Archive | March 2017

“The Eyes” Review

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Original Airdate: October 18, 2010

Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne & Somvilay Xayaphone

Many comedians will agree that comedy almost always derives from tragedy. That if we weren’t laughing at something, we’d most likely be crying. This very principle applies to the Ice King, who, if you think about it, is primarily funny because of how miserable he is. While it can be used for a tearjerker convention in a handful of cases, here it sort of borders on the middle. I’m not really sure if the intention for this episode was to sympathize with the Ice King or laugh at him, but I felt a little on both ends, which is a sign of great writing.

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Kent Osborne & Somvilay Xayaphone are a terrific pairing for this hilarious romp, making it one of the funniest episodes of the season. There’s a ton of memorable lines and sight gags in this episode; the poo-brained “horse”, the snakes in Finn’s underpants, the constant bickering between Finn and Jake and the deterioration of their sanity throughout, and so much more. This is one of Somvilay’s best examples of unconventional humor. There’s a lot of terrific gags going on in the background, including Jake randomly stretching his arm to say “yo” when reaching for his viola. Also, Peppermint Butler totally killed that goblin! Jesus Christ!

It’s actually kind of nice that after however many adventure filled episodes we’ve gone through so far, this is just an episode where Finn and Jake simply want to sleep. Humor and misery go hand-in-hand in these sequences as well; Finn and Jake’s descent into hopelessness is both hilarious and somewhat pitiful to watch. While I laugh, I still really just want these two to go to bed for the sake of their own sanity.

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Of course, the real emotional core of this episode is Ice King disguising as the horse to learn how to find happiness. There’s a great bit of foreshadowing at the beginning of the episode when the IK shouts “I just wanna be happy!” in the flashback sequence. At this point in the series, Ice King just wants to be loved and be happy, and there’s a sweetly melancholic moment at the end of the end of the episode when IK and the boys snuggle up and he declares that he still isn’t happy. It’s admittedly hard to decide on whether I should laugh or “aww” at this statement, but it’s clear that the Ice King will remain unhappy until he finally finds someone to love and, more importantly, someone to love him. Happiness certainly doesn’t involve dressing up like or horse and stalking a boy and his dog at night, or using your ice powers against them (that was a terrific fight scene, by the way).

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If I had one thing to nitpick about this episode, it’d be that Somvilay’s drawings can look a bit wonky at times. This isn’t necessarily a criticism of his art style, but a lot of storyboard artists who were welcomed to the AT storyboard team this season had a bit of trouble transitioning into drawing the characters on model, as we’ll see with some others later on. Finn’s body can appear to look incredibly small and disproportionate at times and both Finn and Jake can look a bit flat. Other than that, it was a hilarious, spunky, and sad episode coming off the heels of an equally energetic and emotional episode.

Favorite line: “I diagnosed this horse with whacked out poo-brain five minutes ago.”

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“It Came from the Nightosphere” Review

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Original Airdate: October 11, 2010

Written & Storyboarded by: Adam Muto & Rebecca Sugar

Marceline is one of the most mysterious, yet developed characters in the entire series. Many elements of her past are vague; how she came into this world, the timeline between her entrance into vampirism to the time she met Finn and Jake, her past relationship with Bubblegum, etc. In her two spotlight episodes during season one, the only thing we could gather about Marceline is that she’s lived way beyond a handful of the main and secondary characters, and that she’s lost a chunk of her moral ethics along the way. It wasn’t until this episode that the more hidden layers of her character begun to unravel, in what is most likely the second season’s strongest effort.

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This is the first episode to welcome Rebecca Sugar to writing team, and I’m sure I don’t even have to explain to any of you who she is. I have somewhat controversial opinions about some of the episodes she has worked on, but overall believe that she’s one of the strongest writers on AT. The staff has said time and time again that Marceline is one of the hardest characters to empathize with, but I think it’s safe to say that Sugar knows Marcy better than anyone. She really made the character her own during her time on the show, and helped this episode to go above and beyond to showcase her more sympathetic side, along with the help of Adam Muto.

