“Scamps” Review

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Original Airdate: January 21, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne & Somvilay Xayaphone

The first half of season seven is comparable to the first half of season five, in a way. While not bad in any way, shape, or form, season 5.1 was filled with a lot of decent to good episodes, but very few that actually stood out as exceptionally hilarious or dramatic. In the same vein, the first half of season seven has had FootballEverything StaysMay I Come In?, and The More You Moe, The Moe You Know (and I just miiight throw in Varmints as well) while the 20 or so other episodes have ranged from mostly decent to just generally good. Not to say this is a bad thing; season 5.2 and season 6 contain some of the best episodes of the series, and also a handful of the worst episodes of the series. Thus far, the only episodes of this season that I would consider “bad” are Cherry Cream Soda and Checkmate, so it really does not hurt to get treated to a series of mostly decent or pleasant episodes that are mildly inoffensive in their own right. But at the time, it did have me longing for some of those really strong entries that season six was churning out. I mention this because Scamps is perhaps the last fluff episode of season seven, and we start getting some exceedingly terrific entries from this point on. It’s hard for me to actually think of a single episode after Scamps that isn’t intriguing on some level (that’s not to say there aren’t any criticisms to be had, however) and I really look forward to entering the second chapter of this season. For now, we have Scamps, which again, isn’t terrible by any means, but probably equals Paper Pete‘s level of “so unimaginably simplistic that I nearly forget it exists.” Seriously, I have trouble thinking of anything that actually stood out to me in this one.

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The Marshmallow Kids are… odd characters to introduce at this point in the series. The episode actually opens with a mini face-off between the Marshmallow Kids and the Notorious Pup Gang, and it really made me wonder… why the fuck didn’t this episode just star the Pup Gang? They’re already established characters and criminal adolescents with nearly identical backstories, I have no idea where the concept came from to introduce a set of entirely new characters (of whom we’re never even going to see again) just for the purpose of this episode. They’re cute in their antics, I suppose, but are all pretty interchangeable and don’t really have any defining personality traits outside of being swindlers. The only thing noteworthy about them that I actually realized while rewatching this episode is that one is voiced by Max Charles, who portrays the titular character in Harvey Beaks. It was nice to hear his voice in something else, and it actually surprised me to see that Charles is featured a lot in other television roles.

Finn’s part in the episode is pretty nice. It’s just cool to see him in the role of caregiver in general, and after all of the growth that he had experienced from the previous season, it’s even nicer to see that he’s a better teacher to children than his own father was to him. The way he uses genuine survival tactics as a method of tricking the children into scamming is pretty cute, and in the most “Finn” way possible. Honestly, the one thing that bothered me the most about Finn in this episode are his facial expressions. I really, really hate this gambit of having to shit on Somvilay in every single episode he works on, because the guy has some honest to God great stuff coming up, but the way Finn’s eyes and mouth are distanced from each other when his face is shown is truly offputting. It’s almost like Somvilay was working off of Herpich’s method of drawing Finn’s facial expressions, but took it one step beyond in a way that just makes Finn look really wonky and unnatural. I know you’re a professional who could probably care less about the opinion of some dork on the internet, but my apologies, Somvy. I promise I’ll show you justice in the future.

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There’s a few other things I like about this one; PB’s voice memo to Finn, and her outfits in general (momma’s lookin’ good) are pretty great, and Jake’s brief role was priceless. I love how much Jake’s changes in lifestyle are emphasized in the beginning of the episode, and then retroactively retconned by the time he realizes how successful he can become. That boy couldn’t stop loving crime all together even if he tried.

The two things I like most about this episode are actually on a technical level. As always, the backgrounds and colors look beautiful, especially the transition from daytime to night. Also, Tim Kiefer’s score throughout Scamps was on point! He uses really distinct trumpet sounds to go along with the personalities of the Marshmallow Kids quite nicely, in a way that actually reminds me of Ed, Edd n Eddy (wouldn’t be surprised if that’s where Kiefer got his inspiration for this one).

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Otherwise, this episode is just entirely forgettable. Similar to Paper Pete, it’s hard for me to trash it completely, because I don’t find it unbearable, but it’s so uninteresting in its story and execution of events. There are very, very few jokes, the Marshmallow Kids are particularly unremarkable, their relationship with Finn, while cute, is just kind of generic, and it fails to stick out to me in its humor, story, drama, or anything else it has to offer. Similar to The Pods, it’s a straightforward story that could have been done on pretty much any other show. When I think of Adventure TimeScamps is one of the last episodes to actually come into my head.

Interestingly enough, Scamps is actually Adventure Time‘s peak in viewership. This episode garnered 1.45 million views, a feat that no other episode of the series since has been able to accomplish. Granted, CN’s poor television marketing and the decline of cable in general could easily be at blame for this, but it’s still humorous to think that this episode was the dropping point for AT in terms of viewership.

