Tag Archive | Ako Castuera

“Betty” Review

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This title card was designed by Derek Ballard, who has created some of the trippiest and most artistically interestingly title cards throughout the fifth and sixth season.

Original Airdate: February 24, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Ako Castuera

Betty was originally intended to be a full 22 minute episode, but switched to the standard 11 minutes in favor of the Lemonhope two-parter. As a result, Betty has an absolute ton going on within its brief runtime that would almost seem impossible to pull off in a satisfying way. Yet, this is Adventure Time we’re talking about, and while this episode certainly isn’t without its problems, it somehow manages to execute this story in an enticing and somewhat powerful way.

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The decision to include and also effectively resolve the story arc involving the secretive Wizard Society in this one is certainly an interesting choice, and one that I think works relatively well. I always expected this to be some big plot point that result in some sort of Wizard war with Ooo, so I was quite surprised how little the Bella Noche plan came into effect following this episode. Yet, I’m perfectly fine with it, because it did lead to some big effective changes within the story that I can appreciate. And hey, that beginning scene is a lot of fun. It’s always nice to see this group of wizards, and I think they work off of their general disdain for Ice King pretty well.  One of my favorite funny/”oh shit” lines in this episode is when Laser Wizard declares “your life is my problem.” I’d love to see more of Laser Wizard; despite the fact that Tom Kenny voices about a zillion characters on this show as it is, he still gives Laser Wizard a convincingly devious tone in voice that is menacingly cool. And of course, there’s the other classics as well; it’s nice to have Maurice LaMarche back in his final role as the Grand Master Prix (still have no idea if he actually did voice GMP in Wizards Only, Fools, but his inflections in this one have reverted back to how he sounded in Wizard Battle). Forest Wizard also has his fair share of funny moments, namely in his passions that cause him restless leg syndrome. Bella Noche isn’t an especially memorable foe, but the episode never really makes him/her a main focus. It’s more about the effect he/she has on the Ice King when it comes to Bella Noche’s pure essence of anti-magic. Interestingly, Bella Noche means “beautiful night” in Spanish, and is based off of a barista who Jesse Moynihan used to frequently see at his local coffee shop.

What this episode does best, however, is really giving Simon a defined chance to shine. We only got to see a mere glimpse into his history in Holly Jolly Secrets, and Simon & Marcy fluctuated between his normal state and some odd quirkiness that I’m not really sure if it was supposed to be him or his transformed self. Here, Simon isn’t portrayed as this super interesting or unique dude, but he’s… normal, as he states himself. And from the lack of humans we actually get to see from the series, it is nice to see him as an utter straight-man, with some likable qualities, as well as flaws. On the likable side, you can really tell how kind, genuine, and intelligent he is and was. When looking towards his flaws, you can kind of tell there is a bit of a pretentious side to Simon. And I don’t necessarily mean that in a critical way, as it is interesting to look at his from a different perspective than just “that amazing guy that Marceline loved.” It seems like he has a bit of an ego, whether it be his lame poetry to Betty, “what am I? What am us?” or the fact that he kind of dickishly sent off Betty while talking to her through the time portal. His line “I forgive you for leaving me,” shows that he even blames Betty to a degree for him losing his sanity to the crown. I’m not saying that it’s necessarily his fault either, but it seems like he’s more sorry for himself than the fact that Betty lost her fiance to the crown. Again, I don’t think any of these aspects make Simon seem like an actual dick, but help to make him appear more human. He’s still a super compassionate guy, as shown in his interactions with Marceline, which received possibly the most criticism within this episode.

