“Candy Streets” Review

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Original Airdate: June 24, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Luke Pearson

From time to time, AT likes to have fun with Finn and Jake’s rank as heroes in the Land of Ooo, and this one features the two boys as officers that are trying to crack the case of who hurt LSP. For the most part, it’s a pretty fun romp that takes advantage of the idea fully, and reminds us that, for the time being, Finn and Jake should probably just stick to mindlessly slaying dragons and shit.

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For one, I do like the fact that Finn and Jake enjoy being detectives and consider doing it as a full-time occupation. I think this ties in nicely with the boys’ interest in following in their parents’ footsteps, and one that I think they followed up in further episodes exceptionally well. Though, it’s clear that they have a long way to go, because it seems like they certainly caused more damage than they did to fix the solution, but I’ll get to that later. I think it is fun how seriously they take the positions; probably my favorite gag is when Finn has the key to LSP’s room, but simply chooses to kick down the door instead. And Jake’s obsessive tendency to continuously change into cop related material was really hilarious in both a writing and visual sense. I don’t think I’ll ever get over the look of horror on Finn’s face when Jake forces him into his body seat through a rear entrance. That was delightfully morbid.

The story in this one isn’t particularly strong; I think from the very beginning, we know that LSP’s issue probably isn’t anything actually logical, so what makes this episode enjoyable is just all the fun little gags they do include. I like PB using the giant syringe to calm down LSP, I really enjoy Ann’s character (voiced by Melissa Villasenor, whose line deliveries are just perfect), the two police officers who can use their sense of taste to see if someone is actually a police officer, and, once again, all the little sight gags of Jake as different items. One of my favorites is the lawyer he creates through his stretchiness to fuck with Pete Sassafras. It allows for a really amusing performance from John DiMaggio. Oh, and that moment where Finn makes noises like he’s dialing the phone and then somehow actually calls Princess Bubblegum is fucking priceless.

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But yeah, I think my one main issue with this one is that Finn and Jake are pretty bad cops, and don’t really get any flack for it. Aside from some forgivable instances, such as breaking through doors, windows, or jumping to conclusions based on very little evidence, they wrongly arrested someone who we never see again! I could see it working if they eventually went back and let Pete Sassafras out of jail, or if Finn and Jake had to spend a few hours behind bars for it, but no, Pete is locked up and we literally never see him again. I think it’s a pretty frustrating ending and it sucks that it’s not even acknowledged in the slightest. It almost feels like Somvilay Xayaphone and Luke Pearson straight up forgot about the character rather than it being something that was intentional on the story’s part.

So yeah, that’s my main gripe, and it still bothers me every time I see this one, but I do enjoy it to a mild degree. It’s got a nice element of fun to it; lots of silly moments and some fun sight gags on top of it. It’s not particularly strong in anyway possible, especially with the Pete Sassafras aspect included, but I do enjoy looking back on this as Finn and Jake lovingly taking on an investigative position. I think it really adds to episodes like The First Investigation in hindsight.

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Favorite line: “I literally can’t stop turning into cop stuff.”

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“Another Five More Short Graybles” Review

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Original Airdate: June 17, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich and Steve Wolfhard

Another Five More Short Graybles is the second Graybles episode in one season, so going into this one, it already feels somewhat like Graybles burnout. I don’t know why they chose to put two Graybles episodes so close together, but ignoring that fact, this one is a lot sloppier and more disjointed than Five More Short Graybles. Though, in typical Graybles fashion, it has some bits that work and some that don’t.

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The interludes with Cuber this time around feel somewhat lazy and more like filler than anything. Cuber hasn’t had much of a role in any of the Graybles episodes, aside from just being there to fill the “childlike host” archetype, and he still continues that trend, though it isn’t particularly entertaining and it takes up more time than it needs to. The birdhouse bit felt more slow paced than anything, and I really wish they would’ve removed this bit completely so the actual stories have a bit more time to develop and breathe a little.

The first story revolves around Jake and Jake Jr., which is easily the best story out of all of them. Jake and his daughter were perfectly jovial and had a strong connection in the previous episode, though this one focuses more on Jake’s awkwardness when it comes to not understanding the feelings of the pups and knowing how to connect with them emotionally. Jake Jr.’s concerns and frustrations in regards to her future leaves us with a very eloquently put statement that reads as relatable and genuinely well-put, though Jake isn’t able to connect as well because he still doesn’t understand where his daughter is at in her developmental stage. So, instead, he tries to amuse her with a distraction from her psychological troubles, even if it fails miserably. Again, I enjoy Jake Jr.’s presence here. I like how she’s kind of just your typical late teen, but she reads more as cool and likable than a bland stereotype. I enjoy how she supports her dad’s efforts to impress her, which shows that she may be even more mature than Jake at this point. I also like how her stretchy powers are achieved through her hair! Love the gag that ends it all as well, with Jake presenting the alleged newspaper from the following day that says, “JAKE JR. REAL COOL KID! Daddy’s Angel witnesses report. By Jake “The Dad” The Dog.” Jake is too darn sweet.

