It’s been a while since I’ve been around, but I wanted to share with you all a new project that I’m starting up. Keeping It Short will be tackling animated short films from the beginning of the medium up to the very present. I’ll be covering pretty much anything that I feel is worth talking about; from domestic to foreign, from comedy to drama, from stop-motion to traditionally drawn, or from bad to good. As long as it’s short, it qualifies! Feel free to send in any suggestions you may have. Check it out here.
In the meantime, I’ll still be working on Adventure Time Reviewed in my spare time. I do plan on tackling the Fionna & Cake series whenever it comes out, and I still plan on whipping up a complete review of Distant Lands down the line. I appreciate everyone’s patience, and I’m still open to tackle different AT topics on this blog if there are any suggestions! Until then, thank you for your continued support.
Written & Storyboarded by: Hanna K. Nyström, Anna Syvertsson, Maya Petersen, Aleks Sennwald & Haewon Lee
Wizard City was the one special that fans seemed somewhat indifferent to when it was announced. I can see why, as Peppermint Butler is perhaps the most obscure choice for the main focus out of the four. I was, however, cautiously optimistic, firstly because Pepbut is my favorite secondary character in the series and I’m a sucker for anything relating to AT‘s wiz-biz. So I gave it the benefit of the doubt, but unfortunately, Wizard City ended up being the weakest of the Distant Lands specials.
A lot of the issues within Wizard City stem from the fact that a good portion of it is just tackling hackneyed tropes and plot points we’ve seen hundreds of times in other media with little to no distinction of that AT goodness. If you’ve seen any magical school or secret society story prior, there’s really nothing here that makes an effort to standout beyond that. Even Adventure Time‘s sister show OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes did this exact story only a few years earlier that played on the exact twists and turns that Wizard City tackles. Part of the fun of Adventure Time is watching it take on relatively common plot devices at times with an added sense of uniqueness. Is That You? is essentially an Adventure Time clip show, but incorporates this element into the actual story of the episode which makes for both a trip and fun endeavor. All the Little People takes the average “king for a day” story and connects it to Finn’s budding sexuality and his hidden desires to manipulate others. And even Fern’s entire arc, which can be boiled down to the traditional evil clone and “there can only be one” story takes a psychological horror turn and showcases Finn if everything went wrong for him. Many of the Distant Lands episodes have featured characters or situations that have had obvious beats from the very beginning: I think we all knew what the purpose of Y-5 and Glassboy’s characters were from the first five seconds they were on-screen. Wizard City is exactly the same with its story and characters, feeling like it’s simply going through the motions of its plot without offering anything remotely challenging.
I don’t mean to act pretentious in this either, though I’m probably coming off that way. Wizard City isn’t devoid of surprises – there is the twist at the end with all of the Wizard School teachers turning out the be evil, but again, in my personal experience absorbing these stories, I feel as if this type of twist could be seen from a mile away. I think especially in the era where twist villains are so commonplace in animation, especially in Disney films, I could see through the Caledonius façade pretty quickly. And even if it was surprising, I think that’s fine, but I really just don’t see how this episode works outside of a surface level beyond that. Aside from the cool allusions to the Second Age of Terror that was first referenced in The Mountain and Coconteppi taking the appearance of one of the ancient monsters from Gold Stars, there’s really nothing compelling or analytical lore-wise.
As for general entertainment, I find the special equally meandering. There are some humorous moments sprinkled throughout, such as the various gags done with Larry’s rock form and a lot of decent visual gags with Cadebra in particular. But I find them to be few and far in between, with many gags lacking the usual Adventure Time spunk that the other Distant Lands specials similarly struggled with. A lot of the special is mainly just focused on Pep navigating through the struggles of Wizard School and regaining his magical prowess, along with dealing with bullies and his frustrations towards Cadebra, which again, feel incredibly formulaic. I’ve been seeing a lot of people obsess over the bully trio from Wizard City, but outside of Blaine’s undying obsession with Spader, I also found them pretty run-of-the-mill. It was also cool to see Blaine being referred to as “they” so casually – probably the first time I’ve seen LGBTQA+ representation in a series where I really didn’t actively think about it on a first watch.
