Archive | August 2019

“The First Investigation” Review

TFI 1.png

Original Airdate: December 17, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Hanna K. Nyström & Aleks Sennwald

I’ve seen a few people bat around their picks for the best Adventure Time episode of Season Nine. The Wild Hunt gets tossed around a bunch, Come Along With Me is the best, and only truly great entry, for many. I also have seen The First Investigation being held in great light, with some people regarding it as one of the best AT episodes out there. In assessing this praise, I sort of sat back, scratched my head, and thought to myself, “Really? This episode?” I know there’s probably a lot of cynicism radiated off of that comment, but I don’t really intend for it to be entirely negative. The First Investigation, though not mind blowing or my exact definition of peak AT, is a delightfully fun entry that plays around with the concept of time-skipping quite cleverly. It also has the perk of being one of the only season nine episodes to focus almost entirely on the relationship between Finn and Jake, and even better, their relationship with their parents.

TFI 3.png

Speaking of parental relations, Kim Kil Whan returns for one last featured appearance. I was vocal about my dislike of his character in Ocarina, but these past two spotlight episodes for him have helped him to become instantly more likable. Of course, he doesn’t really do anything particularly noteworthy here – but his general trusting of Jake for such a big task, even after everything that happened with his daughter in the previous episode, is pretty sweet. I especially like his awkward, small “bye, dad,” before teleporting out. That’s probably KKW’s strongest foot forward into emotional sincerity. Like I mentioned prior, part of what’s so great about Finn and Jake’s role in this episode is the irresistible sweetness of their characters. Even more important than the goal of the mission is their desire to tell the possible ghosts of their parents that they love them dearly. The show has left Joshua and Margaret’s deaths pretty deep into the shadows, as I think they should, but the context of this seems to paint that their deaths were sudden and/or unexpected. That, or Finn and Jake simply wanted to use the opportunity for a bit of added closure. Either way, it’s incredibly heartwarming.

I have to say, The First Investigation teases me a bit too much. My idea of a pitch perfect ending for the boys was that they would move into Joshua and Margaret’s old office and start up a business investigating crimes and focusing on a bit of a more routine lifestyle than the sporadic nature of adventuring. Finn asking Jake, “how come we don’t live here?” got me a little too excited for what’s to come, so I was sadly disappointed at the idea of this just being a bit of passing conversation material instead of legitimate foreshadowing. However, the conversations that Jake and Finn do hold are really likable and feel genuine. I love the idea that Finn is almost pissed at his past self for putting Joshua and Margaret in the role of caretakers. He’s still too young to understand the pleasures of parenthood, which is why Jake humorously reminds him, “yeah, but they knew what they were getting into.”

TFI 4.png

The First Investigation takes advantage of its time skipping premise really well – this is the kind of episode you likely have to watch multiple times before discovering all of the various different time gags that were included. The middle section alone is just a non-stop fun, frenzied journey through various different interlaced sections of time that all come together in a satisfyingly cohesive and clever way, like Finn traumatizing Jake with a wet willy, baby Finn seeing a “ghost,” and my favorite – Jake scaring the daylights out of Kim Kil Whan’s employee. Like I said, everything is so tightly packed and interconnected that it’s almost ingenious. It also leads to the (highly anticipated?) moment where Jake discovers the truth behind his unusual birth. I do like Jake’s absolute denial and dismay of the circumstances of his birth, though honestly, this setup up just brings back the bad taste of Jake the Starchild in my mouth once more. It’s certainly not The First Investigation‘s fault, but a byproduct of Starchild‘s failure nonetheless.

This episode also interestingly brings back Clock Bear from Preboot, to which I can theorize was a way of keeping Dr. Gross’s name still in the series. I strongly believe that, had the show kept going, Gross’s return would have indubitably occurred. Clock Bear’s an interesting prop character, because his debut appearance in Hoots certainly shows that he exists to foreshadow something, but I’m still not really sure what that is. Regardless, it is cool to see this plot point brought up again, if it’s not the slightest bit contrived. Clock Bear’s ability to control time seems way beyond what Dr. Gross was capable of, as she was more savvy from technological perspective than actually being able to bend reality. But, what do I know? The show never initially went too in depth with her character, so I don’t have much of an issue buying into it. It also, of course, makes the episode way more enjoyable and intriguing with this element included, with the icing on the cake being Finn communicating that he loves his parents through the ticker-tape. That was just adorable.

