Archive | October 2018

“Don’t Look” Review

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Another one of my favorite title cards. A reference to Charles Allan Gilbert’s All is Vanity, the card takes on the shape of a skull when looking at it from afar.

Original Airdate: April 2, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim

Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time shitting on episodes that Somvilay Xayaphone and Seo Kim boarded. I promise I don’t get any kind of sadistic joy out of trashing their work in the least bit, I just generally have problems with their specific boarding tactics that often make for some of the weakest episodes of the series. I’ve gone on and on about how Somvilay’s anti-humor makes for more awkward and slower moments than legitimately funny jokes, and his tendencies towards facial expressions and boarding in general can be really clunky and off-putting. Seo Kim, on the other hand, is not as noticeable of an offender, though she’s easily the least identifiable artist in the series. While each writer has their share of quirks or noticeable styles, Kim’s work is almost always completely homogenized by Somvilay’s. Though (objectively) I think Kim has the superior art style when I do pick up on it, I oftentimes have trouble deciphering which part of the episode she actually worked on, which is something I very seldom say for AT board artists. Throughout the past two seasons, it was hard for me to grow fond of them because, after constant misses, it became stigmatic for myself to go into each Somvilay-Seo episode with considerably low expectations. This added shitting aside, I think they really were able to find their footing at this point in season seven, to the point where their work lands right up there with some of this season’s best entries. Don’t Look manages to be yet another terrific exploration of Finn’s character that is nuanced, intriguing, and poignant in all the right ways. It brings out the best in Somvilay and Seo because it’s something that they’ve both been able to succeed with in the past: a strong, yet vague story at the helm.

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This episode starts out in the library, which is always just a giant nostalgia bomb for me. Dunno why, but no setting feels more like its emulating the earlier seasons than the library. I instantly start to think of The Real You and Paper Pete (yeah, I guess I do remember that one!) and am reminded of simpler times. When discussing Dead Mountain, the boys have some truly endearing wishes that they came up with: Finn simply wants to be taller and Jake wouldn’t want to change anything about himself. It’s so sweet that the two are so accepting of who they are that the only thing they would consider changing is their height; Finn has the chance to shift into a buff warrior, or even get rid of his weird, cursed grass arm (which is once again acknowledged) but he’s much more accepting of himself and utilizes self-love to the point where that doesn’t really matter to him. I do like the brief mislead that is used to imply that Finn still has feelings for Princess Bubblegum. It feels like a bit of a derailment for his character at first, but it’s merely used to further elaborate on Finn’s changing feelings later on, and cleverly included to simply be debunked. Finn just really wants to be tall, y’all. It’s also worth noting that Finn turns the pages in the book backwards while reading further, which I don’t believe is the first time it’s happened on the show. Either Ooo books are read manga style, or this is a consistent animation error.

Dead Mountain isn’t an exceptionally interesting location, but it is loaded with several mysteries. The hermit in particular is one detail that I’m constantly pondering over. I like how he’s essentially viewed as “evil” by Finn and Jake, though, what I can gather from his general appearance and setting, it seems like he’s actually a lot more of a victim than anything. His peril was likely similar to Finn’s, in the sense that he put on the glasses and then was subjected to the absolute horror of transforming his friends against their will, which led him to seclude himself within Dead Mountain, where he’s unable to hurt anyone else. Jake later mentions that the hermit turned everyone into “rats and plops,” though it seems apparent that this was just a result of decaying food being present within the cave and not a malefactor of the glasses. This is paralleled terrifically when Finn later returns to Dead Mountain after turning NEPTR into a literal microwave, where he plans to stay to prevent anyone from getting hurt. Finn’s results are essentially the same as the hermit’s, though the hermit presumably wasn’t lucky enough to have himself a wise brother/best friend to snap him out of it.

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The premise for Don’t Look in general is a neat, creative idea that the episode has a lot of fun with. I also like the fact that, while this leads to an essential identity crisis for Finn, the story really isn’t exploited for drama. In fact, the way Finn views others is mostly flattering: Jake as a athletic, teenage brother figure, BMO as a little angel, and Ice King as a multi-layered person that is more than just an icy creep. This is because, while some of Finn’s perspective is altered by the simple fact that his sight cannot carry the vast complexities that inner feelings do, he has grown generally less judgmental of the people around him. Even Ice King, one of Finn’s greatest annoyances in the past, is now looked at as a more sympathetic and fleshed-out being, rather than just the creepy neighbor that can occasionally take on the role of a villain. Some depictions are less flattering, like the nerdy “bookworm” Shelby and Starchy as a literal butt, but it could be argued that this is simply because Finn isn’t as close with the two as he is with Jake, BMO, Ice King, and so their depictions are much more subjected to judgment, and also one-note. Of course, the most interesting perspective of all is how Finn views Princess Bubblegum, which, in her words is “a teen-ish boy heartthrob.” I wouldn’t be the first to point out that this is likely referring to the fact that Finn views her as “just one of the guys” now instead of a romantic love interest. Going back to the beginning of the episode, the writers do occasionally try and fool us by including some elements of the status quo, but the series is progressive enough at this point to prove us wrong and show how much the characters have developed since the beginning.

