Archive | July 2018

“Hoots” Review

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Original Airdate: May 14, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne & Andy Ristaino

AT’s special guest star of the week is the Cosmic Owl! I was never really a fan of how the show turned this all-powerful cosmic being into a simple “bro” who wanted to chill in a hot tub and play board games, because I think it really diminishes his overall importance in the series as this deity that has an unspeakable amount of power regarding the dreams over others. I get that Adventure Time likes to approach said powerful beings by giving them a little dose of humanity to show that they aren’t very different from anyone else, which is fine, but I think the Cosmic Owl’s interpretation is a little boring. I mean, there’s already PLENTY of lonely characters in the series, including Ice King, Banana Man, Mr. Fox, and the already established lonely cosmic being, Prismo. So focusing on Cosmic Owl’s simple life as a dude who lives alone and just wants the love of another woman is nothing new, and nothing especially interesting.

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I think Cosmic Owl’s star-aligned motel is truly neat. Going back to my original point, I don’t really know why an all-powerful being like the Cosmic Owl would live in a motel, but it works because it’s well-designed and visually interesting. And I thought the Cosmic Owl’s method of entering other people’s dreams was nicely conceived. Not only is it a duty for Cosmic Owl to fulfill his prophetic endeavors, but it’s done through a coin system and he’s given direct orders as to which dreams he should visit each night. It’s also shown that ANY dream that the Cosmic Owl does appear in is prophesied to come true. It’s a neat little system they set up, and pretty funny that the Cosmic Owl verbally acknowledges that he visits Finn’s dreams a lot. On a side note, the shenanigans between Jake and Shelby were absolutely great. I have no idea how Jake’s class ring ended up within Finn’s stomach, but the two of them engaging in “stomach fishing” while Finn is asleep is just delightful. I get the feeling that outside of the main Tree Fort trio, Jake and Shelby are the closest to each other in their home. They’re both cool dudes who enjoy the occasional party, and likely have the highest amount of common interests outside of Finn and Jake. I love Finn’s half-awake reaction to their behavior as well, and his hesitation to follow a Cosmic Owl dream because the last time he did he “got dumped.”

The dream version of Gunther is… interesting, to say the least. I mean, on the one hand, it’s a unique way of fleshing out Gunther’s personality and psyche in a way that the show is unable to do so. The dream version of Gunther is sturdy-headed and social to some extent, but is shown to be clouded by darkness and raw power, and is unable to shake those negative traits. Though, this form of development is tough for a gag character who rarely speaks or emotes. In fact, the next instance of Gunther shows that he’s full-on evil and doesn’t even consider his own morality as a result, so it kind of feels like this dream interpretation doesn’t really effectively flesh out his character in any way, besides reminding us that Gunther does have a secret malicious side that is just waiting to be unleashed. The twist ending actually did get me the first time around, though going back and rewatching it, I find that there’s very little telling details about Gunther’s character. Again, not that I really need Gunther’s character fleshed out to begin with. That being said, I’m more optimistic toward his revelation as a cosmic being, but we’ll get to that later on.

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I don’t think the relationship between the Cosmic Owl and dream Gunther is very compelling at all, seeing as how it just seems like a story to progressively move the plot forward. I’m never really fully behind the Cosmic Owl’s romantic feelings because of how little I’m invested in his actual character, and aside from the fact that he’s shirking his duties because of it, there’s no real conflict presented that actually has me invested in the situation. Of course, there’s the aftermath of Cosmic Owl’s actions that leads to him directly sabotaging Princess Bubblegum’s role in her kingdom, though it never really has any consequences directly to the CO. In fact, does it even really matter if the Owl slacks on his duties? I mean, it’s presented as if it’s supposed to be a big deal, but what does it really matter? There’s no clear issues presented to the fact that Cosmic Owl is ignoring his job. Even in the case that he was involved in prophesying PB’s morbid dream, doesn’t this stuff happen all the time? Cosmic Owl’s role in Finn’s dream lead the boy to being dumped, which sent Finn on a spiraling path of depression. I just think it’s odd for the Cosmic Owl to actually care about the lives of mortals in this way. I guess he’s more concerned that he directly affected someone’s dream in any which way and reversed the results of the future, but once again, it doesn’t seem like there’s anything that Cosmic Owl directly has to worry about regarding his state of being or his “job.” This also raises another question in my mind, if Gunther didn’t ruin PB’s dream, would she even be replaced as princess? I mean, it’s clear that her citizens are already unhappy with the way she’s been controlling her kingdom, and it only seems natural that their stupidity would lead them to eventually vote-in a manipulative ne’er-do-well. It almost feels like the events of this dream didn’t really need to happen as the plot would progress forward regardless, unless the original state of the dream is supposed to imply that the Candy Kingdom is happy with the way PB is approaching a new leaf. It’s interesting thought fuel.

So yeah, I think there’s plenty of clunky bits, but the episode has its perks. That Jake and Shelby scene is certainly a highlight, and I like any bits featuring Prismo (though it somewhat angers me that he briefly forgot who Finn was… how do you forget the dude that sacrificed himself for you??) and his newly found passion to play the banjo. A small tidbit, but I also love the fact that all of Cosmic Owl’s “oo’s” are represented by an owl call, how clever! This episode is also really cool on a visual note, with a lot of unique dream sequences featuring various major and minor characters. But otherwise, I think it’s a bit of a dull stroll through the life of a somewhat uninteresting side character.

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As a little added bonus, since I love dream interpretations so much, I’m gonna take a quick glance at all the dreams we did get to see throughout the episode and their possible interpretations:

  • Finn’s convergence with Sweet P and Martin is interesting, because I’m pretty positive it was carried out, just not in the literal sense. The most common interpretation is the upcoming anticipation of the comet, as these three beings come together, two of which were once incarnates of comets, and one of which who will join paths with one quite shortly. There’s also Jake muttering “say goodbye,” in reverse, which could represent Finn ultimately saying goodbye to his father, as well as the Lich, since he is now contained by Sweet P.
    • Also, Finn seeing clock bear is a more literal example, as Finn meets him later in Preboot.
  • Turtle Princess dreams of getting a haircut, and changing ones hair within a dream typically represents taking on a new change in life. She later dyes her hair completely black in Blank Eyed Girl!
  • Abracadaniel being laughed at in his underwear is a pretty obvious one, as he simply doesn’t feel that he’s accepted in his daily life by the people surrounding him. These insecurities were touched on in Thanks for the Crabapples, Giuseppe!
  • Peppermint Butler checking his wristwatch could be humoring the idea that Pepbut feels trapped and unable to truly unwind in his environment, as his darker and more twisted side counteracts with his duties as a butler.
  • Have no theory for what Forest Wizard’s could represent!
  • Tree Trunks finding a bag full of skulls most likely represents her subconscious fear of the dangers around her. I’m not sure how cognizant she is of Sweet P’s true demeanor, but I get the feeling that these two bits are somehow correlated.
  • Marceline flying on Hambo was cute. Mostly just saw it as Marcy embracing the freedom that’s around her with an adorable and cuddly friend from her past.
  • Lemonhope being shown in his shackles once more was pretty sad, seeing as how the little guy likely still feels restrained and held back by his past.
  • King of Ooo is appropriately seen in a tub full of water, which typically has to do with a positive change in the upcoming future. Though, he’s also pouring some of it out, which may embody the idea that he’s also sabotaging himself in the process.
  • The next bunch are pretty silly, as Punchy observes a flying kitten, Party Pat has huge thighs, and Mr. Cupcake tries to decide between a sandwich and a human head.
  • Mr. Pig mowing the lawn to no avail was humorous, simply because a dry dude like Mr. Pig would likely dream about such a mundane task. Also, flower heads sprouting from a mowed law imply that Mr. Pig needs to show his softer side, which he hasn’t been doing as of episodes like The Pajama War.
  • Huntress Wizard is seen crawling within a small cave, which could show how she has difficulty expressing herself and truly showing her full personality to the world. This is displayed in her hesitation to express feelings of infatuation in Flute Spell.
  • The snakes in Kim Kil Whan’s dream may embody his unresolved issue of bitterness towards his father Jake and the possible fear that said relationship may never be resolved.
  • Cherry Cream Soda tripping in her dream represents the unexpected challenges that oppose her. She recently lost her husband in Something Big.
  • Banana Man’s is pretty silly and mostly just revolves around his desire to get closer to Finn and Jake.
  • And finally PB’s, which quite obviously represents her downfall as a ruler after working so hard to build up her kingdom.