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The Cinnamon Bun bit is exceedingly annoying. I’ve never been a huge fan of O.G. Cinnamon Bun, and his appearance here really emphasizes why. He’s loud, obnoxious, and practically mentally insane at times. I don’t think there’s a single part of him that is charming or likable, and I welcome with open arms the day that he moves into the Fire Kingdom. Also, I think the Jake nightlights in this one are such a wildly bizarre sight gag. I wonder who manufactures these babies, and I also wonder why Finn and Jake have one themselves. Can you imagine having a nightlight with your face on it?

The Ice King scene is also kind of dry. I love the joke with his checklist and the separation of that one “e.” but the exchange with his penguins just seems a bit too familiar. Every Graybles episode up to this point features a story involving Ice King and his penguins, and this one just doesn’t really feel fresh or new in any sense. One thing I do like is the DVD of “Basic Mortality,” which very much seems like a pre-Mushroom War crime drama. Though, have we seen DVDs in the show before? My memory might be tricking me, but I feel like everything video related has been on VHS up to this point. Kind of seems like an inconsistency if that’s the case, similar to how all of the intricate cellular phones in the first few seasons became standard touchscreen phones after a period of time. Also, the inclusion of the “Airplanes Taking Off” DVD cracks me up, especially the review on the cover by C. Tinker: “Gripping… sensual.”

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The Lemongrab story that follows… oh man. I’ve watched this one so many times that it isn’t quite as crazy and hilarious as the first time I saw it, but it still remains one of the most jaw-droppingly amusing moments in the entire series. The voice work by Justin Roiland is terrific, as usual, and the absolute screams of terror as Lemongrab 2 is quite graphically eaten by his brother is just bafflingly hilarious. It also serves as an introduction for the eventual tension between the two Lemongrab brothers, as well as Lemongrab 1’s obsession with eating other people. All over poor little Lemonsweets, who tragically died in the incident. RIP.

Mr. Fox’s story doesn’t provide a ton… I do enjoy Mr. Fox in his smaller moments, especially his voicework by Tom Herpich, though I don’t think his character is really interesting enough to carry even just a Grayble. His main character trait is that he is incredibly lonely, though he’s kind of written without much of a personality in this one. And even then, do most people even know who Mr. Fox is up to this point? Like, even if you’re the most diehard of Adventure Time fans, I could still see someone scratching their head upon first seeing this short and saying, “oh yeah, that guy…” so his inclusion does make for a bit of an interesting choice. I do like the use of Mr. Fox’s subconscious, however. Jake’s subconscious was a gag in season one that didn’t make a ton of sense with the world of the show, though I do enjoy how this one adopts it as just a part of AT’s world and makes it more of a solidified aspect of the mythos. I do hope M.F.’s subconscious eventually led him to that treasure.

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The theme of the Graybles isn’t directly announced, which is a practice I actually support, because it makes guessing the motif that much more difficult. Though, I really only figured it out from looking on the wiki: the Graybles reference the five stages of grief, Finn “accepted” the package from Jake, Cinnamon Bun experienced a “denial” of light, Ice King used “bargaining” to watch his DVD, Lemongrab experienced “anger”, and Mr. Fox noticed the “depression” in the bed. I also think it’s funny how this one was advertised as a Father’s Day special, probably confusing most into thinking that was the overarching theme. Jake is Jake Jr.’s father, Princess Bubblegum is a parental figure to CB, Ice King is somewhat of a father to his penguins, the Lemongrabs took care of Lemonsweets, and Mr. Fox’s doesn’t really have anything to do with being a father figure. He takes care of the bugs… I guess? I’m just happy this isn’t the theme they likely went for.

So it’s somewhat polarizing, as most Graybles episodes are. I think this one’s especially rushed and doesn’t really have that many good stories, though the moments I enjoyed were a lot of fun. I will say this: it’s definitely more interesting than the Graybles episodes prior. I think I’ve watched the Lemongrab scene about 100 times more than any of the other Graybles before this. I also like how this one connects the stories with a particular line, that only gets more absurd and wacky as it goes along, my favorite being “what a jerk,” that is altered by Finn harmlessly saying, “what? A jerk?” That was a lot of fun and provided for some good laughs along the way. And it actually does have some moments that carry over into other episodes, namely the tension between the Lemongrabs and Mr. Fox’s experience with his subconscious. So while I can’t say it’s as coherently put together as Five Short Graybles or Five More Short Graybles, it’s definitely a bit more subversive than those first two.

