Archive | February 2019

“Skyhooks” Review

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Original Airdate: April 24, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Sam Alden & Polly Guo

Interesting aspect to note before I start this one off: Niki Yang is not listed anywhere in the end credits. How odd! I can’t think of a single other time I’ve noticed an error like this. Sorry Niki, you know we love your voicework.

Anywho, it’s Elements time! While Islands branded itself mostly as a big, emotional journey, Elements certainly taps into AT’s absurdity more than anything. This is definitely the weirdest miniseries of the three, but I don’t use that term to patronize it in any way. Elements still carries with it the strengths of its predecessors; it manages to feel like one big, grand adventure, and after coming straight off of the heels of Islands, I think it’s especially impressive. It might even rival Islands for best miniseries. But I’m getting ahead of myself… for now, we have Skyhooks! A simple, yet pretty enjoyable opening that works off of what made The Invitation just as enjoyable: stellar character interactions. Being introduced to the new entities that embody well-known characters is a ton of fun, and also comes with a surprising amount of weight that carries through in several different story arcs for the remainder of the series.

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Skyhooks is an episode that establishes itself very quickly while also taking its time in the process, which is pretty evident during the first few minutes alone. I like how the episode allows for moments where Finn and Jake are clearly realizing something isn’t right within Ooo. That slow pan of Jake walking is just as atmospheric as it is kind of haunting. The two boys are carelessly entering a completely warped version of their home without even (fully) realizing it. Finn, of course, has some idea of things going awry, as his observant self typically does, while Jake shuts him down. It’s pretty apparent that Jake notices these changes as well, but in typical Jake fashion, he would rather ignore the potential of dangerous truths and simply tries alleviate Finn’s worries in the process, like a good caretaker does.

Jake’s calming attitude can’t keep Finn at ease for long, as the discovery of the candified Tree Fort leaves the boys in utter awe. The candy versions of Fern, NEPTR, and Shelby are all just freakin’ adorable and look terrific. Really wish AT didn’t slow down on the merchandising front at this point in time, coz you know I’d totally splurge on Elementified versions of the crew. This is also, to my knowledge, the only time in the series the entire Tree Fort family is together in one place! Of course, they aren’t their usual selves, but it’s still an endearing thought regardless.

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The way the boys individually perceive their altered friends is a lot of fun. I love how Jake openly calls out how lame some alternate dimensions stories truly are; all I could think about was the particularly bland and uninteresting first few issues of the AT: Season 11 comic series. BMO’s strange fascination with his new surroundings (I’m assuming it’s mainly because it’s bright and colorful) is also really enjoyable, considering that he doesn’t once question anything. He’s also opined that he’s going to start treating NEPTR (er, NECTR) as an equal because of it, which is also a hilarious sentiment. Finn, as expected, isn’t as easily swayed by his new home and roommates. I like how the show doesn’t stray away from Finn’s more defensive side as he initially scolds Fern (er, Fun) for the damages left to his household, and Ooo in general. I don’t think Finn is necessarily upset directly at Fun, but I can imagine he’s entirely stressed out about what he allowed to have happened in his absence. Of course, it’s shown later that it’s almost lucky that Finn and Jake had stepped out at the time, but I can easily see how Finn would immediately jump to the conclusion that he fucked up for leaving his friends and former home in such a state. Though, once again, this doesn’t phase Jake.

The episode has a lot of fun with Finn and Jake’s dynamic in this episode, and I always like how the writers never single out Finn’s POV as the necessary “right” option. Jake does have a solid point: Fern is typically in utter turmoil, NEPTR lives a life of neglect, Lemongrab (who has now transformed into the somewhat more terrifying “Lemonpink) is, for once in his entire life, actually happy and sociable. It brings the main question at hand that is a recurring theme among the civilians of the Candy Kingdom in general: should people that do not want to change have to change? It seems like an obvious answer; Fern, Lemongrab, and many others should be allowed the free will that they aren’t necessarily given within their altered forms, and even though they are “happier,” they still aren’t living that way by choice, or even their own method of thinking. But again… they are happier, and that’s always the most difficult argument to battle with: is it better for people to be happy or self-aware? I don’t think it’s something that has to be mutually exclusive, but the happiness portrayed in Elements is clearly an extreme that needs to be addressed.

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The clear turning point of Jake’s perspective is when he recognizes the legitimate danger of the new Candy citizens. Sweet P., who has been gone for well over 50 episodes (surprised he doesn’t have a manlike, deep voice by now), is left without actual caregivers since Tree Trunks and Mr. Pig have been turned into utter nightmares. Granted, TT and Mr. P probably weren’t the best parents to begin with, buuuut they were marginally better than what was displayed here, and the desire to “change” anyone who does not fall into the social norms of the Kingdom is an upsettingly creepy concept. The cute and sweet cult-like environment of candified Ooo certainly isn’t an idea that’s exclusive to Adventure Time, but I think they handled it relatively well by knowing when to make things terrifying and when to keep things genuinely cute.

