“James” Review

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Original Airdate: November 25, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Andy Ristaino & Cole Sanchez

Lotsa problems with this one, folks.

It’s funny, because I think James is the type of episode that could have worked if certain decisions were executed differently. Some choices that were made in this one still baffle me quite a bit, and it seems like an episode that was purely going for shock value rather than actually trying to make sense with the universe.

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The beginning scene is partially funny. The staged drama surrounding Finn and Jake, and their melancholic exchanges with each other are somber, but delivered in such a way that evokes a bit of humor, namely Jake’s insistence to stay in the dark room for several months. My main problem with this scene is that it doesn’t really make contextual sense with how the rest of the episode plays out. When we eventually realize how Finn and Jake feel about James, it doesn’t really seem like this overemotional response is especially warranted. In fact, by the episode’s end, it doesn’t even really accurately tie back into this scene. During the final scene, Finn and Jake are mostly just concerned and uncertain about the events at hand. It doesn’t seem like their trauma lasted particularly long, in that case. And that’s kind of what forms this episode’s biggest, though not its only, problem: characters can act wildly dissonant for the main reason that it serves the plot of the episode, rather than feeling like a natural reaction from the characters based on the circumstances around them. Thus, this beginning scene feels like the only real reason it’s included in is to draw the viewer into the story, which is somewhat effective on a first viewing, but really just falls flat by the time this episode reaches its climax.

Now let’s get to the title character himself: James. First of all, not to the fault of the episode, but the fact that there are two characters named “James” within the AT universe is incredibly dumb to me. There’s a handful of other generic male names in the world, why couldn’t James have been called “Michael” or “Chris” or something along those lines? Naming him “James” despite the fact that James Baxter is an already existing character seem incredibly silly to me. But forget about his name, how is he as a character? Well, quite annoying, actually. Andy Merrill, most notable for his role as Brak from Space Ghost Coast to Coast and its spin-offs, provides the voice of James, though his talent doesn’t really offer much because he isn’t really given much to work with. James’ character practically centers around the fact that he’s unintelligent and slightly hyperactive, and by this point in the series, we’ve seen many, many Candy People who take on this identity. James lacks any form of charm or endearing qualities that should make me care about him over the course of 11 minutes. Again, he is simply there to be a foil within the plot of the episode.

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The story itself is almost as equally devoid of charm and intrigue. I do enjoy the beginning trek through the Desert of Wonders in PB’s spider-like transporter, but once the gang actually lands in the pit and attention mostly focuses within the ship, most of that interest is lost. This is one that is particularly weak in the animation department, and the drawings in general. Andy Ristaino and Cole Sanchez co-boarded the episode, and normally their drawings are pretty solid, especially Ristaino’s, though a large majority of this one features some wonky dynamic shots and disproportionate character modeling. The characters will constantly go off model; there are some parts where Finn will look incredibly smaller and chunkier than usual, or Jake will look huge in comparison to the people around him, or PB’s head will range from the size of raise to an actual oval. I’m all for cartoons going off-model, and AT was not afraid to do so in its earliest seasons, though the tone of the show has changed in terms of not only its story, but its look. So any inconsistencies in actual design of the characters feels more like a wonky doodle rather than an intentional choice on the storyboard artist’s part. This is also primarily a “box episode” that takes place almost exclusively in one area, though this would be a bit more justifiable if the setting was a bit more visually interesting, but it’s pretty much just your general spacecraft filled with light and dark grays.

And the episode’s story is pretty thin as well. I think the story does have some comedic opportunities, though it mostly feels like, from a viewer perspective, that we’re just simply waiting for certain moments to happen. We know James is going to be an idiot, we know he’s going to continuously get blamed for his actions, we know it’s not actually going to be his doing by the end of the episode, etc. It just really feels like we’re going through classic storytelling notions until the episode eventually makes some form of a development, though, in this one, the development doesn’t even feel warranted.

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The big “twist” in this one is that it was PB sabotaging all of Finn and Jake’s plans and ends up knocking out the boys in order to sacrifice James and save F&J. And boy, do I think this is just absolutely ridiculous on every single level. First of all, the way it is explained by PB sounds extremely contrived and honestly just kind of paints her to be legitimately sociopathic. Despite her “conniving” nature being more emphasized by this point in the series, I have a hard time believing that she’d actually perform something so stupid. Instead of wasting time sabotaging the plans Finn and Jake were coming up with, why did she not simply use that time explain her idea to Finn and Jake? Or, even if she hadn’t thought of it at the time, why wouldn’t she just at least take a minute to try and convince Finn and Jake to go through with the plan before she ended up just doing it anyway? If she was so concerned about preserving Finn’s life, then why would she  knock him unconscious with a fucking wrench? I get that PB doesn’t always think using common sense, but c’mon, this is legitimately extreme and slightly moronic even for her. And the excuse of why she sabotaged F&J’s plans feels like genuinely poor writing. She “calculated” that Finn and Jake’s plans wouldn’t work? How? How would she have actually hypothesized that these attempts would absolutely fail without even a slight chance of succeeding? It doesn’t even seem like she knows a ton about the Oozers; she mentions them as “creatures from another time,” though she doesn’t seem to recognize them as a species she actually has any knowledge of. And how was there any possibility that she knew her plan with James would absolutely succeed? What if the Oozers ignored James and started running after PB and friends? The way it is explained just feels so contrived; I feel as though the episode did not stress enough how limited the gang’s options were. Exploring two possible ideas and then deciding that there’s absolutely no way out does not feel like a rational conclusion. I usually don’t bring this up, but it’s really the one time I wish they could’ve explained why Jake couldn’t just grow giant and stretch out of the situation. I get that the Oozers could’ve easily had mutagenic effects onto him, but it just makes me scratch my head and ask “why” because it’d devoid of an actual explanation for this solution. 

