Tag Archive | Adam Muto

“BMO” Review

BMO

Original Airdate: July 25, 2020

Written & Storyboarded by: Hanna K. Nyström, Iggy Craig, Laura Knetzger, Anna Syvertsson & Adam Muto

Before we start, I wanted to plug a project from my friend, Paul Thomas. Paul has written a really neat account of Adventure Time‘s production history, storytelling mechanics, and its fandom. I also contributed a small portion to the book as an interview piece in the fandom section, under my full name, Eric Stone. Though I haven’t been able to read through it fully yet, it’s a really detailed and packed novel that I think any Adventure Time fan should surely check out. You can read this novel here!

Welp, here we are kiddos! Most fandoms have to wait like, 10 years for new content after an original IP ends, the AT crowd has been blessed with new stuff only two years down the road! The sweet part about this is it probably wasn’t too hard to wrangle up most of the original crew (as of this episode, we have Adam Muto, Hanna K. Nyström, Jack Pendarvis, Andy Ristaino, Benjamin Anders, Anna Syvertsson, Laura Knetzger Michael DeForge, Jesse Balmer, Amber Blade Jones, the Frederator crew, and Tim Kiefer as returning members; correct me if I missed anyone) and the style is able to remain pretty true to the original, with some added upgrades. And for the most part, BMO does manage to capture that AT feel more than I was originally expecting from it.

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As a precursor, I’ll mention that it’s good to be back in this role. I truly have missed talking about AT in any capacity, and honestly, it really took new content to get my motivation back again. It is definitely strange to be talking about it in this position – I had reviewed each episode long after their initial airdate. There’s a large community of cartoon reviewers that can probably get to this faster than I can and likely say everything that I would have already said otherwise. That being said, I hope that I continue to add a layer of freshness to these reviews and that there is still a desire for open discussion around this blog and its themes. That aside, let’s get down to the good stuff.

Distant Lands immediately sets itself apart by having a distinct opening that feels slightly alien in comparison to any AT content that we’ve seen prior. Despite its namesake, Distant Lands doesn’t borrow from Adventure Time‘s opening credits much at all. It appears each special will have its own unique opening, with the additional interstitial beginning that features a quick bombardment of past AT characters and moments. Lack of lyrical accompaniment aside, BMO‘s intro does follow the standard that most AT opening titles follow – it’s a sweeping journey, filled with familiar sounds, and an eventual climax to the central focus. This beautifully crafted CGI intro was animated by Encyclopedia Pictura, a film and animation studio that has worked on some really gnarly stuff, including music videos and bizarre, but beautiful, short films. Their attention to bright, vivid colors and smooth designs make me truly crave a fully guest animated 11 minutes from them, but I suppose we’re past that point… for now. The ending credits also feature a cameo of AstroBMO, which is a real life BMO that was sent into space!

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I was initially a bit cautious about BMO having his own 44 minute special. With some clear exceptions, BMO is very much a comic relief character. She certainly has her depth and isn’t only good for jokes, but BMO isn’t necessarily an “epic” character by any means. Not to mention that Adventure Time has really only dabbled with the 44 minute formula once before with Come Along With Me and… yeah, that was a bit messy. I will say that the two aspects of the special I was most concerned about were actually some of the strongest elements. BMO, per usual, is his usual lovable self. Even if his dialogue isn’t laugh-worthy, it is undeniably charming. BMO’s bizarre dialogue and tendency to not understand structural sentences really never tires itself out, which could be chalked up to solid writing, but it’s also just Niki Yang being the absolute best at what she does. I don’t think I praise her enough on this blog, but Yang’s dedication to really embodying the character and knowing just how to hit all of the right notes for a successful delivery always pay off so well. I think voice actors very much embody their character and cannot be replaced, but there are surely occasional issues with delivery that can sink certain impactful moments for individual characters. I feel like Yang almost never skips a beat – almost because BMO’s inflections are, by nature, slightly monotonous, but I mean that in the most loving way. Even when just speaking in her natural voice, Yang recognizes how to add an extra bit of gusto every single time she gets in that recording booth.

BMO’s silly opening monologue is lots of fun, and it’s a great way to showcase all of the visual elements that this special has to offer. BMO alone gets a pass for being absolutely gorgeous – Adventure Time has never looked so good! The lush colors and richer backgrounds (though somewhat of a departure from the original series) felt like breath of fresh air. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Adventure Time has never looked bad (okay yes Seventeen exists. I know, guys) but the increased budget that Max has allowed for is certainly noteworthy and quite frankly exciting. Imagine what a Finn and Jake adventure is gonna look like on a high budget! Impressive colors and animation aren’t the only new element in the visuals department that BMO brings to the table – or in this case, an old element – the return of the eye whites! Eye whites were retired from the series around season two because Pen felt that it took viewers out of the universe and made characters feel less “human.” BMO is drawn with them as he transcends into The Drift, and while I’m not the hugest fan of them myself, it is kind of nice to see them back in this fashion. It’s a visual element that does add to Distant Lands‘ clear interest in expanding on the design of the original series. ALSO, it’s around this point that we meet Olive, one of the cooler characters that BMO dishes out. In typical AT fashion, Olive’s simple design is her biggest strength, being both very charming and intriguing from a minimalist perspective. Olive also provides for some gnarly shapeshifting moments, easily filling in Jake’s shoes while he’s absent.

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After we get this establishing piece with BMO and Olive, we’re treated to another establishing piece within the Drift, where we meet the other featured characters and settings of this special, which are some of the weaker bits, in my eyes. Elaborating on what I said about the visuals above, the backgrounds within the Drift are gorgeous. They certainly are a bit of departure from what we’re used to seeing from the original series – Ghostshrimp’s backgrounds were filled to the brim with every possible apocalyptic Easter egg and neat hunk of junk that he could imagine, while the background artists clearly focused on more interesting textures and attention to color for BMO, and that works just as well. I was surprised to see just how thick some of the outlines were within several backdrops – really makes the whole thing feel like a comic in motion. Which… I suppose is exactly what animation is. Hmph.

It’s here that we’re introduced to Y-4 (later known as Y-5) who is… okay! I actually think her design is very cute and she’s competently portrayed by Glory Curda, but her character isn’t really super compelling in any way. That’s not to say that she’s bad! I didn’t actively dislike any aspect of her personality or arc, but it never really managed to grab me in one way or another. Her relationships with other characters end up putting her in pretty predictable spots, namely that her obedience to her parents would end up causing a tiff in her newly found friendship with BMO, and that her relationship with her parents would ultimately come to a resolve when they recognized the error of their ways. It’s all stories that we’ve seen in other movies and shows before, and while none of it is done badly, it’s not the type of story that I feel is captivating for me personally. I do have to give Adventure Time credit where its due because, while the parents that don’t trust their child is a trope that’s been tackled before, it’s a bit new to Adventure Time. Parental figures within the original series are usually just straightforward really shitty or astute moral guardians. Here, these parents act shitty, but it’s both resolved and tackled in somewhat interesting way regarding their unbridled faith towards governmental power.

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The aliens we see throughout this special, namely the Shells and the Elves, are decently fun. They have the same goofy disagreements that would be commonplace in Ooo, yet are unique in their foreign designs. I do think AT‘s character team is really smart with understanding what works for different settings; I don’t know what it is about the Elves and Shells, but they just feel like beings that wouldn’t really be fitting for Ooo, even if it is an open world for all kinds of weird inhabitants. These aliens feel akin to On the Lam, in the way that they aren’t a complete departure from AT‘s style, but feel off enough that they wouldn’t necessarily be roaming the Earth either. It’s also fun to see how, despite the fact that they’re portrayed as the antagonists, BMO’s kind of the asshole that gets in THEIR way, and the episode has a lot of fun with that. BMO is most fun when he’s only interested in satisfying his own needs and gives zero fucks about anything else. That’s not to say she isn’t still sweet and lovable, but anything that doesn’t directly inconvenience her isn’t really an issue. This also leads to one of the funniest moments in the episode, in which BMO is lauded for single-handedly saving everyone in The Drift… with the exception of the Elves’ leader. Let us also not forget the BMO is the one who caused this breach in the first place!

Y-5 and BMO’s relationship is pretty similar to the E.T. type kinship that has become commonplace in cinema and television, but it is, at the very least, delightful. They have some pretty humorous back-and-forths, with a highlight being BMO’s sass anytime Y-5 tries to question or contradict him. As they begin to explore The Drift further, we’re treated to a decent amount of world-building. I don’t think The Drift is especially mindblowing or distinctive from any other fictional space station, so it’s the AT charm that really helps set it apart from any other generic location. I love the parrot merchant shouting, “buy my eggs! Buy my eggs! Or I swear to Glob, I’ll eat them myself,” and the squidlike alien that wants to eat his space lards. Again, it’s cute how everyone treats BMO as this really noble and heroic icon when he clearly is just speaking from a child’s perspective. He likes the cute space lard, so he’s going to protect the cute space lard. That’s really all there is to do it. Long live BMO and her love for the name Ricky.

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Two characters I actually had completely forgotten about before rewatching are Sweetie and Darling, the heist bugs! I feel guilty even saying that because, while their designs are pretty unremarkable, they are plenty of fun. BMO’s second big task in the Drift is a rescue mission after a communications hub floods. This is one of my favorite bits of the special, namely because of how fluid the animation is throughout the entire sequence. There’s a ridiculous amount of motion during the scenes that feature Y-5 swimming, with so many little fun details that are easy to miss, such as BMO riding her head like a cowboy as she tries to communicate with her parents. It’s a scene that, again, would likely be an afterthought in terms of visual flair when Adventure Time was on a television budget, but now we’re on HBO, bitches! It really helps add to the general frantic nature of the sequence, and really pays off as a visual delight.

The main conflict really sets in when BMO is sent on a governmental mission by Hugo and Mr. M. Hugo is somewhat in the same realm of Y-5’s characters, though I’d say that Y-5 probably has more going for her. He’s mainly just there as plot device for villainy to take place – I’m not even entirely positive that I fully understand his story or his plan. So, he was a human who sought to survive the apocalypse of mankind by traveling out into space and he made a compromise with aliens to remove the humanity of himself and his crew. That succeeded… but also caused some sort of societal collapse? And then as they were drifting through space, Olive picked them up and warped them into the Drift, and then Hugo decided to proclaim himself as the leader? It’s an arc that, unless I’m missing something, feels like a haphazard attempt at world-building and doesn’t seem concise in its characterization or the timeline it wants to set up. Were Hugo and crew members just floating through space for hundreds of years? I dunno, I guess it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. It’s cool we get to learn more about the other options of humanity following the Great Mushroom War, and the best part of all? The entire backstory sequence is animated by David freakin’ Ferguson himself! It was really nice seeing his style back once again, especially with the manner in which it was utilized. I’m glad that, despite the overwhelmingly negative reception Water Park Prank got, Ferguson still got the chance to come back and share his unique artwork with a mainstream audience. You da man, Ferguson!