Speaking of genuinely cute, I love the inclusion of Finn mentioning his “late night bedtime calls” with Jake when he’s at Lady’s. It’s such a sweet notion. I can imagine half of those calls are just completely silent while Finn and Jake do some other kind of menial task, like play video games, cook food, or something else, but they just enjoy the idea of having each other there while they’re doing it. I love those bros. It does give me a bit of a sad though; I feel like Jake leaving his phone behind meant that he likely didn’t get any texts from his children, or at least as many as he was hoping for. Or, on a less sad note, maybe it’s Prismo. We do get to see him partying later on, so maybe Jake just ain’t his main squeeze for that type of stuff anymore.

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And, once more on the topic of adorable, I loooove Marshmaline’s design! Someone on Etsy actually whipped up a felt version of her, which looks absolutely lovely! Unfortunately it’s $70 and out of my minuscule pay range. If only I got paid in obscure AT merchandise for my blogging efforts. Anywho, the sequence leading up to Finn and Jake’s arrival on PB’s tower is serenaded by Marshy, who hums “Greensleeves,” or “What Child is This?” for the 90% of people who more likely know it by that name. Like most of these small, but prominent AT moments, this one has been up for several different interpretations. There’s a solid UncivilizedElk video on it, which kind of knocks my theory out of the park. I mostly saw it as a way to show Marshmaline’s disconnection from using music as an emotional platform. While the lyrical interpretations of “Greensleeves” lean on its message of heartbreak and desolation, Marshmaline hums the tune in utter euphoria. While sad tunes still seem to exist within the candified remnants of Ooo, it’s quite apparent that Marshmaline lacks the raw material and attitude to effectively embody these tunes as she used to. It’s simple, but I think it still holds up a bit.

Perhaps the most hilariously horrifying entity in Ooo is PB, who personifies a giant tower, and even has tiny, cute T-Rex arms to articulate with. Finn’s anger and disgust with PB is also apparent here, and I wonder if he truly recognizes that it isn’t actually her in the moment. To be fair, PB isn’t always the best in balancing logic with emotions, and has tried to build on the Candy Kingdom’s territory on more than one occasion. That anger could also be reflected at Finn’s ability to recognize the changes that PB has gone through in recent years to become a better person, and likely wonders if she’s truly decided to go back on her policies. It isn’t till Ice King comes to the rescue with his skyhooks (a nice callback to Elemental) that Finn and Jake truly recognize the severity of the dilemma that they’re experiencing.

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Couple nitpicks with this one, that might honestly be nitpicks aimed towards the miniseries as a whole: Finn and Jake are a bit negligent for the purpose of moving the story forward in this episode, to the point where they leave an unattended child in utter terror (Sweet P.) and their own child of whom they don’t really blink twice at over his loss. I get that there’s plenty of other people that Finn and Jake are close to that they also need to save, but I feel like BMO’s too close to the comrades to the point where they should be a bit more affected by completely forgetting about him. Only thing that resolves my issue with it is the idea that BMO really doesn’t give a fuck about being transformed to begin with, so maybe it was for the best at the time. Also, the whole idea that every elementified Ooo citizen now has a name that’s more appropriate to their state of being is a little gimmick-y. Who’s even giving them these names, and why are their forms always so coincidentally close to their name or identity? To harp on this would just show what a joyless, twisted person I am, so I really don’t have a legitimate complaint here. It’s gimmick-y, but enjoyably gimmick-y at that.

Otherwise, Skyhooks is pretty great! It’s not only another great showcase of solid character interactions, but also a great showcase for Ooo in general. So many various players within the Land of Ooo show up throughout this miniseries, it’s amazing! I don’t even think the finale was able to pull off such a feat. Skyhooks is also a visual treat as well, along with the seven episodes that come after it, making beauty out of the most horrid and twisted of situations. It’s a great and funny start to Elements that sets things up nicely.

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Favorite line: “Just sit tight there like a windowpane, and you’ll be back to normal like a windowpane.”

“Orb” Review

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Original Airdate: April 21, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Aleks Sennwald & Adam Muto

Adventure Time is no stranger to utilizing dream sequences in order to help flesh out certain stories. Whether it be cryptic prophecies (The New FrontierFrost & Fire, and The Lich), signs of distress (Jermaine, Stakes, and I Am a Sword), self-realization (Crystals Have PowerLemonhope, and The Visitor), or even just plain silliness (Burning Low), AT‘s dream fetish is pretty apparent. So much so that entire episodes have been dedicated to the concept of dreaming and the implications and hidden messages within those dreams. King Worm was the first, which I personally didn’t get into. It’s pacing was uncomfortably awkward, which made the general array of jokes and gags feel progressively weak in their execution. Another was Hoots, which had some interesting dream implications, but was more focused on character exploration that truthfully wasn’t that interesting. Then there’s Orb, which might be my favorite of the bunch. It’s not saying much because I wasn’t crazy about either of its predecessors, but Orb manages to be a pretty thoroughly entertaining entry that not only has improved timing for its more humorous moments, but also has a lot more to chew on from an analytical sense.

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Being smack-dab between two miniseries, Orb is kind of a sweet spot for a post-Islands experience, as well as a pre-Elements experience. The events of this episode technically take place entirely on the boat returning to Ooo, and I think that’s pretty damn cool. For a show that managed to have its main characters be transformed back from being breakfast products entirely offscreen, it’s really cool to have this added transition that doesn’t even mention the events of Islands at all. It almost can be considered standalone for that matter. The goofiness of the boys in the first few minutes is much appreciated, and I love the overstock of bananas. It kind of reminds me of Football, which included an excessive amount of grapefruit for no clear reason.

