“Ocarina” Review

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Original Airdate: July 17, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard

We haven’t seen much of Jake’s children after their debut episode a season earlier, aside from recurring appearances of Jake Jr., a brief scene with TV, and a cameo of all the kids at Tree Trunks and Mr. Pig’s wedding. Ocarina brings the attention back to all of the pups, with specific focus on Kim Kil Whan. This episode goes through great lengths to showcase how negligent Jake can be as a father, though not through his own intentions. Jake does love and care for his pups, he simply has trouble reaching out to his children because he doesn’t understand fatherly expectations. Jake likely doesn’t understand how to help his kids, and has insecurities whether they actually need him or if he’d be intruding on their lives. It’s a bit of a difficult situation that clearly makes Jake look like a deadbeat in the eyes of some, namely Jake Jr. and especially Kim Kil Whan. I really expected Jake to be presented as unlikable in this one, though I think Kim Kil Whan comes off as much more of a jerk. He’s pretty relentless in his treatment of Jake, and even if Jake was as bad of a father as he suggests, his actions are still pretty vengeful and harsh regardless. Despite this, I think the conflict is still interesting in how it takes both Jake and Kil Whan’s perspectives into account, and presents likely the most complicated relationship among Jake and his pups.

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The pups all hanging out together on their birthday was a delightful treat, especially because it is the sole opportunity in the ENTIRE series for them to actually interact! Yeah, aside from their debut episode, this is the only time in the series we actually see the kids interacting with each other, and while I wish we could have had more scenes like this, it’s good fun regardless. It’s cool to see a character like Viola, who hasn’t had any chances to develop in the past, deliver a couple of lines. And it’s cool to see how all of them view their father; Jake Jr. has spent the most time with him, and while she respects him, she understands that he isn’t the best father. T.V. downright resents him, while Viola dramatically glorifies his existence. Charlie is the only one without defined feelings about her father, and she wouldn’t even have a speaking role of her own for another whole season.

Kim Kil Whan perhaps has the strongest feelings of angst toward his father, as he doesn’t downright hate him, but believes that he is not a model citizen and is without goals and aspirations. Kil Whan views him as an absolute loafer who doesn’t possess quality values because of his carefree lifestyle. The truth of the matter is that Kim Kil Whan knows as little about his father as Jake knows of him. Kim Kil Whan is simply going off of his basic knowledge based on the amount of time he’s actually spent with his father, and has automatically deemed Jake as an irresponsible person. What Kim Kil Whan fails to realize is that Jake’s irresponsibility certainly makes up a part of his personality, though, not all of it. Jake struggles to understand responsibility because he’s never been in a situation that has required him to be entirely responsible. His one main stance of authority throughout the years is his role as Finn’s guardian, though that even comes with its fair share of brotherly nonsense.

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Kim Kil Whan’s ultimate procedure to help Jake get off of his lazy ass is selling the Tree Fort to various renters, after buying the deed from Marceline (in her first appearance this season). The idea of stealing Jake’s house is cruel on its own, but giving him and Finn the worst possible spot in the fort is exceptionally malicious. I think Kim Kil Whan’s sympathy is kind of killed by just how extreme and mean his actions are. Pressuring Jake into adopting a more traditional adult lifestyle is one thing, but literally forcing him out of his own home to do so seems entirely apathetic. I don’t necessarily bring this up as an actual flaw of the episode, but I think it’s certainly hard to like Kim Kil Whan as a character through all of the cruelty he puts Jake through. Jake, with all of his flaws, is still sympathetic and likable because we know that he cares about his children, he simply does not know how to express that love. Kim Kil Whan only wants what’s best for himself, and completely disregards the happiness and quality of life of his father in the process. Kind of hard to like the guy, because he’s not even especially fun in his dickish-ness, but again, I think his situation in relation to Jake is still pretty well-defined. I like how far he’s trying to go to change Jake into a better version of himself, but simply does not understand how Jake functions as a person.

While sharing the Tree Fort, Finn and Jake must deal with the absolute insanity of having roommates, who are, for the most part, newly designed background characters. Pretty cool to see a whole bunch of unique characters we’ve never seen before, when the episode could have so easily recycled random Candy Kingdom citizens to fill these spaces. But, per usual, Adventure Time takes that extra effort even when it’s not even necessary in terms of the story. These quirky one-offs are all pretty cool, namely Mr. F and Mr. B, who have increasingly large feet and buttcheeks respectively. And nothing could have prepared Finn and Jake for their incarceration after simply using soap in (what was) their own home. This is the type of episode where I really wonder what BMO was up to, but I’m probably overthinking it. Perhaps he was on a camping trip with Air that weekend.