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Mr. M, on the other hand, is a really interesting side villain, mainly because of the fact that he quite obviously is none other than Martin Mertens! Well, maybe not entirely obvious, but enough information is presented to draw up a conclusion. I really like the fact that, despite the fact that Mr. M is very clearly supposed to be Martin, the episode never outright has him reveal himself. There’s the certain bit of anticipation throughout the special that he will be exposed, but you never truly get that full satisfaction, which in turn makes the payoff even more satisfying. It personally reminded me of the visual gag of Dr. Princess dressing up as Science Whyzard, only with much more purpose and attention this time around. There’s several different indicators that Mr. M is Martin Mertens, including quotes that he’s used before previously, the fact that his feet are very clearly human, and the namesake alone. There are some additions that I don’t really care for, like the fact that Mr. M jokes with Y-5’s parents about being called out for their deadbeat nature. It’s throwaway line that’s only used to further identify Martin, but since he didn’t have a tumultuous relationship with his son at this point in the timeline, it just doesn’t really make sense. Of course, I’ll discuss more about the fact that this special is a prequel later on, but might I just add that I’m glad it is, because if Martin’s cosmic destiny just meant he was a grifter in space elsewhere, that would be really fucking lame.

The eventual tiff between Y-5 and BMO is played out in a way that mirrors this type of trope in most buddy-buddy stories, so it doesn’t feel particularly enticing when you can kind of seeing it coming from their first interaction together. Thankfully, the drama isn’t played up too much, and BMO has lots of funny lines to make up for it, including “I have no feelings,” followed almost immediately by “you make my feelings happy!” It does help provide for a solo BMO journey into the Jungle Pod, which ends up making for the best parts of the episode. I standby the idea that all of BMO’s strongest moments are just when he’s alone and chatting to himself. Or, in this case Football, who increasingly becomes a coping mechanism to help BMO deal with the thoughts and fears inside of her head. This mechanism of placing her own fear onto her imaginary friend only gets BMO so far, as she finds herself in certain danger pretty quickly. The winged crabs were also a nice touch for this special, which I’m pretty sure was a reference to Abstract, was it not? When Jake’s alien form sprouts wings, BMO accuses Jake of being a “crab.” Maybe I’m digging too deep, but I thought of this almost immediately. It’s a shame Crusty died as quickly as he lived. R.I.P. my man.

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Things take a very dramatic turn when BMO is ripped apart after taking the Jungle Pod’s crystal, where we are treated to what feels like a classic AT bad trip. In a similar fashion to BMO Noire, Niki Yang delivers each line as she normally would for BMO, yet the framework of the scene helps it to come across in a much more unnerving fashion. Because of BMO’s role as a child, any mention of death or substantially dark topics come across in this really uncomfortable fashion, and I mean that in the best way. Like previous BMO entries such as BMO Noire, BMO Lost, and The More You Moe, The Moe You KnowBMO understands how to balance the humor of the character, as well as the very dark reality that he’s only a mere child in a very threatening world. BMO’s colorful subconscious returns during his “death” and reminds him of the inevitable: that he is just a lil kid in a big world that’s often times difficult to navigate. Again, I think it’s kind of a familiar path for this type of story to take – the hero discovers he/she is in over their head and temporarily admits defeat. But since it’s portrayed in such a dark, visually interesting matter that only AT could pull off so well, I really don’t mind it at all.

The climax of the episode, which involves Y-5 rebelling against her parents in order to save BMO. It’s where we meet CGO, who had appeared earlier in the episode for a brief moment, and heard singing the Frasier theme song. I do like how the major connections to the old world are mainly drawn through theme songs of classic sitcoms. CGO is a fun little bot herself, kind of reminding me of a toned down Carroll. Her introduction also provides for a genuinely emotional moment in the episode in which Y-5 breaks down into tears after learning the truth about Hugo. It’s a small, quiet moment, but it’s quite impactful. Y-5 is essentially learning that everything she has worked hard for to achieve, whether for herself or for her parents, has virtually been for nothing, and that the only one who could have saved her might be dead. AT‘s sadness is usually confined to these quiet, ambiguous moments, but Y-5’s sadness takes the Steven U route of being heavily tearful, which hits pretty hard. Of course, BMO ain’t dead though, you dumb babies!! He is revived in the midst of Y-5’s breakdown, and the two travel to save The Drift together.

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Hugo is outed, and though I don’t think his plan is entirely fleshed out, his argument against the citizens is pretty interesting. It’s not really a good argument; Hugo’s essentially just saying that the citizens of The Drift are just as selfish as him because they didn’t really care about what happened to it as long as they were able to leave. It does tie into the fact that civilization and humanity in of itself is predominantly selfish, and Hugo believes he’s truly just one of those citizens that happened to have made it out on top. The climax comes together in a pretty satisfying way, as the many minor characters that we’ve met throughout this special team up to stop Hugo from destroying The Drift. Y-5 also makes amends with her parents, which does feel earned in the sense that her parents feel like decently rational people by the end of it, despite their shitty ways. And best of all, Olive gets what she always wanted – and presumably Hugo as well – a friend!

The ending of BMO closes out with the biggest surprise and possibly the biggest delight of all: it was a prequel! For the first time ever in AT‘s history, we get to see a toddler version of Finn and a teenage version of Jake! It’s a really sweet twist that makes any qualms that I would have with the story, such as Martin being a space grifter, essentially moot. Though I’m not necessarily free of qualms with this twist. A lot of people have brought up that BMO’s characterization is way different in BMO than it was earlier in the series. I would somewhat agree with this, though not necessarily entirely. I don’t think BMO was ever really that uniquely different early on in the series, besides being a bit more robotic and snarky. He still had a sense of childlike wonder, it just wasn’t fully realized yet. Even then, he’s frequently referred to as a “sassy robot” in BMO, so the snarky aspects of his character really aren’t all missing entirely. I will say that one issue I do have with the continuity is that I think it kinda stinks that BMO was going on these massive adventures before he even met Finn and Jake. The early days of BMO’s journeys involved him mainly playing with himself (hardy har har) and making his own fun/drama. Hell, the events of The More You Moe, The Moe You Know are acknowledged as his “greatest adventure ever,” yet he was traveling through time and space since the beginning? A little hard to believe.

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Overall though, I quite enjoyed BMO, even more so on my second watch! It isn’t perfect – the story and characters feel a bit cookie cutter at times and there’s never really a point, aside from the ending, where you feel like you don’t know where the general structure is going, which isn’t usually that commonplace with Adventure Time. But it’s a thoroughly fun and endearing special that succeeded way beyond my expectations. I really didn’t think a silly BMO entry would be able to hold a 45 minute period, but it does so tremendously well, and BMO is actually the best part of it! Shouldn’t have doubted the lil guy. This definitely was a great start to reignite my interest and love for the series, and though it probably could have been stronger on certain levels, it was a fun, beautiful, and sweet journey that has me pumped for the future of Distant Lands.

Favorite line: “He died as he lived: sucking big time.”

“Marcy & Hunson” Review

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Original Airdate: December 17, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Graham Falk & Adam Muto

Alrighty guys, let me take a quick moment to break down all of the Hunson Abadeer centric episodes for you consideration:

  • It Came From the Nightosphere – Hunson Abadeer’s introduction. Marceline resents him for being a shitty guy, but comes to terms with him by the end of it when he shows that he does care.
  • Daddy’s Little Monster – Hunson controls Marceline to be more in his image, but Marceline breaks free and continues to resent him. She comes to terms with him by the end of it, however, when he shows that he does care.
  • Marcy & Hunson – Hunson returns to Ooo to visit a less-than-excited Marceline, who still resents him. However, she comes to terms with him by the end of it when he shows that he does care.

… Does… does any of this sound familiar? I get the whole point of Hunson’s character is essentially that he is a shitty person who’s trying to maintain a relationship with his morally conscious daughter, but I’m kind of just amazed at the fact that, on his third episode, after years and years of being absent, nothing new was done with his character. And this isn’t a knock at the past entries that focused on Hunson’s neglect – It Came From the Nightosphere is a largely groundbreaking entry that introduced a lot of the modern day storytelling that made Adventure Time such a success and Daddy’s Little Monster was a successful follow-up to Hunson’s battle between being intrinsically evil and just a half-decent dad. Marcy & Hunson is a reiteration of both of these stories without adding anything new, and in fact, removing a lot of what made Hunson unique in the first place.

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I do like the opening of this episode, primarily due to Peppermint Butler’s sweet inclusion. Though I find it somewhat odd – I guess I always pictured Peppermint Butler and Hunson as tight friends, but it’s treated as if PepBut more or less is just an acquaintance somehow. I’m not really sure I get a strong understanding of their connection either way. I always enjoy how fully committed and controlled Peppermint Butler is in terms of his experimenting with the dark arts. His fascination and involvement with anything less kosher almost never impedes on his ultimate good-natured self and loyalty. I’m not even lying when I say that the show has really built him up to be one of the most complex they’ve ever churned out. I know he’s primarily a side character, but I really love how arguably one of the darkest characters in the series is also one of the most genuine and caring towards our main cast. In this opening scene, we’re also introduced to Finn’s newest sword, the Nightmare Sword, which never really gets a chance to shine as the series draws closer to an ending. We also get to see Finn so shocked with Hunson Abadeer’s return, that he regenerates his right arm for a quick second! I guess being shocking and growing back an arm is potentially better than being horny and growing back an arm.

Following Gumbald’s big reveal back in Seventeen, this episode features a major role for Chicle. Chicle is probably the least “important” of the Bubblegum family, but he is probably the most entertaining, sporting some decent one-liners here and there. Though, I ultimately don’t really think his presence is particularly necessary in this episode. The events that go down probably could have still occurred even without his inclusion. And even then, he kind of just stirs the pot instead of actually seeming like a threat. Sure, he encourages the ghosts to go after Marceline and Hunson, but were they actually going to straight up kill them? Doubtful. Then he throws a peanut at Peppermint Butler, which has way more of an effect on Pepbut than it logically should. Overall though, Chicle’s goofiness tops the overly hammy repertoire of Gumbald and the perplexing nature of Aunt Lolly.

