Archive | October 2019

“Come Along With Me” (Part 2) Review

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Original Airdate: September 3, 2018

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim

The dream realm has always been a big part of Adventure Time, and it only makes sense that the grand finale would also pay tribute to the show’s most notorious fetish. Part 2, boarded by Somvilay Xayaphone and Seo Kim, is possibly the most visually interesting of its sister pieces. Aside from a stellar array of Ghostshrimp backgrounds, this section of the episode also cleverly plays around with its imagery to stress the similarities between Gumbald and PB and also Finn and Fern. This is definitely the kind of trippiness I did want to see from the finale, and on some aspects, it does succeed. In its execution, however, I think it drives a problematic cause into the main story of this conclusion.

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I don’t know if the beginning of this section is subject to criticism or just legitimate questions, but how did Finn know what would happen after igniting the nightmare juice? There’s no way Nightmare Princess was of any help describing it, and it doesn’t look as if there was a description of any sorts. For all Finn knew, it could have nuked the fucking planet. I guess it played into the surprise element of not knowing what was coming next, buuut, a little bit of context would’ve made this feel a little less like a deus ex machina.

Though not primarily associated with dream themes, it is fitting that Somvilay’s last co-board revolves around the unconscious realm, seeing as how he had such a large part in Adventure Time‘s first full-length nightmare, King Worm. There are some fun, trippy bits right off the bat, like the singing poodle that helps to take weight off of the situation at hand or the chimney containing a presumably dead Jake, with a sign that reads, “laff it off!” There’s also quite a few awkwardly executed moments that don’t really work either. The exploding poodle that blinds everyone except Gumbald isn’t presented in a visual way that it actually feels blinding. The color and light stays stagnant and contained at the center of the screen, and it doesn’t convincing feel like it’s as bright as the characters react. I know this seems like a really small, insignificant aspect to harp on, but it is yet another example of the lack of direction that seems to be a staple of Somvilay’s boarding. Similar to the lifeless way Finn’s friends bang on a force field containing him in Seventeen, the gang covers their eyes for the purpose of Gumbald running away, and as he’s about to escape, they all cease covering their eyes, only to blankly stare at him while he delivers a speech about how he’s going to get the upper hand. I’m certainly being overly critical towards a moment like this, but in the finale of the series, and the final board of one of Adventure Time‘s longest-running storyboard artists, I’d also expect more.

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Fern being ditched by Uncle G. is definitely his own way of experiencing first hand how Finn felt when being ditched by his own maker, though I don’t really think it’s played off as the emotional moment it truly could’ve been. Fern’s pretty much lost everything by this point, and you think instead of comically transforming into a pterodactyl (which was admittedly awesome, thematic aspects aside), it would be built into some genuine turmoil. Though, the sweet grass boy does get a handful of nice one-liners here and there, such as, “I’m gonna fly around and wreck things until I feel better! Or at least until I tire myself out.” He really is just the emo equivalent of his counterpart, because that could also come straight out of Finn’s mouth as well.

Jake’s role in the episode is both funny, and somewhat frustrating. It’s frustrating because he exhibits Jake the Dog levels of neglect for his brother. Jake spends a large portion of the first half of the episode dicking around while his bro is in peril. What happened to the Jake a mere episode earlier that curb-stomped the fuck out of Fern for messing with his bro? It is made up for in that Jake helps deliver the solution to Finn’s problems, but the overly cheerful dog with Jermaine at the beginning of the episode goes a bit too far in demonstrating his clueless bliss. It is also justified partially from a humor perspective, I do really get a laugh out of Jake’s concern about getting fired from his imaginary job as Finn asks for help. Seeing as how PB and Gumbald later end up being altered by the dream realm, I suppose it could be argued that it had an effect on Jake’s psyche as well.

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In fact, we actually do get the most “deep” look into Jake’s inner fears with his nightmare-fueled children. The scenes with the pups denouncing Jake’s farts are mostly played for laughs, but I think there is something of substance under the gag itself. Jake values the respect of his children more than anything, and has many underlying anxieties about his role as a father. It’s silly, but also understandable why this triggers such a sensitive part of him. Along with the fact that his children are literally being cooked before him. Best visual gag of the episode officially goes to baby Kim Kil Whan in a hot dog bun. I should note that Jermaine does take on a secondary role in this section, though it’s pretty unremarkable. Not that it’s really even supposed to be the real Jermaine anyway, but a mere reflection of Jake’s subconscious. His presence did serve for one sweet moment – the revelation that balloon animals used to cheer Finn up when he was a child. It’s a small moment, but really adorable to dwell on, especially with Jake’s added look of nostalgia following the exchange.

Perhaps the most well-executed part of the episode is the most surprising: I thought the scenes featuring the swap between Gumbald and Bubblegum’s roles were really well done. I don’t necessarily think that these few minutes alone reconcile for an onslaught of really boring and unremarkable Gumbald moments, but they certainly provide for something to chew on in terms of his ultimate motivations. Bonnibel Bubblegum painted him to be this super uninteresting schemer whose main drive was greed above all, but Come Along With Me takes the previous episode’s intentions further and continues to drive home the underlying similarities between Gumbald and his niece. Although his initial motivation of building apartment buildings in the aftermath of a literal apocalypse was inconceivably stupid, it really is just one part of his vision, of which PB ultimately didn’t have right off the bat either. Gumbald wanted to create his own slice of home where he, and those around him, could live prosperously, which is exactly what Princess Bubblegum sought out for. His motivations to get what he wanted, while questionable, were in desperation to preserve his art and what he saw for the future. PB is no stranger to this practice either – she nearly destroyed an entire kingdom in The Cooler because of her own paranoia. PB also had the chance to properly contain Gumbald even after he was transformed into Punchy, but she chose for him to stay that way because, again, she didn’t want him to stand in the way of her vision. As the vision in the nightmare shows, Gumbald as “princess” could have resulted in an almost identical outcome to Bubblegum’s path, dealing with an ingenuous, yet morally corrupt ruler who is essentially the god amongst his people. Though, like PB once experienced, Gumbald’s role may have not been able to last forever, and it was a time when she surely needed others to depend on. But her O.G. family couldn’t truly support her in their current states, as demonstrated by the tiny Candy Person representation of PB, who can only smile and act goofy even with the pain occurring beneath her. It’s a delightfully fucked up sequence that really shows the equal amount of shittiness on PB’s part, even far beyond her metamorphosis.

