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“Daddy-Daughter Card Wars” Review

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Original Airdate: July 7, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Steve Wolfhard & Adam Muto

One of the more common complaints I see being thrown at Daddy-Daughter Card Wars is that Card Wars gameplay is generally glanced over in favor of a story that has practically nothing to do with Card Wars. But honestly, that’s one of this episode’s perks. I mean, did people really just want to see straightforward gameplay for a second time? We already saw that in the original Card Wars, and even then, the game wasn’t really the main focus. It was more about Jake’s unhealthy obsession with the game itself, and how an opposing side of his typically calm and charismatic demeanor was unraveled. That being said, I’m glad Daddy-Daughter Card Wars is what it is. It works semi-successfully to wrap up Jake’s regretful past history, while also giving us more insight into where this turmoil comes from. It’s also essentially Charlie’s debut episode, of whom may just be my favorite of the pups.

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Charlie’s simply delightful. It’s interesting to me that it took her this long to be given a speaking role within the series, as she’s easily the most interesting and unique of her siblings. Aside from having obscure interests, a rad pyramid to hangout in, and intriguing psychedelic connections, she possesses the coolest abilities out of all of the pups. While most of the pups’ powers seem to be relatively basic, Charlie is able to grow to a size so big to the point where she’s literally able to walk across the Earth. That is awesome. In general, she’s really charming and enjoyable in her demeanor as well. She’s quite snarky to Jake throughout the entirety of the episode, and it’s a ton of fun to watch. It mostly comes off as loving and sweet, in contrast to the harsh and detached ways T.V. and Kim Kil Whan can often act towards their father.

I feel like the real thing that makes their relationship fun to watch is that they’re essentially both using each other. I’m often disheartened when the show either has entire episodes focused on Jake being a shitty dad or one of his pups being a shitty kid, but I think this episode has it balanced by showing off both of their shitty sides: Jake merely wants to resolve his past issues (without realizing that he’s adding fuel to that turmoil) and unknowingly recruits Charlie’s help to do so, while Charlie will only help her “poppa” out under the condition that he provides her with something (which is a scene that still freaks me the fuck out to this day. There’s something unnerving about Jake so easily pulling off a piece of his fingerbone).

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Though, it undoubtedly gets a bit muddled at times… about halfway through, Charlie realizes that she regrets not helping out Jake in the past, and it seems like the episode is attempting to paint Charlie as the bad guy in this situation… buuut, shouldn’t Jake also deal with some kind of repercussion regarding his treatment of Charlie? It’s a lot of fun seeing Jake as an absolute, boiling mess in Daddy-Daughter Card Wars, but I guess a tiny complaint I do have is that I feel like he’s a little bit too much of an asshole at times. Adam Muto and Steve Wolfhard do their best to make up for it, like when he literally offers Charlie every bone in his body if she would just simply spend an hour of her day helping him out, but there were certain scenes that rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t care how much Jake cares about Card Wars, I hate that he doesn’t save BMO in the beginning. I mean, my God, that’s your son dude! Granted, BMO jumping off the boat was hilarious, and I’m glad it was left it, but I thought the execution was a bit too harsh for my liking and it kind of leaves a sour taste in my mouth for the remainder of the episode.

That aside, Jake is mostly enjoyable throughout the remainder of the episode. I’ll reiterate, I love seeing him so violently passionate about something. Jake’s mortality has nearly been as prominent of an arc as Finn’s aging process has, and it was really melancholic to see how wary he is for the near future. It is neat that Jake does have some form of self-acknowledgement about his regrets, and wants to at least move forward, even if he doesn’t really know how. In Jake’s head, becoming “dignified” means being able to achieve the victory against Grand Prix that he presumably never had, though it’s made clear by the episode of this episode that becoming dignified means accepting and becoming content with his shortcomings. I like how Jake’s conflict with Grand Prix also goes beyond that fact that he’s simply better at playing Card Wars, but that he also ended up with Moniker, Jake’s ex-girlfriend, which symbolically places him on a higher pedestal in Jake’s eyes. The connection between Moniker and Jake is also delightfully tense, complete with Jake being as awkward as he’s ever been. I like to think that Moniker was likely Jake’s first real significant other, which presumably fuels Jake’s anger and jealousy even more. It feels relatable in the sense that there’s always people from your past that you either hate or are simply envious of, and one has to constantly prove to themselves that they’re better than those people for some kind of unauthentic gratification. The scenes that emphasize Jake’s turmoil are really well done, and I love that the flowing, vigorous stream is a consistent audio cue to signify Jake’s feelings. I also enjoy how his relationship and battling within himself comes into play frequently. After Charlie leaves, Jake first adopts some of his old tactics and behaviors (by creating a duplicate of his past self) and then eventually becomes his old self (by morphing into his devilish, angered form). It’s a really nice touch in the visual department, and that goes for all of Jake’s facial expressions in general. Wolfhard and Muto clearly had a lot of fun with this one, and it helps that these dramatic expressions makes the episode feel like a true sequel to Card Wars.

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The most interesting bit in this episode is easily Charlie’s psychic visions of the future, which paints a bleak, yet deeply poignant vision of what lies ahead. I do like how Charlie’s foreseeable future contrasts with how Jake views each decade; while Jake assumes that he’s supposed to be a certain thing by a specific time in his life, Charlie’s look into the future proves that she really isn’t going to have things figured out until the very end of her life, and that’s pretty much life in a nutshell. While it seems that Charlie does live a fulfilling life, and ends up having a child of her own (none other than Gibbon!), it’s apparent that she also deals with the natural tragedies of existence as well: fearing what lies ahead, feeling intrinsically alone, and losing those close to her as she continues to age. While Jake assumes that he’s supposed to be dignified by this point in his life, he’s adding stress and turmoil to his life by not realizing the vast complexities that life offers. It isn’t until Charlie adopts the demeanor and lifestyle of her 90-year-old self that Jake is able to be “content” in his life, both in his regrets and his future. Though, to be honest, I thought that this was a pretty lazy conclusion. It feels like Jake didn’t really learn anything, and that he was simply altered by Charlie’s ability to give him this knowledge. I feel like it kind of tarnishes what the episode was trying to accomplish if he doesn’t go through the actual process of understanding his wrongdoings, and merely just adopts this knowledge regardless. What if in Don’t Look, instead of hearing what his friends have to say about him to help him to shape his self-view, Jake simply just walked up to Finn, touched him, and shouted “self-acceptance,” and that was that? It’s pretty uninspired and feels cheap. Though, I still do like Jake’s casual acceptance of his loss, and his official burial of his 20’s. Haha, okay.