While I’m certainly not one of those people who believes that the series instantly began to rot once Sugar left during season five, the music of the show sadly did undergo decline. The reason I mention this is because “Fry Song” is the first song that was written by Sugar, and it really sky rockets above anything we’ve heard thus far in the series, and one that isn’t really comparable to anything we hear in later seasons. The raw emotion, the soothing strums, coupled with Olivia Olsen’s beautiful voice are really what make it one the show’s most famous symphonies.

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Hunson Abadeer, who is simply referred to as “Marceline’s Dad” or “Daddy” in this episode, as well as being voiced by Olivia Olsen’s father Martin, is the first real threat to the series. Thus far, we’ve had Ice King, Magic Man, Ricardio, among others, but none have felt as threatening as Abadeer. What makes him most effective as a villain is his connection to Marceline; we’re not really supposed to like this guy, but at the same time, we feel the strong emotions of our main heroine (in this case, Marceline) and want the two of them to be able to be able to reunite as family once again. It’s an impressive feat of conflicting emotions, and helps us both empathize with Marcy, as well as wanting Abadeer to be defeated.

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Finn is written terrifically in this episode. While we’re able to put ourselves in Marceline’s shoes, Finn never lets his emotions get the best of him. What he wants is what’s best for Ooo, but also for Marceline. While a 12-year-old can’t possibly understand what Marceline’s going through, Finn knows to allow what’s pure and righteous to save the day, and not to let his own feelings control the outcome.

This is also a great episode to showcase some of Ooo’s wonderful side residents. Among some of those residents are the Marauders and the Fuzzy Friends, who, to this date, have not appeared since this episode. Maybe they never got their souls back? Keeping in the tradition of building story arcs off of non-sequiturs, Abadeer deems Gunther as the most “evil thing I’ve encountered,” and we learn later on that Gunther is actually the powerful space deity Orgarlorg. I doubt this was planned from the beginning, but it’s a lot of fun to go back and watch this episode to see that the concept of Orgalorg didn’t arise from nothing.

There are some really beautiful nighttime landscapes in this episode. Ooo feels extremely expansive, as we explore Marceline’s House, the Grasslands, Red Rock Pass and the Ice Kingdom. The colors are especially vibrant, and really make the entire experience illuminating. As I’ve said, it’s just really nice to see Finn and Marcy hanging out as well. I just genuinely enjoy the way these two characters work off of each other, and this is one of their cutest interactions thus far. Also, if you were wondering where Jake was in this episode, he was in Finn’s pocket the whole time!

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Favorite line:No one flicks me in the butt without my consent!

“Blood Under the Skin” Review

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Original Airdate: November 1, 2010

Written & Storyboarded by: Cole Sanchez & Benton Connor

Finn the Human’s strengths come from his bombastic energy and desire to help other people, but not necessarily his physical attributes or cunning traits. He’s defeated the Lich on three separate occasions and has even survived lava through his time on the show, but he’s relied mostly on his wits and his daredevilish personality to accomplish these tasks. This episode highlights that Finn, while brave, noble and honest, can sometimes be a wimp when it comes to taking pain. Not that I can really say anything though, I’m still a little bitch when I get splinters too.

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What I really like about this episode is that it stresses that it’s okay that Finn isn’t the toughest warrior when it comes to physical attributes. In fact, all of the obstacles he endures in this episode are mentally taxing as opposed to brutal combat. Finn the Human, while being deemed a “pervert” or a “baby” by those he encounters in this episode, has one thing that Sir Slicer and his armored cronies do not have, and that is a large moral center. Blood Under the Skin continues with season one’s tradition of teaching Finn what it means to be a true hero, and this one spotlights not needing to look “cool” or tough in order to show who Finn truly is, and that is Ooo’s greatest hero.