I doubt all of these interpretations hold true, but hey, it’s fun to take a gander regardless!

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Favorite line: “Cosmic Owl was in it, he was acting all choco-loco.”

“Graybles 1000+” Review

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Original Airdate: May 7, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Steve Wolfhard

Out of the experimental projects Adventure Time has focused on over the years, the Graybles episodes are likely the least memorable. That’s not to say that they’re completely awful; the Graybles episodes are an assortment of inoffensive and often relatively humorous short stories, but typically nothing more than that. Between the acclaimed Fionna & Cake series and the visually unique guest animated episodes, it’s no wonder that the Graybles entries are generally sidelined. However, Graybles 1000+ manages to be an absolutely memorable gem by staying true to its source material while also expanding on the various interesting ways these stories can be told and the Adventure Time world as a whole.

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Continuing in season six’s tradition of focusing on the many different inhabitants of the Land of Ooo and beyond, this one focuses almost entirely on the life of Cuber, and once again, the show manages to make me care about a character I didn’t really think twice about before. Emo Phillips reprises his role as Cuber, who not only has one of the most distinct voices in the entire series, but also manages to capture the sense that Cuber is not from the present timeline to a tee. Cuber’s backstory as a baby – or in this case, a bayble – is not inherently really interesting, but is one that I grow affectionate for as the episode goes on.  It’s really awesome to me that Cuber’s connection and investment in Graybles go beyond just his role as an obscure television host. This episode presents Graybles as Cuber’s method of coping with his issues and his guide to getting himself out of trouble. As the beginning of the episode and a majority of the episode shows, Cuber seems to be a being stricken by constant paranoia, and Graybles are what help to propel him forward. It’s kind of neat that Graybles were given a purpose aside from just their initial intent, and even cooler that they represent the hierarchy of needs (despite Cuber’s directions to the audience to NOT look for a theme) and help Cuber to acquire his own set of necessities. Starting first with his physiologic needs.

I’ll talk about the actual Graybles in a bit, but I wanna get to the real meat first: the futuristic version of Ooo. We’ve had plenty of episodes that have dealt with the AT world’s past history, like Simon & MarcyThe Vault, and Evergreen, but this is the first episode to strictly focus on the future of said world, after getting some visual hints sprinkled around in Lemonhope – Part 2. This one was solo-boarded by Steve Wolfhard, and is his first solo-board to date, and boy, does he love including these little lore-based Easter eggs as much as possible. Wolfhard once stated,

“A fav part of working on AT is writing stuff like Martin’s speech in The Visitor, knowing what we throw will be caught later by the writers… I love that stuff. Feels like playing catch.”

This episode is very much in the same vein, with little hints of information and nothing explicit. But while an episode like The Visitor had questions that still demanded answers, the inquiries brought up by Graybles 1000+ don’t really demand as such. I mean, of course, there’s obvious bits that do require more information, like the appearance of the Ice Thing and what he actually embodies, though the rest of the episode comprises of small hints of information that are unsatisfying in all the right ways. For example, we hear a banjo strumming within Marceline’s still standing house, which could imply that Marceline is still living there, or it could mean that somebody else has moved in entirely. There’s also the Prizeball Guardian (who has a pretty incredible design, by the way) and the secluded living room within its interior, though no actual resident is seen. Again, this could imply that Bubblegum is still alive and has taken refuge inside her own safe haven, but again, these are questions that I think are best left up to interpretations of the audience. I’m sure some of these will ultimately get answered when the finale finally does air 12 years from now, but I’d hope that a couple of these hints are left mysterious. I even like the little implication that the interrupted wedding may involve descendants of Jake’s family, as they look somewhat similar in design to a character like Kim Kil Whan, and also speak in Korean.

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This episode is really dull and uncolorful in its scenery, but in a way that I think is fitting and ultimately tragic. It’s really unforgiving in how much it emphasizes the fact that nothing in Ooo that we know and love will last forever. Hell, Cuber even flat out says that Jake is dead when he states, “bobble bobble, as the dead might say,” which is obvious considering it takes place one thousand years in the future, but holy shit is it bleak to think about our main characters dying at all. Graybles 1000+ is depressingly honest in all the right ways, and shows how finite the world as a whole is. It’s easy to think everything is forever, but as this episode shows, even vivid fantasies don’t last. The lack of color really adds to how much has changed within the Candy Kingdom and beyond, and the lifeless, grown tree is pretty heartbreaking considering how fun and vibrant the Tree Fort is as a location in general. A lot of people consider the ending of Lemonhope – Part 2 to be the really depressing futuristic version of Ooo, but I think this episode takes it one step beyond and really hammers in the tragedy of it all, considering that it’s all featured subtley in the background. To me, that’s the brilliance of it all. You have Cuber, who simply wants to get himself out of trouble and could care less about the people and lands that occupied his surroundings, and so we, the audience, are left to respond to his surroundings for him. It’s all really nicely tied together, which is again, mostly thanks to Wolfhard’s tremendous focus on small details.

I’ll chat briefly about each Grayble now. Finn, Jake, and BMO’s little shtick is nothing particularly spectacular, though it’s cute and fun as always. This Grayble is representative of safety, which is nice to see, because I feel like Finn actually using the wand would totally be the story of a first or second season episode, while he’s grown to recognize the dangers of such an item, and would prefer to keep it out of harm’s way instead. There’s actually three really interesting bits in the storyboard that ultimately didn’t make it into the episode:

  • Finn asks Jake is he’s ever imagined the two of them as girls, which is pretty obviously an allusion to Fionna and Cake.
  • Jake states, “lately I’ve been thinking about whoever your mom is, I have a lot of questions for her!” Kinda glad this one didn’t make the cut, because there’s already so much going on in this one as it is, but it’s still cool regardless to get a mention of Finn’s mother after the events of The Visitor. I have a feeling Finn did inform Jake of the story Martin told him.
  • BMO mentions, “I think a lot about the Lich!” Pretty dark for the little dude.

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Onto Ice King’s, where it’s pretty much the same in tone as the first Grayble: it’s cute and fun, but nothing great. I don’t say this to demean the episode in any way, however. As I mentioned, I think it was really clever for Cuber to use these cute little stories as a method to help him cope with the world around him. Even if that means fixing his own broken leg, which still makes me squick to this day. Ice King’s Grayble very clearly represents social belonging, when he mentions that he loves Gunther.

Starchy’s is easily the funniest and most intriguing, as he discovers a chip in his tooth that is used by Princess Bubblegum to detect his every movement. I didn’t really like this at first, because I felt as though it was taking a step backward in PB’s developmental path, but at the same time, we don’t really know when the Grayble takes place. PB’s wearing her “I ♥ Bunny” t-shirt, which could imply that this took place during Jake the Brick, thus before the events of The Cooler. Regardless, it’s fun to see the ever-paranoid Starchy flee the Candy Kingdom, and the idea that the remainder of the series probably features a clone of Starchy and not the initial one we see in this episode. I’d love to see an episode elaborate on where the first Starchy fled off to. Also, it’s once again pretty cool to see a new lard species, with this one being a Grass Lard. I’d love to see a Pokemon Go! rip-off featuring the entire lard species. Starchy’s Grayble represents esteem, as he mentions that walking gives him self-esteem (which actually doubles as a good message to the kiddies about the importance of exercise to benefit overall psychological health).