I think Daddy-Daughter Card Wars is ultimately decent. It’s stronger points are definitely with Charlie, but of course, I’m biased. I think it does have some flaws in the execution of its story and Jake’s character arc as a whole, but nothing that’s especially detrimental to the quality of the episode, aside from the resolution itself. It’s still funny, thoughtful, and has a lot of nice backgrounds/drawings that translate well into the animation process. Two last notes: I do love how everyone within Jake’s contact list in My Two Favorite People is now accounted for thanks to this episode! So cool how they all have somewhat of an active role in this world, even if they’re only on-screen for like, two seconds. Also, Wolfhard drew up a prequel comic for this episode over on the AT tumblr. Check it out here! It’s tons o’ fun, and ties into the central theme of the episode quite nicely.

Semi-daily reviews return in two weeks! Until then, stay tuned for the double review release of Preboot/Reboot next week!

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Favorite line: Hey, you two been kissing?”

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“The Music Hole” Review

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Original Airdate: June 23, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Polly Guo & Andres Salaff

It was really only a matter of time before Adventure Time took on a “Battle of the Bands” themed episode. Music, for the most part, has been a crucial part of AT’s identity. I know people who have never seen a single episode of the series, yet are able to sing “Bacon Pancakes” in full. Adventure Time is far from the first animated series to heavily incorporate music into its content; hell, musical cartoons date back to the beginning of animation as an art form, with the early renditions of Silly Symphonies and Merrie Melodies marketing their brand specifically around the combination of animation and music. I will say, however, that AT is perhaps the first mainstream cartoon to rely on the plot device of utilizing music in order for characters to let their emotions loose. This is shown most prominently between seasons two and four; we get to see Finn serenade his new friend in Susan Strong, Marceline unravel her true feelings towards Bubblegum in What Was Missing?, Gumball croon about his passion for Fionna in Fionna & Cake, and so on. I overall disagree with the notion that Adventure Time hit any form of seasonal rot within the past two seasons, but I will say that, if any aspect derailed, it would have to be that musical element. Rebecca Sugar was pretty much the key-driver of this musical movement, and once she departed, Steven Universe became the flagship series for emotional and well-written song sequences. That’s not to say that Adventure Time hasn’t had any catchy melodies in the past few years – “Food Chain” from the episode of the same name remains one of the best tunes that the show has ever put out, and I really loved the soft medley that Breezy had to offer. But overall, there were more misses than hits, and it really felt as though the show was lacking in what was once one of its most prominent trademarks. The Music Hole is somewhat of a return to those old trademarks, by not only basing an entire episode around music, but also the notion of channeling the sadness and heartache within one’s self into something creative and beautiful as a means of coping. In typical AT fashion, that something is music.

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It’d be one thing if this episode was just jam-packed with songs for the sake of it, but hey, the songs in Music Hole are actually pretty good! Of course, that’s also keeping in mind that a lot of the songs that are featured in this episode aren’t original, but that’s actually kind of cooler to me. It feels like a real, authentic Battle of the Bands in that way, and I think it’s kind of nice that some indie artists and bands like Mitski and Lake probably got a lot more attention from outside audiences because of this episode. This isn’t the first time that an AT episode has included somewhat of product placement for LAKE, and I honestly think it’s a really sweet love letter to the band that they continue to give them publicity because of their role in creating AT’s outro. The original songs are pretty decent as well. I actually really dug the small portion of Susan’s song that we got to hear (leave it to Susan Strong to come back after a 130 episode absence, and then disappear for another 50 episodes) and NEPTR and Flame Princess’s rap was cute and fun as far as FP raps go, which usually aren’t very good or entertaining. At the very least, it’s an appropriate place for her to dish such a tune. The licensed songs also work greatly with the characters that present them. “Francis Forever” might be one of my favorite Marceline songs to date, and I think it’s also because it’s one of the few more recent Marcy songs to not have super obvious subtext behind it. Like, I can listen to this song without hearing the screams of dozens of Bubbline fans that the lyrics are referring entirely to her feelings for PB. That’s always a plus. Also can’t help but join the fun of Ice King interrupting the event by singing “Do The Boogaloo” while dancing along with Gunter. I’m usually not a fan when the series uses well-known licensed songs just for the hell of it, but this example is one that only Ice King could pull off so well.

This episode isn’t only jam-packed with songs, however. It’s also filled to the brim with as many main and secondary characters as possible, and it really just leaves me in awe! Is there a single episode that features all of the main cast and most of the secondary characters in one area together? It’s somewhat of a solo feat for this episode that is only matched by the series finale itself. In general, it opens up for a lot of fun interactions. I thought the LSP, Marceline, and Death trio was awesome, not only because it shows that LSP and Marcy are still close friends, but because LSP is actually a competent drummer, and has no problem taking on a secondary part in the band! The girl’s come a long way. Even just the implication that Ice King was likely asked by Princess Bubblegum to be a bouncer for the Battle of the Bands is an extremely sweet sentiment.

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But I’m getting ahead of myself a lot, because the main focus of this episode is clearly not the Battle of the Bands. Instead, the episode revolves mostly around Finn in a deep state of depression after the breaking of his Finn sword. It is a bit of a strange continuity burp that Finn seemed pretty much fine in Bun Bun, Normal Man, and Elemental and now he’s in such a sudden area of despair that he can’t even move from one place to another. I’ve seen two theories about Finn’s behavior from episode to episode: one is that the production number of The Music Hole indicates that it was supposed to be aired directly after I Am a Sword, before Bun Bun and Normal Man. While I’m truthfully not entirely educated on how production numbers actually translate into the airing process, I’m gonna go ahead and guess that this theory is wrong, because Flame Princess’s role in The Music Hole doesn’t really make much sense without Bun Bun coming before it. The second theory is that Finn was repressing his feelings in the three episodes that preceded The Music Hole, but truthfully, I think that’s too far of a stretch. I think the real answer is just simply that the staff wanted to tell different stories in the meantime in which Finn was required to be a confident hero. So it’s definitely a bit unusual to go into this one accepting it as a direct follow-up of I Am a Sword when there was nothing to suggest that Finn was actually affected by the issue prior, but despite this, it’s still easy to get fully emerged in Finn’s depression once the episode gets going.

