Tag Archive | Ako Castuera

“Sky Witch” Review

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Original Airdate: July 29, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Jesse Moynihan

If there’s one thing I always like to make clear in regards to Bubbline is that it is not, nor was it ever, the most important or crucial story that Adventure Time has ever tried to tell. That idea alone seems like common sense, but there seems to be a handful of people that hold the belief that Bubbline is the sole arc of importance in the entire series. For me personally, I enjoy the relationship between the two, for the most part. I think they have a nice, charismatic dynamic, and a decent history that’s both believable and quite poignant. Though, like any other character, story arc, or plot point in the series, I’m not going to act like it’s sheer and utter perfection. And I think this episode, while not bad by any means, shows that the two working off of each other isn’t always especially raw or endearing, and in fact, I think it’s a little clunky in execution. I bring this up simply because, as these reviews go on, I’m not really going to aimlessly praise every scene featuring Bubbline as an undeniable masterpiece. At best, I think they can provide for a likable connection between two opposites. At worst, I think their chemistry with each other can somewhat fluctuate and/or feel slightly forced.

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I think the main issue with the way the two are portrayed in this one is that I’m never completely emotionally invested in the two. I think the writing is a bit schizophrenic and never really lets the moments that are supposed to be a bit more powerful and effective come across that way. PB talking down Hambo to Marceline should’ve been a pretty harsh and heart-wrenching speech, though it’s glanced over pretty quickly and isn’t really given enough time to explore. Whereas the ending, where PB suddenly decides that she isn’t leaving without Hambo and heroically rescues Marceline’s stuffed animal comes across as a bit rushed to me. I mean, it’s obvious that PB does care about Marceline and doesn’t want to hurt her at the end of the day, but I thought her transition from “Hambo’s fucking stupid, let’s leave” to “AW, HELL NAW, AM I LEAVING WITHOUT HAMBO” feels slightly bipolar. This is one of those instances where PB’s detachment feels kind of detrimental to some of the more challenging aspects of the episode; we want to see PB be charismatic and care for Marceline, though she’s written so apathetically that I never feel like I know what I’m supposed to feel. The parts that are supposed to be more emotional and build on the connection between the two just feel… lacking.

But, what this one lacks in emotion, it makes up for with some pretty humorous interactions between the two gals. PB’s bitchiness is amped-up in this one, and boy, is it tons of fun to watch. I love her passiveness towards something that means so much to Marceline, considering PB probably doesn’t have much of an emotional connection to her material possessions as others would. I also love her brutal roast of Raggedy Princess, it comes so out of left field. This is really when PB’s “cold-hearted” behavior starts to come out in full force, and I think it’s a pretty gradual transition at that.

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Marceline, on the other hand, is characterized just alright. Jesse Moynihan once said that he struggles to write for Marceline the most, and I think it kind of shows. Not to say she’s written poorly, but I don’t she’s portrayed as very interesting either. I do enjoy the way she seems to struggle when first asking PB to spend some quality time with her, as it’s pretty clear that she hasn’t completely warmed up to the idea of being close to PB again, and that it’s somewhat of a pain to try and connect with her. Again, these are moments that I wish were emphasized a tad more. I think some of those moments are brought down by some pretty awkwardly written moments for Marcy. Her emphasis of how important it is to rescue Hambo goes on a bit too long for my liking, and her insistence of bopping PB on the head seems a bit too… goofy for her. I mean, Marceline does have her silly moments, though not to the degree that the other characters are able to. She’s more deadpan and snarky than straightforward zany.

I think this is one where the settings are pretty dope; where the typical AT forest is usually bright and colorful, this one features a darker, more desolate forest that I think is actually a nice touch for a change. In addition to that, Maja’s mansion is pretty dope. Aside from the cool anti-gravitational landscape, I like all the small details, like the fact that Maja is a clear collector/hoarder. There’s also a portrait of the ghost lady from The Creeps that I’m not sure how it ended up in Maja’s possession, but I’m assuming she just wandered across it while casually traveling around in Ooo one day.

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Maja herself is good fun; she’s voiced by Jill Talley, who is actually Tom Kenny’s wife and the voice of Karen on SpongeBob SquarePants. Talley, per usual, offers great talent to the character of Maja, that’s only added to by the demonic double voice she delivers under her regular voice. Reminds me of HIM from The Powerpuff Girls. Maja’s Crabbit is an interesting concept as well, though again, I think his presence in the episode could’ve been a little more interesting. I kinda wish he did return with Maja later on in the series, as I would’ve liked to continue to see him as her buttmonkey companion.

What this one boils down to is a mildly fun adventure focused episode. I think it could’ve been stronger, considering we only get so many Marcy and Bubblegum interaction episodes until season 7, but otherwise, I think it’s fine. In terms of what Bubbline shippers like to see, I don’t even think there’s a ton you can analyze or look deeper into. There’s the completely odd moment at the beginning where PB inhales the shit out of Marceline’s shirt, but I think that just kind of comes off as awkward and ill-fitting than charming or likable. It’s a light and fun quest that serves as some tasty fluff to prepare for when things go completely off the walls in the next episode.

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Favorite line: “My googoomamameter is going babies!”

