Tag Archive | Ako Castuera

“Sons of Mars” Review

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Original Airdate: July 23, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Jesse Moynihan

The official planned release date for reviews will be Fridays from now on. The only exception may be next Friday, only because I’ll be pretty damn busy. And I know one review a week might seem slim, but I’m going to try my best to increase that amount through time and see how much I’m able to juggle at once. Again, thank you all for being patient!

So, to end this summer of daily reviews, we have Sons of Mars! A personal favorite of mine that I may have seen one too many times (the luster has faded a bit because of how many rewatches I’ve sat through) but one that signifies how all-around awesome it is. It’s loaded with world-building and mythology, and delves into the lives and stories of its central characters.

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First and foremost, this episode reintroduces Magic Man, and he enters in the most sadistic and jarring way possible by turning that fucking creepy deer from No One Can Hear You into a telescope. This is still when it was fairly uncommon for AT one-off characters to return, so it was very surprising to see the nihilistic wizard who lacks empathy back once again, but surely rewarding. Magic Man is one of my favorite characters in the series, simply because I enjoy how little of a fuck he gives for other people, yet still manages to retain an unusually sympathetic side. This is the first episode to showcase this, as we get a look into some of his inner turmoil. Speaking of firsts, this episode is a pretty prominent point in Jesse Moynihan’s writing tendencies, as he began to get much more personal and surreal in his boarding efforts. Much of Magic Man’s story in Sons of Mars revolves around Moynihan’s own experiences with his girlfriend Margaret, who he called “Margles.” Jesse used this pet name to portray Magic’s lost love interest, and did his damndest to channel all of the negative emotion he had been feeling into this character and particular episode. In the words of Moynihan himself, “Magic Man had gone insane because I had gone insane.” This kind of self-insertion doesn’t seem to appeal to AT’s audience much, and would only receive even more negative attention as Jesse turned it into a regular practice. I dunno, for me personally, I think it’s one of the most interesting and ambitious aspects of Jesse’s writing in general. There’s no one on the staff quite as heady as Moynihan, and while I’ve criticized specific styles of the writers and storyboard artists on the show somewhat often, Moynihan’s is one I’ve never really had a clear problem with. It’s something I completely understand as to why people find it pretentious, but it also makes for some of the most imaginative and poignant stories and character arcs in the entire series. Moynihan’s ability to connect with Magic Man so closely and make one of the biggest assholes in Ooo seem more human is a really impressive task and one that I think was exceedingly well done. Moynihan believes he may have went a bit overboard with just how much of his own self he inserted into this episode, but I think it was handled with a great deal of subtlety. She’s only even mentioned twice briefly, but the most powerful moment comes from Magic Man discovering her photo after Finn tosses it aside. In a rare moment of Magic Man acting completely straightforward and honest, he quietly acknowledges the location of his Martian transporter. It’s a moment that feels so real and genuine, and doesn’t at all feel like it’s forcing me to care about a relationship that we barely know anything about. All we know by this encounter is that Magic Man had a significant other, who he tragically lost. But it’s how it personally affects Magic Man that makes it so much more interesting. The heartwrenching promo art sets up this unseen relationship, and amazes me at just how vaguely emotion is conveyed in this one without going into too much detail about what happened in the past.

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We also get a bit of history with the introduction of Grob Gob Glob Grod and the King of Mars, two very important characters in regards to the overall lore of the series. These two characters have their fair share of goofy and fun moments (including the hilarious run-through of all of Magic Man’s terrible crimes, which they don’t have footage of, so it’s a good thing Grod is good at drawing), but I do really enjoy how the episode still treats them as very crucial beings in the world of AT. Grob Gob Glob Grod (blending the many humorous variations of “glob” mentioned throughout the past few seasons, though has anyone actually said “oh my Grob” before or even mentioned Grob? Poor dude doesn’t get enough praise) is essentially the religious figurehead of this universe, while King of Mars isn’t necessarily a religious figure but instead an all-knowing ruler of entire galaxies, who is represented by Abraham Lincoln himself. Pen Ward obviously incorporated Lincoln in the pilot of Adventure Time as a silly gag that was never intended to be utilized again, but this episode is very clever in never mentioning the 16th president of the U.S. by name, and is only ever referred to by his stance as king. It’s open for a good deal of interpretation as well; I think the whole story behind the King of Mars himself is that he is a magical entity and possesses the power to travel time and the multiverse. Him sacrificing his immortality meant that he would allow himself to be as human and vulnerable as the rest of society, causing him to take his place as a legend of the past, present, and future. A soul who traveled Earth as a human being thousands of years ago, an entity who ruled over the cosmos as the King of Mars, and a spirit who will continue to embark throughout the many lands of Dead World. Honestly, it just makes me think that the actual Abraham Lincoln was a lot more fucking cool than what high school history classes taught me. Props to you, Jesse and Ako. Of course, there are plenty of connections to the King of Mars and Abe Lincoln as well. The notion that he’s the “most honest being in all the land”, the penny he carries with him at all times, and his sad remark about his lack of peers that references his longterm depression. His exchange with Death is one of my all-time favorite moments in the series, and feels like a classic negotiation between two friendly rivals as opposed to good facing off with evil.