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Marceline’s interactions with Simon are… brief, to say the least, but I wouldn’t necessarily say it dampens the moment. While it definitely sucks that Marceline and Simon aren’t allowed more time to interact and catch up with each other, I will say: as a viewer, this is exactly what I wanted to see. Simon and Marceline lovingly reunite, they briefly have some humorous back-and-forths, before realizing that Simon is dying and he won’t be able to go on without the power of the crown, which means that the focus has to change for the episode to progress. I guess I’m kind of wondering what exactly people wanted from this; I think the main complaint that I can kind of see is that Marceline just seems passive to everything that’s going on, leading up to the point where she gives up Hambo to Simon with little hesitation. Again, I disagree with the criticism in the sense that the episode isn’t trying to make Marceline seem selfish and overly emotional. Obviously she’s going to want to do anything she can possibly do to help Simon, he’s the main reason she even survived during the aftermath of the Great Mushroom War, and it seems silly that one would expect her to be anything more than exceptionally giving to her old friend. Most would think it contradicts her behavior shown back in Sky Witch, where she literally stops at nothing to get back her beloved teddy bear. But it really isn’t Hambo that she longs for, it’s the emotional connection she has to Hambo that was brought to her through Simon. Love calls for sacrifice, and it’s hard to imagine that Marceline’s love for an inanimate is more for her all-time closest friend. There’s even a brief moment of quietness as Marceline looks at Hambo, kisses it, and sadly obliges. It’s clear she doesn’t want to give Hambo up, but what the fuck is she going to do otherwise? Marceline’s exterior is hard, but she also isn’t entirely selfish.

And this is where we’re finally introduced to an on-screen appearance of the aforementioned fiance. Betty also works in the same way the Simon operates; she’s slightly more quirky, but much more in-tune with the human side of herself. She’d later join in on the insanity as her character becomes more and more tormented from this point on, but we’ll get to that later. In a sense, however, I actually enjoy how one-note they make her character in this episode and from this point on. If you think about it, how much do we actually know about Betty besides her undying drive to cure and help Simon? Yet, it’s that same drive that makes her continuously more interesting and tragic. I never felt like I needed to know who Betty was as a person, it seems very clear. She’s much like Simon: intelligent, slightly quirky, and loving. Yet, it’s these qualities that make it all the more somber when she does get consumed by her loss and is unable to function or focus on anything that isn’t curing the love of her life. It’s all quite well done. Betty is voiced by Lena Dunham, and while I most commonly associate Betty with the Dunham voice more than anything, it’s kind of disappointing because I feel as though Dunham is kind of phoning in the lines in all of her appearances. It’s not necessarily an awful performance, but I always feel like Dunham is never completely engulfed or even understands what is going on in the story. And as much as I absolutely and dearly love the staff of this show, it was an absolutely awful decision to cast a celebrity as busy as Dunham to voice a new potential recurring character. This would later backfire, as Dunham was replaced with a different voice actor (whether based on availability or Dunham’s… questionable behavior… I still don’t know) and I’m glad they were able to get someone who seemed more committed to the show and the character as a whole.

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But that little detour aside, I do like the interesting ways that Betty is incorporated into the story. Mainly the fact that her entrance through the time portal is what caused her to completely disappear from her old life with Simon. It’s a paradoxical event that makes me wonder… if Betty had stayed, would she be able to fix the crown and save her fiance? I guess it’s impossible to say now, but I’m sure that, no matter what the scenario was, it possibly could have been better for Betty and Simon individually if she had just stayed within her timeline. Even if she couldn’t save him in the past, the future has only led to pain and suffering for the both of them… for now, at least. Once Betty enters the current timeline, the episode seems to be running on speed from this point on, and again, drew a lot of criticism for the portrayal of Betty and some arguable pacing issues: why is Betty so laidback about the post-apocalyptic world she entered into? How is she so easily able to operate a magic carpet when she came from a world where magic was virtually rare? How is she so easily able to take down Bella Noche without even struggling to do so? Well, for the first two, I’ll at least say that the episode is so fast-paced, hectic, and dire, that it really doesn’t give me any time to question if anything that is going on makes sense. And that’s the best way to describe this episode as a whole: tense and dire. It doesn’t always work off of logic or reasoning behind its choices or the way the plot progresses, but I’ll be damned if isn’t a compelling, stressful adventure. It very much works like the future episode Reboot in a sense; it isn’t exactly the most terrific episode when it comes to writing or story, but it certainly makes up for it by how well it captures you in the moment.