And of course, since I don’t care much for James, his “death” ends up feeling pretty ineffective. I’m not much of a Cinnamon Bun guy either, but if he were to take James place in this episode, it would at least feature an already established character who the audience has some emotional investment in. It feels like James was introduced only so he could die, which again adds to the number of moments that feel like they were only included to have a “shockingly edgy” effect on the audience. And it’s all capped off by a cliffhanger featuring the Oozers heading straight for Ooo. It all just feels way too manipulative.

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So yeah, I really teared into this one, but is there anything I like about it? Well, the atmosphere isn’t bad. Despite it being generally laugh free, I do enjoy how the episode at least attempts to make the situation at hand feel dire and uneasy. It isn’t really executed well, but it does paint more of a stressful edge to the entire situation regardless. I also like the scenes where PB drags Finn and Jake out of the pit as James gets ambushed. It’s all staged really dramatically, and is pretty heavy to stomach despite my lack of investment in James. PB’s explanation of how she can clone other Candy People but not Finn is also quite profound, even though it follows a pretty lame explanation on her part.

But overall, I really just don’t like this one. I think the entire episode feels like it’s trying really hard to suck me in, but doesn’t know the basic fundamentals of its story well enough to tell them effectively. It also has some of the dumbest character writing for PB to date, and one of the most forgettable star characters overall. I think it’s a very disjointed mess, and one that has very few redeeming qualities at that. Thankfully, however, the next episode makes up for it with a much more interesting breakout character.

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Favorite line: “This is my cuckoo face!”

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“The Pit” Review

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Original Airdate: November 18, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Ako Castuera

The Pit certainly provides more entertainment value than Play Date did. It isn’t really as epic or dark as the ending of Play Date seemed to imply it would be, but it’s a thoroughly fun adventure that highlights some terrific character interactions and gags.

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First off, I LOVE the broken dimension that Kee-Oth brings Jake to. It makes the entire episode feel like a trippy, visual treat. The interactions between Kee-Oth and Jake in general are a lot of fun. Per usual, I love Jake’s absolute laid back attitude when it comes to stressful situations. Instead of freaking out, he just kicks back, knowing that Finn will probably end up saving him anyway. And can you blame him? He did end up coming by the end.

Kee-Oth is pretty fun antagonist. He didn’t really have much going for him in his first two appearances, but I think he’s given some stellar lines to work with (“You’re causing tension in my neck and shoulders. I’m gonna go stretch it out. You stay here and suffer.”) and his voice actor, Noah Nelson, provides for some funny deliveries.

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There’s plenty of other enjoyable moments within Kee-Oth dimension. The “little buddy” that arises after 12 years of sleep and then immediately dies is a terrific addition to AT’s line of exceptionally dark jokes. I also enjoy the character of Samantha. She doesn’t have many defining character traits, as her story is mostly surrounded by a group of enigmas, but her voice work by Marina Sirtis gives Samantha more of a standout performance. Also, Jake nearly reveals himself as J.T. Doggzone. And that is the last time J.T. is ever mentioned in the series.

On the other side of things, Finn and Lady work together to rescue Jake from Kee-Oth’s dimension. It’s pretty clear that Finn and Lady haven’t hung out much since My Two Favorite People, as Finn comically doesn’t even know what Lady’s relationship with Jake is. I also like how this becomes a running gag for Finn, and even somewhat reflects the audience’s perspective. By the time it’s brought up again in Bonnie & Neddy, I actually said to myself, “oh shit, Lady and Jake still aren’t married!” Their time together is met with comedic results, mainly centering around the contents of the videos they watch. I enjoy the steps Finn takes after Jake is captured as well; he calls the second most important person in Jake’s life and then meditates till she arrives. It’s a calm and effective moment, showing one way that Finn has taught himself to deal with stressors and anxiety in his life.

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I always enjoy getting new scenes focusing on Joshua, just because we continue to get a better understanding of how much of an asshole he actually was when it comes to demon hunting. It seems like Kee-Oth didn’t actually do anything wrong, and Joshua chained him up specifically to fuck with him. His “protection” of drinking holy water is equally hilarious; Joshua really fits the stereotype of “1950’s father” quite perfectly.

The interludes between each video are also a lot of fun. I think it’s pretty obvious by this point that Lady and Jake are hella freaky when it comes to sexual deeds, and it’s even weirder that Jake taped over his father’s videos specifically to film a sex tape for Lady. My guess is that he just grabbed the first tape he could find without actually questioning what was on it. And the filming of Heat Signature 2 was a thing of brilliance. It’s always nice to see Shelby, and even better that he’s apparently an actual ordained minister. Check please!

