Tag Archive | Cole Sanchez

“Jake the Dog” Review

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Original Airdate: November 12, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Cole Sanchez & Rebecca Sugar

Onto Jake the Dog! Without going into too much detail already, I think it’s safe to say that this episode is an improvement over the last one. Does that make it good? Ehhh, well, let’s dive deeper.

I did mention at the end of the review that I was anticipating more of Prismo, who to this date is one of my favorite secondary characters, for no other reason than the fact that he’s just a cool dude. I like his laidback, charismatic attitude, his voice work, courtesy of Kumail Nanjiani and his willingness to help others, despite his obligations as a wishmaster. He’s always a very enjoyable presence, and this episode highlights everything that’s so likable about his character, and why he’s so fun to be around. I like his connection with Jake especially, and feel that, besides F&J and PB & Marcy, they make for one of the greatest friendships in the series (yes, I just called PB and Marceline friends. Please don’t verbally eviscerate me).

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This one essentially contains an A-plot and a B-plot, so, while I’m on the subject of Prismo, lemme go into detail about Jake’s side of the story. The episode is called Jake the Dog for a reason, it emphasizes some of the most well-defined aspects of his personality: his carefree attitude, his laziness, and his desire to be leisurely and kick back with others. To a degree, I think it does all three of those a little too well. I’m on the side of the crowd that believes that Jake is a little too selfish and a little too stupid in this one for my own liking. I get that the titles Finn the Human and Jake the Dog are supposed to highlight Finn and Jake’s differences: Finn’s nobility, desire to do good, and undying devotion for others contrasts with Jake’s own wants and needs, but at the same time, a large part of Jake’s character is his devotion to his best friend as well. Jake was willing to latch onto the fucking Lich two episodes ago for the sake of the world, and it’s honestly frustrating to watch him so blatantly ignore his brother’s alternate self (who is technically his current self) crumbling around him. The idea that all Jake wants to wish for is a sandwich is quite funny, but not when his friend’s life is on the line.

It’s honestly just poor context for the scenario, because I really enjoy Jake’s time chilling with Prismo and the Cosmic Owl. It’s so silly in its own right – that two cosmic beings are just casually sitting around, eating cheesy snack in a hot tub, and playing board games. It really is an excellent example of what makes each and every character so great in AT; even some of the most highly regarded beings in the universe can be just as goofy and “normal” as our two main boys. I like Jake giving Prismo relationship advice as well, showing us how different Prismo is in regards to Jake’s optimistic and honest relationship with his own girlfriend. I get the feeling that the reason Prismo is so nice and friendly is the fact that he does get lonely. He’s restricted to the confines of his timeline and probably only gets to speak to “singulars” when they want something from him. Prismo finally found someone who’s interested in just hanging out, and not someone who’s using him for his own personal gain.

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But, as I said, because of the circumstances, all of the scenes featuring Jake and friends feel unnecessarily cruel and inappropriate in relation to all of the scenes featuring Farmworld Finn. And, unlike the previous episode, I’m actually invested in Farmworld Finn’s dilemma and emotional state this time around. The two stories are interlaced so awkwardly that the combination of humor and drama really kind of falls flat, which is something AT is typically terrific with in terms of blending genres and moods.

I wouldn’t be so critical of it if the Farmworld Finn aspect wasn’t interesting, but this time around, it’s really freakin’ entertaining. I definitely expected tons of apocalyptic references from this episode, but tying the ice crown back into these themes is really intriguing. From the moment that Finn puts it on, it’s changing faster and more drastically than it did for Simon. Why? Well, two possible reasons. One is that Finn is young and still inexperienced, and his impressionable mind was altered faster than Simon, who is full of knowledge and life experience. Second, it could be that, while Simon strongly resisted the power of the crown, Finn accepted it and allowed it to take over his mind. Of course, the simple answer is probably that there’s only so much inner turmoil that could’ve been covered with Farmworld Finn in the course of seven minutes, but it’s still an interesting thought to be analyzed. The stuff we do get with Farmworld Finn is really powerful and tragic regardless.

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Despite my complaints that Farmworld Finn was difficult to empathize with in the last episode, it really is tough to sit through the hardships and insanity he experiences, especially with his family. One of the most impactful moments of Jake the Dog is Finn’s conversation with his family. The interactions between Finn and his mother are sad enough, as that connection has proved to be the strongest out of Farmworld Finn’s relationships, but the most effective reaction from his family derives from his baby sibling. Or, more so, Finn’s reaction to his baby sibling’s crying. I love how control of the crown does connect to caring and loving for another being, so when Finn sees that his brother is noticeably upset, he does what he must to save his family from the power of the crown, yet does not take it off. It’s a subtle, but powerful moment that really emphasizes the greatest flaws of the crown: the wearer may be able to save everyone around him/her, but won’t be able to resist the urge to wear the crown.

Once the mutagenic bomb does set off (featuring the infamous animation error of the crown still being placed on Simon’s skeleton) things get even darker and grittier, as Finn beholds a disintegrating Marceline and the mutated remains of his pet dog. Finn’s demeanor and behavior transpire into pure insanity, which is both really entertaining and also somewhat horrifying. I have to give it to Jeremy Shada, this may be one of his best voice acting efforts in the entire series. Not to imply that he’s ever performed badly, but he so magnificently emulates the Ice King mannerisms, as well as the breaking fear and sadness in Finn’s voice, making for a really, really powerful performance. The bit with Finn fearfully crawling back from Jake as he transforms into the Lich cuts me deeply inside. It also raises an interesting question: was the Lich created from the mutagenic bomb, or did he simply arise once again from the destruction of the bomb? As further episodes suggest, he’s existed as long as the universe, if not longer, so I’m assuming he’s been defeated and silenced time and time again, only to arise and cause destruction once more.

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Drawing towards the end, in a return to Jake and Prismo’s antics, Jake conducts the perfect wish to ultimately retcon the mishaps around him. It’s a bit underwhelming to have everything return to normal after this entire arc, even if there are lasting effects that will return later on, but unfortunately, we won’t be seeing anything from this selection of stories for quite sometime. So by its end, Jake the Dog does have Jake showing off his heroic side by saving the day for everyone, but sadly, I think it was a little too late in the episode for me to root for him.