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The final Grayble is cute, with Tuber teaching Cuber a lesson in self-actualization (the final part of the triangle!) as he realizes that he is able to protect himself, with some much needed help from his Graybles. I guess the one thing I sort of feel weird about with this one is that Cuber pretty much straight up killed someone at the beginning, but he’s still kind of viewed as a hero in the end. I mean, granted, it was an accident and he didn’t really get a chance to explain his behavior, but I do think it’s weird that it’s kind of glanced over by the time we get to the end of the episode. It didn’t really affect my overall investment in his character, though.

Regardless, I think Graybles 1000+ is pretty awesome. Not only is it an awesomely tragic view of the futuristic Ooo, but it also adds so much depth to Cuber and the Graybles in general. It’s also just some really high stakes fun as well. I think Cuber’s situation is legitimately enticing, and it’s kept that way through a fast-paced tour among the post-post-post apocalyptic civilization. This is one that I definitely think deserves more recognition, as it manages to be really intriguing, mainly because of its subtle Wolfhardian details, but also because it builds on the AT world in so many different ways. Graybles 1000+ is another strong, lore-based episode in season six, and the best Graybles episode to date.

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Favorite line: “You try not to think of a sandwich, and look what happens! A sandwich!”

 

“Chips & Ice Cream” Review

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Original Airdate: April 30, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim

Chips & Ice Cream is certainly not a fan favorite among AT’s audience. Aside from Sad Face, I’m pretty positive this is one of the most universally disliked episodes of the season, and the series in general. While I agree that I think it’s kind of annoying from an audio perspective, the episode has a lot of underlying implications that are quite fascinating. Or, underlying implications that I myself picked up on, even if they might not actually be there. I’m sure this isn’t the first time most of you readers have heard the comparisons between the plot of this episode and Pendleton Ward stepping down as the showrunner of Adventure Time, and AT’s identity as a whole. Again, I’m not entirely sure if this was the intended thought process behind the episode, but it makes it for one hell of an interesting ride.

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The Chips and Ice Cream show that’s presented to BMO and a bunch of other children (lil’ rabbits) could easily be seen as analogy for Adventure Time itself, and that’s carried across even further by Finn and Jake’s response to said performance. Any outside viewer of the series, mostly from a parental perspective, would pass off Adventure Time as nothing but absurdity for the sake of absurdity. Of course, there are plenty of adults who do like AT, but Finn and Jake are supposed to represent a first time viewer more so than anything else. It’d be quite easy to fall into that confused mindset if you watched any episode of the series for the first time, no matter how complex or emotional. And then there’s Morty Rogers, the creator of Chips and Ice Cream who just so happens to be a bear. Interesting choice to say the least.

Though he created Chips and Ice Cream, Morty Rogers no longer wants the companionship of the two imps who are literally attached to himself. The reason Pendleton Ward stepped down as showrunner for Adventure Time was because, in his own words, “it was driving [me] nuts.” Ward could have never predicted how popular Adventure Time would become, and when it did reach peak popularity, Ward’s quiet and introverted passage of life became threatened. To the surprise of not a single fan, Adventure Time was huge in mainstream popularity for a period of time, spanning from around the beginning of 2012 to the middle of 2014. It has had tons of different spin-off material from books, games, t-shirts, action figures, and so on, most of which required Ward to devote his time to in regards to production as well, in addition to being a showrunner, which is already one of the most demanding jobs in the industry. Ward felt consumed, and wanted his quality life to return after feeling like he was unable to escape the confines of the series, and separated himself from his creation, as Morty Rogers does.

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Chips and Ice Cream are now the responsibility of Jake, and I’m not sure how much of Jake’s response parallels Adam Muto’s (or even how Finn ties into all of this) since Muto is essentially a pretty mysterious guy, but it is intriguing to think of how this could have played out. I suppose Muto’s response could have been quite neutral and unremarkable, given that the weight of said responsibility is not really clearly defined. On one hand, Muto now has a chance to be the head honcho of one of the most prominent forces in modern animation, but he also has to ensure that the quality of the series will remain fresh, or even better than ever. Muto was left with news that he probably didn’t know how to express his feelings on or even comprehend, as Jake does when he’s left with what initially seems like an eternal curse.

BMO is also cleverly used in this episode as the childlike force to help showcase the importance of Chips and Ice Cream. As Chips and Ice Cream are left ignored by BMO’s parental figures and seen as “annoying,” Chips and Ice Cream begin to sing a soft lullaby under the moon, as BMO starts to understand the complexity and beauty behind their simple and silly demeanor. Finn and Jake are two characters that we viewed as silly and enjoyable goofballs when the series began, though as the series progressed, it became quite apparent that they were more than just a couple of knuckleheads, and that their truth strengths lied deeply in the passion and effort that was put into their respective developments.

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While Ward stepped down as showrunner, he still remained as a somewhat active participant in story development. Ward did alleviate the stress of having the show consume his life, but he still never escaped from Finn and Jake completely. Morty Rogers’ absolute breakdown could represent this failure to completely escape the thing that was previously tormenting Ward, and the complicated results that often come from obsessions. Obsessions are impossible to escape from completely, especially when one is actively trying to escape them, and it can often be a confusing process on whether you are supposed to avoid said obsession, or to completely give into its power. Both are harmful regardless, and Morty Rogers is left with the pain of not knowing whether he wants Chips and Ice Cream in his life or does not. Again, these are really interesting behind-the-scenes details that we’ll likely never know entirely about, and while this episode doesn’t provide an outward answer to that drama, it is interesting to paint a picture in one’s head about how things actually went down, though I’m sure some bits and pieces hold true.

While Morty Rogers decides he does want Chips and Ice Cream back in his life, it’s all but too late, as Chips and Ice Cream are let free to exist on their own beyond being controlled by one person, as Finn and Jake are through the various creative influencers that Adventure Time has to offer. Obviously that was still an attribute of the series when Ward was at the helm, but this episode reinforces that Finn, Jake, and their TV show are able to flourish and exist creatively outside of the control of one mastermind. Though Ward put a great amount of time, effort, blood, sweat, and tears in Adventure Time, his influence lead for the creation of two characters so strong that they were able to find passionate voices beyond Ward’s sole direction. As Rogers laments, “what am I gonna do without you guys??” I can’t help but feel that Ward may have had similar thoughts. Adventure Time put Ward’s name out there and was his baby, but he gave it up and put it in the hands of another person. He’s worked on video games and web animations since, but has mostly kept himself out of the spotlight. I’m sure he’s much happier now at his own comfortable pace, though that initial separation period must have been a doozy, and he likely felt some form of regret. I have nothing but the deepest respect and affection for this man that brought me one of my favorite shows of all-time, and hope that he was able to find peace and solace when finally creating that separation. And, as Chips & Ice Cream proves, that separation may have been the best choice on both sides: for the show to prove it can thrive beyond one man’s ultimate pull, and for Ward to finally regain his peaceful quality of life.

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Looking past these analogies, Chips & Ice Cream is fairly decent on its own. I think Morty Rogers’ obsessive turmoil is pretty interesting in its own right, some of Finn and Jake’s reactions to the imps are quite funny, BMO plays a pretty likable part as the main hero of this one, and there’s some funny gags that humored me. I actually really like the gruff man who owns the ice cream stand a good amount, mainly because his overly feminine voice is both really silly and kind of sweet in hindsight. It’s funny because it defies expectations, but it’s also cool because it’s easy to just accept that this random guy has a really feminine voice. It ties back into the standard that there’s all kinds of different and diverse people scattered around Ooo, and the fact that this guy isn’t treated as a joke within this world is pretty rad. There’s also a nice moody atmosphere that shadows this one, primarily during the nighttime scenes, that help to give Chips & Ice Cream a bit off an unusual and off feeling. I think the Pokemon speak that Chips and Ice Cream deliver can get rather obnoxious, though it tends to bother me less on repeated viewings. It was a nice touch to have Garfunkel & Oates play the comedy duo even if they don’t do much; this is the second episode in a row to utilize a voice actor from Steven Universe! Also quite interesting is that Chips and Ice Cream’s dialogue is translated within the storyboard of this episode, and you can actually check it out here.