So I’ve dunked on this one a lot, but there are quite a few things I do like about it. Even though Pep’s journey leaves me quite uninterested, I do think there are parts of it that I admire. I think the idea of Peppermint Butler coming back to haunt Pep is certainly an aspect that puts him in a negative light, but I don’t think its main purpose is to demonize Peppermint Butler himself. The curse was merely a representation of everything that Pepbut wanted to accomplish as a dark lord, and operated more as internal pressure rather than an actual venue for Peppermint Butler to act antagonistic. The pressure Pep puts on himself is something that I can personally identify with – I think it’s easy to look at a past version of yourself and resent where you are in the present. Hell, there was a point where I was writing reviews for this blog four days a week, and now I torment myself on why I can’t even churn out a written post once a month. So Pep coming the conclusion that he still wants to succeed, but doesn’t want to let his past dictate his entire journey, is a resolution I find quite satisfying. Even if the story beats that he goes through are quite predictable, as I had mentioned. I don’t really love Pep as a character that much, but I think he has his moments outside of story purposes, mostly in the area of humor. I think his whininess over wanting to be a dark lord can certainly be funny at times, along with his goofy shrug when Cadebra discovers his true nature. Cadebra is another character I enjoy. Again, her journey is mostly uninteresting to me because of how cookie cutter it is, as well as the fact that you know what the special is trying to communicate with her character very, very early on, but she has her share of cute/funny moments, mostly because of the way she is illustrated along with her exaggerated expressions.
Other highlights were seeing some of the classic wizards from the original series (Bill Hader as Bufo was a nice touch), some of the background characters were cool, and the incredibly dark joke that Spader was killed in such a merciless way was kind of wild. I’ve seen a lot of people who were pissed off by this, but I dunno, I actually kind of respect the commitment. Yes, Spader was a character that didn’t really deserve this morbid fate, but in a series where characters so rarely die permanently, it’s kind of hilarious that the writing staff decided to just straight up murder a relatively smug character and not bring him back at the end. Kudos for that.
But still, Wizard City leaves me pretty underwhelmed. This honestly might be one of the AT entries that has the least rewatch value for me personally. Yes, there are far worse Adventure Time episodes out there, but most are only 11 minutes and barely make a dent in my day. Wizard City is a whopping 44 minutes that mostly leaves me just bored – and the humor certainly isn’t strong enough to have me coming back frequently. A lot of people wish that Together Again was the special that concluded Distant Lands, and while I had my own issues with that special, it definitely would’ve ended the series with a bang, whereas Wizard City ends with a whimper. But, as the post credits scene with a dark Choose Goose proves, there’s probably going to be a dozen more AT projects in the next 10 years regardless. For better or for worse.
Written & Storyboard by: Hanna K. Nyström, Anna Syvertsson, Iggy Craig, Maya Petersen & Serena Wu
Together Again was easily the most anticipated Distant Lands special for me personally. Come Alone With Me still stands as a decent cap for the original series, but it left me a bit unsatisfied with how Finn and Jake, the core of Adventure Time, were mainly sidelined for story purposes. That being said, I may have went into this one a little too hyped. The story that I thought I was going to get in Together Again was very different from what actually happened, and I couldn’t help leaving this episode a bit disappointed. I was mainly expecting it to be about Finn’s life during the timeline of Obsidian, his grief over the loss of his brother, and his eventual acceptance of his passing after a shared epiphany. That being said, I’ve watched this special several times since my first viewing with a different perspective – it’s unfair to view it through the eyes of my own personal bias, so I wanted to give myself a chance to appreciate it for what it is. And, lo-and-behold, I got that chance. Together Again really is the solid conclusion to Finn and Jake’s brotherhood that I was still truly craving even after all was said and done. That being said, I think some of the initial criticisms I left with after a first viewing haven’t completely dissipated, but I’m still feeling mostly optimistic.