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I think it says something about the quality of Marcy & Hunson when Hunson is kind of the worst part of it. I’d even argue that his character is relatively butchered in this entry. What made Hunson so great in It Came From the Nightosphere and, to a lesser extent, Daddy’s Little Monster is that he was genuinely intimidating. He was animated humorously and had his campier moments, but he could and would snap in an instance into a cold-blooded demon. Here, he’s just a big fuckin’ goofball that likes to get up in Marceline’s business and blatantly disregards her own well-being. The whole bit where he decides he’s going to sleep in Marceline’s bed and that she can take the air mattress is a total Martin move. This entire episode feels like Graham Falk and Adam Muto want to be writing for Martin, but are writing for Hunson instead. In his first three featured episodes, and even in the Adventure Time Encyclopaedia, you get the idea that Hunson is this really dignified and classy dude, and that there’s a reason he’s head honcho in the Nightosphere. Marcy & Hunson throws all of that out the window and just chooses the easier option of making him as pathetic as possible.

But hey, if you didn’t come for the connection between Hunson and Marceline, that’s okay, because there’s a shit-ton of Bubbline moments to hold you over!!! Marceline wearing Bubblegum’s sweater from Stakes?? Finn not knowing how to answer Hunson’s question about whether Marceline is in a relationship?? Marceline singing a song called Slow Dance With You with Hyden Walch providing the background vocals?? OH MAN, THIS IS WHAT WE CAME FOR, FOLKS!

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In actuality, these moments are fine and I don’t want to sound pessimistic about a relationship that clearly means a lot to a mass of people who watch Adventure Time. BUT, it really does bum me out how Bubbline has practically become the only draw for Marceline’s character at this point. From Stakes onward, there isn’t a single episode focusing on Marceline that doesn’t somehow shoehorn in her relationship with Bubblegum for the sake of fanservice. And I’m not saying that these moments are necessarily poorly done, but Marcy just feels so hollow and reliant on other characters that I feel like I barely know who she is anymore. She used to be this really cool, fun character, but now she feels like a puppet being used solely for the purpose of giving fans what they want. Which is fine, but not when those moments completely overshadow everything else in the episode. I mean, does anyone actually talk about the connection between Marceline and her father in Marcy & Hunson? No! The only time I ever hear people discussing this episode is regarding Slow Dance With You which, I’m gonna be honest, is not very good. Of course, this all comes down to personal taste, but I think people are way more into the implication and meaning behind the tune than they are the actual rhythm and performance.

Probably gonna get a lot of flack for that rant, and if I’m being honest, the attention these Bubbline moments received is likely just because there’s very little of substance in Marcy & Hunson to begin with. Going back to my original point, this episode concludes with the same way literally every Hunson episode has – that Hunson is a shitty dude, but he cares about his daughter. I know the staff had probably no clue that the show was going to be canned before this episode, but you would think after so many years, with so much time having passed that they would consider taking a different direction with this character that probably would never appear again anyway.

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Is there anything good about Marcy & Hunson? A few moments come to mind, mainly when it comes to humor. The flashback sequence featuring Hunson’s introduction to Marceline got a big laugh out of me, and both Jake and Chicle have their fair share of funny lines. The return of the Spirit Waves stage from Ghost Princess is a welcomed treat, and I dig the spooky atmosphere overall. But, Marcy & Hunson is mostly a flop. It’s sad, because I think the pieces are all there that would make for a great episode. Hunson wanting to be a good father, but struggling with his intrinsic desire to unleash evil, is something that the series never tackled head on, and could make for both a funny a intriguing entry. However, we’re left with a relatively lazy alternative that doesn’t offer anything new or interesting in one of AT‘s longest running story arcs.

Favorite line: “I have a nice laugh.”

“Orb” Review

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Original Airdate: April 21, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Aleks Sennwald & Adam Muto

Adventure Time is no stranger to utilizing dream sequences in order to help flesh out certain stories. Whether it be cryptic prophecies (The New FrontierFrost & Fire, and The Lich), signs of distress (Jermaine, Stakes, and I Am a Sword), self-realization (Crystals Have PowerLemonhope, and The Visitor), or even just plain silliness (Burning Low), AT‘s dream fetish is pretty apparent. So much so that entire episodes have been dedicated to the concept of dreaming and the implications and hidden messages within those dreams. King Worm was the first, which I personally didn’t get into. It’s pacing was uncomfortably awkward, which made the general array of jokes and gags feel progressively weak in their execution. Another was Hoots, which had some interesting dream implications, but was more focused on character exploration that truthfully wasn’t that interesting. Then there’s Orb, which might be my favorite of the bunch. It’s not saying much because I wasn’t crazy about either of its predecessors, but Orb manages to be a pretty thoroughly entertaining entry that not only has improved timing for its more humorous moments, but also has a lot more to chew on from an analytical sense.

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Being smack-dab between two miniseries, Orb is kind of a sweet spot for a post-Islands experience, as well as a pre-Elements experience. The events of this episode technically take place entirely on the boat returning to Ooo, and I think that’s pretty damn cool. For a show that managed to have its main characters be transformed back from being breakfast products entirely offscreen, it’s really cool to have this added transition that doesn’t even mention the events of Islands at all. It almost can be considered standalone for that matter. The goofiness of the boys in the first few minutes is much appreciated, and I love the overstock of bananas. It kind of reminds me of Football, which included an excessive amount of grapefruit for no clear reason.

Let’s take a deeper dive into the dream sequences, shall we? First off, Jake. It’s really nice to see Jermaine again, who has long been absent since his major debut two seasons earlier. I’m always surprised at how Tom Scharpling is able to distinguish Jermaine from Greg Universe without really even changing his voice at all. There’s simply a permanent sense of neurosis within Scharpling’s inflections that really help to make the character feel real every time he’s on screen. The main mission that Jake and Jermaine are given within the dream is a relatively unusual one; Joshua commands his two sons to dig a hole within the surface of their own kitchen. A lot of the fun of Orb comes from drawing conclusions throughout these ambiguous experiences, and I think there’s surely a lot to come from these few bits with Joshua. Digging a hole, within the realm of general dream meanings, signifies a sense of longing and searching for one’s purpose. I think this could be clearly represented through Jermaine ditching his old home to discover his own sense of self-actualization. On Jake’s side, it could be regarding his own curiosities of his magic nature, which was touched upon briefly two episodes earlier in Helpers. This is the definition meaning, but I have stronger implications and ideas from my own point-of-view.

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Considering that their digging proves to be pointless after it is replaced by an untouched circle, I think this dream sequence more prominently represents Jake and Jermaine’s own anxieties about letting their father down. While Jermaine ends up leaving the dream sequence after it gets progressively more taxing, it’s easy to see how this could be an allusion to Jermaine’s own decision to let his father’s home burn to the ground after he decided it wasn’t worth his own mental turmoil. Jermaine even leaves through one of his paintings, of which he decided to get invested in only after he let go of parental burdens. Jake, on the other hand, decides to stay and finish out the job, as he becomes progressively older and more burnt out throughout his experience (and also due to his encounter with his worst fear, The Moon). Jake and Joshua’s relationship is probably the most fascinating out of all of the Dog children. We know that Joshua had high expectations for Finn to be a strong and cunning warrior, while he wanted Jermaine to be the responsible type that would look after his own possessions. Joshua was likely the most fond of Jake, considering that Jake came from his own body, but we never really are given information regarding what expectations Joshua had for his most carefree son. Perhaps, it’s even an expectation that only Jake ruminates on himself. Perhaps it has to due with the fact that, while he was put in charge of taking after Finn, Jake is getting rapidly older day-by-day and isn’t sure how much longer he’ll be able to do so. Or, it could represent his inability to follow in Joshua’s footsteps for being the great father that he always wanted to be. There’s a lot of different concepts to chew on, but I honestly believe the Finn one is the most intriguing. They’re both getting older, but even then, I think that Jake still feels as though he needs to watch over Finn. It’s mostly an overprotective parent fear, but I get the feeling Jake worries that, if he isn’t around anymore, who will take care of his brother of whom he loves so dearly? There’s also the obvious implications of foreshadowing as well, that are triggered when we do see the Peeper, of whom briefly appears in the window. I’ve rambled a lot, but Jake’s dream is definitely the mostly expansive and interesting out of the three.

Finn’s is much shorter and more concise, but still relatively interesting. It is interesting to note that Finn has both of his arms within the dream sequence, which probably could imply a sense of longing, but I kind of get the feeling that parts of his subconscious haven’t even fully recognized the bionic arm yet. In general, Finn seems to accept it and use it as if it were his old arm, so maybe he just doesn’t really even recognize the difference anymore to the point where he feels whole. A lot of people took note of this being sad and tragic, but I don’t think it’s meant to be taken in a negative connotation. After all, Finn is seen to be flying throughout his dream sequence, denoting his feeling of free will in his choices, presumably after he chose to do what was right for himself after the events of Islands. However, it appears he still has some possibilities for anxiety and regret. When being faced with PB, he’s unable to fly and is held down by strands of grass. This felt like a statement in addressing Finn’s ties to Ooo as a whole. While Finn arguably made his own decision to go back home, I get the feeling that he also feels that he needs to go back home, or else terrible things will befall the people he loves and cares for. This is also represented by PB’s loss of teeth, a popular stress dream that implies a feeling of powerlessness in one’s surrounding. While Finn feels free and happy after his own self-journey, he possibly feels more out of control than ever when it comes to the safety of his other friends of whom he cares for.

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BMO’s dream is probably the simplest to get behind, but in an enjoyable way. It really feels like a childlike nightmare, in which the circumstances aren’t truly textbook levels of horrific, but still psychologically damaging from the perspective of a child. The play that BMO puts on revolves around the theme of Finn and Jake being sad and lonely when he is not around, showing that BMO does feel cared for and needed by his best friends, albeit in a slightly egocentric way. Love how BMO is under the somewhat selfish impression that Finn and Jake’s lives just completely suck without him, but again, it’s very childlike in that regard. Things take a turn, however, when AMO returns to the scene and hurts both Finn and Jake in the process. AMO is still referred to as “BMO”, which shows that BMO may still fear what lies inside of him in the sense that he may end up becoming bad, just like his sibling. In the same vein, BMO fears AMO becoming the “director” in the same way that he fears his programming for dictating his entire life path.