TFI 5.png

The episode comes to a close with the aforementioned convergence of Jake and his alien father, as they take off for a trip into space together. It’s a conclusion that left for much anticipation involving how this would affect the ultimate climax of the series… sadly, it didn’t. But we’ll get to that shortly! I have surprisingly little to say about The First Investigation besides the notion that, well, I like it! It’s an enjoyable romp through time that is nicely woven together with simpler moment. It never fully explores the nature of time to the point where it can be taken as analytical, but it has a ton of fun with the concept regardless. There’s also some nice visual moments and gags as well, namely the broken mirror with the sticky note that says, “you look great!” and Jake’s panicked octopus form. I’m discovering more and more that I don’t really like the way Hanna K. draws Jake; I’m a sucker for the pointed out ears, but the gigantic eyes that she gives him are somewhat unappealing to me. Interested in how others feel about this personalized design. As I also mentioned, it’s just nice to have an episode primarily around Finn and Jake’s connection to each other and their past lives. It’s rare that season nine ever gets this intimate with the boys, so this was a nice surprise and a delightful treat.

Favorite line: “Okay, Finn, what ticks? Metronomes, bombs, pencils…”

“Marcy & Hunson” Review

M & H 1.png

Original Airdate: December 17, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Graham Falk & Adam Muto

Alrighty guys, let me take a quick moment to break down all of the Hunson Abadeer centric episodes for you consideration:

  • It Came From the Nightosphere – Hunson Abadeer’s introduction. Marceline resents him for being a shitty guy, but comes to terms with him by the end of it when he shows that he does care.
  • Daddy’s Little Monster – Hunson controls Marceline to be more in his image, but Marceline breaks free and continues to resent him. She comes to terms with him by the end of it, however, when he shows that he does care.
  • Marcy & Hunson – Hunson returns to Ooo to visit a less-than-excited Marceline, who still resents him. However, she comes to terms with him by the end of it when he shows that he does care.

… Does… does any of this sound familiar? I get the whole point of Hunson’s character is essentially that he is a shitty person who’s trying to maintain a relationship with his morally conscious daughter, but I’m kind of just amazed at the fact that, on his third episode, after years and years of being absent, nothing new was done with his character. And this isn’t a knock at the past entries that focused on Hunson’s neglect – It Came From the Nightosphere is a largely groundbreaking entry that introduced a lot of the modern day storytelling that made Adventure Time such a success and Daddy’s Little Monster was a successful follow-up to Hunson’s battle between being intrinsically evil and just a half-decent dad. Marcy & Hunson is a reiteration of both of these stories without adding anything new, and in fact, removing a lot of what made Hunson unique in the first place.

M & H 2.png

I do like the opening of this episode, primarily due to Peppermint Butler’s sweet inclusion. Though I find it somewhat odd – I guess I always pictured Peppermint Butler and Hunson as tight friends, but it’s treated as if PepBut more or less is just an acquaintance somehow. I’m not really sure I get a strong understanding of their connection either way. I always enjoy how fully committed and controlled Peppermint Butler is in terms of his experimenting with the dark arts. His fascination and involvement with anything less kosher almost never impedes on his ultimate good-natured self and loyalty. I’m not even lying when I say that the show has really built him up to be one of the most complex they’ve ever churned out. I know he’s primarily a side character, but I really love how arguably one of the darkest characters in the series is also one of the most genuine and caring towards our main cast. In this opening scene, we’re also introduced to Finn’s newest sword, the Nightmare Sword, which never really gets a chance to shine as the series draws closer to an ending. We also get to see Finn so shocked with Hunson Abadeer’s return, that he regenerates his right arm for a quick second! I guess being shocking and growing back an arm is potentially better than being horny and growing back an arm.

Following Gumbald’s big reveal back in Seventeen, this episode features a major role for Chicle. Chicle is probably the least “important” of the Bubblegum family, but he is probably the most entertaining, sporting some decent one-liners here and there. Though, I ultimately don’t really think his presence is particularly necessary in this episode. The events that go down probably could have still occurred even without his inclusion. And even then, he kind of just stirs the pot instead of actually seeming like a threat. Sure, he encourages the ghosts to go after Marceline and Hunson, but were they actually going to straight up kill them? Doubtful. Then he throws a peanut at Peppermint Butler, which has way more of an effect on Pepbut than it logically should. Overall though, Chicle’s goofiness tops the overly hammy repertoire of Gumbald and the perplexing nature of Aunt Lolly.