Favorite line: “Ya know, those Marshmallow Kids remind me of you when you were a young lad.”


“King’s Ransom” Review

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Original Airdate: January 15, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Hanna K. Nyström & Andres Salaff

The oddest thing about King’s Ransom to me is that it centers around Ice King’s journey into finding the missing Gunter, which is the exact same plot of the Ice King comic miniseries that was released FIVE DAYS after this episode had aired. I mean, it’s likely a coincidence, but just strikes me as especially odd considering that storyboard artist Emily Partridge ended up being the head writer for said miniseries, and whether or not it’s canon, I can imagine that anyone who picked up Ice King Issue #1 that week suffered from a serious case of deja-vu. But, regardless, the episode itself proves to be a lot of fun, and one that works mostly on simplicity as a means of success. And who better than to capture the charming, lovely simplicity of the main cast than Hanna K. Nyström?

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Nyström only just began as a storyboard artist in season seven, but her ability to empathize and understand these characters, as well as her strong efforts in storytelling, have truly led her to be one of my favorite board artists in the latter half of the series. Like Kent Osborne, Nyström has a way of depicting the cast in such a non-cynical and loving way that is just absolutely irresistible. It’s a method that may have been a bit too sweet early on in the series, but as our main characters begin to change and evolve, it’s more than welcomed as an accurate form of development. Joining her at the helm of this one is Andres Salaff, who doesn’t have a very big portfolio in the storyboarding realm aside from this episode and The Music Hole, but his efforts in those two do reinforce his equal ability to understand the characters on a personal level. Hell, he was a supervising director for two seasons, after all!

Following up from that whole ramble, a lot of the enjoyment from this episode comes from the absolutely delightful interactions between Finn, Jake, and Ice King. I certainly view King’s Ransom as a big turning point in the relationship between the boys and Ice King. By this point in time, Finn has almost fully warmed up to the IK. In fact, he shows absolutely no sign of being angry or frustrated by Ice King, even when he’s directly inconveniencing the brothers. Of course, Jake still hasn’t fully warmed up to Ice King’s often manic behavior, and is noticeably upset with him, at least at first. Jake slowly begins to sympathize with Ice King as the episode progresses, mostly in a way that goes back to Ice King’s previously sentiment that Gunter is comparable to being Finn’s Jake (or vice-versa). Jake likely identifies in the sweetness behind Ice King and Gunter’s relationship, in the same way that Jake would do anything to save his little bro in his time of need (humorously, Ice King might actually be even more dedicated in his efforts than Jake would. We all remember Power Animal, right?) so he’s able to look at the IK from a more sympathetic outlook. It would still take a bit more time for Jake to fully treat the guy as an equal, but this is a HUGE step for him in his behavior.

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While I don’t mean to undermine some terrific conflict episodes between the brothers and their overly clingy compadre, it is really cool to see a straightforward adventure-themed episode with all three boys working together in harmony. A lot of the fun with this one does derives from all of the back-and-forth interactions between the boys, and the circumstances that befall them. This is also an episode that is particularly silly in its execution of particular elements; the literal fox chase that involves Jake multiplying into several identical (non-sentient) Jakes, Mr. Fox’s disturbance in his own lonely bedroom, the added bit of lore to Ice King that he begins to look more like Simon whenever his crown is miles away from him, and various other visual gags that are just delightful (the return of the Jake car got me particularly giddy). The concept in general, while treated in a genuine way, is equally kind of hilarious when you start to think about it. Ice King is searching specifically for “Gunter”, while there are hundreds of other penguins that take refuge in his own kingdom. I didn’t even think he could tell the difference half of the time.

Though it’s silly, a lot of the episode does work off of your emotional investment in the situation, which again, I believe to be genuine. You really get the feeling that Ice King does care about Gunter, beyond being just the archetypal sidekick for his muse. It’s probably one of his most heroic displays to date, and he constantly puts himself in dire situations, just for the sake of saving his little buddy. While Ice King’s entire existence is based around the life of a man who cared very little for his pupil, IK proves to be an improvement just by showing that he does care in one way, shape or form. Of course, some of this did read to me as a bit schmaltzy at first, but it was quickly negated when we get to the end.

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I probably sound redundant getting to this next point, but I once again think it’s SO IMPORTANT that Ice King willingly almost gives up Gunter at the sight of a beautiful woman. While I’m totally for getting bits and hints of Ice King being able to develop over a period of time, it is once again an important reminder that Ice King will never fully change as long as the crown holds power over him. And that’s alright! Ice King’s apathy and failure to understand social connections are what made him great to begin with, and while I love the connections of understanding and love that he develops throughout the series, it great that the show is still dedicated to showing off his insanity and selfishness despite it all. As for the reveal of Betty, it was pretty fine. It leaves a bit of intrigue for Broke His Crown, but doesn’t really do much for me here. I think the reveal in general was pretty obvious for anyone watching, and the Herpich-styled tin can voice just kind of felt like an excuse for how Lena Dunham couldn’t make it into the booth at the time. I do love the fakeout, however, where Ice King begins to stutter and finally calls her “be-autiful” instead of “Betty.” Once again, it’s important to remember this guy has lost his mind, and there’s very few things that can change that at this point in time.