When it comes down to it, this one is just decent in my eyes. I know this is one people like a ton, and that’s understandable! As I mentioned, there’s some really juicy bits in this episode. Farmworld Finn’s experiences with the ice crown are more than enough to justify this existence of this episode, with really nice animation, design, backgrounds, emotion, voice acting, and, especially, lore. Unfortunately for me, the Jake parts weaken a majority of the stronger plot points. The pacing, as I mentioned, is really sporadic, and dampen the emotional and intense roots of the A-plot. The ending also feels like the entire journey was worth nothing; I’m not someone who believes that Adventure Time needs to be a completely serialized show and that anything good is strictly plot related, but if you’re going to drop a three-part epic about the Lich on us, I’d expect a bit more of a lasting impact than just returning to the wacky and goofy antics of the characters of Ooo an episode later and not touching on any of these issues for a whole 52 episodes. I’m still satisfied with the bit of excitement we got while exploring the Farmworld, and its content still resonates with me greatly even if the entire episode does not.

Favorite line: “Here, eat this egg. It’s brain food.”

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“I Remember You” Review

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Original Airdate: October 15, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Rebecca Sugar & Cole Sanchez

“There’s so much that exists outside of show because it’s a post-apocalyptic future, which means that the present exists in the reality of this show. You have to extend this whole world back into the past and every that’s happening in it is real, and there’s so much that you didn’t see that’s implied to have happened, and that becomes real, but it also becomes something that you invent. So you have a personal ownership over everything that created Ooo, and it really does feel like your imagination because it’s asking you to imagine so much of it and connect all these dots.”

An eloquently put statement from Rebecca Sugar about Adventure Time’s success that can really be applied to this episode in particular. Ah, I Remember You. Where do I even start with this episode that’s considered damn-near perfect by nearly everyone who has ever seen it? Well, for starters, I actually don’t think it’s entirely perfect. There’s definitely some parts that drag, some parts that don’t seem to add anything, and even Ice King can grate on being borderline annoying at times. But even that said, there’s no denying the passion, the raw emotion, and the beautiful connection that was created between two of the show’s most tragic characters make it difficult even for me to deny this as one of AT’s greatest efforts.

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I think it’s been somewhat evident this season that the Cole Sanchez-Rebecca Sugar duo is, at worst, a bit dissonant from each other. They’ve created some of the best episodes this season had to offer, but also just felt much more separated in tone than the Muto-Sugar duo combination. It’s not to say Sanchez suffers from poor writing himself, but always seemed to dabble more in Adventure Time’s sillier side. There’s nothing wrong with this, but, as is, it can be quite a contrast in even just the simple squishy and stretchy expressions of Finn and Jake to the endless amounts of detail Sugar adds when drawing them, sometimes making it feel like a jarring experience.Here, it works to the duo’s advantage.

Here, in the very first scene, we open to Ice King singing a very poor adaptation of Marceline’s “Fry Song” which is just the kind of silly opening that’s warranted with the emotional rollercoaster that’s on the way, and evident why we need a scene like this. We don’t only care about Ice King because he’s a sad soul who lost his former self, but because he’s zany and enjoyable to be around. And that’s not to say it’s even a distinction in writing style; it’s not like Rebecca Sugar isn’t one to dabble in Ice King’s antics and purely sees him as a completely tragic character. It’s common sense among the AT staff that, to care about these characters when issues arise and life hits hard, we first must be able to laugh at them, have fun with them, and genuinely enjoy being around them. And Ice King is pretty much the epitome of that archetype, literally revolving on all ends of the spectrum: funny, nonsensical, endearing, sad, lonely, and sympathetic.

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There’s plenty of fun gags at the start, namely Gunter’s adorable pet-like behavior, the umpteenth mention of J.T. Doggzone in two episodes, and the humorous exchange between Finn and Jake. I think the boys are really used as point to showcase the significance in Ice King’s transition from creepy villain to incompetent ally. There’s very few times after this episode where Finn and Jake legitimately go as far as to spy on him (though, it’ll take a lot longer for them to actually warm up to him) and it’s blown up in their own faces when they realize, at heart, Ice King is just an eccentric goofball. He doesn’t want to hurt anyone or destroy all of Ooo, but instead desires faithful companions to be at his side.

It’s when Marceline enters the scene (sporting a tucked in anti-smoking shirt, which is surprisingly one of my favorite Marcy outfits, mainly for it’s simplicity) that the tension begins to heat up. The first interaction between Marcy and the IK harkens back to Sugar’s statement, as Marceline claims “I told you never to come here again,” implying this has happened several times in the past, which is only further emphasized in Marceline’s Nuts song. The reason Marceline has moved around so frequently is either partially or directly related to Ice King continuously coming to visit her or spy on her, something that was used as just a quirky character trait of hers way back in season one, but now comes full circle as a result of her deteriorating friend she can no longer stand to be around. One can only imagine the types of interactions they’ve had before; it’s debatable what kind of relationship they have had before this, but it’s clear that Ice King does have some form of admiration for the Vampire Queen, which may be because he does subconsciously remember her a slight bit. Even more devastating, you can draw the parallels that perhaps Ice King has always seen her as a potential royal stereotype that he has attempted to kidnap before. No matter what the likelihood of any of these theories are, it does allow the viewer to put the pieces together however they like, and for me, it’s one that, no matter what context, is always tragic.

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From this point, the episode practically becomes one big musical. While I did enjoy What Was Missing quite fondly, you may recall in my review that I mentioned Sugar’s style of writing, especially in terms of musical score, pretty much dominated the episode and felt more like an episode of Steven Universe than Adventure Time. I think these songs are all perfectly crafted and all serve a clear purpose in terms of character perspective and development. Yes, they do feel like the Sugar-iest scenes that have ever played out on the show, and while I’ve made that seem like a bad thing in the past, it’s really not. I think it’s only a problem when it poses somewhat of a distracting issue in terms of story or pacing, but honestly, it works perfectly here. An episode could be riddled with Somvilayisms or be filled with Moynihan-type trippiness, but if it’s hilarious or thought-provoking, I don’t mind in the slightest. And here, the characters act as dramatically and passionately open about their emotions as they ever have (well, namely Marceline), but it’s so beautifully and captivatingly done that I couldn’t see this story done any other way.