M & H 3.png

I think it says something about the quality of Marcy & Hunson when Hunson is kind of the worst part of it. I’d even argue that his character is relatively butchered in this entry. What made Hunson so great in It Came From the Nightosphere and, to a lesser extent, Daddy’s Little Monster is that he was genuinely intimidating. He was animated humorously and had his campier moments, but he could and would snap in an instance into a cold-blooded demon. Here, he’s just a big fuckin’ goofball that likes to get up in Marceline’s business and blatantly disregards her own well-being. The whole bit where he decides he’s going to sleep in Marceline’s bed and that she can take the air mattress is a total Martin move. This entire episode feels like Graham Falk and Adam Muto want to be writing for Martin, but are writing for Hunson instead. In his first three featured episodes, and even in the Adventure Time Encyclopaedia, you get the idea that Hunson is this really dignified and classy dude, and that there’s a reason he’s head honcho in the Nightosphere. Marcy & Hunson throws all of that out the window and just chooses the easier option of making him as pathetic as possible.

But hey, if you didn’t come for the connection between Hunson and Marceline, that’s okay, because there’s a shit-ton of Bubbline moments to hold you over!!! Marceline wearing Bubblegum’s sweater from Stakes?? Finn not knowing how to answer Hunson’s question about whether Marceline is in a relationship?? Marceline singing a song called Slow Dance With You with Hyden Walch providing the background vocals?? OH MAN, THIS IS WHAT WE CAME FOR, FOLKS!

M & H 4.png

In actuality, these moments are fine and I don’t want to sound pessimistic about a relationship that clearly means a lot to a mass of people who watch Adventure Time. BUT, it really does bum me out how Bubbline has practically become the only draw for Marceline’s character at this point. From Stakes onward, there isn’t a single episode focusing on Marceline that doesn’t somehow shoehorn in her relationship with Bubblegum for the sake of fanservice. And I’m not saying that these moments are necessarily poorly done, but Marcy just feels so hollow and reliant on other characters that I feel like I barely know who she is anymore. She used to be this really cool, fun character, but now she feels like a puppet being used solely for the purpose of giving fans what they want. Which is fine, but not when those moments completely overshadow everything else in the episode. I mean, does anyone actually talk about the connection between Marceline and her father in Marcy & Hunson? No! The only time I ever hear people discussing this episode is regarding Slow Dance With You which, I’m gonna be honest, is not very good. Of course, this all comes down to personal taste, but I think people are way more into the implication and meaning behind the tune than they are the actual rhythm and performance.

Probably gonna get a lot of flack for that rant, and if I’m being honest, the attention these Bubbline moments received is likely just because there’s very little of substance in Marcy & Hunson to begin with. Going back to my original point, this episode concludes with the same way literally every Hunson episode has – that Hunson is a shitty dude, but he cares about his daughter. I know the staff had probably no clue that the show was going to be canned before this episode, but you would think after so many years, with so much time having passed that they would consider taking a different direction with this character that probably would never appear again anyway.

M & H 5.png

Is there anything good about Marcy & Hunson? A few moments come to mind, mainly when it comes to humor. The flashback sequence featuring Hunson’s introduction to Marceline got a big laugh out of me, and both Jake and Chicle have their fair share of funny lines. The return of the Spirit Waves stage from Ghost Princess is a welcomed treat, and I dig the spooky atmosphere overall. But, Marcy & Hunson is mostly a flop. It’s sad, because I think the pieces are all there that would make for a great episode. Hunson wanting to be a good father, but struggling with his intrinsic desire to unleash evil, is something that the series never tackled head on, and could make for both a funny a intriguing entry. However, we’re left with a relatively lazy alternative that doesn’t offer anything new or interesting in one of AT‘s longest running story arcs.

Favorite line: “I have a nice laugh.”