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“One Last Job” Review

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Original Airdate: June 10, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Ako Castuera

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The Great Bird Man” Review

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Original Airdate: March 4, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Jesse Moynihan

Xergiok was a pretty one-note character during his first appearance in The Silent King, so it’s somewhat odd that they brought him back for another spotlight appearance in this one. I mean, it’s not completely out of the ordinary for AT to do; look at Magic Man, who started off as this really one-dimensional jerk and is now what I consider to be one of the show’s most complex characters. That goes for many of Adventure Time’s characters, to say the least, and with Jesse Moynihan behind the helm of this one, who is also behind giving Magic Man so much depth, it just ultimately seemed to make sense. However, this one kind of ends up just being pretty dull.

Part of the issue is, well, I just still don’t find Xergiok that interesting at all. He was okay in his first appearance, but I’m not sure as to why we’re supposed to care for him otherwise. I get what they’re going for here; I think the concept of someone attempting to change their life around after something drastic happens to them is a pretty interesting concept, and the idea of whether they’ve actually changed inside and out is always an intriguing inquiry. But again, I go back to my first statement that Xergiok isn’t really that interesting of a character, and it’s hard to sympathize with him at all when we barely know anything about him to begin with. This plot could’ve been done a lot better with maybe Ice King or even Magic Man, but it baffles me as to why they chose this character to be a representative for this theme.

The plot and motif also seem pretty weak as well. I’m not even really completely sure what to gather from it in the end. That you should leave your old life behind completely and never (literally) look back again? That change is hard, so you have to commit yourself fully to new ideas or you won’t be able to make a difference? I dunno, whatever it is, I couldn’t really gather anything that cohesive. I actually really do like the idea that Xergiok’s life turned around once he lost his sight, but I don’t feel like there were any interesting allegories or metaphors that actually came from it. Just a pretty straight forward story that ends more with a whimper than a bang.

I wouldn’t really desire a deeper meaning so much if this episode was fun, but sadly, I think it’s a bit middling when it comes to entertainment. It has its moments: I still fucking love the idea of Xergiok breastfeeding, and feel like it’s one of the most single shocking gross out jokes in the series. There’s also some good Finn and Jake moments as always, like Finn tossing the communicator that PB gave to him ala The Other Tarts or Jake discussing his cool ex-girlfriend that knew Braille, which I’m assuming is Monniker. There’s other jokey bits that don’t really work for me, like Xergiok’s psychedelic song in the sky, which I thought was just kind of dumb. I usually like whatever trippy and psychedelic shit JMoyns has to offer for this show, but Xergiok’s singing voice kind of kills it and the lyrics themselves aren’t that interesting or poetic. I also thought the ending, which was funny on an absurdist level that also tied the beginning and the end together, was somewhat of a lazy conclusion to Xergiok’s story. I like it in the sense that it offers the simple solution to loneliness, which is finding someone to be with, but it was clearly thrown in there as a silly finishing gag that doesn’t really address Xergiok’s still remaining issues at all.

I actually really like the backdrops in this one. Time of day plays a really big part with the sky scenes, as we get to see nightfall, sunrise, sunset, daytime, and a lot of different brightly colored backgrounds that just look lovely. I also like the designs of the birds as well. They could’ve easily made regular birds look gigantic, but in typical AT fashion, they’ve created some really unique looking feathered friends, with giant noses and pointed ears. I also enjoy how they’re all named after flavors and tastes, signaling that Xergiok likely has a stronger sense of taste because of his disability.

I think this one definitely has missed potential and lacks an overall feeling of fun. I think this could’ve so easily been a more interesting episode if it just had focused on the right character for the story, but Xergiok simply isn’t a character that can hold any kind of weight to himself. It’s no wonder that he hasn’t appeared once since this episode. It’s a dry F&J expedition that ends up not really having a ton to say by episode’s end.

Favorite line: “The mermaids are trying to beach themselves. I came to see why. Turns out they’re just lonely.”

“Mystery Dungeon” Review

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Original Airdate: January 21, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Ako Castuera

Adventure Time has the benefit of having a very compelling cast of secondary characters, so the idea that we won’t be getting a typical Finn and Jake adventure is never something that’s dreaded. That’s why when I saw there would be an episode that starred Ice King, Tree Trunks, Lemongrab, NEPTR, AND Shelby, I instantly said to myself, “this is going to be the greatest episode of all time.” While that may have been a gross exaggeration, it definitely is a great comedic outing for the season and series in general.

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What makes this such a strong episode is really just blending all of these unique personalities together. Lemongrab’s histrionic behavior, Ice King’s loneliness, Tree Trunks’ slow mind, Shelby’s sarcasm, and NEPTR’s optimism all work off of each other just great, and individually they work just as well. It’d be silly to not talk about each character and what makes their presence work in this one, so I’ll take a look at them one by one.