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Finn and Fern end up going through a similar understanding of their shared torment, though I think it is a bit on the obvious side. The idea of the boys’ having shared traumas comes as a surprise to Fern, buuuut Fern’s whole deal is that he’s partly Finn. Should this really come as such a revelation to him? That the two have shared experiences that they can both relate to? I feel as if there should have been a bit more of an emotional confrontation. As self-destructive as he is, Fern does have legitimate reasons for going so far off of the deep end. His whole life was turned upside down and everyone that he has ever loved doesn’t really want to associate with him. I would have liked if his turmoil resulted in more of an eruption of pain which would lead to his eventual epiphany, but the resolution between him and Finn feels all too quick. There’s also the conclusion to the curse that lives within Fern, as he and Finn confront it head-on, which is just alright for me. I like the idea that Fern choosing to confront his issues is ultimately what set him free, but if nothing in the Nightmare Realm is actually real, I’m not sure how Finn and Fern were able to affect a real-life situation as a result. I also think Fern was written too well throughout season eight for his own good. Like I said, Fern has legitimate reasons to be ridden with anxiety and turmoil, and I feel as the idea that all of his sorrows being connected to some cursed squid demon is a lot less interesting than the turmoil itself. Though, it does provide for a relatively neat concept that Fern isn’t physically able to exist without issues – the part of himself that he eliminated in order to make him feel more human is ultimately what made his humanity fall to shreds. I’m probably putting too much thought into it, but it is a neat idea. The shared traumas between Finn and Fern are all pretty apparent – the death of their hero at the hands of the Lich, the guilt that comes with hurting friends such as Susan, and the sensitivity of abandonment and fear of being connected to one’s roots as seen with Martin. Though, I feel like it’s up for debate what PB’s role in the vault holds. I get the feeling that Finn is somewhat haunted by his feeling for Bubblegum, never being able to fully move past them and fearing that he may be controlled by his love for her forever, which results in him pushing his feelings way down where they can’t affect him. At least, from a surface level.

The conclusion to this segment of the episode is kind of where my main issues lie. While PB gains her own empathy for Gumbald, he apparently did not, as he was planning on juicing her, demonstrated by Aunt Lolly’s sabotage. I have problems with almost every aspect of this bit. The bigger, more encompassing reason is that I feel like you could deem a good chunk of the first 22 minutes of the finale, and Finn’s plan for peace, relatively pointless. Aside from Fern’s personal growth, nothing that occurred within the dream sequence between PB and Gumbald actually had an effect on anything. The conflict was ultimately resolved by Aunt Lolly, who had no idea what actually went on within their shared nightmare and doesn’t have a strong enough character arc for it to even make sense on her own. She appears to be convincingly against Gumbald’s plans in the previous episode, then we’re taken down a complete 180 as it shows that it was all an elaborate ruse all along. Now… she’s apparently good again? I don’t even understand what we’re supposed to gather from her character – why does she WANT to side with Princess Bubblegum? One might just argue that it boils down to the simplicity of morality, but the staff didn’t even take those simple steps to make her seem like a fully fleshed out character, or even relatively fleshed out at that. You could also argue that, while Gumbald didn’t learn anything in the nightmare world, PB did gain a higher sense of empathy, but does she really? The finale ends with both Gumbald and Chicle trapped inside empty-headed Candy People where they don’t really get any form of free will, and Chicle didn’t even get a second chance at that. Not saying Gumbald should just be free to roam around the Candy Kingdom, because he’s clearly dangerous, but he should be given SOME kind of freedom regardless. I can’t believe the nightmare sequences would highlight how fucked up it was for a somewhat conscious person to be trapped in the goofiness of a candy body, and then just leave them that way by the end of it. Empathy doesn’t really work if you only empathize with someone when do they exactly what you want them to do. The framing of Aunt Lolly tripping Gumbald doesn’t make a lick of sense either. Chances are he might have already had the juice on him when he actually walked down to confront PB, as there wasn’t a single moment after that he would have time to retrieve it. When he trips onto it, he’s not even holding the bottle, it’s just tucked within his robe. The episode plays it off like he was going to juice PB, but the way it’s executed makes it feel like it was just a freak accident. The Gumbald arc started in a way that I felt was relatively mediocre, and it ends in such a way where I feel like I’ve gained almost nothing at all.

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So, Part 2 had its moments on both a visual and story level, but I think it may ultimately be the finale’s biggest flop in terms of story execution. The way Gumbald’s arc was resolved was truly poor, showing hints of interest in the actual dream sequence, but squandering them in the grand conclusion of it all. I feel like Finn was treated as the savior of the situation by the end of it, but ultimately his plans for peace failed (almost) entirely without the episode actually acknowledging this factor. Fern had some decent moments, and I do like that saving him also resulted in sacrificing him later on, but I think his resolution itself was somewhat boring. Add this with some wonky visuals, confusing character moments, instances of stilted animation, and you have yourself a pretty lackluster second act. That being said, I do want to congratulate Seo Kim and Somvilay Xayaphone for managing to be the second longest running team in the show’s history. A lot of their episodes together are far from my favorites, but they always did seem like they had a genuine chemistry going on as collaborators. Hopefully Summer Camp Island is treating you both well.