The projection that truly shows off the horrific abilities of the hermit’s eyes is NEPTR’s transformation from a sentient microwave to a regular microwave, which works as yet another hilarious “fuck you” to NEPTR, and also is used as a mechanism for some profound exploration. There’s really no character better to be used as an icon for misuse than NEPTR; over the years, the little guy has been neglected, abused, and ignored, and I think Finn’s turmoil not only centered around his guilt for taking the life of his friend away, but also that Finn has likely contributed to NEPTR’s label as “property.” In fact, Hot to the Touch exclusively featured Finn essentially using NEPTR for his own gain, even if NEPTR was willing to help the entire time. This is what leads Finn into an absolute panicked state, where he begins to question his true intentions, all while looking at his reflection and transforming into the most “judgmental, self-centered, monstrous” image he can think of: his father. This is one of my favorite subtle moments that the show has ever done. Finn doesn’t remark, “oh my glob, I’m just like my dad!” but we’re instead left with a mere facsimile of Martin that hits home much more effectively than any dialogue would. While Martin hasn’t been mentioned since his ascension into a new realm in The Comet, the trauma he put Finn through is still very potent and real, to the point where Finn fears becoming like his father more than anything. Everything that Finn associates with being a bad or immoral person derive directly from Martin’s personality, and it’s interesting that Finn’s maturation also can be attributed to the fact that he actively wants to avoid any behavior that can be seen as selfish or uncaring, because he doesn’t want to end up down the same path.

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Where Finn tends to react more emotionally to certain situations, Jake is always there to round him out logically. And, as our dog friend eloquently states:

“I mean, maybe your eyes are just bad at describing things, you know? Like, how you feel about people, what they mean to you. That stuff’s in your guts. Eyes can’t grok that. Unless you have the eyes of, like, a trained artist or something.”

It’s a well-stated point that can easily be translated as a moral for audiences as well: we as human beings often beat ourselves up for being judgmental off of our own visual and cognitive cues, though neither a single thought nor observation can truly explain the complexities of an actual interpersonal relationship. Finn’s guilt and shame alone are enough to prove that he cares about NEPTR beyond just his usefulness as an appliance. The last few minutes also work as an excellent way to stress the importance of how Finn views others, but also how he views himself. And oftentimes, the most efficient way to view yourself in the best light is to be around people who care for you and love you, which Jake helps organize (even if Ice King is reluctant at first). This, in turn is what makes the eyes release themselves from Finn’s face, as Finn was able to shift back from true verbal judgment, rather just the one-dimensional visual judgment I had mentioned earlier. Not only did Finn learn the importance of this judgment for himself, but he also knows now that you really can’t gauge any kind of opinion from just seeing people, so it’s important to let people know how you see them. Finn sees NEPTR as a friend and “his half-son” and it’s much more important to him that he shows NEPTR care and love to make it so that his viewpoint is accurate. It’s a sweet ending, and a long awaited happy moment for the little robot, but not as much for our other little robot, as he hilariously falls from the sky when his journey as an angel ends. Poor BMO was just living out his dream, but it was too good to last.

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Couple nitpicks for this one: the hermit’s eyes are slightly inconsistent when it comes to how they affect people. Like, with PB, Ice King, Jake, and BMO, the eyes merely affect how they look, while Shelby and NEPTR are essentially given entirely different personalities/states of being by the way Finn views them. It feels like rules were never truly established with how these magical items work. Otherwise, I just kind wish we were able to see more of how Finn views others. It would’ve been really neat to include characters like Marceline, Flame Princess, Cinnamon Bun, Betty, and so on to see how exactly Finn views them from the eyes’ point of view. But alas, the episode is only 11 minutes, and I gotta accept what we got.

But that’s not to say what we got isn’t pretty great stuff. It’s a rare Somvilay and Seo entry that doesn’t rely mostly on humor, and actually focuses more on telling a very intricate and in depth story with lots of subtle details, of which really are some of my favorite moments in the entire series. It’s another excellent depiction of Finn still dealing with the trials of accepting his identity, as well as moving forward with his own maturation process in Adventure Time’s own bizarre, science fiction-y way. I’m also pleased to say that, personally, I don’t even think this is the best Somvilay/Seo episode of the season. That episode is yet to come!

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Favorite line: “These balls are going nuts!”

“Broke His Crown” Review

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Original Airdate: March 26, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Hanna K. Nyström

For all of you who do not know, I will be covering the remaining episodes in the way that they were originally intended to be consumed by the show’s staff. I.E. Broke His CrownReboot will be considered season seven, Two Swords-Three Buckets will be considered season eight, and The Wild Hunt-Come Along With Me will be season nine. To avoid confusion, I will eventually be adding two separate sub-tabs under the seasonal archives tab: one for Cartoon Network’s Rebrand and one for the staff’s original production order. This is simply just to avoid confusion in the long run, and I feel as though that it’s in everyone’s best interest that I cover the remaining seasons as they were intended.