It all begins with Oh Bubblegum, Ice King’s ballad to Princess Bubblegum, which is actually my favorite song in the episode. Ice King’s singing voice is clearly terrible on purpose, but it’s oozing with emotion and so blatantly has Ice King reveal his inner thoughts and self-esteem issues. He demandingly questions why, after all this time, he still doesn’t have anyone to love or a princess to call his own, which he sees as pure evidence that there’s something completely wrong with him. It’s a song that basically embodies everything I mentioned the Ice King is: silly and quirky, but also sad and lonely. Every song is accompanied by the hum of an omnichord, and it both emphasizes the whimsical and cutesy nature that each song has to offer, but also provides an ominously off-putting tone as well, which really hits home in the more uncomfortable parts of each musical number. Also, I’m gonna put to bed the idea that Marceline’s look of concern toward Ice King during his song has absolutely anything to do with her feelings revolving around PB. Absolutely no fucking way in hell I believe that look of sympathy was for anything besides Ice King’s depressing nature. There’s a ton of shipping fuel I buy into between Marceline and Bubblegum, but this isn’t one of them. Though, I’m not sure how many people even believe this theory anymore.

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When Marcy attempts to stop Ice King’s insanity, it’s a portion that I think halts the episode for a brief moment. I think Ice King’s shame for pushing Marceline feels a little melodramatic and tonally dissonant from the rest of the episode, but it’s this irritability that transitions in Marceline’s solo-song Nuts, which has her open up about her own insanity and mental exhaustion that the Ice King has caused her over the years. There’s plenty of Alzheimer’s connection you can make within the story of I Remember You, and the connection between Marceline and Ice King in general, and I think Marcy’s frustration and own helplessness are brought out full force in this ditty. It’s pretty easy to sense that she knows she can’t fix the Ice King and that, whatever has happened to him, he’s already too far gone to return to his former self. Marceline acknowledges that she wants to hangout with him and help him however she can, but it’s clear that the man she once knew and loved is gone and it’s really just painfully unfortunate that she has to accept what he has become.

Ice King’s sweeter and more empathetic side is brought out by Nuts, but also immediately becomes void when he attempts to kiss Marceline. This is really the most uncomfortable scene in the episode, as someone who was once a father figure to Marceline makes sexual advances onto her. It’s a writing choice that Sugar herself felt hesitant about, but one that Pendleton Ward really, really wanted in, and man does it pack a punch. Obviously it’s a somewhat harmless activity on Ice King’s part, given his ignorant nature when it comes to human relationships (though it was pretty creepy how he used a mere hug as a segue into first base), but you can only imagine the trauma or disgust that Marceline is feeling with him. It’s here Marceline blows up, and refers to the Ice King as his former alias, “Simon.” I get the feeling that Marceline has never actually tried to make Ice King remember who he is before, as she was either too hurt or confused to understand what had happened to him, but it becomes clear that she’s fed up with his jogged memory and wants simply to have her caretaker back again. She uses pictures (complete with Simon holding the Enchiridion, oh, the lore!), notes, and former writings of the old antiquarian, but nothing seems to work. Again, another great parallel to Alzheimer’s in the sense that, however much proof or evidence you show someone suffering with the terrible, terrible illness, nothing seems to work as an effective target to help jump the mind.

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Marceline then discovers a note written by Simon, which can be translated into a poem or tune to sing, to which Ice King takes as immediate inspiration into his next song. Remember You is the dramatic pinnacle of the entire episode. It’s here Marceline realizes that, no matter what has happened, Simon does love her and did what he could to make sure she survived. He never wanted to watch Marceline suffer, and admittedly probably never expected that she’d even live long enough to watch him become the villain, but had to do what he did to survive. No matter how selfless a person is, any mentally healthy person is likely to not welcome death with open arms, and Simon wanted to preserve his scholarly mind for as long humanly possible. There’s no possible chance that Marceline could ever think that Simon didn’t care for her or want the best for her after reading the note, and she can both emotionally react to it and acknowledge that the best thing she can do for Simon in return is accepting Ice King for who he is. No matter how annoying or distorted, Ice King is still Marceline’s old friend deep down inside, and the only aspect of Simon that remains in tact. The two bask in their new bond: Ice King, realizing he has a new friend to jam with, and Marceline, who sees the beauty and the sorrow in what is likely Simon’s last remaining form of communication he wrote to her, that he was probably too insane at that point to give to her in person. The episode closes with a flashback to the Great Mushroom War, and what is probably the first overt piece of visual evidence of the actual apocalypse. Marceline and Ice King’s soft voices lull the last scene powerfully through (some honest-to-Glob tearjerk worthy inflections from Tom Kenny) as an already transformed Simon hands a young Marcy a stuffed animal to comfort her, which eventually becomes her most prized possession, Hambo. A perfect heartwarming ending that gets me near-misty eyed every time I watch.

Everything this episode embodies is masterful, from creating a beautiful connection between the only characters who lived through the Mushroom War, to allowing them to powerfully emote through the art of music. This episode is essentially a “box episode” in the sense that it takes place almost entirely in Marceline’s house and focuses solely on the interactions between two lead characters. It’s almost like a stage play (with some musical elements) and really works as a captivating piece of character development and the reason why this show is more than just a silly cartoon for kids. It’s passionate, it’s creative, it’s honest, it’s funny, it’s dramatic, it’s philosophical, it’s so many things that really just knock it out of the ballpark. There’s that bit of a lull, and some parts that don’t work. Like, what was the point of including Finn and Jake spying on the Ice King in the last few minutes? Did they really think Marcy wouldn’t be able to take care of herself? I understand they may have been concerned with Ice King’s behavior, but really, c’mon. Marcy herself asked them to leave. But, any minor problems aside, this episode is just too damn good. It’s cliche at this point to endlessly praise it, but I’m not going to lie when I think something is really good. It emphasizes everything that makes Adventure Time beautiful and admirable, and still amazes me by how well crafted and inherently sad I Remember You is to this day.

Favorite line: “Your constant harassment of the female gender makes me siiick.”