Favorite line: “Why don’t you just fight me like a real butterfly!?”

“Come Along With Me” (Part 1) Review

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Not a single rip or tear. *sniff*

Original Airdate: September 3, 2018

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard

And so begins our four week trip through Adventure Time‘s big climax! Going into Come Along With Me was a surreal experience. Adventure Time was this huge, juggernaut series that once seemed undefeatable – it was essentially Cartoon Network’s SpongeBob for a good chunk of the 2010s (until Teen Titans Go! started picking up steam). The idea of a series finale for such a massive show was almost unreal to me, not to mention a show that has sold itself on having many, many, many, MANY hanging threads. When I sat down to watch the long-awaited finale, I went in with a sense of excitement, but also a sense of dread. Adventure Time was, and still is, my favorite series out there, and the idea of its finale not landing was exceptionally stressful for myself. Luckily, upon a first viewing experience, I was very much enamored with its sense of closure and the general care and passion that the crew clearly put in. Upon reevaluation, I still think a lot of what worked on a first watch still succeeded… while other aspects, unfortunately, did not. But before we tackle the contents of the episode, let’s first dive into the intro that precedes it.

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Come Along With Me begins in the distant future that was elaborated upon in Graybles 1000+. Steve Wolfhard clearly had a ball boarding for this sequence, and you can really see just how much of his love for the fallen Ooo really shines through. A lot of the concepts he kickstarted feel fully fleshed out, or at the very least, semi-fleshed out. All elementals are accounted for, including the battling fire and slime beings named X and O respectively, the ice dome that still holds Patience St. Pim, and a bit of a mystery regarding the Candy Elemental. Within the Ice Thingdom, there are pink hands that can be clearly seen behind bars, but there’s also the hooded character watching over the land that has been theorized to be PB. I like how the 1000+ world works in a way that doesn’t reveal too much in terms of what happened to our major characters from the past – they might all be rotting in the ground, or some of them might very well still be kicking. I like the subtlety of playing around with the idea, rather than having it fully spelled out like the Season 11 comics attempted to do. It’s much more intriguing this way. There’s other neat touches, like the rise of the “Pup Kingdom” and the idea that Charlie’s future son rules over it. Again, a lot of stuff that Wolfhard clearly fleshed out in one way or another, which also makes the episode at hand more interesting and quite charming.

Then we’re introduced to Shermy and Beth, the duo that essentially work to capture the essence of Finn and Jake’s bond and heroism. There was never really a ton that went into Shermy’s history or past, but Beth is riddled with a hidden baggage that Wolfhard conducted off-screen. Beth, as revealed in the intro, is the “pup princess,” though her role as a leader didn’t last, as she was exiled and became a fugitive of the Pup Kingdom. She also has the gnarly ability to warp things through her belly-button, carrying on the legacy of her alien ancestor, Jake. Shermy and Beth are both fun and likable. There’s a simplistic charm to their characters that is very (successfully) reminiscent of their adventurous counterparts. Though, I don’t necessarily buy into the idea that they are reincarnations of Finn and Jake. Obviously Beth is related to Jake in some way, but I don’t really think Shermy is supposed to be a future version of Finn. Or at least, that’s not what I took from his character. Heroes, like Finn and Jake, die off eventually, but there will always be a righteous duo in the world that proceeds them. Despite their ancestry, I like to believe that Shermy and Beth are just two cool peeps that don’t have any kind of heroic blood or vital force inside that connects to our former duo, they’re just two close companions that help to lighten up the world through their connectedness and desires for good (even if it involves being a bit rambunctious). Since the series has concluded, I’ve seen a handful of people pitch the idea of an entire show revolving around Shermy and Beth, buuuut I’m not sure if I’d be especially interested in that concept. They’re fun placeholder characters, but I don’t think their creation intends for them to be filled to the brim with depth.

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The further fleshed out version of the 1000+ world remains intriguing in its blend of macabre and goofy developments. It’s definitely bleak, with more muted colors and a sense of degradation, but a lot of its inhabitants are endearing in a way that would even make them suitable inhabitants of the pre-post-post (that’s a doozy) apocalyptic world. Princess Zip exists to show that interaction with extra-terrestrial life has increased after the events of High Strangeness, but also as an example that things have changed drastically, yet not very much, in the thousand years since Finn and Jake roamed Ooo. A barely intelligence alien princess is odd, but in actuality, is it any more odd than a rainbow unicorn fluent in Korean? It feels very real in not changing so much that it’s unrecognizable, but changing enough that clear transitions have occurred over a long period of time.

It’s super silly, but I feel like I can totally get behind BMO being the only character whose status is confirmed in the 1000+ world. This isn’t to say that BMO doesn’t have depth, but he surely is the most static of the main cast. While any other character would probably go through some drastic, grittier appearance change, BMO remains virtually the same with very little physical altercations. I also like the idea that, in a world where technology is constantly evolving, a little robot boy that is likely considered primitive by the standards of the 1000+ is still standing. Of course, it is slightly questionable from a believability standpoint. BMO has been prone to more life-threatening obstacles than any of his other friends in the main cast, and it is somewhat difficult to grasp that the little robot has made it this far. There’s the possibility that he’s always had someone to look after him and upgrade his software over the years, but the independent BMO that we see before us does raise some questions. Like, what if his batteries end up dying? Is he just dead there forever with anyone to put him back together? I’m probably way over-thinking it, but I think almost anything in this type of futuristic dystopian could be subject to skepticism.