Despite everything the lad has been through, he still finds himself unable to cope with heavy bouts of depression. He’s been able to gather ideas about how to effectively use other activities to divert from the stressors surrounding himself, but when it comes to dealing with issues head on, it takes a bit of time for him to realize that he can’t just simply sit in his own swamp of raw emotions. That’s why I think it’s so sweet that he has guardians like PB and Jake to watch over him. PB and Jake aren’t exactly the most efficient when dealing with Finn’s emotional problems; The Tower featured both Bonnie and Jake coming up with methods of alleviating the pain that Finn was experiencing, and while their support is apparent, the execution of their methods was slightly ineffective, or at worst, more damaging in the long run. Thus, they aren’t really sure how to deal with the situation. Hell, how could anyone? It’s easy to feel the weight and urgency of Finn’s pain, but as I mentioned in my review of I Am a Sword, it’s impossible to understand what he’s going through because it’s a situation that’s strictly personal. But, with any feelings of negativity, often any kind of distraction can be a positive one, which is what PB and Jake realize when they decide to execute “Plan C”: a Battle of the Bands starring the citizens of Ooo. Again, it’s something small and by no means psychological, but it is something positive and light that can help divert Finn’s attention onto something outside of his rut. And it does work, for the most part! While the bags that are drawn under Finn’s eyes indicate that he is still experiencing negative feelings and hasn’t solved his issue completely, he is genuinely enjoying himself and having a good time.

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Though, often with emotional problems, you can never distract yourself completely from said problems. Distractions can do wonders when helping one cope and live a healthy lifestyle, but they aren’t necessarily dealing with the issue. Finn ultimately still has the loss of his Finn Sword to deal with, and while he doesn’t identify with that at first, he makes this discovery upon meeting the Music Hole. In another sweet love letter, Music Hole is voiced by Ashley Eriksson, the founder of LAKE. Music Hole is an delightful and intriguing specimen that helps to teach Finn a valuable lesson. She’s a very sympathetic and tragic character, left to an eternity of being a bystander with no chance of activism. Though, it seems that she does have a deep understanding of morality, the inner feelings of people, and the acceptance of status regardless. While being essentially doomed, Music Hole accepts her role in the world the best way that she can: by channeling her sadness and isolation into her music. It’s also unique that Finn is the type of person who cannot see her through childlike eyes; while he retains the spirit and goofiness of his younger days, Finn simply can’t view life in an innocent fashion, because he’s been through far too much. Thus, his loss and regret are what shape his perspective, and he’s able to not only acknowledge this sadness rather than putting it off (as he did in Too Old and Breezy) but also uses it as an opportunity to connect with another being who is also suffering from personal issues as well. Finn has all of the support he could ask for, but not many people who can relate to the turmoil within himself.

He’s able to not only talk over his feelings with Music Hole, but to also realize how lucky he is for what he has. Even the company of his brother and (sort of, kind of) sister-in-law is something that’s enough to make Finn feel grateful and more privileged than someone like Music Hole. But the most important lesson Finn gathers from Music Hole is that it’s important to allow sadness to run its course, but not to be consumed by it, and there are many, many creative outlets to channel all of his negative energy into. The most prominent one featured in this episode is song, and Finn allows himself time to properly grieve and express his emotions with the tune “I Look Up to You” that he sings along with Music Hole. The connection between Finn and Music Hole is nothing short from endearing and poignant, and I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t one of those episodes that left me misty-eyed by the end of it. I really love these types of episodes that don’t feel as though they need to end happy or on some sort of a silly note to balance out the drama of the episode. While the ending of The Music Hole isn’t depressing by any means, it’s certainly bittersweet. Finn still possesses great sadness within him, but has learned to accept it and to find new ways to deal with it. The same goes for Music Hole. She’s accepted her sadness and has learned how to utilize her own creativity to cope with it, but she left this episode having something that she’s never had before: a true friend. It’s a truly beautiful connection of two people who are utterly lost in life, yet use their own feelings within them to create something wonderful from it.

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And that’s pretty much what The Music Hole sets out to do: to show the beauty in sadness by displaying all of the wonderful things that can come from it, and can also work to help one move on from it. Adventure Time has set out to prove this with so many other musical moments in the past, but The Music Hole really feels like a culmination of everything that the show has been trying to accomplish by this point in time with this art form. This episode is also deeply fun and humorous; I didn’t expect to actually enjoy the Battle of the Bands sequences, but they’re kept really lively with priceless character moments. I especially love when things go absolutely haywire, as Gunters swarm the audience and start breaking the fuck out of the Banana Guards’ legs. That looked excruciatingly painful. This episode is also a visual treat, not only utilizing gorgeous color schemes, but there’s also several instances where Finn’s face or torso is shaded throughout The Music Hole, adding a lot of depth and volume to his figure. I only have one possible criticism for the episode… well, two actually, if you include the slightly out-of-nowhere rut that Finn is in starting with this episode: I don’t really get if Jake and Lady can hear Music Hole talking or not. I mean, the way this episode plays out, it doesn’t seem like they can. They don’t interact with Music Hole at all aside from looking at her while she chats with Finn. Yet, when Music Hole reappears later on (without giving too much away for y’all who might be reading along with the series) Jake seems to be able to interact with her. I guess I just don’t really understand the rules with Music Hole? Like, can people only hear her when she talks, and isn’t singing? I guess that’s something I can chat more about down the line.  With everything this episode sets out to accomplish and does so successfully, it’s really up there with my other favorite episodes of season seven, and one of my top 20 favorites from the show as a whole. The Music Hole is masterful in helping Finn to continue to understand the parts of himself that he’s less comfortable with, and uses music to accompany these changing feelings in the best way necessary.

If you like the songs that you heard in this episode, please by all means show them some love and support! Follow the links down below for more information about the artists and songs featured in this episode.

LAKE’s website: https://laketheband.bandcamp.com/track/i-look-up-to-you

Where to purchase “I Look Up to You”: https://laketheband.bandcamp.com/track/i-look-up-to-you

Mitski’s website: https://mitski.com/

Where to purchase “Francis Forever”: https://www.amazon.com/Francis-Forever/dp/B019QTSA5C

Favorite line: “He’s all jefferied up in the dumb piece.”

“Five Short Tables” Review

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Original Airdate: May 26, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Kris Mukai & Aleks Sennwald

Within the past 10 or so episodes, Adventure Time has been consistently churning out some really big and profound episodes. With that in mind, the obligatory Graybles/Fionna & Cake episodes likely feel more like a chore to the staff than a passion project by this point in time, which makes sense, since they chose to combine them. Both series are pretty hit-or-miss; while the Graybles episodes tend to get better, or at least more innovative as they go along, the F&C episodes only seems to get more lackluster and less fun as they go along. I can firmly state that Five Short Tables is nowhere near as awful as The Prince Who Wanted Everything turned out to be, though this one still fails to offer anything new or interesting to the series, and mostly just plays out as a dull, inoffensive use of 11 minutes.