This episode is loaded with great side characters. This is Choose Goose’s very first appearance in the series and I never figured he’d become a recurring character, but his generally surreal demeanor and Hanna Barbera-esque voice always cracks me up whenever he’s on screen. This is also a limelight episode for Steve Little’s voice acting. He plays both Sir Slicer’s minstrel and the drop ball ghost. What I like about Little is that you always know it’s his voice almost instantly when you hear it, but it has such a cartoony and exuberant touch to it that it almost feels like he could play every background character and I really wouldn’t mind. And I totally wanna try to play drop ball after this episode. Sir Slicer is a delightful jerk, and I’m surprised he’s never returned as an adversary towards Finn.

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What’s really undermined by the episode, however, is just how great Jake is written. Like I mentioned before, Finn seems constantly concerned with his identity as a true hero, while Jake doesn’t really give a fuck about what people think. He’s as supportive as possible to his best friend in this episode, but he has no shame at all wearing that slick lady armor. Although I think I can permanently remove the scene of Jake picking Finn up with his butt from my memory. Hopefully Finn will too. Right in the vault.

I also wanna try something a little new and include my favorite bit of dialogue in each episode review. This week’s quote:

Favorite line: Wonderful! I’ll need a trade of equal value. I’ll take the head of your dog friend!”

“Loyalty to the King” Review

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Original Airdate: October 25, 2010

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Kent Osborne

I could’ve swore that It Came From the Nightosphere was the official season premiere, but I guess the season two DVD episode order would suggest otherwise. So, here we have Loyalty to the King! Certainly not one of Ice King’s strongest outings, but it is a delightfully silly opening to the second season.

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Right off the bat, it seems like this episode has somewhat of a different tonal shift from the first season. There’s something about season two that just seems much more rounded in writing, character depictions, and humor than season one. The animation also seems very fluid in this episode, more so than usual. This is actually the first episode to welcome Somvilay Xayaphone onto the series as a storyboard artist, and he would later stick with the series till the very end. I’m not the biggest fan of Somvilay’s episodes; his whole writing style revolves around avoiding actual jokes at all costs and mostly just focusing on weird or quirky dialogue and gags. This has potential to be really funny, but can also completely slow down an entire episode. Luckily, he does just fine in this very humorous episode.

This isn’t Ice King’s most sympathetic appearance, but I think it’s really the point where we can sort of identify with him as a character. Staff members on AT have mentioned that Ice King is the easiest for them to empathize with, and I think this is the final transition that turns Ice King from a psychotic jerk to a psychotic sad sack. In fact, I like that a majority of the beginning of the episode is through Ice King’s perspective. We only had a few moments in the past 26 episodes where we got to spend time with him without Finn and Jake’s company, so it’s a refreshing treat that he finally takes the spotlight.

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One of the things I love about this episode is that it’s a nice outlet to see some of the many princesses of Ooo we rarely get to see, including Princess Princess Princess, Ghost Princess, Bee Princess, etc.. I think it’s most interesting that Princess Bubblegum is completely absent from this episode. I get the feeling that once she heard about a “Nice King” she was completely uninterested. Considering her stance about kings in Ooo, such as the one true King of Ooo, it makes sense that’d she’d immediately deem the Nice King as a fraud. And it’s also quite possible that she’s the only princess smart enough to know that the Nice King’s true identity is the Ice King.

And I could listen to that title card music all day long. Man, is that a jam!

“Adventure Time Pilot” Review

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Original Airdate: January 11, 2007

Written by: Pendleton Ward

No idea why it took me so long to get to this, but here’s the pilot! A bit of unnecessary exposition, considering everyone who reads this blog probably already knows this, but this pilot originally aired on Nicktoons Network. Pen Ward originally pitched the show to be picked up by Nickelodeon, but they declined. And boy, are they probably kicking themselves to this day.

There a couple noticeable differences between the pilot and the series; obviously the animation style is quite different, and while I prefer the character designs of the actual series, the animation is actually really fluid and smooth in movement. This is especially apparent in the fight scene between Finn and Ice King and just how hard hitting and flowing their movements are. Of course, it also makes the entire pilot seem a lot slower, so I’m glad they went with a faster and more high speed animation process in the final product.

