Tag Archive | Aleks Sennwald

“Jelly Beans Have Power” Review

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Original Airdate: January 27, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Aleks Sennwald & Hanna K. Nyström

I dunno why but, before I had revisited this one, I almost completely forgot what had happened in it. Maybe it’s because I was heavily intoxicated inside of a college dorm bathroom when I first watched this one (new Adventure Time waits for NOTHING), but aside from the main plot, I struggled to remember key elements about this episode’s contents. My incoherence may have had something to do with it, but truth be told, I think this one’s a bit scattershot when handling PB’s character arc, at least in my eyes. Even having seen it 4-5 times by now, I still kind of scratch my head wondering, “what was Prubs upset about again?”

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Her pain stems from so many different corners that it never feels entirely cohesive what she’s going through, which is usually AT‘s strong point, but it kind of works against this episode because it seems like the writers are seeking to put her problems out in the open. First, it appears PB is jealous of Slime Princess for unlocking her skills in elemental prowess prior to herself, which leads PB into attempting to unlock her own abilities. When finally unlocked, PB utilizes her abilities to show-off in front of Slime Princess, and to show that they’re both on equal levels. At first, it seemed like this was an obvious representation of Princess Bubblegum wanting to be the alpha-princess in Ooo. PB has been previously worried about her own Kingdom’s state of power and ability to survive in episodes like The Cooler and High Strangeness, so I kind of figured that PB’s jealousy stemmed from her own fears of being inferior within her own kingdom. That’s… kind of what it is, but also not really. Upon speaking with Pepbut, PB tells him that she’s simply distressed over the fact that she ignored a crucial part of her existence when she should have recognized the ability to begin with. Ooookay, but how does that connect with her attitudes prior toward Slime Princess? SP only knew she possessed said power when speaking to Patience St. Pim – it’s something that NOBODY knew about until the eventual revelation. So I’m not really sure I understand how PB’s anxiety actually meshes with her feelings of envy. Hell, it doesn’t even seem like it should really matter. Bubblegum has created her own massive kingdom and defense system, as well as a reliance on her own physical strength and technology, so I’m not really sure why she feels so forced to channel this power in the first place. Again, it could tie in with her own desires to be on the same pedestal as other powerful princesses, but looking “deeper into” her stressors kind of retconned that for unnecessary reasons.

While battling off the “crystal” device, PB once again laments about her inability to understand her newfangled powers over her own understanding of science, but again, nobody is really forcing her to do so. When she finally combines her knowledge of science with her own elemental abilities, it results in a giant explosion, in which PB is looked upon as a “monster” of the sorts. Once more, I thought this was a bit unnecessary. Regardless of whether her powers impacted the blow or not, a giant, weaponized crystal is going to cause damage regardless of how PB attempts to stop it. And given that the episode puts her character in a more sympathetic perspective about halfway through, it never really feels like PB has any reason to be at blame for her actions. Had she continued with her somewhat arrogant and one-uppy behavior, this ending would have ultimately felt more powerful and impactful. There’s also the notion that it’s only Candy People who were hurt, which sounds kind of fucked up, but they can easily be put back together, as shown numerous times. I’m sure they didn’t wanna go too dark with this ending, but c’mon, if you want me to actually believe that Bubblegum is a overpowered zealot, realistic approaches to psychological or physical damage are necessary. I overall thought her arc over the course of this episode was pretty sloppy, as it struggled to find a true focus for her character, and it doesn’t even really come into play later on. Bit of a spoiler, but Bubblegum’s struggle with her elemental abilities only worsens when Patience St. Pim takes over, and really has nothing to do with PB’s own character or choices. It feels like a bit of wasted character exploration.