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Finn’s certainly dumbed down in this one, but in a way that I actually find more humorous than distracting. Herpich can often write him in a manic way where his goofiness either comes off as somewhat out of place or downright hilarious, and this one falls more into the latter. Finn really isn’t the brightest bulb in the shed, and he doesn’t really have people around him to teach him about how the real world works. Thus, he has no idea what a deed is or what it means to possess ownership of property. This failure to understand the world is slightly improved, once Jake tells Finn a tale about how rule making actually came about. The sequence is competently animated, and sums up quite fascinatingly how rules were only created to essentially help people in power, and everyone else was doomed only because of their circumstances of not being on the “right” side. It’s a message that has come off as controversial for some, and even I think it’s a bit too political for Adventure Time to tackle, but I think it’s more so a product of Jake’s perception, and was intended to be subjected to debate. I still think it’s a little weird coming from Jake, as this episode emphasizes just how much he cruises through life, but it still makes sense regardless. Jake really has never had a sense of power in any sort, so he likely feels inferior to those more powerful than him that oppose him. AKA, Kim Kil Whan.

The feud continues as KKW consistently combats Jake’s efforts to get out of his sticky situation. As F&J strategize how they’re going to get out of said situation, Finn suggests that maybe the boys should actually consider getting jobs. It’s one of three moments where Finn considers taking on a more adult form of labor; he considered actually becoming a cop in Candy Streets, wonders if he should take on a paid opportunity in this episode, and later ponders taking on his parents’ company in The First Investigation. Though Finn hasn’t made any significant steps forward in this development, it is a sign of his maturity regardless that he does ponder such a scenario, it just so happens that he’s already committed to protecting Ooo. Perhaps the series will end with Finn getting an actual job, which would be a fitting conclusion to this ongoing motif.

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As their plans continue to backfire, Jake falls into the brink of despair as he fails to understand why exactly KKW resents him. This is where Jake’s failures as a father are most apparent: he is unable to pick up on social cues between his children. Jake does not understand what exactly he’s done wrong because he’s unable to completely understand his children. Granted, KKW isn’t exactly an open book, but Jake very rarely senses emotional turmoil unless it is completely out in the open. KKW’s more secretive emotional state has left Jake with very little to work with or understand what exactly Kim Kil Whan wants from him. I wouldn’t be surprised if, this entire time, Jake legitimately believes this is based on a financial disagreement. It isn’t until Finn puts the idea in Jake’s head that KKW may have some unexplained issues that Jake begins to realize the possibility of such a dilemma.

During their convening at KKW’s house, Jake’s attempt to comfort his son is done in the most “Jake” way possible: he humorously dances over to his son and presents him with an ocarina, as he repeatedly says “I love you” over and over again. The gift is once again a failure on Jake’s part to understand his son, though it surprisingly works. Kim Kil Whan doesn’t accept the gift as actual incentive, but realizes the heart and novelty that was put into said present. As Jake mentions he never even looked for a job, Kim Kil Whan begins to understand and accept that his father’s behavior is just a product of his personality, and his lack of a professional lifestyle is what makes Jake so vulnerable to be caring and lovable. Though KKW is disappointed with his father’s failure to take on responsibilities, he at least realizes that he is loving. This is KKW’s biggest and most important takeaway from his father thus far. And as they bid goodbye during that entirely poignant and muted shot, theytwo are left with a different level of respect for each other: Jake respects his son for accepting his gift and giving him his house back and KKW respects his father for being a genuine person. Inside his house, Kim Kil Whan confides in his wife that his plans simply did not work out, to which his wife responds with sympathy. KKW’s wife likely thinks Jake is a deadbeat as well, though, as Kim Kil Whan got to know Jake on more than just a surface level, as the audience of Adventure Time was able to do throughout the years, he realizes what a kind-hearted soul his father is, despite his flaws.

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The ending was originally much sadder, as stated by Steve Wolfhard. KKW mourns over how childish his father’s behavior is, and as his daughter Bronwyn asks who he is speaking of, KKW simply responds with “nobody.” I think this would have definitely been profound and impactful, but it’s best that the show does acknowledge that, while Jake is far from the best father, he at least tries. In the Adventure Time world, there are so many fathers who just don’t give a shit, and while Jake has had numerous different reasons for not being the most competent dad, he’s proved that having a genuine attitude can sometimes be enough. Kim Kil Whan knows that Jake will never be able to be the most earnest or competent father as himself, but he’s left knowing that, even through his lack of provision, Jake is still filled with love. Which is why the positive outcome of this episode is so appropriate. I still think Kim Kil Whan’s actions are a bit too harsh for me to actually grow any kind of affection for the character, but the issues presented in this episode are quite interesting. I like how much the episode battles back and forth with Jake’s quality as a father, and almost leaves you wondering if he is a good dad by the episode’s end. Many will say yes, and many will say no. Regardless of what you think, the episode presents a lot of different parental issues that are well-explored and insightful, leaving us with scattered information to draw our own conclusions about Jake’s most complex relationship.

Favorite line: “I love Dad and everything, but he’s only ever met me twice.”


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