“Ring of Fire” Review

ROF 1.png

Original Airdate: December 17, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Steve Wolfhard & Tom Herpich

Though it’s been nearly a year since Adventure Time has ended, I still feel like there’s a ton of divisiveness around the nature of the show’s climax to where I’m not really sure what the truth is. A lot of people have batted around the idea that the execs at Cartoon Network Studios had given the AT staff 16 episodes to wrap the series up, while others have mentioned that, after the completion of Gumbaldia, the crew was given four final episodes to tie up all loose ends. Then of course, there’s the crowd that still believes that Adventure Time wasn’t cancelled and simply “ended on its own terms,” which is simply not true. I get that it’s wishful thinking, but Adam Muto has outright said that he and the staff would have continued working on the series, had Cartoon Network decided to keep it going.¹ Regardless, it is interesting to ponder just how much was planned ahead to definitively wrap things up. A good chunk of this final batch of episodes feels as if they were created without an end in mind, though the one that surprising wraps up an individual character arc the best is Ring of Fire. I’ve seen a handful of mixed opinions towards this one, but I can honestly say it’s the first entry since The Wild Hunt that I’ve pretty much liked all the way through. Adventure Time has largely served as a metaphor for growing up – mostly in allusion to its main character, though other characters have similarly dealt with the grievance of aging, such as Jake, Marceline, and even the world renowned Nurse Betsy Poundcake. In the span of 11 minutes, the life of an entire character is visited, and it really brings up some introspective ideas about relationships, individuality, and what’s most important in life.

ROF 2

We were bound to get an episode dedicated to Tree Trunks’ relationships with her past lovers ever since they were introduced in Apple WeddingRing of Fire gives a little bit of a taste into each one of them, and essentially uses them as a way to show gradually how Tree Trunks became the person that she is. I’ll never know what it’s like to be ol’ geezer until I actually do, but the general story of Tree Trunks’ life (save for Adventure Time‘s addition of typical absurdity) essentially embodies every story from any female baby boomer I’ve been acquainted with. The freedom of youth, the need for something greater, and the ultimate compliance of settling down. Tree Trunks has clearly lived a very full existence, as demonstrated throughout the episode, and the poignancy of her walk through life is really set by her opening conversation with Sweet P. TT tearing up thinking about her past and present is bittersweet – it’s likely that these emotions come from her feelings of fulfillment in her role as a mother and a wife, but also probably connect to the sadness of her most carefree days being long behind her. It’s both a wonderful feeling and kind of a downer that everything you’ve worked for has finally been accomplished, but there isn’t much room for discovery anymore. Regardless, it’s clear that Tree Trunks’ maturity spans beyond just her past and throughout the series as well. Just a few seasons ago, this same vivacious elephant nearly called off her marriage after only months of being together, and here, we’re treated to a much more grounded Tree Trunks that is even hesitant to get together with her past boyfriend in the sense of jeopardizing what she has currently. That’s where the sweetness comes in of Tree Trunks’ previous emotional moment – that she truly does love and cherish everything that is in her life currently, and is far beyond the idea of jumping ships to whatever else is exciting. I should also bring up the existence of the “Tiny Mammal Kingdom,” which might just be the cutest concept for a kingdom that AT has ever come up with.

Her relationship with her first significant other, Randy (on a side note, GOD are there way too many “Randy”s in Adventure Time. I can’t think of a single more common name in this series than that), is a typical first love scenario. As an 18-year-old, Tree Trunks doesn’t want to tie herself down to anyone, but similarly only knows and is comfortable with the idea of her S.O.. In a much similar sense, Randy is waaay into the idea that his first love is his only love and that, once more, it’s all he really knows. The marriage between the two is hilariously short-lived, as Tree Trunks decides on the wedding day itself that she simply isn’t ready to settle. It’s essentially young love boiled down to its bare essentials; Randy, at 18, already believes that he knows just what he wants for the rest of his life, but Tree Trunks couldn’t even commit to getting past the Honey Moon. It’s primarily a time of discovery and self-actualization, and it very much depicts two people who have entirely different ideas about what they want for their future, which is usually how first serious relationships go. I’m also not sure if it’s incredibly lazy or comical, but in her teen years, Tree Trunks had the same exact old, Polly Lou Livingston voice. It really makes me wonder if she’s actually waaay younger than she appears to be. Reverse PB Syndrome, that is.

ROF 3

Before it aired, Steve Wolfhard had mentioned on his Twitter that Ring of Fire was “the most sex-mad thing [he] ever boarded for AT.” I think that’s what got people most intrigued by it, but only Tree Trunks’ relationship with Danny ever borders on the line of being overly provocative. Danny is essentially a vessel for Tree Trunks to live out the vivacious section of her life that craves hormonal enticement. Danny’s alluring in a physical sense, but Tree Trunks never acknowledges her need for full intimacy and is attracted to Danny only because he represents the wild/crazy lifestyle that she’s looking for. But, the party life begins to lose its appeal after time, and the need for security becomes more prominent. Tree Trunks was never able to achieve full intimacy with Danny, simply because her needs changed beyond what she thought she ever would desire, and that Danny’s personality proved to be truly ugly on the inside.