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I enjoy the clever way the climax is tied together, as the blessed Demon Grape Sword is too much for Kee-Oth to handle. Upon returning, I enjoy the casual banter between Lady and Jake over whether Jake actually fell in love with Samantha or not. Jake and Lady are far too comfortable with each other to ever get involved in any real drama, so it’s reassuring that an actual “fight” between them is kept light and enjoyable. They’re much too adorable for any of that nonsense. Also a bit of a melancholic inclusion, Finn is still in love with Flame Princess. It’s good to see that there’s no clear episode or plot thread that is going to wrap this up completely; Finn may have used the dungeon train to help cope with his issues, but that didn’t alleviate the problem entirely. Finn is still in love with Flame Princess, and it will take much, much time before he’s able to work out this burning sensation.

Overall, this one is fun. There’s not really a ton I can say about it, as it’s mostly surface level enjoyment, but there isn’t anything necessarily wrong with that. It’s full of fun and enjoyable gags, some nice character interactions, and the inclusion of enjoyable minor characters, such as Joshua and Shelby. Definitely isn’t a strong point of season five, but one I enjoy rewatching regardless.

As an added bonus, here are some title card concepts of The Pit illustrated by Michael DeForge.

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Favorite line: “Yeah, your hubby – your boyfriend or whatever.”

“Play Date” Review

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Original Airdate: November 4, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne, Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim

I fell ill last week, so apologies for the lack of a post. Making up for it by double-posting this week, and in addition to that, I’ll have some more free-time next week! I expect to cover at least four to five episodes next week, most likely from James to Rattleballs, and then we’re in the homestretch of season five, folks. For now, Play Date.

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Play Date and The Pit is perhaps the weirdest two parter Adventure Time has ever put out, mostly because they have very little to do with each other aside from Play Date’s climax. Out of the two, however, I think it’s pretty clear that The Pit is the more structured of the two. Play Date has its moments, but ultimately feels like a handful of ideas that never really form into a completely cohesive narrative. Though I’m glad the series did finally take the time to explore a full length episode focusing on Ice King living with the boys, even if it comes out with mixed results.

I think perhaps the strongest part of the episode derives from the first few minutes. Some of the best comedy the show has to offer is how genuinely disgusted and distraught Finn and Jake can respond to the IK’s behavior, such as episodes like Hitman or Still, and the first half is chock full of these moments. Love the bits that emphasize just how annoying and disgusting Ice King is, namely his line “don’t forget the bread!” and the repulsive way he consumes his cereal while wearing nothing but underwear. This leads to some fantastic reactions from Jake, including a hilarious eye-twitch and him actually contemplating murder. On the other hand, however, I do enjoy Finn’s treatment of Ice King in this one. I think the destruction of the Ice Kingdom is a clear point to where Finn began to treat the lunatic with more sympathy and consideration. There’s very few episodes after this where Finn views Ice King as an actual enemy; at most, Finn views him as an annoyance, but even that is toned down a great deal following this one. I think it’s cool to notice these moments of clear development between the two, though it’d be quite sometime before Jake begins to feel the same.

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There’s also quite a few nice touches in the beginning sequence as well. I don’t think the gags involving Finn and Jake using hand motions to explain something to each other are particularly funny, but I at least appreciate how it ended up becoming a running gag in later Somvilay-Seo episodes down the line. It begins to feel like a genuine trait of the relationship between the boys rather than just some random nonsense that was included for the sake of being random nonsense. Also, I thought it was quite adorable that Ice King added himself to Finn and Jake’s clock. While we’re on the subject, I actually discovered while writing this post that there is a licensed Finn & Jake clock on Amazon! I’m immediately considering an impulse buy because of how cute and true to the show it actually is.

Though, I think the fun definitely decreases once Abracadaniel’s brought in. I’m very “meh” about Abracadaniel as a character, and I think my problems with him have become more clear as this episode followed We Fixed a Truck. Banana Man and Abracadaniel are similar in their wimpy tendencies, though I think Banana Man is clearly the better character. Banana Man has a defined character through the exploration of his loneliness, forming him into a lovable dork. Abracadaniel, on the other hand, doesn’t really have a defined character. He’s just kind of weird and quirky, but doesn’t really have any charismatic attributes that actually make me care for him. Also, isn’t it weird that he’s just totally fine with hanging out with Finn and Jake? Shouldn’t he still hate them for being part of the reason he ended up in jail in Wizards Only, Fools?

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Thus, the scenes that follow with Abracadaniel and Ice King’s friendship are just… okay. Not really bad or even boring, but just nothing particularly noteworthy or entertaining. I think the episode comes to an absolute halt, however, when Abracadaniel and Ice King put on a show for the boys. It isn’t really funny and doesn’t add anything to the story at all, making it feel like somewhat of a waste of time. I think the point of the scene is to show how Abracadaniel is beginning to overstay his welcome as well, but it really doesn’t help that Finn and Jake hold the same blank face throughout the entire scene. Like, I get that Finn is pretty cool and is willing to accept that Abracadaniel is too afraid to leave the Treehouse, but why is Jake so okay with this? Wasn’t he the one who was prepared to kill Ice King earlier because of his annoying tendencies? I think this is where the source of this episode’s main issue derives from: it quickly changes perspective from Finn and Jake’s to Ice King and Abracadaniel’s. Throughout the first half of the episode, we’re seeing everything mostly through F&J’s eyes, where the second half mostly focuses on Abracadaniel and Ice King’s side of things. And it’s unfortunate, because Finn and Jake reacting to the Ice King’s obscene behavior was arguably more interesting than Ice King and Abracadaniel’s shenanigans. It’s disappointing that the main conflict of the episode was dropped so quickly when Abracadaniel was introduced, yet there were so many more comedic possibilities that could have came from his arrival that were used for some less than satisfactory moments.

