“Chamber of Frozen Blades” Review

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Original Airdate: January 17, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Rebecca Sugar & Adam Muto

Gunther the penguin is arguably one of Adventure Time’s strangest secondary characters. He’s either shown as a nonchalant penguin or some sort of deity and bastardization of creation. He balances between the two in this episode and it’s a hilarious introduction to the love/hate relationship he shares with Ice King.

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The episode struggles a bit to find a focus; there’s a long sequence of Finn and Jake discussing plans to ambush the Ice King as the hideout in his castle, followed by some cool scenes of the duo practicing ice-ninja moves, but also Ice King taking Gunther to the hospital, and finally, Ice King capturing doctor princess and having a brief battle with the boys. All of these smaller stories seem like they’d work perfectly fine as their own plot, so it’s rather disappointing that none of them could find enough focus.

Despite the ninja subplot sort of feeling like a “hey, what do kids like these days? Ninjas! We’ll have Finn and Jake be ninjas!” kind of plot, it succeeds in having Finn and Jake discover some pretty creative ice powers, and it’s one of the first times we see someone use ice powers that isn’t related to the power of the crown. I’m sure it has something to do with the elemental power of ice, and I really wish this was brought back and harped on later, but sadly it isn’t.

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This episode continues developing the ever-changing relationship between Finn, Jake and the Ice King, and while he’s still by definition considered an antagonist in the series, it’s rewarding to see an scenario where Finn and Jake betray the Ice King’s trust. We already had a bit of this in What Have You Done? And it’s done just as well here.

Two of my favorite tertiary characters are introduced in this episode: Doctor Princess and Flambo. Flambo is a character that never seems to get enough attention from the actual show, but I can’t get enough of him and his odd Brooklyn accent. Also, I’d love to see an entire backstory dedicated to Doctor Princess. Her entire life is a lie.

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If anything, I would have really enjoyed if this episode focused mostly on the subplot with Ice King and Gunther at the hospital. The promos for this episode way back in 2011 suggested that it was what the entire episode would be about, and I was really looking forward to that. Not that the ninja stuff wasn’t relatively cool, but Ice King trying to act cool and pick up ladies at the hospital while Gunther tries to get medical attention just seems so much more rewarding.
Also, I’m holding out for the endgame villain of Adventure Time to be Gunther’s unusual baby.

Favorite line: “It turns out Gunther here, was preggers!”

“To Cut a Woman’s Hair” Review

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Original Airdate: January 10, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne & Somvilay Xayaphone

One thing that Adventure Time does best is completely defying the viewer’s expectations and constantly keeping them on their toes. It’s not necessarily the shock humor you’d find on show like Family Guy, where it’s constantly trying to be in your face with over-the-top characters and situations, but it always has an element of surprise that you could have never predicted to see. Great examples of these are Magic Man’s reveal in Freak City or the Whywolves in Donny. This episode is the very first time we see Finn’s hair, and it isn’t treated like a big, significant reveal by the staff, network, or even the episode itself. It’s something that comes entirely out of the blue, and it’s hilarious, beautiful, and epic.

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When Finn does finally reveal his hair, the characters and visuals do treat it as if it’s a big deal, because it honestly is. The introduction of Finn’s hair and the fact that it’s immediately shaved off introduces something that isn’t regularly mentioned within the nature and world of the show: a clear timeline. We’re able to gather just how quickly or slowly time has passed by examining how long Finn’s hair has grown over a period of time. Considering we only get a legitimate mention of his age three times after season two, it’s rewarding to have this bit of continuity for fans to pick up on the changing times within the world, and it’s awesome to feel as though you’re in a world that’s constantly moving and growing. Again, the series manages to do this so ingeniously with something as simple as the length of Finn’s hair.

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Besides that, there’s a bit of world building for the other characters in this episode as well. We’re introduced to LSP living in the woods, which is a recurring home for her throughout the entirety of the series. This is also one of LSP’s better appearances in general. I really love the bulky and detailed way Somvilay draws her, and it adds a lot of oomf and personality to all of her dialogue. In addition, the scenes with Finn and Princess Bubblegum are especially cute, and she bestows upon Finn one of his most treasured possessions: a lock of her hair. Of course, this was specifically to serve the plot in this episode, but it would later become a source of affection, as well as obsession, for our hero.