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I also love the idea that BMO, er, the King of Ooo, is regarded among Ooo civilians as some kind of legend or urban myth, when really, it just seems like another case of BMO playing dress-up. I was fully prepared to see the self-proclaimed King of Ooo in this episode, as Wolfhard had already pitched around the idea of KOO existing in the far future once before. BMO’s abode (atop the iconic Mount Cragdor) is riddled with various easter eggs from the course of the series. Mentioning each and every one of them would be redundant – they’re all listed out on the wiki page, and I really only identified all of them through this complete comprehensive list. I will comment on the few I find most interesting, however.

  • There’s several items that really make me wonder how BMO even acquired them in the first place: Finn’s discarded grass arm from Escape From the Citadel, the maid from Crossover, Melissa’s license plate from Trouble in Lumpy Space, etc. I’m sure the thought process behind these small cameos was not necessarily to make complete sense, but rather to sprinkle in as many tiny references for the audience to recognize as possible. Though, I think a couple of these may be too ambitious for their own good.
  • Apparently BMO has multiple remnants of his dead friends? Beth picks up Mr. Fox’s skull and apparently the dead Fionna and Cake Omnibus is in there too, haha, holy shit. Not to mention AMO’s empty shell lying about as well.
  • I thought it was super sweet how one of the cards from Shh! was actually framed. BMO considers it a true relic.
  • I kind of wonder if some of the items spotted were not even intended to be easter eggs, like the basketball from Simon & Marcy or a block from The Tower. I wanna believe that they were, but I also think it’s funny to see just how deeply people dug into analyzing even the tiniest of references.

These easter eggs are fun, though perhaps a bit too overwhelming. I mean, BMO has lived 1,000 years after the passing of Finn and Jake, I’d like to think that there would be more unusual or unknown artifacts from years passing that don’t connect to anything that we’ve seen in the series. But of course, I’m being cynical. This made for a fun little game of I Spy that’s main purpose was to engage with fans, and I can’t say I blame it for doing that. I much more bothered by Shermy singing Tropical Island, a song that was sung ONCE in the entire series and never documented in any way. That was a bit too fanservice-y for my liking.

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BMO coming across Finn’s discarded robot arm was both really sad and somewhat humorous. I do wonder what happened to BMO that he isn’t able to remember Finn’s name. I mean, half of the shit BMO owns is connected to Finn in some way. The little guy may have gotten that much dreaded memory wipe that was first referenced in Be More, but I’m not sure if he would be able to recall anything in that case. But, regardless, this moment where BMO can’t fully recollect his former best friend and owner is super saddening, though comforting in the very least that he remembers the history of “Phil” regardless.

As we trek into the actual story of the Great Gum War, I love the immediate sense of conclusiveness as our first scene of past (or present) Ooo is Finn’s spirit animal, a butterfly. In general, butterflies carry a great meaning of hope and endurance, and never have those traits been stronger in Finn than on the brink of war. Even though it doesn’t commit fully, the first act of Come Along With Me feels very dark and desolate, but also very massive. Prominent characters like King Man, Betty, and Maja all converging, as a legion of heroes congregate below, does make the weight of Come Along With Me much more apparent. I mean, the God damned Duke of Nuts is there, for crying out loud! The dude hasn’t shown up in eight whole years. I like all of these big royal figures being there, but honestly, I think they could’ve went one step beyond. It would’ve made my heart happy if literally every princess that has ever appeared was apart of PB’s union, but I can understand that they mostly just wanted to focus on the big dogs. Though, I’m not even sure I fully get behind all of these big political figures standing very clearly at the center of a war. Maybe I’m just politically naïve, but this isn’t traditionally how wars work, right? A president or world leader hasn’t just stood erect on a battlefield in front of their entire army, correct? I can’t really get behind the logic in that. How is Lemongrab gonna be helpful during a full-scale war?

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I do like the continued establishment of each character dealing with the concept of war in their own unique way. I wish it had been a bit more emotive and raw, but Marceline, being the only character present that has consciously survived through The Great Mushroom War, has a nice reflective moment of both understanding the notion of history repeating itself, yet not wanting to relive such a tragedy again. That brief cut to a young Marcy standing before the destruction of the world around her is actually one of my favorites from the entire episode, as a visual representation of Marcy’s true depth of anxiety. PB is clearly fully detached emotionally and isn’t prepared to let her feelings for those around her compromise what she ultimately believes to be right. I kind of thought that maybe she was a bit too detached to Marceline, but then I realized that her comment, “let’s talk when this is all over,” is probably Bubblegum’s most sincerest form of saying “everything will be alright” without actually saying that. Jake, in typical Jake fashion, doesn’t blow things out of proportion with his belief on the outcome of the war, and feels optimistic that maybe everything will be quick and painless. But Finn clearly opines that things don’t have to be this way, and that there must be another way out. I think those involved in the war are clearly either working on PB’s same level of paranoia, a sense of pride for Ooo, or just as a simple allegiance to the Candy Kingdom. Finn, however, while probably slightly selfish in wanting things to remain stagnant, seeks out an alternate opportunity for what he sees is the only way to save those around him, in a paranoia almost opposite to PB’s. Cue the nightmare juice.

I will say, Act I really succeeds on the humor front. Those first few scenes on the actual battlefield are hilarious – even Gumbald whips out some funny lines here and there! I don’t know why they tried to make Gumbald this super serious and intimidating character, Fred Melamed seems more in tune with comedic timing than actually carrying out legitimately threatening dialogue. Gumbald’s whole deal with taunting Bubblegum using a lemon was funny enough, but Lemongrab writing down “un-make me” was the icing on the cake (no pun intended). I also really loved Pendleton Ward’s delivery of LSP’s opening line, “here we go,” as she embraces the war occurring in front of her. It’s super interesting to me that PB’s decision to reconsider was reinforced by her ability to reminisce about her connection to Shoko. Shoko was someone PB cared about during the initial inception of the Candy Kingdom, and she unfortunately lost her before they could become close. She finally had the opportunity to befriend a young pupil when Finn came along, and doesn’t want to risk similar consequences of war befalling him. Her honest emotions outside of her deeper anxieties begin to set in, as she starts to reconsider. It doesn’t last long, however. A back-and-forth with Uncle G. sets her right back into her primitive desires of survival, which triggers our transition into the next act, where 3/5ths of our main cast are officially dead.