Things do pick up in entertainment value once Ice King and Abracadaniel discover the Demon Blood Sword, even if it feels like a disconnect from the entirety of the episode. I will say that I’m glad a moment like this was included to make the episode more memorable, though I feel like it’s somewhat of a copout. It’s like how In Your Footsteps was somewhat uninteresting throughout, yet that one moment was included at the end so the Lich could gain possession of the Enchiridion. I’m not quite sure how I feel about moments like this, because they definitely make the episode they’re featured in more compelling, though sometimes I feel like they’re trying to justify overall mediocrity. But I digress, the moments with Ice King and Abracadaniel in the basement are definitely entertaining. There’s a big eerie feeling surrounding it, as if Ice King is showing Abracadaniel his father’s AR-15 rifle or something of the sorts. As Kee-Oth is reintroduced, and Finn and Jake enter the scene, I do feel like some of these moments were a bit rushed, though it works in such a way that I feel isn’t distracting. Similar to the episode Betty, which we’ll come across shortly, I feel like so much is happening at once that it doesn’t really give me time to think about it. Finn contemplates not breaking the sword, Finn breaks the sword, Kee-Oth regains his blood, Kee-Oth captures Jake, Ice King mentions that his home is rebuilt and he and Abracadaniel leave. All of this occurs in the course of a minute, but it’s done so in an invigorating way and never really lets the energy fizzle out until the very last second.

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A lot of people were pissed with a couple moments towards the end, mainly regarding Finn breaking the sword and Ice King’s behavior. Finn breaking the Demon Blood Sword quickly without a ton of hesitation is upsetting, considering how cool the actual sword is, but I think it’s fitting regarding Finn’s character. Despite how he feels about his awesome sword, and his father too, Finn is willing to smash something so important to him for the sake of the lives of two losers he doesn’t even really like that much. Really just goes to show what a caring person he is, especially considering the immoral things he has done in the past handful of episodes. As for Ice King quickly fleeing the scene after using Finn and Jake for weeks and being responsible for the destruction for Finn’s sword, I respond with “come on.” We all know Ice King is crazy and that he’s incredibly selfish, and there really isn’t anything changing that as long as the crown has possession of his brain. Again, Ice King is simply at his healthiest when he has people who mutually care for him, though he will never be able to completely get past his own insanity and irrational thinking. This felt like classic Ice King, even if it was incredibly jerky of him.

So yeah, this episode is a bit all over the place, but it does have its redeeming qualities. Again, I think The Pit is clearly the better episode and more plot-focused overall, but this episode at least managed to have some memorable moments. It just so happens that about half of it is mixed with mediocrity. But, I’m willing to take an episode filled with some moments of greatness rather than a fully dull episode like Box Prince. And though the epic follow-up that Play Date had suggested by its final scene ended up being mostly comedic and stress free, it still leads to a promising and enjoyable sequel.

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Favorite line: “Someone’s at the door. We have a doorbell now. We’ll get it.”

“We Fixed a Truck” Review

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Original Airdate: October 21, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Andy Ristaino & Cole Sanchez

An episode like We Fixed a Truck doesn’t reach the absolute hilariousness of its past comedic predecessors, but it’s overall just a really fun and enjoyable episode that focuses more on individual character moments and pure absurdity rather than a linear story, and even manages to be strangely beautiful in the process. It’s also a nice breakout moment for the returning character Banana Man, who previously appeared in The New Frontier, and has what is probably his best appearance in this episode.

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The title card alone is enough to get me into this one. I know I don’t talk about this aspect of the show enough, but I don’t know a single show that has more beautifully crafted title cards than Adventure Time. I’m not gonna say that every single one hits a mark, but this episode’s card in particular poses a form of beauty in its simplicity. What could’ve been a simple painted image of the truck, or Hot Daniel as the boys call it, is instead an apparent discovery that Finn made while taking a walk one day. Of course, this show is already scattered with post-apocalyptic references in almost every episode, so I’m willing to bet this car stuck in a tree was up there for quite some time, and is only being rediscovered now. Add a beautiful sunrise filled with purple, yellow, and orange in the background and this single image actually becomes quite whimsical and even a little somber. It’s amazing what the series is able to do with these lovely paintings, and can really help set the mood for an episode as a whole.

Down to the actual episode itself, I actually kind of like how there’s no real conflict in this one. I previously mentioned that as an issue in Box Prince, though this one much more efficiently creates an atmosphere that simply involves these likable characters all in one area, so it’s much less noticeable. The main focus of this is that Finn and Jake just want to fix up a truck for shits and gigs. Though Ice King isn’t able to help them (is he wearing a dress shirt when he appears? Dunno, but he actually kind of looks handsome) the boys do have their friendly neighbor Banana Man to help them out!