Let’s take a deeper dive into the dream sequences, shall we? First off, Jake. It’s really nice to see Jermaine again, who has long been absent since his major debut two seasons earlier. I’m always surprised at how Tom Scharpling is able to distinguish Jermaine from Greg Universe without really even changing his voice at all. There’s simply a permanent sense of neurosis within Scharpling’s inflections that really help to make the character feel real every time he’s on screen. The main mission that Jake and Jermaine are given within the dream is a relatively unusual one; Joshua commands his two sons to dig a hole within the surface of their own kitchen. A lot of the fun of Orb comes from drawing conclusions throughout these ambiguous experiences, and I think there’s surely a lot to come from these few bits with Joshua. Digging a hole, within the realm of general dream meanings, signifies a sense of longing and searching for one’s purpose. I think this could be clearly represented through Jermaine ditching his old home to discover his own sense of self-actualization. On Jake’s side, it could be regarding his own curiosities of his magic nature, which was touched upon briefly two episodes earlier in Helpers. This is the definition meaning, but I have stronger implications and ideas from my own point-of-view.

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Considering that their digging proves to be pointless after it is replaced by an untouched circle, I think this dream sequence more prominently represents Jake and Jermaine’s own anxieties about letting their father down. While Jermaine ends up leaving the dream sequence after it gets progressively more taxing, it’s easy to see how this could be an allusion to Jermaine’s own decision to let his father’s home burn to the ground after he decided it wasn’t worth his own mental turmoil. Jermaine even leaves through one of his paintings, of which he decided to get invested in only after he let go of parental burdens. Jake, on the other hand, decides to stay and finish out the job, as he becomes progressively older and more burnt out throughout his experience (and also due to his encounter with his worst fear, The Moon). Jake and Joshua’s relationship is probably the most fascinating out of all of the Dog children. We know that Joshua had high expectations for Finn to be a strong and cunning warrior, while he wanted Jermaine to be the responsible type that would look after his own possessions. Joshua was likely the most fond of Jake, considering that Jake came from his own body, but we never really are given information regarding what expectations Joshua had for his most carefree son. Perhaps, it’s even an expectation that only Jake ruminates on himself. Perhaps it has to due with the fact that, while he was put in charge of taking after Finn, Jake is getting rapidly older day-by-day and isn’t sure how much longer he’ll be able to do so. Or, it could represent his inability to follow in Joshua’s footsteps for being the great father that he always wanted to be. There’s a lot of different concepts to chew on, but I honestly believe the Finn one is the most intriguing. They’re both getting older, but even then, I think that Jake still feels as though he needs to watch over Finn. It’s mostly an overprotective parent fear, but I get the feeling Jake worries that, if he isn’t around anymore, who will take care of his brother of whom he loves so dearly? There’s also the obvious implications of foreshadowing as well, that are triggered when we do see the Peeper, of whom briefly appears in the window. I’ve rambled a lot, but Jake’s dream is definitely the mostly expansive and interesting out of the three.

Finn’s is much shorter and more concise, but still relatively interesting. It is interesting to note that Finn has both of his arms within the dream sequence, which probably could imply a sense of longing, but I kind of get the feeling that parts of his subconscious haven’t even fully recognized the bionic arm yet. In general, Finn seems to accept it and use it as if it were his old arm, so maybe he just doesn’t really even recognize the difference anymore to the point where he feels whole. A lot of people took note of this being sad and tragic, but I don’t think it’s meant to be taken in a negative connotation. After all, Finn is seen to be flying throughout his dream sequence, denoting his feeling of free will in his choices, presumably after he chose to do what was right for himself after the events of Islands. However, it appears he still has some possibilities for anxiety and regret. When being faced with PB, he’s unable to fly and is held down by strands of grass. This felt like a statement in addressing Finn’s ties to Ooo as a whole. While Finn arguably made his own decision to go back home, I get the feeling that he also feels that he needs to go back home, or else terrible things will befall the people he loves and cares for. This is also represented by PB’s loss of teeth, a popular stress dream that implies a feeling of powerlessness in one’s surrounding. While Finn feels free and happy after his own self-journey, he possibly feels more out of control than ever when it comes to the safety of his other friends of whom he cares for.

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BMO’s dream is probably the simplest to get behind, but in an enjoyable way. It really feels like a childlike nightmare, in which the circumstances aren’t truly textbook levels of horrific, but still psychologically damaging from the perspective of a child. The play that BMO puts on revolves around the theme of Finn and Jake being sad and lonely when he is not around, showing that BMO does feel cared for and needed by his best friends, albeit in a slightly egocentric way. Love how BMO is under the somewhat selfish impression that Finn and Jake’s lives just completely suck without him, but again, it’s very childlike in that regard. Things take a turn, however, when AMO returns to the scene and hurts both Finn and Jake in the process. AMO is still referred to as “BMO”, which shows that BMO may still fear what lies inside of him in the sense that he may end up becoming bad, just like his sibling. In the same vein, BMO fears AMO becoming the “director” in the same way that he fears his programming for dictating his entire life path.

