“Ketchup” Review

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Original Airdate: July 18, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim

Here’s a lil’ bonus review for y’all! Happy Easter/Passover/Whatever you choose to celebrate… Day…!

Ketchup is a sweet treat. It’s not only cool to see Marceline and BMO interact, which almost NEVER happens, but also to welcome back Alex and Lindsay Small-Butera to the team, who previously worked on Beyond the Grotto. I mentioned in my review of Beyond the Grotto that it was visually stunning, but had a pretty lackluster story at the helm. Ketchup is quite the opposite, having a (mostly) solid recap story that is complemented by the guest animation nicely.

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Ketchup begins so brilliantly. As an episode that seeks to shed some light on the past two miniseries(s), it’s so clever that Stakes was also referenced as a result, in a way that feels totally in line with BMO’s character. I can imagine Finn and Jake bringing it up to each other and BMO, without even telling them, chooses to set out on his own vampire hunting adventure. The little guy even has stakes prepared! As I mentioned, it’s really sweet to see Marceline and BMO chatting with each other. After 250+ episodes of the series, it amazes me that the only thing Marceline has ever said to BMO is, “Come here, baby,” in What Was Missing. It’s crazy that there’s still an opportunity for new character interactions, but hey, I’m all for it! Marceline herself is a lot of fun in this one – she’s been limited to a lot of dramatic entries in the past, and while Ketchup is one to an extent, it’s still cute to see her so energetic and playful in BMO’s presence. Lovin’ those ponytails, too!

Things really pick up when the episode gets into the actual “ketching up” part, as BMO describes his Islands trip to Marceline, which has to be my favorite part of the episode. I love how even with plenty of stories under his belt, namely the fact that he was a literal god within a virtual world, BMO still chooses to tell a story completely nonsensical and untrue (though emotionally true, as he later reassures). The animation within this sequence is particularly a spectacle. Not only are the colors beautiful, but the vibrancy of the animation in general is so refreshing. There’s a lot of nice slapstick as well, like Finn’s constant falling over and knocking into his surroundings, or the brief squash-and-stretch as Jake lands onto the island. The flying animation is hilariously beautiful as well; there’s something surprisingly humorous for me about the simplistic design of the cat and how superbly it’s animated. The song itself is lots of fun, which was actually written by Pat McHale and his younger son. There’s actually a demo somewhere out there with McHale’s son singing the song himself, it’s adorable! It also helps add to BMO’s childike wonder that a child themselves worked on a song for his character. The J.G. Quintel blue jay is as close to a crossover as I’d ever want Adventure Time to go, too. It’s a silly reference on its own, and I’m glad it doesn’t go too over-the-top or reference heavy towards Regular Show in general.

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Marceline’s story doesn’t quite live up to BMO’s visual or humor wise, but I love the effort she put in to making it fun and engaging for BMO. In general, I don’t think this is a story I really needed to hear. It’s supposed to be giving us information about the events leading up to Elements… but nothing that I found particularly interesting or surprising. We learn that Marceline did all that she could to try to save PB during the elemental shift, but again, I feel as though that’s just kind of common sense given the situation. And I certainly wasn’t especially stoked that the ONE Marceline-centric episode of the season finds a way to shoehorn her relationship with PB in. I’ll reiterate that I don’t hate their relationship at all, but I find it tiring that it feels like her character can’t just exist on her own without some sort of Bubblegum reference.

That bitching aside, I do like the execution of the story, mostly on a visual level. I think the designs of lollipop and rockstar girl are really cute and lovable, and it’s so nice to have a return of Patience St. Pim’s character once more, of whom I never expected to see again! She gets a handful of funny moments, namely the fact that a migraine was what nearly led her into undoing all that she worked to accomplish (I do wonder why Patience wasn’t affected by the elementa- er, potato curse during the story sequence. Wouldn’t she have been affected the same time that PB was?). The backgrounds are similarly gorgeous. I love the soft, matching color schemes that inhabit Weekend City. It almost reminds me of the beautiful UPA-like backgrounds in The Powerpuff Girls – another one of my favorite shows. The emotional ending of the story didn’t really get me, but Marceline’s follow-up about her own lack of honesty when it comes to her emotions was actually pretty effective. Marceline’s been through a lot in the past year, including losing and gaining back her vampirism, meeting back up and having to leave her former father figure, and nearly bidding farewell to the one that she loves, only for everything to end up back to normal. She’s gone through so many whiplash-like transitions that she probably never even gets a chance to think about how she feels or how she should feel.

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It isn’t until her flashdrive finally loads through BMO’s projector that she discovers a distant memory that channels into her emotions – the image of her mother. Despite all of the numbing Marceline has had to force on herself in order to get by, such a memory is a reminder of sweet and simpler times, and a time where she was arguably more emotionally honest with herself and others. Marceline’s always had to hide her emotions for one reason or another, but such a memory is a great reminder of a person who was always there for her, through both darker and lighter times. The tale that BMO weaves is sweet and artistically pleasing. Despite the Small-Buteras animating each story segment of the episode, I love how they do bring a different flair to each portion, as the Moon Lady segment artistically looks straight out of a storybook itself. It’s a really neat and sad moment that appropriately utilizes Marcy’s mom to her best potential. I never really wanted a full explanation of why Mrs. Abadeer left or where she went to begin with, so I feel that a story that somewhat captures the essence of her past is enough to make for a satisfying emotional conclusion for her character, and a partial resolution for Marceline’s character as well.

Ketchup has its problems; for an episode about Marceline’s experiences during an sixteen episode gap, I don’t think it was as compelling as it could’ve been. But it’s an episode that’s irresistibly sweet, and one that’s visually stunning as well. Shout out to the Small-Buteras for being the only animators (aside from Science SARU with the alternate intros) to be guest talents on AT twice! I liked Beyond the Grotto fine, but Ketchup is clearly superior. It’s much more fun and coherent within its individual storylines, with a big heart to boot. I never knew I wanted an episode focusing on Marceline and BMO’s relationship, but I’m damn glad we got one regardless.

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Favorite line: “Then we floated with the boats. Not in the boats, but with the boats.”

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