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“Obsidian” Review

Original Airdate: November 19, 2020

Written & Storyboarded by: Hanna K. Nyström, Anna Syvertsson, Iggy Craig, Mickey Quinn, Maya Petersen, James Cambell & Ashlyn Anstee

Well, this was a long time coming, huh? It’s Bubbline time, babies!!

When the Distant Lands episodes were first announced, Obsidian was the one that I was looking forward to the least. I’ve stated how I feel about Bubbline at least 30 times on this blog prior, but for the sake of sounding redundant, here we go once more: I don’t actively dislike their relationship, but was kind of bummed by how oversaturated it was in the show to the point of it being the driving force of including Marceline in stories. I had been pretty burnt out with their ship by the end of the series, and I wasn’t really craving much more between these two as a package deal. Obsidian ends up presenting their relationship in the same way that previous incarnations have – by giving the fans what they want. However, it actually feels somewhat warranted for a couple whose entire romantic history was left to implications and Easter eggs for so many years. It’s fanservice alright, but GOOD fanservice at that. It’s jam packed with all kinds of moments that AT fans can revel in… in fact, it’s jam packed in general. For better or for worse.

Obsidian brings a lot to the table: an entirely new kingdom with new characters, a conflict in said kingdom, struggles within Marceline and Bubblegum’s relationship, Marcy’s relationship with her mother, a self-esteem allegory that spans across three separate characters, Bubblegum’s inferiority complex that mirrors See-Through Princess’s… etc. It’s a lot to take in, but most of it is tied together in a relatively satisfying way. I’d say it does its job at connecting everything on a decent level, but there are definitely some bits that work better than others.

Let’s get into the good stuff first: like BMO, the best aspect of this special is our returning players. Marceline and Bubblegum’s relationship is at their most romantic, because for once, they don’t have to put up with network demands. We see them kiss, sleep in bed together, and even explore their long-alluded to break-up. What I really like watching from these two, however, aside from the schmaltz, is that it’s really clear WHY they’re together as of Obsidian. They’ve had clear chemistry before, but their dynamic was always kind of held together by their contrasting “nice girl/bad girl” dynamic. In bringing out their insecurities, it’s clear to see what they cherish about their connection – Marceline feels less “damaged” and Bubblegum doesn’t feel like she needs constant approval from third party sources.

I’ve been particularly critical about Marceline’s role in the series post Season Four, but this certainly is one of her better appearances to date. Funny enough, with that being said, it doesn’t really attempt to resolve any of the issues I’ve had with her character up to this point. My main issue with Marcy is that she started out as this super fun, energetic character and then sort of fizzled out into a story prop whenever they needed to tell an early post-Mushroom War story or appeal to the Bubbline fanatics. Here, it isn’t really a return to how her character used to be, but that’s sort of the point. She ISN’T the same person she was at the beginning of the series, and this episode deals with it by exploring her insecurities about becoming “soft.” Reminds me a lot of Bojack Horseman‘s season six episode Good Damage, where one of the main characters experiences writer’s block after beginning anti-depressants. Marceline similarly needs to be brooding and edgy for the sake of her identity, in an attempt to romanticize all of the shitty things that happened to her.

Because we’ve already seen enough of it over the years, the special wisely decides to not use Marceline’s relationship with Simon as a main vocal point of her past pain. Instead, we get a long desired story about her mother (formally named Elise!) as the two fight for survival in the post-war days. Elise is NOT voiced by Rebecca Sugar this time around, which I can only assume was probably due to scheduling conflicts or an active choice by Rebecca to not redeem the part. The latter is more likely for me. I’m sure it wasn’t anything personal; voice acting isn’t really Rebecca’s strong suit, and her role in Stakes worked mostly because it was short and sweet. I really couldn’t see Sugar delivering some of Elise’s more raw moments, such as screaming out in fear and lashing out at Marcy. Since Rebecca doesn’t reprise her role, she decided to send her Sapphire as a consolation prize. Erica Luttrell does a solid job at establishing the clear pain and fear that Marcy’s mother is experiencing. Ava Acres does not reprise her role as young Marcy either – understandably so as she’s now 15 years old. She’s instead voiced by Audrey Bennett, who’s been in a decent amount of TV shows that I’ve never seen, but she does such a good job that I honestly thought it might be Acres at first! Kudos.

The post-war scenes, per usual, are great. I really love the fact that the simple moments between Marceline and her mother are underscored with a feeling of dread. Even when she’s just watching her color, Marceline’s mom is preparing her daughter for the absolute worst of what’s to come, having her create a map to their safe haven in case she gets lost. It’s also super interesting to see Marceline’s struggle as a demon and not a vampire – both of which reinforce the negative implications of her song, “Everything Stays.” Even through overcoming the negative stigmas of being a demon, she was still left being reviled as a vampire for quite sometime. It’s no wonder these feelings are so deep-rooted for Marcy, having been influenced in her younger days and reinforced almost every step of the way. It was sad seeing her so distressed at the thought of upsetting her mom, and even sadder later on when she’s reflecting her own fears onto her imaginary friends. It’s painful to see some of the deep cuts such a young child can project, such as her comment about her dad leaving her because of who she is.