It’s to be expected that any dream episode will have some form of foreshadowing, namely Jake’s aging and the appearance of his biological parent, Ooo being element-ified, the Nightmare Sword, as well as the appearance of the Lich-faced AMO, possibly addressing that the Lich is still around and still very powerful. This episode is stellar for all of its attempts at mysticism and hidden details, but it’s also very funny as well. Aside from the often nonsensical dialogue, of which Orb is chock full of (namely in the beginning sitcom sequence with Jake and family), this is a great episode for visual gags. Not only do the facial expressions and the general anatomy of characters distort themselves at the turn of a dime, but the camera angles and the way characters interact with their environments are also played with for comedic effect. I love the random, almost pointless extreme close-ups within Jake and BMO’s dreams, as well as how Finn shuffles to the top of a hill without taking general perception into consideration. The backgrounds within Orb are similarly delightful, with something as simple as the red curtain on BMO’s stage looking exceptionally stunning with proper lighting and use of color.

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Orb also marks the debut of Nightmare Princess, of whom actually debuted in the game Secret of the Nameless Kingdom. Though, that Nightmare Princess was a completely different character than the one we see here. I get the feeling that the staff just really enjoyed this concept, and wanted to include this character in several steps along the way, but never did until now. As is, she has a pretty rad design. Of course, there’s not much of a character there, but it is in typical Adventure Time fashion that a character as menacing as herself would want something as trivial as a banana. The dimension she brings Finn and Jake to is similarly awesome, which ends up playing a part in the eventual debut of the nightmare induced Ooo. If I was to pinpoint one problem with this episode, it would be that the gag ending feels like the experience was kind of pointless and only existed to move the story along by providing Finn with the nightmare juice. It’s a silly conclusion, but it might be a little too silly for its own good. Like… what does Nightmare Princess even want with their bananas? Perhaps its ambiguity is what adds to the punchline, but it just isn’t really that shocking or even that funny. The ride to get to this conclusion was certainly fun, but the conclusion itself feels a bit lacking and meaningless.

Regardless, I dig Orb. It’s a fun and enjoyable exploration of our three main boys, with better comedic timing and more intriguing implications along the way. This was the only real break I get from the miniseries side of things, and while it was nice to cover a one-off for a change, I am excited to tackle the balls-to-the-wall nature of Elements, another one of AT‘s most grand and ambitious efforts to date!

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Favorite line: “The director’s right this way, director.”

“The Light Cloud” Review

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Original Airdate: February 2, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Aleks Sennwald, Graham Falk & Adam Muto

The Light Cloud certainly isn’t the weakest of the Islands bunch, but I think it comes the closest to being problematic. Many fans have previously brought up that they thought Islands was way too rushed, which allegedly shows most predominantly in the last two episodes. I have been pretty satisfied with Islands up to this point, and even in its most “pointless” entries (i.e. Whipple and Imaginary Resources) it still offered rich emotional moments and great character interactions. For the most part, The Light Cloud is the same. It gives us a mostly satisfying conclusion with some really great character interactions between Finn and his mother, Susan and Frieda, and the other AT players. What it suffers from, however, is a somewhat rushed and mildly sloppy conflict revolving around the idea of safety vs. exploration.

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Adventure Time usually paints debates in a pretty even way, such as magic vs. science in Wizards Only, Fools or war vs. peace in The Cooler, but I feel like we really haven’t gotten a chance to see a fair angle from the point of view of the humans throughout this miniseries. Through the conclusion of this episode, the humans of Founder’s Island are essentially shown to be naive and undaring in their approach to life, which I think is actually kind of unfair. I personally agree with what Finn has to say about living life through experiencing both pain and happiness, but I think it’s undermining the real possibilities that there are when it comes to the potential dangers that humans could experience once arriving in Ooo. Ooo isn’t exactly the safest place for anyone to live, and the humans themselves don’t really have the benefit of being made of candy to where they can be easily rebuilt. The truth of the matter is that there are real dangers that the humans could run into, considering that they’re nearly extinct to begin with and a large aspect of that has to do with the mutagenic creatures that surrounded them. But I think this real, likely consequence is glanced over in attempt to simply show us how unreasonable Minerva and the other humans are being in their attempts to latch onto the Island.

Minerva is a character that I wish was a lot smarter in her approach to trying to “help” others. I think she has somewhat of a strong point as to why she doesn’t want anyone to leave the island; she lost her son long ago, and the people she cares for have easily become her family over time and she doesn’t want the same to befall them. Despite this, there isn’t really an emotional core to her actions and I feel like she’s dumbed down a tad bit. The episode jokes around with the fact that the Guardian causes more damage than good, and if the writers and characters themselves realize the irony in the Guardian’s creation, then how does the deeply intelligent Minerva not recognize this factor as well? My only excuse for this is that Minnie herself may not all be there… again, it’s been established that Minerva’s experience in uploading her brain map may have left her more robotic than she’d like to admit. In general, I don’t think her actions are necessarily unlikable; as the sole helper on Founder’s Island, she feels that it’s her civic duty to protect the people she has sought out to care for. I just wish it didn’t come at the expense of her common sense.

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In addition, I previously agreed with Finn’s sentiment about allowing fear and danger into one’s life, but I’m not really sure it’s his place to decide what’s best for the people of Founder’s Island. He’s one human, raised among Ooo natives, and can’t really speak what’s best for an entire species. Like I said, I feel as though there are unmentioned dangers that clearly should be addressed, but I think the episode is so caught up with its moral that it doesn’t really want to deal with the other side of things. This, out of any episode in the miniseries, probably would’ve benefited from a second part. I just would have really liked to see this conflict fleshed out from both sides to where it felt as if Minerva and the other humans have a legitimate reason for wanting to stay grounded. What the episode is trying to say is “overprotective is counterproductive” but it ends up feeling more like “safety is meaningless” for me, personally.

With all of that aside, most of this episode is enjoyable for what it wanted to do. Though I feel like Finn’s preaching was a little more pushy than I would’ve liked for it to be, I do think it’s a really nice example of his growth overtime. He no longer desires a life where he is constantly in comfort from the bad things that haunt him. Instead, he’s more into the idea of having those problems and working through them with everything that he’s learned and everything that he enjoys doing. I especially love his inclusion of the fact that not only is life good or bad from time to time, but boring as well. It’s just really refreshing to hear life being explained as “boring” for once instead of limiting it to one big, exciting journey. Like Finn said, life is never just one thing. Most of the episode feels like one big love letter to Finn’s adventures in Ooo in general. We’re first treated to a series of flashbacks that help to emphasize the darkness within Finn’s homeland, followed by a sequence that brings light to how Finn manages to get through those darker times by helping and assisting others. I also adore the description of “kingdoms made of candy, beautiful dragons, fire-breathing princesses, incredibly sad wizards.” That could absolutely be on a postcard for Ooo. While I thought Minerva’s actions were a bit hasty at times, I do appreciate how much fun she is in this episode. She isn’t unlikable or harsh in her actions, as she remains upbeat and quirky throughout the entire experience which makes it much more tolerable in the long run. Finn and his mother’s dynamic is quite sweet, despite Finn’s initial objections. I think it is kind of cool to see how defiant Finn is towards his mother. Had this been a couple years earlier, I would bet that Finn would most certainly sacrifice his humanity for Martin. Now, feeling much more confident in who he is and what he wants from life, he isn’t going to listen to just anyone, even if they are his parent.

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Frieda and Susan come to a resolution, which is also very sweet. Truthfully, I felt like this is another arc that could benefit from a few more moments of focus, namely allowing Frieda to actually release the anger and frustration that she was initially hiding from Kara. It’s pretty interesting to see that not only does rehabilitation change the way hiders view the island, but also how they view emotions and vulnerability in general. It pretty much suppresses every part of a person. Regardless, I do dig the way that Susan’s arc was finally resolved. She gets a happy ending with her friend, but ultimately allows Frieda to make that choice for herself. Susan doesn’t do anything to persuade her, but merely channels the aspects of Frieda’s personality that internalize her to successfully help her friend move forward. It’s a really nice sentiment, and I especially love how Susan ultimately chooses to keep her Ooo name rather than the name she was given. “Kara” represents a girl who was never allowed individuality beyond the system, while “Susan” represents somebody who found her own way, and was able to develop and grow because of it. Islands is definitely the most I’ve ever cared for Susan.

There are a couple more pacing issues within this episode. I like to think that Finn and Jake spent at least a couple weeks or a month on Founder’s Island before leaving, but the way it’s framed, it seems like it’s only been a couple hours. Minerva says to Finn, “you can’t teach a fish to dance overnight,” so does that mean it’s really only been one night? The initial The Light Cloud storyboard included that Finn and Jake had stayed for three months after Finn offered to hang out for a while, which makes it even stranger given the context of the following scenes. I still like to think the boys stayed for a portion of their time, but otherwise, it could’ve used stronger implications. What really drives this one home is the emotional goodbye that Finn bids to his mother via VR. Once more, the elephant in the room is addressed as Finn questions Minerva’s true identity after she uploaded her brain map. He’s left with the unfortunate truth that Minnie herself doesn’t really know, but she at least thinks that she is. For Finn that might just be enough. And for myself, it definitely is.

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The Light Cloud parallels The Dark Cloud in showcasing an extreme version of safety as opposed to an extreme version of danger. I only wish that this concept could have been a bit more challenging in its execution. This episode presents a solution without really showing the possible cons and ends up feeling a bit rushed by the end of it. But, like all seven episodes before it, The Light Cloud offers up terrific character moments and satisfying emotional resolutions to make up for it, bringing this miniseries to an (almost) entirely satisfying conclusion.

Thank you for tuning in to my coverage of Islands! The full miniseries review will be out next week, as I prepare to tackle an entirely new miniseries a couple weeks later. This is definitely the most haywire period of reviewing the series in general, but I’m certainly having a lot of fun with it. So, here’s to more great content along the way!

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Favorite line: “Hope you didn’t come to get the soup!”

“Frog Seasons” Review

While I’m somewhat certain that Graybles Allsorts was always intended to be a series of shorts, Frog Seasons was intended to be a full-length episode in its inception. Not sure what change occurred to demote Frog Seasons to shorts status, and it’s not like the channel was advantaged or disadvantaged by this in any way. They just stuck these 3-minute shorts at the end of episodes during the “Regular Time Adventure Show” block (otherwise known as the “Adventure Time/Regular Show Purgatory Block”) that no kids even ended up watching anyway. So I dunno, it’s a mystery to me, not that it matters much. For the most part, Frog Seasons is a delightful array of shorts that’s kind of improvement over Graybles Allsorts, mainly due to the atmosphere that each minisode possesses. Interestingly enough, the plot for the Frog Seasons shorts is borrowed from the beginning of The Witch’s Garden, a moment that I initially had completely forgotten by the time these minisodes came out.