This is probably Lemongrab’s most straightforward funny appearance outside of his debut. Lemongrab is mostly utilized for psychological and somewhat antagonistic reasons in his featured episodes, but this one mostly focuses on just how unusual and loud the sad lemon man is. And boy, does it pay off. I think this is arguably his funniest appearance in the series, only adding to his already over-the-top behavior, including him punching a rat, eating a pie out of the rat’s mouth, and constantly referring to people as his slaves. He really is the biggest tyrant ever featured in the series, and it’s emphasized in this one for added hilarity. I think his desire to rule others in this one, as well as You Made Me, are really what drive his further desires to have complete control over others in future episodes.

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I just noticed something. NEPTR is fucking sweating. What a ludicrous visual.

NEPTR is, as always, a lovable loser. It’s a fucking crime against society that this is his only appearance in season five, because every time he’s on-screen, it’s just delightful. And I’m so glad they took advantage of the NEPTR-Ice King dynamic once again; I assumed that was something that was just going to be virtually ignored, but it’s nice to see that, even after NEPTR chose Finn and Jake, he still has positive feelings toward his “poppy.” Even more fitting is seeing that the Ice King doesn’t remember him even slightly, and even sadder is that NEPTR wasn’t supposed to be included at all! If there’s one character in this show that’s sadder than Ice King, it’s NEPTR man. It hurts my soul when Ice King calls him a “useless pile of junk.” Though, it’s nice to see that he and his poppy get a happy ending. It’s pretty sweet that NEPTR actually remembered something that Ice King taught him.

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Tree Trunks brings her usual dimwitted old-person-ness to the table, and I like how her role is virtually useless as well. Like, would her ability to make apple pies have really saved her and the others from a giant rat? It’s likely not. She did provide the grossest sequence in the entire episode when she snorted a dollop of snot, or “essence” into Lemongrab’s mouth, which still kind of has me scratching my head to this day. How did she know that would even work? I enjoy her long-winded monologue aimed at Ice King, but mainly for the fact that her slow speech patterns and demeanor just completely divert the attention of everyone watching her. It’s like, I as an audience member even have trouble following her unfocused babble, and the characters humorously follow in the same direction.

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Shelby brings a bit of sarcastic edge to this one, and I truly think he’s the shining star. I really appreciate his dry-wit and his attitude of “I could give less than a fuck,” throughout the entire episode. Probably the biggest laugh I get out of this one is the fake-out where it seems like Shelby’s going to volunteer to be on the fishing line, and then it immediately cuts to Tree Trunks. That was a terrific bit with great timing and payoff.

And of course, the man who concocted this whole plan himself, the Ice King. I have to give him props for his insanely convoluted plan, and how it, for the most part, works. It’s a strangely competent plan for the likes of the IK, despite the fact that he clearly didn’t wasn’t paying attention when he grabbed NEPTR, because he doesn’t look a thing like BMO. And tying the entire plan back to Ice King’s desire to bring Fionna and Cake into the real world was pure genius. Though, my only gripe with this is that it would’ve made much more sense coming after Bad Little Boy than before. I’m not sure what came first in production order, but now that episode just has a somewhat confusingly foreshadow-y ending with no real payoff. Though, the payoff in this one with the book coming alive at the literal hands of the Ancient Sleeping Magis of Life Giving (his first appearance!) was deeply hilarious, and I know this pissed a lot of people off, but c’mon, you have to at least snicker a bit at his incessant flatulence and Mickey Mouse gloves and voice.

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As I mentioned, I think the episode ends on a perfectly sweet note with NEPTR reminding Ice King about his imagination zone. Also on a hilarious note, as Lemongrab makes an extremely abrupt departure and utters, “byedon’tfollowme,” and Finn, Jake, and Shelby watch the Ice King and lament over how sad he is, and how sad they are watching him.

It’s worth noting that this is a “Dungeon” episode, and while the actual dungeon itself isn’t the focus of the episode, they do manage to craft a relatively creative area filled with traps, neat looking beasts, and cool landscapes. It’s far from the coolest dungeon AT has ever put out, but again, the focus of the episode is the humor, not necessarily the visuals.

And aside from that, I have remarkably little to say. This is just an all around funny episode filled with great jokes, characterization, interactions, and twists. It’d be pointless of me to go through every great joke or line in this one, because there’s so Goddamn many of them. So here’s a special Favorite line section filled with some of the episode’s greatest bits of dialogue.

Favorite line(s):

“Check out my mods, bro!”

“Ice King, how do you taste?”

“Make pies, slave.”

“Golly, how we ever gonna worm our way out of this… fishy situation?”

“Don’t criticize my running, Shelby.”

“So stop sellin’ fib-bibs and give it straight!”

“You should’ve told us! I would’ve freaking brought something!”

“You serve no function, you must be destroyed.”

“Who in this world is sadder than the Ice King?” “Me, watching this.”

“All the Little People” Review

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Original Airdate: December 3, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Ako Castuera

There’s a certain amount of criteria that must be met for an episode of AT to rank among my all-time favorites. It needs to:

  1. Be different from the show’s usual formula, while still retaining the charm and delightful characterization of any regular episode.
  2. Capture everything that makes the series so special, including good humor, heart, charismatic characters, and thought-provoking material.
  3. Be unique to anything else I’ve ever seen on television.