So yeah, I think this one is pretty cool. I know not everyone is gonna be able to get behind the mindset that this episode is representative of Ward’s turmoil regarding Adventure Time, but that’s also what makes the show, and primarily season six, so much fun. There’s so much ambiguity that each episode can pretty much be however you interpret it; hell, Oliver Sava over at the A.V. Club has been going on and on about dick metaphors within the series for years! But it is cool to see the different mindsets and perspectives that individual viewers can take away from each episode, and this one strikes me as particularly interesting. I’m always really drawn by developments that happen during the production of TV shows, and using that series to represent said developments is a great way to go about releasing those fears and anxieties. It reminds me of the Reverend Jack Cheese episode of The Ren & Stimpy Show, and how that used cleverly placed metaphors to represent its previous showrunner’s influence on the series. Adventure Time takes a similar, yet more heartfelt approach to portraying said drama, and creates something that I think is genuinely pretty intriguing. It’s a personal perspective that I know is likely not shared by most, but it’s one that likewise reminds me what a special show this is to begin with.

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Favorite line: “You have the best – out of this world day!”

“Jermaine” Review

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Original Airdate: April 23, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Brandon Graham & Jesse Moynihan

Connecting the dots to every tiny piece of established information in the Adventure Time world was probably the most difficult aspect for the writing team in the long haul. What I mean by this is that the series initially started out as a crazy and silly fantasy world with little restrictions as to what could be done in said world. Years later, those restrictions have mostly stayed the same, though to make the Land of Ooo feel more real and authentic, the series has taken a stance to be strong in its continuity so that those wackier early seasons could essentially be retconned as worldbuilding. Finn and Jake’s estranged brother Jermaine was included in the episode Crystals Have Power as a mere gag character; even Jesse Moynihan, who established Jermaine’s existence in this world, didn’t really think twice about what that creation meant and how it would affect the story down the line. And it didn’t for a while, as Crystals Have Power aired five whole seasons ago, and outside a brief mention in The Pit and cameos in Memory of a Memory, Jake the Dad, and Joshua & Margaret Investigations, the character has never had a proper chance to shine, and the writing staff, up until this point, had failed to find a rational way to include him in the story. Jermaine finally brings its title character to centerstage, and is a turmoil-fueled expedition that capitalizes on an interesting relationship between siblings that we really haven’t seen in the series thus far.

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The beginning starts off fantastically, courtesy of some great visual gags from guest storyboard artist Brandon Graham. This is Graham’s only episode in the series, but man, do his drawings stick out in a really fun way. The dream bit where Jake slides on Lady Rainicorn’s body is such a fun, bouncy sequence that features some stellar animation as well. The reveal sequence with Jermaine is plenty foreboding, and gives us a good idea of who Jermaine is as a character. The series ditched the Jermaine we saw back in Crystals Have Power: he no longer has missing teeth, prominent lips, and a deepened John DiMaggio voice. He keeps the unibrow, but is voiced instead by Tom Scharpling, who is quite obviously the voice of Greg Universe from Steven Universe. I can’t help but feel this bit of discontinuity is slightly distracting… I guess you could maybe argue that the dream sequence distorted Jermaine’s appearance like the nightmares in King Worm did, but I like this version of Jermaine better so I can’t really complain about the change on an entertainment level. His anxious state is well-defined by his almost compulsive recitation of “epsilon, eucrates…” that helps him stay calm, as well as concentrated. I also like that Jake and Jermaine are somehow always connected by their dreams, for completely unexplained reasons. It’s a bit of subtle character lore that has no role in the grand scheme of things, but is an interesting way to bring the two brothers together, considering their distant behavior elsewhere. Also, I think Graham may be the only storyboard artist who loves drawing Jake with toes more than Ako Castuera.

Jake’s stress and worry regarding his brother is also well-explored. One of the key components of Jake’s development throughout the series is that he’s aging at an unknown and incomprehensible pace, and that often leads to concerns on whether he’s being a good father, brother, caregiver and so on. Not only does Jake have kids of his own now that he wants to stay together as a close knit group, but he likely worries about Jermaine’s mental and physical health, and if something were to happen to Jermaine, Jake would probably feel responsible for not attempting to reach out sooner. This beginning scene is loaded with details as well: there’s that awesome coffee cup with a face, a living head within F&J’s cooler, BMO’s little karate practice, and Finn tinkering with who knows what. There’s so much going on in one brief scene, but it’s all jam-packed in a way that there’s always something really unique to look at. Guest storyboard artists oftentimes can be the most creative on a visual level, because it’s their one opportunity to get to work with such a creative and unique property, and Graham takes every opportunity he can get. My all-time favorite moment of his from this episode is the scene where Finn and Jake leave for Jermaine’s, as Jake’s stretchy legs propel the two forward, and we see a slow pan of Ooo’s descent from daytime into night. It’s only a couple of seconds and isn’t really significant to the story in any way, but it’s big on energy, beautiful, and competently drawn/animated. Always pretty awesome how successful Adventure Time can be in its simpler moments.

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The demons all have relatively neat and creative designs despite the fact that they’re mostly limited to be translucent silhouettes. It is a bit weird to have demons like Kee-Oth and Bryce who are very detailed and unique in their designs, and then to have a bunch of nameless demons that seem to all seem to share similar attributes exist as the same species. I mean, maybe there are different types of demons based on origin or landscape? Or maybe it was because said demons were surrounded by darkness? I dunno, it didn’t really bother me because I did like the designs of these background demons and the way they moved, so it was pretty easy to glance over the possible inconsistency.

Jermaine proves to be a really sympathetic and likable character in a very short amount of time, and I think his anxieties and stressors are elaborated on in all of the right ways. He isn’t just a stick in the mud for the sake of being a stick in the mud, he was practically forced to be responsible against his own will for the sake of his father, and isn’t able to enjoy the pleasures of life because this responsibility demands his full attention 24/7. Jermaine could simply give up his job whenever he likes, but the one thing keeping him there is likely the burdening guilt that he would feel for his dad. It could be implied that Joshua’s dying wish for Jermaine was to protect all of his belongings, and so choosing a life of splendor and enjoyment would surely feel like a betrayal to Jermaine, who simply wants to obey his father’s desires. This also paints more of a grim picture about the kind of person Joshua was. Again, I’m still in the stance that Joshua was a solid father, but I think his moral ethics and treatment of others certainly come into question. Once again, the demons seem to be somewhat of victims here, as Joshua likely stole from them either for sport or for kicks, even though a majority of these items seem to be of little value or importance, at least from an audience perspective. Second, I think Joshua’s decision to ask Jermaine to watch over the house doesn’t come from the direct reason that Joshua favored Jake, (though, I think that’s an entirely plausible thought; Joshua did give birth to Jake, after all) but rather that Joshua saw him as the most responsible member of the family that would reasonably be able to carry on his legacy with little issues. It was still entirely selfish for Joshua to ask Jermaine to practically give up his life over material possessions, though as much as we’ve seen of this awesome crib throughout the past few seasons, it kind of makes sense. Joshua and Margaret’s house is AWESOME, and filled with many different treasures aside from just demon cups and posters. Their loot collection nearly doubles as a museum of different artifacts and delights, and shows just how much Joshua was able to achieve in terms of loot throughout his lifespan. Of course, this is Joshua’s legacy, though. Joshua was not considering the thoughts and values of his son when he asked him to take on said responsibility, and it’s not fair for Jermaine to sacrifice his own wellbeing for Joshua’s belongings.