I know it’s only been like, two years, but seeing that classic Adventure Time opening, along with the traditional title cards, was a bit too nostalgic to resist. I think it’s all the more fitting that the remainder of the opening is set up like a classic Finn and Jake entry. I will say that the entire beginning of the episode is a little underwhelming for me in terms of capturing that classic AT spirit. I know that it’s all just a hallucination, but I felt as if there wasn’t enough dedication to truly making it feel like Season One Adventure Time. It’s a little bit too low energy and the characterization of Finn and Ice King just doesn’t really seem on par with what you would expect from the time period it’s supposed to take place in. Ice King’s a little overly sinister and Finn doesn’t really capture his youthful energy. I feel as though it would’ve been a stronger tribute if some of these beginning elements have been fine-tuned. That being said, it’s a fine opening that makes it pretty clear early on that it isn’t actually from that time period; there are snowmen that look very similar to Gumbald and Peacemaster, and Finn’s voice is very clearly… pubescent. What it boils down to is Finn’s continuous attempts to keep the light adventuring going so that Jake doesn’t have to leave. Probably the biggest emotional takeaway from Together Again comes when Finn has to once again deal with the idea of Jake “dying” in a very disturbing way. The panic that Finn begins to experience is genuinely heartbreaking, and as much as I emphasized that I originally wanted this episode to be about Finn accepting Jake’s passing, the episode makes it very clear early on that Finn really never did. Or if he accepted it, it still tore him up a lot. And honestly, I do feel like that’s much more appropriate than what I wanted. As sad as it is, the idea that Finn was really never the same after Jake passed away just feels… right. It would make me personally more comfortable to see Finn acknowledge and accept his brother’s passing because I want to believe the lil guy would be okay even after such a tragic event. But this special emphasizes again and again and again – it fucking hurts, and even if he lived a life where he had things that brought him fulfillment, he still never was able to feel full after Jake passed. Damn, man.
The longer I think about it, the sadder I get, so let’s keep this sucker goin’. Seeing Finn as a withered old man is a decision that I really didn’t expect the team to take, but because his scenes are left so vague, it really doesn’t give much info into Finn’s life. It’s both a blessing and a curse, because while this episode continues AT‘s trend of keeping things mysterious, it also slightly hurts the realism of the episode in the process. Or confuses it, at the very least. For the entirety of the episode, Finn is actually an elderly man, but takes the appearance of his 17-year-old self. It’s weird in that sense because, in his 70+ years of living, we don’t really see anything indicative of major changes in Finn’s behavior or what he’s been up to, so his developmental state comfortably sticks with what is recognizable for viewers. Finn even alludes to this when choosing his appearance. You could argue that Finn being reconnected to Jake brought back his youthful sense of self, but I dunno, it’s super difficult to keep this mystery up when literal decades have passed by and outside of a few throwaway lines, Finn doesn’t exhibit any signs of growth outside of what we are already familiar with. I don’t necessarily see this as a major flaw – I don’t really think it would be particularly fun to see Finn acting like an old, whimsical coot for the entirety of the episode. I still can’t help but feel like it’s slightly gimmicky in its presentation regardless.
As much as Together Again presents itself as a climax of Finn and Jake’s journeys together, it also weirdly offers closure for some very random Ooo inhabitants. Mr. Fox and Tiffany are both given conclusions to their individual “arcs,” per se, and it’s kind of awesome, actually. I peruse through old reviews sometimes to see how my perception has changed overtime, and I kind of have no idea why I was so passive to Tiffany in the past. At this point, I think it’s hilarious that this intended one-off character became a fully realized, Shakespearean anti-hero who only ever wanted the love of a momma and poppa. I was a bit miffed that all of these other characters were coming in to mooch off of Finn and Jake’s time, but I really think these additions, such as Tiffany’s arc as mentioned above, help add a layer of fun to the special in general. He’s finally gets to be blood-brothers with Finn and Jake! As I also mentioned, Mr. Fox gets his big day in the limelight. I especially like how far Mr. Fox has come, because he’s pretty much the least notable side character in the series for any casual viewer. But here he is in Together Again, in all his glory, as he’s now the official ruler of the Land of the Dead, even after all he wanted was a cushion-y pillow. As always, M.F. would be nothing without Tom Herpich’s terrific performance. Something that never quite gets old to me is how it feels like Herpich isn’t really even voice acting, but just stumbled into the booth and started reading a script. That sounds incredibly harsh, but I promise you all that I mean it in the most flattering way necessary. Because there are too many to mention in their entirety, here’s my personal favorite callbacks and cameos throughout the special:
Jake’s clap from James Baxter the Horse! Kinda wish they didn’t call extra attention to it, because I feel like it was instantly recognizable otherwise.
I like that Mr. Fox, after all these years, is seemingly still carrying a torch for Boobafina. It’s time to move on, man.
I believe this is the first time in the series/any form of AT media where Jake is confirmed to be a reincarnation of Shoko’s tiger. Always was assumed, but cool to have that additional confirmation.
It was super sweet to see Finn interact with Joshua and Margaret as his adult self, but I think the icing on the cake is that he could care less about seeing Jermaine. Nobody cares about poor Jerm.