But overall, King’s Ransom is a lot of fun. Definitely not one of the stronger season seven episodes, but one that’s delightful regardless. It’s so weird to think that the last episode based around Finn, Jake, and Ice King’s relationship was Play Date, so it’s exceptionally rewarding that this episode simultaneously gets back to the basics, while also showing clear signs of evolution. This attitude surrounding the Ice King would only continue to shift as time went on, especially within this season in general.

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Favorite line: “The last time I saw Gunter, I was yelling at him for pooting. But it wasn’t Gunter who pooted. It was me!”



“Bad Jubies” Review

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Original Airdate: January 14, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Kirsten Lepore

Bad Jubies is the fourth installment in Adventure Time‘s guest animator series, and it might be the best looking entry to date. I’m a sucker for stop motion; whether it be truly gorgeous pieces of cinema, such as Anomalisa or Isle of Dogs, or even some of the sillier examples, like Gumby or those corny Rankin-Bass holiday specials, there’s something undeniably charming about the art form that draws me in, even when the material isn’t particularly good. There is a clear sense of effort put into this episode, which took over a year to make. In fact, it actually started production before Water Park Prank, the previous guest animated episode, had even been conceived. And that effort really pays off; the characters look true to their 2-D counterparts, the backgrounds and scenery are absolutely gorgeous, and the animation feels thoroughly expressive and fluid throughout the run of the episode. The episode was directed entirely by Kirsten Lepore, an animator who specializes in stop motion. I actually had not known of Lepore’s work before this episode, but I did check out her stuff afterwards and quickly fell in love with it (with Bottle and Hi Stranger being my favorites). She’s also provided animation for Yo Gabba Gabba and recently has taken on the role of being a storyboard artist for Summer Camp Island. But, while I love the look of this episode, how does it fare when it comes to story and writing aspects? Well, it’s… alright.

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I really feel bad saying that, and I really wanted to like this one, but just as I’ve said with the past three episodes, it comes across being “just good enough.” There’s nothing particularly bad about it, so to speak, and I think it actually gets down the portrayal of the main characters much better than most of the other guest animated episodes were able to. Granted, some of the portrayals may have been a bit too exaggerated, but I’ll get into that in a bit. Ironically, however, Lepore’s attention to the characters and environment actually somewhat backfires in a way. Typically, guest animated episodes are a chance for the animator to blend their style with AT in a way that sets it apart, while still feeling as though its capturing the show’s essence. Lepore does so well, but in a way that feels like it’s playing it a bit too safe.

Elaborating on what I mean by this, Food Chain was obviously set apart by the detailed Flash animation and surreal stories it could tell through its medium. Bad Jubies is the opposite. It presents a pretty subpar story and doesn’t really do anything particularly creative or interesting with the use of its stop motion that sets it apart from any other episode. Really, if you take away the element of stop motion, this is just your average Adventure Time episode. With a genre as sophisticated and unique as stop motion, I wish a lot more could’ve been played with in terms of fun and surreal animation – imagine the possibilities with Jake’s stretchiness! Again, I hate talking shit on that aspect, because stop motion in general is really expensive and time-consuming, but it fails to get me invested on the story in general, and the animation doesn’t really benefit for any little added bonuses that help carry it through.

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Aside from the story being rather generic and bland, the episode isn’t really on the more humorous side either. In fact, I fail to remember a moment where I had even laughed once. A lot of the attempts at jokes in this one revolve around Lumpy Space Princess being really loud and selfish, and all of you longtime readers probably know how I feel about that by now. She’s obnoxious, intolerant, and unfortunately takes up half of the episode. This is around the last point in time where LSP significantly weighs down an episode with her own vanity, and thank God for that. I’m all for giving the girl a chance, because she has episodes like Bad Timing and Be Sweet under her belt, but I had grown exceedingly tired of her character by this episode. She’s Adventure Time‘s Eric Cartman without any of the charisma or subtle brilliance, and is merely there to be the loud valley girl and nothing more. Luckily, she has a nice breakout role in Elements down the line, which gave me a full season break from her character that I truly needed.

In addition to that exaggerated character portrayal, I thought Jake might have been a bit too zen for my own liking. I dunno, I might be nitpicking here, because I don’t think it was totally out of line with his character, but some parts felt a bit contrived to me. Jake’s spiel about people being way too locked into their technology just didn’t seem like Jake. He’s a cool guy and real spiritual, but he spent an entire episode dedicated to beating his high score on his favorite video game, so I feel as though Bad Jubies tries to showcase him in a bit too much of a Buddha light. He almost seems too unconcerned by the events of the storm that he doesn’t even care if anything happens to himself or his friends in the process. Granted, I do like his role overall, and I think it was a unique decision for Lepore to make Jake the star of the episode over everyone else. While Finn and Jake have had somewhat of an equal role in the past three guest animated episodes, this one is clearly leaning more towards Jake. I just think it would’ve been a lot cooler if Jake had some sort of grapple with his mortality, or something. That stuff is always fun.