And Simon’s deteriorating state feels legitimately crucial. Regardless of the fact that we know that Ice King isn’t simply going to die, it is still difficult to see Simon in what is possibly his lowest state of being, and in a legitimately suicidal state of mind. Simon would much rather perish than to have to live one more day being the Ice King again, which also contributes to his vague memories during his periods of insanity. Simon doesn’t know much about what it is to be the Ice King, but he knows that it’s a person that does not embody who he is or who he wants to be. Death even appears in this one to emphasize how close to dying the Ice King really is. And, during the instance where Ice King gains his powers back, he solemnly states “you lose.” Living is not the prize for Simon, dying is. Whether he believes there is a cure for himself or not, he regrets every waking second that he has to go on as the Ice King. And as long as the crown has power over him, it’s tough to say how he’ll be able to regain his past identity.

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As for Betty’s takedown of Bella Noche, I actually do enjoy how it took a non-magic user to simply and effectively take the being of anti-magic down. It seems pretty obvious that all of these skilled wizards wouldn’t be able to beat Bella Noche because, duh, magic, so it is fitting that Betty would effectively have no trouble kicking the shit out of this being without any hesitation. And it’s a triumphant victory as she restores magic to all Wizards in Wizard City… that is, except for the one person she was not able to save: Simon. One of the most poignant pieces of the episode is the ending, as Betty sadly watches her loved one get beaten to death by a princess that he kidnapped, as he can hardly even remember who she is. Betty sadly flies off in hopes for a cure for her fiance, but things have arguably never felt more grim and hopeless for her and the future.

The music in this one is particularly great. Tim Kiefer composes a lot of tunes similar to the ones heard in Holly Jolly Secrets during Ice King’s secret tapes, and it gives the episode a bit of an off-putting, yet whimsical feel.

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So yeah, I think this one is pretty solid. I’m not going to say that people are necessarily wrong when they address how much is going on with this one, it’s A LOT. But a lot isn’t always a bad thing, and I think this episode still effectively blends everything it wants to do in an enticing, jam-packed 11 minutes. I much prefer an episode like this, that is really intoxicating and potentially crazy, than an episode like Simon & Marcy which was much slower and didn’t really give me any new information that was worth swallowing. Betty leaves me with a ton of impressions, some good and some bad, but overall always makes me excited for that really energetic, nonstop journey. It’s one that I totally understand why people don’t like it, though personally, I think everything was executed the absolute best way it possibly could have been in the course of 11 minutes. Would it have been even better as a 22 minute episode? Maybe, it’s impossible to say. But Jesse and Ako still put all that they could’ve put into 11 minutes, and I commend them for making this totally insane story actually pay off quite successfully.

Favorite line: “I don’t want to be the Ice King again. It’s like living with eternal diaper butt.”

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“The Pit” Review

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Original Airdate: November 18, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Ako Castuera

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Red Starved” Review

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Original Airdate: October 14, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Jesse Moynihan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The Vault” Review

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Another one of my favorite title cards, this one designed by Michael DeForge. Season Five has really been on a role in the title card department.

Original Airdate: September 16, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Jesse Moynihan

The Vault expands the world of Adventure Time in so many different ways that it really is amazing all of this was packed into 11 satisfying minutes. It harps on so many past plot points and tidbits that other episodes had already set up, and creates a vividly sad story about a newly introduced and very interesting character. Of all the questions Adventure Time had raised by this point, the mystery behind the Ghost Lady in The Creeps made me more curious than any other aspect of the series. A lot of people speculated that the Ghost Lady was Finn’s mother, and I’d being lying if I didn’t believe the same thing at one point or another. Though, I’m glad that instead, I was treated to a story that was very different from my initial expectations.

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First off, the scenes building up to the actual flashback are just great. Just some classic bits of Finn and Jake working off of each other exceedingly well; Finn’s failure to acknowledge that suppressing memories is harmful, Finn punching himself in the face, Jake calling out his bro for continuously wrecking the kitchen, Finn completely ignoring Jake to acknowledge a cricket that is chirping in the room, etc. Though there’s always one aspect of this episode and some future episodes that just completely baffles me… Are Finn’s pajamas supposed to be different in this one? I was always uncertain if this was an animation error or not, and I’m still not positive. They reappear again in Ocarina (though the storyboard for that episode suggests it may have been intentional), and I’m pretty positive they never appear again after that. I’m not sure what the reason would be for changing them, because they look way more awkward than Finn’s classic pair of red pajamas. But I digress.