 

“Lady & Peebles” Review

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Original Airdate: August 20, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Cole Sanchez & Rebecca Sugar

Lady Rainicorn and Princess Bubblegum’s relationship is one that always baffles me. In the original series pitch bible for Adventure Time, the friendship between PB and LR is really exaggerated to the point where it includes “when she [Lady Rainicorn] wakes up and doesn’t see Princess Bubblegum, she’ll dash around the castle grounds gaily searching for her mistress.” While the pitch bible isn’t necessarily the most factual piece of reference for AT’s current status, it still was insinuated in the very early days of the show that these two were supposed to be close pals – hell, PB’s even riding on top of Lady in the opening theme. Besides that, we get a few instances of the two together, namely in the pilot and What Have You Done? and… yeah that’s about it. Weird that we’re supposed to believe these two are close companions when the show has never suggested otherwise, until this particular episode. It’s nothing particularly telling of the friendship between the two, but it does give us some insight into two of Adventure Time’s most prominent female leads.

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The beginning starts off as a compelling, tension filled bit of expository information regarding Finn and Jake’s disappearance. It’s enlightened by Bubblegum’s goofy behavior which is always refreshing; I enjoy how she can go from a very stern and solemn ruler to somehow who is just as wacky and unusual as the rest of the cast of AT. The tenseness comes from Lady’s perspective, and, while a good majority of us have no idea what she’s saying, Niki Yang delivers it so eloquently and in such a sincere tone that it keeps my attention despite the fact that I can’t understand Korean. I feel like I’m watching a weighty foreign dub throughout this scene, and despite the fact that it feels heavy and serious, it’s once again lessened by PB’s totally genuine, yet sarcastic reactions to Lady’s monologue. You can tell she’s taking every word LR says seriously, but she does so in such a hammy and amplified way that is then followed by such a minuscule response that it just cracks me up. I love any depictions of PB’s character, but goofy PB really just rubs me the right way. Also, I’ve never mentioned it before, but the way Lady communicates with others is done so in such a non-pandering way. Most English-speaking viewers won’t be able to understand her, but they don’t go the unnatural route of having every character that interacts with her respond to her with “what do you mean you feel [this way] because of [this]?” There’s no spoon feeding with the writers trying to make us understand every single thing Lady says or feels, and we’re just generally supposed to accept this based on the way she emotes and her tone, which is so much more effective than having an English-speaking character repeat every single thing she says. It would defeat the point of having a Korean-speaking character to begin with.

In my somewhat scathing review of King Worm, I mentioned that the slow pacing of the episode was what really brought it down, and this episode takes its sweet time with the entire middle section as well. The only difference to me is that it actually works to strengthen the episode a great deal. The entire expedition through the black ice cave is remarkable, once again showing off the terrific backgrounds (BGs have been on point this season!) equipped with an ominous atmosphere to really drive the tension and mystery even further. Lady & Peebles embraces the quieter and more subdued moments to make a very convincingly unnerving atmosphere, and also helps make the action sequences more impactful. The action sequences themselves aren’t anything special, though the girls do face some visually interesting foes, from hand beasts to a giant tongue. These battles really show off how Lady and PB deal with physical combat: PB is equipped with her typical scientific technology, while Lady herself seems to be somewhat of a pacifist. Lady’s strengths seem much more on a moral and virtuous level rather than her own physicality. She’s evasive and defensive with her own skills, such as her tactic of phasing through walls and ability of flight, though I think it’s tough to picture Lady being someone who would throw punches, especially with her condition that’s revealed later on.

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The real icing on the cake is the reveal that Ricardio was behind Finn and Jake’s disappearances, however. I wasn’t too big on Ricardio or the episode he debuted in, for that matter, but by God, Sugar did her damnedest to make his return as chilling and uncomfortable as possible, and boy, does it work. They’ve somehow managed to make him seem even creepier and more grotesque than his first appearance, and added a layer of body horror with his loosely connected limbs. And for the first time, he does feel like a legitimate threat. I think the brief scene of him breaking Ice King’s bones was totally wince-worthy, and this time, he’s an actual adversary to Finn and Jake. Despite being easily beaten the first time, Ricardio had the upperhand by poisoning the boys with zanoits (something he and Bubblegum both shared a fond interest of in Ricardio the Heart Guy). It makes for a nice role reversal that Finn and Jake are now the ones who are in danger and PB has to be the one that saves them, and really shows how far she has come since the beginning of the series as a character.

After an unnervingly blatant moment of Ricardio making sexual advances towards the princess, Bubblegum is able to face off with him in a very simple, yet effective takedown. Sugar herself said it was really rewarding to include a scene where Peebles is able to engage in hand-to-hand combat without any of her weapons, and yeah, it’s pretty awesome to watch. It doesn’t feel out of character or like a manipulative tactic from the series to highlight feminism, but instead a great spotlight chance to showcase PB’s true strengths: her role as an intellectual. She isn’t able to defeat Ricardio specifically because she’s really buff or fierce, but because she identifies factually that Ricardio is simply not built as a stable living creature. She denotes this by saying, “I know a thing or two about building a body out of biomass,” which could both refer to herself, as well as her people. Bubblegum can easily identify strengths and weaknesses within living creatures simply because she built herself and her people from scratch. She can use her knowledge to help create life on all layers of the earth, or destroy any artificial being in a matter of seconds if need be. It’s a moment that really had me fully invested in PB as a character. Season four is really her first shining season in my eyes, and this particular battle had me cheering her on and just acknowledging how fucking badass she is by the end of it. It’s an excellent bit of growth for what was originally a damsel-esque character, and it’s terrific to see how far she has come from that stereotype.