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So, with that said, let’s get to Broke His Crown! Essentially being a sequel episode to King’s Ransom, this episode revolves around the changes Betty made to Ice King’s crown and how exactly they affect him. It’s also an opportunity to further develop Bubblegum, Marceline, and Ice King’s relationships with one another, while also sliding in a heavy dose of lore on the side. Upon airing, and to this day, I feel as though opinions of this episode are very mixed. I know a lot of people who love Broke His Crown and see it as one of the strong points of season 7 (or 8. Whatever!) while other people dismiss it as  rushed with serious pacing problems. I’m a little bit in the middle, but more towards the former. I personally think some bits are a little fast-paced and downright contrived, but I actually really dig what this one set out to do. Essentially, it’s the one time in the series that Betty and Simon are permitted a happy ending together. It’s satisfying and dissatisfying in all the right ways, but feels like a truly appropriate way to wrap up their relationship without actually affecting their characters in the slightest. In general, Broke His Crown is also a great exploration of the inner-workings of the crown and what truly becomes of those who wear it. It’s visually appealing and a lot of fun, creating a unique and complex environment with some unique, yet familiar, characters.

Marceline and PB are straight up lovers in this episode. I could totally get the “oh, they’re just really close friends” argument before this episode aired, but nah, you could not convince me otherwise that this is not the direct intention of the episode. Of course, I’m sure it was frustrating for the hardcore Bubbline fans who wanted an outright confirmation from the series by this point in time, but after this episode, I just fully accepted that their romantic involvement with each other was 100% canon. They’re not even trying to hide it anymore. And, as far as their relationship goes, it’s cute! I’ve said outright before that I’m not a huge fan of Bubbline. That is to say that, while I enjoy their relationship, a lot of viewers and comic writers are under the impression that their romantic involvement with each other is the single most important aspect of the show, when it really isn’t and never was. So my opinion has soured more because of oversaturation within the fanbase and the expanded universe, but overall, I don’t dislike the way they’re presented within the series. Hanna K. Nyström has a strength in portraying the girls in a really likable way; while other writers like Jesse Moynihan and Ako Castuera have kind of struggled to make their relationship seems compassionate in the past, Nyström knows how to write their relationship with a healthy balance of charisma and snark. And hey, this is actually the last episode in the series that features Castuera as a storyboard artist, and she seems to have gotten a lot stronger when working with this dynamic as well!

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Love dem freeze-frame bonuses.

While PB and Marcy have risked being either too schmaltzy or awkward in the past, you can tell they care for each other in a very genuine and realistic way. You can sense the love between the two, but they aren’t constantly professing their feelings for one another. This is in part because the staff was probably pressured by the network to keep their relationship subtle, but also pays off in other ways. I enjoy how they spend most of the episode arguing, but it isn’t presented in an unlikable or unpleasant way. PB’s combative attitude in particular is just terrific. Not only is she hilarious to watch, but her abrasiveness actually serves a purpose. While we explored her shift in behavior towards the Banana Guards in the previous episode, we now are treated to her shifting behavior toward Ice King. The conflict between PB and Ice King is probably the most heated out of any of the main characters, as one would expect. Ice King has violated Princess Bubblegum’s privacy on several occasions, so you really don’t blame her for being so opposed to the idea of getting along with him. At the same time, however, you also understand things from Marcy’s perspective. Of course she’s going to be more forgiving towards Ice King, because 1. he represents someone she loves and cares for. 2. Ice King is probably cooler with and more respectful of Marcy than anyone else he knows. So her request to Bubblegum is honest and understandable, but so is Bonnie’s hostile behavior. And might I just say that those mamas are looking GREAT in this episode. While Marcy hasn’t gotten as much exposure to different wardrobe changes this season, season seven might just be the best collection of PB’s different outfits, to the point where I was genuinely disappointed that she returned to her standard pink dress in the very next episode.

As for Ice King, he’s his usual terrific blend of being a sweetheart, kind of a dick, and a quirky dude simultaneously, and while he’s not in this one a ton (as IK, at least) his performance really shines through in the first few minutes. I love how much he absolutely lights up when he realizes that Marcy and PB actually want to spend time with him, and how he’s so conditioned to being rejected by ladies that he thinks that he has to actually bribe people to hangout with him. That was both incredibly sweet and sad, with a touch of hilariousness when he does inevitably take the gift back for himself. While I think he provides for some of the episode’s strongest moments, I also think he offers some of the weakest, mostly because of the malfunctioning crown. I dunno, I feel like the way Ice King freaks out and behaves weirdly isn’t really that interesting… when I heard about the synopsis for this one, I expected Ice King’s “uncanny behavior” to involve flashes between himself and Simon, or just a full blown meltdown of some sorts. Ice King smashing plates over his head and rolling around on the ground just aren’t intriguing ways to hammer forward that he needs help, and it doesn’t really feel dire. I wish a little bit more was done for this aspect to make it more dramatic and/or intriguing, because the way it was executed just didn’t grip me at all. I also feel like the initial plot device of Marceline not believing Bubblegum was somewhat unneeded and a waste of time. Sure, it does provide for PB to actually grow concerned for the IK and even refer to him as “Simon,” but this episode already feels a bit tight as it is. So while I liked a good portion of the beginning, I felt that some bits could’ve been better executed, and at worst, taken out for the sake of time.