While there’s certainly plenty of episodes that meet parts of this criteria, only a select few meet all three individual points. All the Little People, with its very dark and uncomfortable approach at capturing Finn’s constantly evolving adolescence, hits on all of these points. It still takes place in the Land of Ooo and follows the latest debacle of our two main heroes, but rather than fighting a physical enemy or solving some sort of quest, Finn instead has to battle with his own identity and how much control he should be able to have over other people. It gets heavy-handed and grim, but remains bright and colorful throughout, and still captures the quirkiness, heart, and depth of our main boys. And I can’t think of a single series that captures a teenager’s fascination with relationships, combined with the the act of manipulation and the question of power so delicately and perfectly. It lands right up there with Sons of Mars, I Remember You, and Incendium on my personal group of favorites.

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Right from the title card, it’s hard not to be left with an ominous feelings of what’s ahead. The picture itself appears innocent and playful, as Magic Man designs toys (the Little People) of Finn and others. The music cue is what really makes the artwork feel significant and impactful. The entire episode’s soundtrack derives from the tune of a quarter-tone piano, and the title card itself includes a sample of it. Once the loud and hollow cue of a bass-drum goes off during this sample, you really get a feeling of “oh shit, something big is going down.” I don’t give the composers of this show, Tim Kiefer and Casey James, enough credit in these reviews, but they really did a stupendous job in particular with the score for this episode. The entire score feels unwelcoming, and really compliments the the tone and atmosphere of the actual episode.

The beginning of the episode starts off with a beautifully lit sunset, as the boys sit wistfully by a cliff and discuss relationships. I really love how the main story of this episode is set up by Finn asking simple and innocent questions about relationships and how they work. Though he’s involved in a committed relationship, Finn is only fourteen, and wildly inexperienced. He still has much time before he is able to grasp the fundamentals of a successful and healthy relationship, and still has many questions on how he will be able to achieve such a relationship. It’s interesting to see that, while he deeply cares for Flame Princess, it seems he may have some doubts about his relationship. He and FP have great chemistry, but still are wildly different in nature and interests. Jake, being someone who has tons of life experience and knows what a healthy relationship should consist of, gives Finn the most simple and surprisingly most logic answer of “just go with your heart.” It’s a sweet moment between the brothers that showcases the differences of the boys in the best ways possible, and clearly captures early on that Jake understands the matrix of relationships, while Finn may not be able to fully understand yet.

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This is where Magic Man makes his brief entrance, while he enjoys the boys’ conversation and even shares a laugh with them. Even to this day, it’s hard to understand what exactly Magic Man’s motivation is, whether to teach Finn a lesson in responsibility, or simply to fuck with his life as always. There’s tons of different angles you can take with it, but probably my favorite is just simply the idea that Magic Man wanted to show Finn what it’s like to have power over other people. Magic Man is constantly ruining the lives of others and playing god by using his magic to determine the destiny of others, so he’s now showing Finn how easy it is to take things out of control and abuse the power one does have over other living beings.  

Before Magic Man departs, he states, “I’m not coming back.”

And yeah, there’s tons of different moments I can point out to when it comes to allusions to Finn’s sexual awakening; Finn’s reaction to Jake noticing that he has something in his pants, the way Finn shakes the little people, yadda yadda. To mention it all would be somewhat redundant. It’s all there and all pretty obvious, but I think there are way more interesting bits regarding Finn’s identity as a hero and as person than just pointing to any scene that references Finn’s horny, teen urges. It’s a fun glimpse at how much they were able to get past the radar, but it’d be silly to waste a ton of time highlighting anything that y’all probably already thought about the minute you saw it.

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The most interesting aspect is really just the way Finn interacts with the Little People. I enjoy how the Little People are versions of pre-existing characters we already know. They could’ve just went full-on Sims and had these miniature versions be any random customized figurines, but the fact that they are citizens of Ooo helps us connect to them more emotionally, while still being able to disconnect them from their grown counterpart. The Peanuts adult speech patterns of the Little People are cute and endearing, and really help to separate them from appearing to be sentient beings. As Finn continuously says throughout the episode, “they’re just toys,” which shows his ignorance towards understanding that the Little People are anything besides just that: interactive figures for the pleasures of Finn and Jake. Had the Little People been speaking English as opposed to their trademark “wa wa wa’s,” I think Finn’s actions would easily be more despicable and unpleasant, but the fact that the distinction is there makes it seem more understandable that Finn would want to use them however he likes. I mean, being honest, who wouldn’t want to interact with these characters the way that Finn is? Having a tiny bag containing little versions of all the people you know would be dangerously intriguing, which makes Finn’s decision to experiment with them more empathetic and less cruel.

It is noteworthy that, the first time Finn does choose to experiment with the Little People, he first checks to see if Jake is awake.  It’s clear that Finn know that he’s doing something wrong, even if he’s not sure why. Whether he didn’t want Jake to wake up and see that he was destroying the miniature version of he and Lady’s relationship, or that he simply didn’t want Jake to know that he was experimenting with these figures at all, it’s clear that Finn’s fascination with these figures succeeds his desire to be morally correct and thoughtful in regards to his interactions. That’s why, when Jake does realize what Finn’s been doing the next morning, he’s noticeably freaked out. Probably the most shocking moment in the entire episode is Jake discovering the little Finn and little Rainicorn smooching, as Finn reacts apathetically to the entire situation. Finn acknowledges once again, “they’re just toys,” (while also reading a book by J.T. Doggzone that has the exact same quote from Jake in the beginning of the episode, hint hint) showing that, even though he’s spent an entire night seeing how the Little People would interact with each other, his desire to play with the Little People and see how their relationships with each other work out has only gotten worse.