And at the center of this heady venture is the relationship between Finn and Jake. It’s funny because, looking deeper into Finn’s mission to get Jake back, he could honestly give less of a shit of the events going on around him. He has one goal: to get his best friend back and save him from certain death. He doesn’t care about the trial Magic Man was put through or the sacrifice of Mars’ thousand year ruler. He just wants his buddy back by his side, and it’s both really endearing and quite funny when you acknowledge that he just does not care that he practically initiated the King’s sacrifice. I mean, it’s pretty clear that ol’ Abe probably would’ve let Jake go when he discovered that Magic Man may have been experiencing real emotions, but Finn just pops the fuck out of nowhere and hits GGGG with a chair that ends up striking Jake with the wand. Finn inadvertently set a prophecy into motion, whether it resulted in positive or negative consequences, though he was correct in citing that nothing would have escalated had Abe and Glob believed in his brother’s statements. It definitely could’ve made Finn come off as a dick, but again, he’s doing everything for the sake of his brother, and he doesn’t care what powerful entities he has to cross to do so.

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Jake’s role in this episode is interesting as well. He doesn’t do a ton, but we’re once again reintroduced to his desire to go out with a bang when it comes to death and destiny, though Jake acknowledges for the first time that, though he’d love to accept the afterlife with open arms, he’d be leaving his best friend behind, and he just can’t do that to Finn. It’s very heartwarming and thoughtful of Jake to put Finn before himself in this situation, and really shows how far he has come from his original stance. Knowing that Finn would do anything to save him and have him by his side, Jake will simply have to put off his own prophetic desires for the person he cares about most, and that’s what is really at the core of this trippy episode: the connection between Finn and Jake. Through all of the drama Magic Man experiences with his own personal problems and the collapsing of Mars’ government, Finn and Jake simply want to be with each other, and in the toughest of life’s problems, the relationship between two best friends can often bring light to some of the darkest of moments. Even the releasing of Tiny Manticore, who wrongfully dissed Finn and Jake, but will regret doing so to the two most caring guys in Ooo for presumably the rest of his life. His new prison is shame, if you haven’t heard.

The entire Martian space system looks amazing. Ghostshrimp once again designed a bunch of the scenery for this one, and I love everything from the design of the numerous domes and silos that populate Mars, as well as the terrific red, purple, and pink color scheme that makes the entire land feel foreign and unique. I think the designs of the martians who view the trial are kind of lame, however, though characters strictly in the background of AT episodes never look superb or detailed. I guess it’s just weird that they decided to include these random Martian civilians in the background at all because wouldn’t they like, be freaking out about what’s going on? They’re kinda just there to be there, so I feel like they could’ve just be excluded completely unless they were in-sync with the tragedies occurring in front of them. The design of GGGG is awesome though, one of my favorite character designs in the series. Love his/her rotating heads and the groovy headgear they wear to cover their baldness.

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Sons of Mars embodies some of the greatest elements of any AT episode up to this point: the honesty of our two main characters, the ambition and headiness of the world surrounding them, the ability to humanize even the most abysmal characters, the intrigue of wanting to see even more of what this world has to offer, and the deep connection between writer and character. It’s one of my personal all-time favorites, and even though I’ve seen it a million times, it just has so much to offer every time I do watch. One of the biggest steps towards more surreal and intoxicating mythology that would grace the series much later on.

Favorite line: “How long have you had this house?” “Yes, that is true!”

 

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“Beyond this Earthly Realm

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Original Airdate: June 11, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Jesse Moynihan

Beyond this Earthly Realm isn’t as heady as the last one, but it’s pretty freakin’ cool. It’s a simple story equipped with an even more simplistic B-plot: Finn and Ice King have to team up after Finn enters some sort of spirit realm, and Jake just misses his buddy while he’s gone. These two stories are pretty basic and nothing new, but they’re carried largely by just how enjoyable it is to watch Ice King and Finn’s budding friendship, as well as the awesome visuals that support the plot.