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but there just really isn’t a very strong presence among the F&C cast. They’re all essentially carbon copies of their counterparts with diminished charisma and character traits. After Bad Little Boy, Fionna essentially just began to take on the role of “token nice girl” and she doesn’t really offer anything else beyond that. Cake is really the only character who stands on her own as a unique adaptation of Jake, though I often wonder if I’d even think this way if it wasn’t for Roz Ryan portraying her. I will tell you with utter honesty, there’s nothing quite as soothing as hearing Ryan utter the word “flapjack” again. I have trouble believing that this wasn’t an intentional move on the staff’s part. I also think Cake’s interest in expressive pancake art is charmingly silly, though not really enough to keep me captivated throughout the episode’s run.

I will say that the one character who did at least become a trifle more interesting is Gumball. While he sadly isn’t portrayed by Neil Patrick Harris in this episode (though Keith Ferguson at least gave it his all), we actually see a decent amount into Gumball’s psyche as Butterscotch Butler, the butterscotch Scottish butler, mentally eviscerates him using his fears against him. Not only does it give us an interesting look into Gumball’s insecurities and fears, but these can be easily seen as aspects of PB’s mentality as well, of which I have no doubt came into play because Ice King was snooping on her diary. How else would he know these dirty deeds?

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The next few entries are pretty blah. I’m pretty sure a lot of people enjoy the scenes between Turtle Prince and Flame Prince for the added Yaoi, but aside from that, there’s really nothing there that’s particularly entertaining. I remember a whole bunch of people were upset that Flame Prince wasn’t voiced by Dante Basco (which was the headcanon at the time), but holy shit, I had no idea he was voiced by Hannibal Buress until I looked it up! I’m a big fan of The Eric Andre Show. In the next table, we’re treated to a story in which Marshall Lee attempts to feed Lumpy Space Prince his medicine. It’s pretty unfunny, it doesn’t really have an interesting narrative at the helm, and I just don’t really care about the antics between these two pretty non-compelling characters. There are two things worth mentioning: it’s pretty obvious that this is the third board that Kris Mukai worked on for this season when looking at Marshall Lee’s demon-wolf hybrid. I have to say that Mukai’s boarding is a big strength for the episode; Fionna and Cake is big on allusions to anime, and I think Mukai’s drawings and expressions (along with her board partner Aleks Sennwald) really help to carry those allusions forward. The other thing worth noting is that LSP is not voiced by Peter Serafinowicz in this episode, of which isn’t too much of a distraction, because I feel like it effectively distinguishes the authoring styles of both Ice King and Lumpy Space Princess.

The final story starts out pretty creatively, as we’re literally treated to a fanfiction, within a fanfiction, within a fanfiction, within a fanfiction. It’s an idea so ludicrous that only AT could pull it off, and is truly one of the few highlights of this episode that is both pretty funny and legitimately complex. It was cool to hear Grey DeLisle reprise her role as Ice Queen once more, though again, Ice Queen doesn’t offer too much to the actual story and her segment stops almost as quickly as it starts. It is a silly idea that Ice King is the initial creator of the Graybles, and the ending with the distressed Cuber got a legitimate laugh out of me. It’s sad to think that this is actually Cuber’s last episode in the series. While the Graybles episodes were never some of my favorites (aside from the thoroughly ambitious Graybles 1000+), Cuber was always the strongest and most delightful part of any Graybles episode, thanks to Emo Philips, who really brought his character to life.

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Five Short Tables is pretty forgettable. I obviously don’t know what goes on inside the AT writing room, but if I had to guess, I’d say that the F&C episodes come simply out of the pressure of audience expectations and are never entirely what the crew wants to spend their time working on. I can’t say for certain, but I’ll at least say that Aleks Sennwald and Kris Mukai put enough effort into the visual and creative appeal of this episode that I can’t really get mad at it for being lazy, because there’s clear effort put into this one. The truth of the matter is that Fionna and Cake just don’t really have a ton to work with outside of their first appearance and the Graybles stories never fully land. It’s a crossover of two concepts that work together fine, but don’t really standout as anything slightly remarkable.

Thank you for joining me this week for the AT review bomb! With only 50 episodes left, we’re nearing the end. Be on the lookout for The Music Hole later this week, followed by the usual weekly Friday reviews, and then we resume with daily reviews as we move into the winter.

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Favorite line: “The purple thing had a tablespoon of syrup.”

 

“Elemental” Review

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Original Airdate: May 19, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne

After the events of Evergreen, a bit of a hunger arose inside of me to see more into the backstory of the elementals and their role in the state of Ooo and the world in general. Only a season later, Elemental comes around and interestingly brings back said storyline, drops a bomb by revealing information about some of our central characters, and opens up for a lot in future entries. With that in mind, Elemental is mostly just set up for future episodes down the line, in typical Adventure Time fashion. So, we don’t get too far into said lore or story before the episode shuts down completely, but it does have a decent amount of fun along the way. This is a Kent Osborne solo-board, which is still kind of surprising to me. Aside from being a regular board artist on Ice King-centric episodes, I never pictured Osborne being especially into to the underlying lore of the series. Though, he is one of the head story editors, after all, and had a hefty part is crafting Elemental’s plot.

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Osborne’s silliness really permeates throughout those first few minutes: we’re treated to Starchy’s sad entrance into his house as he once again remembers that his wife left him, the initial driving conflict of there being no hangers in Ooo, and Jake gassing out Finn during a stakeout. I do enjoy how this episode continuously references Ice King’s behavior as “classic Ice King,” and yeah, that’s exactly how it feels. Osborne has had a big part in creating some of Ice King’s greatest entries in the past, such as Loyalty to the King, Still, Holly Jolly Secrets, and so on, and this episode really feels like a return to form in the wacky adventures of IK, Finn, and Jake. Though again, it feels classic while also feeling current, because it really shows in just how the boys treat him. While they still reprimand Ice King for attempting to steal, they talk to him more like a little brother than they do an actual enemy. Even upon being confronted, Ice King just mutters, “oh, hey guys.” They have a pretty established understanding of each other by this point in time.

The ball doesn’t really start rolling until Patience St. Pim is introduced a few minutes in, who might be one of the most fun villains this show has ever put out. I say might, because this episode is really her one, true moment of stardom, and it’s a ton of fun. I really love how (literally) animated she is as a character, with nearly every sentence she utters being followed by some form of dance move. I also really enjoy the way she interacts with others. The episode has a lot of fun with how much Patience doesn’t understand about current society, as she treats Jake like an actual dog and asks which year it is (which apparently isn’t recorded anymore. Ah, lore!). Going back to what I was saying about the dynamic between IK and F&J, it’s sweet that the boys are quick to defend Ice King as semi-reformed, referencing once again that he hasn’t even attempted to kidnap a princess since The Party’s Over, Isla de Senorita, a whole two seasons ago. But, for every step forward with Ice King is always two steps back, as he continues to be easily influenced by the power of a pretty lady.