Spring

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Original Airdate: April 2, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Hanna K. Nyström

Frog Seasons: Spring is unique in being the one time (along with its sister minisode) that Breezy reappears. It’s delightful to see her once more, and I do enjoy how she and Finn are able to have a casual interaction with each other after everything that happened in Breezy. Not to say anything ended awfully between the two, but certainly… awkward. And it’s equally fitting that, in her one reappearance, Breezy breaks out yet another sexual innuendo. That girl’s got all levels of hypersexuality. Also loved how Jake rushes Finn as Breezy begins talking about pollinating. Good brother.

This minisode isn’t especially entertaining and suffers from being a bit slow-paced, though I really appreciate its laidback tone. The backdrops and skies in Spring look terrific and I love the brief moments where Finn and Jake are cheerfully swimming through the pond and engaging in small talk with each other. I’m a huge sucker for the Spring season as a whole, so the atmosphere in this one fills me with nothing but good vibes all around, and it also helps that this short initially aired in April. Made its presence feel even more appropriate. Though, like I said, it’s far from the most interesting of the shorts. When entering the frog’s kingdom, we’re treated to a very drawn out sequence with the frog inside of his room until Finn and Jake are finally kicked out. It’s a little slow, but I think the colors and atmosphere are more than enough to justify Spring‘s existence.

Summer

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Original Airdate: April 9, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Adam Muto

Definitely one of the funnier shorts. One thing I appreciate about Summer is how it plays with the boys’ personalities to its best abilities. I like how Finn is simply into following the frog around for the sake of his diehard curiosity, similar to how he doesn’t mind a boring dungeon crawl in Vault of Bones because he enrolls himself in activities that are strictly for the experience. Jake, on the other hand, isn’t into the idea of pseudo-mysticism and just wants to relax with the Water Nymphs, in what is arguably a more worthwhile experience overall. ‘Specially since Finn mentions wanting to get with babes.

Temperamental Jake is always a ton of fun to watch and Summer is no exception. I love the sudden shift in his attitude when the frog finally does put on the crown (in what is a pretty spectacularly animated sequence) and even in his state of frustration, I do enjoy how he sticks with Finn no matter what. Even though he does have the opportunity to ditch his bro to chill with Water Nymphs, he still stands by Finn’s side, and even ends up getting consumed by the frog because of it. But hey, at least it’s cooler in there, right?

Autumn

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Original Airdate: April 16, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Hanna K. Nyström

While I probably would’ve preferred Fall scenery akin to the paintings in Over the Garden Wall, I do appreciate Autumn‘s mid-November-ish approach to show a more colorless display, with wilted trees and muddy landscapes. I guess it’s technically more realistic to the season than the expectations we usually have for it. It’s definitely not complete eye candy for that reason, but I do dig parts of the story of this one. I truly sympathize with Raggedy Princess in Autumn; up to this point, Raggedy Princess was just sort of a gag character that other characters would shit on from time to time. This is her first real moment in the limelight, and I actually really get into her character. Her voice certainly isn’t the most pleasant, but it is sad to see that, even with her incredibly sweet demeanor, no one will stay to hear her poems that she clearly worked hard on. Even nice dudes like Finn and Jake don’t set the time aside from her. I think her character works great to emphasize those feels of isolation that typically set in this time of year.

The close of this one is alright, with Jake once again choosing his own route to go about the crown situation. The parts with RG were definitely a lot stronger… while the ending to this minisode kind of loses me.

Winter

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Original Airdate: April 23, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Adam Muto

Right up there with SummerWinter is pretty damn funny. Ice King, as always, is hilarious in his desperate efforts to hang out with Finn and Jake (he even calls back to when he used to hate them back in season one) as the boys are resistant as ever. Aside from how blatantly they ignore him, Winter also features Jake’s pretty hilarious walk cycle of how he simply bobs up and down the mountain as Ice King follows him.

This one is also kind of neat on an introspective level. I like how Jake mentions that “life is short.” In their endeavors following the frog, Finn and Jake have missed out on catching up with Breezy, hanging out with Water Nymphs, and even hearing Raggedy Princess’s dope poetry. It begs the question, is one potentially unfulfilling experience more important than three individual ones? Finn mentions that it’s important to finish what you start, but at what cost? If the result is truly disappointing, then is the experience really worth the trip? Finn ends up giving up on his journey but ultimately does miss out on a sweet experience when the Frog transforms into Life and clears the snow straight off of a mountain. I guess Winter is really poking at the idea that every journey has its pros and cons, and that there’s no guarantee things will ultimately work out with any one experience. It could ultimately be fulfilling, but it’s really all about whether the trip there is actually worth it. Good on Ice King, though. Even if he got dissed by his two bros, he still ended up having the best experience in the end. Hooray for underdogs!

Spring (Again)

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Original Airdate: September 2, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Hanna K. Nyström

Spring (Again) easily feels like the most unnecessary addition to the Frog Seasons series. Aside from it lacking the nice visuals or the humor of the previous shorts, it also aired several months after the initial shorts did. Hell, I kind of didn’t even realize this one existed at first. I always thought the “(Again)” meant that they would be reairing Spring a second time on television.

Not really into the script of this one at all. Jeremy Shada doing his impression of LSP is always kind of cringe-worthy to me, and Breezy doesn’t really offer the same amount of charm and compassion that she did in the original Spring short. Honey Man’s dance is certainly cute, with nice musical accompaniment from Tim Kiefer, though it’s hardly as whimsical or beautiful as it was likely intended to be. I guess the real reason Spring (Again) exists is to tie into season seven’s main theme of how “everything stays, but it still changes” in the sense that Finn and Jake continue to follow the frog even after everything they’ve been through (I’m starting to think the frog does cause some sort of time paradox) but otherwise, I thought Winter did a fine job of wrapping of this series of minisodes.

Consensus

Frog Seasons is definitely an improvement over Graybles Allsorts. Frog Seasons really works well with its visual elements, and I genuinely enjoy the idea of a series of interconnected shorts that really don’t have a consistent continuity between each other. It really adds to the anticipation of not knowing what will happen upon each segment. It’s interesting to see how each short differs according to its designated board artist; Adam Muto worked on Summer and Winter, while Hanna K. Nyström boarded SpringFall, and Spring (Again). Ultimately, I felt that Muto’s episodes were a bit weaker in the visual department (aside from some nice boarding efforts), but they were much funnier and more entertaining than Nyström’s overall. Nyström had the nice visuals and atmosphere, but her portions were a bit weighed down by their slow and somewhat dry pacing.

Best to Worst

  1. Summer
  2. Spring
  3. Winter
  4. Fall
  5. Spring (Again)

Favorite line: “Following frogs is like, one of my top 20 favorite pastimes.” (Frog Seasons: Winter)

“Preboot” Review

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Original Airdate: November 19, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Aleks Sennwald & Adam Muto

Before diving into this review, I think it’s important to discuss a little bit of this episode’s history and how it actually plays into the rest of the series. A preview (aka, the first five minutes) of this episode initially aired at San Diego Comic Con back in 2016, and I remember being a bit taken back by what I had seen. After the course of season seven, it really seemed like the show was beginning to slowly wrap up, with many ongoing arcs closing up (PB’s morality, Finn’s aging and resolution with Flame Princess) and many others that are consistently hinted to be wrapping up (Ice King being “cured,” the possibility of another huge war at the hands of Patience St. Pim). The five minutes shown seemed to open up yet another door for exploration when there was already so much on the table that needed closure, and with the additional revelation around the same week that there would be a ninth season of AT, I was really starting to become under the impression that the series was never going to end and that it would eventually lose the luster that made it so special to begin with. I had spoken too soon, apparently, as it was revealed under two months later that Adventure Time had been canceled by Cartoon Network. This was news that was certainly bittersweet for myself, as I was confronted with the idea that my favorite show would be ending, but also that it meant that things would be wrapping up before I had lost interest or investment in the series. As a few more months passed by without any news regarding new episodes, Preboot and Reboot were slated for a November airdate, and Tom Herpich had posted on tumblr in reference to the remaining episodes. He mentioned that, after Preboot and its sister episode, “everything starts rolling into one big snowball that rolls and rolls all the way to the end.” I was struck with curiosity by this statement, but cautiously optimistic. I remember hearing reports back during season six that Escape From the Citadel was stated by the staff to break the status quo entirely when that simply was not true. Though, looking back now, Herpich’s statement really did deliver! I won’t say that everything ties together perfectly, but for the most part, Preboot and Reboot really are a turning point for the series. AT’s relationship with the status quo was the one thing that was holding it back from telling all of the stories that it wanted to tell, and I feel as though the transition into (almost) full serialization is the best possible move and reward for fans at this point in the series. Really feels like a treat for everyone who has been paying attention up to this point. So, without further ado, we have yet another episode that changes Adventure Time as a show forever: Preboot.

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The beginning of this episode is always weird for me. Like, I had always assumed that the Comic Con preview started a minute into the episode or something, but it’s actually the start and jumps immediately into the situation. I usually enjoy when AT throws us into weird situations with no exposition, but it kind of feels like a part of the episode is missing in this case. Was it at PB’s command? Was it a request from the Hyoomans? Definitely could have used some more context clues. I do enjoy their brief excavation, however. Jake genuinely wanting to be cursed is just classic Jake, and Finn thinking that horses used to have poles in their spines before the Mushroom War is classic, dumb Finn.

Things take a very abrupt turn when the assumed to be dead Tiffany pops out of the ground in a narwhal shaped shuttle. Not only did he get a sick new bionic arm, but he’s also going through puberty! Good on him. This is one of Tiffany’s better appearances, though Colin Dean’s voice shift does weigh it down a bit. It’s not like it’s his fault or anything, but it’s really hard for a child voice actor to capture the same charm that they once did before their balls dropped. Of course, it’s different for a character like Finn, who’s actively aging and evolving with each passing episode. This shift reminds me more of Chowder’s shift in Chowder, or Jeff’s shift in Clarence, it feels like some kind of whimsical magic was lost during the change that just can’t be recaptured anymore.