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The entire episode is coated in an orange-red filter that looks really artistically pleasing and interesting, while dozens of awesomely designed creatures roam the spirit world. They’re certainly not as funny or unique as some of the demons of the Nightosphere, but every creature has its own individual design that ranges from creative to inherently gross. I really love how a lot of the side monsters or creatures in AT look like they were developed from a notebook doodle, as a good chunk of them were. It really adds that bit of likability to them, even the one that diarrheas and vomits at the same time. Yuck.

Finn’s connection to the Ice King in this episode makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. He obviously doesn’t like that he has to deal with Simon (yes, I did love that name drop), but I do appreciate the level of patience and acceptance he has with the old coot. Instead of being angry or inflicting violence on the Ice King when he realizes he’s been lied to, Finn simply states “I’m gonna re-open the hole.” It’s a great “fuck this” reaction, but also pretty telling that Finn simply just wants to punish the IK for his behavior rather than necessarily hurt him. It makes the connection between the two seem much stronger, and shows us how far they have come. It’s just really sweet to see them working together once again, which we legitimately don’t get to see again for another three seasons or so. I suppose if we got these types of episodes a lot they wouldn’t be as special, but their dynamic, especially when it comes to common goals, is just a ton of fun.

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There’s great moments between the two, such as the implication that Ice King regularly lies to Gunther and claims that him and Finn are hanging out, which is both hilarious and somewhat heartbreaking. Ice King trying to be cool by deeming them “turbro…turbo-bros” is a nice overly long gag as well. There’s also some nice individual moments, including Ice King’s description of the spirits that ends with a solemn, “… I hate them.” This story stemmed from Ice King’s brief mention of wizard eyes in Mortal Recoil, and both episodes emphasized what a taxing issue it is for ol’ Simon to be experiencing hallucinations 24/7. It’s very amusingly tragic, and it really helps you emphasize with the circumstances of his condition that he himself isn’t even comfortable with. Finn’s reaction to the contents of the portal is a funny callback to the beginning, where instead of being treated to anything too expository, we just simply get Finn’s utter confusion with his surroundings to help inform us of what’s going on.

I especially like Jake’s subplot as well. It isn’t heavily focused on, but man, there’s some legitimate melancholy when it comes to Jake’s behavior. It’s sad seeing the guy so torn up over losing his friend, along with his efforts to bring him back which Jake probably knows won’t work. I really sympathize a lot with him in these bits, and even though we obviously know Finn’s going to return by the end of the episode, it’s still sad to see Jake so torn up over the disappearance of his brother, and the in-universe reality that he may not be able to get him back.

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The conclusion involves a pretty trippy breaking-the-fourth-wall moment that definitely has me believing that Ice King still has aspects of Simon deeply embedded in his subconscious, though this is likely no surprise. Finn symbolically refers to him by name a bit earlier on, and his long, open-ended speech about the basis of television have me thinking that Simon’s existential and scholarly personality still play a part in Ice King’s everyday life, whether he knows it or not.

There’s a couple of inconsistencies in this one, mainly the idea about what the spirits can touch and whether they can be touched or not. Like, there’s bits where Finn is able to sit on the couch or a tree branch, but he isn’t able to feel BMO or Jake? And then there’s the scene where Ice King says he isn’t able to touch the spirits, but immediately swats one off  of him afterwards. It’s brief moments like this that make me kinda question how the Spirit World works and what limitations it has, but ultimately don’t tarnish the experience as a whole.

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And I truly do enjoy this one. Like I said, there’s nothing mind blowing or especially hilarious about it, it just does what it set out to do so well that it ultimately ended up being a great one for me. Lots of nice visuals, character interactions, an entertaining adventure, a pretty dope musical score, and the compassionate connection between our main characters. What more could ya ask for in an episode of Adventure Time?

And holy shit, have you guys ever seen the lyrics of BMO’s spider song?

Three baby spiders, three bitty baby spiders,
Were playing in the sun.
The rain came down and it was no fun.

Cry cry cry cry goo ga goo.
Oh me, oh my, eyes are raining too.
The first spider drowned, he was never found.

The second spider cried till he died,
But the babiest of all splashed and had a ball.

He grew up very tall and lived inside a wall.
Sometimes the sun shines even on baby spiders and you!

A pretty God damn dark version of Itsy Bitsy Spider, if ya ask me!