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This is where Finn’s manipulative side comes out in full force; it will later plague his life in ways he probably could never have imagined, but one of his greatest character flaws comes from simple curiosity and desire to have people’s lives follow in the ways that he’s most interested in. Like I said, when putting it in this context, it makes Finn seem like a monstrous, immoral jerk, but his ignorance toward the situation and general fascination are hard to pinpoint as truly sociopathic for a 14-year-old boy. Most of this intrigue derives from his initial curiosity with how relationships work in the very first frame: he’s simply invested in the unusual relationships he’s created with the Little People and interested in how they are able to function in certain partnerships. This, of course, includes an obligatory inclusion of the threesome between Lollipop Girl, Choose Goose, and Abracadaniel that everyone has been requesting to see for years. It refers back to my statement earlier that this episode manages to be very unsettling while also being silly and colorful. I can’t even describe my feelings of combined disgust and enjoyment with Turtle Princess spanking Xergiok’s behind. It’s also a nice return for some characters we really never get to see or haven’t seen since the very first season, even if it isn’t actually said characters.

Following this bit is probably the most interesting piece in the episode, which is Finn experimenting with the tiny FP and tiny PB respectively. It starts out innocently enough as Finn just casually and happily watches the two figurines romanticize with each other (much to the dismay of a crying little Lady; the first big indicator that the Little People are capable of real, human emotions). Things take a turn when Finn then begins to experiment with little PB and little Finn’s interactions, which quickly take the same direction as the prior encounter. I think the particular pacing in this part is just great; just from Finn’s facial expressions, there’s a lot to read into. He looks very concerned and troubled when little PB and little him begin to interact, perhaps due to the nature of his feelings and commitment to Flame Princess, which probably brings him a great deal of shame and guilt that he is pursuing this fantasy. He quickly shakes off the guilt when he notices that no one is watching, and continues to be invested on what will happen next. When little PB and little Finn begin to kiss, Finn is surprised. This is the first time he’s experiencing a mutual “hook-up” with PB, aside from when she was briefly 13, and even though it’s not actually him experiencing it, he’s still enticed and enthralled by the turn of events. This of course, is another big indicator that Finn still isn’t really over Bubblegum. Sure, the little version of himself and little Lady (boy, am I tired of putting “little” before every character’s name in this post) hooking up doesn’t mean that Finn is also interested in Lady. That was probably just an early experiment to test out all of the interesting connections he could make between the Little People. Yet, when little Finn and little PB do connect, Finn is obviously much more interested in seeing what happens with the two, and it’s clear he is living out some sort of fantasy through the Little People. Little Finn’s glory doesn’t last long, however, when little Flame Princess releases her anger against little PB, but Finn himself couldn’t be more interested. He’s understandably turned on by the idea of his two main flames fighting over him! Again, another very uncomfortable scene that’s balanced with some really great visual humor. I love Finn’s absolutely stimulated face throughout the fight sequence, and of course, the hilarious visual of little PB squeezing little Lady’s tears to douse little Flame Princess. That was priceless. It adds another bit of foreshadowing to the mix, showing Finn’s arousal to people fighting over him and an instance where he’d rather pursue his own needs of autonomy than follow a more logical and moral standpoint.

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Finn finally does come to his senses upon Jake’s return. Finn begins to realize that these tiny people, whether toys, separate entities, or plain dark magic, are suffering, and they are suffering because of the way Finn has messed with their lives. Jake says it best:

This is messed up dude! You’ve crossed the line from weird curiosity into some dark, messed up stuff. The destruction, the depravity, the wrongness of it all!

The somberness of Jake’s words, combined with the horrifying transformative montage of a melting Peppermint Butler, a physically abusive Turtle Princess, and a mangled Goose-Abracadaniel-Lollipop threesome, really drives the point home. Jake told Finn how relationships work at the beginning of the episode: there aren’t designed perfect relationships for others, but rather the feelings people have for each other and what they choose to do with those feelings that define a healthy relationship. Finn chose to ignore that advice and play match-maker, which backfired for others as well as himself. Finn’s only choice left is to fix what he started, as he strives to do so often as a hero. Finn uses the new method he’s discovered to communicate with the Little People, and to correct the damage he’s caused.

After talking with little Finn, little PB, little Lady, and little FP, Finn simply states, “I’m not coming back.”