As always, the post-apocalyptic references and Easter eggs are great. Love the designs of the wuzzup dogs that fends off against Marcy and Elise, though I did feel quite bad for the wuzzup pup. There’s the typical tragic spray painting and writing in surrounding areas, such as “DON’T TRUST ANYONE,” “NO SYMPATHY,” and most interesting, “After nihilism?” I can only assume it’s referring to the presumptuous man-made errors that led to the destruction of civilization. I think one of my favorite moments in the entire special is when Marceline initially enters the secret hideout, flips the light switch, notices only skeletons, and flips the switch back off. A perfect depiction of dread and hopelessness without a single word.

I will say, I thought that the death of Elise was a moment that should’ve felt more impactful than it was. It certainly didn’t lack impact… but it wasn’t exactly as emotional an experience for me personally. Maybe it was the sudden tone shift with Glassboy barging in, but I think it kind of attributes to AT‘s past habits of showing less and implying more. It kind of reminds me of the scene in Everything Stays where Ice King leaves Marceline. This is an idea that is tragic in theory, but doesn’t feel as tragic when it’s actually shown because most fans already had their own headcanon about how it went down. That being said, I don’t think the execution is poor, it’s more so my desires for emotional ambiguity. I do think that this was one of the ballsier onscreen deaths from the series. This is actually the first time in the show’s history where I can pinpoint blood being used in a painful fashion. There were little moments, like Jake’s blood being sucked by Kee-Oth and Finn’s finger getting pricked in Helpers, but this was a bit more on the graphic side.

All of this trauma clearly connects to Marceline’s desire to be cool with being a giant edgelord. But of course, embracing her ability to not give a shit about anything leads her to hurt herself when it comes to her future relationship with Bubblegum. Well, partially at least. I’m not gonna act like Bubblegum is a saint either; she’s an egotist with mostly good intentions, but that egocentric attitude is likely what contributes to Marcy’s feelings of inferiority. It’s no wonder that Bonnie not trusting Marceline is what sends her into a spiraling journey to recover her edge. This is because Marceline believes that the only way she can truly make an impact is to be the “monster” that she once was. Of course, this doesn’t last long, because through it all, Marceline recognizes that her damage isn’t something to romanticize. It helped define who she was for a period of time, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it was good for her. She acknowledges that, regardless of her newfound “softness,” she is a much more well-rounded person around Bubblegum. The final nail in the coffin that drives home her emotional growth is when her bass is smashed – an item that has helped to characterize her gloomy demeanor. Instead of responding in the way that would bring out her more monstrous side, Marcy chooses to accept the outcome and focus on what truly drives her now: her feelings of love and how they round her out. It’s nice to finally get an episode about this growth that Marceline has undergone throughout the course of nine/ten seasons. I only wish that it could have somehow incorporated how Finn’s connection to Marcy also helped shape her morality. But alas, I can only wish so much.

Princess Bubblegum’s development is also clear. Throughout the entirety of the special, and seemingly from her previous experience with the Glass Kingdom, she still needs to be recognized for her contributions towards society. The aftermath of episodes like The Cooler, Hot Diggity Doom, High Strangeness, and Jelly Beans Have Power have showed how fragile PB can be when it comes to the potential of letting her people down and ultimately being a failure. One thing that keeps Marceline and PB’s relationship interesting is that both characters are still clearly very much flawed – Marceline is still weighed down by emotional baggage from her past… or, in this case, struggling because she isn’t struggling, and PB still needs to be respected and loved to achieve self-actualization. I think it’s even more fitting that these flaws are what ultimately led to the initial end to their relationship. The comics previously tried to build on this lore by stating that their drifting apart was caused by Marceline’s continued involvement with her band, the Scream Queens, buuut that’s kinda dumb. I think it’s much more fitting that this drift was caused by their largely conflicting personalities – Marcy’s edgelord phase and PB’s apathy. Things do come together in a nice way when the two are put into a dangerous position, as Marceline accepts being emotionally honest with herself and others and Princess Bubblegum accepts her own shortcomings.

One other strength that Obsidian has is its soundtrack. I think “Woke Up” is quite possibly the best Marceline song, and song in general, that the show has had in years. And it’s surprisingly to me how much I get into it! The show’s strength in tunes has always been… well… Rebecca Sugar. But AT has had some other bangers since her departure, none of which I really ever attributed to Marceline though. The post-Sugar tunes for Marceline always kind of felt like generic loner material, but the tunes introduced in Obsidian showcase a more fun, poppy punk melody akin to “I’m Just Your Problem.” Lyrically, they’re pretty intriguing as well. The opening song, “It’s Funny,” contains these lines:

Everyone’s so desperate

To feel like they’re serious

Everyone’s a scaredy cat

And I find it hilarious.