Favorite line: “Now you’re trapped, and only I can see you. So if you want friends, this is it, pal!”

 

“Return to the Nightosphere” Review

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Original Airdate: April 30, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Jesse Moynihan

After three stories involving romance and one experimental episode, it’s nice that season four has its first true adventurous episode. Season four didn’t really have the best start, but this is one that feels like a breath of fresh air. It introduces us to the realm of the Nightosphere, and what a terrifically designed place it is! The episode is pretty much carried by the intrigue of this foreign underworld, and also because it’s just simply freakin’ hilarious.

The episode doesn’t waste any time by immediately throwing our two main characters into their main conflict right away, making the audience equally as interested in figuring out their dilemma as Finn and Jake are. There’s a ton of intrigue surrounding this one, from the way Hunson Abadeer is regarded amongst the citizens (the name “Hunson Abadeer” actually comes from Jesse Moynihan’s car, which was given the name by his brother) and just what the hell the meaning of bananas is.

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Part of the fun of this episode just comes from the surroundings. The civilians and environment of the Nightosphere are just spectacular. I love the random demons who hang around Finn and Jake at the beginning and just roll around and wave their arms. Then there’s the longshot a couple minutes in, which Jesse Moynihan has a pretty big self-indulged boner for, but can you blame him? It looks fantastic! Jesse’s been known for his long pans, especially in an episode like Death in Bloom, and this one really takes the cake. It’s funny, fast-moving, and builds a lot of atmosphere within the Dark World. There’s so much to take in that it’s impossible to notice everything on a first viewing; dozens of different areas on fire and surrounded by lava, wacky beasts, laser fights, a stock woman scream in the background, hooded groups of people walking into a building and (presumably) committing suicide as a tall demon watches, and so on. It’s something you can tell Moynihan really went all out with, and his pride in it really makes it all the more admirable to me.

There’s also other cool designs, such as the transportation demon, the teller, the guy on the boat, and many others. The thing about the demons is that they’re so obscure and oddly designed, and there’s actually a pretty big animation error with one of these characters that it’s hardly even noticeable because of it. Yeah, one of the demon’s ears were recognized as hands during the animation process, and it’s a bit of a confusing sequence once you realize those aren’t his hands, but it still kind of works to me in a silly way. Even if it was an error, it almost entirely makes sense with the world of these demons that moving their ears around like arms is just something that’s a social norm. And even though these demons are so obscure and unique, I love how their dialogue is so mundane and casual. Some of their exchanges are great, especially the one with the anxiety ridden demon waiting in line who can’t make brown (as someone who suffers from chronic IBS, this dude really hit home for me).

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Finn and Jake’s incorporation into the episode is just superb as well. I love any plotline that puts the characters into an increasingly boring or painstaking situation, and the “waiting in line” scenario often works a charm. Finn and Jake’s general deterioration throughout this one is great, from their sobbing and transition into insanity while waiting in line to their relentlessness to eventually meet with Abadeer, it’s fun watching these guys really try to stick it out together. Jake even utters the Japanese phrase “jouzu de Ganbatte ne (have faith and go forth)” to keep up Finn’s spirits: something Jesse’s mother would tell him when he was a young lad. D’awww.

It all leads to a pretty dope climax when Finn and Jake battle off with the beast they assume to be Abadeer. There’s a lot of cool details in Hunson’s domain, with some neat frames hung on his wall, including pictures with Peppermint Butler and the King of Mars. We all know Peppermint Butler has close connections to dark lords, but I wonder what the connection is between Hunson and ol’ Abe. Perhaps they’re just on friendly terms, like Abe and Death are. Besides that point, it all leads to a full-on battle in a bright and colorful warp hole, where it’s revealed that the beast was none other than Marceline! Draaaama bomb! Of course, that cliffhanger won’t be addressed till next episode, so we’ll talk about it more then.

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This one is just terrific though. Jam packed with jokes, gags, atmosphere, and placed in an awesome setting. The next one is really more emotion and writing based, so I’m glad we did have this first parter that gave us time to explore the Nightosphere a bit more before getting right into the meat. It’s always fun to check out different lands in the AT world, and the Nightosphere is one of my favorite in that regard. Just an all around good time. Onto Daddy’s Little Monster!

Favorite line: “Charlie, don’t socialize with the smaller demons! They’re dirty and stupid!”