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It mirrors Magic Man’s line from the beginning, and shows how similar, yet different the two are in terms of their power over other people. Magic Man uses his power to destroy and harm other lifeforms, and, instead of leaving these lifeforms in a safe place of comfort, he always departs with a message of hopelessness and pessimism. Finn had also used his powers over others to mess with and harm their lives, though unintentionally, yet he corrects those actions by fixing his dilemma and leaving the Little People on a note where they’re able to carelessly enjoy their lives. But still, it’s almost a bit of a paradox, because Magic Man did teach Finn a lesson and left him to carelessly go on with his life after correcting his mistakes, so it causes the statement to draw even stronger connections between these two characters. Regardless of intention, it’s really great to be able to have this connection between these two wildly different characters, and still have it feel appropriate with the story and each of their motivations. And of course, what better way to end on a happy note than to have a Little People dance party with Ice King and BMO really hitting it off? Can’t wait for the continuation of this relationship 110 episodes from now!

If there’s one sole thing I don’t like about this episode, it’s that Goddamn “16 weeks later” title card. Yeah, yeah, it’s a gag that lasts two seconds and probably shouldn’t be taken so literally, but AT takes place in a world of realism and has certain rules to abide by, and time is definitely one of them. This is something Jesse Moynihan seems to do a lot, and while I think it worked in an episode like Return to the Nightosphere, it really, really does not work here. I have a tough time believing that Jake went without talking to Finn, who is still in his sweaty, disgusting pajamas for 112 days. Also, if it was that long, why does everything feel like it’s only been a day? Little Lady is mourning over her relationship with little Finn as if it had just ended, with little PB also holding a similar grudge. Again, I get it, it’s a brief gag that’s only supposed to emphasize how freaked out Jake was by Finn’s actions, but I just don’t buy it. It’s a cheap gag that they really could’ve just removed completely. It’s not funny or entertaining enough to even include.

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But, that minor gripe aside, boy, do I love this one! It really is such a rich character study of our main hero, taking him in places he’s really never been, and foreshadowing more awkward and intense drama that will follow in his early teen years. It’s an episode I love primarily for it’s atmosphere; everything feels very unsettling by Finn’s actions, the music, the situational pieces, and just the outlandish nature of the Little People in general. The entire episode feels like a Twilight Zone segment, in the sense that Finn is somewhat of the everyman. I mean, he typically can be seen as the everyman, but this example is probably the most notable in the viewpoint of a completely harmless activity gone terribly wrong at the hands of an normal, charismatic person. Finn does some awful, terrible things, but we still root for him because we know he’s in a situation that even the most level-headed person wouldn’t be able to resist. It’s one I never get sick of revisiting, and one that certainly has a high place on my all-time favorites list.

Hope everybody had a great holiday as well! Thankful for all of your readers out there who visit this blog every week to see me read way too far into a children’s cartoon like a giant nerd. There’s plenty of great content to come in the next few months, and I’m excited to continue on this journey through Season Five. Thanks everyone!

Favorite line: “You’ve crossed the line from weird curiosity into some dark, messed up stuff.”

 

“Reign of Gunters” Review

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Original Airdate: October 8, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Ako Castuera

Gunter has continually been shown as somewhat of an enigma up to this point. There’s been hints and foreshadowing of his inner darker side, most recently in King Worm, and this episode has as much fun as possible with how fucked up, while still incredibly cute and cuddly, the wide-eyed penguin is.

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It kinda goes without saying for this one that it’s somewhat all over the place. It’s essentially three different stories combined that don’t really blend together in a completely cohesive way. One is about, as the title states, a reign of Gunters attacking the Candy Kingdom. Another is about Finn’s impressionable status as a teenage that leads him heading in the direction of douchebaggery, while the third regards Ice King discovering the secret Wizard society. So yeah, none of these really have any connection at all, besides IK’s initial motivation towards heading into Wizard City, but I have to say, they are all pretty fun on their own. The battle of the Gunters provides for a lot of fun action and laughs, the detour into Finn’s adolescence reminds us that he is still in the early stages of his teenage years, and is prone to many changes in hormones, behavior, and identity when it comes to how he regards himself and his loved ones. The Ice King B-plot, while the weakest of the three, sets up a future endeavor regarding the secretive nature of Wizard City that will eventually have a bigger effect on the IK than he could ever imagine.

I guess it’s really only appropriate to talk about these stories in sequence. The initial plot begins with practically no set up, as the immediate first frame is Ice King shouting “Where the turds is my de-mon-ic wishing eye!?” It’s a very humorous beginning to emphasize the somewhat scattershot story we’re in store for, and really showcases the hilarity behind Ice King and Gunter’s father-son relationship. And by God, do I even need to bring up Ice King’s search history? Honestly, there’s very few times I’ve laughed as hard and long as I did at these freeze frame bonuses, so I almost feel obligated to include them as visual pieces.

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My personal favorites are “wizard chick pics, skinny knees” and “wiping my bum isn’t working right.” It feels less like an opportunity to get shit through the censors and just feels like something natural that you’d find when using Ice King’s search engine. I don’t even wanna know what other dirty secrets lie on that monitor.