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So with that, Finn, Jake, and Ice King are saved, Ricardio is defeated, and everything returns to normal… that is, besides the fact that Lady reveals to Jake that she’s pregnant. I love how this bit is handled, too. With Lady’s tears and general tone, it seems like she and Jake had no plans or desires to have children just yet, and Jake’s humorous closing remark suggests that as well. Despite the fact that the two end up loving their children, it’s clear that they’re a couple that wanted to play things safe and casually for the time being. And how ballsy is it that an unmarried couple are having children on a kid’s show? Pen Ward mentioned in the commentary that the original pitch was to have Jake and Lady break up, due to the stress that Lady endures when Jake goes on adventures, I’m so glad they didn’t go that route. It would’ve been incredibly melodramatic and pointless for a couple as laidback and caring as Jake and Lady to break up, especially given Lady’s devoted and unconditional love for her boyfriend. The pregnancy reveal honestly strengthens the episode for me as well. I love the little bits of foreshadowing, such as the heart monitor reading seven heart signatures instead of two. It also increases the impact of some scenes much more – I feel legitimately sick to my stomach every time I watch Ricardio tie Lady’s body in a knot. I know that aspect never comes into fruition (a lot of people argue Jake Jr.’s face is a birth defect, but that theory has been officially debunked) but it’s still very gruesome to watch a pregnant woman abused in such a way.

I enjoy this one, primarily because it does spotlight these two characters who are rarely seen together, yet feels so genuine and powerful. I don’t think there’s a single other time in the series where PB and Lady are seen together, yet, this episode does such a terrific job of building the unseen connection between them that I never have a hard time believing they are close friends. It also adds layers onto their individual characters, and leaves us wanting more from each of these gals. It’s both honest and telling for both PB and Lady, and adds excitement for the future of their respective character arcs.

Favorite line: “Then, I’ll use my Ball Blam Burglerber!”

“Burning Low” Review

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Original Airdate: July 30, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Cole Sanchez & Rebecca Sugar

Burning Low opens to Finn and Flame Princess acting like a couple and almost completely ignores the past events of Hot to the Touch. It seems like a jarring change to have her previous episode end so vague and profound and then quite abruptly switch to lovey-dovey and endearing. In addition to that, it doesn’t really add anything that new to Flame Princess’s character. Through the entirety of this episode, FP herself only has a total of, like, 7 lines. We do learn a bit into why she had been locked up for several years of her life and the potential dangers that she could cause in her relationship with Finn, though it’s really never elaborated on any further. That said, it’s not really supposed to be a developmental Flame Princess episode, but instead release the turmoil that’s been building inside Finn ever since he let go of his infatuation with Princess Bubblegum. It does a great job of showing both sides of the situation, namely that Finn finally revealed his feelings toward PB after four seasons of build-up.

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First of all, this episode was the biggest fucking tease of all time by Cartoon Network. They really hyped the shit out of this one as if Finn, PB, and FP were going to be apart of some big love triangle that seemed 100% out of some 12-year-old’s fanfiction. Luckily enough, the staff chose a much more interesting direction that led to a pretty obvious misleading, but one that brought out the best in both Finn and PB’s characters.

Princess Bubblegum is clear, concise, and to a point about how she feels: she simply doesn’t want Finn or Flame Princess, someone who she has kept protected and sheltered from the world since she was a baby, to get radically hurt whether it be physical or mental. The only thing unusual about her point is the fact that she doesn’t draw a specific line about whether she believes Finn and Flame Princess should stop dating or just cease all connections completely. She repeatedly asks Finn to not “see” or “hangout” with Flame Princess, and if she means that he can’t engage in anything physical with Flame Princess, it’s completely understandable that she wouldn’t want to see either get hurt. Though, if she wants Finn and Flame Princess to stop hanging out all together, I have some difficulty getting behind that. Does she believe that the idea of Flame Princess and Finn hanging out at all could end disastrous because they eventually will want to give into those desires, or is it also somewhat of a jealous motherly/friendly tuition that she simply isn’t ready to see Finn dating yet? The latter seems more selfish, but I’d be surprised if that wasn’t just slightly a bit of her reasoning. After all, the ending shows that she does feel some jealousy seeing her little friend develop romantic feelings that don’t lean towards herself, which, again, I don’t think is anything out of character or unusual for her. I’m sure PB had very positive intentions to make sure Finn and Flame Princess remained as safe as possible, but also did enjoy the attention that Finn has solely given her over the years and will miss it. Bubblegum deeply cares about Finn, and watching him grow up is both a rewarding and also a tough experience for her.

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The jealousy aspect really stems from Jake, however, who basically instigated the entire conflict of the episode. It’s not unlike him to entirely disregard something important that PB intended for him to pay close attention to, and I find it even more fascinating that, essentially, he was right the whole time. As I mentioned, PB’s intentions were aiming at everyone’s best interests, but Jake wasn’t wrong in believing what he did. Problem is that he accidentally almost caused the death of Flame Princess, but Finn is also at fault for not sticking around while PB was trying to talk to him. Even if Jake did kickstart Burning Low’s conflict, he makes up for it by continuously sticking by Finn’s side throughout the episode. The scene at the beginning where Finn and Jake discuss love and tiers (the tier 15 bit is so infamous now that I’m sure it goes without mentioning) is surprisingly really funny and cute, and the bit where Jake finally blows up at PB for everything she had put Finn through in the past was both heartwarming and intense. Despite Jake and PB having a relatively civil connection, he has no shame in completely blowing up at her for all the emotional turmoil and stagnation Finn had experienced in the past. PB and he have never had the best relationship when it comes to what is best for Finn, and this is the first time they’re really put at odds.

But the icing on the cake is, of course, Finn blowing up at PB. It’s a really powerful moment for Finn to finally get his emotions for the princess out, and that he’s able to do so when his integrity and patience is tested. Finn knows that it would be entirely unfair for himself to give up everything he’s worked for in the past few weeks to be with someone who wouldn’t give him the time of day, and that he deserves better. It really shows how much he’s grown from developing a real, mutual relationship, and that he knows that he never wants to go back to feeling how he did when he was infatuated with Bubblegum.

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These three perspectives are really what carry the episode through, and make the end result a very raw, powerful experience. That doesn’t mean that Finn and Flame Princess’s relationship is covered poorly, however. I do think that Finn assisting FP in building a new house (where Marauder Village coincidentally used to be) was a very cute sequence, and just very sweet to see Finn in a relationship where he’s receiving mutual care and respect. Made me really happy for the little guy. The bit with Flame Princess bursting through the core of the Earth was definitely an intense sequence, but didn’t quite ring with me as much as the rest of the episode did. Maybe it’s just because I enjoyed the introspective looks at how the Finn-PB relationship has escalated and shifted overtime that when it came back to the FP-Finn relationship, I just wasn’t nearly as invested.