This definitely mimics Marceline’s “edgelord” attitude that I mentioned earlier. She once viewed anyone who ever took anything seriously as “desperate” or something to laugh about. This is contrasted heavily by her final song, “Monster,” which I think it probably one of the weaker songs to come out of the special. It’s not bad, by any means! It’s just really not nearly as catchy or fun to listen to as some of the others from Obsidian. That being said, I do love the sequence that goes along with it. I never would have imagined that Larvo would end up having a tragic backstory, but it actually kind of works! As silly as it seems, it’s handled well through a genuinely sad and sweet flashback sequence and these uniquely painted frames that showcase Larvo’s growth into a damaged beast throughout the years – almost looks like a Pokemon evolution chain. It even ends up concluding with a super silly but enjoyable ending for Larvo… that he had a cute kitty bat within him all along! (PB’s suggestion to immediately kill it was especially funny to me) And even though it’s not actually good by any means aside from an instrumental note, Glassboy’s purposefully off-key “Eternity With You” is a sweet closer, especially with the reveal that PB met Marceline at a concert, and that’s where she received her most valuable keepsake: Marcy’s trippy t-shirt. D’aw.

One other perk of Obsidian is all of the familiar faces we end up getting to see. Simon was particularly delightful, as it’s clear he’s still going through some major shit after he regained his sanity. I don’t really think we’ll be getting a ton more into his life at this point, but it’s good to see that even reversing him back to his original state wasn’t enough to fix everything. The dude has been through 1,000 years of not being himself and is now stuck in this world that he doesn’t even fully understand. No wonder he needs to use the freezer to cope. Also returning is Choose Goose – a character I was fully ready to never see again, but I’m so glad that isn’t the case. Especially since he’s a popular character that really doesn’t get that much screentime throughout the series. They could’ve easily used a more recurring character like Lemongrab to fill his shoes, but I’m so glad they didn’t. This is the fanservice I want!! Speaking of fanservice, easily the most interesting moment of the special is seeing a hunky adult version of Finn! It actually took me about 5 seconds to process who he was when he showed up, but flipped out when I came to the realization. Probably also should address the elephant in the room – Jake’s dead, right? People have put out more optimistic theories that Jake might just be traveling/adventuring elsewhere and Finn got a tattoo to always be with him… but if that was the turn this development was taking, I’d feel a bit disappointed. Not that I want Jake to die, but I can’t think of any other reason Finn would have this tattoo if not to commemorate his late brother. Who gets a tattoo of an alive person?? I have a feeling that Together Again is going to be much, much sadder than anticipated. But again, with all the times that Jake’s death has been alluded to over the years, I think it would be the most fitting cap for the series, and his character, if this is the direction it was going. I’m just gonna be sad as hell for several months if that’s how it goes down. Also appearing is Bronwyn, who looks cute as hell! A lot of people are going with the headcanon that Finn and Bronwyn are romantic together, which I really can’t get behind at all. I could see Finn being her guardian/traveling partner after his brother’s passing, but nothing more than that. He ain’t gonna bang his bro’s granddaughter! It is interesting to see Finn’s adult behavior – many have already noted that his lingo and attitude is pretty similar to Martin’s. I can get behind both, but I still think he’s very different from his father. He obviously takes on his lack of social cues and general laidback personality, but he’s far from ever being the careless monster that Martin is.

The elements of the special that I’m less invested in are the moments with the new characters. I don’t dislike Glassboy as much as others do, but he really didn’t do much for me either. I get that he’s supposed to parallel Marceline’s story and show how similar they are, but honestly, I thought they covered those comparisons much more efficiently with Larvo. Similarly, See-Thru Princess isn’t very compelling either. She’s essentially there to also parallel the pressures that Princess Bubblegum is feeling in her own role. Again, I feel like it also has to do with the special packing so much in it already. I was pretty invested with PB and Marcy’s arcs on their own that I didn’t really care about what happened to these characters that really don’t have the time to be properly fleshed out anyway.

Overall, I think Obsidian is good! I went from loving it to just liking it since it premiered. I do appreciate everything it is for fans who have wanted to see this for so long, but personally, it’s just not entirely for me. Thus far, these specials have been pretty straightforward and haven’t fully committed to AT‘s usual brand of quirky oddities. It’s mostly a new team, which is to be expected, and they’ve been doing a solid job at that. Honestly, just the fact that Adventure Time is able to successfully adapt to a 44 minute runtime is an achievement on its own. These just aren’t really specials that I find particularly memorable or groundbreaking up to this point. Still glad it exists and I still thoroughly enjoyed it. Together Again is definitely what I’m looking forward to the most, so high hopes that it hits!

Favorite line: “Yeah, sorry for bullying you your whole life.”

Adventure Time Reviewed: Send Your Questions In!

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

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

Adventure Time Reviewed: Reader Feedback

Howdy, y’all! As we approach the last few episode reviews of the series, I want to open up for a chance at seeing what you would like to see from this blog before I close shop. I have lots of ideas for bonus reviews once I actually do finish up with the finale, including:

  • Top 10 Best and Worst Episodes
  • An analytical deep-dive into every major character.
  • Best Title Cards.
  • Best Moments.
  • 10 episodes that I think should have been made.

And more! I’d also like to plan something special, like a little wrap-up party on Discord or any other community server, so feel free to share if you’d be interested in this as well! I’m happy to consider any ideas presented to me. As is, the upcoming scheduled reviews should look something like this:

  • September 8: Jake the Starchild
  • September 15: Temple of Mars
  • September 22: Gumbaldia
  • September 29: Diamonds and Lemons (Bonus review)
  • October 13: Come Along With Me
  • October 20: Season Nine Review

Lots more content still in the works post-series, so be sure to let me know what you want to see!