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Aside from Tiffany though, we’re also introduced to Dr. Gross, a character that is pretty cool in her general design (both initially and post-suit removal) and ultimately decent in her motivation. I feel as though her presentation is a little too obvious in this episode, in the sense that it becomes pretty obvious early on that she will be an antagonist towards Finn and Jake. Hell, the episode doesn’t even really try to hide it – Susan is adamantly opposed to Dr. Gross’s behavior and surroundings from the start. As a villain, she’s alright. I think her motivation becomes more clear and somewhat twisted in subsequent appearances, though here, it’s pretty base level stuff. She wants to utilize Finn in order to help to bring himself (and others) into a new golden age of humanity, featuring various different mods and altercations. But after they (very quickly) escape, she kind of just decides that she wants to kill the gang and use them for spare parts instead. I guess it’s supposed to paint her as crazy, but it kind of weakens her character if she’s not given consistency with her motivation. I mean, Finn and Jake were never into the idea of being operated on the begin with, how would their attempt to escape change literally anything? It really seems like her presence in this episode is to merely set up her backstory for future episodes down the line.

Though, her dystopian lair and menagerie are pretty terrific, albeit the song sequence, which is just okay. A lot of the lyrics feel forced and hardly catchy, though I do dig the electro-funk tempo in the background. The animal hybrids are too a lot of fun, with my favorite being the Wolf Lards, who have the “high endurance of a sea lard combined with the bloodthirsty killer instincts of a sea lard.” That was just priceless to me. There are a few other nice editions; I love the scorpmunk that can talk and instead uses dancing to warn others of danger, the return of Clockbear after his debut in Hoots, and the apple with a humanistic face, of which I’m preeeetty sure was based off a child’s drawing for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, but I couldn’t find the information when looking for that fact, so hey, you guys can confirm that for me!

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This scene always weirds me out. Finn and Jake are fucking huge compared to Dr. Gross!

I mentioned this episode setting up for Dr. Gross’s eventual subsequent role, and that’s pretty much Preboot in a nutshell. Not only is it set up for the following episode, but also for future episodes involving Finn’s destination to find other humans. It was admittedly funny to see Finn’s shock about the existence of other human beings, only to contradict himself by mentioning just how many humans he’s actually met over the course of the series. Though, I do have to bring up that it’s a bit contrived that Finn doesn’t mention Susan. He declares in the following episode that he didn’t know she was part cyborg, so wouldn’t his assumption be that she truly is human after the events of Beautopia? I get that they had to play around with the mystery elements for the sake of the story, but I feel as though this is info that he should downright know by now.

And as a whole, Preboot essentially is one big mystery element. It plays around with a lot of ideas and concepts that haven’t yet been answered, and also adds even more questions than we had before. In fact, Preboot alone probably contains the most amount of questions in a single Adventure Time episode yet, of which are answered shortly after, thankfully. Though, it’s kind of hard to go back into this one knowing everything that I know now. It’s got some funny jokes, fun action sequences, and sweet locations, but its ultimate goal is to build on exposition and facts about the past and future of the series that mostly tease viewers into wanting to see more. So when I find did get more, I was satisfied, but there isn’t a ton that draws me back into this one aside from those scattered fun moments throughout. The main goal of this episode is to set up a mask of ambiguity to once again pique the interests of AT audiences, but ultimately sacrifices a portion of entertainment in the aftermath. I truthfully ended up enjoying the second part of this episode, Reboot, more for various different reasons. You kids can read all about it here!

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Favorite line: Crisis Another critical life juncture in the ongoing saga that is Tiffany.”

 

“Daddy-Daughter Card Wars” Review

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Original Airdate: July 7, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Steve Wolfhard & Adam Muto

One of the more common complaints I see being thrown at Daddy-Daughter Card Wars is that Card Wars gameplay is generally glanced over in favor of a story that has practically nothing to do with Card Wars. But honestly, that’s one of this episode’s perks. I mean, did people really just want to see straightforward gameplay for a second time? We already saw that in the original Card Wars, and even then, the game wasn’t really the main focus. It was more about Jake’s unhealthy obsession with the game itself, and how an opposing side of his typically calm and charismatic demeanor was unraveled. That being said, I’m glad Daddy-Daughter Card Wars is what it is. It works semi-successfully to wrap up Jake’s regretful past history, while also giving us more insight into where this turmoil comes from. It’s also essentially Charlie’s debut episode, of whom may just be my favorite of the pups.

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Charlie’s simply delightful. It’s interesting to me that it took her this long to be given a speaking role within the series, as she’s easily the most interesting and unique of her siblings. Aside from having obscure interests, a rad pyramid to hangout in, and intriguing psychedelic connections, she possesses the coolest abilities out of all of the pups. While most of the pups’ powers seem to be relatively basic, Charlie is able to grow to a size so big to the point where she’s literally able to walk across the Earth. That is awesome. In general, she’s really charming and enjoyable in her demeanor as well. She’s quite snarky to Jake throughout the entirety of the episode, and it’s a ton of fun to watch. It mostly comes off as loving and sweet, in contrast to the harsh and detached ways T.V. and Kim Kil Whan can often act towards their father.

I feel like the real thing that makes their relationship fun to watch is that they’re essentially both using each other. I’m often disheartened when the show either has entire episodes focused on Jake being a shitty dad or one of his pups being a shitty kid, but I think this episode has it balanced by showing off both of their shitty sides: Jake merely wants to resolve his past issues (without realizing that he’s adding fuel to that turmoil) and unknowingly recruits Charlie’s help to do so, while Charlie will only help her “poppa” out under the condition that he provides her with something (which is a scene that still freaks me the fuck out to this day. There’s something unnerving about Jake so easily pulling off a piece of his fingerbone).

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Though, it undoubtedly gets a bit muddled at times… about halfway through, Charlie realizes that she regrets not helping out Jake in the past, and it seems like the episode is attempting to paint Charlie as the bad guy in this situation… buuut, shouldn’t Jake also deal with some kind of repercussion regarding his treatment of Charlie? It’s a lot of fun seeing Jake as an absolute, boiling mess in Daddy-Daughter Card Wars, but I guess a tiny complaint I do have is that I feel like he’s a little bit too much of an asshole at times. Adam Muto and Steve Wolfhard do their best to make up for it, like when he literally offers Charlie every bone in his body if she would just simply spend an hour of her day helping him out, but there were certain scenes that rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t care how much Jake cares about Card Wars, I hate that he doesn’t save BMO in the beginning. I mean, my God, that’s your son dude! Granted, BMO jumping off the boat was hilarious, and I’m glad it was left it, but I thought the execution was a bit too harsh for my liking and it kind of leaves a sour taste in my mouth for the remainder of the episode.

That aside, Jake is mostly enjoyable throughout the remainder of the episode. I’ll reiterate, I love seeing him so violently passionate about something. Jake’s mortality has nearly been as prominent of an arc as Finn’s aging process has, and it was really melancholic to see how wary he is for the near future. It is neat that Jake does have some form of self-acknowledgement about his regrets, and wants to at least move forward, even if he doesn’t really know how. In Jake’s head, becoming “dignified” means being able to achieve the victory against Grand Prix that he presumably never had, though it’s made clear by the episode of this episode that becoming dignified means accepting and becoming content with his shortcomings. I like how Jake’s conflict with Grand Prix also goes beyond that fact that he’s simply better at playing Card Wars, but that he also ended up with Moniker, Jake’s ex-girlfriend, which symbolically places him on a higher pedestal in Jake’s eyes. The connection between Moniker and Jake is also delightfully tense, complete with Jake being as awkward as he’s ever been. I like to think that Moniker was likely Jake’s first real significant other, which presumably fuels Jake’s anger and jealousy even more. It feels relatable in the sense that there’s always people from your past that you either hate or are simply envious of, and one has to constantly prove to themselves that they’re better than those people for some kind of unauthentic gratification. The scenes that emphasize Jake’s turmoil are really well done, and I love that the flowing, vigorous stream is a consistent audio cue to signify Jake’s feelings. I also enjoy how his relationship and battling within himself comes into play frequently. After Charlie leaves, Jake first adopts some of his old tactics and behaviors (by creating a duplicate of his past self) and then eventually becomes his old self (by morphing into his devilish, angered form). It’s a really nice touch in the visual department, and that goes for all of Jake’s facial expressions in general. Wolfhard and Muto clearly had a lot of fun with this one, and it helps that these dramatic expressions makes the episode feel like a true sequel to Card Wars.

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The most interesting bit in this episode is easily Charlie’s psychic visions of the future, which paints a bleak, yet deeply poignant vision of what lies ahead. I do like how Charlie’s foreseeable future contrasts with how Jake views each decade; while Jake assumes that he’s supposed to be a certain thing by a specific time in his life, Charlie’s look into the future proves that she really isn’t going to have things figured out until the very end of her life, and that’s pretty much life in a nutshell. While it seems that Charlie does live a fulfilling life, and ends up having a child of her own (none other than Gibbon!), it’s apparent that she also deals with the natural tragedies of existence as well: fearing what lies ahead, feeling intrinsically alone, and losing those close to her as she continues to age. While Jake assumes that he’s supposed to be dignified by this point in his life, he’s adding stress and turmoil to his life by not realizing the vast complexities that life offers. It isn’t until Charlie adopts the demeanor and lifestyle of her 90-year-old self that Jake is able to be “content” in his life, both in his regrets and his future. Though, to be honest, I thought that this was a pretty lazy conclusion. It feels like Jake didn’t really learn anything, and that he was simply altered by Charlie’s ability to give him this knowledge. I feel like it kind of tarnishes what the episode was trying to accomplish if he doesn’t go through the actual process of understanding his wrongdoings, and merely just adopts this knowledge regardless. What if in Don’t Look, instead of hearing what his friends have to say about him to help him to shape his self-view, Jake simply just walked up to Finn, touched him, and shouted “self-acceptance,” and that was that? It’s pretty uninspired and feels cheap. Though, I still do like Jake’s casual acceptance of his loss, and his official burial of his 20’s. Haha, okay.

I think Daddy-Daughter Card Wars is ultimately decent. It’s stronger points are definitely with Charlie, but of course, I’m biased. I think it does have some flaws in the execution of its story and Jake’s character arc as a whole, but nothing that’s especially detrimental to the quality of the episode, aside from the resolution itself. It’s still funny, thoughtful, and has a lot of nice backgrounds/drawings that translate well into the animation process. Two last notes: I do love how everyone within Jake’s contact list in My Two Favorite People is now accounted for thanks to this episode! So cool how they all have somewhat of an active role in this world, even if they’re only on-screen for like, two seconds. Also, Wolfhard drew up a prequel comic for this episode over on the AT tumblr. Check it out here! It’s tons o’ fun, and ties into the central theme of the episode quite nicely.