Peppermint Butler being the new princess is both very interesting and cryptic. I doubt this implies Princess Bubblegum’s death, assuming that the disguised figure in Come Along With Me‘s opening was her. It is interesting to see all of the additions to the castle in general, adopting many elements of wizardry and dark magic. Wondering if this will be touched on at all in Wizard City, though I’d think likely not.
Choose Goose appearing AGAIN! Considering that the trailer for the next special also includes his voice, it’s amazing to me that nearly half his appearances in the entire series will derive from Distant Lands. Is this spin-off bait just waiting to happen?
Clarence and Ghost Princess living it up big time in 50th Dead World.
Tree Trunks living it up big time with all of her man slaves in 30th Dead World. Also featuring Polly Lou Livingston’s last performance before her death. Rest in peace, you lovely gem.
Wyatt NOT living it up in 1st Dead World. He really is the worst.
In general, the exploration of the Dead Worlds is super gnarly to me. This worldbuilding in general feels like something that Adventure Time has wanted to do for years but for whatever reason it never got past the conceptual stage. A portion of this story was actually adapted from an outline Jesse Moynihan worked on back in season three that was initially going to be Ghost Princess, but it was revised to have a smaller story. I really thought the gorgeous backgrounds in Together Again were works of ghostshrimp, but it was actually two other designers that did a fantastic job: Udo Jung and Julian De Perio, who both worked on BMO. I really love how each Dead World, even the unnamed realms, have a unique and abstract feel to them that you really can’t decipher if it’s peaceful or threatening. It also kind of makes you wonder how each works on an ethical standpoint – clearly the 1st Dead World is equivalent to Hell and the 50th is comparative to Heaven, but is there any true “ranking” that goes into the other Dead Worlds? If I had to guess, I’d say placement in a prospective Dead World connects to the values of the deceased. 37th Dead World feels like Tree Trunks’ meadow residence with added luxuries, while 45th Dead World appears to just be a very Homeworld-esque suburbia for loving families. Or, at least in this case, the Dog family. That being said, it kind of makes you wonder how some folks ended up where they did. You can’t tell me that my boy Choose Goose deserves to be rotting with Maja.
We’re introduced to the offspring of Life and Death in this episode, simply named New Death. New Death is a bit of a pain in the ass throughout the run of this one. His rebellious teenager personality is amusing at first, but quickly tires out after a period of time. He really doesn’t take up a ton of time in the special itself, but any time he shows up, his presence really doesn’t add much, outside of a killer design by Iggy Craig. The one bit I did find genuinely intriguing from him was the moment at his demise when he solemnly mentions his mother’s name. Feel like it was surprisingly a bit ballsy to give him one moment of humanity before he is legitimately destroyed. Of course, the late Miguel Ferrer sadly could not reprise his role as Death, but it is cool seeing more into Life’s perspective. Life is another aspect of the special that feels like she was always meant to have a larger role in the series, but it just never was able to come into fruition. Her realm is similarly gorgeous, with lush ocean colors permeating throughout. I find Life’s personality as a sweet but relentless ruler that you do not want to mess with a lot of fun – it gives you a pretty good idea of why she had married Death in the first place.
I’ve been batting around with a lot of the less major stuff up to this point, so let’s get into the meat of this episode: Finn and Jake’s connection. I do feel like everything that is portrayed with Finn and Jake’s relationship in this episode gets the emotions right, but not always the characterization. Let me elaborate: nothing in this episode feels out of character or unlikable for the boys, but it also feels like there’s something slightly off or different about their individual roles. I think I could honestly just say this about Distant Lands in general, however. Considering that the writing staff is completely different, with the exception of Hanna K. Nyström, it’s really no wonder that this feeling arises, though I can’t entirely put my finger on it. There’s something a bit less goofy about it and slightly more straightforward when it comes to the humor and dialogue of Distant Lands that just feels lacking of a certain spunk and identity the original series had. Even certain lines, such as Finn’s “because it’s no jerks allowed!” felt especially corny for him to exclaim. It still captures the heart of Adventure Time, but I think any media franchise that runs for a period of time and changes teams majorly is going to run into this problem. Hell, comparing season 8 of Adventure Time with season 1 is literally comparing two radically different shows with radically different teams. Even the lack of Tim Kiefer is very apparent. Amanda Jones does an okay job at composing the score for the special, but there’s really nothing about it that connects to the essence of what Kiefer was doing. I really hate to complain, because nothing Distant Lands has done so far has been anywhere close to bad or disrespectful to the original series, but I think it’s one step at showing how much one team over the course of a few years really defined the series (Jesse, Tom, Pen, Steve, Ako, Rebecca, Somvilay, Seo, Adam, Graham, etc.) and how, as more spin-offs and reboots come into fruition down the line, it’s likely that the magic of the original will never truly be replicated.