It’s to be expected that any dream episode will have some form of foreshadowing, namely Jake’s aging and the appearance of his biological parent, Ooo being element-ified, the Nightmare Sword, as well as the appearance of the Lich-faced AMO, possibly addressing that the Lich is still around and still very powerful. This episode is stellar for all of its attempts at mysticism and hidden details, but it’s also very funny as well. Aside from the often nonsensical dialogue, of which Orb is chock full of (namely in the beginning sitcom sequence with Jake and family), this is a great episode for visual gags. Not only do the facial expressions and the general anatomy of characters distort themselves at the turn of a dime, but the camera angles and the way characters interact with their environments are also played with for comedic effect. I love the random, almost pointless extreme close-ups within Jake and BMO’s dreams, as well as how Finn shuffles to the top of a hill without taking general perception into consideration. The backgrounds within Orb are similarly delightful, with something as simple as the red curtain on BMO’s stage looking exceptionally stunning with proper lighting and use of color.

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Orb also marks the debut of Nightmare Princess, of whom actually debuted in the game Secret of the Nameless Kingdom. Though, that Nightmare Princess was a completely different character than the one we see here. I get the feeling that the staff just really enjoyed this concept, and wanted to include this character in several steps along the way, but never did until now. As is, she has a pretty rad design. Of course, there’s not much of a character there, but it is in typical Adventure Time fashion that a character as menacing as herself would want something as trivial as a banana. The dimension she brings Finn and Jake to is similarly awesome, which ends up playing a part in the eventual debut of the nightmare induced Ooo. If I was to pinpoint one problem with this episode, it would be that the gag ending feels like the experience was kind of pointless and only existed to move the story along by providing Finn with the nightmare juice. It’s a silly conclusion, but it might be a little too silly for its own good. Like… what does Nightmare Princess even want with their bananas? Perhaps its ambiguity is what adds to the punchline, but it just isn’t really that shocking or even that funny. The ride to get to this conclusion was certainly fun, but the conclusion itself feels a bit lacking and meaningless.

Regardless, I dig Orb. It’s a fun and enjoyable exploration of our three main boys, with better comedic timing and more intriguing implications along the way. This was the only real break I get from the miniseries side of things, and while it was nice to cover a one-off for a change, I am excited to tackle the balls-to-the-wall nature of Elements, another one of AT‘s most grand and ambitious efforts to date!

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Favorite line: “The director’s right this way, director.”

“Islands” Miniseries Review

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Islands is the second miniseries that Adventure Time had put out, and I think it’s arguably the best of the three. Honestly, it’s been a while since I watched Elements as a whole, so my opinion may change, but I still feel as though Islands was, at its core, the most satisfying story that Adventure Time has told up to this point. For years, myself and fans alike have been looking for definitive answers regarding Finn’s past and have really only gotten hints and teasers into his history. Islands finally offers answers, and not just answers that are dished out for the mere sake of shutting fans up once and for all. Islands intricately combines everything that we’ve ever known about Finn and the history of humanity in general and creates a whole new layer of lore that truly encapsulates the heart, as well as the sadness, of Adventure Time in general.

The opening of Islands is interestingly my least favorite of the of individual miniseries’ intros. It’s not bad by any means; per usual, it’s guest-animated by Science SARU, and they always do a stand-out job. In the same regard, I think it’s the least visually interesting, as it’s mostly limited to a long pan through oceanic scenes and backgrounds. It’s spiced up a bit through the transitions of day and night, but otherwise, it doesn’t really compare to the dark and foreboding tone that the Stakes intro accomplished or the absolute insanity that Elements was able to pull off. I also thought Jeremy Shada’s singing is strangely unappealing for reasons I can’t really put my finger on. The opening titles for Stakes and Elements always felt like big, grand musical overtures, while this intro kind of feels like Jeremy Shada came in and sang it once, and then they just went with the first take. It’s nice, but nothing particularly stellar. The best part about the intro, however, is the hilarious subversion when Jake and Finn bump fists. I’m so glad they took the time to recreate this iconic scene by choosing to exploit the clear passage in time for the funniest result possible. This bit also remained in the Elements intro, but it got the biggest kick out of me here.

Islands is probably the most tonally different from its sister miniseries(es). Nearly every episode in Islands feels different in what it wants to accomplish, ranging from a variety of different genres and themes to make it feel as though each entry is something new and fresh. While I gradually grew tired of pretty much reinstating my thoughts of Stakes in each individual episode review, the episodes within Islands always felt like their own thing and never felt stale or tedious. Even in their individuality, they still were tied to main story of Finn finding a tribe of humans and discovering himself along the way. Some entries were sillier than others; Whipple the Happy Dragon and Imaginary Resources certainly distanced themselves from the weight and heaviness of other episodes like Min and Marty and Hide and Seek, and while that is a turn-off for some, this is Adventure Time we’re talking about. I’m glad it can still tell a big, grand, and successful story without feeling too pressured to be entirely committed to drama along the way. Even within the miniseries format, some episodes still mange to be really successful standalone entries. This is most obvious with Imaginary Resources – an episode that still touched heavily on the whereabouts of humanity, as well as smaller arcs established within Islands, but one that impressed general audiences enough to snag an Emmy for Individual Achievement in Animation.