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Ice King’s methods of capturing the princesses are hilariously cruel, especially Flame Princess’s. I can only imagine how she feels around him after previously destroying his entire kingdom in Frost & Fire. It’s also interesting to note production-wise that Slime Princess was not voiced by Maria Bamford in this episode. Instead, her brief line was provided by Melissa Villasenor, who voiced Grob in the previous episode. It’s always kind of funny to me that the show persistently utilizes Villasenor’s talents, but only for her to provide a line or two. Her previous credentials include Rainy in Another Way, a Fruit Witch in Dad’s Dungeon, and Sveinn in Broke His Crown. It’s a silly concept to me; does she just happen to stumble by the recording booth every so often and they ask, “hey, could you read these three words for us? Okay, thanks.”

It’s also a lot of fun to see Patience interact with all of the other elementals. I truly love how PB deductively tries to get information out of Patience simply by playing good cop. It’s rare that PB ever resists the urge for absolute rampage, but here, she’s actually using logic in a situation where her hands are essentially tied. Once Patience gets into discussing elemental history, things really get interesting. It’s thoroughly cool to see these various flashes of different incarnations of the elementals, as well as how they persisted within the human world. It’s pretty neat to hear the notion, “it was a non-magic world back then.” With that in mind, I wonder what truly sets apart this era of humanity from everything that came before it and everything that came after it. Does it have something to do with radioactive fallout? The catalyst comets? The Lich? Whatever it is, it’s cool to see that there were essences of magic even then, and that those who were affected by it chose to keep it secretive, and intrinsically knew the weight of the power that they possessed. The parallels between Patience and her former incarnation, Urgence, are very much apparent. Aside from the two having correlations in their names alone, both resist the idea of ending their legacy and choose to defy those that are closest to them. Within the AT lore, ice is easily represented by lonely and solemn behavior, and I think it’s pretty clear that both Patience and Urgence fear death and demise more than anything. Their resistance comes from the fact that they can’t accept the idea of being condemned to an eternity of nothingness over being alive and in power. I also commend this episode for showing the literal apocalypse on screen for a split second. Never thought I’d see that through the course of the series.

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The final leg of the episode is mostly dedicated to a highly energetic confrontation with Patience, in which PB initially tries to defeat her using her elemental powers (though fails, because PB isn’t exactly a firm believer in magic), only for Slime Princess to be the true hero when she channels into her own abilities. The episode ends on a really… odd note, as PB states that “she isn’t going anywhere for awhile.” Uh, but won’t she just get out immediately after the slime is scraped off of her? Is PB really just going to let this potentially dangerous criminal go because she was contained by a temporary setback? It’s a pretty stupid ending that feels like it doesn’t have a real way to successfully wrap things up, while also leaving possibilities open for the future, and makes other characters seem a lot dumber in the process.

But regardless, I do think this one has a lot of fun moments, some interesting lore, and nice subtle moments to top off. I do wish the episode didn’t feel so tightly packed together, as it feels like it strives for a lot in the course of 11 minutes and can barely even wrap it up in that time, but I’ll reinstate that I at least had a good time along the way thanks so some solid writing from Osborne. Interestingly enough, I’m not a huge fan of this one on a storyboarding perspective. I usually like the super cute, squishy designs that Osborne provides for the characters, but here, I think it’s a little too much. Half of the episode features Jake right eye almost entirely off of his face, and his mouth closer to his legs than his body. It was definitely more distracting than charming for me this time around. Regardless, I think the story of the elements eventually leads to some really entertaining and intriguing entries, and Elemental is a mostly solid starting point.

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Favorite line: “You’re like, a beautiful Ice King.” “Oh boy, here we go!”

“Normal Man” Review

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Original Airdate: May 12, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Sam Alden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Bun Bun” Review

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Original Airdate: May 5, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim

The Red Throne Apology Letter – er, I mean, Bun Bun, checks in on Flame Princess, Cinnamon Bun, and Flame King after quite some time, and appropriately focuses on the changes that have occurred since the last time we’ve seen them. The Red Throne is pretty well-known for its notoriously bad reception from the fanbase. Hell, I’d even include it on my own personal bottom ten list (though not entirely for the reasons that everyone else hates it) and I think it’s pretty safe to say that I’m not the only one, as it seems that even the staff picked up on this. Bun Bun was written by Somvilay Xayaphone and Seo Kim, of whom also boarded The Red Throne, and man, it really feels like they did everything in their power to make atonement. The best part about this atonement is that it doesn’t feel as if it only exists for the purpose of fanservice, but it’s actually a thoroughly interesting exploration of not only how much Finn has changed over the course of a year, but Cinnamon Bun of all characters! Much like his former self, I think Cinnamon Bun’s developmental arc has been half-baked at best. He started out as a prominent secondary character with little intelligence, left his star role in the Candy Kingdom to become Flame Princess’s knight, and suddenly achieved competency after becoming fully baked within the Kingdom, where his character pretty much fell off from any form of prominence afterwards. While a fitting resolution to his gag personality, I was still somewhat hungry for a story revolving around the newly intellectual CB and how much he’s truly shifted from his original state of being. This episode plays around with this in the best way, by showing how even those around Cinnamon Bun don’t truly know how to support and care for him beyond what they gathered from his personality before.

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As I mentioned, the central theme of this episode is very clearly the changing nature of relationships, as several characters try to adjust or, at the very least, accept these changes around them. Flame Princess moves past the anger and hatred she feels towards her father, as she allows him to go free on his own and to make a new life for himself, Finn shifts through the awkwardness he feels around his ex-girlfriend and finally makes an effort to mend their broken relationship, and Princess Bubblegum struggles to truly empathize with her former assistant as she tries to help him in the only way she knows how: by creating life, per usual. The PB-CB dynamic in this one is perhaps the most interesting and poignant. Both characters have gone through major shifts in the year prior, and that awkward convening they share at the beginning of the episode exemplifies that. Perspectives shift over time, but true inflections based off of past feelings typically reign through, even when time passes. Bubblegum still looks as Cinnamon Bun as her servant who needs constant attention and supervision, and CB didn’t leave on the best terms with his supervisor, as he began a new, comfortable lifestyle since ditching the CK. It’s kind of like the relationship between a child and a super overprotective mother: even when the child has become secure and independent, the mother still craves the opportunity to coddle and care for her child. While PB has a… complex relationship with Cinnamon Bun, she still deeply cares for him, as she does for all of her other citizens, and is also likely stricken with some guilt, considering how she treated CB in the past. Thus, Bun Bun comes along.