But my bullshitting aside, I do think that the team behind Together Again did their damnedest to really paint a beautiful story among AT‘s baby boys. This is probably the most emotional we ever see Finn in the series, and I think it pays off super well. Finn and Jake’s brotherhood has always been the heart of the show, but Together Again really stresses how much Finn was never able to fully live the same again after Jake’s passing, and I think it makes total sense. Finn probably wasn’t that old when Joshua and Margaret passed, so Jake essentially doubled as both a brother and parent to Finn for so many years. That grief of losing someone is something that really never fades, and Together Again is genuinely relentless in showing that. It was especially devastating to see that Jake doesn’t initially recognize Finn, as he continues to fall into breakdown category. That poor boy just needs a squoze from his brother. Despite it being quite difficult to stomach, I do think that it ultimately makes sense that Jake would let go of all earthly possessions, as alluded to throughout the years in his desires to fulfill his croak dream. I’m sure it wasn’t something that he was consciously okay with from the start, but he let go as a means to find his inner peace and allow for his destiny to truly unfold. Finn, however, has never really been the destiny or holistic type; his true meaning in life comes from his dedication to others. It does make me wonder what Finn’s connection to the 37th Dead World is, considering that it was left mainly ambiguous in Sons of Mars. Since Jake initially ended up there, I wonder if it has something to do with selflessness. Jake chose to stay alive rather than fulfill his destiny on Mars because Finn needed him, and Finn likewise died on some sort of rescue mission it seems. That, or it’s where original Death would send people that he was tight with.
Although only about half the special focuses on their brotherly bond, there are tons of highlights throughout: Jake letting loose a toot while they try to be incognito, Jake offering caring advice when Finn feels at fault for New Death’s scheming, Finn’s admiration for Jake’s mermaid bod, the reunion of the Jakesuit, and many more. Even their overly aggressive fight is super endearing in their continued desire to protect and aide each other. And of course, one of their most cherished, shared activities is a good old-fashioned Lich fight! I gotta be honest y’all, I went from really not liking this shoe-horned inclusion to kind of digging it. I was pretty done with the Lich after his appearance in Whispers, where he was no longer intimidating and felt like he was about effective as any other villain in the series. Here… he’s still not very intimidating, but Ron Perlman’s voice acting is almost impossible to not be impressed by at all times. The Lich gets a few solid lines, namely “the spawn of life and death is a creature without purpose, fit only to be a pawn in my eternal quest to end all life.” Even though he is quickly disposed of, it seems apparent at this point that, like Life and Death, the Lich will always be around as an entity of destruction and death. And truthfully, I feel like the only appropriate way to cap off Finn and Jake’s role in the series is to have the Lich as the final big bad. The Lich was the first true trial in their journey as adventurers, and it feels appropriate that he would be their last as well. The ending is probably the highlight of the entire special. Once again emphasizing Finn’s need for Jake in his life, it’s super touching that Jake would give up a lifetime of enlightenment just to live with his bro again. Even before he joins, the tight hug Finn gives Jake shows that he’s probably not fully committed to letting go of his reincarnation dreams with Jake, and Jake has his own epiphany that the strength of his brotherhood outranks any type of Glob destiny that awaited him.
Together Again isn’t a perfect AT episode for me personally. Some of the character dialogue feels a little clunky, there’s maybe a bit toomuch fanservice, and it lacks that certain spunk of the original series that I had mentioned. But it’s so committed to being a love letter to everyone that cared so dearly about Finn and Jake that I really can’t have too much of an issue with it. Come Along With Me felt like a big jumbled mess that wanted to tie up any loose ends that it could in the span of an hour, while Together Again is very much committed to the heart of AT itself that it feels much more akin to a finale than the prior entry. So far, I think it’s probably the strongest of the DL specials, and a wonderful way to cap off the spin-off series as a whole.
… Oh yeah, we still have Wizard City. Huh.
Favorite line: “All I ask is for permission to use your bones…for a spell.“
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.”
It’s been a little while – one because of health obstacles, the other because this review is pretty damn massive. If you’re from the states, get ready for a nice little Thanksgiving treat: the final episode review (for now) is coming this Thursday!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Favorite line:“I think she’s, uh, getting ready to sleepwalk-sleep.”
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!