Meelo, Ikki, and Jinora’s interaction is almost entirely foregrounded. The dynamic of the three kids is especially fun because they offer an alternate perspective from the regular teenage or adult characters. Meelo and Ikki get distracted and are treated like children by people they encounter, while Jinora embodies the adult figure of the group. Meelo and Ikki, in particular, receive a lot of screen-time which is a welcome change to cast focus and a reminder of how fleshed out even the supporting characters in the Avatar-verse can be. Meelo is the standout for me as the trio’s self-proclaimed leader with a brash attitude, a likening for the ladies, and a hidden talent for drawing. Aside from an Earth Empire soldier’s peculiar obsession with macaroons, Meelo’s wooing of a young girl named Tuyin is the comedy highpoint of the episode.
“What should I call you besides beautiful?” ~ Meelo (2014)
Also, did anyone notice the similarities to the original Avatar: The Last Airbender cast? Jinora is Katara, Meelo is Sokka, Ikki is Aang, Pepper is Oppa, and Pokey is Momo. Fantastic.
Of course, listening to Tenzin’s kids argue and poke fun at one another wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining had the voice actors not done such a commendable job of bringing the children to life. Too often, I hear bad impersonations of child characters by adults in animated programming. Look at 90% of anime for example, which tend to feature a child character voiced by a woman whose age probably triples that of the character she’s portraying. The voice actor/actress typically ends up forcing their voice into a whiny, high-pitched speak which sounds unnatural and, in the worse cases, annoying. Cowboy Bebop is a great series that is absolutely worth your time, but Ed might just make you pull your hair out thanks to an annoying voice actress. The Legend of Korra, along with many other American-produced animated movies and shows, takes a more realistic approach to voice acting and Tenzin’s kids are a perfect example of how it pays off.