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I was obviously pretty excited to see an entire eight part miniseries centering AT‘s central character, and more than anything, his arc is what carries Islands through so successfully. His main goal of finding out who he truly is explored quite subtley throughout these eight episodes. While it seemed that Finn was initially on the fence about where he truly belongs in life and if his home in Ooo is the right place for him to be, he continuously is reminded throughout the course of the miniseries of who he intrinsically is and what his place is in the world. He’s a helper, and a great one at that. While he can help people pretty much anywhere, he’s dedicated himself to helping the citizens of Ooo since he was a wee buff baby, and while he loves doing so, it just so happens that he doesn’t truly “belong” anywhere. He loves his home in Ooo and he loves living with his best bro, and as long as he’s helping people along the way, that’s truly where his place is. I don’t know if this is a real quote from the man himself, but the wiki insists that Adam Muto stated that Finn’s mother being a helper was essential to Finn’s growth as a hero. I think that’s utter bullshit, but I think it is essential to show how Finn’s behavior as a helper is what really keeps him going and makes him feel at home anywhere he goes.

While we’re on the topic of Finn’s mom, Minerva is an excellent addition to the cast. I never felt as though Finn needed caring human parents for the satisfaction of his own character arc; he already has two loving parents, Joshua and Margaret, and that was clearly identified to have been enough by the end of season six. However, using Minerva as an entity to parallel Finn’s own perils throughout his life, including the concepts of abandonment and choosing to put others before one’s self, was a pretty successful decision. It shows that, even though Minerva is a heroic helper like her son, their separation didn’t directly impact the other in any shape or form. Finn was still able to develop into a nice, caring individual without the added implication of a heroic bloodline. They’re two great people who become even greater after going through the worst of life’s circumstances, and they have each other to relate to regarding that factor.

Susan’s development also had me a lot more invested in her character than I ever deserved to be for someone who only shows up every two or three years. Her story is just as tragic as it is intriguing. For me, it’s truly reminiscent of children who are raised under toxic religious practices, only to recognize and develop into questioning their own identity and morality. Even though Susan, or Kara, ends up hurting her friend in her own ignorance, you can’t really be mad at her for doing so. It’s how she was conditioned to think and perceive, and that’s her only real reference into how society should be. Her relationship with Frieda quite nicely parallels the relationship between Finn and Minerva, in which one is unnecessarily overprotective of the other and tarnishes their freedom as a result.

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The battle between freedom and safety is heavily focused on throughout Islands, and is, for the most part, handled in a stellar fashion. I was only disappointed with its coverage in The Light Cloud, as I felt the moral was hammered in to the point where it felt as if it was an attack on safety in general rather than a cautionary message about the harm of over-protection. Hide and Seek handled this dilemma in such a way where they didn’t really need to spell it out for anyone – we merely came to a conclusion based on the way that Dr. Gross uses others to get what she wants, as well as how Frieda’s desire for freedom is cut short by the rules and regulations of the island. There’s obvious dangers that can harm the humans, and while the message that’s mainly displayed is that they should live their life regardless, I feel as though not all options were explored for a potential happy medium. While this message clearly applies to our modern day world, as we have tons of different potential hazards that plague us daily, I don’t think it works especially well in a society where humans are nearly extinct as a result of the long-term aftermath of a full-blown war. It feels like this logic is just glanced over entirely for the sake of the message.

That aside, I do think the overall theme is handled mostly well, and works successfully off of what was started in the Islands graphic novel, of which I’ll be covering shortly. I had very few issues with Islands otherwise, aside from a few minor nitpicks. I thought it was kind of strange how, after recalling her past history, Susan is, for the most part, fully coherent and doesn’t look back at all on the fact that she was out of it for 16 years. This is, of course, due to the fact that there’s only so much that can be covered in 11 minutes, and also that there was just too much going on in the miniseries to begin with. Most people thought that the miniseries was too rushed towards the end, but again, I only felt hints of that in The Light Cloud. I felt as though the miniseries did everything to could in its eight episode span, and covered it quite successfully, at that. A lot of others complained that we didn’t have more time dedicated to Finn and Minerva spending time together, but I thought it was for the best, honestly. I’d like the personal moments between the two to be left up to speculation as much as possible. It allows for as many conversations as the viewer would like to take place.

Any side stories and characters were welcomed as well. Alva is definitely the most likable character in the entire miniseries, BMO’s reign as a mod was loads of fun, seeing more of Martin was much appreciated, and Frieda is a cute and enjoyable rebel. Again, there’s a nice balance of stuff on the side of the main adventure with Finn. The miniseries never fully takes its focus off of our hero, but it does allow for other characters and tales to be fleshed out to their best abilities.

Best to Worst Episodes

  1. Min and Marty
  2. Mysterious Island
  3. The Invitation
  4. Hide and Seek
  5. Imaginary Resources
  6. Helpers
  7. The Light Cloud
  8. Whipple the Happy Dragon

Final Consensus

Islands never skips a beat, having a couple of problematic episodes (The Light Cloud and Whipple) but never actually churning out a stinker. While I thought that Stakes was fanservice-y for the worst of reasons, Islands manages to be so for the best of reasons, allowing the staff to fully commit to a passion project that felt as if it was years in the making. We’ve journeyed through Finn’s life a number of times, but I don’t think we’ve ever experienced an adventure as poignant and worthwhile as this one. It’s likely Adventure Time‘s most well-awaited stories to date, and one that almost makes those years of waiting for answers even more rewarding.