– Eric

Adventure Time Reviewed: Update!

Hey all! I wanted to chime in after nearly two weeks with no new posts. I’ve been open about the status of this blog many times before, and I want to reiterate that I’m still very committed to finishing these reviews in a timely matter. I’ve been going through a lot of personal changes throughout the past month that have been difficult to deal with, but I finally feel like I’m at a place where my general workflow and mental health are slowly piecing back together appropriately. That being said, I still have a ton on my plate in general and sometimes struggle to find the energy to write up a review. I never want to feel like I’m half-assing my analyses, and want to ensure that I maintain a level of quality for something that I can truly feel proud about. So, I ask all of you lovely people out there who have supported this blog for so long to keep up your patience – more reviews (and other fun plans) are in store!

I also wanted to let you all know that I am officially public on Twitter if any of you feel called to follow me. I’ll probably be making a lot of shitposts and funneling in my artwork, but I’ll also be including updates on where I’m at with my current episode reviews, with light commentary along the way. If you’re ever curious about the state of a review or if you have any questions for me personally, feel free to reach out! I’d be happy to chat.

— Eric

“Hide and Seek” Review

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Original Airdate: February 1, 2017

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

Hide and Seek really kicks Islands into high gear by diving deep into Susan – er, Kara’s backstory and pretty much showing us everything we’ve ever needed to know about her character. This episode is pretty much one big exposition bomb regarding the policies and nature of Founder’s Island, but one that is tied to a truly tense and somber story in reference to how much freedom the humans actually have when dealing with the long term aftermath of the war. It’s interesting to see that, even among a world of totally civilized and very self-aware mutants, the humans still shelter themselves off in fear that they simply cannot survive. It’s a potentially overly cautious notion, but from the instinctively panicked eyes of a human, I feel like it totally makes sense. In the midst of all of the violence and terror within our own society, extensive security measures are pretty much a norm by this point in time. Not to say that extra attempts at safety are necessarily counterproductive, but the way Hide and Seek executes the dystopian policy feels very real and logical from a humanistic perspective. Of course, what Hide and Seek also plays around with is questioning “how much is too much?” as certain humans battle between safety and free will.

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Returning to the series once more is Dr. Gross, which was to be expected from her initial appearance in Preboot. I wasn’t entirely into Gross’s character in her debut, and thought that her descent into villainy felt somewhat confused at times, but here, she really gets a chance to shine. Dr. Gross is straight up wicked in this one, using manipulation and her own ideology of how humanity should be to strike against anyone that defies her. I truthfully like the way she’s designed here better than her design in Preboot , and I think her general appearance is interestingly symbolic when compared to the other humans who surround her. While she’s stated that she desires to bring the humans into a new golden age, she’s likely the least human person on Founder’s Island, both figuratively and literally. She wants everyone to preserve what remains of the human species, but in the process, everyone is becoming considerably less human themselves. The Founder’s Song not only paints a great picture of how humanity got to this point, but is also really, really catchy. This is one of my favorite post-Sugar songs without a doubt, and Lennon Parham’s voice quite tremendously carries it through. There are also plenty of other nice tidbits within the song sequence, such as how one of the blimps is clearly labeled “MoCo” and how it appears the gaping crater within the Earth is actually referenced to be a result of human error rather than the war itself. At least that’s what I’ve gathered, from Dr. Gross’s musical cues.

Kara’s backstory gives us a lot insight into her character, and it’s admittedly pretty sad. Throughout her entire life, Kara has never truly been able to choose a path for herself. While we’re all conditioned to think about and perceive the world in certain ways, most end up choosing whether they want to carry these values with them into their adulthood. Kara has been influenced to regard her surroundings as an absolute utopia, and before she even has a chance to question her own belief system, it’s too late. Dr. Gross already has complete control over her mind and actions, once more both literally and figuratively. After she eventually leaves Founder’s Island, she ends up in a completely primitive state where she must start over and only has the teachings of others to go off of. It really adds a sense of tragedy to her character, as she carries on through her life in a state of constant naivety. Her upbringing is very reminiscent of a cult, to where you can’t really help but feel bad for her, considering that she’s constantly faced with uncertainty on a morally conscious level. And this level of morality and fairness comes into question the most when she’s faced with the individual uncertainty of her best friend Frieda.

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The connection between Frieda and Kara is quite poignant. I don’t really think either of them are particularly strong characters (no pun intended), per se, but their interactions can best be described as entirely human. This a miniseries designed around the lives of humans, and even in the crazy, messed up world of Adventure Time, it’s really nice to watch a simple, down-to-earth friendship with some (relatively) down-to-earth drama. They play the part of friendly opposites quite well: Kara is a rule-abiding citizen that wants to do what’s right for her community, as well as others, while Frieda is the free-spirited wild child who is more interested in something beyond her own comprehension than what she’s dealt with at hand.