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Finn and BMO are portrayed well, but as I mentioned, the story is what mostly suffers from this one. Again, it’s not particularly interesting, and I feeling like it’s trying to have a message at the end, but it really isn’t cohesive. It feels as if the episode is attempting to portray Jake in a better light than everyone else, because he’s managing to find peace and serenity while everyone else stresses out… but isn’t it kind of perfectly reasonable for them to do so? I mean, it’s a deadly storm, and the set up of the episode makes it pretty certain that this is not something that they can get around. If the episode had perhaps centered around insecurities and fears that seemed irrational, Jake’s zen behavior may have provided for a better light of positivity. I get that Jake ends up saving the day by being level-headed and peaceful, but I dunno, it kind of just reminds me of the people in disaster stories who put all of their faith in the church, and then end being swept up by a tornado. I feel like stress is a genuine necessity when it comes to dealing with crisis situations.

So, what do I like about this episode? Well, as I had mentioned before, the look of it is gorgeous. The backgrounds and models are great, and the music really sets the ambiance (which was composed by diasterpeace, whose work in this one sounds a lot like Tim Kiefer’s). That gag at the beginning with BMO’s super-detailed weather forecast face was pretty humorous, but that’s kind of it. Not to say that I hated the rest of the episode, but very little actually stuck out to me. I could see this concept working as a 3-5 minute short, but I don’t think it really makes for an entirely satisfying 11 minute segment. I still want to commend Lepore and her team for their work on this episode, as this is easily the most impressively constructed guest animator episode thus far. There’s actually a short 12 minute documentary about the making of this episode, entitled Good Jubies: The Making of Bad Jubies, which you can watch on Cartoon Network’s YouTube here, and you can also check out all of Lepore’s other wonderful animations here.

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Favorite line: “How bout some o’ dem bean-beans?” (It’s the inflections that really make this one)


“Blank-Eyed Girl” Review

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Original Airdate: January 13, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim

Blank-Eyed Girl is a horror-themed episode that mainly deals with the ideas and concepts of the horror genre. A lot of the discussions between Finn, Jake, and Starchy aim to analyze fear and frightening objects of our perception and to conclude with where the source of said fear comes from. Each of the boys ends up coming up with their own separate points, but result in mostly confused by the conclusion. And while this episode isn’t particularly strong in its story, humor, or visuals, it does manage to get me invested in the allusions to horror in general.

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Each character follows a pretty interesting archetype, so I’ll briefly chat about each depiction. Jake obviously plays the part of the skeptic: someone who is close-minded when it comes to the existence of the unknown and is unable to accept it as anything more than “bologna.” It is shown, however, that Jake actually ends up being the most frightened when it comes to dealing with the existence of the blank-eyed girls. It’s an interesting analogy; those who reject the harsh truths or the unknown aspects of reality are the ones who are likely the most afraid of those possibilities of said truths. After all, Jake has a ton of life experience under his belt and likely rests easy knowing that he probably feels as though he has the world itself figured out on his own. But, there will always be that scary aspect of the unknown, and life experience itself is what really cripples Jake. It’s the reason older people in general are more likely to be close-minded: while the world changes, adapts, and unravels with new secrets nearly everyday, an aged person is more likely to dismiss such, as it’s not something they have been trained to adapt to.

Finn, on the other hand, is young and malleable. He’s able to become more accepting towards the unknown because he hasn’t gotten to a point where it has separated itself from his grasp on reality. Thus, Finn is still scared, but he’s able to look upon the blank-eyed girls with acceptance and an analysis on creepy stuff in general. As the boy eloquently states, “Creepy is just another label we use to distance ourselves from stuff we don’t understand. Or reminds us of something within ourselves we’re not comfortable with. It just ain’t an actual thing, unless you choose to believe it.” That’s actually some pretty truthful shit, and while I think there are definitely things that can accurately be determined as creepy, (as in things that are also illegal) it is easy for social norms to be a deciding factor in what is viewed as creepy or beyond one’s understanding. As an avid collector of Powerpuff Girls merchandise, I can assure you that I am a victim of the former theory! I also think it’s cute that Finn genuinely has an interest in Starchy’s radio show and doesn’t dismiss it as Jake does. While the boys never really felt one-dimensional as a unit, it’s still cool to watch Finn grow and to see that he does have interests that differ from Jake’s own itinerary, especially when remembering the age gap between the two.