“The Light Cloud” Review

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Original Airdate: February 2, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Aleks Sennwald, Graham Falk & Adam Muto

The Light Cloud certainly isn’t the weakest of the Islands bunch, but I think it comes the closest to being problematic. Many fans have previously brought up that they thought Islands was way too rushed, which allegedly shows most predominantly in the last two episodes. I have been pretty satisfied with Islands up to this point, and even in its most “pointless” entries (i.e. Whipple and Imaginary Resources) it still offered rich emotional moments and great character interactions. For the most part, The Light Cloud is the same. It gives us a mostly satisfying conclusion with some really great character interactions between Finn and his mother, Susan and Frieda, and the other AT players. What it suffers from, however, is a somewhat rushed and mildly sloppy conflict revolving around the idea of safety vs. exploration.

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Adventure Time usually paints debates in a pretty even way, such as magic vs. science in Wizards Only, Fools or war vs. peace in The Cooler, but I feel like we really haven’t gotten a chance to see a fair angle from the point of view of the humans throughout this miniseries. Through the conclusion of this episode, the humans of Founder’s Island are essentially shown to be naive and undaring in their approach to life, which I think is actually kind of unfair. I personally agree with what Finn has to say about living life through experiencing both pain and happiness, but I think it’s undermining the real possibilities that there are when it comes to the potential dangers that humans could experience once arriving in Ooo. Ooo isn’t exactly the safest place for anyone to live, and the humans themselves don’t really have the benefit of being made of candy to where they can be easily rebuilt. The truth of the matter is that there are real dangers that the humans could run into, considering that they’re nearly extinct to begin with and a large aspect of that has to do with the mutagenic creatures that surrounded them. But I think this real, likely consequence is glanced over in attempt to simply show us how unreasonable Minerva and the other humans are being in their attempts to latch onto the Island.

Minerva is a character that I wish was a lot smarter in her approach to trying to “help” others. I think she has somewhat of a strong point as to why she doesn’t want anyone to leave the island; she lost her son long ago, and the people she cares for have easily become her family over time and she doesn’t want the same to befall them. Despite this, there isn’t really an emotional core to her actions and I feel like she’s dumbed down a tad bit. The episode jokes around with the fact that the Guardian causes more damage than good, and if the writers and characters themselves realize the irony in the Guardian’s creation, then how does the deeply intelligent Minerva not recognize this factor as well? My only excuse for this is that Minnie herself may not all be there… again, it’s been established that Minerva’s experience in uploading her brain map may have left her more robotic than she’d like to admit. In general, I don’t think her actions are necessarily unlikable; as the sole helper on Founder’s Island, she feels that it’s her civic duty to protect the people she has sought out to care for. I just wish it didn’t come at the expense of her common sense.

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In addition, I previously agreed with Finn’s sentiment about allowing fear and danger into one’s life, but I’m not really sure it’s his place to decide what’s best for the people of Founder’s Island. He’s one human, raised among Ooo natives, and can’t really speak what’s best for an entire species. Like I said, I feel as though there are unmentioned dangers that clearly should be addressed, but I think the episode is so caught up with its moral that it doesn’t really want to deal with the other side of things. This, out of any episode in the miniseries, probably would’ve benefited from a second part. I just would have really liked to see this conflict fleshed out from both sides to where it felt as if Minerva and the other humans have a legitimate reason for wanting to stay grounded. What the episode is trying to say is “overprotective is counterproductive” but it ends up feeling more like “safety is meaningless” for me, personally.

With all of that aside, most of this episode is enjoyable for what it wanted to do. Though I feel like Finn’s preaching was a little more pushy than I would’ve liked for it to be, I do think it’s a really nice example of his growth overtime. He no longer desires a life where he is constantly in comfort from the bad things that haunt him. Instead, he’s more into the idea of having those problems and working through them with everything that he’s learned and everything that he enjoys doing. I especially love his inclusion of the fact that not only is life good or bad from time to time, but boring as well. It’s just really refreshing to hear life being explained as “boring” for once instead of limiting it to one big, exciting journey. Like Finn said, life is never just one thing. Most of the episode feels like one big love letter to Finn’s adventures in Ooo in general. We’re first treated to a series of flashbacks that help to emphasize the darkness within Finn’s homeland, followed by a sequence that brings light to how Finn manages to get through those darker times by helping and assisting others. I also adore the description of “kingdoms made of candy, beautiful dragons, fire-breathing princesses, incredibly sad wizards.” That could absolutely be on a postcard for Ooo. While I thought Minerva’s actions were a bit hasty at times, I do appreciate how much fun she is in this episode. She isn’t unlikable or harsh in her actions, as she remains upbeat and quirky throughout the entire experience which makes it much more tolerable in the long run. Finn and his mother’s dynamic is quite sweet, despite Finn’s initial objections. I think it is kind of cool to see how defiant Finn is towards his mother. Had this been a couple years earlier, I would bet that Finn would most certainly sacrifice his humanity for Martin. Now, feeling much more confident in who he is and what he wants from life, he isn’t going to listen to just anyone, even if they are his parent.

