“Normal Man” Review

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Original Airdate: May 12, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Sam Alden

I guess it’s only appropriate the essential conclusion to Magic Man’s character arc corresponds with Jesse Moynihan’s final storyboarding effort in the series. While not Magic Man’s creator, Jesse paved the way for MM’s character by fleshing him out well beyond his initial archetype and in turn ended up creating one of AT’s most complex characters. Moynihan’s love and passion for the character really shines through in episodes like Sons of Mars and You Forgot Your Floaties, of which are two of my favorite episodes primarily because of how much Moynihan’s heart and soul was placed into them. While Normal Man lacks the headiness of those episodes (though, legend has it that this was supposed to be a much, much darker episode), it makes up for it by being both hilarious and deeply introspective. Normal Man works off of what Bun Bun set up in a lot of ways: the idea and theme of change. While Bun Bun dealt primarily with changes happening over time and within relationships, Normal Man mostly deals with a deeply interesting question: can shitty people truly change? And if so, does it make up for all of the horrible things they’ve done in the past? Normal Man argues both yes and no; a person is able to change their ways and start a new life, but only after gaining the respect and trust of others, which can often be just as difficult a journey.

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While not as experimental, the initial opening of the episode is about as Moynihan-y as it gets: Tiny Manticore, at the command of Normal Man, sets out to rescue his brother Glob from space, after his dissemination in Astral Plane. It’s all good fun, well-animated, and sets a very tense mood once Tiny Manticore decides to take control, but it all sets up for one huge problem I have with the premise of this episode. Now, I do really enjoy Normal Man overall, but there’s one recurring issue that really just rubs me the exact wrong way every time I watch it, and I’m surprised that no one ever talks about it. Normal Man and all other characters in the episode refer to the GGGG head as “Glob,” but… that’s not Glob. Glob was voiced by Tom Gammill in both Sons of Mars and Astral Plane, while Tom Kenny typically voices Gob. So… what is Kenny doing voicing Glob in this one? Well, my money’s on the fact that they simply couldn’t get Gammill to provide his voice for the episode, and considering that Kenny already provides his voice for two other characters in this episode, it was the easiest option at hand. On top of that, they likely thought nobody would notice due to the fact that Kenny does provide the voice for one of the four heads. Well, I NOTICED ADVENTURE TIME. YOU THINK YOU CAN FOOL ME?

Ahem. To be honest, I know this probably seems like a really overblown nitpick, but it still bugs the hell out of me. If the show wants to establish this really convincing overarching lore, then they really can’t expect me to look over this as a simple mistake. It’s actually something that also happens in You Forgot Your Floaties, when MM refers to GGGG as his sibling “Glob” followed by Tom Kenny’s lines. I do wonder if Glob is just generally the universal nickname for the “G” man, because I’m pretty sure everyone tends to neglect to remember the other G’s to begin with. When keeping that in mind, I guess it’s somewhat justified, though I overall think there needs to be stricter rules for writing the character in general, because I feel as though Glob is handled waaay too loosely to the point where the staff forgets that he’s essentially four entities in one body. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

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Anyways, the scenes to follow this convergence are a lot of fun. This is actually the second time this season that Finn has treated Jake like a straight-up dog (the first was Don’t Look when Finn utters, “what is it, boy?”) and I’m wondering if Finn subtlely picks up on these traditional behaviors whenever he enters the Farmworld. It’s funny to see him essentially wanting to adopt more humanistic behaviors, as Jake is pretty resentful to the idea.

It’s also funny to see how the boys truly resent Normal Man, and even nearly kill him. You don’t really blame them for being this way either, because the last time they even saw the guy, he turned them into food products and practically left them for dead. It’s cool how Finn takes on the responsibility likely due to the sole fact that Glob is involved. Besides being a very important figure overall, I have a feeling that Finn feels as though he almost owes it to Glob for having a part in his sacrifice back in Astral Plane. Also, Finn’s dad was the reason Glob was demolished. That probably had some moralistic factor in it as well. One of the nice smaller details in this episode is that Finn begins using his Root Sword again! It only comes back for this episode and the next, but it’s really cool that the show remembered that it even existed, while also remembering that it was one of Finn’s only swords to not get busted or altered in one way or another. It’s a nice little Easter egg for longtime viewers, of which are pretty much AT’s main audience by this point in time.