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Banana Man is a really enjoyable loser. AT has had plenty of these types of characters, but I personally think Banana Man is one that is written in a way that makes him both really amusing and quite charming. A lot of that derives from his voice actor Weird Al Yankovic, who gives him a bit of a quirky inflection, but doesn’t really overdo it either. He’s able to have his goofier moments, like the beginning where he demonstrates how the cylinder head works and demonstrates it through nonexistent visuals. I’m usually not a huge fan of AT’s self-aware jokes, though I think this one works because it can easily be applied to Banana Man’s own delusions. And it’s actually somewhat educational! I don’t know jackshit when it comes to cars, but I actually found this slightly informative in the best way possible. I also enjoy how Banana Man isn’t really deceptive or manipulative in his actions. There’s already one character in this show – Ice King – that is constantly trying to trick or trap the boys into becoming better friends with him, but Banana Man is very genuine and caring. Though he does hope for the end result to leave him better friends with Finn and Jake, he simply helps them because he’s a nice guy who enjoys hanging out with other people. And it’s cool to see a civilian of Ooo who doesn’t necessarily worship the boys as heroes, but just views them as potential buddies to hangout with.

And he portrays these feelings in “Hanging Out Forever,” a song that is mostly cheesy and not necessarily catchy, but one that is deeply hilarious at its core. I was disappointed that The New Frontier didn’t utilize Weird Al to his fullest potential by having him sing, so I’m glad this episode picked up on that opportunity. Banana Man fantasizes about having fantastic times with Finn, Jake, and BMO like “best friend pillow fights” or “board game Friday nights.” What a lovable dork.

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This sequence leads to a bit of a diversion as BMO begins some late night work on the truck. This features one of my favorite visual gags ever, which is BMO brilliantly changing her batteries by taking the old ones out and landing on the new ones. We also get a listen into Starchy’s radio show “Graveyard Shift”, and I’m a sucker for wacky conspiracy theories, so I really got into this little bit. And it’s not entirely pointless either; it ingeniously ties into the climax, again, based on pure ludicrousy. Banana Man creepily enters back into the scene to offer some sincerity and exposition into his life. This bit is probably my favorite in the episode. I think BMO and Banana Man actually work off of each other well and make for some cute interactions, and I think this is where Banana Man becomes well-defined and humanized. His line of, “I don’t wanna be alone, but I’ve gotten pretty good at it,” is actually something I can relate to in some degree. For a long period of time I had been away from the dating scene, and had become so comfortable with getting invested in my own personal projects that it became out of the question to go beyond it. The writers often use Ice King as a way to capture their loneliness with honesty and use it as a means to cope, and Banana Man seems no different. This show is so good at humanizing “loser” characters and showing that they aren’t simply one-dimensional dorks that it really isn’t hard to empathize with anyone, no matter how wacky or unique.

Following the lovely bonding session between BMO and Banana Man, we get to see a glimpse of the gang finishing up the truck. Also an awesome montage sequence, that’s complete with the “Manlorette Party” music from When Wedding Bells Thaw. While not my favorite bit of score that Tim Kiefer has ever produced, it is likable enough to deserve a second inclusion. And it follows the montage quite nicely. The visuals that go along with it are great as well. I love how the gang quite aggressively breaks into the Breakfast Kingdom, as Finn assaults a French Toast Man instead of simply asking for syrup. It’s always nice of AT to include that bit of unexpected darkness in even its brightest of episodes.

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And the rest of the episode is just focused on having as much fun as possible. The Treehouse boys try and set up Banana Man on a date with a nice female Banana Guard. Though I like this concept, I have a bit of a gripe with it, simply because where have all the female Banana Guards been up to this point? It becomes even more distracting as the later episode The Thin Yellow Line shows that there are dozens of female Banana Guards. But I’m willing to let this little detail slide, because it’s cute. And it leads up to the even more bizarre storyline where it’s revealed that Princess Bubblegum actually has been replaced by a giant lizard. The revelation is terrific; no build up, just a quick series of gags that eventually lead to the lizard imposter grabbing a bug with its tongue and transforming into a beast. The scenes that follow are awesome in the visual department. Some really solid animation all around that make for a terrifically fun action sequence. I might as well point out that Andy Ristaino’s drawings in this one are really great. Ristaino started out as the lead character designer for the series, and as of Love Games, became a recurring storyboard artist paired with Cole Sanchez. I really enjoy Ristaino’s drawings, that make for some really cute and stretchy expressions from each character. As the episode wraps up and Banana Man is sent to jail for public indecency (though he got the lady of his dreams! For now, at least…) Finn, Jake, and BMO mourn the loss of Hot Daniel. RIP, you beautiful hunk of junk.

This one is just great; all around fun with hints of beauty here and there. I love the character interactions, the animation, the drawings, the backgrounds, the atmosphere, and pretty much everything else it has to offer. This is often one I overlook for fluff episodes I consider to be “funnier” but it’s hard to deny that this episode practically does everything it wants to do just perfectly. The only other gripe I have with it is that Cinnamon Bun appears at the end, and though he appears in Apple Wedding later on, it’s at least explained in the promo art and made somewhat believable. This instance feels more like Tree Trunks appearance in Evicted! Though it’s a minor background detail and I think everything else this episode offers is more than enough to justify a simple mistake. Season 5.2 has been on a roll with funnier, more laidback episodes, and I think this episode works somewhat as a finale for the lighter and sillier episodes and enters into some of the darker and more story based episodes. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as we’ve got some really enticing episodes to come.

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Favorite line: “Not a car guy—too confusing. Got better things to do with my life.” 