The tree witch is a terrifically crafted antagonist, as she proves to be mildly likable despite her lunacy. Her voice is provided by Thurop Van Orman, the creator of The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack and the voice of its titular character. Van Orman has such a distinct and unique voice, yet he can alter it to fit any type of role without it feeling like he’s doing the same voice. Same goes for his performance as Gideon Gleeful in Gravity Falls; he really can add flair to any of these characters without drastically changing his range.

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To Cut a Woman’s Hair is great because it works as a completely self contained episode but also increases on the expansion of the world of AT and the characters within it. I always figured that Finn’s hair would grow back fully by the next episode we saw it, if we ever saw it again, but the writers took in the account of Finn’s aging process and the growing of his character, and one of the greatest ways they took on that is through the length of his hair. Also, this is an episode that has Jake being tortured while Finn has to rescue him. What a change of pace!

Favorite line: “Girl, if I didn’t already have a G.F., I’d be on you like butter on toast!”

“Her Parents” Review

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Original Airdate: January 24, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Tom Herpich

Oddly enough, this is the third episode in a row that Finn undergoes some type of suffering while Jake isn’t able to protect or help him. It’s unusual that this has become such a consistent recurring theme, but interesting that it’s been done in a completely different perspective each time. In Power Animal, Jake couldn’t focus on saving Finn, in Crystals Have Power, Jake didn’t want to use brute force to save Finn, and in this episode, Jake has two choose between the two people he cares about most: his best friend and his girlfriend.

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An interesting bit of lore is added to the world of AT in this episode with the 1,000 year Rainicorn-Dog Wars. It’s one of those little bits of information that was most likely included as a throwaway joke, but has since then been used in future episodes to be expanded upon. A Rainicorn-Dog War is silly enough, but almost seems to make no sense that it lasted 1,000 years until you realize it’s most likely cleverly from a “dog years” perspective (or even a Rainicorn years perspective; we know how quickly they age). Also, Rainicorns ate humans! It’s another interesting bit of apocalyptic world building that is honestly kind of dark when you think about our species dying off due to many of these colorful rainbow creatures.

I’m actually not a big fan of the premise of this episode; the idea of having the nervous boyfriend scared of meeting his girlfriend’s parents and having to pull off a giant facade just seems very 90’s sitcom to me. Of course, Adventure Time adds that extra punch of absurdity to make this stray from becoming too generic. Like the past few episodes, I really feel bad for Finn, but I can’t help but laugh at the horrible pain Bob and Ethel put him through in this episode. It sounds so sadistic of me, but I get a kick out of every time I see Finn get launched into those glass bottles.

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Bob and Ethel are actually really great as the quirky parents too. Of course, they try to eat our main protagonist at one point, but hey, different cultures, man. I also like how, even though this is literally the third time in a row Jake has indirectly allowed his friend to be in certain danger, he still doesn’t come off as unlikable. It’s all for his girlfriend who he cares about so deeply, but isn’t afraid to put his foot down when her parents take it too far with his best friend.

There’s also some really nice imagery in this episode. The colors are so vibrant and nice, even more so than usual. There’s a scene at the beginning of the episode with Finn, Jake, and BMO eating breakfast, and it just look gorgeous! Nick Jennings helped with a lot of the artwork in the episode, and added some great touches, such as the dust particles in the window and the shadows on Jake.

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I recently picked up Adventure Time: The Official Cookbook and there’s a recipe for Soy Human in it. I’m going to feel very dirty if I do, but I may have to try it myself… Details to follow…

Favorite line: “JJ flip! What the zip?”

 

“Crystals Have Power” Review

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Original Airdate: November 29, 2010

Written & Storyboarded by: Cole Sanchez & Jesse Moynihan

Interesting how I mentioned in my previous review that Jake isn’t necessarily concerned with his physical strengths and one episode later finds him worrying about being too abrasive with others. It’s a nice shift and some well warranted development to have two Jake-centered episodes in a row, even if this one doesn’t necessarily match the quality of the last episode.