The conflict of the episode is very believable and empathetic, with neither side coming across as particularly unlikable. Kara is concerned for her friend and does not want her to be hurt by what lies beyond Founder’s Island, while Frieda wants to seek out a new life outside of the sanitation of her own community. As she states, “Maybe [I’ll get hurt], but maybe getting hurt isn’t the worst thing there is.” It’s a surprisingly mature and kind of heavy sentiment that emphasizes just how controlled Founder’s Island truly is; it doesn’t seem like its inhabitants are really able to grow and flourish, as they never actually experience pain or suffering outside of their little bubble. Not to say that they should suffer, but again, to be human is to suffer. A lot of the interactions between Frieda and Kara as the episode goes along are pretty heart-wrenching, especially Kara’s non-answer of “It’s gonna be okay!” after Frieda questions her loyalty. Again, Kara isn’t particularly wrong or unlikable in this situation – she cares about her friend, but she also cares about what is morally right to do.

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That cult aspect I mentioned before continues to play a part in Kara’s discussion with Dr. Gross. Anyone who has a different point-of-view from Gross or the knowledge of the Founders themselves is automatically seen as misguided and needs to be properly dealt with and “educated.” It’s a very controlling method of thinking, and only makes me wonder how many other innocents were harmed by their refusal towards the system. It’s made even more horrifying when we get to see how these “rebels” are dealt with, as Dr. Gross effectively manipulates Kara’s brain-chip to carry out her own bidding. I never could figure out if Dr. Gross just effectively picked up on Kara’s context clues, or if Kara herself had flat-out told her, but regardless, it’s pretty heartbreaking either way. There’s already a long, intellectual video that analyzes the meaning behind the slow motion shot of Frieda’s hat being removed, but I have my own two cents. I think Kara removing Frieda’s hat symbolically represents the hypocrisy of the Dr. Gross’s methods. She wants to follow the advice carried out by the Founders, which is to keep everyone unconditionally safe, yet the animal hats were used initially as the only “protection” for humanity during the aftermath of the war. Thus, Dr. Gross is effectively eliminating Frieda’s safety by trying to preserve it, and has become exactly what she sought out to fix. Whatever way people do see it, it’s an impactful moment that really helps to show the errors of humanity even beyond their own safe haven, and one that carries through the remainder of the miniseries even in Gross’s absence.

Hide and Seek features a sad story that succeeds entirely for its compelling story at the helm. That, and it’s also pretty visually stunning. Islands has really been hitting it out of the park with beautiful scenery and terrific landscapes. I have a couple minor nitpicks for this one: I’m not really into the super big heads they gave the children during Dr. Gross’s seminar – it felt more like chibified AT fanart than what I actually imagined human children would look like. There were a couple moments where I felt like Frieda’s VA could’ve done better during her emotional breakdown, but she did pretty well for the most part of the episode. The only other complaint I have is that I wish we saw more of Gross after this episode, but hey, can’t blame the series for that! I guarantee that if it continued, Gross would’ve had a bigger role down the line. Otherwise, it’s a lore-heavy entry that is packed with drama and sadness, and one that keeps me fully invested from beginning to end. The next episode is my favorite of the Islands miniseries, and I cannot wait to discuss it in more detail.

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Favorite line: “I think she’s, uh, getting ready to sleepwalk-sleep.”

“Adventure Time Reviewed” crosses over with RE-Cast

Hey y’all! The Blank-Eyed Girl review will be out later tonight, but I first wanted to share something I did earlier this week over on YouTube. I had the pleasure of being apart of Pieguyrulz and MonsterReview’s podcast series entitled RE-Cast. They’re two really cool guys who are truly intellectually engaging when it comes to animation.

The podcast involves analyses of Slumber Party Panic and From Bad to Worse. Given that I’m not particularly crazy about either episode, it was pretty interesting to look back on both and to see which one was able to successfully explore the story better than the other. I hope you all enjoy listening to it more than I do, because I hate the sound of my own voice!

“Food Chain” Review

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Original Airdate: June 12, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Masaaki Yuasa

When a guest animator comes aboard the AT crew to produce their own episode, they often succeed by a visual standpoint, but fail in terms of actually capturing Adventure Time’s atmosphere and understanding what makes it work. The previous episode produced by a guest animator was A Glitch is a Glitch, and while that incorporated some stellar CGI, it felt like it was written by someone who has seen a total of three episodes from the first season of the series and hasn’t seen anything since. Japanese animator Masaaki Yuasa, on the other hand, seems to have a deep understanding of what makes Adventure Time work. Yuasa’s style blends surprisingly well with the series, and it’s interesting to see that this is his only gig in terms of Western Animation. Yuasa has previous credits on two of my other favorite TV shows, Samurai Champloo and Space Dandy, and his work translates just as well with those series as it does here. And, in a refreshing twist, this effectively blends visual specter and surrealism, rather than focusing on story and characters, which really helps it to thrive. It’s also educational in a way that’s fun and enjoyable; almost reminiscent of Animaniacs ability to get across information through wacky characters and musical numbers, this episode carries along the same spirit.

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First off, this one is equipped with a specially made intro from Yuasa, and it looks awesome! It’s a very fast-paced, angled pan through the Candy Kingdom, where Finn and Jake have assumed the faces of most of the main cast, including some obscure characters, like Gunter and the Snow Golem. It also features a humorous role reversal, where Finn leaps onto Jake’s head, Jake rides Finn through the Ice Kingdom, and the two are presented as “Jake the Caterpillar” and “Finn the Flower.” It’s sung by Yuasa, whose voice perfectly fits the odd nature of the theme song in general. This is probably my favorite theme variation, outside the Elements version.