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Finn and Gumbald’s poses… Yikes.

The first act of Come Along With Me does a pretty stellar job of establishing the finale’s story, with a well-developed look into the future and genuine tension as the conflict of war finally arises, along with a few good laughs along the way. I think it’s a little disappointing for me personally that Herpich and Wolfhard had a big part in the setup, but not the execution of the episode. At the same time, though, the stuff with Shermy, Beth, and the 1000+ world really is Wolfhard’s baby, and I’m glad he got a chance to see it through to the end. There’s also plenty of terrific visual moments, namely the establishing of opposing sides on the battlefield as dawn breaks. I’m still not positive if, in its execution, Come Along With Me was as big as it was hyped up to be. But this first part does, at the very least, commit to making things feel as large as possible.

Favorite line: “Have fun on the other side of this door!”

Adventure Time Reviewed: Q&A

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Y’all asked, and I shall answer! Welcome to the first (and presumably only) AT Reviewed: Q&A. I’m going to try to get to all of the questions that were submitted to me recently – apologies if I miss out on any! Keep in mind that some of them may be answered at a later date as well in my concepts for post-finale content. Let’s get to it.

Q: Who are you favorite storyboard artists on the show?

A: That’s a toughie that can have multiple different answers. If it’s in terms of storyboard artists that have the most efficient writing style, I’d probably say Tom Herpich or Jesse Moynihan. I know that first one is kind of basic and the second choice is somewhat controversial, but I really appreciate their efforts in always trying to tell stories that AT never initially seemed capable of, even if it didn’t always succeed. Best art style probably has to go to either Herpich or Rebecca Sugar. Both present really great attention to detail that transfers well into the animation process: Herpich with his tendency towards squash-and-stretch, and Sugar with her bulgier character models that always look so adorably vulnerable.

If I had to pick a favorite team… hm… likely either Herpich and Wolfhard or Ako and Jesse, or even Sam Alden and Jesse. Again, I might be particularly biased because of my admiration of Tom and Jesse, but I also think they were paired with other talented artists that suited their tone and styles perfectly. It’s no wonder that Tom and Steve ended up being the longest-running team in all of Adventure Time.

Steve Wolfhard is probably my favorite on a personal level. His chronicles on Twitter and continued investment in the series are super charming to me.

Q: What are your favorite songs in the series?

A: I really don’t like the implication that Rebecca Sugar leaving the series killed it all together, but I think her departure definitely affected the series on a musical level. Adventure Time is packed to the brim with talented storytellers, but when it comes to song writing, Rebecca is kind of irreplaceable. All Gummed Up InsideWhat Am I To You?Remember YouTime AdventureEverything Stays, and Sleepy Puppies are all classics that I find myself listening to more than often.

But, that’s not to say there were no good songs following Sugar’s departure. The ending jazz number of Food Chain is pretty amazing, and it just might be the absolute best tune in the series. Love in the Darkness is one that I find quite beautiful and one that resonates with me a ton.

Anything from LAKE is typically superb. Island Song and I Look Up to You have such beautiful melodies. And of course, I’m still super butthurt about Greatly Appreciated not having a full version. Hmph!

Q: What do you think are the funniest episodes of Adventure Time?

A: I won’t really go into my essential “best funny episodes” because I will be doing a best episode list eventually, but I will say that I think the dynamic between Ice King and the boys is practically comedy gold. The EyesHitmanStill, and Beyond This Earthly Realm are all funny as hell to me.

Q: What do you think are the saddest episodes of Adventure Time?

A: There are only three times I ever recall crying or getting misty-eyed at the series: I Remember YouBMO Lost, and Come Along With Me. Yes, the ending of BMO Lost made me tear up. I was also 15 at the time, if that justifies it somehow.

I think there are plenty of “sad” episodes that don’t really get an outwardly emotional response from myself. I don’t think there’s a single sadder moment in the series than watching Jake reel up Finn after losing his arm – and his dad – in Escape From the Citadel. And a good majority of The More You Moe, The Moe You Know leaves me with a bit of a somber, empty feeling. To the episode’s credit, of course. A lot of the show’s “saddest” episodes aren’t really the more outwardly emotional ones, but the ones that leave me feeling a sense of loss or emptiness afterwards.

Q: What do you think of the Adventure Time video games?

A: They’re a’ight! I haven’t played it in forever, but Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage brought me lots of joy when it was first released. I think it was also just cool to have a video game based off of a new animated property at the time, let alone a good one.

Explore the Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW! is fun just in the sense of killing time, but it truly is a repetitive and often dull play-through. Secret of the Nameless Kingdom is probably the most fun I’ve had with any of the games, and I originally played it when my interest in AT was at its peak, which probably had a lot to do with it.

Finn & Jake Investigations isn’t really “fun” per se, but there’s something undeniably charming about exploring the Land of Ooo just to talk to its various inhabitants. And I haven’t gotten past three minutes of Pirates of the Enchiridion. Maybe I’ll go back to it eventually. Question mark.

Q: What character dynamics would you like to have seen more of?

A: Anything with the TreeFort family all together. I think it’s a shame that there weren’t more instances of them all hanging out or working off of each other, and I don’t really see why there couldn’t have been. Pen Ward is always around to play Shelby, and Andy Milonakis basically became a regular starting with season seven. Would’ve been gnarly if they all went on an adventure together.