But what we have is an excellent display of anger, jealousy, empathy, and even more turmoil that has built up amongst our main characters throughout the years. It’s really intriguing to see them all act so honestly and brutally with each other, not out of hate, but out of care for one and other and for themselves. It also goes without saying that this is one that is loaded with some of AT’s most iconic moments, whether it be the tier 15 scene or Bacon Pancakes. Yes, this is where Bacon Pancakes all started. And obviously it’s been played out profusely over the years (in one of my favorite renditions here), but it still strikes me as an extremely charming and enjoyable tune. Sugar was especially nervous about this one because she figured it was going in the direction of being way too random and absurd to the point where it was making fun of itself, but I never got that kind of vibe from it. It never seemed too embarrassingly self-referential and always struck me as especially delightful. There’s also the bit with Jake videochatting a silly character by the name President Porpoise, who later receives an entire episode dedicated to him much, much later on.

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This one is just a collection of terrific character interactions and development based on the past sequences of events that led up to this point. For all the people who wanted to see more of Flame Princess and Finn’s relationship in depth, this probably wasn’t especially satisfying, seeing as how FP’s physical instability never really plays a large part in the story again and she’s barely even in it. Though, for anyone who has been anticipating the relationship between Finn and PB to have somewhat of an official close, like myself, it’s all the more rewarding.

Favorite line: “You’ll make it to Tier 5, where she’ll let you discover all fifteen feet of her long, beautiful stomach.” (I don’t wanna know what Jake and Lady do in private)

 

 

“Gotcha!” Review

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Original Airdate: June 18, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Cole Sanchez & Rebecca Sugar

Going into LSP-centric episodes is always a difficult task for me. I’ve been pretty audible on this blog about my feelings regarding Lumpy Space Princess in the past, so you probably already know I’m not the biggest fan of her. Yet, at the same time, I don’t actively dislike her. Of the recurring cast of characters, LSP and Cinnamon Bun are about as close I’ve come to disliking anyone, but I certainly don’t hate them. Even with that said, there’s a bit of bias I do hold against these episodes going in that I’m sure a diehard LSP fan wouldn’t necessarily agree with. Then again, there’s also characters I genuinely enjoy like Tree Trunks who isn’t really able to hold up an episode on her own either, so I’m not sure if it all comes down to personal preference or not. I dunno, I’m rambling now, but even though I’m not able to enjoy Gotcha! a whole lot for the reasons I’ve mentioned above, it’s still a pretty okay episode that I think has its moments.

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Part of the problem I do find with LSP-centric episodes is that her vanity and self-centered behavior just aren’t enjoyable enough to span the entirety of an 11 minute episode. The episodes she’s heavily focused in typically do revolve around the very one-dimensional side of her personality as well, which is why Lumpy Space Princess works best in small doses. You have an episode like this that attempts to help her come to a realization about herself and the way she behaves, but the fact that she still stays the same in her very next appearance just makes any type of development surrounding her seem like a waste of time. It’s not even that she’s portrayed badly in this one; I enjoy her epiphany that people aren’t solely attractive by their good looks and instead also by their personality, as well as the admiration she grows from Finn because he is especially attractive in that sense. However, as I’ve said, in a cast of characters that are constantly growing and changing, LSP is just one that we can never expect to change, which is fine, but it makes an episode like this seem practically pointless. The only time I find it interesting is when we’re treated to some of the more tragic aspects of her characters, such as in Bad Timing or Be Sweet, but any attempt to put Lumpy in a more compassionate and endearing light just feels a bit flimsy to me because her attitude and obsession with herself never seem to lessen.

As for the plot of the episode itself, I think it also suffers a bit from being slightly disjointed. It almost feels like it could’ve been separated into two different stories: one with Finn and Jake going on an adventure with LSP, and one solely revolved around LSP’s book. I feel as though they had some cool things going with LSP’s social experiment in the first act that just don’t get enough time to breathe or work to their fullest potential. That’s followed by an entertaining dungeon crawl, but by the time that expedition ended, I had almost completely forgotten LSP was writing a book to begin with. I liked both set pieces, but I think committing to one part or separating the two would have helped for satisfactory experiences.

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Not sure if the eye-whites here are an animation error or not. This feature was primarily done away with after the first season, though I’m not sure if the rule specifically applies to Finn. Nevertheless, you rarely see a character with eye-whites these days.

So yeah, I’m ranting my asshole out, but there are many other gems that are worth mentioning. Despite what I just said about the story, I do genuinely enjoy both the adventure and book aspect. From an LSP point of view, I think her parts can drag them down a bit, but it’s more of the atmosphere surrounding her that I like than her actual experience. For instance, I love that brief little montage of Lumpy Space Princess writing a new version of her story while that song about generosity plays softly in the background. The entire episode is just filled with nice indie vibes that I can really get behind. And I guess that’s the best way to describe how I feel after watching this episode, “nice.” Again, I don’t really find myself enjoying Lumpy’s character or sympathizing with her anymore than I did before, but I didn’t actively roll my eyes or find it painful to sit through. It’s not like sitting through a Ronaldo Fryman episode of Steven Universe (coincidentally, Rebecca Sugar boarded this one. Sorry, Rebecca. There’s just no way to make that guy pleasant or charming).

The connection between LSP and Turtle Princess is one I quite enjoy. The constant “HEY, GIRL!”’s throughout the episode do make me laugh considerably hard, and I just generally find Turtle Princess’s sad and macabre personality to be endearing, so anytime she’s on-screen is a delight. Jake in particular is pretty funny in this one. I like his brief interaction with BMO at the beginning (would’ve loved if Jake actually called BMO “sensei” in the next handful of episodes), his reaction when LSP first shows up at the doorstep, and his outburst “LSP, you’re wearing garbage as clothes!” towards the end. I think Cole Sanchez and Sugar went a little overboard with how nice Finn is for the purpose of the plot. It’s not overexaggerated or unbelievable, but it shapes him down to behave like a much blander character than he is. But again, this is from Lumpy Space Princess’s point of view, so I can’t really fault his behavior or the way he’s written for it. I would’ve enjoyed a few goofier or quirky moments for him. I do, however, like his remark, “you’re beautiful on the inside… like, your brain and stuff!” That was a perfect Finn interpretation of inner beauty.