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Starchy plays the part of the conspiracy theorist, and the show does a good job of portraying him as both a complete fabricator, and also somewhat competent in his position. It’s easy to dismiss him as a crazy conspirator, but half of the time, he’s usually right in his hypotheses. He was right about Princess Bubblegum being impersonated by a lizard, her own shady behavior, and the existence of the blank-eyed girls. Starchy may be a nut, but he also plays a part in showing how we also often dismiss people like himself for being insane, though it’s difficult to completely disprove his conjectures. He was also a million times more likable in this episode than he was in Cherry Cream Soda, so that on its own is a plus.

The blank-eyed girls prove to be beyond anyone’s comprehension, however. It’s a good reminder that, though we can try however we want to cope with fear and the unknown, we never know exactly what it will bring. The blank-eyed girls remain as an enigma and an example of how bizarre reality can be in its own right. As BMO also remarks in response to their transformation, “I think it was… beautiful!” there’s beauty to find in even the most horrific things perceivable to mankind, as it proves for most horror movies fanatics.

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I mean… did you expect me not to put this screenshot in here?

This episode is scattered with funny and/or likable moments: Finn and Jake deciding to hold hands on their walk home was adorable, the fact that they spent $200 on pizza was a great throwaway gag, John DiMaggio’s voice acting is usually on point, and that end sequence is pretty great. The episode in general is nothing particularly remarkable, however, because I don’t really think the story is that strong. While the roles that Finn, Jake, and Starchy take on are certainly interesting, I find a lot of the episode to be lacking substance. Most of it is just Finn and Jake being freaked out by the concept of blank-eyed girls, who are really uninteresting in their own right. I do like how they’re somewhat of a satirical look at society’s genuine fear of creepy, little girls, but otherwise, they don’t do much and aren’t particularly frightening either. I think the title card for this episode is way creepier than anything within Blank-Eyed Girl. This is also the fourth or fifth strictly horror-themed episode of the series, and it feels like it’s treading on similar grounds by this point in time. Hell, a lot of this episode feels as if it’s borrowing from Ghost Fly, which similarly felt unremarkable.

So, it ends up being a fairly passable episode that’s mostly inoffensive. I do find it strange that Angel FacePresident Porpoise is Missing!Blank-Eyed GirlBad Jubies, and A King’s Ransom all aired in bomb-format, as most of these entries fall under the “just good enough” category. Perhaps it was a method to further progress the season, and I think it actually works quite nicely, as it allows for a group of breather episodes to pass by pleasantly throughout the week. While none of these episodes stand out as great for myself, this bomb did resonate for me as just a genuinely nice waste of time.

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And as I sit here chatting about wasting time, we have only a mere few hours until the series finale finally airs. It has been so delightful to do these reviews over the past two years (the show’s cancellation had already been announced for three months when I started this blog, and now we’re more than halfway through the series!) and I look forward to continue to do so even after the series is finished. This is such a special show for myself, as well as for you readers and the AT fandom in general. I sincerely hope that all of you enjoy and cherish this final 44 minutes of content, and whether you enjoy it or not, it’s hard to deny that it was well worth the ride. As a final sentiment before the finale, I share with you all some fanart I drew up of my favorite boys. I’ll miss the Tree Fort family more than anything.

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Favorite line: “I took up rock climbing! … My wife left me… and all new conspiracies!”

“President Porpoise is Missing!” Review

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Original Airdate: January 12, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne & Sam Alden

I feel like a large amount of season seven episodes attempt to recreate the magic of the early seasons by being lighter and goofier entries that separate themselves from the more intense “fluff” episodes from season six, such as The Diary or Friends Forever. It is easy to see, however, how these episodes differ from early season one entries. As my buddy Stuped mentioned over on the Reddit, a lot of these episodes capture the zany dialogue and lightheartedness of those early entries quite nicely, but what they lack is the energy and non-stop pacing of an episode like Evicted! or Loyalty to the King. In return, President Porpoise is Missing seems like a bit of a facsimile, as it imitates the silliness and story, but doesn’t really stand as what feels like a totally coherent entry. Granted, it’s not a complete stinker, but a lot of it feels like a series of set pieces with no real substance in the actual story.

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Of course, the concept for the episode in general derives loosely from a throwaway gag in Burning Low, and while I usually think these little continuity nods are enjoyable, this is one I’m pretty indifferent to. I didn’t really think the President Porpoise gag in Burning Low was that remarkable to begin with, so I wasn’t particularly ecstatic for an episode dedicated in his honor. But, it is a silly premise, with an equally silly introduction that features a whole gang of Tree Fort creepers. I absolutely loved the reveal of just how many people hide out within the Tree Fort, with not a single character feeling out of place. Banana Man and Ice King are lonely stalkers, Marceline loves to spy on the boys, Princess Bubblegum loves to spy in general, and Starchy and the Gumdrop Lass probably just have nothing else to do with their day. Definitely my favorite part of the episode, and I especially love how cool Finn and Jake are with a bunch of people randomly hanging out in their house. Even the Ice King, of whom the boys would’ve scolded in the past, is greeted with mostly positive reception. I’ve said it before, but Kent Osborne is really great with writing earnest and kind depictions of the main cast during these later seasons, where a lot of Finn and Jake’s interactions with other characters (and each other) are as non-condescending as possible.