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When the girls take it upon themselves to help their icy friend, they enter the surface of the crown through virtual reality equipment. The crown’s labyrinth just looks spectacular. It’s essentially a village-type corn maze, where everything is shaded in the exact same colors as the crown, with the exception of plant life. This is exactly what I would expect the world of the crown to look like, with a heavy focus on a wildlife theme, while also keeping things technological. The labyrinth in general is interesting when I think deeply about it, and I’m not really sure how I feel about the idea overall. Granted, this entire simulation is VR, and it’s open to interpretation regarding how much of it is actually real, but I feel like it’s a little convoluted that everyone who ever wore the crown just lives in this little crown town where they’ve presumably existed for thousands or millions of years. Like, what do they even do up there? Do they need to eat? Do they socialize with one another? Do they go to the bathroom? How has Simon not lost his sanity completely? It’s generally a lot of weird concepts that never get fully explained because of time restraints, and it’s something that I have trouble wrapping my head around in a coherent way. Some of it feels like it doesn’t really make sense; Gunther’s been leaving within the crown for millions of years, and is still talking about Master Evergreen? How can he even remember who that is? I don’t fully get behind it, but it’s also something that doesn’t actively bother me because it’s genuinely awesome to visit all of the people who once were enslaved by the crown.

As I just mentioned, Gunther’s back in this one, and man, is it good to see the little guy! I loved Gunther in Evergreen, and while I was ultimately satisfied with his unfortunate demise, it is pretty nice to see him back in action in this one. I really would have never expected to have seen him ever again, so this was a true treat. It isn’t just a cameo either, he actually has a pretty active role in the story, and it’s really nice! How cool is it that we get to see the first person who ever wore the crown interact with the most recent bearer? His relationship with the girls is also really sweet, and it’s cool to see Marceline’s absolute awe at the sight of a dinosaur. Even after 1,000 years of living, it’s cool to see a species that is still relatively foreign to her. Not to mentioned the other inhabitants of the crown; let’s address the elephant in the room: Santa was the Ice King at one point. Fucking Santa Claus is canonically apart of the show’s lore. That is both hysterical and kind of fascinating in terms of a mythos. I mean, you have this legendary folklore character of whom was assumed to be magic, and it turns out that it was just some guy who ended up wearing a magical crown that consumed his sanity. That is simply wild. We also have Sven, who apparently only wore the crown once, but was still consumed by it. This kind of ties into my own headcanon that, the younger you are, the more susceptible you are to the crown’s power. We saw how easily Farmworld Finn was taken over by the crown in only a matter of minutes, and it seems the same thing happened to Sven. I’m guessing the emotional and physical maturity of the wearer really matters in terms of the crown’s influence, and it’s kind of cool that we got this bit of information that seems to imply as much.

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But of course, the real star of the show is Simon, of whom picked up on the crown’s wack behavior. It’s once again nice to see Marcy and Simon work off of each other as characters, and it’s even better to see him and Bonnie meet. Even without the crown taking him over, Simon still manages to get under PB’s skin from ignorance, though once again, can you blame the girl? She’s a scientific mastermind. While this episode is very fast-moving, it actually does make up for some of the sins of the formerly jam-packed episode Betty, in which Simon and Marcy really didn’t get a chance to interact at all. Here, Simon lovingly apologizes for not being able to spend time with her, and it doubles as both a sweet moment and somewhat of a nice “sorry ’bout that” from the staff. I also love how Simon is just a bona fide dork and is a bit socially awkward when it comes to talking to the teen-ified Marceline that he never really had a chance to meet before. The first thing he asks Marceline after he apologizes is if she has a boyfriend, and he truly feels like the most “real” character on the show. Aside from Finn, Martin, and Betty(ish), Simon is the only human character, and so I like that they make him mostly just a normal guy, but also kind of quirky. He truly is “best dad.” Of course, there’s also the great dramatic irony that Simon wishes he could go back and punch Ash, even though he already did so in Betty. Such a great running joke.

After their brief travels, they finally do run into the glitchified Betty, which mostly just makes me sad because, once again, you can tell Lena Dunham is merely there for the paycheck and could not sound less interested in what’s going on. This is her last role as the character, of which could have to do with her performance, or just other unrelated incidents, but I’m glad that this is the last we hear from her, because she really wasn’t adding anything to the character or the series by this point. Simon and Betty’s interactions with each other are actually really cute though; again, Simon and Betty’s love doesn’t feel schmaltzy and hollow and actually feels like a real relationship. Simon’s story is so mundane and simple, but truly adds to the idea that they were just two simple people who were madly in love with each other. Of course, it’s a bit different now, considering that this Betty is merely software, but it still feels authentic and ties into what I was saying earlier about how it’s a partially a satisfying conclusion to their relationship. While there’s still much, much more to be explored between Ice King and Magic Betty, this is essentially the strongest resolution they’re treated to up to this point (without giving too much away to y’all who are watching along with this blog) and nice that they’re able to have some form of a relationship while it’s out of the question. Of course, it’s all tied up a bit too quickly and neatly by the end of it, with Simon once again not being able to give Marcy a proper farewell. Regardless, it does end up with a nice wrap up of sweet moments between all of the characters involved.

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And “sweet” describes a lot of this episode by its end: Gunther met some new cool gals, Simon and Betty are able to share somewhat of a happy life together, Marceline was able to connect with Simon once more, and to really understand the relationship between him and Betty, while PB gained some empathy for Simon, and Ice King, in general. Of course, Betty isn’t truly real and Marceline won’t get to see the human version of her close friend for what seems like forever, but Broke His Crown manages to be satisfying and dissatisfying in all the right ways, as I mentioned prior. It provides from some really nice, welcomed developments, and other moments that just make sense for each character’s journey.