To refrain from sounding redundant throughout the entirety of the review, I think I should just address now how great the animation is in this one. It’s fun and vibrant, and probably some of the most fluid stuff we’ve seen come out of Adventure Time. It really shows how impressive this guy’s work is, and it’s no wonder that the AT staff continually asked him and his studio to come back and animate for each miniseries. Yuasa’s style is also pretty cute and nostalgic; don’t know if y’all know who Taro Gomi is (author of “Everyone Poops”), but Yuasa’s style constantly reminds me of his children’s books. It’s pretty neat to see how simplified the storyboard process was for this episodes compared to others, seeing as how much more detailed everything is in the final product, while still keeping the spirit and expressions from each board alive.

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From a writing and character perspective, I actually like how dry everything is in this episode. David O’Reilly’s take on Finn and Jake’s life was frenzied and hyperactive, while Yuasa went with a much more laidback and toned down depiction of the characters. Even the kids at the beginning, who are very hyper and excitable, aren’t really overdoing it. They’re acting like kids normally would; it feels natural and doesn’t even necessarily feel like it’s trying to amuse, just trying to show something unique and visually interesting. And the stellar camera angles as we watch the children ride down the slides from their perspective supports this entirely. It’s even cool that Yuasa somewhat brought logic (at least within the AT universe) into this one! Where I had trouble trying to convince myself that the story of A Glitch is a Glitch could actually happen within the Land of Ooo, Food Chain has Magic Man instigate the entire experience, and it’s pretty cool to see a secondary character such as himself have somewhat of a major role within the plot of this kind of episode.

Most of Food Chain is just simply enjoying those visual experiences I mentioned earlier, and each sector of the food chain is a ton of fun. This episode is full of great musical moments, like the electronic rendition of “Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen” as Finn and Jake turn into birds, or the hilariously trippy “We’re Plants” song, which utilizes Finn’s autotuned talents to their best abilities. The bird and bacteria sections show off some terrific facial expressions and animation; love the chubby Finn bird trying to fly away as his belly continuously rubs against the ground, and the consistent drooling, creepy look that his bigger bird self possesses is just great. The bacteria portions provides for some really cute chibified versions of Finn and Jake, and their endearing expressions that come along with it.

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My favorite portion is likely the caterpillar bit, which has Finn meet a new lady named Erin of whom he actually marries! I’ve seen tons of fanart with Finn and Roselinen, is there any of him and Erin out there? I’d love to see some! But I digress, this sequence is as close as the episode comes to having a “story” and it’s told relatively well. I like Jake spying on the two and essentially pressuring Finn to get hitched, and Erin’s character is pretty adorable and funny in her own right. I like her little line right before the two get eaten of, “I might see other people when we’re bacteria!” That was a clever addition keeping to the overarching theme of the episode.

Of course, there’s also that final song, which, I’m gonna be honest, might be my favorite song in the entire series. The animation is smooth, the rhythm is flowing, the visuals are vibrant and eye-catching, the lyrics are simple and informative, Finn and PB sound terrific in duet form, and Finn’s bright red suit and fedora are absolutely irresistible. I know everyone is more likely to choose a Sugar song as their favorite melody in the series, but this one just feels so cinematic and powerful, and such a terrifically random climax for the episode. Though the episode is great on its own, this is one I will specifically revisit solely for the song sequence. The children, however, are less than impressed by the tune than I am, and continue their own cycle of playing instead of sitting through some decent education. Such as life! At least the boys learned the importance of the food chain through Magic Man’s off-color teachings.

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This is one of those episodes that I can’t really discuss in great detail as to why it works aside from the obvious reasons, but man, this one is awesome regardless. I have one minor nitpick with this one, and it’s the fact that the snail never shows up! It’d be alright if that was the case with all of the other guest animated episodes, but even those managed to squeeze the lil’ guy in some place. Seems like a minor inconsistency, and sad that this is the only episode in the entire series to lack the Easter egg that is almost religiously placed into each episode. Regardless, Food Chain boasts stellar animation, contains some great song sequences, trippy visuals, great designs, a simplistic, yet effective story, and is an all-around awesome experiment to put our two favorite brothers at the center. Masaaki Yuasa really killed it with this one, and set a bar that no guest animator before or after was able to reach. This is an experiment that pays off tremendously, and allows its guest animator to express himself freely, while still having a strong connection to the source material.

Favorite line: “Hey, have you noticed we are birds now?”

“Jake the Dad” Review

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Original Airdate: January 7, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard

Puppies, puppies, puppies!! The birth of Jake and Lady’s puppies has finally arrived. It’s a triumphant tale of Jake taking on the trials of parenthood and learning how to be the perfect father for his children… that’s all wrapped up in 11 minutes. Yeaaah, I’m not one to usually mind AT’s battle with the status quo, as I feel like they always make up for it with more interesting topics and stories down the line, but like most people, I was disappointed with how this episode concluded. I think we get a lot of good bits in the future with how Jake never really learned to be a father or even got a chance to become comfortable around his kids, but that doesn’t really excuse the fact that I think this arc was dropped a bit too quickly. Especially since Jake being a father is really interesting!