A lot of that lack of condescension continues forth in all aspects of the episode, as Finn and Jake take on a political mission and use their skills in problem solving (and pun cracking) to collaborate with each other, BMO and Ice King have their own imaginary sea exploration (featuring another nice callback to All the Little People; Finn was right about those two!), and Banana Man finding love with a nice sea lady. I’ll briefly go over each of these subplots.

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Finn and Jake’s mission to the sea metropolis is great on a visual perspective. The sea world itself is awesome, and kind of surprises me that it’s taken Adventure Time this long to explore an underwater village that is this expansive. It all looks great, and the colors really pop within the expansive blue filter that surrounds each character and landscape. The story itself, however, is pretty unremarkable. I’m not really invested in what actually happened to President Porpoise, the character himself, or the other various sea creatures involved. Vice President Blowfish has a competent VA at the helm, though his motivation and character are barely elaborated on, and he also isn’t particularly interesting or funny in any way necessary. There’s a couple solid gags through these sequences, such as Finn and Jake’s high-five that causes Finn to fall over completely, or the little shrimp who is consistently taking notes, but other than that, the story itself isn’t really given any time to develop, and there aren’t many humorous moments to come from it. It also kinda rubs me the wrong way that Finn and Jake end up beating the shit out of V.P. Blowfish, when he’s clearly proven innocent. I mean, he doesn’t seem like the coolest or nicest fish in the sea, but his issues were mostly from a political standpoint, which they really shouldn’t have any part in to begin with.

Speaking of politics, Banana Man ends up finding love with a girl involved in said panel. While I do like Banana Man’s inferiority towards Finn and Jake within the submarine, I feel as though his actual love story is equally uninteresting. Part of the charm of Banana Man was his hardship of connecting with other people because of his own social anxiety, so watching him embark on his own mission for love is sweet, but particularly unchallenging. He initially mentions his struggles with the great line of, “it’s like there’s this instruction manual that explains how to talk to people, and everyone in the world got a copy except me,” but other than that one instance, his struggle of connecting with other people romantically isn’t really emphasized, so his actual accomplishment of finding love feels relatively hollow. His song is pretty bad and unmemorable; it kind of shocks me that they continuously have Weird Al sing songs within the series but never actually have him write or compose his own tunes for the series. It feels slightly like wasted potential. And I’m not sure I even get Cybil’s character in the slightest; she’s a representative and part of the Fish Parliament, but says that national politics aren’t her thing? I suppose she’s a state politician, but I dunno, it just struck me as a weird bit of character building that kind of makes her character seem impossible to read.

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BMO and Ice King’s moments were actually pretty awesome. I loved to see these two work off of each other and to genuinely enjoy spending time together. It actually surprises me how open BMO is to hanging out with Ice King, but it does make me think that BMO probably treats Ice King with more respect because he is a grown adult figure that he can hangout with, unlike NEPTR. Ice King just so happens to have a similar imagination and ability to go along with anything that he makes for a perfect companion to BMO. I similarly love how Ice King’s wizard eyes come back into play, as he imagines a brightly-colored submarine for BMO and himself to operate. Their friendship was really sweet, as Ice King can likely breathe easy and feel validated that BMO allows him to explore his more weird and imaginative side, and I enjoyed seeing another subsequent episode based on their friendship in the future.

So yeah, not a ton that sticks out about this one for me, but in a similar fashion to Angel Face, this one is nice and inoffensive. It’s hard to pick on it completely because it really does prove to be a fun waste of time that leaves you with a good feeling in the end. There’s some nice moments between the brothers in this episode, such as when Jake shrinks to an unimaginably small size and continues to fall into cracks, as well as their brief moment towards the end. There’s a nice message of companionship that connects the three stories throughout President Porpoise is Missing!, but aside from that aspect, the individual set pieces aren’t really entertaining. It’s a hodgepodge of ideas that never really get a chance to develop on their own, and while they have a nice motif that carries through them, I can’t really get behind anything that’s going on within the plot.

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Favorite line: “Dying with you sucks way less than dying alone!”

“Angel Face” Review

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Original Airdate: January 11, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim

We’ve gotten a few great BMO episodes from this season alone, as both Football and The More You Moe, The Moe You Know really set the bar for what could be done with the character. Thus, it’s kind of a given that the mostly silly Angel Face pales in comparison, though it’s kind of unfair to be hard on this one, which is clearly trying to do it’s own thing. Angel Face doesn’t break any ground, but it’s a light romp that isn’t especially funny or intriguing, but is enjoyable regardless.