“Web Weirdos” Review

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Original Airdate: April 16, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Jesse Moynihan

It’s pretty clear that season four has somewhat of a running theme of dealing with relationships. We’ve already seen Finn’s first encounter with Flame Princess and the development of his romantic feelings, and now in this episode, we focus more on the circumstances of a long-term partnership. It’s very fitting that Finn is beginning to observe relationships around him considering he’s now involved in one, and it’s made even more important by showcasing that relationships by nature aren’t always fun and games.

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The plot revolves around spider love interests Ed and Barb (voiced by Bobcat Goldthwait and Susie Essman respectively) and they’re alright I suppose, though the episode is filled with Finn and Jake moments that really round it out and make it much more enjoyable to sit through. I love the beginning with Jake performing some totally gnarly stunts, while Finn pulls off some pretty lame parkour. It’s a thoroughly charming and endearing entrance, followed by some hilarious bits, such as the interestingly utilized cutaway gag of Finn’s uncut fingernails and the introduction of the bug and fly who also got caught in the spiderweb. I really friggin’ love those guys, and they’re pretty great with relationship advice as well.

Speaking of relationship advice, it’s really interesting to watch Finn share a bit of wisdom with Ed regarding his connection with his wife. Obviously, it’s likely that Finn is just humoring Ed to buy him and Jake some time to escape, but it still feels very genuine and telling, and that Finn legitimately wants to help the guy out. Finn’s obviously inexperienced, but I think his bit of advice comes more from conscientious place of being righteous in any kind of relationship. And in the last few minutes, he chooses the heroic path by deciding to stay and help Ed out, even if it means he can’t escape and that he could possibly even die. Always gotta go with Glob!

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As for Ed and Barb, as I said, they’re alright. I think Ed’s pretty interesting in his own right; he wants to do things properly, but his egocentric behavior and combination of self-loathing make it impossible for him to fully commit and love his wife like he arguably did in the past. Barb just kinda seems like a bitch from what we’ve seen. The one part of the episode I really disliked was the bit where Barb was mercilessly punching Ed. This is pretty blatant domestic abuse, and it’s somewhat uncomfortable to me. It’s not even like Ed’s able to protect himself, he looks like he’s in legitimate pain (imagine if this was the other way around). It’s not a huge problem, but we’re supposed to kind of be rooting for these guys to work out there differences, and that scene just made me want Ed to get as far away from Barb as possible. Though the ending was an interesting conclusion, as many couples do stick with the concept that having children can usher in a new beginning for their marriage. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. For Ed and Barb, it doesn’t look like it can get any worse, so hopefully having hundreds of babies ended up working out for them.

I like a good chunk of this one. There’s plenty of great Finn and Jake moments like the ones I listed above, and then there’s other great visual gags, such as Finn spitting out the bug, only for him to land directly back onto the spider web or Finn’s spitting down the bird (a lot of these involve spit, as you may have noticed) and the longshot of the many birds who suffered at the hands of this tactic. The Ed and Barb parts can lead to some pretty unlikable sequences, but I do think their dysfunctional marriage is a pretty interesting relationship that the series hasn’t really covered up until this point. Very frankly, it’s the type of relationship that most animated series typically don’t cover. Glad we could count on AT to tackle it head on with humor and potency.

Also, I don’t think I’ll ever be more grossed out by anything in the series than the way Ed produces string. That dripping was fucking vile.

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Favorite line: “It’s hard to step outside of yourself when you’re enmeshed with another being!”

“Ghost Princess” Review

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Original Airdate: January 30, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Ako Castuera

Ghost Princess has appeared once or twice before this episode, but this is her first big step to mainstage and her last as well. An episode about spirits and the 50th Dead World is right up my alley, so I was especially hyped when this one first came out. Unfortunately, I don’t think its direction was as interesting as it could’ve been, and I think some executive meddling restrained this one from being as dark or serious as it wanted to be.

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Love little moments like this where Finn and Jake are just casually spending time with each other.

The great bits come mostly from Finn and Jake, who engage in a good cop-bad cop routine, and it’s really a delightful scenario to watch. We’re used to seeing the little guy play good cop in most situations, whereas Jake is usually the more skeptical one, so it’s a nice role reversal that allows us to see different sides of the boys. There’s plenty of great lines among the two, specifically Finn’s “time to sing, ya canary!” As for Jake, I love the bit of him subtly looting throughout the entirety of the episode. It continues the streak of criminality shown by him in episodes like City of Thieves and Apple Thief, and it humorously depicts Jake’s general reaction every time he does something wrong: he simply acknowledges that he didn’t know it was wrong. I’m willing to believe that was his reaction the minute he realized his criminal gang was immoral; he probably just shrugged and realized he shouldn’t have been involved and then just left. It’s actually an interesting concept that I’m just noticing as I write this, but could Jake’s inability to realize that crime and looting are wrong come from his father’s past history of stealing from demons? I’m getting ahead of myself, but I didn’t wanna lose this thought. More to chat about with the next review, Joshua!