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Favorite line: “Cinnamon Bun, you can’t sleep with a night-light anymore. You’re basically thirty—it’s starting to bum everyone out.”

“One Last Job” Review

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Original Airdate: June 10, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Ako Castuera

One Last Job makes a full eleven minutes out of the often mentioned life of crime that Jake lived before he matured. Being something that was mostly treated as a gag and not an actual solid part of Jake’s character, this episode harps off of great continuity points within the show’s history, though it doesn’t really make for a particularly noteworthy entry in my eyes.

It’s pretty sweet that the entire conflict is driven by putting Jake Jr. in a captive situation. We haven’t seen the kids at all since Jake the Dad, so it was a nice way to reintroduce one of the pups and to put Jake in the position of a caring father. I enjoy how, despite his current feelings towards committing crimes and obstructing the law, the one driving factor that forces him to turn back is because that his daughter’s life is possibly on the line.

The episode takes a good bit of time developing the actual personalities of Jake’s gang members, and while I think it’s all pretty serviceable, I don’t really find any of these old colleagues particularly that interesting in design, or even character.

Gareth’s outlandishly big, detailed head is a somewhat silly sight gag, though it almost feels like it’s retreading Ricardio’s design of the “super detailed face.” Gareth’s voiced by Sam Marin, and Marin, who has some pretty decent vocal range, gives a pretty bland delivery. Marin had already voiced Clarence on the show before, and I’m not sure why they kept bringing him on if they were just going to keep making him perform the same delivery over and over again. Marin has some awesome voices under his belt, so why not allow him to whip them out? Also, I’m not really sure why we took the time to learn about Gareth’s possession ability if it never really had any part in the actual heist. Just seems like a missed opportunity.

The Flying Lettuce Brothers are a bit more interesting, providing for the most effective use of their character in relation to the actual plot itself. I like their introduction sequence, especially with the moody girl and her boss’s exchange at the Squeeze-E-Mart. I know I just mentioned it being detrimental for Sam Marin to use the same voice over and over, but I really never get tired of Pen Ward’s raspy voice being used to scream the lines of random tertiary characters. I quite enjoy how the boss of the Squeeze-E-Mart also apparently doesn’t open doors either, he just casually walks through glass.

And then there’s Tiffany, who I myself am not really a big fan of. I don’t really get into his long-winded monologues and his inner angst, and I think a lot of it has to do with his voice. Don’t get me wrong, Collin Dean’s voice is absolutely fine; Greg from Over the Garden Wall happens to be one of my favorite characters of all time. Yet, I think using that child voice to read off lines that are pretty much just constant bitching and moaning can get a little grating to me. Though, he does have his redeemable moments. I do enjoy his connection with Jake, and how Tiffany practically feels abandoned and misguided without him. Tiffany was obviously a lot younger when Jake first came into the picture, and when he left the gang, Tiffany presumably had thought of him like a big brother. It’s somewhat somber putting the pieces together like that, and I think it makes for a pretty interesting dynamic.

The break-in scene in general goes on a little too long. I do like the head Banana Guard being splashed with banana milk and actually enjoying it, but the Banana Guards screaming, outside of a few neat drawings, just isn’t really funny enough to hold onto for a whole minute. Once Jake gets inside, however, I think the episode as a whole picks up a bit more. And most of it comes from some really terrific storyboarding from Ako Castuera. I love the side-scrolling expedition Jake takes to reach the baker’s shard; AT has done many video game references up to this point, but this is one that still feels fresh, new, and visually appealing. And after it’s revealed that Jake’s gang is the one who crossed him, the entire chase sequence that follows is just terrific. One gag that Jesse Moynihan would always mention that makes no sense is the scene where Jake morphs through the prison bars and comes out in one piece, though it’s one that’s so fun and appealing that it doesn’t bother me the least bit that it technically doesn’t add up. Hell, most of Jake’s shape shifting doesn’t make any sense. But it’s a cartoon, dammit!

After some more great shots of a giant Jake chasing the truck, Jake finds out that Jake Jr. double-crossed the double-crossers to impress her pops… Though, I gotta wonder, how did Jake Jr. know about Jake’s criminal past in the first place? I somewhat doubt Jake talks to her enough to share it with her, and it would also surprise me if Lady shared such a story about Jake Jr.’s father to her. Though, it’s not one that bothers me much, and I do think the ending is pretty cute. This is the first one-on-one connection between Jake and one of his pups that we’ve actually seen, and it’s quite endearing. While Jake’s relationship with his kids is almost always awkward on some level, it seems like him and Jake Jr. get along quite fondly (well, in this instance; we’ll get to the next episode soon) and it doesn’t take much with Jake Jr.’s rambunctious personality at hand.