Bun Bun is a shockingly endearing character of whom should be really annoying, but is surprisingly quite adorable and hilarious. I’m not sure if it’s because of Ashly Burch’s delightful inflections, or the matter that the character herself is just given great lines, but despite causing constant problems within the story, Bun Bun never once gets on my nerves. I think Somvilay and Seo Kim did a great job of writing her in a way where she’s somewhat annoying to the characters surrounding her, but not to the audience. The charm of Bun Bun’s character comes from that fact that she’s literally just been born and is genuinely ecstatic to exist at all. I love how every small little thing amazes her and she’s learning new things literally by the second. She actually reminds me a lot of Kent, in a way. I also love how much the contrivances of her character are played around with, in the most meta way possible. Finn’s line of, “that’s funny that you don’t know that word, but you know the word ‘opposite,’” sums it up real nicely. I actually think Bun Bun is way less annoying than Cinnamon Bun was in his more incompetent days, and I’m glad that she didn’t appear a ton more after this episode, just because I wouldn’t want subsequent appearances to ruin her initial charm.

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The connection between CB and BB is equally interesting, because I feel as though their relationship once again helps to unravel the subtle insecurities within Cinnamon Bun. It’s neat to see how CB initially somewhat resents and is a bit embarrassed by Bun Bun after enduring her shenanigans, as he likely recognizes this behavior as how he once acted before he matured. Bun Bun’s actions parallel Cinnamon Bun’s to a tee, even in the instance of directly disobeying orders only seconds after they are given (a small homage to Earth & Water) as well as Bun Bun’s sweet flip. Cinnamon Bun is a dignified knight and guardian now, and no longer has time for the goofy antics that he once pursued, or so he thinks. As him and Bun Bun begin to spend more time together once the Flame King is accidentally released, CB does start to recognize Bun Bun’s special nature when watching her interact so civilly with the FK (apologies for the dozens of different acronyms in this post). CB realizes that Bun Bun is a lot like himself; CB too ditched his old methods of living to become apart of a new kingdom and to help lay down the foundation of said kingdom. Despite having part in this, CB denies his previous existence because he associates it with his own shortcomings: he wants to be seen as a serious, competent knight, and not the goofball he once was. What he doesn’t realize at first is that he only became a knight through his zany state of being, and not because he was a intelligent warrior to begin with. It’s only then that he begins to adopt his state of being: he can be silly and quirky while also being a noble person. The true brilliance of Cinnamon Bun was always his direct honesty and sweetness to other people, and had he been lacking these traits from the start, he wouldn’t be who he is today. It’s then that he acknowledges the true brilliance behind Bun Bun, and that who she is does not need to be changed or altered in any which way.

While that alone is enough content to fill an entire episode, Bun Bun ingeniously ties together Flame Princess and Finn’s resolution as a subplot. Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way either. While I’m sure Seo and Somvilay could have came up with an 11 minute Finn/FP team-up story, I’m glad that they mostly just focused on giving the two a few quiet scenes in which they could bond over. From their initial introduction, it’s clear that Finn still feels deeply guilty about what happened between the two. Maybe not enough to think about it for days on end, but to the point where he respects Flame Princess’s boundaries (finally) enough to immediately depart a social situation with her after his work was complete. While it definitely shows how awkward he is due to the fact that he doesn’t even try to engage in some form of small talk with FP after delivering Bun Bun, it’s genuinely a huge step for Finn to completely choose to disengage in connecting with FP after years of absolute thirst. It’s cool to see that he is willing to back off entirely, not only for the sake of Flame Princess, but for the sake of himself. The little guy’s been through a lot in the past year, and it’s only suitable that he takes appropriate measures to ensure that he’s caring for himself and his own well-being, and that means perhaps eliminating FP from his life all together. But, FP is generally a lot more chill and less in-her-head than Finn is, and still wants to hangout with him, despite everything that happened. Time heals most wounds, and in her busy schedule, FP has likely allowed for a lot of time to move past her break-up, as well as to forgive Finn for what he’s done. Since Finn is the one who fucked up, it’s a lot more difficult for him because he isn’t really allowed to invite himself back into Flame Princess’s life unless she lets him, to which he’s even surprised is permitted to happen.

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During a lunch that they share together, Finn finally breaks the ice on what’s going through his head this entire time. It seems like it’s really tough for him to confront head on, but he does it with absolute grace in one of his most refined moments of all time.

“It’s just, when we broke up, I said sorry, but I didn’t fully understand exactly what I did wrong. I get it now. I shouldn’t have manipulated you. That was a really, really messed-up thing to do, and I’m truly sorry.”

A simplistic apology, to be certain, but one that is so successful because of its simplicity. Finn doesn’t ramble on or try to justify his behavior in one way or another; he simply acknowledges his faults in the past, empathizes with FP, and apologizes for hurting her in any way. I truly appreciate the brilliant subtleties that went into this apology as well; Finn doesn’t just simply say that he’s sorry, but he outwardly addresses the fact that his first apology was insincere because he just wanted to feel better about himself. It’s a stunningly mature moment that finally resolves any lingering drama between him and Phoebe, and I couldn’t have asked for it any other way. The cool part is that the episode also takes the time to go in a Pajama War route by simply having Flame Princess and Finn catch up with each other and have some fun. It gets the heavy bits out of the way early on to allow for these two likable characters to enjoy each other’s presence, and it’s quite sweet. I always imagined this type of episode to reunite Finn and FP as lovers, but I’m really glad that Bun Bun has them patching things up as friends, and nothing more beyond that. I feel as though for Finn to truly learn his lesson, he would have to be fine with having Flame Princess as a friend or an acquaintance, and that’s exactly what happens here.

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We’re also treated to the triumphant return of Flame King who, as always, is carried by his terrific voicework courtesy of Keith David. Flame King’s bits are likely the weakest bits of the episode, though not bad by any means, and I do like how FK’s plight parallels his daughter’s journey into independence, similar to how BB’s path correlates with Cinnamon Bun’s. While Flame King is left with nothing, he’s still able to gain change by trying something entirely new, with a surprising guest along the way. The scenes between FK and Bun Bun are short, but rather endearing. There’s just something really funny and sweet about a violent jerk like the Flame King enjoying the company of a cute, little kid like Bun Bun. Out of all the connections we’ve had in this episode, I actually really would like to see more of these two working off of each other. I feel like it opens up for a lot of funny possibilities.