“Red Starved” Review

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Original Airdate: October 14, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Jesse Moynihan

Red Starved primarily attempts to capture the magic of AT’s earliest seasons by bringing back a dynamic we haven’t seen in quite some time: the potential conflict between Jake and Marceline. It’s primarily based around a survival of the fittest story that I think could’ve been a lot stronger, but for what we got, I think it holds up okay.

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First off, the premise definitely receives a warm welcoming from me. Jake, Marceline, and Finn going on a casual adventure in a really neat sand dungeon for PB feels like a classic set up on its own. Though Finn and Marcy don’t really hang out much anymore by this point in the show (which is incredibly sad to say, seeing how we’re only halfway through the series) it is just nice to see the three of them chillin’ and going on adventures together. It’s good fun!

Though I think the beginning is dampened a bit because I don’t find Jake’s bits particularly that funny. I do like his flesh drill that ends up being painful as fuck, but I think his shtick of accidentally getting everyone trapped within the sand city and then just carelessly being an asshole about it comes off as slightly more annoying than actually amusing or cute to me. I think after that initial set up however, I warm up to his presence much more.

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I think the segments between him and Marceline are good fun. As I mentioned, it mostly turns into a survival of the fittest story that pits Jake and Marceline against each other, though I can’t help but feel the story could’ve been expanded on a bit more. I mean, it is called Red Starved, but it seems like the story just calls for Marceline and Jake just being “hungry” rather than progressively going insane and being driven to wanting to eat each other. Though, the episode does provide some form of reasoning for it; Marcy is a vampire, so I can’t really determine how she operates when needing to feast, and I am glad that the episode does address that she is still somewhat of a threat. Marceline has settled far too easily into just “laidback friend” territory the past few seasons, but this episode does acknowledge that Marceline is still quite dangerous, regardless of the friendships she has made throughout the years. I also like how this is emphasized by her very grotesque changing expressions, which are drawn to be really terrifying and even a little bit gross. At the same time as well, I never really know if she’s just fucking with Jake for eating her erasers, or if she’s legitimately considering sucking the color from his organs. If I had to speculate, I’d say the former, but it is nice how the episode kind of leaves it to your interpretation.

In addition to that, I like how Jake’s mindset isn’t really that he’s so hungry that he wants to eat Marceline, but rather that he just wants to do so in order to avoid getting eaten. I even like how the line “I’m operating on my lowest survival brain function right now,” is included not to show that Jake is thinking logically, but simply that he’s doing what he has to do to potentially survive.

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So the main plot works fine, but I actually quite enjoy the subplot following Finn’s solo mission. I think the stuff he comes across is cool, mainly the people who were turned into sand people at the hands of a ruby (er, emerald) and the Crab Demon who zoned out for 500 straight years. I also like Finn’s brief little bits of him talking to himself; they aren’t particularly funny lines that he utters, but it’s just strangely charming bits of dialogue that really get me invested in his journey. For the past half-season focusing on a lot of Finn’s vices and issues, it’s nice to have one where he simply comes off as likable and amusing, and there’s not really any inner demons he has to face as a result of it.

The ending scene with PB definitely had shippers everywhere going wild, and I think it’s cute that the spoon of prosperity was actually a direct fix to PB’s issue at the moment. I also love her ending line, “Peeps will never starve in my eternal empire.” That momma is goin’ wild.

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Though, this episode probably has the absolute DUMBEST joke out of any Adventure Time episode: Finn’s color-blindness. First of all, I feel like the fact that it was merely used as a gag and never brought up again really goes against Finn’s character and the series as a whole; these are not gag characters, and we’re supposed to treat everything they do, possess, and say as completely factual aspects of each character. So the idea that the show wanted to introduce Finn as color-blind, with absolutely no intention of ever mentioning it again, just feels like an absolute complete cheater moment for Jesse and Ako to write in. I know it’s a single moment that is included for laughs, but think of all the small moments that end up incorporating their way into the show as consistent aspects: Finn’s favorite food is meatloaf, PB legitimately dated Mr. Cream Puff at one point, Finn eventually gains immunity to electricity and has it for the rest of the series, etc. I just think it’s incredibly dumb to try and add an aspect of Finn’s character that was never hinted at and never ends up having relevance again. Also, second, if Finn see’s green things as red, wouldn’t he think his backpack is green and just let Marcy suck the color out of it? Third, is that really how color-blindness works?

That major gripe aside, I think this one is okay. It has its moments here and there, I like what they included with Marceline’s character, some of the landscape is nice, but overall, it’s a somewhat underwhelming effort. If I had to describe where it stands with me I’d just simply say that it’s not nearly as bad as the ever-boring Box Prince but also not as good as the mostly solid Dungeon Train. It doesn’t really do much for me, but it isn’t one I actively dislike either. Besides the bit with Finn not being able to see green. Some bullshit I tell ya.

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I forgot to mention last review, but we’re at the halfway mark, folks! 143 episodes down, 141 to go! Episode reviews will resume at their regular pace after this one with a weekly release, but I’m happy to say that this blog is exactly where I want it to be right now. Obviously I love writing for it, but this definitely isn’t something I want to be doing forever, so I’m glad I was able to bang out at least half of the series in only a little over a year. Here’s hoping by next year I’ll be up to the same speed as I have been! And always, thank you all for reading!

Favorite line: “Don’t go in the light. Go like this. Around it. Next time, you guys.”