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The quest Finn, Jake, and LSP go on is pretty neat-o too. As I mentioned, I really would’ve liked to see a whole lot more of the Mystery Mountains, but what we got to see was pretty cool. The whole bit with the mirrors was really spooky and interesting, and it makes me wonder what the story is behind the mirrors. Is it secretly what LSP most desires? That would make perfect sense, because the entire episode is devoted to her realization that Finn is not attracted to her, but instead, she is attracted to him. While we’re on the subject, what is the age gap between Lumpy Space Princess and Finn? Like, we know she was already a teenager in her debut, and she later celebrated her quinceranera in The Eyes, meaning she’s probably 15 or 16 where Finn is now a 14-year-old up to this point. I always kind of thought LSP’s attraction to Finn was sort of creepy, but it’s kind of reassuring that they’re likely only a year or two apart. Also, is this the only time Finn uses that little slot on his backpack for the Demon Blood Sword? I mean, I know he used it to carry the Root Sword around, but from the Demon Blood Sword onward, he’s always just kind of kept them in an area between his back and his backpack. Weird thing to note, but I kind of wonder why he doesn’t use that slot more often. Probably a hell of a lot more comfortable (though also probably tougher to draw).

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With that said, this one is okay. It has its fair share of decent moments, but nothing I get behind too much. Again, it might just be my personal beliefs blindsiding me, but there are several LSP-centric episodes down the line I actually really enjoy, so it does lead me to believe I’m not being too biased.

“I don’t know how it happened. Usually, I’m super observant about these kinds of things. Like that one time Melissa’s lump was all crooked when she came back from the bathroom. I observed that. I observed that all day and didn’t say anything. She must have been so embarrassed for herself. What-ever. ‘Cause that’s what you deserve when you PO LSP. Ha. Oh, she know what she did – No, I’m not going to tell you.

After all, a girl’s gotta have some mysteries.

Anyway, I’ll talk to you later, book. To recap, Finn is the one who is hot. I’ll see you in the next chapter. BUMPS.”

– I Wrote a Book, Lumpy Space Princess

Favorite line: “LSP, you’re wearing garbage for clothes!”

“Daddy’s Little Monster” Review

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Original Airdate: April 30, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Cole Sanchez & Rebecca Sugar

Daddy’s Little Monster answers the questions left behind in Return to the Nightosphere with pretty satisfying results. This one had some competition with the hilarity and bizarreness of the last episode, but I think Daddy’s Little Monster takes a bit of a new direction that still makes for an equally enjoyable episode.

This one starts exactly where Return to the Nightosphere left off, as Jake tries to charge up his camera phone through BMO after a refreshing shower. BMO’s technology functions usually incorporate some kind of double entendre revolving around making stool, but this one seems especially straining for the little guy. Almost like he’s passing a kidney stone or something. It’s also interesting to see a cellular phone in the Land of Ooo; to my knowledge, we only ever regularly see LSP’s cell phone up to this point, so it almost makes me wonder where exactly Jake retrieved it from. Though, from this episode on, it seems like almost everyone in Ooo and beyond has a cell phone. Kinda wish they kept up with the cool and unique personal phones Finn and Jake had that were adapted from a transistor radio and a walkie-talkie. They just seemed like fitting and creative pieces of technology for a post-apocalyptic world.

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Aside from that, we do get a lengthy sequence of exposition as Finn and Jake watch video evidence of what happened to Marceline. It’s all very energetic and humorous though, especially with the return of none other than Hunson Abadeer! That guy is so lively and vibrant that I love every second of him being on-screen. It’s rare we even get to ever see him, so his return is certainly welcomed. Marceline’s quick song about wanting Hunson’s respect is alright I suppose, but that’s because its counterpart from the last Nightosphere episode was The Fry Song. Pretty hard to compete with that, and the song itself is just sort of a brief leighway into Marcy’s main conflict with her father. It has some nice lyrics, and reveals more baggage in the ever-dysfunctional relationship between Hunson and Marceline. I also love Jake throughout the duration of the video: he’s constantly rotating the phone up and down from body-view to his feet. I also find his line “ow, my hippocampus!” to be great, because it works as a funny one-liner, as well as revealing where Finn and Jake’s amnesia came from in the previous episode.

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There’s a lot of funny moments once Finn and Jake return to the Nightosphere. I love Jake’s half-assed attempt at shifting into a demon, followed by his really grotesque transformation. The demons return once again and are equally as funny as their last appearance; love how the demonized Marcy finds a way to fuck with them no matter what, even when they try to find loopholes around their predicament. That one guy just wanted abs too God damn badly. Also, that fucking demon who was chewing out Finn and Jake for cutting in line was all kinds of amusingly obnoxious. I love the Political Rap that follows as well, written by J-Moyns himself. It’s so pandering to the demons listening, and yet I love the way they all just immediately go along with it. Especially the line “this system is broke, yo!” That really seemed to hit home.

The scene with Hunson in his kitchen (equipped with magnets from Vegas and Orlando; Hunson really got around in his younger days!) is both enjoyable and pretty interesting, really. Hunson’s actions are obviously morally wrong, but it’s clear that him and Marceline are two completely different people, and it’s often pretty relatable that a parent may want something for their child that just simply isn’t attractive to them. Hunson’s actions aren’t completely unlikable because he certainly seems to hold Marceline to a high standard by considering her worthy of ruling his kingdom, and only wants Marcy to be raised the way he was raised and possibly find more common ground with her. The reason he’s wrong in his actions, though, is obviously because he chose to do it against Marceline’s will and didn’t respect her choice of wanting to go her own path.

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Finn see’s this as an opportunity to save Marceline, and, though it backfires, Finn chooses the heroic and equally chaotically evil choice of putting on Marceline’s amulet. It’s cool to see such a twisted version of Finn’s personality. Even though he saves Marceline and Jake, he’s pretty much immediately taken over by the gem’s demonic powers afterwards, and can’t resist the overwhelming feelings of evil inside of him. That’s when Hunson comes out to save the day! I think this part in particular can be up for interpretation. It’s never explained fully whether Hunson knew this was Finn or not, and I like to believe he assumed the beast was Marceline and finally came to his senses in regards to allow her to go upon her own life path. Looking at it that way is a very sweet moment from the ruler of all darkness, and even if he knew it was Finn, he still chose to put an end to the suffering that Marcy and her friends had gone through.