Two quick issues I had with this one: like a lot of Somvilay episodes, this one was weighed down by some clunky storyboarding efforts. I get the fact that Finn’s backpack was supposed to be enlarged by the inclusion of his fire suit, but man, it just looks absolutely ridiculous in a way that’s more awkward than funny. There’s a lot of moments like this, especially at the beginning, though it’s more of a nitpick at this point than anything. The other issue I had with this one is more of a personal gripe, but I find it kind of sad that this episode is pretty much the “designated Flame Princess episode” of the season and she really doesn’t get to do much. I wouldn’t really sacrifice any parts of the episode, as I thought they were all pretty important, but it is kind of disappointing that her character feels more like an extension of Finn’s character and an afterthought by this point in time. One of the reasons I really like The Cooler was because it explored a unique relationship that we don’t see much of and helped to add to Flame Princess’s character in new and different ways. By this episode, it feels like the writers don’t really know what to do with her character, to the point where her main personality trait is that she likes to freestyle rap when she’s not ruling her kingdom, which is ultimately a poor decision, in my humble opinion. Though again, this is more an issue I have with the direction of her character, rather than the direction of the episode itself. She has her moments here; I love the initial “security check” of Bun Bun upon entering the Fire Kingdom. Even after making peace with Bubblegum, FP still doesn’t completely trust her.

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Bun Bun is pretty fantastic overall, though. I really love how seamlessly it ties together change among three unlikely characters, and packs it all into one successful 11 minute package. This is essentially the last major role Cinnamon Bun possesses in the remainder of the series, and I think it’s a pretty pitch perfect cap for his character. He perhaps goes through the biggest transition out of any character in the series, and Bun Bun explores this transition in possibly the most meaningful and interesting of ways, to the point where I’m really fond of Cinnamon Bun in his new state of being. As I’ve also mentioned, it’s another terrific example of how Finn is also changing for the better, and making up for his past mistakes as much as he can. I never would have expected an episode where CB and Finn deal with the internal changes within themselves side-by-side, but dammit Adventure Time, I’ll take it!

Favorite line: “I’m 100% evil. What’s evil?”

 

“I Am a Sword” Review

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Original Airdate: April 23, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Sam Alden & Jesse Moynihan

Couple of announcements before we start: I’ll be gaining back some of my free-time as we approach the month of December, so expect semi-daily reviews to return shortly. In fact, next week I plan on covering four whole episodes: Bun Bun, Normal ManElemental, and Five Short Tables. Consider it my Thanksgiving Day treat!

Secondly, the application for the Animation Podcast I’m starting up is still open till mid-December. As I mentioned, I’ll be advertising the application on this blog sporadically throughout the next couple weeks. You can apply to be a co-host on the Podcast HERE.

Finally, you can expect the release schedule of the final 50 episodes to be posted on this blog within the next few weeks. The schedule will be strictly estimated; I may jump ahead or behind (unlikely) depending on what occurs in my life. Though I will try and follow it as closely as possible, and I will eventually open up a survey where all of you readers can suggest possible “top” lists and ideas for post-blog content. Alrighty, I’ve rambled on long enough, onto the review!

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The concept of the Finn Sword has always been a curious one for myself: is the Finn inside of the Finn Sword the real Finn? Is the Finn within the Finn Sword a real, living entity, or some sort of a remnant of Finn’s memories? What is the true connection between Finn and the Finn Sword? Some of these questions are sort of answered in I Am a Sword and beyond, but other questions are left purposely vague. The connection with Finn and Finn Sword mostly exists on a metaphorical level, as their surface level relationship is not only difficult to understand as a viewer, but for those who surround Finn as well. Even those closest to Finn, like Jake, just dismiss it as borderline materialism. Though, the strong point of the episode is that it makes it apparent that this is a deeply personal issue for Finn, but we’re still willing to sympathize with him for those metaphorical reasons mentioned. I Am a Sword explores the connection between a boy and his sword quite interestingly, in ways that are as heady as Jesse Moynihan has ever been, with added bouts of hilarity from both Moynihan and Sam Alden.

The episode opens with one of my favorite shots in the series, as Finn and Jake roam the span of a wooden bridge as the sun sets in the background. This image is so impactful that 90% of all online new sources included it when announcing that Adventure Time was ending back in 2016. Even I’m guilty, heh. In general, the moment serves as a nice introduction to the main story at hand and sets things up for the remainder of the episode when Finn accidentally launches the Finn Sword into the unknown. While a bit of a foolish decision for him to make, Finn has never been the most… careful person. He’s constantly throwing himself into the face of danger, whether it be to save his former girlfriend from burning out, the fate of humanity from Orgalorg, or even just proving a point to his brother. This is one of Finn’s major characteristics, and it certainly doesn’t make him unlikable, but it’s worth some reevaluation in regards to how this behavior affects the people around him, or even himself. I do wonder how exactly the Finn within the Finn Sword operates logically, in the sense that the Finn Sword is very clearly disapproving of Finn’s behavior. Since the Finn Sword knew Finn’s last name was Mertens back in Dentist, I do wonder if the Finn within the sword operates more on Finn’s subconscious feelings and behavioral ticks more than anything. Perhaps part of Finn knows that he shouldn’t be partaking in such risky behavior, but is compelled more by his desires to have fun and live life in an adventurous sense instead, while the Finn Sword has no purpose beyond being an alternate version of Finn, so he’s merely there to guide himself into methods of a less stressful lifestyle. Obviously, that method ended up failing.

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Finn’s feelings of guilt can easily be attributed to this neglect to care for himself and the people around him in a meaningful way, of which can be identified as a result of Finn’s trauma through his experiences with his father, that are mostly notable recently in Beyond the Grotto and Don’t Look. While Beyond the Grotto has Finn recognize that he was mistreating the Sea Lard, Don’t Look involves Finn’s ultimate guilt in not caring for those even closer to him. I Am a Sword takes it one step further by showing Finn’s guilt for mistreating perhaps the closest person to him: virtually, himself. The thing that Finn fears most is, like I’ve mentioned, treating others in a way that his father treated him. While I think that Finn is entirely too hard on himself with this comparison, it does bring up an interesting idea about Finn’s growth as he enters into his late-teen years: how much of himself does he have to sacrifice in order to be the person he wants to be? I’d be open to the argument that he doesn’t have to change anything about himself, but it’s really apparent with practically anyone that people do need to change in order to grow up, whether actively or on a subconscious level. Not necessarily in a drastic, persona shifting way, but in the sense of shaping your character and personality around the desires and moralistic attributes that one does possess. For years, we’ve watched Finn throw himself and the people around him into various different dangerous obstacles and trials, but only now is he discovering the possible consequences. While he’ll always be an adventurer at heart, his main desires and goals in present time are to be as morally astute as he can possibly be, and his recklessness is finally starting to cause major issues in his life. Of course, there’s a happy medium between the occasional thrill and being vigilant when doing so, but Finn first has to learn when to think and analyze before he seeks out such a sense of entertainment.