The introductory scene with the pups is a ton of fun. It’s both cute and hilarious, with Jake constantly sobbing over the birth of his babies, as well as Finn’s horrendously positioned “best unkle” shirt (at least he’s street smart…). The individual introduction to the pups is a lot of fun as well, with designated title cards and visuals surrounding each reveal. The best part is the fact that they have pretty much nothing to do with the actual personality of the puppies, besides Viola. TV’s reveal is surrounded by geese, while Kim Kil Whan has a designated hot dog covered with relish below his name. You can tell Steve Wolfhard had a lot of fun working with the puppies and developing their individual personalities before they even had their own star episodes.

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My favorite aspect of the beginning, however, would be Jake and Finn’s interactions when it comes to Jake no longer living at the Treehouse. By his behavior, it seems clear that Jake was hesitant to even mention the possibility of him leaving the Treehouse before to Finn, mainly for the fact that, well, Finn is still a baby to Jake. Though brothers, Jake has become somewhat of a father figure to Finn, or, at very least a legal guardian, and I get the feeling that coming to terms with the fact that he would no longer be taking care of Finn was just as upsetting to Jake. I gotta wonder, though, was Finn just kind of supposed to fend for himself? I mean, he’s only fourteen. Perhaps being a minor in Ooo isn’t really a big deal anymore (I mean, we’re supposed to believe that Tiffany just kind of lives on his own, right?) and Finn’s service to Bubblegum means he never needs to worry about financial issues or anything. That is why Finn and Jake never have to worry about money, right? That’s a subject for another day, I suppose. But, back on topic, I also really like Finn’s reaction to Jake leaving. Finn’s noticeably upset at first, but acknowledges that this is something that Jake has to do and Finn can no longer be the most important person in Jake’s life anymore, to which he calmly accepts. It’s a very emotionally mature moment for the little guy, and I do like how they didn’t draw out Finn’s sadness too much. After all, the focus of this episode should be on Jake and his babies.

I definitely went into this one a bit nervous, because I really just assumed Jake would be a deadbeat dad who would rather be kickin’ it with Finn than devoting anytime to his children. But here, he’s the exact opposite! And it’s really, really endearing. This episode’s strongest quality is simply how likable Jake is written to be, and it makes sense as to why he would want to be such a renowned and protective father. It’s clear he very much respected and appreciated the way that Joshua and Margaret raised him, so it’s a sweet tribute to see him sport Joshua’s hat and utilize Margaret’s manual to help him raise his pups the proper way. It’s sweet to watch him so proudly take on being a father, and to try his best in every aspect to be the best dad possible. As if Jake and Lady weren’t already the cutest couple on this show, I love how Jake takes on the role of both parents and allows Lady to get some much needed sleep. It’s just really reassuring to watch him be so determined to do something; as we’ve seen in the past, Jake is easily distracted and has huge issues with focusing, yet the episode never detracts from his main objectives by making him seem unfocused for a cheap gag. He’s portrayed as alert, ready for any danger, and consistently helping out, which is a really nice change of pace.

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I also like how Jake’s main issue with having kids is from caring way too much. You’d think that the duties of being a parent would wear down on him more, which they technically do, but it’s more of his paranoia and irrational fears that get the better of him. Again, it’s sweet to watch him have so much concern for his children that he willingly suffers for them, and would rather play it as safe as possible than to expose his children to something dangerous. Honestly, though, I think everything is portrayed in a really empathetic light for Jake. I don’t really see him overreacting, Finn was literally kneeling on Kim Kil Whan and Charlie and smashing Jake Jr. and TV together! I’d be fucking stressed too! I think everything is presented in such a way that Jake is clearly over-analyzing everything, but he still has very legitimate reasons to be concerned. Even if his babies were just sleeping, I’d be hella concerned my babies were dead as well. It captures the fears of parenthood very accurately, and the concept of how much you should protect your children definitely comes into question.

Now, despite Jake being written exceptionally well in this one, I have to say that the biggest issue with this episode is simply that it’s not very entertaining. I know that’s a broad statement, but the reason is lacks entertainment value is because the conflict is incredibly thin. I mean, you have Jake who is concerned that his babies might get hurt in some shape or form, but it’s very clear that nothing is going to actually happen to the pups. Then you have Mr. Fox and his squadron that want to eat babies, but it’s very clear from the first scene they appear in that they aren’t a competent threat. Even if they were, they don’t even end up interacting with the babies, so there’s even less tension going on there that makes the entire last half just kind of… dull. You also have an incredibly exhausted Jake trekking around throughout the second half, and that alone kind of makes the experience a lot more middling and tiresome. There are some funny jokes sprinkled throughout, like the conversation between Mr. Fox and the foxes (that Herpich voice will never wear on me) or Jake frantically trying to save his kids from the dangers of the forest, but otherwise, there just isn’t anything that fun or interesting going on.