And Broke His Crown is just that: a thoroughly satisfying exploration of a group of characters in a really neat setting. It has its problems in pacing, logic, and execution, but manages to be really entertaining regardless to the point where I don’t really mind its problems. It’s another season seven entry that both adds to the lore of the world of Adventure Time and delves deeper into the identities of its inhabitants, of whom are continuing to grow and develop with each passing episode at this point in time.

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Favorite line: “GOODBYE, FREAKS!”

“The Thin Yellow Line” Review

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Original Airdate: March 19, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Emily Partridge & KC Green

Through the past couple seasons, we’ve seen how various different major and secondary characters view Princess Bubblegum from their perspective. Though, one important point of view that hasn’t been explored in great detail is from those who spend the most time around the princess: the Banana Guards. Aside from their strong loyalty and love for the princess, they’ve mostly been in the background, while slightly more intelligent Candy Citizens such as Starchy and Cinnamon Bun (I did say slightly more intelligent) have been able to pinpoint her shady behavior as a flaw of her character. The Thin Yellow Line puts the Banana Guards at center stage to present an almost cultish look at PB’s alleged hierarchy, and how the Guards themselves feel entirely confined by their environment in fear of their own demise. It’s also a cool to see that, outside of their identical appearances, each Banana Guard possesses their own unique character traits and personalities.

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I wanna first start off by saying that the mural painted by Banana Guard 16 (in actuality, it was painted by Joy Ang!) is absolutely gorgeous and has so much detail put into it that it’s impossible to soak in everything on a first glance, and it’s only fair that I analyze it from left to right. The beginning of the mural features what I could only assume to be the catalyst comet, of which likely signifies the “beginning” of Ooo. Of course, it also ties into the overall mystery of how the Catalyst Comet and the Great Mushroom War correlate, and what exactly said comet brought with it. Though, some form of magic surely came into existence when it hit, and may have also had a part in creating the Mother Gum, of which is shown next in the mural. The Mother Gum is then shown sending PB off on her way, as rays of light and brightness surround her. Though, once PB’s figure enters the mural, the bright, white clouds turn menacing and dark, signifying her descent into a perceived bit of unscrupulousness. This includes:

  • The snakelike Neddy, of whom looks content within the nectar tree. As Banana Guard 16 later mentions, he believes that PB “trapped her brother Neddy,” meaning that the general understanding of Neddy within the Kingdom is that he was a possibly dangerous, but provided the Candy Kingdom with a beneficial resource. Hypothetically, this led PB to make the decision that he should be forcibly kept within the kingdom, where he cannot harm anyone and can only provide for the kingdom.
  • Marceline’s bat-like form is seen in the background, meaning that the Candy Kingdom citizens possibly aren’t comfortable with PB’s relationship with Marceline, given Marcy’s somewhat rebellious and uncanny nature. It seems like some form of underlying prejudice towards vampires, that has existed since the olden days, or reflect the stigma that surrounded Marceline when she initially started hanging out with PB. As we’ve seen during the Stakes miniseries, this stigma towards vampires still exists and is potentially harmful, so it’s quite likely to me that the citizens in general may feel intimated by Marceline and uncomfortable with her hanging out with the princess.
  • The ceiling of eyes is representative of PB’s heavy surveillance system of which she watches over the entire kingdom. Though she has recently weened off this method, she’s still viewed with NSA-type paranoia as someone watching the citizens’ every step.
  • The middle section is devoted to showcasing Goliad and Stormo, who are being heavily watched over by the Gumball Guardians. Despite still being locked in an eternal duel, Goliad is also depicted as having an eye on the Gumball Guardians, being ready to strike as soon as something interferes with said psychic battle. It’s also worth noting that, while one Gumball Guardian is locked in a staring contest with Goliad, the other looks off onto the side, while the prison within the cage remains unsupervised. This could represent the dangers hidden within the Candy Kingdom that remain overlooked (one of which is dealt with later) or touch on the fact that the Gumball Guardians are essentially useless in the face of danger, as seen with the Lich attack, the army of Gunters, the vamp cloud, and so on.
  • Towards the end, we see a stitched up Lemongrab, referencing the merging of Lemongrab 1 and Lemongrab 2 after Lemonhope’s attack. The inside of his head is also shown, as his brain is split in two. The implication here reads to me that, though PB stitched up and fixed Lemongrab, she will never be able to fix the broken mess that she sought to create. His body may be one, but he brain will always be in two.
  • And finally, that brings us to the last piece, that returns to the bright color scheme of the first panel. Princess Bubblegum is essentially portrayed as a goddess, with her swan eloquently in back, as an army of Banana Guards stand before her. This shows how, despite all of the dark matters under her belt, the BGs are still willing to worship her no matter what because they know that everything she has done has been for the kingdom. Though, Banana Guard 16 acknowledges through the mural that, if anyone were to defy her, they’d end up in the dark clouds just as everyone else who has betrayed her.

There’s certainly a lot going on, and it’s most definitely the most interesting aspect of this episode. Though, that isn’t necessarily a criticism, as a good portion of this one is a lot of fun. It’s not as deep or dark as the mural, but it provides for a lot of great Banana Guard gags with terrific animation and drawings.

