Original Airdate: July 16, 2012
Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Bert Youn
Card Wars is somewhat of a fan favorite and was very popular when it was first released. It spawned its very own Card Wars card game, a mobile app, a spin-off comic series, its own DVD release, and a sequel episode. It’s pretty safe to say it’s one of the most known AT episodes overall, and while I couldn’t really call it a personal fave of mine, it really does highlight the fact that Adventure Time doesn’t necessarily need to be adventurous to put out a solid episode, just likable characters and good writing.
The entire premise is a lot of fun; I really enjoy any type of story that involves jealousy or competitiveness, and this one is particularly done well. The actual gameplay of Card Wars is not very interesting in itself, but the interactions between Finn and Jake are really what carry it through. I love Jake’s portrayal and how you know from the beginning that he was practically begging Finn to get involved with the game so he could mercilessly defeat him, and seeing it backfire greatly is just an excellent pay off. It’s quite enjoyable to see Finn basking in the glory of winning at Card Wars as he should be; where Finn is simply having fun and enjoying the game, Jake is taking it way too seriously than it actually is, which is what drives the conflict compellingly forward. It’s honestly a pretty scary depiction of Jake; we rarely see him get remotely angry or too solemn about anything, and it seems that his connection to Card Wars is really what stems to his greatest character flaws.
The game of Card Wars itself is something that Pen and Pat McHale spawned from a long term idea they’ve wanted to do since season one, so it’s nice to see one of their passion projects resurface. I think it’s pretty obvious that the game itself is heavily inspired by other card and roleplaying games such as Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh!, or Dungeons & Dragons. I was never part of the audience that appealed to any of those brands, so I feel like I can’t connect to the actual game as much as others might, but I think it’s still pretty interesting and delightful in its own right. Again, I think they missed a bit of an opportunity to make the game a bit more goofy and entertaining, but Finn and Jake’s reactions to said moves are really what drive the humor, not the game itself.
I think it was sweet for Finn to decide to lose the game for the sake of his brother’s sanity. His relationship with Jake is more important to him than some game he doesn’t even care for much, so it was very endearing to see him choose to lose and do it with honor and grace. He does it in such a genuine and honest way as well, even when Jake is testing his patience by rubbing it in his face. I guess if there’s one thing that leaves me with a bit of discomfort, it is that Jake got to win while being such a sore loser. I think it ends up just making me feel more bad for Finn, but it’s somewhat justified towards the end as Jake realizes he may have gone too far and wants to prevent his brother from drinking that nasty ass soda. It’s a sweet ending that shows that, even through their differences, the two bros will never hold anything that petty against each other. Only thing that remains is poor BMO, who got the silent treatment while Finn easily evaded such a punishment.
The drawings in this one are great as well. I love the really grotesque close-ups Bert Youn works with, in this is an episode that highlights a good handful of them. There’s so many different special poses designed by Nate Cash that a large amount of the humor from Card Wars comes specifically from the expressions. There’s also a couple of really funny Somvilay sight gags, including the bit where Jake shapeshifts into Lady Rainicorn’s head, and where Jake abruptly tosses a pile of plates out the window to clear room for the game. The latter one always gets me laughing. Here’s some of my favorites of Bert’s shots:
I have surprisingly little more to say about this one besides the fact that it just works. While it focuses on the game of Card Wars heavily, the real spotlight is on Finn and Jake’s relationship, and I often say that at its most simplistic, Adventure Time is still able to succeed in phenomenal ways. Not one I like a whole lot, but definitely an enjoyable entry in the increasingly entertaining fourth season.