It’s a bit of an interesting depiction for Gunter as well. I think we’re supposed to sympathize with him, but at the same time, we don’t really know what’s up with him. Does he just want love and affection? Or something much more than that? Whatever it is, it causes him to engage in complete fits of rage and doom, which leads to an eventual invasion into the Candy Kingdom. This is home to some really great interactions between Jake, PB, and Finn. They all work off of each other so well, once again showcasing PB’s somewhat goofier side (love how she just stops caring halfway through and plans on building bottles forever, I feel like she just didn’t have the effort or energy to put her time into actually defeating an army of penguins). Some terrific playful voicework by John DiMaggio in this one, where Jake doesn’t really have many funny lines on his own, but it’s one of those episodes where just the tone of DiMaggio’s delivery is enough to get a laugh out of me. And then there’s Finn, who is so confident in his own secret plans that he doesn’t really think through whether or not they’ll work out. It really is just a terrific showcase of these three distinct personalities, allowing their goofier, as well as their more prideful sides come out in full force. It’s also just an endearing hangout experience for them. From PB’s reaction, I think she sees this as a more opportune time to hangout with her boys than immediately get up in arms and weapons-heavy in regard to the Gunter invasion. She probably knows she can handle it, but would much rather just take it easy and do something silly with her close friends, which is why she acknowledges that her plan is awful. The stakes actually do feel pretty high during this one, despite the fact that, once again, we’re dealing with an army of Gunters. The scene with Gunter nearly cracking the Gumball Guardian is definitely wince-worthy, and actually somewhat had me concerned on where it was going next. Of course, the episode does ends with Ice King giving Gunter the “squirty-squirts” so any sinister motivations from Gunter just come off as mere “teen angst”… for now, at least.

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About halfway through the episode revolves around Finn’s excerpt about how he wants to be more secretive towards women in case anything with Flame Princess ends up failing. It makes sense that Finn would want to be more educated on how to handle relationships since he’s in his first committed one with FP, and makes even more sense that he wouldn’t want to go into another spiraling depression that’s equivalent to what he went through with Bubblegum. Of course, it makes Finn look more like a jackass that he’s subtly manipulating people for his own gain, but it’s a terrific segue into his eventual fuck-ups that are based off of hormonal needs and the teenage male perspective. I was never bothered by this side of Finn because I felt it was an honest, realistic, and interesting portrayal of his character that went beyond just simply portraying him as a stand-up kid with no moral issues. It’s an intriguing step up from what we’ve already seen from the innocent little guy, and even more interesting that he looks to outside media for advice regarding how to handle girls, something I think most teenage boys are also guilty of. This, in return, introduces us to Jay T. Doggzone, and I swear to God, if we don’t find out who the identity of this author is before the end of the series, I’m gonna be hella pissed. Jay T. Doggzone was a recurring element added in that continued appearing through the end of Season Four towards the end of Season Five, and it’s constantly implied that he’s Jake, yet never openly revealed. I feel as though the staff may have just scrapped following up on this idea, which I don’t really mind not knowing, but I feel like they added so much God damn build-up already towards the identity behind this character that it keeps me up at night wondering who this guy is. Is it Jake’s secret alter-ego? Why does Jake write “trash books” in secret? Who are you Jay T. Doggzone!? Honestly, the finale could leave me with as many open questions as possible, as long as I find out who this fucking author is, I can die in peace.

Ice King’s B-plot isn’t especially lengthy, but it does introduce us to Wizard City for the first time: a totally rad landscape where some choice wizards hangout. It’s also the first speaking appearance of Huntress Wizard, that I know Jesse Moynihan in particular was probably really, really hype about. Moynihan had already tried to incorporate Huntress Wizard into his AT episodes a couple of times, and this was the first successful pitch (aside from her non-speaking cameo in Wizard Battle). She’s good fun to watch; snarky, mysterious, and well-designed, her presence is always welcomed, especially when her personality battles Ice King’s. But IK doesn’t mind, since his Jay T. motherfucking Doggzone book told him otherwise. The secret society of wizards kickstarts that cool recurring story arc, and is definitely the biggest and most interesting takeaway from this episode. I didn’t really know what to expect from this combination of unique wizards, and felt that there were a ton of possibilities that could come from it, especially in regards to the division from Wizard-culture and Ooo-culture. And it’s a small moment towards the end, but I really enjoy Finn’s notable sympathy for Ice King and his physical injuries. They could’ve easily just pinned the entire Gunter incident on the IK, but I enjoy how Finn especially is more concerned with his well-being than why he wasn’t keeping a better eye on his pet penguin.

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I kinda went into this one feeling divided because of its scattershot nature, but I actually have to say that I do enjoy this one. Sure, the set pieces never really flow well together, but I still think it’s thoroughly enjoyable and fun all the way through, no matter what its focus is. It never feels so incoherent that it’s distracting, and still keeps my attention regardless. You could definitely argue that it’s unfocused, but take an episode like Ignition Point that’s a complete snore-fest, despite it’s solid main story. Reign of Gunters may not be the most cohesive episode, but it’s certainly a lot of fun. Great character interactions, jokes, lore, and a wildly silly conflict, everything that Adventure Time does right in one, flimsy package.

Favorite line: “Bubb, your plan… bunks.”