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Frieda and Susan come to a resolution, which is also very sweet. Truthfully, I felt like this is another arc that could benefit from a few more moments of focus, namely allowing Frieda to actually release the anger and frustration that she was initially hiding from Kara. It’s pretty interesting to see that not only does rehabilitation change the way hiders view the island, but also how they view emotions and vulnerability in general. It pretty much suppresses every part of a person. Regardless, I do dig the way that Susan’s arc was finally resolved. She gets a happy ending with her friend, but ultimately allows Frieda to make that choice for herself. Susan doesn’t do anything to persuade her, but merely channels the aspects of Frieda’s personality that internalize her to successfully help her friend move forward. It’s a really nice sentiment, and I especially love how Susan ultimately chooses to keep her Ooo name rather than the name she was given. “Kara” represents a girl who was never allowed individuality beyond the system, while “Susan” represents somebody who found her own way, and was able to develop and grow because of it. Islands is definitely the most I’ve ever cared for Susan.

There are a couple more pacing issues within this episode. I like to think that Finn and Jake spent at least a couple weeks or a month on Founder’s Island before leaving, but the way it’s framed, it seems like it’s only been a couple hours. Minerva says to Finn, “you can’t teach a fish to dance overnight,” so does that mean it’s really only been one night? The initial The Light Cloud storyboard included that Finn and Jake had stayed for three months after Finn offered to hang out for a while, which makes it even stranger given the context of the following scenes. I still like to think the boys stayed for a portion of their time, but otherwise, it could’ve used stronger implications. What really drives this one home is the emotional goodbye that Finn bids to his mother via VR. Once more, the elephant in the room is addressed as Finn questions Minerva’s true identity after she uploaded her brain map. He’s left with the unfortunate truth that Minnie herself doesn’t really know, but she at least thinks that she is. For Finn that might just be enough. And for myself, it definitely is.

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The Light Cloud parallels The Dark Cloud in showcasing an extreme version of safety as opposed to an extreme version of danger. I only wish that this concept could have been a bit more challenging in its execution. This episode presents a solution without really showing the possible cons and ends up feeling a bit rushed by the end of it. But, like all seven episodes before it, The Light Cloud offers up terrific character moments and satisfying emotional resolutions to make up for it, bringing this miniseries to an (almost) entirely satisfying conclusion.

Thank you for tuning in to my coverage of Islands! The full miniseries review will be out next week, as I prepare to tackle an entirely new miniseries a couple weeks later. This is definitely the most haywire period of reviewing the series in general, but I’m certainly having a lot of fun with it. So, here’s to more great content along the way!

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Favorite line: “Hope you didn’t come to get the soup!”

“Helpers” Review

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Original Airdate: February 2, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard

Brief aside before we begin here: I’m starting up a podcast! Hosted by myself and my fellow pal _Comic_ from the AT subreddit, the Animation Ambiance Podcast will cover anything from the most relevant of topics in animation to some of the most obscure. We’ll definitely be discussing Adventure Time at one point or another, so if you’re interested in listening to the garbage box I call my voice, subscribe to our channel here!

The moment we’ve all been waiting for folks: Finn finally meets his birth mother in Helpers. It’s a moment that’s much less devastating than when he met his father, but all the more confusing, nonetheless. It’s pretty sad that Finn is never allowed a “normal” meeting with his relatives, though it is really nice to see him so ecstatic when faced with the chance to meet her in general. Like the past six episodes, Helpers succeeds through its execution of world-building, character interactions, and intense lore. Being the penultimate episode of IslandsHelpers essentially ties up all of the loose ends and curious questions we’ve had throughout the miniseries (and the series in general) and helps to build things up for its grand conclusion.

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I’ve mentioned before that I only really get into Susan’s character when she’s able to work off of Finn (which, thankfully, is a majority of her appearances) and there’s a ton of great moments between them in the first few minutes. Even after just gaining her identity back after like, 16 years, Susan still devotes her time and energy into helping Finn fulfill his own quest and return him to his mother in the process. Granted, it’s a bit difficult for me to ignore that Susan is back to normal for the first time in over a decade and she barely even bats an eye about it, which is one of the very few potential  problems I have with Islands in general, but I still think it’s sweet regardless. Susan acts very sister-like to the little guy throughout the episode, and makes sure that he stays safe in what could be an otherwise dangerous place. I similarly love the pacing when Finn is briefly admiring his mother’s thoughts and her image. You can really get a sense for his own optimism in the realization that his mother might actually be a nice, caring person. Of course, this is mostly just speculation on Finn’s part, but it becomes much more rewarding when we discover that his instincts were precisely right.

We also finally get to explore Founder’s Island, which is a really neat location. I like how it’s clearly shown to be futuristic in the way humans dress and use technology, but for the most part, their actions are relatively down-to-earth and relatable in their humanity. There’s still bustling cities, street performers, and kids who skate and hang out together. While the other islands we visited previously got to show off their examples of dystopian futures, Founder’s Island is perfect location to reinforce that “everything stays, but it still changes” by taking us ahead 1,000 years into the future of humanity but still allowing the society to feel very human in the process. Also really dig the fun and geometric character designs of some of the humans. They look straight out of a Dr. Seuss book.