I would have liked to see Ice King and PB work off of each other after he started to gradually change his behavior. An episode solely focused on Jake’s relationship with Ice King without Finn is absolutely a missed opportunity as well.

A lot of fans wanted Marceline and Flame Princess to interact, and I think that would’ve been really sweet. It would have been cool if Marceline was somewhat of a bad influence on FP during the period of time when Finn was uncertain about her nature. And for my boy Stuped over on the Reddit, fuck the show for not having any Marcy and Finn episodes after season four!

Q: If you were to change anything in the show from certain episodes you felt were weak, certain story arcs that fell flat, certain characters arcs you think were handled poorly or certain events in the series that left you with a bad taste, how would you change them?

A: I’ve kind of made peace with a lot of the choices Adventure Time has made even if I didn’t like the way these events went down. I more so admire Adventure Time‘s exploration of its characters and individual stories more than anything, so there aren’t a ton of plot points that straight up rub me the wrong way. That’s not to say there aren’t any, however.

As much as I absolutely adore Breezy, I think it would’ve been best for everyone if the show committed to Finn losing his arm. This was somewhat of a key jumping off point for a lot of fans, and metaphorical reasons aside, I feel as though it was just another bold example of Adventure Time‘s failure to toss aside the status quo. On the same level of status quo debunking, I feel as though Jake’s role as a parent could’ve been increased majorly. I like a good amount of the episodes focusing on Jake being a parent, but honestly, it was executed so nonchalantly that I feel as if you could completely remove the pups from the series and not really lose much. Their presence was mostly to reinforce that Jake, while absent-minded, is a loving and caring guy. But we kind of already knew that, and in my eyes, none of the pups are so revolutionary that the series couldn’t exist without them.

I’m gonna talk about it more on my character analysis (sorry if I’m teasing y’all with these answers) but Flame Princess, Marceline, and the Lich are all characters that I feel got less interesting as the series went on, where most of the other major characters are quite the opposite. The Gumbald family is another group of characters that I wish were more fleshed out and just the least bit interesting, but I don’t know if that’s more attributed to a lack of time or just poor writing.

Q: Have you listened to Ghostshrimp’s Podcast?

A: I have not! To be honest, I try and stay away from AT as much as possible outside of blogging. Two summers ago, I was writing reviews everyday, buying AT merch, drawing and making comics featuring the AT characters, and playing Secret of the Nameless Kingdom. It was fun to have this much involvement with the show at first, but it eventually became all-encompassing to the point where I needed distance from the series outside of writing about it. So, once I finish, I do plan to give it a listen, and I might even update this with my thoughts about the material discussed on it.

Q: If the current AT storyline was going to be continued, what direction do you think it should go in?

A: Honestly, I don’t know. Sometimes I have ideas in my head about story arcs following the end of the series, but part of what has kept me so invested in the series is that it always keeps me on my toes. I never really get what I expect, for better or worse, and I think the ultimate continuation for myself is something that I don’t quite even know.

That being said, I think the team behind Beginning of the End and the Season 11 comics give me a taste of something to be longed for. I really like the idea of Finn’s challenges and sense of responsibility continuing to grow as he enters adulthood, along with the tough realities that come with it. I think if the series were going to continue, I’d love to see more of Finn attempting to make sense of the world around him as life throws new surprises his way.

Q: If you were given the choice to end the show in any way you choose, how would you end it?

A: In a super ambitious and goofy thought, I’d love to have Finn standing proudly on the mountain from Another Way as My Way by Frank Sinatra played in the background.

I always had this idea of Finn giving some kind of long monologue while traveling through the astral plane (in a different animation style), discussing what he’s learned throughout his years of living and what it is to be human, without being too on-the-nose or obvious.

This probably would’ve been super cliche, but I would have liked if Finn had finally “walked up the wizard steps” as mentioned in Too Young to lay one on Huntress Wizard. I ultimately like the idea that we don’t know Finn’s forever girl by the end of the series, but I think it would have been really neat to allude to this one subtle moment.

I’ve had a lot of ideas over the years of how I’d want the show to end, but again, having it my way is boring (and usually too exclusively centered on Finn). I like to see what others come up with.

Q: Adventure Time was, at one point, exceedingly popular. Why do you think it faded away in broad popularity, relatively speaking?

A: The two main reasons I contribute to AT’s declining popularity are:

  1. Creative differences.
  2. Neglect from the network.

For that first point, I think season six was a big jumping off point for lots of longtime fans. The show took a much different direction in its story and writing, and while I admired season six’s approach to tackling subjects and themes that are quite rare for children’s media, I can see why it pushed people away. I was initially put off by the lack of Finn and Jake throughout the entirety of its run, and I think many others were as well. In addition to that, Steven Universe was just starting to kickoff in popularity, and I think people connected way more with its emotional core and (objective) dedication to story and characters arcs.

For the second point, I think Cartoon Network’s handling of the series was quite poor following season six. After The Comet aired, there had been no reruns of the series for 5 months, nor any new episodes. As Adventure Time began tackling elements of serialization, I think the network feared that children wouldn’t really be able to follow when catching the series in reruns. This is the reason why Teen Titans Go! has been the network’s flagship series for so long – they can air it in any order as much as possible because they don’t have to risk viewers tuning out from a lack of understanding. This is a pretty common network practice that is understandable, but I think CN banked a little bit too much on the dedication of longtime fans. As I mentioned, many longtime fans had started jumping ships at this point for Steven Universe and didn’t really want to bother with following the series any longer. Despite this, TV ratings were still pretty solid for new episodes in season six, but CN wanted to rely on the fandom to keep the series going, rather than everyday viewers of the network. CN was targeting a fanbase that no longer existed (or were depleted, at the very least) and children presumably thought the show had ended or forgot about it during its long hiatus. It was a combination of both elements trying to compensate for the other, and ultimately sent the show into its demise.