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I’m actually glad we do have something less stressful for BMO’s character to engage in. After a psychological breakdown and some traumatizing life experiences, it’s nice that the little guy can return to something that makes him genuinely happy, and that is playing with his imagination. The beginning of the episode is bizarrely fucked up, as BMO cooks up some “special sentient sandwiches” which involves killing almost every sentient ingredient involved. This also highlights one of the stronger points of BMO’s character: his ability to be completely adorable and simultaneously a giant sadist at the same time. It’s just as delightful here, and continues throughout the course of the episode. Jake is the perfect comedic foil to go along with BMO’s shtick for this story. While Finn likely would (and did) simply follow BMO’s every command, as would NEPTR, Jake is much more reluctant and deprived of energy to actually be interested in said juvenile games. Though, when it means he’s getting rewarded in some way or another (especially when sandwiches are on the line), he’ll comedically half-ass his way through it, which shows when he shapeshifts into a poor impersonation of a horse. As BMO humorously states, “aw, come on man, you didn’t even try.”

In the risk of sounding redundant, this episode is slightly plagued by the usual pacing problems in Somvilay-Seo episodes. The actual roleplaying adventure doesn’t get started until about three minutes in, so it feels like the beginning moves quite slowly. A lot of extra effort is put into animating things that aren’t really remarkable or amusing in any way, like BMO putting all of the sandwiches within his bag, or Jake taking his good old time to chow down on one of the sandwiches while waiting for BMO. It’s stuff like this that really just feels like it’s trying to span out the course of eleven minutes. Though, none of it is truly painful and the first act does have some decently funny moments. I’ll never get tired of BMO continuously mounting Jake, and how Jake spontaneously ends up looking more like a horse in the aftermath.

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This episode actually provides for some really nice backgrounds and scenery that help connect to its western theme. I love any episode that explores the Badlands; its such a neat little barren wasteland that can often provide for a lot of opportunities in various different genres and tones, to which compliments this episode nicely. I actually really love BMO’s song as well. While the show typically provides BMO with some small tunes that usually aren’t very long lasting, this one lasts a decent amount of time, and is thoroughly adorable throughout. It’s really hard not to get behind Niki Yang’s sweet and innocent singing.

And what would a BMO-centric episode be without a little shitting on NEPTR? While these moments of treating NEPTR like garbage usually make me laugh, I think it does come at a point where it feels like the show is being a bit too needlessly harsh on the little guy consistently. While a lot of the humor surrounding NEPTR revolves around his borderline uselessness, I really didn’t want to see him becoming the Meg Griffin of the Adventure Time world, because he is a genuinely cute and likable character who always means well. That’s part of the charm of his abuse, I suppose, but I think after this instance it just slightly started to strike a nerve with me. Not enough that I wasn’t in on the laughs (as Jake once again doesn’t notice that he was gone for months on end), but I am glad that he does get a moment of victory later on in the series.

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As for the return of Me-Mow, it was definitely kind of weird to see her back after being absent from the series for so long. I used to be really excited about a possible Me-Mow return, but by the time this episode came along, it seemed just a tad too late for my liking. And I’m really not into the big, normal-sized version of her design. Pretty much the defining trait of Me-Mow in her previous episode was that she was really tiny, but still entirely threatening. Granted, she still does provide for a pretty solid return here, and the battle between her and BMO is a ton of fun. Not only does it provide for some all-around nice animation and nighttime shots, but it’s riddled with some really great lines. I love Me-Mow’s internal monologue and her desire for vengeance against Finn and Jake, as well as her overall ignorance when even recognizing Finn in a pretty obvious costume. And the fact that BMO was carrying around an actual firearm the whole time is just icing on the cake. The episode ends with probably one of my favorite gags in the series, as Me-Mow states “this cell’s not going to hold me…” and then is immediately placed in a more advanced confinement cel. Ya should’ve kept your mouth shut there, Me-Mow.

So yeah, not a ton I have to say about this one besides the fact that it’s cute. I’ve never really wanted Adventure Time to take on a western theme to begin with, but this one plays with the genre with a decent amount of fun. Far from the best BMO episode this season, but a light and amusing one at that.

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Favorite line: “I am old enough to vote!”

“Summer Showers” Review

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Original Airdate: January 7, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Graham Falk

Just as a heads up for all you blog readers, this will be the last week where reviews are posted semi-daily. As my schedule begins to get busy, I’ll resume posting at least once or twice a week (with the exception of breaks) which should lead up to the beginning of summer 2019, where this blog will begin to come to an end. Though, there’s no need to worry about that now, as there’s still tons of other episodes coming up that I couldn’t be more excited to cover.

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For now, we have Summer Showers. Viola is one of my favorites of the pups, and it’s a shame that this is only star role to date. She’s actually the pup who gets the least amount of flack and screentime, and is often sidelined by her siblings Kim Kil Whan and T.V. (who are, ironically, my least favorite of Jake’s children). Regardless, she makes a lasting impression in her first prominent role, not particularly because her personality is exaggerated like her other siblings, but because she’s down to Earth and easily relatable, and represents the anxieties of a young adult quite nicely.