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As for the voices, John DiMaggio as Jake and Ward as Abraham Lincoln are the only voice actors from the series who are present for the pilot. Finn (or Pen, as he’s referred to in the pilot) is replaced with Jeremy’s brother Zack Shada, Ice King is voiced by John Kassir, Princess Bubblegum is portrayed by Paige Moss, and Lady Rainicorn, for some reason, is voiced by Dee Bradley Baker. I have to say, everyone does a good job in their roles, as Zack does a terrific job of simply soundly like a younger version of his brother. I’m sure John Kassir’s inflections as Ice King were where Tom Kenny got his inspiration for which direction to take the IK’s character in, and while they don’t sound identical, Kassir still does a terrific for only voicing the character once. It’s kinda like one of those character voices you see in a in a video game where it’s trying to be that character and sort of sounds like that character but isn’t that character. I have no idea why Lady speaks in gibberish, but it’s actually kind of fucking hilarious. I wouldn’t have wanted her voice to sound like that in the actual series, as Niki Yang’s voice is just so damn cute, but Dee Bradley Baker does an awesome job of just turning the character into a batshit animal. PB doesn’t speak much, but Paige Moss’s voice seems to suit her well.

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What really works about this pilot is that it essentially works as a segue into the actual series. Besides the fact that Finn’s name is Pen, (which is humorously explained in one of the comics that Finn had such a fascination with pens at one point that he made everyone call him “Pen”) this pilot introduces Jake and Lady Rainicorn to each other, Finn’s infatuation for Bubblegum, Abraham Lincoln’s role as the king of Mars, and Ice King’s love for princesses. It’s a delightfully silly and crazy introduction to some of our beloved characters, and I could see it fitting along just fine with the rest of the series.

Onto season two!

Season One Review

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Season one of Adventure Time introduced me to one of my favorite shows of all time. It was revolutionary for introducing us to wonderful bright and dark characters within the glorious Land of Ooo. And while I enjoyed it quite fine the first run and the second run, how does it weigh in as a whole?

Characters

The first season introduced us to a majority of the series most prominent characters: Finn, Jake, Ice King, Princess Bubblegum, Marceline, and (partially) BMO, as well as some secondary characters: Lumpy Space Princess, Lady Rainicorn, Tree Trunks, NEPTR, Magic Man, and so on.

The depictions of these characters aren’t nearly as fleshed out as they are in later seasons, but it’s a very nice introduction to a lot of the fun elements each character has to offer. Finn is vibrant and pure, Jake goes with the flow yet is also bombastic in his own way, Ice King is sad and insane, Princess Bubblegum is sweet yet very passionate about her kingdom, and Marceline is playful and sometimes devious. We get some see some glimpses of development between the characters, including Finn’s characters flaws, Princess Bubblegum’s darker tendencies, Ice King’s more depressing side and his growing admiration of Finn and Jake, and Marceline’s transitioning from Finn and Jake’s adversary to one of their best friends. The characters’ more in depth personalities and unique dilemmas aren’t explored as much as they are in later seasons, but they’re certainly represented as fun characters to want to spend time with.

I’ve said this time and time again but Finn and Jake’s relationship is really the strong point of this season. I firmly believe any good show has to have some heart at the center of it, and Finn and Jake really embody every endearing aspect of this first season. Energy, compassion, and fun is carried with them at all times when they’re on screen, and I can’t think of a time I was legitimately not enjoying myself watching them.

In fact, it’s a pretty impressive feat to not be able to name a character off the top of my head that I truly disliked that was introduced in this season. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not the biggest LSP fan, but her role in the first 26 episodes is pretty minimal and she doesn’t really steal the spotlight as much as she does in later seasons.