Q: What would you have liked to see in an Adventure Time theatrical film?

A: Maybe what I said that I’d like to see in a finale, but more standalone. I’d love to see a feature length Adventure Time film based on ideologies of existence and life. Maybe even just a compilation of different stories inside the lives of Ooo’s many citizens, kind of in a super laid back, Studio Ghibli-ish way. 

Of course, that’s what I would want, but it really wouldn’t rope in mainstream movie goers. If Adventure Time were to realistically have a film, it think it would be a lot more people-pleasing, with a big, grand (standalone) adventure and lots of references to past episodes. I’d love to see cinema-quality animation for the series, but ultimately I’m not that hurt about not getting a film. 

Q: How do you think the show would have been if Rebecca Sugar never left?

A: I think a lot of the later season story arcs would’ve been handled in a slightly different fashion. The show took a stance after her departure to let emotions seem less obvious and leave it up to interpretation of the viewer on how the characters were actually feeling, while Sugar is all about letting characters emote freely. I don’t think there’s necessarily a “wrong” option of the two, but I do think that if she stayed, we’d get more of Finn being emotionally honest about that troubles and issues that face him. 

I don’t think that Rebecca staying would have “saved” the show by any means, because I don’t think the show really needed saving. You can complain all you want about Pendleton Ward’s departure, because I feel as stylistic direction does play a big part in the quality of a series, but to single out one writer as the soul savior of a show is quite frankly inaccurate and just kind of patronizing to the other talented artists that put their all into the series. Which brings me to my next question.

Q: Do you think Pendleton Ward’s departure affected the quality of Adventure Time?

A: Yes and no. Overall, I admire the staff for choosing not to ride on the past success of the series and to choose a completely different direction in terms of tone and its characters, but AT ultimately did become a different show and I can understand why it wasn’t for everyone. More than just Pendleton Ward leaving, however, was the general increase of episodes that each season possessed, making way for more stories and arcs that would only add to an already congested lore. 

At the same time, I do think that the experimental nature of the later seasons allowed for some of the best episodes in the series, as well as some of the worst. It’s a double-edged sword that both pushed the writers and artists completely out of their comfort zone, but also showed just how messy things can get without a clear voice. I think Adam Muto did a fine job as showrunner, though I still struggle to actually get a feel for what he saw and wanted for the series even to this day. In some ways, I think he did a better job than Pen on certain aspects. People often forget that, even in Ward’s days as showrunner, the series had similar issues of rushed or failed story arcs, such as PB’s aging or the quick return to normal in Jake the Dog. Muto at least paved the way for more dedicated attention to stories and conclusions, namely in season eight.

Q: What do you plan to do when you finish this blog?

A: It’s super up in the air at the moment. I’ve been getting a lot of requests to cover other shows, such as Steven Universe or OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes, and I’m honestly not opposed to the idea, though I have my reserves. Steven Universe is a show that’s rich with deep, analytical material, but there’s a zillion other people who already talk about it on the internet that I don’t know how unique my perspective would actually be. And I really like K.O., but I’m not certain if it’s a series I could really talk about in great detail. There’s also my mental hesitation with taking on another massive, long-term project so soon after this blog ends. Adventure Time Reviewed was a project that started when I had much, much more free time available, and even then, it took three years. Not to put it in a negative connotation; I cannot stress enough how much I have loved doing this project. But I also do acknowledge that it took a lot of energy and dedication, and I need to be both prepared and ethical when stepping into another high-scale commitment.

I’ve also been batting around ideas for novels. I’m super into books about the production history of animated shows, and would love to tackle topics about current day animation. A lot of those ideas are confidential for the time being and might even be a bit overly ambitious, at that.

I do wanna to keep it open for y’all to suggest things, though. I’m as in the dark about next steps as anyone and I’m not really opposed to anything, so suggest away! I will definitely need to take a break after I wrap things up, just to thoroughly consider my opportunities so that I don’t regretfully jump into anything too quick. And of course, if the series ever returns in some fashion (still have no idea what Rumble Jaw entails) I’d have no problem dropping in for subsequent reviews!


Thank you all for sending your questions in! Once again, if your question was not answered, don’t fret. It will likely be answered in one way or another in the post-series content I have planned. Stay tuned for the review of Come Along With Me – Part 1, which will be dropping either later this weekend or early next week!

“Diamonds and Lemons” Review

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Original Airdate: July 20, 2018

Written & Storyboarded by: Hanna K. Nyström & Anna Syvertsson

Diamonds and Lemons is a very… different Adventure Time special, in more ways than one. While Adventure Time is no stranger to having shorts and specials outside of its production schedule (The WandGraybles Allsorts, and Frog Seasons) it has never had a fully realized 11 minute episode not assigned to any one season. It’s also the last Adventure Time episode ever produced, originally intended to be aired after the series finale. I’m kinda glad that didn’t happen, because I feel as though my sense of finality with the show, along with many other’s, would be harmed in the process. I feel as though it’s the primary reason Cartoon Network held off on Come Along With Me for so long – to get this considerably less conclusive episode out first.