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This one was actually co-boarded by KC Green, a pretty well-known webcomic artist. He has his own ongoing webcomic called He is a Good Boy, is working on the Rocko’s Modern Life revival comics, has drawn every Pokemon everand previously ran the webcomic series Gunshow, of which is widely known because of that one dog meme that was literally everywhere for a period of time. I really dig Green’s style in general, and his zany, cartoon-y drawings really fit for this type of episode. The style of this one honestly reminds me a lot of season two’s design, when artists like Jesse Moynihan and Somvilay Xayaphone were still trying to get a feel for the shape of the characters, and ended up creating some really humorous drawings and faces in the process. Here, it’s the same, though arguably more intentional, and provides for a lot of stretchy and emotive expressions in the process. I especially love the various faces Finn makes as he realizes that Banana Guard 16 is the vandal. I’m totally fine with the subdued and calmer animation in later seasons, though it’s welcomed to have an episode like this, which is likely the most expressive the show has been in years.

I usually think Banana Guard humor is hit-or-miss, but it hits pretty hard in this episode. I love how this episode manages to exaggerate their bumbling and moronic nature to extreme lengths, while also making them somewhat rounder and more vigilant at the same time. Like, you have that scene at the beginning where they’re rolling around and tripping over each other, but then you have the moment when they actually convict the boys and punch the lights out of Jake. That’s right, the motherfucking Banana Guards one-upped F&J. It’s so refreshing to see them actually be half decent at their job, even if they’re hilariously tricked in the next minute that Finn and Jake are new guards. The Thin Yellow Line plays with this back-and-forth between character portrayal a lot, and it’s a ton of fun.

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The episode also has a great mystery element that plays with the viewer’s expectations in a pretty logical way. I like how the Banana Guards aren’t just being ridiculous or conniving in the methods that they send Jake into utter paranoia; the BGs are secretive and hidden with these pleasures because they actually have something to lose in they get caught. It relates to their own paranoia with conforming to the standards of Princess Bubblegum, and the fact that they feel as though diverting from this conformity will ultimately result in a painful punishment. I expected these somewhat tense sequences to be a non-sequitur, but I’m actually glad they have a role in the overall message and conclusion of the episode.

Banana Guard 16 isn’t an especially interesting or likable character, but I’d argue that he’s not really supposed to be. He’s kind of just supposed to be an active voice among the mostly cowardice Banana Guards, and the episode does so successfully by actually giving him his own unique voice. He’s voiced by Tunde Adebimpe, of whom I’ve never actually heard of, though his credentials read that he’s a digital artist, which helps him connect with the character even better. The relationship he has with Finn is sweet; I like how Finn initially just uses him to close the case surrounding the vandalism, though actually ends up seeing the beauty and genuine nature of BG 16’s work. It’s also interesting to see how blindsided Finn is to Bubblegum’s darker side. Of course, the love that he feels for her probably has some part in this, though I honestly think that Finn just doesn’t pick up on this side of her. Granted, while some of what BG 16 was saying did resonate as truthful, he was exaggerating it in ways that simply paint PB to be an absolute tyrant, when she’s really just morally astute. Those sequences are just awesome though. You really don’t blame him for thinking of PB this way, because everything he’s describing does have some truth to it: she didn’t imprison Neddy, but she also didn’t help him beyond containing him; she had good reasons to imprison the “rebellious Candy People” of which, again, we’ll be exploring later; she “diced” the Rattleball boys, but that was only in the logic of them being too powerful for their own good. All of these conclusions are completed ethical, though embroidered.

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The funny thing about this devoted worship is that PB is totally perplexed by it; she has no idea that she’s regarded in such a way, and it goes back to what I was saying before of her behavior being a factor of her inability to go about protecting her kingdom in a healthy way. She knows that she doesn’t exactly have the trust of her people, but is kind of out-of-the-know when it comes to the monstrous perception that has been foisted upon her. Even Finn gets wrapped up in the paranoia surrounding him, and defies PB’s orders to help save his friend. While this episode works to showcase PB’s growth, it also is another interesting look at how Finn’s sense of morality has shifted over time. Back in Rattleballs, Finn betrayed the trust of his new mentor in respect of his loyalty to Bubblegum. Here, Finn betrays his own loyalty to what he thinks is morally just. There’s not really a right or wrong way around either of these situations, besides the fact that Finn is doing so for completely different reasons.

But of course, that paranoia is wasted, because PB has changed as well. She doesn’t view individuality as a conspiracy to take her down, but rather something to be celebrated. She no longer wants fear and uncertainty to be foisted upon those who worship her most, and wants to actually show how she’s changed since her reinstatement into the kingdom. The Banana Guards are able to freely express themselves as individuals, even that one BG that doesn’t have a special talent. Also, might I say that momma PBubs is lookin’ FINE in this episode. Emily Partridge actually modeled her outfit and appearance off of Elaine from Seinfeld, which is pretty apparent, but still suits PB well. Her outfits have been really on point in this season thus far.