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With all of that criticism aside, I actually do like this episode. I think it’s unfocused from a character perspective, but it has a lot of really fun and enjoyable stuff going on. Most of that fun stems from the fact that Peppermint Butler has a major role in this one, and man, the staff really never fucks up when writing for him. Pepbut is a character that so easily could’ve been turned into a full-on villain about halfway through the show’s run, but here we are, eight seasons later, and even after knowing all of his dark and sinister deeds, he still appears to be a genuinely nice, supportive, likable guy. I really love his undying devotion to Princess Bubblegum, even going so far as to appear as a parental figure to her (“let me see your hand, young lady!”). The interactions between Pepbut and PB were truly delightful, and really helped to carry this one through. Also really dig the supporting characters in this episode; Maria Bamford is back as Slime Princess and just as hilarious as ever. Bamford never fails to carry out SP’s voice in the most sensual, and the most hysterical fashion possible.

Jelly Beans Have Power also see’s the return of Chatsberry! I do think it’s a bit odd that he is the one to chat with PB… maybe I’m just stuck with the Avatar mindset of believing that the last incarnation of said elemental always appears as the spirit guide, but I think I have my own separate skepticism. It’s revealed in Elemental that Chatsberry, Evergreen, Slimy D, and Balthus were not the original elementals, so why is Chatsberry randomly the one elemental who does end up guiding the princess (also, including Evergreen, who appears on Pim’s board at the end)? The obvious answer is that he’s the only other candy elemental in the series that we actually know of, but I can’t help but feel it’s slightly contrived. Granted, I do really like Chatsberry through his design and voice, so I honestly can’t complain. And my gripes with PB’s messy arc aside, I don’t think there were any portions of it that were bad; I truly do like how PB uses her own chemical properties to channel the elemental powers within her, thus never compromising her own desires and interests in the process. This is also the second appearance of Patience St. Pim, who unfortunately doesn’t get to do much aside from subtly unlocking Bubblegum’s powers in her actions. I do enjoy how the end very much builds up the eventual culmination of the elemental story, which is surprisingly getting a lot of attention, given AT‘s usual method of pushing arcs aside for later. Big things are coming shortly!

Only other thing to note about this one is that I feel like the episode’s title is somewhat uninspired. Yes, there’s what is believed to be a crystal in this episode, and jelly beans are in fact shown to be powerful, but Jelly Beans Have Power has absolutely no other correlation to Crystals Have Power story-wise. I’m really not certain as to why this connection was made. But, as is, I enjoy this one. It has its problems, but it’s still a lot of fun in its execution, mainly due to the character interactions and humor (love whenever Pepbut pressures PB to shoot out a candy product that she clearly cannot). This is the final “normal” episode before heading straight into two eight-part miniseries(s). Strap in, y’all, we’re in for one hell of a ride!

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Favorite line: “HEY, WOULD YOU KEEP IT DOWN DOWN THERE? SOME OF US HAVE TO WORK TOMORROW!”

 

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“Preboot” Review

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Original Airdate: November 19, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Aleks Sennwald & Adam Muto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“Five Short Tables” Review

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Original Airdate: May 26, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Kris Mukai & Aleks Sennwald

Within the past 10 or so episodes, Adventure Time has been consistently churning out some really big and profound episodes. With that in mind, the obligatory Graybles/Fionna & Cake episodes likely feel more like a chore to the staff than a passion project by this point in time, which makes sense, since they chose to combine them. Both series are pretty hit-or-miss; while the Graybles episodes tend to get better, or at least more innovative as they go along, the F&C episodes only seems to get more lackluster and less fun as they go along. I can firmly state that Five Short Tables is nowhere near as awful as The Prince Who Wanted Everything turned out to be, though this one still fails to offer anything new or interesting to the series, and mostly just plays out as a dull, inoffensive use of 11 minutes.

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but there just really isn’t a very strong presence among the F&C cast. They’re all essentially carbon copies of their counterparts with diminished charisma and character traits. After Bad Little Boy, Fionna essentially just began to take on the role of “token nice girl” and she doesn’t really offer anything else beyond that. Cake is really the only character who stands on her own as a unique adaptation of Jake, though I often wonder if I’d even think this way if it wasn’t for Roz Ryan portraying her. I will tell you with utter honesty, there’s nothing quite as soothing as hearing Ryan utter the word “flapjack” again. I have trouble believing that this wasn’t an intentional move on the staff’s part. I also think Cake’s interest in expressive pancake art is charmingly silly, though not really enough to keep me captivated throughout the episode’s run.