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When it finally comes down to the climax, where the lovely Kristen Schaal appears to lend her voice talents to Jake Jr., I think the conclusion that Jake comes to in regards to his mom’s manual is… somewhat disheartening. I was just saying how sweet it was for Jake to adopt his mother and father’s methods when it comes to raising his kids, but now he’s decidedly ditching them just because he recalls a time when he was a child and had a situation with a snake under control? It’s really weird writing here. Like, we spend the entire episode sympathizing with Jake’s decisions and the way he protects his children, but suddenly we’re not supposed to empathize with him anymore because his beliefs on protecting his children are wrong because they can fend for themselves. Buuuut, isn’t the only reason they can fend for themselves because they are now spontaneously older in a day’s length? And was it really so wrong of Margaret to be protective over Jake because they were facing a fucking snake? I dunno, the wrap up was a little too confused for my liking. I think they had a good thing going with just showing that you shouldn’t spend every second of every hour protecting your children from possible dangers, but in the end, it kind of comes off as “protecting your children is stupid because they can handle themselves.” Wha?

And of course, the very ending that returns everything to the status quo. Couple of things: One, I have no idea what Finn is doing with BMO’s controller in his mouth, nor do I ever want to know. Second, I don’t hate this ending as much because I now appreciate the direction that has been taken with Jake awkwardly not really knowing how to be a father to his kids, and the adult personalities of his individual children, but I still have to acknowledge that I do think it’s rather lazy and disappointing that they didn’t further experiment with Jake being a father. I mean, nothing really has to change. You can still have Jake casually hanging out with Finn the next episode with no mention of his children at all. I don’t really see why it was so entirely necessary to return things to exactly how they were at the beginning of the episode, because I think they could’ve ended it with Jake continuing to raise his pups and still involve him in nearly every standalone episodes in the future. Even if Jake moved back after a season or half a season, I wouldn’t have minded it as much. I would’ve liked to see a bit more on this topic and not just the evolution of the pups in a short 11 minutes.

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Overall, this one was a bit dull. It probably would have been cliched and predictable, but I think this one would’ve been more compelling overall if Jake did eventually let his guard down, and then his kids were in actual danger of some sorts. I can’t say it’d be good, but certainly more entertaining. Jake’s loving and caring behavior is certainly enough to justify this episode’s existence, and there are some decent jokes sprinkled throughout, but Jake the Dad is brought down significantly by it’s plodding story, confused moral, and lazy conclusion. I don’t mind it as much now, because as I mentioned, I do really like Jake’s sadness over his children growing up too fast, and the interesting episodes revolving around said pups that we get in the future, but still, this isn’t one I’m particularly crazy about.

Favorite line: “Look at this book I found about eating babies, they just sit there while you eat them.”

“Business Time” Review

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Original Airdate: April 26, 2010

Written & Storyboarded by: Luther McLaurin & Armen Mirzaian

The episode begins with Finn and Jake lighting flame guns (with the help of their pal Flambo!) and thawing out icebergs in order to build their coveted gauntlet dock, a dock that is also a gauntlet. During their scavenging, they melt through an iceberg and find four men dressed in business clothes.

It’s worth noting that this is the first episode to deal with the post post-apocalyptic elements of “Adventure Time”, as the Businessmen were likely frozen sometime during the war. Pendleton Ward himself said that this was the episode that kickstarted the idea that AT took place in a world after the apocalypse, and that they just kinda stuck with it after that. I didn’t really make anything of it at the time I first saw it, but watching it on subsequent viewings has added a much more interesting twist toward the episode.

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The Businessmen can’t remember anything about their past, except that they enjoyed doing business, so Finn hires them to finish working on the dock. The Businessmen quickly finish the dock and F&J take it out for a test run, featuring a really entertaining and well-animated longshot. Finn and Jake decide to hire the Businessmen full-time, to which they are ecstatic about. Back at the treehouse, the Businessmen assist the boys by monitoring Ooo for danger and cleaning Finn’s golden sword. When Hot Dog Princess is being attacked by battle cubes, Finn and Jake attempt to slay them for like, six hours to no avail. F&J feel burnt out, so the Businessmen take over. After the day is saved, Hot Dog Princess wants some sugar from Finn, but he’s like, “hell naw” and one of the Businessmen takes one for the team.

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The Businessmen begin doing everything for our duo as the two just sit around and eat ice cream while playing video games on BMO. Hey, it’s BMO! Sorta weird how his first appearance doesn’t even include a speaking role. Finn and Jake get really obese and lazy from eating so much ice cream, as they realize that the Businessmen are sucking up the Fluffy People in some big vacuum contraption. The boys realize it may be time to get some action, and confront the Businessmen. They say they want to suck everyone up into their “care sack” where they plan on protecting everyone from danger, which is somewhat psychotic, but hey, they’ve been in an iceberg for 1,000 years. Finn fires them for their actions and they have a hissy fit, as they begin to go crazy. While trying to suck up Jake, his fat clogs up the machine, and it eventually bursts. Finn rehires the Businessmen and orders to freeze themselves once more. The boys decide to go back to adventuring and Jake shapeshifts back to his normal body weight and Finn attempts to do the same, but nothing happens. The end.

Besides the brief apocalyptic references throughout, this episode’s a bit of a bore. The Businessmen are quirky and a bit amusing, but aside from them, this episode’s somewhat devoid of good humor. In addition, an episode that involves Finn and Jake just kinda lazily sitting around while other characters participate in likely more entertaining adventures off-screen isn’t an especially promising setup. It’s a bit of a slow one from start to finish, and doesn’t really mix well with how energetic and upbeat the past seven episodes have been. Overall, a pretty lackluster and forgettable episode.