“Box Prince” Review

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Original Airdate: October 7, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim

Well, I hope you guys like cats, because the bare essentials of Box Prince is simply that cats are silly and cute and we should laugh at them. It’s a pretty disposable episode that was born out of an already pretty empty story, that doesn’t really have any of the usual AT goodness to make it stand out on its own. And it’s quite a shame seeing as how we got really fun and energetic bits of fluff with Love Games or Time Sandwich.

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The story is about as paper thin as possible; Finn traveling to a supposed “Box Kingdom” and helping this “Box Prince” regain his status sounds like a funny idea when written down, but the idea of the entire joke of the episode being “these are just cats and nothing else” makes the entirety of the episode feel quite repetitive. The joke wore on me about five seconds in, and from that point on, it really just felt like a big waste of my time. No conflict, no actual jokes outside of the initial concept, and absolutely no investment from myself, as pretty much anyone going into this knows exactly how it’s going to end. In addition to that, I think Finn’s portrayed as a little too dumb in this one. I appreciate that he was willing to look upon the cat and take his supposed dilemma quite seriously, though I can’t really believe that he would actually take this issue seriously. Or rather, even make up this issue in his head. I would’ve liked if, at the end of the episode, Finn simply acknowledged that he was going along with it the entire time and said something along the lines of “that was a fun waste of 11 minutes,” but otherwise, I think this scenario is a bit tough to believe. Finn isn’t the brightest bulb in the shed, but he’s not flat-out dumb either.

Jake’s bit in this episode feels even less inspired. I’m not a fan of Jake when he’s merely portrayed as a lazy dick; the last episode did such a good job of showing how awesome it is when he dedicates himself to something, and especially when it’s Finn. Yet, here we see him barely even looking up at Finn and telling him to go away so he can play BMO and eat nachos in peace. Feels kind of day and night, doesn’t it? I don’t mind Jake’s laziness to a degree, but when it brings down the overall energy and pleasantness of the episode, it becomes a bit of a problem it my book. But people love his quote “if you get everything you want the minute you want it, what’s the point of living?” which is followed by a somewhat humorous montage contradicting this statement, but still, I don’t think makes Jake’s mostly detached behavior any more fun to watch. And a lot of people like to turn and say, “oh, well this is why Jake doesn’t always use his powers to get himself out of sticky situations, because he wants to deal with his problems!!” Well, if that’s the case, that’s wildly ridiculous and somewhat psychotic from Jake’s perspective; if Jake really allows himself and Finn to be put in potential danger simply because he wants to “deal with life’s problems,” that’s a little insane and I don’t really think that’s what the line was intended to imply at all. The only reason I like this subplot slightly better is because of how BMO and Jake work off of each other. It’s by no means terrific interactions, as it’s basically just BMO glaring at Jake after every single comment he makes, but it is nice to see the two of them just simply hanging out together. It’s rare we get to see such a mundane and laidback occurrence in place.

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This episode seems like one Somvilay Xayaphone and Seo Kim enjoyed doing a lot, simply because it seems like their interests are at their fullest potential. Somvilay gets to include his infamous anti-humor and Seo Kim gets to fill the episode with adorable kittens. But none of their work really strikes a chord; Somvilay’s drawings can get a giggle here and there, but his actual jokes, or in this case non-jokes, don’t really hit the mark on any level. I remember getting the pun, “na… chos,” when I first heard it, but just ended up reflecting back on it and not thinking it was that funny at all. In addition to that, the jokes don’t really work off of logic much either. Like, if the kingdom is supposedly not authentic, then why do the boxes change faces? I could see if this was used as a point to show how the kingdom was actually real, but the point by the end of the episode is that it isn’t.

I think this episode is best on a visual scale. Again, I don’t get into the actual drawings of Finn and Jake much, but the backgrounds look really nice, especially in the Box Kingdom. There’s also a moment of really nice animation when Finn is following Box Prince through the forest that particularly stuck out to me.

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But by its end, I almost completely forget what I have just watched. Box Prince ends up feeling like a waste of time, with little lasting impressions outside a few key moments. But I will say this about it: it’s nowhere near good, but it’s not particularly awful either. Yet, it’s that statement that makes it somewhat even more deplorable for me. If an episode’s good, I can go in great lengths to talk about why it’s so awesome. If an episode is bad, I can go into detail on why it doesn’t match the standard quality of AT. Box Prince is somewhere in the middle of those too, and feels more like a requirement for me to cover than something I’m actually interested in writing about. I feel bad tearing into such an inoffensive episode, but as AT has proved time and time again, it can add substance to just about any story. Box Prince, unfortunately, is not one of those stories.

Favorite line: “Floss is for losers.”

“Dungeon Train” Review

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Original Airdate: September 30, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard

Dungeon Train takes on an interesting perspective; while Too Old and Love Games dealt mostly with how Finn was reacting to his break-up, and Earth & Water dealt with Flame Princess’s point of view, this one revolves around how Jake is responding to Finn’s own sadness. The episode accomplishes such with pretty sympathetic results, and I think it’s a really heartfelt testament to just how much Jake cares about Finn. However, the content of this one can be a little bit middling.