Semi-daily reviews return in two weeks! Until then, stay tuned for the double review release of Preboot/Reboot next week!

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Favorite line: Hey, you two been kissing?”

“Everything Stays” Review

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Original Airdate: November 16, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Adam Muto & Hanna K. Nyström

I was a bit nervous that Stakes would be limited to merely laying out the backstory of Marceline over the course of 8 episodes, and boy am I glad that it isn’t. While I’m always interested in finding out new details within Marceline’s past, I can’t think of anything more boring than having her entire past history explored and leaving nothing up to interpretation. Thankfully, the deepest dive we get into Marceline’s backstory is within Everything Stays, and it provides the audience with bits and pieces relating to Marceline’s past, without putting all of the pieces together. Thus, we’re provided with new information, but our imagination is still capable of doing a lot of the work. It’s also really nice to get an episode that’s devoted to exploring Earth after the Mushroom War, and how it affected the psyche and wellbeing of our fellow humans, as well as that of Marceline.

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Pretty basic to say, but I really adore that beginning scene between Marceline and her mother. Of course, I had already seen this bit about 50 times before the episode aired because it was shown at San Diego Comic-Con in 2015, but regardless, it makes for one of the most poignant moments in the series. While we haven’t received any actual information regarding Marceline’s mother up until this point, it’s so nice that her only appearance in the series features her being as loving and caring as possible. I myself haven’t come up with a completely solid and well-thought out theory regarding what happened to Marcy’s mom, or even how she ended up getting married to a shyster like Hunson, but regardless, I’m very interested in creating those answers after seeing how close the two were. Rebecca Sugar does a splendid job in her first role as a voice actor. I somewhat thought this casting choice was odd at first, because it was hard for me to separate the voice actor from the voice, but I gradually grew fond of her performance. Sugar has this really passionate, genuine, caring voice and attitude that captures Marcy’s mom perfectly. And of course, the song is perfect as well, which was also written by Sugar. A terrific representation of youth, growing, and the series itself that never seems to wear on me. It was great to see Sugar actually sing outside of a demo version, and the visuals that go along with the tune really tug at the heart strings. Marceline gently gripping her mom tighter as the song goes along is a small detail that gets me every time.

Cutting to something as equally sad, we’re treated to an actual revelation of how Ice King ended up leaving Marceline. I mentioned in the last review about how this miniseries could tend to be riddled with awkward funny moments that often tarnish the emotional weight of the individual moments it presents, but Ice King is typically the type of character to subvert that method. I think Ice King filming the tape (that Finn and Jake watch in Holly Jolly Secrets – Part II) and then immediately shouting, “okay, bye!!” is pretty hilarious, while still remaining tragic. Part of Simon is still very much there and functioning as he mutters all that he can remember about his own life and Betty, though Ice King pretty much reigns supreme at this point. We don’t know what drove Simon overboard to the point where he decided to leave, but if anything is certain, the general gist of his decision is in clear eye: he’s a danger to Marceline. I think this scene is nicely executed, but it’s probably the only bit in the episode that I feel as though I could have gone without seeing. All of the information dished out is stuff that we already kind of knew about or could have gathered from the context clues in I Remember You. I guess I always pictured Marceline and Simon departing each other as especially devastating, while this bit just came across as mildly sad. That was probably the fault of my own headcanon at the time, but as I mentioned, this bit is handled fine and I don’t really have any big gripes with it. It just mostly feels like I’m reliving my feelings towards Simon & Marcy once more.

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Cutting to the next flashback is some new information that the series, or even any spin-off material, hasn’t really touched on up until this point: Marceline’s teen years. I wanna reiterate how cool it is that the writing staff chose to explore a story regarding Marceline’s character that has never been explored before. While I’m sure a ton of people (including myself) were wondering how exactly Marceline became a vampire, I don’t think many people were especially curious about her teen years, given that there was sooo much established within her childhood, and her later years of which she spent with Princess Bubblegum. But, Everything Stays takes a much more challenging route, by dishing out some really nice new information regarding Marcy’s character and her past. I’m not really into Marceline’s Mohawk-mullet combo, but I think it totally suits her teen-angsty self. I also love The Fool’s small role in this episode; I don’t know if I’d really call The Fool my favorite of the vampires, just because they’re all so unique and interesting in their own individual ways, but The Fool is certainly the funniest of the bunch, with some terrific voice acting from Ron Funches. Adventure Time‘s tendency towards juvenile humor is typically met with decent results, but Funches excels with it. He really gets me with even the dumbest of lines, such as, “I look like a buuuutt.” And how neat is it that Marceline actually utilizes the soul sucking abilities that she does possess? Even if she rarely acknowledges the fact that she is half-demon, it is cool to see that it isn’t just a random attribute of her character and that it actually does come into play in regards to how she obtains her various different abilities.

Moving forward, I really enjoy how paranoid the humans are portrayed to be in reference to any possible threat that faces them. After the literal apocalypse that led to dozens of different creatures being unleashed into the world, it makes sense as to why human beings would have such little trust or the ability to understand anyone outside of their species. You feel bad for Marcy, because it seems like she’s the only outsider in this world that actually wants to preserve the greater good for humans, but also understand why these humans want to avoid potential dangers as it is. The return of the animal hats was a nice touch, and it’s cool to see that they actually have a purpose and method of safety beyond just looking silly and/or hiding gils. The established human characters are fun; I think it’s especially sweet that Two Bread Tom is voiced by Tom Kenny, as it seems like a nice tribute to the talented VA whether it was intentional or not. I also think that the Bunny Girl (who is later named Jo in the Islands graphic novel) is a nice additional as well, and provides for some genuinely cute moments. Kind of cool how the Bunny Girl is voiced by Ava Acres, who also voices young Marcy. I get the feeling that Marceline sees a lot of her younger self within the little girl, which is alluded to especially with the voice acting. The way that the Mr. Belvedere theme song is clearly not as tragic as the Cheers theme song’s usage in Simon & Marcy, nor does it try to be, but it’s still enjoyable regardless. Pretty funny that Two Bread Tom wants to keep the stories of olden times relevant by singing the theme song of a corny sitcom from the 80’s. Also loved Schwabl’s small role in this one, just because that dog doesn’t get enough damn attention in this show.

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One thing that’s really been consistently great about Stakes so far is its visual flare, and this episode is no exception. The backgrounds are especially nice and never stagnant, as almost every scene within Everything Stays has some sort of shift in the color scheme in one way or another. Something as simple as changing how the sky reflects the shading of the characters is a really nice touch that keeps the episode feeling fresh throughout its entire course. The animation also picks up during Marceline’s fight sequence with the vampires who oppose her, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I thought Marceline and Two Bread Tom’s exchanges on the boat felt truly bittersweet, as the episode sought to accomplish. TBT’s fear of all the threats that face humanity (including “hungry-looking rainbows”; very nice touch/callback!) on this continent kind of puts into perspective on how massive the Earth is beyond Ooo. While I have no doubt that the entire Earth was forever changed by the Mushroom War, it is cool to think that there are possibilities for places within the world of Adventure Time where magic and crazy characters aren’t especially prominent. Of course, this would be elaborated on more in the next miniseries, but this is a great starting point. It is sad to think that Marceline could’ve been offered a home of comfort and solace away from all of the troubles of her past if she had chosen to go with Two Bread Tom and the other crew of humans before the vampires attacked. Though, since the island is later proven to be an area that is relatively close-minded among its population, things may have not fared well for Marceline in her path to acceptance.

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The eventual fight between Marceline and Hierophant (another one of my favorite vamps) is very enticing, and provides for some really fun banter in between. I mentioned in my review of Marceline the Vampire Queen that Marcy’s quirkier moments come off a little more awkwardly than any other character in the series, but man, Olivia Olsen’s reading of, “blaaaah, I don’t care!” was truly hilarious. Marceline’s humorous side benefits almost entirely from her passion towards mockery. It’s also cool to explore what exactly Hierophant’s powers provide for him; I almost disregarded Marceline’s usage of shapeshifting in Varmints as a continuity error, though I feel like this episode justifies it from seeing how many opportunities that Hierophant has in that department.

The episode leaves off on a great note, as the flashback sequence comes to an end, while building tension and anticipation regarding the identity of the Vampire King. I was excited to see what would happen in the next entry, as Marceline is left with the fact that her vampirism seems to be cured, and that the vampires she once faced are revived as a result. Jake’s face at the end really sums it all up.

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Everything Stays is great. It’s a lore-heavy episode that focuses entirely on dishing out new information, rather than leaning too heavily on what we already know about Marceline. This one also has a pretty solid atmosphere; there’s a real feeling of longing and melancholy throughout, as we explore Marceline’s confusing teen years and what’s left of humanity as we know it. It’s storytelling at it’s absolute finest, focusing on entertainment and what is important for the audience to know, without feeling too cluttered by exposition. It’s also a great debut for Swedish storyboard artist Hanna K. Nyström, who would go on to work on some truly great episodes (and some not so great ones) along the way.

Everything Stays resulted in a lot of great opportunities regarding spin-off material. The life of Jo (the bunny girl), Two Bread Tom, and the other humans is expanded upon in the Islands graphic novel (which I may eventually review on this blog) and the 2015 Adventure Time Spoooktacular elaborates on Marceline’s battle with The Moon. The 2015 Spoooktacular was also illustrated and written by Nyström. Check ’em both out if you haven’t, they’re great!

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Favorite line: “Ah, so good! I had a hoagie for lunch!”

“Varmints” Review

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Original Airdate: November 3, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Adam Muto & Kris Mukai

After an episode like The Comet, which successfully wrapped up Finn’s character arc for the time being, it’s quite fitting that, right off the bat, we’re able to dive deeper into Princess Bubblegum’s demotion dilemma in season seven. Bonnie & Neddy was a decent character exploration on its own, but I’m glad that we’re actually treated with an episode that deals with PB’s stress regarding her “throne-jacking” almost immediately after. It’s also really nice to see Marceline once more after her long-term absence in the previous season, in what makes for not only a great in depth look at Bubblegum’s turmoil regarding her status, but also her falling out with Marceline that has never been addressed in great detail up until this point.

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The beginning is just splendid. Any hesitation I felt about enjoying King of Ooo’s character in the last episode was immediately squashed after his brief scene in Varmints, which is purely hilarious. It’s also unique to this episode that Marceline and KOO actually interact with each other, and while their relationship is never explored in full detail (nor does it need to be) it’s cool to see that Marceline is familiar with him. I’m sure he caused tons of different issues for the two gals back in the day.