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The episode nearly excels at making Jermaine too likable to possibly the fault of its own, as Finn and Jake can come off as almost distractingly pesky. I wouldn’t say the brothers are completely flanderized or anything like that, but it is frustrating to see F&J cause consistent problems in Jermaine’s state of being when he just simply wants to be left alone. Granted, Jermaine needed that extra boost of frustration and anger to help him realize the true issue at hand, but I wish the brothers were a little more conscientious in regard to his well being. I mean, how did Jake NOT know that the salt trail outside was protecting the house from demons? Granted, the two bros still get their moments of likability. Finn going absolutely berserk after being in his house for the first time in years was just delightful, and I do like how the bros are completely on Jermaine’s side throughout the entirety of the episode, even when it means going against their dad’s wishes.

Their support is futile, however, as Jermaine finally blows up and lashes out at his two brothers, but with most of his anger aimed towards Jake. And this built up anger is completely understandable as Jermaine’s absolute jealousy towards Finn and Jake’s way of life. How could he not be filled with envy? Jermaine is stuck in a position that he mentally has no way out of, where he has absolutely no way of growing personally or enjoying life as it was intended, while Finn and Jake get to live in utter luxury for doing what they love and never have to worry about money, responsibility, or fulfilling their own desires. While I thought Kim Kil Whan was too harsh in his approach to showing Finn and Jake that they’re privileged beings, I think Jermaine’s blow up is completely sympathetic and rational, and his level of inferiority is certainly felt. Joshua likely enjoyed hanging out with Jake more, because of Jake’s desires to be adventurous and to fight bad guys, while Jermaine was always the smart and rational one. Joshua presumably loved Jermaine as much as he loved his other children, but saw different things in him that required attention to different responsibilities, while Jake was the one that Joshua could have fun with and relate to the most. However, Jermaine’s argument is based on his surface level understanding of Finn and Jake’s style of life. I don’t know if anyone else caught this, but that brief shot of Finn’s distressed face as Jermaine utters, “you can go off and find your own fancy ways!” kind of made me think that Jermaine has no idea that his brother went through severe depression and emotional issues in the past few months. Finn and Jake may have luxury at their fingertips, but they’re certainly not immune to the struggles and trials that life has to offer regardless, though Jermaine fails to see that because of how long they’ve been apart for.

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The fight is certainly entertaining, with more fun little details, like the flying shoe and the “jazz-bazz” dragon, and the words exchanged between Jermaine and Jake are certainly dramatic. I think it might be executed a little too silly in hindsight… I mean, it’s essentially ended by Jake repeatedly passing gas. But, I think it’s well-timed, as Jermaine begins to realize towards the end of their brawl that fighting Jake isn’t going to accomplish anything. As Jake reminds him, “you could’ve left at any time,” leaving Jermaine to recognize that his grief is likely with his father, and his own decision to not move on from said guilt. I even kind of think that Jake’s goofy response may have tied into his youthful fart jokes that he was describing, and the fake fart he released as Jermaine hit him may have been a method Jake used as a child to cheer Jermaine up. I do wish Jake was a tad more serious during this scene, as he responds a little too casually to the whole ordeal, but it also reinforces how Jake deals with these types of situations to begin with. He isn’t a fighter, and would much rather solve his issues with jokes and joy rather than with fists. And, after Jermaine does release all of his negative energy, he’s able to tearfully let his parents’ house burn down, knowing that a whole new life exists for him beyond the materialistic nature of Joshua’s possessions. He’s off to a great start, as he and his newly-found demon buddy Bryce walk into the horizon. Bryce is cleverly voiced by Jon Wurster, who is Tom Scharpling’s co-host in their podcast series The Best Show. Steven Universe beat this team-up by only two weeks in Story for Steven!

So yeah, I think Jermaine is another really great family drama based episode for the series. F&J can get a bit bothersome at moments, and the episode can also be a little too goofy when it isn’t warranted, but I think everything else is shed in really great light. I never imagined Jermaine would end up being this interesting of a character, but Graham and Moynihan worked with his personality really well. Jermaine works off of jealousy, inferiority, depression, and guilt in an exceedingly impressive way, and is supported by great animation, characters, and a really neat setting. While I’m writing this, I’m gonna put this theory to bed right now while I have the chance: I don’t think Martin was supposed to be in that picture on Joshua and Margaret’s wall. The storyboard clearly suggests that it was just intended to be two random sticks figures within a picture, and while it may have been implied at the time that this would be a picture of Martin and Finn’s mother, how would Joshua and Margaret even acquire this? Wouldn’t Finn pass by the picture and think, “hey, why are there two humans in a portrait on our wall? Are they my real family, or something?” It just doesn’t make much sense, and I think it was merely either an animation misinterpretation, or it was included to be up for debate, but I’m willing to say that there’s nothing of substance to come out of this little detail, and I think it’s better left ignoring.

Jermaine also has a special outro, with the Booboo Sousa song replacing The Island Song. The Booboo Sousa song was co-written by Jesse and his brother Justin.

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Favorite line: “Give me my cup, or I’ll skull-cup you!”

“Friends Forever” Review

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Original Airdate: April 16, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Andy Ristaino & Cole Sanchez

Friends Forever brings up an interesting question: is Ice King really worth saving? And I mean that in the sense that Ice King has become his own developed and lovable character over the course of six seasons that completely differs from Simon. Of course, Ice King is depressed and deeply troubled, and Simon lost his sanity to the crown, so for that reason, it almost makes sense to reverse the effects of the crown and thus to save Simon. Though, Ice King makes it very clear in this episode that he doesn’t want to be “fixed” and doesn’t want the help from the likes of others. Some parts of Simon’s personality and the personality of Urgence Evergreen that was embedded in the crown (there’s a nice little homage to Evergreen in this one when Ice King scolds, “Gunther, no!”) are what make up Ice King’s identity, and while he is far from the most conscientious being, he still has free will and is very much a conscious entity. So would bringing Simon back effectively destroy the Ice King as a person without his approval?

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The concept is presented in a challenging way, which is also appreciated. As Friends Forever continues to remind us, Ice King is still clearly insane. He manipulates the Life Giving Magus into bringing his furniture to life in the hopes that they can become his best friends, instead of simply reaching out to Magus to fill that void. In addition to that, it seems that Ice King’s comradery with Abracadaniel was only temporary, as Ice King quickly got sick of him and decided to keep him frozen within the ice cave. In a sense, this is a way to help reinforce his imperfect nature. This is the Ice King we know, and the episode doesn’t try manipulate the audience into feeling more sympathetic by making him seem completely innocent and totally naive. Though, the sympathy does come through in regards to his general demeanor.

Magus’s powers turn IK’s furniture into pretentious and stuffy beings, who want nothing to do with Ice King and his obscure personality. Ice King’s belongings merely want to berate him by bringing up his flaws and insecurities and deeming them as unorthodox. Even the lamp, who is likely the nicest out of all of Ice King’s newly found friends, only offers advice that urges Ice King to conform, rather than to continue to be his nutty self. There are some aspects about Ice King that certainly deserve some fine-tuning, such as his desire to kidnap princesses (of which he hasn’t even been seen doing since Betty) and his failure to be rational when things do not go his way, but the factors that Ice King’s belongings target him with are, at best, petty. Ice King crying into diapers and having burritos stuck in his beard are nothing that he even needs to have an explanation for, and again, his “friends” simply want to fix him because his unusual ways of living do no conform to their expectations. Ice King’s drum even says “we don’t like you, but we’re here for you!” Ice King has proven to be most successful when he has the right support by his side, as seen when he gets closer to other characters like Marceline, Princess Bubblegum, and BMO.