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Jake hasn’t really had a ton to do over the course of this miniseries, and I’m sure he even caught onto that himself, because he is loving the attention that he receives from the humans in this episode. He’s truly hilarious and enjoyable in his performance; it’s very similar to the role that he played in Wheels, though this time, I don’t have to worry about the implication of Jake being a bad dad getting in my way of enjoying it. I especially love how much the humans eat up Jake’s act even when he isn’t being funny… does the flea circus joke actually make sense? I always found humor in how particularly unfunny and pointless it is. I really love how Jake also plays the part of the AT fanatic that believes that Finn must be a hero because of the person the gave birth to him. And I know it isn’t really profane or inappropriate in any context, but I still found it humorously shocking how Jake was able to use the word “placenta.” It’s like that season five episode of Samurai Jack where Scaramouche says “penis,” something just doesn’t feel quite right.

On the off side of things, Finn finally convenes with Minvera, or in this case, one of Minerva’s cyborg companions. It’s really cool to see how much Finn has matured since he met Martin. While his main goal was to just blurt out his identity and to find answers in his previous parental convening, Finn is very careful and precise in cushioning the possible blow for Minerva’s own sake. I’m not saying that he was wrong in his behavior before, as Finn does deserve answers. But it’s clear that he’s more empathetic and understanding of how this type of news can be confusing and hard to process for others as well, and he does so by making it clear that he isn’t trying to put Minnie on the spot. These moments are as nice as they are funny – I adore Finn’s question of “do you need help!?” after realizing that his mother may be in shock. Things quickly go awry when Jake is discovered to be a “mutant,” to which feels like a pretty logical reason for the humans to panic over. They’re essentially conditioned to fear this species, and after overcoming an excessively dangerous virus, the humans likely fear another potential “end” to their own species.

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I also neglected to mention the very small C-plot involving Susan’s conflicted feelings on seeing Frieda again. It’s an arc that gets a lot more attention in the following episode, though it’s executed quite nicely here. I really like Susan’s sentiment of “my friend got hurt… I don’t know if I’m allowed back in her life.” It’s a very mature frame of mind that shows that even asking for an apology on its own may be invasive, because Susan was never given the proper permission or acceptance back into Frieda’s social circle. She’s betrayed her trust, and effectively chose to end their friendship in the process. Though, how in the fuck is Frieda still wearing the same exact clothes after 16 years? Does that chick ever change her wardrobe? On a side note, I super adore Susan and BMO bonding with each other. It’s a totally out-of-nowhere friendship that I really dig.

Returning to our main plot, the scene with the boys imprisoned is pretty tense. I’ve mentioned throughout the course of this miniseries that Jake has been nothing but supportive of Finn in fulfilling his own needs during this journey, but here, Jake is clearly reaching a breaking point. After an entire stressful expedition across the sea that has only led them into more questions than answers, Jake likely has had enough of putting his life and his brother’s on the line when it has only resulted in more issues for the both of them. That changes, however, in a body horror induced sequence where Finn and Jake’s bones are shut down and one of the Minerva bots discovers that Finn is her son. When the two finally convene (in screen format) it makes for the get together that Finn has presumably always wanted, although he isn’t reciprocating it as well as might one think. This, of course, comes from the fact that Minerva’s transformation from body to screen has left her essentially inhuman. There’s no clear evidence as to how much of Finn’s mother is truly in there, though that’s mostly left for the following episode to explore. What Finn wants in Helpers is answers, and that’s exactly what he gets through a bit of haunting exposition about the trials and tribulations surrounding Founder’s Island.

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Minerva’s brief account of everything that happened is, like I said, quite wistful. It brings us up to date on everything we needed to know about the whereabouts of Susan and Dr. Gross, the steps taken after Finn’s disappearance, and the state of the humans and Minerva in general. Sharon Horgan, Minerva’s voice actor, does a terrific job of narrating in a hushed, yet passionate tone, and it’s only made better by Tim Kiefer’s terrific score to accompany it. The sequence also shows just how dedicated of a person Minerva is; even after going through the depressive reality that her once loving husband left with their son, she still remains tirelessly vigilant in ensuring that her people remain in good health, even if that means altering her own self in the process. While we learn a lot from this backstory, it also raises some interesting questions as well. Like, what happened 300 years prior that was “catastrophic”? I was originally under the belief that it might be referencing the implication that Rainicorns used to eat humans, but according to Everything Stays, such a concept had existed years and years prior and may or may not have died out by this point in time. To my knowledge, I don’t think it was connected to any certain event or piece of lore that we’ve been educated on thus far.

This episode closes with the brief implication that Minerva wants Finn to stay permanently on Founder’s Island, as we transition into the final episode of the miniseries. As a whole, Helpers effectively gets us up to date on pretty much everything we wanted to learn about throughout this miniseries and more. The final episode, The Light Cloud, exists primarily for the resolution of several different character interactions, though Helpers is mostly a resolve on the lore front. There’s so much packed into these 8 episodes that they could easily have spread these moments throughout the course of the series, but after watching Adventure Time for so long, this super condensed bomb of information is exactly what I wanted/needed. By episode seven of Islands, I was already feeling the most satisfied I had ever been with AT in general.

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Favorite line: “I love you, but your mom’s a hundred robo-clones.”