The only thing about this one I didn’t like that much was the climax. I think the conversation between Hunson and Marceline was resolved way too quickly. It goes from quiet, to tense, to charming, to cheerful all over to course of about 20 seconds. I like Hunson admitting he’s proud of Marceline, but this scene just wasn’t enough of a selling point for me. I was really convinced that Hunson does care about Marceline during their interactions towards the end of the original Nightosphere episode, but it’s done so quickly this time around that I feel like there’s not enough time for a big emotional impact. It’s done well enough, but after one big two parter, I would have liked somewhat of a bigger payoff. Also, apparently a lot of people thought Marceline was completely serious when she said she’d stop being friends with Finn, which almost had me convinced because we won’t see her for another 18 episodes now. Marcy’s pretty much missing in action for the rest of the season from this point on, aside from one final prominent appearance.

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But I do like this one a lot, and I think it really does work well as a two parter. It was a great exploration of a rarely seen area in Adventure Time, and continued to build on a relatively important relationship. I love the Nightosphere, I love Hunson, I love his connection with Marcy, and I just really love all the creativity that went into these past two episodes. This is the last we see of Hunson for now (not sure why they’ve never incorporated him in another story till the upcoming season 9 episode, I suppose they just never found a place for him) and I’m glad we got to see enough into his character and his relationship with Marceline to hold me over till then.

Also, I’ll never look at a banana the same way again.

Favorite line: “See how I’m not killing you?”

“Five Short Graybles” Review

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Original Airdate: April 9, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich, Cole Sanchez & Skyler Page

The Graybles episodes never quite reached the heights of the other experimental types of stories AT has pursued. The guest animator and Fionna and Cake episodes have produced quality material that the Graybles stories haven’t been able to meet in my personal list of favorites. Though, I can say, where some guest animator and Fionna and Cake episodes have failed somewhat severely, I’ve never thought too poorly of any of the Graybles. They’re simplistic and cute stories that later contribute to the lore of the show’s world, but for now, they’re simply the former. And there’s nothing wrong with that, this one actually reminds me a lot of 22 Short Films of Springfield, one of my all-time favorite Simpsons episodes. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s where Graybles episodes stemmed from, Pen Ward is a huge Simpsons fan after all.

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It starts out very uniquely, with the introduction of Cuber, voiced by Emo Phillips. It’s later revealed that he’s a futuristic dude, but I’m pretty sure in this one, we’re just kind of supposed to look at him as the narrator. But he’s pretty cool, though this is probably his most generic appearance. He later lends himself to some creative and clever scenarios, but here he’s just kind of in it to do his job, and that is to explain the purpose behind Graybles. It’s a decent first appearance, and I really do love Emo Phillips as a voice actor. Check out his stand-up if you haven’t, it’s hilarious!

The first story starts out with BMO, and it’s by far the best. It’s a pretty stellar look into BMO’s psyche that introduces the recurring character of Football, as well as BMO’s underlying desires of wanting to be a human, or wanting to relate to humans. It’s really cute and almost tragic in a way; I really love seeing the little guy take so much pride in what he’s doing, but at the same time, he’s putting on a farce that will later become a larger burden for him and lead to a psychological breakdown. I never get tired of watching him pee through that glass of water, though. Really nice voice acting from Niki Yang, as always.

Finn and Jake’s story is a bit simplistic, but I do enjoy their somewhat masochistic behavior and the depths they’ll go to perfect a measly high-five. The framing device with our main duo is pretty great: their high-five pretty much carries through and builds up till the very end, which caps off in a pretty satisfying and funny ending, but we’ll get to that in a bit. I also love the unique shots we get to see as they run at each other in a pretty cinematic way. This is Skyler Page’s first time boarding for AT, and he really showcased some of his talents by drawing shots we don’t typically get to see in the series.

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PB’s sandwich sequence is terrific! It’s a really drawn-out scene, but one that never feels like it’s dragging or stale. It’s done through all kinds of visual gags, such as the poor cow that endures that somewhat bizarre contraption, or his block of cheese that’s converted into a single slice using a sewing machine. Then there’s the pure absurdity of PB hitting a head of lettuce with a baseball bat for some reason. Wouldn’t it have made a cleaner slice if she just chopped it up? Also, it’s interesting to see Bubblegum using what is presumed to be black magic. They acknowledge this in the commentary, and no one really has a reason to back it up. I’m just gonna call this one a brief continuity error. And that final bit with Cinnamon Bun was all types of fucking nasty, in the best way possible. I cringe every time I watch his body spew out that diarrhea-like slop.

Ice King’s story is pretty damn funny. I love how 90% of it is just him abusing his penguins. First he sends Gunther off on a block of ice for smelling bad, then he uses penguins to clean himself off and abrasively throws in them in the trash afterwards. It’s some pretty horrifically amusing stuff that only Ice King could get away with, and only seems to get funnier each time I watch those suffering penguins. At least Ice King was partially right about what smelled by the end of it.

Finally, we have LSP’s story. Nothing much to say for this one from me; I never really cared for the These Lumps song too much and I think the story itself is a bit dry. Save for the ending though, which I think is a terrific punchline with Finn and Jake abruptly being named the winners of the talent show instead of LSP. That was priceless. A lot of oddly mean-spirited humor in this episode, wasn’t there?

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Of course, there’s also the connecting theme. I think this one’s pretty obvious, and also because I had already read somewhere what the motif would be before I had even seen the episode. Despite that, I do commend the writers for introducing this type of brainteaser that would eventually get more difficult as the episodes went along. I think this one worked fine, but the creativity and ambiguity of the themes would only good up from here. I think it’s something neat that helps the youngins do some thinking while they’re watching.

So, I like it. It’s a cute introduction to a new series of stories within the series, and pertains a sense of enjoyability and intrigue throughout. It’s always fun revisiting these because I often forget which story happened when (I could’ve swore Tree Trunks was in this one), and it’s always fun to watch AT in such a chronicle structure.

Favorite line: “I thought you had a stank booty, Gunter. My bad.”