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It’s kind of a good analogy to show the dangers of keeping toxic friends in your life. Toxic friends are the ones who say they’re there for you and that they’re looking out for your best interests, but they merely want to shape you into what they think you should be like. Ice King identifies with this, and his choice to push away the help that lies in front of him shows that he doesn’t really want to be helped to begin with. I wouldn’t say Ice King is really happy, but he’s at least content with his being because he knows it’s the only way he understands how to live. That isn’t to say that Ice King might not need help at all, but if he does receive such support, it should be from people who genuinely care for him and those who are looking out for his best interests. This is the first of many episodes that got me thinking about Ice King’s nature in general and whether it actually makes sense for him to be reverted back into his natural form as Simon. This show has made me care so deeply for Ice King throughout the past six seasons and further that I think it would be a genuine bummer if the crown was altered in some sort of way to return Simon to “normal” when it comes to the endgame. Sure, it’d be nice to see Simon safe, sound, and happy again, but if that means killing Ice King, then I really don’t know. Friends Forever effectively separates the two entities in head scratching way that makes me very perplexed on how this arc could realistically end in a satisfying way. It would be sad if Simon was unable to regain his humanity, but even sadder if it meant getting rid of Ice King. He has just as much of a role in the lives of the main characters as Simon does, if not more so. And if Ice King doesn’t want to change himself or the way he lives, he should be entitled to his own state of free will and consciousness.

So with all those interesting ideologies, this must be a really good episode, right? Actually, I think it’s just decent. Sure, I can invest my time in analyzing all of the deeper elements of Ice King’s character and how his furniture treats him, but I don’t know how much I really enjoyed this one. This is an Ristaino-Sanchez duo episode that is surprisingly low on laughs. I only really laughed at the improv joke, the “Nihilistic Funnies”, and the random words lighting up gag. Besides that, it’s kind of dry regarding anything of entertainment value. Ice King’s belongings in general aren’t very likable or memorable, and aside from some funny designs, like the Hi-Hat on Ice King’s drums, every belonging is limited to the standard dotted eyes feature and aren’t really presented as unique in any way. The lamp I think has an especially hideous design that kills any kind of likability they were going for with her. There’s something especially unsettling about those wide eyes and that fat upper lip that just kind of rubs me the wrong way. In addition to that, the setting is relatively dull. Aside from some party lights that illuminate the setting in a pretty neat way, this episode takes place entirely in the Ice Castle, and it seems a lot more monotonous when so many previous episodes have had their own distinct setting. So yeah, this isn’t one I like a whole lot, but it does at least provide me with good material for discussions. It’s an interesting Ice King outing that does raise plenty of different questions regarding his state of being, but is a bit lacking on the entertainment value.

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Favorite line: “I like this guy, though. He’s a real ignoramus!”

“Walnuts & Rain” Review

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Original Airdate: March 5, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich

After a heavy dose of episodes that were either really poetic, heady, or continued the story of a recurring character, it’s nice to have a healthy dose of fluff. Walnuts & Rain isn’t spectacular in any sense of the word, but it’s a cute, little adventure that’s likable and energetic enough to leave a positive impact on me. In the spirit of season six, there’s also allegorical undertones sprinkled in to give the experience a stronger lasting impression.

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It’s once again nice to see Jake and Finn back together, just for the sake of a rowdy adventure. Finn even says “algebraic” after God knows how long. Ice King said it back in Another Five More Short Graybles, which was also boarded by Tom Herpich, but I’m pretty positive Finn hasn’t used the term since way back in Slumber Party Panic (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). As always, the two boys bring a lot of joy and excitement to the screen, and it actually kind of works stronger than ever because of how little they are involved at this point in the season. As swell as most of these past episodes have been, it’s nice to see the two boys who made this series so special back in action. Though their time together is short and few, as they both get separated into different passages, and the main story, or stories are kickstarted by said separation.

Most of the fun of Walnuts & Rain derives from the enjoyable characters and environments that Finn and Jake end up spending their time with. On Finn’s side, it’s nice to see the actual Huge Kingdom after we were introduced to Prince Huge in The Hard Easy. Though, said kingdom actually isn’t ruled by the prince, and is ruled by King Huge, a pretty humorous character who is carried mostly by his great voicework by Matthew L. Jones. King Huge isn’t really given a ton of funny lines or anything of the sorts, but Jones refusal to deliver such dialogue with an indoor voice is what makes his character a surprisingly pleasure. A lot of characters, namely Lemongrab, can often be weighed down by their necessity to shout, though King Huge’s prominent voice doesn’t really come off in an irritating notion, but in a method to display his dignified and important nature. King Huge’s castle, surrounded by sentient steak people and giant food, reminds me a lot of something that would come out of an early Silly Symphony cartoon. Not sure if it’s reminiscent of any short in particular, but the general approach to its environment seems very old-school animation in my book. The King himself actually reminds me a bit of Willie the Giant in Mickey’s Christmas Carol, but by size and initial behavior only. The King is actually a bit tyrannical, as his desire to force Finn to stay in his kingdom has practically no basis regarding anything, besides the fact that King Huge believes that doing nothing and being patient will bring Finn great fortune. King Huge’s tendency toward being patient derives from the fact that he has never had to lift a finger to get everything he has ever wanted. King Huge intrinsically believes that the same could be said from everyone else, even though his stance and position in the kingdom are clearly what drives his point forward.

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The same could not be said for 7718 – Seven, for short – the bear who is keeping Jake afloat after he falls into a hole. Seven is a pretty likable dude, whose voice I swore I recognized, but never bothered to look it up till now (he was Enoch from Over the Garden Wall!). Seven’s desire to keep Jake on his carriage may have been somewhat of a selfish desire to have some sort of company after being stuck for who knows how long, but it also likely comes from his desire to not stray from his own game plan. As he describes in his story to Jake regarding how he fell into the hole in the first place, Seven mentions that he had taken the same route nearly 200 times consecutively, until a bee stung his horse and something unexpected happened. Seven likely has anxious tendencies that make him stray away from changing his procedure in life. He believes in patience, simply for the reason that he thinks it’s the only way to properly survive. Jake likely has the right idea by trying to use his stretchy powers to get out, but Seven warns him that something dangerous could possibly happen if he does so, not realizing that the two are stuck in an almost unbearable purgatory regardless. Seven does at least have the right attitude of positivity, and is proven to be correct in his methods by the end of the episode. I also think the bond he shares with Jake is really sweet. Adventure Time has this way of showcasing really mundane and kind of dull characters in an interesting and likable way, and Seven is just one example at that. I also think it’s hilarious how his name is actually Bill, yet he interpreted the wrong way. AT absurdity at its best.

A good portion of the middle is dedicated to Finn’s completely convoluted plan to escape from the Huge Kingdom, which is both hilarious and honestly has exactly the kind of effort that Finn would put into an escape plan. Surprisingly enough, it almost works, only it’s quickly foiled by King Huge noticing exactly what’s going on, which still leads to an exciting chase where Finn gives the biggest “fuck you” in existence by choosing to destroy the clock, rather than to assure himself safety. This one is solo-boarded by Herpich, and I always gush over how well his drawings translate into the animation process. He shows great attention to “squash and stretch” when it comes to how the characters emote, or how action is portrayed in their environment, and it all looks great, mainly when Finn is running and when Seven recalls his backstory. This is one that also incorporates CG into the backgrounds a lot, as season six has been frequently doing, and it looks really nice as always.

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Of course, it all comes to a satisfying conclusion when Jake and Seven finally do land into the Huge Kingdom, and Jake gives King Huge his comeuppance. This allows for the three to escape happily, and Seven can get his hands on a big flippin’ hot dog. Walnuts & Rain is nothing fantastic as I had mentioned, but it’s quite enjoyable in its simplicity and how it takes a step back from some of the heavier stuff that has been coming out recently. A lot of people have compared this to having a season one or two vibe to it, and while I could definitely see that in its focus on a simpler premise, but it still has those tendencies to lean towards a deeper meaning and its desire to be more quiet and atmospheric, rather than wild and hyperactive. Not to say these are bad things, it just shows how much the series has evolved since its beginning. And whether its a season one episode, a season two episode, or a season six episode, Adventure Time still knows how to delight us with likable and unique fluff.

Walnuts & Rain also snagged the Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation, specifically for Herpich’s work on the episode. This is the series third Emmy win, and not the last one at that!

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Favorite line: “Man, I don’t give a toot!”