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I really like the backstory element in this episode as well. This is the first time we are introduced to Joshua being Jake’s father, as well as his brother Jermaine. The Jermaine in this episode feels like a bit of discontinuity with the Jermaine we meet later on, but I’m willing to convince myself that he’s going through some type of midlife crisis. Jake trying to be “soft” while his best friend is being crystalized is a bit frustrating to watch, especially since this is the second episode in a row that Finn is being tortured while Jake chills on the sideline, but his interactions with the crystal guards are funny enough to carry a majority of the episode. It’s also important to keep in mind that Jake’s entire motivation behind controlling his strength is the fact that he hurt his best friend, so it’s heartening to know he was driven by the person he cares about most.

This is Jesse Moynihan’s first episode as a storyboard artist and he acknowledged that he hadn’t had much experience drawing before this episode. A lot of his drawings are a tad bit awkward and flat looking at times, but that’s not necessarily a jab at him. A lot of his drawings are off model, yet we don’t get many off model shots from this show in general. It’s actually somewhat refreshing to get some crude, floppy looking shots for once.

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Also, this episode marks the return of Tree Trunks! On the commentary for this episode, Pen Ward mentions that this episode went through several rewrites before the final product, and it kind of shows. In fact, Tree Trunks’ return wasn’t even included in the episode in the first two scripts, but Ward kept pushing for it to be a part of the episode. The writers do their best to blend the two plots together, but it almost feels as though half the episode is devoted to Jake’s crisis of life and the second half is devoted to Tree Trunks return. Whenever I think back to this episode, I always think about either the Jake plotline or the Tree Trunks plotline, but never both together.

Aside from that complaint though, both set pieces are relatively well done. I do have a warm place in my heart for Tree Trunks, and it’s delightful to have her return to the series once again. The episode ends in the greatest way possible: having our three central characters fly through a portal while a techno song about apple pie plays in the background.

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Favorite line: “If I had a penny for every time someone went crazy hopped up on magic energy… I’d be Abraham Lincoln!”

 

“Power Animal” Review

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Original Airdate: November 22, 2010

Written & Storyboarded by: Adam Muto & Rebecca Sugar

I mentioned in my review of Blood Under the Skin that Finn’s heroic attributes come not from his physical strength, but his willingness to throw himself directly into danger’s path. Jake the Dog is different; he could literally become gigantic within seconds and crush anything in sight, but typically chooses not too. That’s because Jake simply isn’t about crushing people or having tremendous strength, Jake’s all about kicking back and having a good time. That being said, Power Animal highlights one of Jake’s main character flaws: his inability to focus on crucial situations. This, of course, results in hilarity.

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It’s refreshing to see one of Jake’s character flaws highlighted, as we’ve spent several episodes focusing on Finn’s and only a few focusing on Jake’s. What works best is that Jake never comes off as unlikable or does it seem as though he’s abandoning his best friend, it just feels appropriate given that Jake is so easily wrapped up in the environments around him. This episode could have easily made Jake seem like an asshole for letting his friend suffer, but it does a great job of showcasing Jake’s turmoil for not being able to focus, yet still having a ton of fun with his distractions.

The distractions themselves are all really inventive and humorous on their own. BMO’s singing, the dancing bug and the unfunny mermaids are honestly some of my all time funniest scenes from the show. They all come off as so odd and so out of nowhere that I can’t help but crack up on every watch.

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By God, do I feel sorry for Finn in this episode. I strongly feel the pain of his suffering in this episode, yet also can’t help but enjoy it by just how sadistic the Gnome Leader (voiced by Paul Reubens) is. There’s a bit of fringe horror when you realize that half of this episode involves a twelve-year-old experiencing heinous torture, but as Adventure Time does best, it still makes for some very fun and vibrant moments. Finn’s dream sequence is another walk through bizarre enthusiasm, and I almost wish that we got to spend more time in Finn’s buff fantasy land.

It’s another one of those episodes that’s packed with hilarious side characters, including the Gnome Leader, Party God, and the unfunny mermaids. Aside from the humor, this is actually an extremely well paced episode. I really love how the first few minutes start off being extremely slow and mellow, before launching us into upbeat insanity. There’s an entire minute devoted to Finn and Jake cleaning up the Treehouse and getting ready for bed. I really enjoy moments to just allow the characters to breathe and live life, and it’s nice to have one sprinkled into a very energetic episode.