This was just a delightful introduction to some of my all time favorite characters. While they would only develop more as time went on, everything about these characters that is later fleshed out is practically inserted in subtle moments throughout everyone’s actions. Of course, the only reason they’re able to become so complex is because they start out so simple. And as Adventure Time has proven time and time again, simplicity can be the route to something much greater.

Artwork

The aesthetics of the first season could really be dedicated to Ghostshrimp’s beautiful background work. He seriously knocks it out of the park with  the many designs, skies, and general landscapes that he’s created. GS played a key part in designing the Land of Ooo, and what he conducted was some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve seen in an animated series in years. Here’s some of my favorites:

I can’t really think of a specific storyboard artist that stood out, as I don’t think any of the episodes had the unique individual artwork that each storyboard artist possesses in later seasons, but the artwork is simple and fun. There are a few design quirks, however. Jake’s eyes and jowls are generally a lot larger than they are in following seasons, and he just looks kinda off. In addition, the characters are drawn with more cartoony and expressive faces, and Finn will frequently be drawn with eye-whites, which is somewhat distracting to me. Pendleton Ward has previously claimed to have hated seeing Finn with eye whites, as Finn is easier to connect with the audience through his simplistic dotted eyes, making him feel more real and less like a cartoon character.

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Otherwise though, this season is one of the most expressive and jumpy in terms of animation, considering the series becomes much more grounded later on. That being said, it is delightful to see Adventure Time in a Ren & Stimpy fashion in terms of its animation, but also, I’m glad the series didn’t stick to being outrageous and borderline schizophrenic in movement and facial expressions as it progressed.

Writing

In terms of humor, this is also the show’s most random and arguably juvenile approach at laughs. This leads to some very hit-or-miss jokes and gags, which honestly depends on your sense of humor. For me, the absurd humor works a majority of the time, but at other times, not so much. And I love the wacky dialogue within the series, but there’s only so many “shmowzow!” “slamacow!” “algebraic!” catchphrases I can sit through and not roll my eyes at.

In terms of individual writers, Adam Muto and Elizabeth Ito really killed it this season. They really know how to write good AT, which is likely how they got promoted to showrunner and supervising director respectively.

In terms of writers in general, a good chunk of them didn’t end up continuing to work on the series after the first season, so it was sort of difficult to adopt the styles or visions of writers such as Sean Jimenez, Luther McLaurin, J.G. Quintel, Armen Mirzaian (who sadly passed away three years later) or even Niki Yang.

So while the writing is a bit too 5th grade at some points, I have found myself laughing a lot more than I thought I would while rewatching.

Top 5 Best Episodes

5. Evicted! – A great introduction to one of AT’s most complex characters with a vibrant and fast paced song and some great character interactions as well.

4. The Enchiridion! – A terrific adventure and spotlight episode for our main character with loads of whimsy and quirky characters.

3. Dungeon – An exciting dungeon crawl with some hilarious one-time villains, as well as continuing to build on Finn and Jake’s relationship.

2. Ocean of Fear – An interesting look at Finn’s psyche and the realization that fears are not something to be ashamed of or ignored in any way.

1. What is Life? – The first episode to humanize Ice King and transform him from a psychotic jerk to someone who is completely lonely and devoid of anyone’s love and affection. Also, I fucking love NEPTR.

Top 5 Worst Episodes

5. Slumber Party Panic – Not necessarily a bad episode by any means, but somewhat of a poor start to the series considering that it throws a lot at the audience at once while also including no proper introductions at all.

4. When Wedding Bells Thaw – A somewhat misconstructed look at Ice King’s insanity that results in making the entire episode feel messy.

3. Business Time – An episode that focuses more on Finn and Jake’s lazier sides, which sucks most of the energy out of our main duo and ends up being somewhat of a bore.

2. The Gut Grinder – A generic and predictable plot that AT seems above and a season finale that disappoints.

1. Memories of Boom Boom Mountain – An episode that focuses more on the absurdity and randomness in terms of humor, and one that feels especially misconceived and all over the place when it comes to story.