The backgrounds in this one are great, mostly designed by ghostshrimp. I really love the vast depth of the cemetery, and just how many little details there are within it. It’s clear that the graveyard has signs of being post-apocalyptic, but I do enjoy settings that are just generally creepy and atmospheric without those added Easter eggs. Easter eggs are great, but sometimes ya just need a handful of tombstones to really set that chilling feeling into full gear.

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As for the main story, the romance between Clarence and Ghost Princess just isn’t that interesting to me. It’s a pretty bland love story, with little chemistry outside of the backstory revealed toward the end. I wish the character of Clarence was a lot more quirky and awkward. Adventure Time is usually so good at creating delightfully off-color side characters, and even with the talented voicework of Sam Marin, Clarence is just kind of lame. He basically just recites really corny and poetic love lines that are played completely straight. Though, to be fair, he did take GP to the Spirit Waves performance, which is totally dope. I don’t know if they had a guest animator for this sequence or if it was just given a lot of attention in studio, but it’s so funny to watch these blank figures move around so fluidly and choreographed. The ghostdates.com website mentioned is actually a real website, by the way. A really neat test of the Spirit Waves performers doing their thing!

The twist is something I think most people see coming, but it is cleverly tied together. As for the actual backstory sequence, it feels a bit awkward to me. A lot of the episode was altered by Cartoon Network to switch around the utterance of the word “murder” with its substitutes “moider” and “murdle-urdle”, and I’m willing to assume they wanted the memory sequence to be a little lighter and less intense as well. Therefore, you have Clarence crying really over-the-top and his tears falling in WP’s mouth, followed by him committing suicide via squeezy cheese overdose. It just feels a little forced to me; it’s like they spent the whole episode working to make the dynamic between Clarence and GP really serious and straightforward, and then tried to add humor to the actual scenes that should be the most heavy (though I do enjoy the fact that it essentially traumatized Jake). Adventure Time’s handled death awkwardly on a couple of separate occasions, and I think this one is a decent example. I know it’s a kid’s show, but Adventure Time has proved time and time again that it’s able to handle weighty situations with grace and proper care. Not to say I wanted Ghost Princess of all episodes to be a completely serious and intense tale, but I think it still could’ve been handled a little more delicately. I’m also a bit confused by the timeline of the flashback: it feels like something that happened hundreds of years ago, yet Clarence apparently only died a mere couple of weeks prior. Are there just random wars going on in Ooo that we don’t even know about? Probably overthinking it. 

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This one was kickstarted by an idea Jesse Moynihan had, in an attempt to explore the 50th Dead World, and one that even called for Magic Man to appear in it. Not sure what the entire concept behind that premise was, but I think it would’ve been really cool to explore more of that idea. Pure, uncut Moynihan has given us some of the most trippy and existential episodes in the entire series, and this episode poses a story that calls for some really surreal and heady bits. I’m guessing his desire for more of the experimental side of the plot is what restricted Ghost Princess from getting too out-of-hand, and kept it a mostly grounded story.

As is, it’s okay. I think the chunk of the episode centered around Finn and Jake is a lot of fun, but the main love story between GP and Clarence falls flat for me. I think it could’ve taken a much more interesting direction with the various Dead Worlds, including the backstory as well. If there was a bit extra time dedicated to making the GP and Clarence relationship more charming or endearing, it might’ve been able to hold a little more water. But with that said, it was sweet to watch the two ascend to Dead World together. And with two episodes left, season three shall soon ascend to its own Dead World in my archives. Ya donkus.

Favorite line: “TIME TO SING, YA CANARY!” (already mentioned it, but I just enjoy it too much)

 

“Marceline’s Closet” Review

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Original Airdate: December 12, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Ako Castuera

Marceline’s Closet isn’t as strong of a character exploration as other Marcy-centric episodes are. For an episode revolving around Finn and Jake accidentally spying on their vampire friend, I think it would’ve been a lot more interesting to see Marceline at her most vulnerable or even look into her deepest darkest secrets, but it’s mostly focused on the dilemma Finn and Jake face in front of them. However, there are a couple of gags and amusing moments the two boys share that do make for a relatively funny episode.