I will say that the one character who did at least become a trifle more interesting is Gumball. While he sadly isn’t portrayed by Neil Patrick Harris in this episode (though Keith Ferguson at least gave it his all), we actually see a decent amount into Gumball’s psyche as Butterscotch Butler, the butterscotch Scottish butler, mentally eviscerates him using his fears against him. Not only does it give us an interesting look into Gumball’s insecurities and fears, but these can be easily seen as aspects of PB’s mentality as well, of which I have no doubt came into play because Ice King was snooping on her diary. How else would he know these dirty deeds?

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The next few entries are pretty blah. I’m pretty sure a lot of people enjoy the scenes between Turtle Prince and Flame Prince for the added Yaoi, but aside from that, there’s really nothing there that’s particularly entertaining. I remember a whole bunch of people were upset that Flame Prince wasn’t voiced by Dante Basco (which was the headcanon at the time), but holy shit, I had no idea he was voiced by Hannibal Buress until I looked it up! I’m a big fan of The Eric Andre Show. In the next table, we’re treated to a story in which Marshall Lee attempts to feed Lumpy Space Prince his medicine. It’s pretty unfunny, it doesn’t really have an interesting narrative at the helm, and I just don’t really care about the antics between these two pretty non-compelling characters. There are two things worth mentioning: it’s pretty obvious that this is the third board that Kris Mukai worked on for this season when looking at Marshall Lee’s demon-wolf hybrid. I have to say that Mukai’s boarding is a big strength for the episode; Fionna and Cake is big on allusions to anime, and I think Mukai’s drawings and expressions (along with her board partner Aleks Sennwald) really help to carry those allusions forward. The other thing worth noting is that LSP is not voiced by Peter Serafinowicz in this episode, of which isn’t too much of a distraction, because I feel like it effectively distinguishes the authoring styles of both Ice King and Lumpy Space Princess.

The final story starts out pretty creatively, as we’re literally treated to a fanfiction, within a fanfiction, within a fanfiction, within a fanfiction. It’s an idea so ludicrous that only AT could pull it off, and is truly one of the few highlights of this episode that is both pretty funny and legitimately complex. It was cool to hear Grey DeLisle reprise her role as Ice Queen once more, though again, Ice Queen doesn’t offer too much to the actual story and her segment stops almost as quickly as it starts. It is a silly idea that Ice King is the initial creator of the Graybles, and the ending with the distressed Cuber got a legitimate laugh out of me. It’s sad to think that this is actually Cuber’s last episode in the series. While the Graybles episodes were never some of my favorites (aside from the thoroughly ambitious Graybles 1000+), Cuber was always the strongest and most delightful part of any Graybles episode, thanks to Emo Philips, who really brought his character to life.

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Five Short Tables is pretty forgettable. I obviously don’t know what goes on inside the AT writing room, but if I had to guess, I’d say that the F&C episodes come simply out of the pressure of audience expectations and are never entirely what the crew wants to spend their time working on. I can’t say for certain, but I’ll at least say that Aleks Sennwald and Kris Mukai put enough effort into the visual and creative appeal of this episode that I can’t really get mad at it for being lazy, because there’s clear effort put into this one. The truth of the matter is that Fionna and Cake just don’t really have a ton to work with outside of their first appearance and the Graybles stories never fully land. It’s a crossover of two concepts that work together fine, but don’t really standout as anything slightly remarkable.

Thank you for joining me this week for the AT review bomb! With only 50 episodes left, we’re nearing the end. Be on the lookout for The Music Hole later this week, followed by the usual weekly Friday reviews, and then we resume with daily reviews as we move into the winter.

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Favorite line: “The purple thing had a tablespoon of syrup.”