I probably have said this an endless amount of times by now about various different characters, but Viola’s character is carried a lot by the talent of her voice actor, Paget Brewster. It’s actually funny, because I could’ve swore Viola was voiced by Maria Bamford at first, as Brewster hits on all of those same notes of sensuality and commitment. In addition to her voice, Viola’s role in the episode itself is really what helps to define the struggles of her character and to make her a thoroughly captivating protagonist. While it can easily be drawn to a matter of how the world of theatre works (and as a former theatre kid myself, I can confirm this as realism), it also shows the issue of being caught in a job or position that isn’t exactly something to brag about or even to be proud of.

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Of course, one can learn to accept their duties as simply a start-up position that they can gradually work their way up from, but one of the bigger burdening pressures (that I can relate to especially as someone who is soon going be graduating from college) is the belief that your parental figure will be disappointed and let down. This is exactly what Viola experiences when meeting with Jake at a local coffee shop. I think Jake’s relationship with Viola is definitely the sweetest out of any of his kids, and it’s so delightful to see him as genuinely proud and full of joy over Viola’s successes. Of course, this probably only stresses Viola out more, though it wasn’t Jake’s intention. His brief moment of doubt and guilt within his own parental skills is definitely sad, but it’s reassuring that he does experience immense pride in the success of his kids, and sweet to see that he is actively trying to see them more. Also a nice touch: he’s wearing Joshua’s hat again!

Initially, I was somewhat bothered by Lumpy Space Princess’s harsh portrayal throughout the entirety of the episode, but I’ve really warmed up to her in subsequent appearances. It doesn’t feel like she’s being an asshole just for the sake of being an asshole; LSP truly feels like a passionate director who isn’t particularly nice or fair to her cast, but is set on having her vision fulfilled as much as possible. And while it’s somewhat dull, the Summer Showers play seems to be actually good. It isn’t materialistic or an attempt to play off of LSP’s vanity, like The Prince Who Wanted Everything was, and seems like Lumpy Space Princess put legitimate work into making it coherent and engaging. It’s a surprising feat for herself, and no matter how aggressive she gets during said production (in somewhat humorous notions; I love how she consistently treats Viola like an actual dog), it all contributes to the internal stress that overpowers her. While LSP views Viola as a mere lackey, the two are more alike than she could have expected. LSP too suffers from anxieties regarding the fact that she may not be able to create a successful life for herself, and instead of venting her own issues out in retaliation, Viola is charismatic and listens to LSP’s every word, trying to please her by getting the raindrops just right.

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The middle part of the episode can get a bit dull, as it’s mostly just a completely straightforward depiction of the summer showers play, which isn’t inherently interesting on its own, though not particularly painful to watch in any means necessary. Tree Trunks, Crunchy, and Mr. Cupcake get nice side roles, and something that always strikes me as especially funny is Mr. Pig’s over-the-top reaction to Tree Trunks having a kissing scene. The guy already has to deal with a demonic child in his house, but he also has to juggle Tree Trunks’ bullshit on top of all that. He may be the most stress-ridden person in Ooo.

That charisma carries through in Viola’s every step, as she takes it upon herself to learn all of the lines to the actual play, and commits to being the best stagehand possible. She’s truly shown to be dedicated to her work in every way necessary, which only helps to show her breaking point when LSP selfishly casts herself in the role after everything that Viola has accomplished. It’s a nice to see that, even if she is mild-mannered and a bit of a pushover, Viola does have her limits. It does provide for her to have her moment of victory, and to even still commit to the role that she was intended to play.

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And even though LSP was duped, she still gets her moment of victory when the play proves to be a success (with a cute multi-handed clap from Jake), and Viola experiences her own euphoria in more than one way. While Jake is supportive of her role within the play, he’s even more enthralled by the fact that she ran the “special effects” department. While not everyone can say that their parents are supportive of them in any endeavor, Summer Showers does show off the benefit of having supportive parents by your side, no matter what endeavor you take up. It’s truly sweet to see how affectionate Jake is toward his daughter’s passion, even if it isn’t exactly what she is engaged in herself, and to see that she’s able to breathe easy, knowing she has the approval of her family. Except for that dick Kim Kil Whan, who didn’t even show up to his sister’s play!

Summer Showers is definitely one that’s “nice,” and I think that’s the best word I can use to describe it. It has nice character portrayals, a nice story, and nice individual moments. Certainly not mindblowingly dramatic or even exceptionally funny, but an entirely pleasurable experience regardless, mostly because of Viola’s terrific presence. Some moments are a bit dull throughput, but they’re completely justified by Finn’s hilarious reaction to the play itself. I think we’ve all been there at one point or another, buddy.

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