Overall, however, I think this one’s just ‘ight. Besides the sprinkles of fun and enjoyable moments throughout, I don’t think they took advantage of this idea as much as they possibly could have. The idea of Jake being a criminal in the past is a really interesting concept, and I sadly don’t think the choices they made are very interesting at all. It plays off like a pretty generic heist scenario, and I don’t think the interactions between the gang members (besides the aforementioned Tiffany and Jake bond) or Jake’s portrayal in general really differentiate between anything we haven’t already seen in these types of stories. It’s sad that an episode about Jake’s past history has so little for me to take away in terms of intriguing Jake content, and considering he’s a character whose past history and depth we know or understand the least about, this one ultimately leaves me wanting more.

Three episodes in a row where Finn barely has a role! This was somewhat of an oddity at the time, though it would become more of a regularity. I only wish we got to see more of his primitive noise band.

Favorite line: “‘Cause when you get older you’re supposed to get in other stuff, like graphic design, or pottery.”

“The Party’s Over, Isla de Señorita” Review

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Original Airdate: May 27, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne & Cole Sanchez

Ice King’s more sympathetic side has mainly come from his tragic past history as Simon Petrikov, as well as his relationship to Marceline. However, there still is the side to Ice King that is deeply troubled and creepy, especially when it comes to his special interests in capturing princesses. In this episode, the IK’s obsession with his favorite princess finally blows up in his face and sends a message to him, allowing him to actually make some changes in his life, with the help of new companion. Of course, these changes are only temporary, but nevertheless, it’s a pretty satisfying Ice King experience.

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Right off the bat, there’s a nice change of pace with the episode taking place mostly on the island (more specifically, Isla de Señorita) with only Ice King, the Island Lady, and Party God being heavily focused on. Finn and Jake are once again demoted to background characters as they were in the previous episode, though it’s a change that, with most AT episodes, isn’t dreaded for the creative and experimental results that come from these types of episodes.

And the focus of the episode is really nice; the relationship between Ice King and the Island Lady is quite sweet, and I love the angle the episode takes on Ice King’s personality. The biggest takeaway from this one is simply how well Ice King is capable of sanity and more socially acceptable behavior when he just has a loving, caring friend by his side. In fact, Ice King’s analysis of PB’s issues is actually pretty fucking spot on! “Yeah, well, PB is just so closed off to her emotions, she crushes the relationship so she doesn’t ever have to develop feelings,” is a really accurate way of describing Bubblegum, and this is coming from Ice King of all people. I think it’s another valid point to show that, despite his insanity and social ineptitude, he does show signs of random brilliance and intelligence, possibly showing that parts of Simon do shine into his subconscious at times. Also, I thought it was a really nice touch that they didn’t force a mutual romance into this one with the Island Lady and IK; it would’ve been the much more predictable and somewhat unrealistic route, and once again, I’m glad it showcased the one crucial component to Ice King’s mental health and maturity: having a strong friendship.

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The Island Lady herself is somewhat of a blank slate. I do love her design! It’s really inventive and seems like something that would come out of an indie short film. Though, she’s not really given any sort of a personality. But it’s not really an issue of the episode; the main focal point is, like I said, to showcase a more emotional mature side of the Ice King, and it works out pretty damn well, so I don’t really mind that Isla de Señorita’s a little bit dry (no pun intended). I do quite enjoy her singing voice as well, though the song in this one isn’t a particular favorite of mine. It’s pleasant and has a nice beat, but it isn’t one I find humming to myself or listening to that much.

The use of Party God in this one is a lot of fun. I feel like it only makes sense that he’d be a douchey frat boy boyfriend, and it works just as well using him in this scenario that it would with, say, Ash. It’s also a small thing, but I love how he picks everything up with his mouth, as it just hangs lightly between his teeth. That got a small chuckle out of me. Also, I think the battle between he and Ice King was actually pretty visually interesting. We don’t get a ton of inventive looking battles from AT because, well, it isn’t an action show, but this episode’s incorporation of an aerial battle between Party God and the IK was a lot of fun. And it’s pretty intense as well! I love Ice King angrily uttering, “She is not your “bid-ness”!” That was really sweet coming from him, as he is known for objectifying women, even if he is angrily giving someone comeuppance for doing the same thing. It might seem hypocritical in some instances, but again, this is Ice King, whose ability to grasp social norms is incredibly difficult, so this is a pretty significant moment.