“The Diary” Review

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Original Airdate: February 26, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Jillian Tamaki

T.V. is likely my personal least favorite of the pups. I don’t have any personal gripes against him, I just think he’s the least interesting out of his four siblings. Even Kim Kil Whan, who was a bit of an asshole in his debut episode, at least has a thoroughly compelling connection to his father. T.V. has neither that nor a very diverse personality; he’s a lazy homebody, and even when done right, these characters are never truly fun to be around in my opinion. Jake is partially lazy, though his character isn’t limited to his laziness: he’s caring, compassionate, and funny. T.V., on the other hand, is mostly limited to his lack of enthusiasm about practically everything and his ultimate desire to be unproductive, which makes his character feel quite hollow and dull in comparison to all of these other well-fleshed out characters in the Land of Ooo. Now, that rant aside, I actually think that The Diary is a really good way to make use of his character. It uses his desire to get invested in whatever escapist fantasy is most convenient to him quite nicely, and makes for a decent character study on how much one should invest their time into the lives and drama of others. Also, this is one that’s straight up beautiful. It was solo-boarded by Jillian Tamaki, who assisted Jesse Moynihan with Astral Plane, and her emphasis on cinematic moments and serene artistry help to really make this episode shine on a visual perspective.

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My feelings in the first paragraph mostly represent how T.V. goes through little development following subsequent appearances after this episode, but I think his character, at least in this episode, is expanded on in somewhat interesting ways. The beginning sequence that features him playing video game clearly elaborates on his feelings and overall insecurities; his choice to “run away” from the dragon, rather than fighting it, could represent his own “fight or flight” response to dealing with his own anxieties and fears. It’s nice to see that Lady, despite being a caring and fair mother, knows her limitations when allowing T.V. to go about his adult life in an unconventional ways. It’s also crazy to think that this is Lady’s ONLY major appearance in season six, and it’s limited down to only a few scenes and lines of dialogue. Lady’s practically an afterthought by this point in time, but it at least makes sense since she is the only character the audience can’t directly understand. Quite a shame though, because I do like her character a lot, but her nature and being limits herself to only a few brief appearances per season. But I digress; Jake’s attitude towards his son is also quite fitting, seeing as how T.V. does embody a part of Jake’s self. And even though Jake’s view of his son isn’t necessarily responsible and he probably shouldn’t encourage such behavior, it is sweet to see him approve of his son regardless of his lack of productivity. I’m sure many people could jump on the fact that this support probably makes Jake an even worse father, but he does begin to recognize when things in T.V.’s life go awry later on, and does at least assist him along the way. It’s a good bonding experience for the two.

T.V. anti-social behavior is presented well in brief instances, such as his quick transportation away from the kind old man who merely wanted to say hello. T.V. doesn’t seek excitement or satisfaction in reality, as he would rather be consumed by his own intriguing fantasy worlds and realms that can help him to escape from his failure to connect to the real world. It isn’t until T.V. comes across the journal of “B.P.” (of whom I swore was going to be Breakfast Princess when this episode first aired) that he begins to get invested in the real-life struggles of an anonymous teenage, which eventually become twisted into more fantastical opportunities to place himself into and project imaginary realities. It’s cool to see just how enthralled T.V. is by the life of this one random Candy Person, and also how it likely strikes him as unique from any type of fantastical experience he has had in the past. This story is tied to real life people, relationships, and situations. It’s no wonder that T.V. does eventually get sucked in to the point where he begins to confuse his own reality with that of B.P.’s life. T.V. is all about playing different characters and taking on new identities, to the point where he doesn’t even have his own life experiences and characteristics to even know himself. His experience as B.P. is his way of living vicariously through others, as well as giving him a sense of purpose in life.

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As I mentioned, probably the strongest aspect of this episode is its use of visual storytelling. Not only is it chock full of different backgrounds, per usual, but it also utilizes great attention to detail that helps it to truly shine. I love those scenes right after T.V. finds the journal and begins to roam around in the changing environment. As the day goes from afternoon, to evening, to night, the shadings and colors the reflect T.V. are really quite beautiful. There’s also some terrific shots that feature nature just being nature as B.P.’s voice is heard reading the journal in a very poetic way, like the squirrel who attempts to get T.V.’s attention and the heart shaped rose petals that land on top of T.V. That’s Alia Shawkat voicing B.P., who later would go on to voice Jake’s daughter Charlie, and Shawkat does a great job of carrying out B.P.’s writings with complete sincerity and in a compelling, tense way. Also, the way her writings and drawings begin to materialize on screen as T.V. continues reading is also a visual treat, and helps to add energy to the actual backgrounds even when nothing particularly eye-catching is going on. Along with Evergreen and Jake the Brick, The Diary is yet another season six episode that makes use of its artistry in the best possible way. After all, if you’re gonna pull off these really deep, poetic themes and messages, why not make the episode look as great as possible to go along with said beauty? Aside from beauty, the episode does touch on surrealism in its visuals as well. T.V.’s roleplaying journey into B.P.’s life is the perfect visual representation of the literal existential rollercoaster that T.V. has gotten himself into, and his line “you don’t know me, nobody knows me!” could be his attempt to get into character, or he may be touching on his own real life issues as well. It’s tense, entertaining, and captivating.

While I think the scenery and the atmosphere are certainly the strongest aspects of this one, the episode does have a decent mystery that certainly kept my attention on the first viewing, and still has me generally intrigued even after knowing the ending. It kind of reminds me of the bunny plot from Jake the Brick; the identity and mystery behind B.P. isn’t really inherently interesting, but it’s made to feel like something that’s genuinely worth finding out because of how much the characters care about it. And it isn’t till Jake finds his son in utter deterioration that he begins to get behind the mystery as well. I thought it was quite sweet to actually see Jake try to help his son see the mystery through, though again, not sure how great of a parent this actually makes him. I think on a parental level, it’s summed up quite nicely by how Lady rolls her eyes and simply chooses to ignore the situation, rather than to invest her time in their dilemma. It’s both hilarious, and kind of paints a picture on their views of responsibilities. Though the show never fails at making Jake likable and caring, even when his role as a good dad is in question.

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The writing itself doesn’t provide for many jokes or funny gags, but like most episodes from this season, it seems like it’s more interested in telling an enticing story, rather than trying to completely amuse the audience. There’s subtle moments, like the grass guy from the flea market who narrates the backstory of his music box. It comes off as both kind of poignant and even quite funny, as he begins to recall literally everything about who bought the actual box.

It probably goes without saying that I think the character of B.P. herself is quite enjoyable and kind of cute. I like how she’s written to embody the life of a teenage girl, but without being completely stuck up and egotistical. Her quirks are emphasized more than anything, and she parallels T.V.’s obsessions quite nicely. She too begins to center her life around the entire identity of a single person, that being Justin, and shuts herself off from society because of him (also, I like the fact that T.V. and B.P. both share names based on acronyms). It’s a simple, but neat little tale about teenage infatuation, and leads to her final monologue, which is once again presented with great visual flare and some solid voice work.

You know when you’re little and the future feels really far away? You don’t know what it looks like, you just hope you’ll have stuff figured out by then. You’ll know exactly how to act, and feel. You’ll have conquered all your fears, and you’ll never feel dumb or uncomfortable. You don’t think about how you’ll actually get there. The middle parts, between now and then, the middle parts suck. Which is why I split, I guess. Okay, so riding out your teen years in a cave is pretty dramatic, but do you know how much reading you get done in a cave? I even figured out a cure for my crab hand! Oh Justin, I hope you’re not too upset. And I hope you didn’t spend too much money on that birthday present. It wouldn’t have worked out between us anyway. You’re kind of clingy.”