My biggest fear following the Stakes miniseries was that PB’s development as a “nicer ruler” would make her a less interesting character, but this episode subverts those anxieties in the best way necessary. The Thin Yellow Line is a terrific exploration of the deep-rooted paranoia of the Candy Kingdom. It’s an episode that has a ton of fun with the naturally silly characters involved, but one that’s still executed in a genuinely tense and potent way. Not to mention that it also has that visual added bonus of KC Green’s expressive storyboarding feat, which is enough to make this episode memorable on its own. Upon it’s original airing, this episode was dedicated to Mandy Long, of whom I had never heard of initially. Upon research, it turns out she was a talented young artist that loved Adventure Time, and who tragically passed away on September 24, 2015. It’s incredibly heartwarming that the staff at AT would pay tribute to someone not on the direct staff, but someone who was just a genuine fan, and an exceptional artist to boot. I send my condolences to all of Mandy’s friends and family.

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Favorite line: “I grew these! Hi-da-ro-pon-i-cal-y!”

 

“Flute Spell” Review

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Original Airdate: March 12, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Sam Alden & Jesse Moynihan

Flute Spell is remembered for being the “Huntress Wizard X Finn” episode, as one would expect it to be, but honestly, I think this episode makes for a really great star appearance of Jake. Throughout the exploration of Finn’s character and his relationships in the past few years, Jake has typically remained as a bystander. He helped to coach Finn through his crush on Princess Bubblegum in earlier years, and initially assisted him in securing a relationship with Flame Princess, but otherwise, he hasn’t been very involved in this aspect of Finn’s life. Some of these reasons may include the fact that he unintentionally had a part in Finn’s breakup with Flame Princess, or perhaps that he simply can’t relate to Finn’s underlying turmoil. Regardless, he does his best to help Finn connect with Huntress Wizard and to build a healthy, honest relationship between the two, and it’s really sweet.

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Not to mention Jake is thoroughly hilarious in this episode. In the first 10 seconds, we start out with the amusingly jolly song “My Name is Jake,” which is not only a great platform to callback several old characters and concepts (i.e. APTWE and Maja, the villagers from The Visitor, and Jake constantly being faced with Death) but also epitomizes Jake as a character. While I’m thoroughly invested in all of the character drama that this series has to offer, it’s so delightful to have one main character that has no surface level issues. Jake has a terrific relationship with his girlfriend, lives with his brother and his best friends, has five children to spend his time with (even if it is to T.V.’s dismay), and is always faced with a plethora of fun adventures to take on. He’s certainly not without his own personal problems, but there’s no boiling turmoil that threatens Jake’s psyche. He’s simply a carefree dude that is able to live a fulfilling life because he has a terrific support system and is meeting all of his personal needs. Remember this bit, because it’s important later on!

Of course, Jake’s concerns aren’t limited to his own well-being, but the well-being of his brother, of whom went through some deep shit in the past year. The real fun of this one is that Jake not only makes for a fun third-wheel, but also kind of takes on the role of a shipping-invested fan. The main story of this one is practically just Jesse Moynihan living out a ship that he’s always wanted to see (and I don’t necessarily mean that as an insult) so having Jake make all of these wild guesses about Finn’s new love interest and being super invested in everything going on to the point of interrupting important conversations is just hilarious. I have to assume there actually is a Finn X Future Me-Mow fanfiction out there.

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On the other side of things, it is cool to see Finn in the dating scene again, and his maturity definitely shows. Of course, as Shelby eloquently states earlier in the episode, “he’s just trying to be careful this time.” When it comes to Finn’s character flaws, nothing reigns more apparent than his issues with ladies. While it’s a huge step that he’s even pursuing someone that isn’t Bubblegum or Flame Princess, and that he’s not being a giant creep about it, he still isn’t being honest in his intentions. Of course, it’s hard to blame him this time around. He was hurt, and he hurt others in the past, and he’s not fully ready to relive the pain that he once experienced. It’s good that he’s at least trying to pursue a relationship instead of just holding onto that pain forever, but a lot of his issues in this episode stem from the fact that he doesn’t just tell Huntress Wizard upfront about how he feels for her. Even if he has good intentions and ends up helping her in the end, he’s simply not being fair to himself in playing matchmaker. Though it’s hard not to be charmed by his overall behavior, and the fact that he is essentially willing to take pain if it means helping out a girl that he has feelings for. Whatta bro.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s no surprise that Jesse Moynihan loves inserting Huntress Wizard into episodes as often as he can, and that the fanbase in general has taken a particular liking to her ever since Reign of Gunters came along. Some might see it as pandering to the fanbase that this random, insignificant character is suddenly made into Finn’s love interest, but I dunno, I never minded it. Huntress Wizard is a cool and mysterious character with a competent VA at the helm (aka Jenny Slate; HW was previously voiced by Maria Bamford prior to this episode). A lot of the charm of HW’s character comes from that mystery element, though she acts this way for a purpose as revealed at the end of the episode. In general, a lot of the fun with HW comes from her stellar abilities and the way she interacts with the environment. From her ability to change into a tree or turn her clothes in leaves as she pleases, to her almost completely primitive living environment, she really is completely enigmatic from both a physical and psychological level.