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Ice King using Party God as a puppet for Isla de Señorita to vent her frustrations out to was delightfully fucked up, but also pretty cute. The whole exchange between the two, as Ice King struggles between staying in character and unveiling his own feelings, is just great, and it saddens me that we haven’t seen these two together again. Above everyone else, the Island Lady allowed Ice King an outlet to get away from the toxicity of his wacky relationships in Ooo, and even left him with an important lesson about relationships. Though, it may not have impacted him the way she had hoped. Ice King officially “breaks up” with Princess Bubblegum, though the last line of the episode, “ah, we’ll work it out,” suggests that he hasn’t learned as much as we probably hoped. Though, this doesn’t bother me at all; Princess Monster Wife also showed that, whatever developmental changes Ice King may go through, he still is very much unstable, and there’s little that can change that as long as the crown still is taking possession of his mind. The biggest takeaway, as I’ve said, is that a friend can go a long way for the sad iceman, and it can even help him regain bits and pieces of his sanity for a period of time.

So I like it! I wouldn’t call it a particularly entertaining one, but I appreciate its tone and what it was going for. What came out of it was a very interesting look as Ice King in the midst of an acquaintance, and that’s about the best I could’ve expected out of this premise. Nice colors, nice atmosphere, and overall a really nice friendship to capture my attention throughout the episode’s run. During a Lego contest where AT fans were encouraged to build Lego figures of random characters, one person in particular made one of the Island Lady, and it looks awesome! You can check it out here.

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Favorite line: Banana Guard yourself, Princess!!”

“The Suitor” Review

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Original Airdate: May 20, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Thomas Wellmann & Jesse Moynihan

UPDATE: I was informed this one was actually storyboarded by Thomas Wellman, instead of Ako Castuera. This post was updated for accuracy.

PB’s remained mostly in the background of the first half of season five. Despite having plenty of minor appearance here and there, and appearing as a major player during the guest animated episode A Glitch is a Glitch, there hasn’t really been anything new or telling about her character that season four so seamlessly pulled off. The Suitor takes PB back to the spotlight, revolving around the status of her love life while also introducing a likable newcomer. It’s an interesting tale of love and patience, and for what this one was going for, I think they pulled it off greatly.

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I especially love the beginning, and any other moments that revolve around Peppermint Butler’s dark deeds with the demon Ogdoad. Prior to this episode, we’ve only ever seen hints and allusions to Pepbut’s ominous nature, though this one really kicks off his strange behavior by having him summon a demon in the first 10 seconds of the episode. And I love the way it’s stage: the guardian angel from Dungeon is there, as well as animals that look menacing and starved, with a clueless Cinnamon Bun at the center of it all. It’s just the kind of delicious obtuse behavior that I wanted to see from the little peppermint man. What’s also tons of fun is watching him interact with the Gumball Guardian. The Guardian has never really been given a solid personality aside from the fact that he puts his all into protecting the kingdom. Here, he acts like an actual guardian of the princess and of the kingdom, which is a pretty interesting dynamic they chose to work with. He goes from a subservient assistant to an overprotective parent of the princess. I especially enjoy his line, “the Candy Kingdom worries for its leader, and it worries for you, dark one.” The bickering between the Gumball Guardian and Peppermint Butler is a lot of fun throughout the entirety of the episode, and I wish we could see more instances of it in subsequent episodes. I can think of a few of the comics, namely Issue #11 of the Adventure Time Comics series where this dynamic is brought back, but aside from that, this is the only in-universe instance.

The suitors who have been waiting for a countless amount of years once again pose the interesting query of “just how fucking old is PB?” which once again is glanced over with subtlety. It’s where we’re introduced to Braco, the main protagonist of the episode. As far as Braco goes, he’s pretty likable; I enjoy how the episode goes to great lengths to kind of make him seem pathetic and obsessive, yet still make him kind of rootable. I admire him for all the death-defying stunts he’ll put himself through just for PB’s affection, even if it is foolhardy at best. But most interesting is that, while I do root for Braco in this one, it is pretty obvious that he doesn’t actually love Bubblegum, and the show knows that. When he’s first introduced to PB, she immediately acknowledges that he’s “infatuated” with her, and his only feelings of love for her come from a relationship that he’s created inside his mind. I think most people can relate to this – I know I can – and I think the episode and the direction of the writing is smart for not treating this like any typical love story. It acknowledges that, while Braco probably does have some real feelings for the princess, he’s more lonely and naive about love than anything, and instead is looking to fill that void and desire with fabricated tales of true love that he’s convinced himself of.

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These stories can sometimes be insufferable with just how much of an awkward doofus the hopeless romantic can be; Jamie’s first appearance in Steven Universe definitely comes to mind. Yet, I find that, while there are a couple of instances where Braco is portrayed as an awkward doofus, he’s still fun to watch and actually a pretty poignant character throughout the episode’s run. I like his little observatory where he writes in his journal and documents his feelings, and I think it’s pretty sweet that he turned to his late grandfather for tips on how to win a girl’s love, even if it failed miserably. And okay, how long ago did this guy die?? Jake’s been alive for what, 14 human years, and were supposed to believe that at some point he wrote this book under an alternative ego that was the key to Braco’s grandad’s luck with the ladies?? It makes no sense! It’s by all means something that only I’m confused about and no one else is, but still! J.T. Doggzone will never fail to flabbergast me.