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What I love most about this episode is that it doesn’t end with Jake conquering his character flaw, but instead he’s somewhat rewarded for it. It’s not necessarily a flaw that is hurting anyone, but can end in certain disaster for others as we see through Finn’s perspective. Through not being focused, Jake uses those moments to enjoy life, hangout, and invest himself in his relationships with other people. The reason Jake gets rewarded in the end is because he’s a fun, energetic, lovable guy. Although he can’t always remember what he’s supposed be doing, he uses every aspect of his time benefiting himself as well as benefiting others, and that’s what makes Jake the Dog so enjoyable.

Favorite line: “No more games, no more PAJAMAS!”

“Slow Love” Review

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Original Airdate: November 15, 2010

Written & Storyboarded by: Cole Sanchez & Benton Conner

One of Adventure Time’s trademarks is introducing a character and making that entire episode their day in the limelight. To name a few are Me-Mow, Banana Man, Rattleballs, Root Beer Guy, James, Kent, and so on. For the most part, the characters carry the episode by being very fun, likable, and interesting. On the other hand, they can be obnoxious, loud, and pull the episode down with them. Snorlock the slug falls more into the latter category. It’s not necessarily that he’s an awful character, but he’s certainly a character that doesn’t warrant  having an entire episode dedicated to him.

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In addition, the plot in this one’s a bit thin. Finn and Jake trying to help a faux-snail find a girlfriend is definitely a funny premise, but again, it’s a bit squandered by the idea that Snorlock is unlikable. He’s a bit selfish in his actions, and it’s hard to sympathize with him when he isn’t concerned with the well-being of our main protagonists at all. He just wants to find a girlfriend and that’s about it for his character motivations.

Benton Connor co-storyboarded this episode, and if you didn’t already know, Connor was a storyboard artist on Regular Show for all eight seasons. Connor actually only storyboarded two episodes of AT including this one, and the tone in this one is actually more reminiscent to that of Regular Show. I feel like it’s more like Mordecai and Rigby to help someone find a girlfriend and act cool than Finn and Jake. The drawings and use of slow motion help to strengthen this belief.

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One thing that stands out in this episode is John DiMaggio’s voice work. He’s really grown into Jake at this point, and does a superb job of giving life to his character as well as using his range of voices to add flair and humor. This is also when BMO starts to feel like a crucial part of the treehouse. She doesn’t do much, but the sheer fact that Jake acknowledges, “BMO, you live here too!” is really endearing.

Other than that, it’s a bit of a forgettable ride.

Favorite line: “Girl, you smell good. Did you take a bath in rainbows and cupcakes?”

“Storytelling” Review

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Original Airdate: November 8, 2010

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Tom Herpich

Storytelling isn’t a personal favorite of mine, but it’s one of the sweetest Adventure Time episodes to date. It shows just how far Finn will go for his best friend, even beyond his heroic instincts. In a way, it shows Finn in his most destructive side, but also his most compassionate.

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So far, we’ve only ever gotten to see Jake as a caretaker for Finn, so the dynamic switch in this one is rewarding. As for dynamic changes, this is also a big switch from the traditional “cartoon fairytale episode” that shows like Ren & Stimpy, Animaniacs, and even Samurai Jack have tackled. While these shows did fairytale renditions especially well, AT continues to avert being a carbon copy and stick to being as original and creative as possible.

The episode’s humor is mostly carried by the colorful animal characters of the forest. A personal favorite of mine being Mr. Fox, whose entire character is primarily carried by his hilarious voice, provided by storyboard artist Tom Herpich. Mr. Fox himself has become somewhat of a recurring character, and while his personality isn’t nearly as compelling as some of the other secondary characters, Herpich’s dry inflections certainly make him standout. Aside from him though, I actually really like the other side characters in this episode too. Boobafina, Forest Wizard, and that bear with attitude issues and his mother are just what’d you’d expect from Adventure Time’s side characters: bombastic, full of personality, and tons of fun. And that cow with Phil’s face on her udder. Yeesh.

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Like I said, this isn’t a personal top tier episode in my eyes, but this is actually one I watch quite often. There’s just something so charming and genuine about this one, again, mostly due to Finn’s dedication to helping his brother in his time of need. Obviously he’d never go through with it, but he was really about to squash some baby birds for Jake. What a trooper! It’s heartfelt episodes like this that remind me why I watch this show: because I care so deeply about the two main characters and they care so deeply about each other. Of course, Jake repays the favor to Finn by helping to nurse him back to health at the end of the episode. “The end.

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Favorite line: “Yo, put that bag back on!”