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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.