The ending of her speech is a hilarious subversion of what we already know about B.P.’s character, but the rest of it comes off as some insightful stuff. And it comes as a notion that nobody is really prepared for the issues that face them in the real world. Growing into those teen and early adult years pose as the most confusing, because nobody wants to accept exactly how difficult life truly is. That’s why T.V. refuses to live his own life at least, and finds joy and solace through masking his struggles with the power of fantasy. Facing the real world means facing issues that often times don’t have solutions, and some that truly do suck, but T.V., like B.P., has his own unique way of struggling through said problems. Whether or not these methods are actually orthodox and reasonable is certainly in question, and the episode doesn’t stray away from such queries. Though B.P. proves to move on to live a successful life, powering through those sucky middle parts the only way she knew how to.

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And I never in a million years thought we would’ve gotten an episode dedicated to the backstory of Nurse Poundcake, but here we are! It’s amazing how resilient Adventure Time is in adding depth to some of the most unimportant and obscure characters in the Land of Ooo, and how it actually kind of works. Nurse Poundcake’s story is one of success and triumph after long periods of fear and doubt, proving that all those struggles as a young adult are generally meaningless, as life continues to progress forward. T.V. may not be able to live his life through B.P.’s eyes anymore, though he’s hopefully left with the idea that even through his sucky young adult life, there’s still an opportunity for him to progress forward and have an impact on the world. Or maybe he’ll just continue to mooch off of his mom forever, as he’s later seen doing. Ah well!

The Diary makes for a decent story and character study, but I think it’s really just another great example of Adventure Time using the art form of animation to its strongest extent. It doesn’t skip a single beat in trying to create spectacular visuals to surround an overtly poetic story. Granted, I think there’s a lot of other season six episodes with better stories, but this one is really solid based on its atmosphere and tone alone. That’s not to say the plot isn’t good, as it still stands as relatively intriguing from beginning to end. I think the mystery element is a bit squandered in subsequent viewings, considering that it can’t really surprise me anymore, but it isn’t really supposed to be the big draw of the episode to begin with. The Diary is a somewhat stressful tale about the act of living through others, but one that is carried out with an enlightening message on life and supported through sheer eye-candy. No pun intended.

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Favorite line: “Son?” “Mom?” “Close enough.”

“Dark Purple” Review

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Original Airdate: February 19, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Sloane Leong & Adam Muto

Out of all the recurring characters in Adventure Time, I don’t know a single character who disappeared for a longer period of time than Susan Strong did (not counting original one-shots like Me-Mow and Science Cat). The gap of 119 episodes between Beautopia and Dark Purple made it feel as though she was never going to appear again, but this episode returns her to the spotlight. Unfortunately, her first episode in three years is largely unremarkable, and while I don’t know if I would call it awful by any means, I think it kind of comes off as uninteresting on almost every level.

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The beginning scene is the best of the episode, and genuinely enjoyable at that. I loved seeing Finn, Jake, BMO, and Marcy hang out after how long it’s been since we’ve seen this group of characters together. Even though Marcy had a brief moment of screentime in Astral Plane, it’s really rewarding to see her again here, especially when it means she gets to just kick back with her boys. Hell, it even feels like forever since we’ve seen BMO! Seeing him all giddy over Jake’s skateboard tricks made me realize just how much I missed his presence. And Jake’s skateboarding was also pretty gnarly; love how this becomes and actual trait and interest of his character. The way Jake and Finn get excited over the Super Porp delivery into the vending machine just felt like classic Adventure Time, and something only the bros could get into to. It’s somewhat clever to me how Super Porp has been seen in the background of a ton of different episodes, and even in Simon & Marcy, which helps drive forth the point that the soda has been around for 1,000 years. Again, another classic AT move that picks up on details that most wouldn’t even notice. Jake’s explanation for not wanting to explore the Super Porp factory is an obvious segue, but one that feels totally in line with his character, as Jake would likely prefer enjoying the simpler things in life in complete ignorance, rather than ruining those simple things by investigating further.

And that segue takes us right into Beautopia, where we spend the rest of the episode with Susan Strong and her new squadron of sidekicks! Yay, I guess? Look, I’m not one to complain about season six’s method of taking obscure side characters and giving them their own episode; for the most part it works, with episodes like Little Brother, Nemesis, Thanks for the Crabapples, Giuseppe!, and Evergreen, but other times it doesn’t, as seen in Sad Face and Gold Stars. I think the biggest thing that weighs this one down is actually its strongest element, which is that beginning scene. An episode featuring Marcy, Finn, Jake, and BMO exploring an underground factory sounds entirely more interesting than what we actually got. It’s not that I don’t like Susan Strong, but I think all of the interesting bits of her character practically relate back to Finn. Not saying she can’t work on her own, as we see later with the Islands arc, but otherwise, I really enjoy her unique connection to Finn more than anything, while I think she’s just okay on her own. And it doesn’t help that we haven’t seen her in over a hundred episodes… any investment I did have in her character was kind of bogged down by the fact that we literally never see her, and I would have wanted something a bit more interesting to chew on than to watch her try to stop a corrupted soda factory. It really feels like this was mostly just an opportunity to reveal the metal implant on the side of her head, which didn’t even really phase me much at all. Again, I think this was a necessary development down the line that becomes way more interesting once it’s explored, but again, it feels like nothing more than a teaser for what’s ahead, rather than a natural part of the episode. Granted, I think it was obligatory that SOME new development for her character was included in this episode, given how long its been since she has appeared, but it’s still frustrating that every Susan Strong episode so far feels like it’s just blue-balling fans who want to know about her true nature. It isn’t for a whole season later until we begin to get some legitimate answers.

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The story itself is pretty unremarkable as well. I like the environment of the factory, and the purples in this one really pop, but I feel like the conspiracy is something I could care less about. I dunno, maybe it just wasn’t funny or interesting enough, or maybe it’s the fact that this one kind of ripped off Futurama’s slurm episode, but I just find myself utterly bored by the plot. It has its moments throughout, even though they are few and short. Some of the workers are funny, namely the one that keeps muttering “uh-oh!” over and over again, and that porp beast was pretty sick. There’s hints of good animation here and there during the action sequences, even though the action itself is nothing spectacular. I actually get into the smaller moments more than anything; I like how Susan’s one friend, Sally, speaks in sign language as opposed to English. I can’t think of a single other character that comes to mind who does so, so it’s nice to get this bit of diversity in the Land of Ooo. Also, Susan’s English itself seems to have gotten better, even if she still speaks in the third person and through broken sentences. It helps that gap in time to at least feel beneficial to her character, and to allow her to grow up a bit.

The climax is pretty bleh. I like the concept of Super Porp spanning multiple generations, but the way it’s executed with Cheryl is pretty lame. I guess it could have been some kind of cool allusion to slave labor, but it’s once again muddled by the fact that it isn’t given any time to develop. A majority of the episode is Susan traveling through the factory, and about ten seconds are actually dedicated to Cheryl and her plan. The dilemma is barely given any time to develop, and is resolved in the matter of seconds. Also, Susan’s disdain for Super Porp as a brand is kind of odd to me. I mean, does the entire factory really deserve to be destroyed just because it was headed by a corrupt ruler? Couldn’t Super Porp just continue to exist under new management? I just find it weird that Susan continuously points out how bad the soda is when it isn’t having any negative effect on other people. Dunno if this was just a result of her ignorance, or if it was a result of clunky writing.

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But yeah, this one is kind of a snoozefest otherwise. I can’t really think of a single thing that sticks out to me during Susan’s story, and it feels entirely unremarkable in nature. While the timespan between Beautopia and this episode has something to do with Dark Purple’s failure, I don’t think it would fare much better even if it did air earlier. It isn’t very funny, it isn’t very interesting, and Susan Strong isn’t very compelling outside of the reveal that she has some sort of attachment on her head. Even when one of the “obscure character spotlight” episodes do fail, they are at least is somewhat unique or interesting. Sad Face is pretty bland, but I would have never expected an episode to be focused solely on Jake’s tail. Dark Purple just proves to be pretty unremarkable in every way possible, and provides for one of the dullest episodes of the season.

Favorite line: “Alright, well, it’s one month later.” (Because I say that every time a month has passed too, Jake.)