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The beginning is really nice, albeit a bit scary. Finn’s clearly still sad about his girlfriend, but this episode carries across his feelings as legitimately depressive. Finn states, “I just been feeling kind of… gray, is all. Like my inside voice has been kinda quiet lately. Not a lot of instructions forthcoming, y’know?” signaling that this sadness he’s been feeling has led him in the direction of despondency and just genuinely feeling unmotivated. It’s sad to see that, as much as Jake wants to help, he’s just simply not always the perfect person to give Finn sound advice. That’s not to say that he never has given Finn positive advice, though often when confronted with raw emotion, Jake has difficulty expressing himself in the right manner that is supposed to cheer people up. He’s in the middle of possibly the happiest relationship he’s ever been through with Lady, so it’s most likely difficult for him to work up the proper response that will help Finn to move on. That’s where the Dungeon Train comes in.

The Dungeon Train is a very cool MMO-inspired battle platform with many cool foes for Finn to face (love the designs of the crystal ants and the hair apes; both of them would end up being standard foes in the actual AT video games). There also some cool bits of loot, especially the lightning sword. I know there would never be a proper outlet for Finn to use it, as he currently possesses the Demon Blood Sword and would acquire the Grass Sword right after, though the lightning sword is pretty well designed and has a very unique feature. Finn’s response to all that the Dungeon Train has to offer is quite endearing, and Jake’s response is even more endearing. Another instance of some terrific voice acting from John DiMaggio in this one, as Jake reads off some really poignant lines that I don’t think would have nearly been as effective without DiMaggio’s inflections. That simple utterance of “welcome back, buddy” before the fade to black is undeniably sweet and really shows how much Finn’s happiness means to Jake.

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Though, the fun is short lasting, as Finn slowly becomes engrossed, and quite frankly obsessed, with the actual dungeon train. Again, we’ve learned through a brief conversation in Earth & Water that Finn finds his sadness easier to cope with when he does have something to completely focus his time on. The dungeon train not only offers Finn something to focus all of his negative energy on, but it’s also something Finn genuinely enjoys doing. It’s an escape for him. The issue is that obsession of any kind, whether good or bad, is harmful. Finn is using this distraction to completely block out the hardships of reality and believes that if he simply keeps battling for as long as possible, he’ll never have to deal with his issues again. Whether this is true or not, this is what Finn sets out to do, much to Jake’s dismay. And this is certainly an interesting development of Finn’s character, though I think the actual events surrounding him are somewhat dull.

About five minutes of this episode includes Jake getting fed up with the dungeon train as Finn continues to pursue different challenges, and I couldn’t help but feel Jake’s pain a little bit. Not that I was legitimately frustrated by the episode, but I kind of grew tired of seeing the designs of the dungeon beasts and the repetitive nature of what the episode was trying to get across. It was all used as a means of showing how obsessive Finn was becoming and how tedious it was becoming to Jake, though there aren’t many jokes, interesting foes, or even a high sense of energy to carry it through. Definitely like what the episode was portraying, but not necessarily how it was executed.

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The episode picks up again as Jake befriends one of the hair apes on the top of train, as he ponders what his kids are doing at the moment. It’s another poignant line delivery from DiMaggio himself, and shows a bit into Jake’s frustrations with his own self. As he chases around his brother deflecting his emotions all day, his children continue to grow up around him, and he isn’t even there to watch them. Obviously he loves Finn and wouldn’t leave him to rot in the dungeon train, but there surely are some days where Jake probably feels the guilt and weight of being a parent, and isn’t even able to be with his kids half the time. Poor guy.

This all comes to a boiling conclusion as Jake angrily scolds Finn for becoming the very thing he sought out to destroy, while Finn shoots him with some nasty looking spider webs. This is where Finn, using the future orb that Jake had previously picked up, discovers that he will continue to explore the dungeon for the rest of his life, as Jake follows behind. I have a couple of questions here; so, is the orb a factual look into the future? Like, is this legitimately what the future holds? Because in that case, why is Jake still alive? Obviously Jake’s half-alien self prevents him from aging the same way a dog would, but he’s already decades older than Finn at this point in shapeshifting dog years. Maybe I’m nitpicking, but I just don’t buy that Jake would live to see Finn in his older years. That gave me a sad writing it. I do enjoy how this futuristic Finn once again contributes to the missing right arm allusion that the show has emphasized so heavily lately.

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But fortunately, Finn comes to his senses and returns to Jake (love the “very special” music here; it would later become a staple of the Grassy Wizard episodes). Finn acknowledges quite maturely that, while he realizes that he can’t stay on the train forever, he does want to stay on for another week or two. It shows that Finn isn’t completely ready to face reality, but he does know that he will have to eventually. And it’s especially sweet that he does so not just for himself, but for Jake. Jake, who selflessly stuck by Finn no matter what, did leave at least one positive lasting impression to his brother: that Finn cannot just simply focus on contributing to his own happiness, but the happiness of his loved ones as well.

Dungeon Train is decent. I think it has plenty of slow moments, but the overall connectivity of Finn and Jake is what carries it through quite successfully. I really dig the individual character exploration of the boys that this episode set out to do, and I think in return we got some really nice emotional performances from both Finn and Jake. I just wish the middle parts gave me a bit more to chew on. On a different note, this is the first time Flambo’s brother is mentioned, and it’s sad to think that he’s mentioned as many times as Flambo actually appears after this episode. I miss that little fire scamp.

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Favorite line: “What… is the meaning of ‘spoon’?”