Finn’s brief bit in the episode is something I do find really interesting, mainly because he’s totally jealous. It’s already been pretty well established that Finn isn’t totally over PB at all, so watching him somewhat unsuccessfully try and act like he doesn’t care was really quite telling of where he is in his developmental stage. And I’m glad they kept Finn’s jealousy to a minimum; had it take up the course of an entire episode, it might’ve been frustrating and a bit unlikable, but here we just get a brief 30 seconds of Finn trying to pull off a farce and then smack talking Braco for a bit. It’s a bit petty of him, but he’s a 14-year-old boy with hormonal imbalances. I’m actually surprised he turned out this well. I also love his brief bit of nihilistic wisdom to Braco, “the path you’re on leads to nowhere,” which also includes Finn allowing Braco to take on the task. I dunno what Finn’s intentions were; it could be that he knew Braco wasn’t going to get anywhere, but let him go on the quest for shits and giggles, or that he actually wanted to see Braco succeed where he failed. I’d lean more toward the first option, though I wouldn’t be completely opposed to the second either. I also like how they’re able to incorporate Jake into these bits exceptionally well. Jake doesn’t even have a line, though his facial reactions to Finn’s uncomfortable behavior are just terrific. I love how he’s somewhat skeptical about Finn, while also simultaneously concerned for him.

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The task for the soul stone is a very neat one. Vapor Swamps is a pretty dope looking landscape, with hints that an old city once existed there. The swamp monsters are also pretty visually interesting. They all have a sort of Muppet look to them, which makes them feel straight out of Labrynth or The Dark Crystal. The Beast is especially cool, though I can’t think of that name without immediately imagining Over the Garden Wall. The way Braco reasons with the Beast about his love for Bubblegum seems like it’s going in the direction where he’s just going to get beat up and suffer more, though I enjoy how the Beast actually lets him go because of it. Wonder what that fuzzy monster’s backstory is.

Though Braco goes through a decent amount of pain throughout this one, it never feels mean-spirited or like it’s mistreating Braco. He willingly puts himself into situations that aren’t meant for him to be apart of, and instead of just sitting back and being patient, he instead throws himself into instant suffering. The epitome of his pain comes from when Peppermint Butler strikes a deal with Ogdoad to make Braco a walking love magnet. What I really like about the revelations surrounding Pepbut in this one is that it’s made very obvious that, while he has a fascination with dark magic, he’s still just kind of a cool guy who puts his loyalty towards PB before anything else. I think people had in their minds that Peppermint Butler was going to be one of the big bads at the end of the series that would take on the role of main villain, though I think that’s somewhat against his character. He’s perfectly conscious of his dark habits, and though it can stray in a path of borderline menacing at times, he still would never put the princess or her kingdom in a state of jeopardy. He’s Peppermint “Butler”, after all.

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Braco pays the ultimate price for love, and ultimately, it still doesn’t win over the princess. It’s another great step in the lesson of not sacrificing yourself or your dignity for the love of another person, because 9/10, that person still isn’t going to come around. But, through all the mental and physical pain he endures, he still gets a PB robot that he can fuck all he likes for the rest of his life. Yippee!

I’ve kept quiet about PB’s actual depiction in this one on purpose, mostly ‘cause I wanted to save it for last. I think she’s portrayed quite perfectly in this one! While I’m sure some people have targeted her for supposedly being unlikable and putting Braco through hurdles of pain, that’s not what I got at all from this one. Again, everything Braco did was completely against what PB wanted. She gave the task to find the soul stone to Finn and Jake, who she knew would be able to grab it without a problem. Braco took on the task without having the prowess or keen sense of heroism that the two boys had, and suffered for it. PB also had no idea that Braco was going to completely distort his appearance for her love, which again, was his own choice. She devoted all of her energy and science to creating what Braco wanted most, and if that isn’t some enlightening motherly attention, I don’t know what is.

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I think the episode does a great job at showing her stress and isolation. She has to consistently focus her attention on running an entire kingdom (all while taking care of a caged Phil) and the idea of sacrificing her kingdom for romance just isn’t strategically possible for her. I get the feeling that, from the last scene, she did have feelings for Braco that went beyond just caring for him as a Candy Person. She probably saw potential in him that she saw in any former love interest, though she knew she couldn’t act on it because “responsibility demands sacrifice.” We were all expecting a sad ending from Braco, but I think in the end, I mostly feel bad for PB. She wants to be carefree, giddy, and naive like Braco once was, but her impact on her kingdom and her people is unfortunately more of a priority for her. Though I doubt anything hurt as much as Peppermint Butler’s bitch-slap. Man, was that hilarious.