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The beginning starts out really strong with Finn conducting some balloon music. It’s a great musical moment that’s up there with some of the funnier songs in the series. In addition to that, there’s a brief moment of apocalyptic lore that’s so easy to miss. The duo engage in a game of hide-and-seek, or “Cloud Hunt” as they call it, and Finn’s recites this nursery rhyme while counting:

Over the mountain, the ominous cloud

Coming to cover the land in a shroud,

Hide in a bushel, a basement, a cave,

But when cloud comes a-huntin’,

No one’s a save… no, safe!

It’s a lovely little bit of tragedy, similar to Ring Around the Rosey, that just reminds me of why I love this show. Every bit of past history is so hidden in the background and non-expository, and it just feels so natural that way.

Of course, once Finn and Jake enter inside Marceline’s closet is when the true conflict starts. I always do love the classic synopsis of characters hiding inside of another person’s house and trying to avoid getting caught. The stakes don’t feel particularly high in this one, as I don’t really think there’s much to anticipate with Marceline being the culprit. Though, it interestingly enough does bring back a scenario that feels exclusive to earlier seasons, which is Finn and Jake’s general fear of Marceline. We all know Jake’s fear of vampires is still mildly persistent, but Finn has treated Marceline as an equal since the beginning of season two, and it’s fun to see the old dynamic of the two boys being so easily startled by their mostly laid back, yet intimidating friend. And I really wonder if Marceline actually did use blood to write on that note at the beginning. You’re above that lifestyle, gurl!

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There’s a couple of great moments with Finn and Jake in the closet (no pun intended), including Finn’s completely ludicrous plan to fly an egg-making paper plane to get Marcy’s attention. What did making the eggs actually accomplish? I don’t know! I also love Finn’s brief encounter with a bare-bodied Marcy. It’s hilariously awkward to see the little guy so traumatized by seeing not only his friend in the nude, but presumably his first naked woman ever. There’s also some great sight gags, such as Finn and Jake’s terrified expressions and Jake’s silent tantrum of pain as he’s so violently bit by a spider.

So there are a good amount of laughs in this one, I just wish the stuff with Marceline was little more interesting. We don’t really get to see into her life all that much or any interesting tidbits of unknown characteristics. The strongest example we get is a is a song based on one of her diary entries, with the word “Gunter” written on the cover (FORESHADOWING). It’s not a particularly great song, which was written by Jesse Moynihan, and one that he admits wasn’t that great either. I’m not going to be one of “those people” who believes that Rebecca Sugar is the only one who can write for Marceline on the show, because that’s completely invalid. However, I will admit that the musical aspect of the series does suffer a bit without her talents (unless is for comedic purposes, as shown earlier), and that’s something that carries over heavily once she departs from the series. In addition, the lyrics aren’t really that strong either. Coming off the heels of one of Sugar’s most powerful songs in the series I’m Just Your Problem, Dear Diary just feels kind of lacking and out of place. I’m not sure if Marcy sang this song because she knew Finn and Jake were secretly watching her (we never really find out how long she was in on it), but it doesn’t really make sense from a developmental standpoint. Wasn’t the purpose of What Was Missing that Marceline began to embrace the friendships she’s made and even patch up some of her old ones? Why on earth would she believe she didn’t have any friends? You could argue this diary entry could’ve been written at any point, as she mentions it’s based on the past 500 years, but still, it does feel a bit out of place given all that Marcy has been through the past couple seasons.

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The end resolution is a bit of an abrupt and unsatisfying one, though it does completely make sense that Marceline wouldn’t be mad at Finn and Jake in the first place. Her whole game is fucking with people and showing up uninvited. That’s who Marcy is! So yeah, I think this episode is decent. It’s a generally enjoyable premise with a good amount of funny character moments, but it does suffer from being a bit thin when it comes to a story that does potentially call for an interesting character study. Also, the conflict does feel a bit light, as I think it’s pretty obvious that Marcy’s not actually going to react as badly as our two main characters believe. If it was a character like Magic Man or even Marceline’s father, Hunson Abadeer, it could’ve made for a more interesting conflict. But as is, it did an okay job of showcasing Marceline out of the closet (pun intended).

Favorite line: “Well, now we’re both quietly screaming.”

“No One Can Hear You” Review

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Original Airdate: November 14, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Ako Castuera

I always tend to forget how relatively humorless No One Can Hear You is. It’s practically a psychological thriller, and one that’s very creepy, atmospheric, and genuinely unsettling. That being said, it’s one of my all-time favorites. It takes the series and its characters in an incredibly dark and unpleasant direction, yet is still able to be completely enjoyable and engaging.

