Tag Archive | Ako Castuera

“Go With Me” Review

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Original Airdate: March 28, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Tom Herpich

Go With Me is Adventure Time at its purest: no big battles, no enticing adventures, no opposing villains, just engaging interactions between the characters and what makes them each so unique. Season two is certainly a lot more rounded in its humor and writing than the first season, but there are times during the second season that it can be a bit… “sitcom-y.” With some subversions, there’s a couple of different plots that feel as if they could be on any show (Blood Under the Skin, Heat Signature, Video Makers are some examples) and this episode could be included in that category. That doesn’t necessarily mean these are bad episodes, but part of the fun with AT is how unique and eccentric it can be with tackling your expectations vs. reality. However, Go With Me is a special episode that uses the characters to their very best abilities that avoids any feelings of being too generic or done-before.

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In my review of Henchman, I discussed how disappointing it is that Finn and Marceline barely interact outside of casual small talk in recent years. It’s really a shame, because if this episode is an example of anything, they are too freakin’ adorable together, and not even in a romantic sense. Obviously there is the giant age gap between the two, but I just generally enjoy watching Marceline tutor Finn on the experiences of life. Finn’s still very inexperienced with many topics, as he’s just recently entered his teen years. Marceline, however, has been around for ages. It’s really endearing to see the enjoyment Marceline has in shadowing a young companion, and the excitement Finn has in being taught how to talk to girls.

The way each character works off of each other in this episode is just splendid. Jake is still afraid of Marceline, Marceline still gets a kick out of fucking with Jake, Finn and Marceline I mentioned above, Finn and PB’s continuously awkward state, and a hint of Marceline and PB’s past history together is thrown in. I love how subtle it is as well; you really can’t gather anything from that brief bit of dialogue, but you know somethin’ is amiss. And hey, PB’s name is Bonnibel! Part of what adds to that mystery is that it’s really never revealed what Marceline’s motivation is behind helping Finn. She could legitimately want to help him score with Bonnie, but at the same time, she could also just be trying to spite the Princess. I mean, wrestling and being chased by wolves? Even Marceline, in her dark and mysterious ways, didn’t like being treated poorly by her ex-boyfriend Ash, so it’s very likely that it was all just a front to pick on PB.

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I love all of the awful advice Finn receives from Jake and Marceline and all the attempts he goes through to get PB’s attention, as well as just how far he’s willing to take it to do so. Jake and Marcy’s bickering and Finn’s general lack of experience with women is very sitcom-y, but hey, that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. I’d much rather watch these characters try to find a date for movie night than say, the cast of Full House, Saved by the Bell, or some other corny 90’s sitcom.

Like I said, it’s just really enjoyable to watch Finn and Marcy work off of each other. They’re two cool people who much rather enjoy having fun and enjoying life than feeling obligated to do what everyone else is doing. Finn learns an important life lesson in this episode: that he should follow what he wants to do rather than what society and social norms suggest. Finn probably would’ve been better off if he had just taken a blanket or duck to begin with, but hey, at least he got to spend the night with a good friend. Marceline taught him that valuable lesson, and she helped him to focus on excitement and livelihood in the end. It’s one relationship I never get tired of watching.

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Favorite line: “Naw, he just needs some spaghetti.”

 

 

“Guardians of Sunshine” Review

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Original Airdate: February 21, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich and Ako Castuera

Adventure Time has such an expansive and absurd world that a change in style can still necessarily fit with the general tone of the world on one condition: as long as the characters and environment still feel as though they are a part of the Land of Ooo. That’s why some of the upcoming guest animated episodes end up failing. While they keep the style and tone unique, the characters and environment don’t feel equivalent to the ones we’ve invested so much time and care into.

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It isn’t necessarily a traditional guest animated episode (it was actually animated in house by Jacky Ke Jiang; be sure to check out some of his other stuff, it’s terrific!), but Guardians of Sunshine takes our main duo through new dimensions and animation style while still staying true to the essence of Adventure Time. It helps that, while it is animated differently, it’s still written by series regulars Tom Herpich and Ako Castuera. Upcoming episodes like A Glitch is a Glitch and Water Park Prank feel like they’re written by people who are trying to understand the show, but just can’t quite get their grasp on it. This episode blends new styles with consistency to detail in terms of characters, giving it a better chance to succeed.

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And boy, is this one fun. Not only does it feel like a blend between vintage Atari and something of the late 90’s variety, but it captures the spirit of video games so well and so hilariously. The great little touches like the choppiness of Finn and Jake’s arms and legs, Finn’s face playing Pong, and Jake’s randomly pointy head are just so irresistibly silly. The general movement and design of the villains is so fluid and visually interesting; I especially like the way Busybee floats so smoothly and vibrantly, yet still has a blank, happy expression on its face. It makes me chuckle every time.

Adam Muto mentions in the commentary for this episode that he believes this is the first time in the series where the stakes feel high, and I could agree with that statement. Never before have Finn and Jake risked actually dying, and the tension of using up the few lives that they actually do have makes it a bit of a nail-biter. Of course, we know our heroes aren’t going to actually die, but there’s something compelling about putting characters in legitimate danger that simulates the notion that something bad really will happen. Adventure Time has pulled off that notion time and time again, but this was the first time it felt real.

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This is undeniably one of the most enjoyable episodes of the season. Plenty of terrific gags, a blend of CG to mix things up a bit, and a compelling adventure to send our two main protagonists on. If there’s one thing that brings down this episode, it’s BMO’s treatment. Man, do I feel bad for the little guy! It legitimately pains me to see all of the villains break through the side of him like that. It’s actually sort of interesting that we get to see the little console as the “only sane man” of the group. Typically BMO is prominent for his childlike innocence, but I almost sort of like seeing him in this light for a brief amount of time. I just wish Finn and Jake would feel a little sorry for what they put him through, but it’s okay. BMO’s sending their asses back to the video game world, cheat code style! 