So yeah, I think this one’s pretty great. Really nice characterization of each of the characters that are focused on, and just some all around solid writing from Jesse Moynihan and Thomas Wellmann. You can really tell that they have a pretty deep understanding of unrequited love and infatuation, and it really shines through in this episode. This one also features a special outro, written and sung by Moynihan, with backup vocals by Ako Castuera. It’s a really nice tune, check it out here if you haven’t before.

Favorite line: “Well, you paid the price, no doubt, and I wanna have your babies.”

“Shh!” Review

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Original Airdate: May 13, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Graham Falk

Shh! is storyboard artist Graham Falk’s debut on Adventure Time. Wasn’t familiar with Falk before he joined the AT staff, but his roots in more cartoony and expressive material, like The Untalkative Bunny, have allowed for some really interesting looking drawings on Adventure Time. Aside from season one, we’re not used to seeing cartoonish and squishy looking poses and expressions from the show, so Falk’s methods always add a bit more charm and likability to the sillier episodes. And I think it was well fitting that his first episode is one that partially pays tribute to silent cartoons of the past.

I think the stronger parts of this one do come from the first half, when Finn and Jake commit to their use of title cards to communicate with each other. There’s a lot of really funny visual gags during this portion, especially the fact that nearly every single card that Finn wrote is supporting Jake somehow. My favorite being “I love you, Jake” which Finn angrily uses to respond to his speed-writing brother. It’s both adorable and hilarious. There’s also the funny bit of build-up to BMO believing Finn and Jake are aliens where they both try to communicate with him using “the juice?” and “me too.” Real smooth.

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BMO freaks out and flees the area, which puts his get together with his bikini babes on hold. The song that BMO plays is by Lake, the band that sings the outro for AT, and No Wonder I is a really great tune! Next to Rebecca Sugar, Lake provides some of the best tunes for the series, including this one, the ending theme, and two songs that we’ll visit later on. You can listen to No Wonder I on YouTube here.

The second of the portion of the episode definitely slows down a bit, just because I did enjoy all of the jokes that came out of Jake and Finn communicating through signs, but I guess there wasn’t a ton they could do with them that would span out an entire episode. Instead, we do get some nice bits, like the Spider with gloves on his hands and the mice using the running wheel, which are all moderately cute, and provide some cool designs equivalent to old Mickey Mouse cartoons and Warner Bros. shorts pre-WWII. There’s also that sad dude who lives in the wall, and it’s a longshot, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a full episode based around that dude. His existence and depression intrigue me.

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After Jake tries to reason with BMO and fails (which features a pretty great shot of Jake shrunken down to be smaller than BMO; have they done something like this before? I think it’s the first time they’ve attempted something like it) the two boys proceed to axe up their wall for some reason – maybe they are possessed by aliens afterall – to get BMO out. Cue the bikini babes, and in an episode full of great visual pieces and character designs, these girls really freak me out a little bit. Their really detailed humanoid bodies and their simplistic eyes and mouth just don’t complement each other very well, and this is an instance where I wouldn’t have minded the addition of eye whites and nose features. Afterall, the guy inside the wall had them! I do like their inexplicable ability to fly, however. 

The climax is decently fun; I like the way Finn and Jake are just emotionless throughout the entire battle, because the bikini babes aren’t exactly formidable opponents. I like the way the babes face of with the boys, using pinches, dancing, and volleyball techniques to inflict damage. Also, love the one shaking maracas with the title card “the jam”. It provides for a funny ending once Finn and Jake surrender their and explain their day to BMO, and BMO just says “fuck it!” followed by a dance party. Even the Party God showed up for this one, which always provides for a stellar get together!

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Overall, this one’s light fun. I don’t find myself getting into it that much, but it has its fair share of funny and enjoyable moments. Again, the overall designs and drawings in this one are interesting enough to carry the episode, along with some good bits of writing along the way. Not anything remarkable, but a nice entry regardless.

Shh! was dedicated to Armen Mirzaian, who tragically passed away in a car accident months prior to the airing of this episode. Mirzaian wrote and boarded for three episodes in the first season: What is Life?Business Time, and The Jiggler.

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Favorite line: (passive aggressively) “Oh dang, the toast?”

 

 

 

 

“James Baxter the Horse” Review

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Original Airdate: May 6, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Pendleton Ward & Somvilay Xayaphone

During his time at CalArts, Pen Ward had a special guest lecture by James Baxter, an animator who worked with both Disney and DreamWorks. Someone in the lecture asked James Baxter to draw a horse on top of a beach ball, to which James Baxter declined, but the idea of a horse on a ball stuck with Ward regardless. Which is why James Baxter the Horse stars Ward in a rare position at the storyboarding helm, because it turns out to be a pretty personal story in regards to being inspired by someone else’s work, but trying to make your own unique content out of it. And for the most part, I think it works.