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I’d also argue that this is Adventure Time‘s first, and only, real crossover episode. The world of Adventure Time has always felt very self-contained and devoid of the possibility of crossing realms with other pre-existing properties. Pendleton Ward himself stated that he had no intention of ever doing any crossovers, and the show remained that way for quite some time.¹ It is quite interesting that a world as limitless as Adventure Time would have such a restriction, but it does make sense from several viewpoints. While crossovers are fun, they can also be gimmicky. While they explore more possibilities within the property’s universe, they also can defy the laws of its world that make it so unique to begin with. For these reasons, I was pretty opposed to the idea of Adventure Time combining its style with other properties, and wasn’t especially happy when I heard about the concept of Diamonds and Lemons. Though not the traditional idea of a crossover episode, Adventure Time taking on the world of Minecraft felt like a pretty clear cash grab that didn’t initially seem to stem from a loving motivation by the production team. But, as more came out about it, I started to become pretty fascinated by Diamonds and Lemons. Not only did its general design fascinate me (I was really expecting Diamonds and Lemons to be a blatant exploration of the Adventure Time Minecraft map) but the passion and attention-to-detail really began to seem apparent. Adam Muto even sweetly stated that the episode was more of a selfish opportunity for him to work with the AT team one last time, which makes me appreciate it so much more. So, I’ve gone on long enough about the backstory of Diamonds and Lemons – what do I actually think about the episode? Well, it’s good! … I think.

The most difficult part about enjoying Diamonds and Lemons to the fullest is that I’ve never played Minecraft a day in my life, and I sort of feel as if the episode is a bit exclusive when dealing with inside jokes and elements from the game. I have no idea what “griefing” is or even the basis of Enderman; I feel as though the episode doesn’t really over-complicate these features, but it is probably more appreciated by people who are actually into Minecraft itself. I wouldn’t expect a Minecraft episode of anything to be entirely suitable for a general audience – even South Park‘s spoof from five years earlier, Informative Murder Porn, had me feeling slightly left out of the action. Some Minecraft elements do work, purely in the realm of absurdity. I’m assuming that pig-riding is a prominent element of Minecraft, and even without that prior knowledge, it is funny to see Mr. Pig being so submissive to the request.

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Speaking of Mr. Pig – he’s in this! I know that’s not an inherently shocking statement, but the sheer amount of tertiary characters that received special Minecraft style models is really impressive. So many of these characters aren’t even necessary for the story, yet it shows the surprising amount of effort and care that went into this bizarre crossover. Hell, the Life Giving Magus is in it! A character that practically nobody cares about, but one that they still worked in regardless. It’s really nice.

“Nice” and “effort” are words that sum up a good majority about Diamonds and Lemons. What makes this episode seem like less of a cash grab is the amount of care that went into its production. Diamonds and Lemons actually has a really nice atmosphere; many sequences within its run-time are focused on characters just going about their lives silently as beautiful skies change around them. Even though I mentioned that many of the characters included aren’t particularly necessary for the story, almost everyone has an individual arc that is concluded. Marcy and PB build a windmill, Lemongrab ends up actually creating something (even if it isn’t a lemon), Tree Trunks finally gets her apples, Ice King successfully “griefs” Finn, etc. A lot of these individual character moments are really fun and likable – I even think Marcy is a lot more lively here than she’s been in quite a while.

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In typical Adventure Time fashion, an episode as disposable as this one does present a story with a decent amount under the surface to chew on. The episode tackles the concept of money quite nicely, and the pressures that come with actually possessing it. There is, of course, the social pressure of wanting to have nice things like those around you as a sense of validation for your own being, but there’s also the conflict of having disposable income with no idea what to use it for. I think it’s kind of a common idea that people feel that they NEED to spend their money on nice things for it to actually have value. But shiny and valuable objects don’t actually fulfill any kind of human need, which leaves us with a “fleeting sensation of beauty and its false sense of purpose.” Hell, I believe this, and I still fall into the habit of collecting junk for the false sense of value. Just look at all of the nice looking Adventure Time crap that I’ve accumulated over the years! Jake’s careless disposal of diamonds seems illogical at first, but it quickly becomes clear that Finn’s purchases are essentially just a more glamorous version of wasting money. As Finn states:

“Beauty is in the hard work itself and the – oftentimes false – sense of purpose we feel when doing it. It’s a fleeting sensation that drives us to repeat our actions in order to capture it again.”

Essentially, the things we can do with money don’t really matter (given that we’re able to provide for ourselves and fulfill basic human needs), but the work we engage that actually does give us a sense of purpose, even if it isn’t matching our full potential. Again, I have no idea if this analysis actually applies itself to the nature of diamonds in the Minecraft universe, but it helps me to have a bit more fun with Diamonds and Lemons regardless.

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I never thought I’d say it, but Adventure Time‘s Minecraft episode is surprisingly enjoyable. It boasts charming character designs, lovely backgrounds and colors, fun character moments, and a nice central theme to tie it together. I don’t really think Diamonds and Lemons is great, by any means. While it makes for a pleasant and fun viewing, it isn’t exactly strong story-wise, and it’s hard to fully invest yourself unless you’re a fan of both franchises. But, for what it is, I’m amazed that it actually manages to be as decent as it is. For an idea that really came across as an apparent cash grab, it really shows that this was a project built on community, giving the AT crew one last hurrah before closing up shop.

Diamonds and Lemons also features a pretty awesome pixelated intro, animated by artists Paul Robertson and Ivan Dixon. You can check it out on their YouTube channel here!

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¹ Pendleton Ward stated at some point during AT‘s SDCC panel in 2013 that he wasn’t interested in the possibility of crossovers. Though, this was specifically in response to a fan’s question about a My Little PonyAdventure Time crossover.

Favorite line: Does this guy even have toes? Are those his toes? I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a toe, come to think of it.”

Adventure Time Reviewed: Send Your Questions In!

Hi all! The Diamonds and Lemons review should be coming out either later tonight or tomorrow – apologies for the delay.

Before we get to covering the finale, I wanted to collect a lot of the inquiries I’ve gotten over the years for a Q&A post that will release later this weekend. I also wanted to open this up as an opportunity for any viewers to ask questions they may have for me. No real contingencies or rules for this, just try to stick to AT related questions and stray away from any ideas that are too inappropriate (I’m not going to answer which AT character I would bang – we already know that it would be Jungle Princess). Feel free to send away, I’ll try to answer them all, if possible!