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The chemistry between Finn and HW is a lot of fun as well. I love how their first interaction involves Huntress Wizard nearly impaling Finn’s nose with an arrow, and how Finn isn’t at all put off by that. Finn’s grass sword is used to its fullest abilities by having an active role in the story without it necessarily being about the grass sword, but just the thorn in general. That’s an idea that’s pretty unique to this episode, an adds an interesting element in how the grass sword operates outside of battle. Despite it being a curse, it does have mystical elements that really don’t give it proper defining traits, of which is what likely draws in Huntress Wizard so much. Also, the grass arm is apparently “really shreddy and busy.” Eyuck. The back-and-forth between HW and Finn is enjoyable, especially how it manages to make it obvious that Finn wants this way more than Huntress Wizard, but without making him overbearing or slimy. He has some really funny moments as he tries to look cool in front of Huntress Wizard, namely his denial that he smells bad during a high speed chase towards a vicious boar.

One aspect of this episode that does strike my curiosity is the identity of HW’s former mentor and possible love interest, the Spirit of the Forest, of whom looks and sounds exactly like the Dream Warrior from Who Would Win? It’s an… odd cameo to say the least, and one that has never had a ton of conclusive exposition aside from this episode, though I’m guessing each realm of the world has some sort of round, Matthew Broderick-like warrior that watches over a specific dominion. I don’t really have a problem with the Spirit of the Forest’s role in this episode, but I think it’s kind of weird that this is the only other Dream Warrior clone introduced in the series, because I feel like it makes things slightly confusing. Are there just two randomly identical beings that watch over entirely different facets of existence? Are they brothers? Are they the same person? I do wish this was elaborated on a bit more, and that there were more Broderick Warrior characters introduced for consistency, but as it stands, it’s just kind of a weird bit of lore that I’m not sure was completely necessary.

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His role, however, does add for some interesting developments in HW’s character, as it’s revealed that she’s just as afraid of being hurt by feelings as Finn is. HW and Finn, while dealing with similar problems, are very different. Finn went through some tough shit in the past, though he wants to learn how to move on from it and to regain physical love in his life. HW romanticizes with her own sadness, and believes in the idea that loving someone else is “becoming soft” and throwing away her own independence. Thus, she falls into the pit of MMS, because she believes that finding the solution to the very cause of what makes her sad and mad to begin with will erase her purpose and make her less significant in the world. Huntress Wizard admits to having feelings for Finn as well, though she acknowledges that “exceptional beasts like us cannot fall in love. That is the secret of ordinary people.” I’ve seen this viewpoint a lot from creatives, and admittedly feel the same way at times: that falling in love means sacrificing your skills of individuality and surrendering one’s self to the ordinary trials of life. It’s profound, but it’s made even better by Jake’s retort of, “uh, that’s real dumb.” The beginning of the episode showcases what an exciting and pleasurable life one can have when taking on the “normal” standards of life. Jake’s story certainly isn’t by the books in the case of social norms, but he’s able to live in a satisfactory way to his best abilities by meeting his own desires and contributing to his own well-being, as well as that of others. Jake can’t get behind HW’s mentality, because everything he’s ever loved and cared about has come from being a “normie.” Finn mentions he agrees, though it’s unclear who he’s even agreeing with. My money is definitely on HW, as Finn likely buys into HW’s same notions. It could also be the fact that Finn might acknowledge that he simply still isn’t ready to date yet. Even after all he’s been through, Finn still is afraid to love as carelessly as he once did, and though he wants to, it will take some time before he’s fully ready to move on from that fear of loss.

While girls come and go, Finn’s brother certainly does not, as he and Jake share a very sweet moment together at the end. As the Spirit of the Forest mentioned before, infatuation is easily dismantled when it comes to the true intentions and desires of two individuals, in which the relationship practically fades into obscurity. Finn is bummed out, but mirrors the Spirit’s line of “attracting forces come and go,” as he chooses to acknowledge that the connection simply wasn’t worth moving forward with (for the time being) and realizes that the next attracting force isn’t far from the future.

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Tying in with the past couple entries, Flute Spell is really rad on a design aspect. The forest looks terrific in this episode, specifically Huntress Wizard’s house (essentially a cliff under a tree, wink wink) which is just awesome. It’s really well lit when it comes to the nighttime and morning scenes, and the sheer amount of detail inside is terrific. I also really love the design of that boar, who not only looks superb, but is animated in a really stellar way. I love how he’s essentially just a thunder cloud, and how his cloudy behind trails while he runs. It really just made me wonder why there’s never been a “thunder boar” Pokemon. And hey, Finn’s immune to electricity for the rest of the series now!

But yeah, Flute Spell is pretty great. It explores a pretty fascinating relationship that is made entirely fun through an interesting story, some enticing animation, and most of all, Jake’s thoroughly entertaining role. If I had to criticize one thing, it’d be that I feel as though there are too many cameos and references to past episodes. The ones I liked the most were essentially Easter eggs, like the Villagers and Jake’s bird form from Food Chain, but I felt that the Spirit of the Forest was a bit strange on some levels, and Science Cat really, really did not have to be in this episode. Aside from his somewhat funny bit of exposition about Sword Shark, who tragically passed away, he’s kind of just there for the sake of being an obscure cameo. But otherwise, Flute Spell is a ton of fun, and does well with a storyline that I would have typically only imagined being apart of someone’s fanfiction.

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Favorite line: “First off, I’m a great fighter. And I’m especially agile when I’m nude, so good luck.”