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The beginning starts off pretty great with BMO’s pregnant song. Again, this is right after Rebecca Sugar left, so most of the songs following her departure aren’t exactly catchy or memorable, but this one is at least funny. While Finn and Jake try to cheer up BMO she breaks her egg, James Baxter appears and makes everything better with his beach ball routine. The real life James Baxter actually assisted with some of the animation in this episode, mainly the bits where James Baxter rolls on the beach ball, and man, is it a fluid breath of fresh air! Not that AT animation typically looks bad, per se, but you never really expect anything particularly smooth or fluid in terms of character movement. Baxter himself voices his horse counterpart as well, and it provides for a really enjoyably silly running gag throughout the course of the episode.

I think that’s how you can describe the entirety of the episode for the most part: enjoyably silly. I mentioned in my last review that Princess Potluck felt like an episode that was meandered by a plot that seemed as insignificant as an episode from season one, but I think this episode is able to also capture the spirit of the first season in a pretty solid way. Ward is far from my favorite boarder on the show; I have oodles of respect for the guy, but I think he’s more of a storyteller than an actually great writer. And his drawings, while perfectly serviceable, are very simplistic depictions of our main heroes that we’re used to seeing everywhere in AT media. But that being said, I think most of it works with the actual episode. There are moments of stilted dialogue and awkwardness, but it calls for some surrealistic laughs at times. Like the bit where Jake propels Finn into the air to kick the ghost as Finn and Jake randomly get coated in milk. Also, there’s just inexplicably no background music during this sequence. Ward has always been on the more random and silly side, and it’s a style that doesn’t really call for some of the funnier or more memorable pieces from the series, but it’s a style that’s definitely charming and likable regardless. It’s just like Rainy Day Daydream, another episode boarded by Ward that I don’t really think is downright hilarious or terrific or anything, but there’s something so delightful about it regardless.

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Pairing Ward with Somvilay was actually a pretty good choice in my mind. I think it’s fucking redundant at this point to keep bringing up issues with Somvilay’s drawings, because let’s face it, I literally feel that way about every single episode he has boarded thus far. From now on, I’m only going to bring it up if it poses a large issue with the episode itself, which there are some of down the line. Actual drawings aside, I think Somvilay’s simplistic character depictions and focus on wacky non-sequiturs actually really match well with what Ward was going for (there’s a ton of w’s in that last sentence, woah). I like the little added Somvilayisms, like Finn handing Jake his clipboard just to carry across an animated line of dialogue and then retrieving it back. Also, moments such as Finn and Jake disturbing the funeral and making noises towards the little girl are more direct methods of comedy, but two that play off pretty well and do make me laugh.

A good portion of the episode is watching Finn and Jake embark on this journey to create something as great as James Baxter has, and it’s pretty cool to connect the dots with Pen Ward in Finn and Jake’s position. It seems pretty clear that Ward has a ton of respect for Baxter himself, so he probably wanted to create something as great as he was able to, but always felt inferior and that he was never able to match Baxter’s standards. Ward instead tried to create something different that also appeared to people’s interests and what they like to see, which worked out for him, but his work still probably wasn’t looked at as quite as good as James Baxter’s. What this episode sets to point out is that, even if your work isn’t technically superior to another’s, you should still try and make other people happy with your talents. You shouldn’t try endlessly to recreate the magic that another person has invented, but instead try and create your own unique spin on already existing properties. I don’t know how many of the kiddies picked up on this one, but it’s a neat little message to carry across, and one that is particularly sweet.

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The backgrounds in this one are great! Again, a lot of nice skies and scenery to chew on. This is an episode that is featured pretty heavily in the Art of Ooo book, for good reasons. I like the simplicity of some of the Grassland scenes, as well as the dope-looking factory with its many colors and layers. Also, this is a really design-heavy episode. There’s James Baxter, the hitchhiker ghost, the furry people in the forest, the grieving family, and so on. It’s always nice to have a group of new background characters, a feat that is still unmatched by Ocarina, but one that makes the episode feel more inventive and that more time was put into the smaller details.

I don’t really have much more to say besides the fact that, well, it’s fun! Nothing particularly special, but it’s a sweet little episode that takes the time to channel a more personal story over the increasingly wild Land of Ooo. It’s always very special to get an episode boarded by Ward, which only happens every once in a blue moon. I’m glad he had a crucial part on this one, and I’m glad he took the time to share his story with the viewers of AT. All I know is that I could watch that scene of James Baxter riding into the sunset all day long if I wanted to.

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Favorite line: “Jaaaaaaames Baaaxter!”