“Who Would Win” Review

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Original Airdate: September 3, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Jesse Moynihan

Many moons ago, I reviewed Video Makers and was pretty vocal about my general distaste for the type of story they were going for. Jake and Finn fighting with each other, in most cases, just isn’t very fun to watch. They’re best friends and brothers, and that doesn’t mean that they need to be kissing each other’s asses all the time, but anytime their bickering and disdain for each other is used as a focal point in the main conflict, it just doesn’t work for me. It kind of feels forced and melodramatic if we’re supposed to believe their main issue is with each other, rather than the main opponents who typically face them. It is, however, realistic to portray them having differing desires and wanting different things from each other, which Video Makers did do, but again, not in an entirely enjoyable way. Here, I think it’s much more fun to watch. Where this episode doesn’t have an especially strong story, it makes up for with some pretty great slapstick and a very enjoyable physical battle between the two boys.

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I love, love, LOVE the beginning of this one. Finn and Jake just hanging out, enjoying each other’s company, and allowing some time to themselves. Finn acknowledges that it’s nice to have bro-time for once, and after a long season of exhausting drama regarding Hunson Abadeer, Ricardio, Princess Bubblegum, and Flame Princess, it is nice that the two take the time to get away from it all. The music, the visuals, and the dialogue between the two just really make this an entirely adorable scene. Also, on a more personal note, rewatching these episodes and taking note of who boarded what is really making my brain hypersensitive to detail. Like, I actually noticed that the first five or so drawings were done by Herpich, despite not being credited for the storyboard overall. These reviews are doing things to me, man.

The scenes that follow are pretty fun, as a bunch of different warriors (who look very similar to the Marauders; wonder why they didn’t just bring them back) face off against “The Farm.” The Farm is a delightfully designed anti-hero, with droopy limbs, a blank facial expression, and great voicework from Tom Gammill. There’s also “The Train” voiced by Dana Snyder. The design of The Train is just so ludicrous I can’t help but not enjoy it, especially how his mouth scrunches up every time he forms an “o” sound. There’s also a bit of unintentional subtle lore here, as The Train mentions his “friend” who can give him a new pair of bionic legs. In addition to all the warriors who have bionic limbs and attachments, I would guarantee that he’s speaking of Dr. Gross, which totally wasn’t intended as I mentioned, but it works as a bit of nuanced foreshadowing for the eventual reveal. Always fun to piece together bits and chunks of this show.

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Some pretty apparent nods to Gross’s work.

I like the dynamic they put Finn and Jake in especially in this one. Both are being rather selfish, though for justified reasons. Finn only wants Jake to do what he wants to do, but it’s only because Jake offered to so in the first place, presumably because Jake didn’t want to let his brother down. Yet, Jake shouldn’t have agreed to do something he didn’t want to do, and should’ve emphasized his affinity for Kompy’s Kastle. This is where the battle ensues, and it’s very much my favorite part of the episode. The line that starts it off is actually particularly sweet: “I’m gonna break every bone in your body, then heal you later with that magical goo we got from the Cyclops’ eye!” suggesting that, while Jake is clearly pissed off at Finn, he would never actually want to put his best friend through any lasting harm. The way the fight is portrayed, I think it can be clear that this has all happened before to some extent. Jake’s exclaiming, “no bities!” leaves me to believe this did happened at least a couple of times when they were children, though as Jake got older, as well as Finn, it really hasn’t happened in recent years. What we’re treated to is some delicious slapstick from this point on: Jake growing dozens of legs just to repeatedly kick Finn in the face, Finn spitting an entire fucking dollop of saliva into Jake’s face, and Jake repeatedly hitting his own face and rump by accident. It takes up a large chunk of the remainder of the episode, but stays thoroughly entertaining and humorous throughout. I always die laughing whenever The Farm abruptly squats on both Finn and Jake and then disposes barn animals all over them. That’s always pretty priceless to me.

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Once we’re introduced to the Dream Warrior, however,  I think the episode kind of reaches a bit of a halt. I think it’s all pretty obvious from hereon in: the advice that the Dream Warrior gave was all nonsensical, yet subtle advice that Finn and Jake had to use to defeat the farm, and Finn and Jake would finally team up and be able to work together. None of it’s done badly, of course, but it’s quite dissonant from the first half and never quite lives up to what it started out with. I also don’t know why Jake comes out as the one on the bottom by the end; sure, he compromises and enjoys the victory with Finn, but I wanna see Jake kicking ass in some Kompy’s Kastle too! Didn’t seem fair to the little yellow guy. In addition to this, the Dream Warrior himself isn’t that remarkable or noteworthy, besides the fact that he’s voiced by Matthew Broderick (what an unusual role for a guest celebrity) and I just don’t feel like there’s anything that unique or funny about the sensei-type advice he gives the boys. It’s just somewhat of a simplistic resolution for an episode that’s already pretty lowkey on its own.

I do enjoy this one, though. I don’t think it’s anything great, but it does handle the conflicting side of Finn and Jake’s relationship a lot better than an episode like Video Makers did. It uses the appropriate differences between the brothers and turns it into a fun, fight-filled romp. It’s not especially strong in story, but after coming off the heels of the past three or four episodes, it doesn’t need to be. A smaller, lighter episode after some heavy inner and outer drama is always warranted. Always nice to see an episode focusing on the relationship between our two main boiz.

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Favorite line: “Don’t you always call sweatpants ‘give-up-on-life pants,’ Jake?”