The episode really picks up when we are introduced to Finn’s past lives, which, before Shoko is introduced, we see a comet, a butterfly, and “a thing.”

  • Up to this point, only butterflies have played a significant role in the series. In the episode Still, it’s shown that butterflies represent Finn’s astral beast. Also, the original pitch of Mortal Recoil called for Finn to float down on a butterfly after working with Ice King to freeze Princess Bubblegum. This was directly intended to initiate the butterfly as Finn’s spirit animal, as mentioned by Jesse Moynihan.
  • The comet portion of Finn’s history has yet to be touched on, but we’ll get to that awesomeness in season six.
  • “The thing” appears to be a part of the mother gum that was seen in Simon & Marcy. This part of Finn’s past life is never touched on in the show, and, to my knowledge, never examined further in any of the comics or expanded universe of the series.

It is most interesting to me that Finn’s past history consists mostly of objects and non-sentient beings, rather than an array of heroic counterparts that further hype up the idea of Finn being a Glob-sent being.

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And when we are introduced to the humanoid being that is closest to Finn’s current self, it is nice to know that she does share some striking similarities, as well as many differences to Finn’s mainly heroic self. I really, really love Shoko’s design. Her cat-like eyes, detailed outfit, and bare arm (I actually enjoy how Shoko doesn’t have any mods until later. Unlike Finn’s other alternate versions, Shoko just walks around with a little stub, and I think that’s pretty cool) all make for a pretty unique design, and the fact that she rides around on a giant, white tiger is even more awesome. Jesse Moynihan stated that the tiger is actually a past life of Jake, which I think is somewhat unnecessary. I just thought it was genuinely kind of cool that she had her own separate animal buddy, and it doesn’t really make a difference to me if it was supposed to be Jake or not. But again, I digress. This bond between girl and tiger in general feels very anime-ish (people have noted the connections between this and Princess Monoke) and just feels like it builds a bigger sense of fantasy for the world of AT overall. This feels less silly and just more straight-up mythological.

The Bath Boys are another delightful gang of dastardly bastards introduced in the series, and it is worth noting that the mansion they live in is practically identical to the one seen in The Creeps. It’s a nice connection that does build a bridge between the episodes so that it doesn’t seem too unrelated. It’s also worth noting that the Destiny Gang’s hideout in Finn the Human looks pretty identical to both of these buildings, so I’m wondering if the mansion in general is just a place of swindlers and bullies to take refuge across all dimensions. That’s pretty neat, honestly. The Bath Boys aren’t as well-defined as, say, the Destiny Gang, but the leader himself has a couple of funny lines here and there. I think it’s also pretty nice that it seems like the relationship between Shoko and the Bath Boys is mostly abusive; she’s forced to do work for them because she has no other way of getting by, and if she doesn’t comply with them, she’s as good as dead.

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Shoko’s mission takes her to a very early version of the Candy Kingdom, where toxic ooze still surrounds many aspects of Ooo, and many Candy People are in their early developmental stages. The most hilarious being that the Banana Guards are still green. That is just priceless. We also see Princess Bubblegum, who again, does not look any different from her current appearance. This episode finally puts to bed the question of “how old is PB?” and just settles for the concept that she is, like, a zillion years old. How this never came up in conversation with Finn, I have no idea, but here it is, plain and simple. Bubblegum is really, really, really old you guys.

The bond between Bubblegum and Shoko really carries the episode through, along with some nice little bits of continuity we’re treated to, like Young Mr. Cream Puff, who is “like PB’s boyfriend.” This harkens back all the way to Slumber Party Panic, when PB briefly mentions that she and Old Mr. Cream Puff used to date. There are really no boundaries with the attention to detail AT is able to accomplish. Every single moment that happens in this world is solidified and factual, and there is absolutely nothing glanced over or treated as a mere gag. It really shows how much care and dedication is taken into the writing process for Adventure Time.