It begins in a very fast-moving and brief fashion, not wasting any time setting up the plot as quickly as it can. It always amazes me just how much Adventure Time can pack into an 11 minute time-slot, and still leave a lot of room for the characters to breathe and relax. A lot of the great moments from this episode are just Finn lurking around the empty Candy Kingdom and drawing conclusions about his whereabouts. It’s not very exposition heavy, in the sense that we don’t get to know exactly what Finn is feeling or what’s going through his head throughout the episode. He’s pretty much there as an observer, and his thoughts are practically ours as we’re able to empathize with him in the way that any psychological thriller or horror movie allows us to put ourselves in the main character’s shoes.

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There’s a real underlying tragedy to Jake’s character in this episode as well. Clearly he’s completely insane, but his motivations aren’t so out of control or psychotic that it makes him genuinely unlikable. All he wants is to be surprised for his birthday party, and will go to great lengths just to fulfill this desire. It’s the perfect balance of terror and sympathy, as we’re both rooting against Jake and hoping he’s able to regain his health. There’s just something straight painful about watching him so far gone too; the moment when Finn ponders, “face it, Finn. Your best friend is gone,” is a very, very sad moment. To watch a character we all know and care for so much be completely deviated into a complete lunatic is somewhat heartbreaking, and to see even his best friend and brother give up on him is even more tragic. It’s a pretty crucial moment for Finn’s character, as he acknowledges that he may have to leave his brother behind for the greater good of society, and doesn’t hesitate to look back once.

While that’s an understandably solicitous moment for Finn, even worse is Jake realizing that his best friend and brother lied and betrayed him twice. As I mentioned, Jake’s really lost his marbles, but he’s relatively harmless on the other hand, and to watch his aching moment of hardship as Finn runs away from his birthday party is just really heartwrenching. It’s an episode that pits the two best friends against each other in the very best way possible, making each side empathetic and the entire situation really tough to watch.

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As I mentioned there’s very few laughs in this episode, which really works to it’s advantage. Besides a few goofy lines from Finn as he’s roaming around and some funny gags towards the end, it spends most of it’s time focusing on the creepy and uncomfortable elements. There’s moments that really raise the question of, “was that funny or unsettling?” such as the bugs crawling on Jake and Jake’s general demeanor throughout the episode. There’s not a single moment in the entire show where I’m more conflicted to laugh or sit there uncomfortably than when Jake has a birthday party composed of sock puppets and milk cartons. It really excuses the fact that the episode is unfunny when it sticks to a specific mood and atmosphere and goes above and beyond with it. I think I actually would’ve actually liked this episode less if there were more jokes phoned in, as it would take away from the general tension of the overall plot.

And then there’s the reveal of the true villain in this episode. I’m not shitting you, you guys, that deer is in my fucking nightmares. Nothing creeps me out more in this episode than when he takes off his hooves and wiggles his fingers around. And the way he licks people and sticks them to the wall is out of a full-fledged motherfucking horror movie. Goddamn, that stag scares me! I think it’s a pretty brilliant out-of-nowhere reveal that the deer was the true antagonist the entire time, and his frequent appearances throughout the episode build up to a very satisfying and well-planned payoff that I think is pretty unpredictable for any first time viewers. Also, the idea that he wanted PB’s sugar and that she wouldn’t give it to him triggers more unsettling visuals in that regard. Yeesh. So Finn, Jake, and all ten of the rescued Candy People that make up the entire kingdom (yeah, something I’m noticing while rewatching these episodes is that the artists really hate to draw a good handful of characters. I mean, obviously they couldn’t draw the entire kingdom, but c’mon! Lady isn’t even there) float off into the night sky.

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This is one I really adore. From the intense and creepy atmosphere to the relationship between Finn and Jake, it’s an especially tough one to get through, and I mean that in the best way possible. Another one of my favorite parts of the episode is the subtle way they leave it up for debate as to how long Finn was actually asleep for. Was the six months conclusion a product of Jake’s damaged brain? Did he mean six months in magical dog years? Or was Finn legitimately in a coma for six whole months? I always tend to gto with the middle option, but I think it’s really arguable and I’d be willing to settle with any conclusion in that regard. It’s also worth noting that it’s the first time Glob is mentioned as a legitimate religious figure: something that would become a staple with Moynihan’s episodes later on. As is, I have little to no issues or complaints about this one. It’s a trip through psychological terror that I truly never get sick of watching, and one that I hold with very high regards in a season of already high ranked episodes.

Favorite line: “(just had his legs broken) … Whatever.”