Finn’s moral dilemma within his own self can easily be elaborated on through Finn Sword’s experiences with Bandit Princess. Finn Sword is forced against his will to partake in illegal activities and even kill/harm other people as a result. Finn himself feels as if he’s forced to hurt other people in his actions because of the guilt that has overcome him in relation to his own personality. Finn fears that he’ll be compelled to hurt himself and more people in the future because of the way he is, as Finn Sword feels because he has no control over what he is: a sword.

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May I also take this opportunity to shoutout what a terrific one-shot villain Bandit Princess is? Not only does she possess a fantastic design, but she’s voiced by none other than Amy Sedaris, of whom I adore from a comedic standpoint, and also for her voicework. What makes Bandit Princess a terrific villain is not only that she’s hilariously hammy and boasts a terrific design, but she’s also legitimately threatening in a way that a lot of Adventure Time villains aren’t. Bandit Princess is actually shown to kill people on-screen, which is primarily a rarity for the series. Of course, it’s handled in the most PG way possible, with Mayor Cameron’s (of whom I never expected to see again)  body finding its way back to his head, but of course, there’s also the rich man and the guard of the bank, of whom we never see again and can only assumed to be dead. With a show that’s filled with threatening space gods and deities, it’s amazing that a character who is virtually powerless can be so menacing with the simple use of an item.

It’s one thing this episode specializes with in its theme: the power that items have over others. Bandit Princess achieves power from weapons, the spiky people achieve power from having money, and even a tertiary character like Spear Bear bases his entire identity around his sole possession. Of course, I could go into great detail about this overarching theme, but I’m gonna leave that topic for someone who does my job better than I ever could, Uncivilized Elk! This video hits it out of the park with everything that this theme aims to accomplish. Check it out if you haven’t! Also interesting to note: Bandit Princess was originally supposed to be portrayed by Penny from City of Thieves, as seen in this concept art. This is a callback that I’m actually glad we didn’t get, because I overall really enjoy Bandit Princess as a character, and feel as though Penny simply could not take on this role in an enjoyable fashion. It does make me wonder if Bandit Princess is the technical ruler of the City of Thieves, or if it’s a self-proclaimed title to begin with.

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Speaking of callbacks, this episode is riddled with them, in the best way necessary. Not only does it help contribute to that overarching theme I had mentioned earlier, but it’s also refreshing to use pre-existing locations as a method of exploring the Land of Ooo. While it’s always nice to visit new territory and landscapes, it’s also cool to see that these tertiary locations are a legitimate part of Ooo, and that Finn and Jake are able to access them at any point. Though not intentional, I think it’s even cooler that Moynihan and Alden chose perhaps the two most disposable episodes (Gut Grinder and Box Prince) to revisit, which shows that even the most forgettable AT entries still exist and have importance within this world.

The moments of hilarity within this episode are too many to name. Right up there with Joshua & Margaret Investigations, this episode has a plethora of funny one-liners. Of my favorites are Jake listing off the various different things that give Finn nightmares (of which are too high in number by this point), Finn and Jake’s back-and-forth about what happens to decapitated chickens, and one line that I still find so hilarious that I’m just gonna leave it at the bottom of the page to (hopefully) leave you with a laugh after you’re done reading. It’s really amazing to me that heady writers like Jesse and even Sam are, without a doubt, the best comedy writers from this seasons. Flute Spell, I Am a Sword, and Normal Man all play around with some rather intricate stories, but are ultimately just as hilarious as they are thought-provoking. One thing Alden gets down pretty well is the smaller details; Finn helping BMO get a staple out from the stapler was just adorable, and the game Finn ends up playing is actually created by Charlie! Look at Jake, being a good dad and supporting his kids’ endeavors.

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Love how this shot mirrors Finn & Jake looking over the Spiky Village in Gut Grinder.

What the episode ultimately boils down to is Finn making the same mistake that he made at the beginning of the episode: trusting his impulses, rather than his methods of logical thinking. While he may see it as a choice of pride, Finn is enrolling himself in yet another reckless decision where he simply does not have the upperhand, and he actively refuses to let Jake help him out. Instead of confronting the issue at hand by addressing what went wrong, Finn thinks he’s doing right by making the situation his sole responsibility, but ignores what got him there to begin with. While I call bullshit on a golf club being his weapon of choice (he still has the root sword, and we even saw Nothung within his treasury!) it’s a great item that’s used to represent how he truly didn’t think this situation out to begin with, and had it not been for his grass sword, he likely would’ve been toast. But the grass sword can also be a key indicator of Finn’s lack of control, as it’s the finishing blow that destroys the Finn sword completely.

It’s funny, because I remember when this episode first aired, people were convinced that Finn would be in a coma until the Finn Sword was revived. While I was never under that impression, it is easy to see how affected Finn is by the death of his Finn Sword, and how he was always true in his efforts to inform others about the special connection. That connection was always legitimate, and Finn is now left with the terrible sadness of essentially “losing himself” by not being able to trust in his own actions. Season seven has been great with refusing to stray away from Finn’s own personal issues; while season six could easily be seen as a culmination of everything that Finn has learned so far in his life, season seven shows that, even with the potential for resolution, life continues to throw curve balls regardless. As BMO so eloquently states:

You mean some people are just pure city sidewalk boom-boom from a rat donk and that’s all there is to it?”

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The statement is there to show that there will always be shitty people who do shitty things to others, but Jake’s unsure response shows that there’s something even more threatening than not trusting others, and that’s of course the lack of trust in one’s self. Finn has been faced with shitty people for a majority of his life, and while he’s always been able to cope with that, he fails to cope with specific issues within himself. And the world will continue to be wooly-booly for himself, unless he’s able to regain that trust and self-control back. While Finn is stuck with repressing his issues for now, we’re left with one haunting image that shows how this issue is fair from over: a green glow emitting from the Finn Sword. Finn’s battle with his own identity has only just begun!

I Am a Sword is not only deeply hilarious, but also takes a look at the larger picture with how Finn is dealing with his own insecurities at this point in his maturity. This episode shows that, while he’s learned a lot, he still has a long way to go in his own personal growth, and that relates entirely to how he views himself and treats the people around him. It also does a terrific job of exploring one of the most complex relationships in the entire show, that will only continue to grow in complexity as time goes on.

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Favorite line: “I was born with rabies and my parents didn’t love me ’cause they both had mono!”