Favorite line: “Easy-peasy, livin’ greasy!”

“The Other Tarts” Review

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Original Airdate: January 3, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Ako Castuera

This cosmic dance of bursting decadence and withheld permissions twists all our arms collectively, but if sweetness can win, and it can, then I’ll still be here tomorrow to high-five you yesterday, my friend. Peace.”

This monologue is what spawned Adventure Time’s first bit of philosophy within the series. In general, it’s one of my all time favorite moments, because it combines everything I love so dearly about this show: the weirdness, passion, and beauty of the AT world and its characters. There have been plenty of different analyses and breakdowns of this bit of dialogue, primarily the concept of the social pressures of life and how they can restrict our moral compass and own desires from doing what we truly want. For me, it’s just a bit of beautiful nonsense, but that doesn’t undermine how terrifically it’s written, visualized, and acted. That’s Stephen Root playing the part of the crazy Tart Toter, and he’d later go on to voice Finn’s deadbeat dad, but that’s far down the road.

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As for the episode itself, it’s a delightful little Finn and Jake adventure. Of course, the plot follows a predictable direction: a character tells the main protagonists not to fuck up or something bad will happen, the main protagonists fuck up, nothing bad happens. Of course, with any show, a predictable plot can be executed with just how well it’s written and the strength of the characters in focus. Finn’s determination to complete their job in regards to impressing Bubblegum is both sweet and unique. It adds an extra layer to how far Finn will go for her at this point in this series, as well as showing his desire for everything to go exactly as planned. His paranoia behind the success of his mission really shows how much he cares for PB from both a romantic and heroic standpoint. While Jake just simply is along to crack jokes and keep the atmosphere light for his friend.

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Cinnamon Bun begins to take on a bigger role in the series as of this episode (this is actually this first time he’s referred to as “half-baked”) and he’s admittedly one of the weaker secondary characters in my eyes. He’s very much in the same vein as LSP; works well in small doses, but is really only there to be dimwitted and loud. That being said, his depiction in this episode works greatly with the plot. He’s only on screen for a brief bit, and actually succeeds with his task. I really don’t like characters that are written so stupidly that they drag down the plot and only make situations worse for other characters, so it’s rewarding and somewhat endearing that Finn and Jake’s original distrust in CB had them proven wrong.

This is just simply a charming episode; lovely characterizations of Finn, Jake, PB, among others and all of their quirky flaws that make them so interesting. Not to mention the classic bizarre side characters each episode has to offer, such as the hostile butterfly and JJ the robot (apparently Tom Herpich has some weird fascination with the letter “j”). The Tart Toter himself is beautifully drawn and so well acted that he feels like such a large presence on the show itself, despite it being his only speaking appearance. I love the random details of his design, from the oozing icing in his mouth to the birds quite randomly strapped to his limbs. Of course, I could listen to the Tart Toter’s monologue all day long. It’s a brief 30 seconds of everything that makes Adventure Time so special.

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Favorite line: ^ See above.

 

“Her Parents” Review

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Original Airdate: January 24, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Tom Herpich

Oddly enough, this is the third episode in a row that Finn undergoes some type of suffering while Jake isn’t able to protect or help him. It’s unusual that this has become such a consistent recurring theme, but interesting that it’s been done in a completely different perspective each time. In Power Animal, Jake couldn’t focus on saving Finn, in Crystals Have Power, Jake didn’t want to use brute force to save Finn, and in this episode, Jake has two choose between the two people he cares about most: his best friend and his girlfriend.

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An interesting bit of lore is added to the world of AT in this episode with the 1,000 year Rainicorn-Dog Wars. It’s one of those little bits of information that was most likely included as a throwaway joke, but has since then been used in future episodes to be expanded upon. A Rainicorn-Dog War is silly enough, but almost seems to make no sense that it lasted 1,000 years until you realize it’s most likely cleverly from a “dog years” perspective (or even a Rainicorn years perspective; we know how quickly they age). Also, Rainicorns ate humans! It’s another interesting bit of apocalyptic world building that is honestly kind of dark when you think about our species dying off due to many of these colorful rainbow creatures.

I’m actually not a big fan of the premise of this episode; the idea of having the nervous boyfriend scared of meeting his girlfriend’s parents and having to pull off a giant facade just seems very 90’s sitcom to me. Of course, Adventure Time adds that extra punch of absurdity to make this stray from becoming too generic. Like the past few episodes, I really feel bad for Finn, but I can’t help but laugh at the horrible pain Bob and Ethel put him through in this episode. It sounds so sadistic of me, but I get a kick out of every time I see Finn get launched into those glass bottles.

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Bob and Ethel are actually really great as the quirky parents too. Of course, they try to eat our main protagonist at one point, but hey, different cultures, man. I also like how, even though this is literally the third time in a row Jake has indirectly allowed his friend to be in certain danger, he still doesn’t come off as unlikable. It’s all for his girlfriend who he cares about so deeply, but isn’t afraid to put his foot down when her parents take it too far with his best friend.

There’s also some really nice imagery in this episode. The colors are so vibrant and nice, even more so than usual. There’s a scene at the beginning of the episode with Finn, Jake, and BMO eating breakfast, and it just look gorgeous! Nick Jennings helped with a lot of the artwork in the episode, and added some great touches, such as the dust particles in the window and the shadows on Jake.

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I recently picked up Adventure Time: The Official Cookbook and there’s a recipe for Soy Human in it. I’m going to feel very dirty if I do, but I may have to try it myself… Details to follow…

Favorite line: “JJ flip! What the zip?”