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We’re also treated to a more in depth look at Shoko’s character as she interacts with Bubblegum. Aside from the missing arm, Shoko also has the unfortunate similarity of having some shitty parental issues, namely that her parents legitimately sold her arm for a computer. And it’s sad to see that we’d be treated to Finn’s parental figure being the reason he lost his arm in the near future. Shoko seems quite disconnected from all feeling and her emotions because of it, and instead chooses to live a life where she works more for herself rather than the people around her. Though her story is left purposely ambiguous, I do wish we were left more time to really get a grip on who Shoko is and dive deeper into her own psychological issues. But what we get is perfectly serviceable.

As she works more closely with Princess Bubblegum, Shoko is able to acquire the one thing she has never had in her life: a close acquaintance. Someone to chat with, share personal stories to, and even be a little bit goofy with at times (love the bit where she hands Princess Bubblegum the duck to engineer with). But ultimately, even after sitting through a tremendous exercise like building the Gumball Guardians, Shoko is still only there to steal from Princess Bubblegum and to make money for herself. It isn’t until Shoko receives the modded arm from PB that she realizes the weight of her actions; for the first time, Shoko acknowledges that somebody cares for her, and it goes beyond simply wanting her limbs for technological advancements. Bubblegum has given Shoko an arm, but more importantly, a close friend. Yet, Shoko realizes that she still has to go through with it. Despite the kindness that PB has shown her, she is still alone in the world and will have no one if the Bath Boys get to her first. The tragedy in this is that all Shoko had to do was tell PB the circumstances of her actions; the Princess could’ve easily taken care of the Bath Boys with her new technology, and also could’ve given Shoko a new home. Yet, Shoko’s fear of her own happiness and comfortable safe space in a world with no loved ones drove her to betray her one and only friend instead. Even if it means using her new “plug n’ play” to do so.

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It’s a pretty heavy decision Shoko makes, but one that is slightly made lighter by the fact that the Gumball Guardians are at their all-time funniest. Their desire to protect the Princess beyond anything else is just great, and I almost wish they would show this dedication and how powerful they really are in the rest of the series. Shoko does end up stealing the amulet, but to no avail. She quickly finds herself in a vat of ooze, with no way of being rescued or getting out safely. It’s a sad moment for PB, and she and the tiger look on at each other quietly. I get the feeling that PB really did care for Shoko, and that she would’ve welcomed her into the kingdom happily. With Marceline gone, PB really didn’t really have anyone to relate to or to even talk to at the time besides her Candy children, and now she, like Shoko, is left how she was when the flashback sequence first started: alone.

This is where the flashback sequence ends, as Finn discovers that Shoko ended up dying on his own stomping grounds, where she also ended up gaining a new arm in the process (yeah, that’s right, Finn gaining his arm back was foreshadowed too!) It’s also where the episode is met with a quiet conclusion, as Finn returns PB’s amulet to her once more… what the point of this moment was, I’m not really sure. The amulet never plays a part in the series ever again, so they might as well have never included Finn giving it back to PB to begin with. Would’ve been awesome to see what kind of power it was able to possess.

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But yeah, this one is pretty solid. I think my main complaint is simply that Shoko is never mentioned or seen again after this episode, and it’s a shame, because she’s a really interesting character that I would like to see a bit more in depth. But that aside, it builds on AT’s lore tremendously well, and answers some much needed questions that left me satisfied for quite some time. It’s an experiment that I think goes over really well, and I definitely wish we got more episodes like this in the future.

Issue 50 of the Adventure Time comics focuses more on the story of Shoko and Finn’s other past lives, and it’s quite excellent! It’s one of the few strips I really would like to see adapted into a full length episode, so check it out if you get a chance!

Edit: Just realized I had already plugged Issue 50 in my review of Davey. I guess you can tell how fond I am of it.

Favorite line: “I thought we could do some two-arm stuff, but… uh, it’s cool!”

“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!”

“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.”