Final Consensus

Season one of Adventure Time certainly isn’t my favorite season of the show; it’s practically the series at its most basic form, with somewhat childish humor at times and much less lore or complex adventures that are seen in later seasons. However, I found myself really enjoying the first season when watching again, and just find it so interesting how much the series has drastically changed over the years.

So season one of Adventure Time may best the weakest of the bunch in my opinion, but it’s a totally fun ride down memory lane to see how these characters were and what they have become. And of course, it really does show the world through Finn’s perspective. It’s bright and colorful and very silly and zany because he’s only 12, which fits with the overall theme of growing up within AT.

This isn’t a season I plan on rewatching a lot, but I’m glad I got the opportunity to take a look at it once more and I hope all of you that haven’t consider giving it another look as well.

“Gut Grinder” Review

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Original Airdate: September 27, 2010

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Bert Youn

Adventure Time season finales typically leave us off in some sort of cliffhanger. Season two’s finale involved Princess Bubblegum’s biological age changing and the Lich’s entrance into Ooo. Season three’s had Finn finding a brand new love interest, as well as the introduction of a new main character. Season four’s was a high stakes journey to another dimension. Season five’s led to Finn discovering that his human father is alive. Season six’s, while more satisfying than others, also involved PB being dethroned and the King of Ooo stepping into power. Finally, season seven’s was a segue into the Island miniseries. Therefore, season one is really the only season that doesn’t leave the show on some sort of cliffhanger (besides the fate of beloved secondary character, Sharon), but no matter, as long as it’s a well-written episode, you don’t need that sense of unsatisfactory and wanting more. Unfortunately, Gut Grinder is probably season one’s most lackluster episode, regardless of being a season finale or not.

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It’s not necessarily an awful episode, per se, but it’s one of the few AT episodes in general that goes in a very predictable and generic direction. We know exactly what type of story this is going to be the first time it’s mentioned that the Gut Grinder looks like Jake, and the rest of the episode throws little surprises to counter our general expectations. Of course Jake isn’t the Gut Grinder! I got exactly what I thought I was going to get, and that’s pretty sad to say for an AT episode. Part of what’s so great about this show is that I literally never have any idea what’s going to happen, and when I believe that I do, the writers throw some sort of curveball or twist that completely catches me off guard. I’m not really sure how you could change this episode to make it less foreseeable. It’d actually be sorta cool if the Gut Grinder was a shapeshifter, which would also tie into Jake’s backstory. But alas, only so many seeds can be planted in one season.

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Aside from the main plot, the humor is pretty so-so in this episode as well. Besides Finn’s hilarious “justice never sleeps”, I can’t really think of anything in this episode that got a laugh out of me. I’m usually in tune with the show’s random humor, but the ending with Sharon posing as Jake because she “thinks he’s hot” just didn’t do it for me. Why would she dress up like a grotesque version of Jake to steal gold if she’s attracted to him?? Bitches be trippin’.

It’d be unfair not to judge this as a season finale though, and as a season finale, it’s pretty poor. Yes, I know the season two premiere aired only two weeks later, but in context, this really just is not a satisfying way to cap off the first season of one of the most groundbreaking cartoons in recent history. I don’t really blame this on the staff though; I’m not even really sure if it was meant to be intended as the season finale, what with the unreliable aspect of production codes and all that nonsense, but this was when the show was just getting off on its feet anyway. Besides, like I mentioned, it’s not like anyone had to wait months to see the next episode anyway, as It Came From the Nightosphere aired literally two weeks later. I just would’ve been a bit more satisfied with His Hero as the season finale instead, as we end a pretty impressive first season on a pretty “meh” note.

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And that’s the end of season one! Thanks to everyone who has been reading this blog the past couple months, and thank you to everyone who has been patient with its unreliable schedule (it’s bound to stay a bit uncoordinated throughout the next two months, but I’ll try my best to remain consistent). Before I get started with season two, I’ll be doing a full review of season one, along with a small bonus review on top of that. In the meantime, stay tuned, and stay mathematical!