The feelings of anger that Marceline feels towards PB are totally warranted, especially after finding out that it’s been two whole months since KOO took over the Candy Kingdom. Granted, it’s been two months on KOO’s “Torontian” calendar, which could easily translate to two, maybe three weeks, tops. After working at rekindling their relationship in episodes like Sky Witch and Princess Day (and likely off-screen) Marcy probably feels hurt by the fact that Bonnibel still isn’t being honest with her even after they came to an understanding with each other, and even then, Bonnie isn’t really being honest with herself either. A lot of y’all replied to my review of Hot Diggity Doom and mentioned that PB didn’t technically get voted out of her kingdom, as she decided to quit instead, but I personally always figured that it was a mask for the benefit of her own pride. Though it was barely legal, the election depicted in Hot Diggity Doom clearly did show that the Candy People no longer wanted Bubblegum to run their kingdom, and while PB likely acknowledges that, she also has a failure to accept it. Hence why she once again mentions that she wasn’t kicked out and that she simply “quit.” Her breakdown later on shows that she likely doesn’t believe this as much as she tries to.

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A good amount of the first act is dedicated to Marceline and PB shooting the breeze by a pumpkin patch, and it provides for some really nice, laidback moments. A lot of what this episode accomplishes is similar to The Pajama War, where two characters were able to catch up and strengthen their relationship after a period of awkwardness. It’s nice to just watch PB and Marceline breathe and discuss whatever comes to mind with each other. Whether you ship Bubbline or not, this episode is able to be enjoyed on two different levels: those who personally view the two girls as old friends, and those who view them as past lovers. The episode makes it just vague enough that you’re able to gather as much as you truly want to from their interactions, and it doesn’t tease or pander in one way or another to distract viewers from the true meat of their relationship at hand.

The design of the varmints is really neat, and isn’t at all what I would expect these creatures to look like, though in a rewarding way. Their main facial design itself isn’t particularly unique, but the extra detail that is contributed to their limbs, caterpillar like tails, and many teeth makes them very versatile when it comes to their movements and their attacks. Speaking of nice, detailed designs, the beast form that Marceline transforms into is AWESOME! Said design is actually courtesy of Kris Mukai, who joined the staff for  a brief bit period of time this season. Mukai’s style is very distinctive, with the especially rounded and wider heads that each character sports, and her contribution of creating Marceline’s wolf design is exactly the kind of innovative move I like to see from guest board artists. Don’t even get me started on PB’s gun either, because I freakin’ love it. The fact that she can turn creatures into literal batteries, and magically create another weapon by simply setting the device to “two gun,” is hysterical. What a brilliantly convoluted mechanic. The crystal cave setting is also a pretty delightful, and it’s made more endearing and realistic by the fact that Marcy and Peebs have an actual history within the cave.

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Speaking of which, a large portion of this one focuses on Marcy and PB recapping their glory days, as well as what exactly went wrong and caused their falling out. This is as overtly emotional as the series has been in a long time, but it is welcomed and feels appropriate given that PB rarely ever expresses her feelings, and only does so because she’s lost practically everything. And man, does PB’s breakdown hit me hard. I totally sympathize with her situation; Bonnie put her blood, sweat, and tears into making her kingdom and the Candy People flourish to their fullest potential, and as a result, she lost practically everything that she had worked so hard to accomplish. She took on a nearly impossible task that practically no one else could achieve, but it also meant shutting off her humanity and pushing everyone away. It’s a sad fact of life and never easy to find that balance one way or another, and PB is learning the hard truth of what it means to be all work and no play.  After all that she’s been through, it’s no wonder that she would arrive at her lowest point here, but also at a point where she can regain that humanity once more. PB not only acknowledges all that she has lost, but starts to realize what she can gain from those losses, as she passionately vents to Marceline, who is nothing but understanding through the process. With this newly found respect, the two can rekindle their relationship that neither of them ever truly wanted to lose, and can also beat down some dern varmints in the process.

The episode ends on a perfect note, as an understandably tired PB rests her head on the arm of a close companion under the stars. All while a misinformed Peppermint Butler hides out at his boss’s request. Varmints is good fun with an emotional center. It’s packed with lots of enjoyable action, designs, backgrounds, and a genuinely compelling dynamic between Marceline and Bonnibel. The relationship between the two would only continue to develop as the series progresses, but this is certainly a great starting point for the two, and dare I say the best Marceline and Bubblegum episode to date.

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Favorite line: “Tell Bubblegum I wear her nightgown. Tell everyooooone!”

“Dark Purple” Review

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Original Airdate: February 19, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Sloane Leong & Adam Muto

Out of all the recurring characters in Adventure Time, I don’t know a single character who disappeared for a longer period of time than Susan Strong did (not counting original one-shots like Me-Mow and Science Cat). The gap of 119 episodes between Beautopia and Dark Purple made it feel as though she was never going to appear again, but this episode returns her to the spotlight. Unfortunately, her first episode in three years is largely unremarkable, and while I don’t know if I would call it awful by any means, I think it kind of comes off as uninteresting on almost every level.

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The beginning scene is the best of the episode, and genuinely enjoyable at that. I loved seeing Finn, Jake, BMO, and Marcy hang out after how long it’s been since we’ve seen this group of characters together. Even though Marcy had a brief moment of screentime in Astral Plane, it’s really rewarding to see her again here, especially when it means she gets to just kick back with her boys. Hell, it even feels like forever since we’ve seen BMO! Seeing him all giddy over Jake’s skateboard tricks made me realize just how much I missed his presence. And Jake’s skateboarding was also pretty gnarly; love how this becomes and actual trait and interest of his character. The way Jake and Finn get excited over the Super Porp delivery into the vending machine just felt like classic Adventure Time, and something only the bros could get into to. It’s somewhat clever to me how Super Porp has been seen in the background of a ton of different episodes, and even in Simon & Marcy, which helps drive forth the point that the soda has been around for 1,000 years. Again, another classic AT move that picks up on details that most wouldn’t even notice. Jake’s explanation for not wanting to explore the Super Porp factory is an obvious segue, but one that feels totally in line with his character, as Jake would likely prefer enjoying the simpler things in life in complete ignorance, rather than ruining those simple things by investigating further.

And that segue takes us right into Beautopia, where we spend the rest of the episode with Susan Strong and her new squadron of sidekicks! Yay, I guess? Look, I’m not one to complain about season six’s method of taking obscure side characters and giving them their own episode; for the most part it works, with episodes like Little Brother, Nemesis, Thanks for the Crabapples, Giuseppe!, and Evergreen, but other times it doesn’t, as seen in Sad Face and Gold Stars. I think the biggest thing that weighs this one down is actually its strongest element, which is that beginning scene. An episode featuring Marcy, Finn, Jake, and BMO exploring an underground factory sounds entirely more interesting than what we actually got. It’s not that I don’t like Susan Strong, but I think all of the interesting bits of her character practically relate back to Finn. Not saying she can’t work on her own, as we see later with the Islands arc, but otherwise, I really enjoy her unique connection to Finn more than anything, while I think she’s just okay on her own. And it doesn’t help that we haven’t seen her in over a hundred episodes… any investment I did have in her character was kind of bogged down by the fact that we literally never see her, and I would have wanted something a bit more interesting to chew on than to watch her try to stop a corrupted soda factory. It really feels like this was mostly just an opportunity to reveal the metal implant on the side of her head, which didn’t even really phase me much at all. Again, I think this was a necessary development down the line that becomes way more interesting once it’s explored, but again, it feels like nothing more than a teaser for what’s ahead, rather than a natural part of the episode. Granted, I think it was obligatory that SOME new development for her character was included in this episode, given how long its been since she has appeared, but it’s still frustrating that every Susan Strong episode so far feels like it’s just blue-balling fans who want to know about her true nature. It isn’t for a whole season later until we begin to get some legitimate answers.

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The story itself is pretty unremarkable as well. I like the environment of the factory, and the purples in this one really pop, but I feel like the conspiracy is something I could care less about. I dunno, maybe it just wasn’t funny or interesting enough, or maybe it’s the fact that this one kind of ripped off Futurama’s slurm episode, but I just find myself utterly bored by the plot. It has its moments throughout, even though they are few and short. Some of the workers are funny, namely the one that keeps muttering “uh-oh!” over and over again, and that porp beast was pretty sick. There’s hints of good animation here and there during the action sequences, even though the action itself is nothing spectacular. I actually get into the smaller moments more than anything; I like how Susan’s one friend, Sally, speaks in sign language as opposed to English. I can’t think of a single other character that comes to mind who does so, so it’s nice to get this bit of diversity in the Land of Ooo. Also, Susan’s English itself seems to have gotten better, even if she still speaks in the third person and through broken sentences. It helps that gap in time to at least feel beneficial to her character, and to allow her to grow up a bit.

The climax is pretty bleh. I like the concept of Super Porp spanning multiple generations, but the way it’s executed with Cheryl is pretty lame. I guess it could have been some kind of cool allusion to slave labor, but it’s once again muddled by the fact that it isn’t given any time to develop. A majority of the episode is Susan traveling through the factory, and about ten seconds are actually dedicated to Cheryl and her plan. The dilemma is barely given any time to develop, and is resolved in the matter of seconds. Also, Susan’s disdain for Super Porp as a brand is kind of odd to me. I mean, does the entire factory really deserve to be destroyed just because it was headed by a corrupt ruler? Couldn’t Super Porp just continue to exist under new management? I just find it weird that Susan continuously points out how bad the soda is when it isn’t having any negative effect on other people. Dunno if this was just a result of her ignorance, or if it was a result of clunky writing.

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But yeah, this one is kind of a snoozefest otherwise. I can’t really think of a single thing that sticks out to me during Susan’s story, and it feels entirely unremarkable in nature. While the timespan between Beautopia and this episode has something to do with Dark Purple’s failure, I don’t think it would fare much better even if it did air earlier. It isn’t very funny, it isn’t very interesting, and Susan Strong isn’t very compelling outside of the reveal that she has some sort of attachment on her head. Even when one of the “obscure character spotlight” episodes do fail, they are at least is somewhat unique or interesting. Sad Face is pretty bland, but I would have never expected an episode to be focused solely on Jake’s tail. Dark Purple just proves to be pretty unremarkable in every way possible, and provides for one of the dullest episodes of the season.

Favorite line: “Alright, well, it’s one month later.” (Because I say that every time a month has passed too, Jake.)