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What follows is classic Adventure Time; Wild Trap Mountain is about as fun a location can get. The mountain is jam-packed with tons of terrific foes, like the “Weekend Survivalists,” that one dude that NOBODY messes with (his description on the wiki reads “simply a dude that no one messes with.” It kills me), Waking Dream Demons, and of course, the Squirrel that hates Jake. I’m usually not a fan of the Squirrel outside of his debut episode in The Duke of Nuts, but man, the joke somehow manages to be way funnier the third time than it was the second time. Even after Normal Man explains who he is, Jake is equally surprised when the Squirrel reintroduces himself. It’s just priceless–that poor Squirrel only wants the satisfaction of attention. The Wild Trap Mountain journey in general is executed just perfectly. I love how it slowly builds from a tense, quiet crawl into a frantic, energetic speed-run to the top. Everything goes unimaginably wrong in the span of seconds and everything is resolved in the matter of seconds, in a way where the episode really doesn’t compensate for whether you’re even comprehending every moment or not. It’s just great. It’s also worth noting that Finn nearly stabs himself when being possessed by a parasite, which is the third time this is alluded this season, and the third time alluded to in a Jesse and Sam episode! It certainly wasn’t a coincidence that those instances were included.

Upon reaching the top of the mountain, the episode goes from energetic and thrilling to just plain hilarious. The back-and-forths between Finn, Jake, Normal Man, Glob, and Tiny are just great; from Tiny Manticore noting Normal Man’s naturally insincere sounding voice, to “two boomerangs,” to “hang on like hot snot!” this is one episode that’s relentless with jokes and one-liners happening one after the other, in the best possible way necessary. The episode does save for one soft, genuine moment as Normal Man apologizes to his brother for being a “bean show” for hundreds of years. It’s a unique situation because, while Normal Man can’t really be blamed entirely for his behavior, because magic had a huge effect on his general cognition, but he isn’t really free of blame either. He is the person who nearly killed our main heroes, threw everyone in Mars under the bus (a hilarious gag, by the way), and betrayed his brother. It does show, however, that Normal Man truly is a normal man, and like any human (or humanoid, in this case), he does express remorse over his past behavior and acknowledges his faults, rather than trying to ignore that they ever happened. The way the brothers reconcile is sweet, and shows the optimistic viewpoint that, yes, people can change and repent if they truly make an effort to better themselves in the process. While the citizens of Mars aren’t as impressed, Normal Man’s at least left with the confidence that, if he truly proves himself to be the nice, reformed person that he wants to be seen as, he’ll have no problem adjusting to his current lifestyle.

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Normal Man isn’t quite the deep, analytical expedition I would expect from Moynihan’s AT finale, but it does possess many elements of some of his greatest entries: mythological aspects, character development, and bizarre side character cameos, with a hint of hilarity. This really is a nice wrap-up for Normal Man’s character (even though this isn’t the last we see of him) and I’m truly glad that Moynihan essentially got to see his hard work come full circle. I really did love the guy as a writer; while he was often controversial in both his writing style and his general demeanor, there was never a doubt in my mind that Jesse wasn’t putting every single bit of his blood, sweat, and tears into each individual episode that he worked on. While I’m pretty fond of Tom Herpich as a writer overall, I don’t think there’s a single artist or writer on Adventure Time, or any animated series in general, quite as ambitious and personalized as Moynihan. I actually interviewed him a few years back after he left the show, and while he has a reputation for being pretentious among AT fans and non-fans alike, he really seemed like a humble, thoughtful dude in his responses. To end this blog with a quick tribute, I leave with you an interesting take on why Jesse thinks AT is special and different in general, per our interview.

“I don’t know really. Sometimes I felt like we were working on something very special and different, based on critical feedback. But other times I couldn’t figure out how to measure that against other shows and the feedback they were getting. I came to realize that this specialness was arbitrary and couldn’t really be gauged by any reliable standard. The only thing I could rely on was my own internal experience of working on the show, and my feeling of growing as a writer during my time there. So yeah, for me it felt very special and different. For the rest of the world of individual tastes, I really have no idea. A fan could come up to me and say how great Adventure Time is, and in the same sentence tell me how great something else is that I don’t value so much.”

Also, can we take a brief moment to appreciate that LSP and Lemongrab went on a date together? It’s a crack-pairing from heaven, I tell’s ya!

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Favorite line: “You turned me into a giant starfish!” “You turned me into a flaming pile of garbage!”

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