I do have to say, the Danny section is probably the most problematic of the episode for myself, and others alike. I don’t really feel like the sauciness promised ever pushes in the direction of being either as hilarious or interesting as it was hyped up to be. Ring of Fire has its scandalous moments, but nothing that tops AT‘s other most sexually driven episodes, such as All the Little PeopleFrost & Fire, or Breezy. The more extreme stuff that we do get to see is just kind of uncomfortable – I could have gone without Tree Trunks harassing her shipmates into bending over for her. Adventure Time has this weird consistency with including harassment towards its male cast that always kind of just feels unlikable or unnecessary (Barb in Web Weirdos, Lumpy Space Princess in Breezy). This section also garnered criticism for including the pirates that were seen helping Martin in the promo art for Min & Marty. I think a lot of people were expecting Martin to show up because of this, but I don’t know if I can really blame the episode for it. I’m assuming Ring of Fire was in production by the time that Min & Marty actually aired, and I’m also assuming that the promo art is not done that far in advance. When making it, Sam Alden may have just included these pirates based on the concept art from Ring of Fire, as a bit of an Easter egg for later on.

ROF 4

This section of the episode also kind of rewrites Tree Trunks’ backstory in a way. Her debut episode Tree Trunks features her inability to grasp the lifestyle of being an adventurer, but it seems like she knows a hell of a lot from her past experiences. She blew up a friggin’ boat! Of course, I can’t really blame an episode produced seven years prior for that, especially since Tree Trunks was supposed to be dead by the end of it. So I have to turn some of the fault on Ring of Fire as a result. There’s also this weird technical moment when Danny first arrives – his color coding changes twice as if it were sunset, but once Tree Trunks convenes with him, the coding returns to daylight. I’m not sure if this was done for aesthetic purposes, but it’s just kind of distracting for me.

That long tangent aside, the next segment features Tree Trunks’ most frequently mentioned past husband: Wyatt. Wyatt is a pretty pathetic loser, and his star episode Apple Wedding really didn’t hold back with showing that. Still, it’s kind of clear as to why Tree Trunks fell for him, in the sense that he fills that exact sense of security for her that she had decided that she wanted. The love from Wyatt was essentially a given – he’s a really desperate dude and Tree Trunks would probably never have to worry about him deceiving or backstabbing her. Still, while that promise of forever-love is tempting, it comes with its problems when you’re dealt a man like Wyatt. He’s completely dependent on that love for any kind of self-fulfillment, and keeps wanting more and more until he completely drains Tree Trunks of having any individuality herself. He just can’t resist the sweet taste of her delicious pies. Yanno, I use this blog as a writing sample when I apply to jobs. I’m really wondering if my dissection of a children’s cartoon that features an overly-horny elephant is benefiting or hurting my potential future. Food for thought.

ROF 5

Anywho, that leads us to the climax of Tree Trunks’ martial life with Mr. Pig. Mr. Pig is likely Tree Trunks’ least defined husband. He really doesn’t have much of a personality, and is practically described by his monotonous nature. Regardless, he does represent a little bit of everything Tree Trunks has sought out in the past, at the expense of being slightly underwhelming. With those shortcomings in mind, the culmination of this episode really adds up to Tree Trunks’ acceptance of stagnancy in her own life by finding a comfortable, while not always exciting, alternative.

Ring of Fire presents some narrative issues in its middle section, but I overall really appreciate this one. The message by the end of it is quite obvious: that the simplicities of life can often be the greatest adventure of all. But I do enjoy how it shows that it can take even a lifetime to discover that as well. Often life can seem like a constant battle for significance and deeper meaning, but sometimes the best answers to fulfillment are those simpler elements. Granted, I don’t doubt that Tree Trunks enjoyed her life in her wild and crazy days, and I don’t think this mindset should discourage anyone from living a vigorous lifestyle, but every adventure does come to an end, and ultimately settling into a comfortable position can be a reward on its own. Mr. Pig is the answer to Tree Trunks’ long, confusing life of promiscuity, giving her not what she’s always wanted, but what she’s always needed.

¹ Can’t find the exact quote from Muto where he discusses this process, though he alludes to it here.

ROF 6

Favorite line: “Hey-hey! Somebody kiss me now!” Oh K.O.O., you delightful dog, you.