Tag Archive | Finn the Human

“The Music Hole” Review

TMH 1.png

Original Airdate: June 23, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Polly Guo & Andres Salaff

It was really only a matter of time before Adventure Time took on a “Battle of the Bands” themed episode. Music, for the most part, has been a crucial part of AT’s identity. I know people who have never seen a single episode of the series, yet are able to sing “Bacon Pancakes” in full. Adventure Time is far from the first animated series to heavily incorporate music into its content; hell, musical cartoons date back to the beginning of animation as an art form, with the early renditions of Silly Symphonies and Merrie Melodies marketing their brand specifically around the combination of animation and music. I will say, however, that AT is perhaps the first mainstream cartoon to rely on the plot device of utilizing music in order for characters to let their emotions loose. This is shown most prominently between seasons two and four; we get to see Finn serenade his new friend in Susan Strong, Marceline unravel her true feelings towards Bubblegum in What Was Missing?, Gumball croon about his passion for Fionna in Fionna & Cake, and so on. I overall disagree with the notion that Adventure Time hit any form of seasonal rot within the past two seasons, but I will say that, if any aspect derailed, it would have to be that musical element. Rebecca Sugar was pretty much the key-driver of this musical movement, and once she departed, Steven Universe became the flagship series for emotional and well-written song sequences. That’s not to say that Adventure Time hasn’t had any catchy melodies in the past few years – “Food Chain” from the episode of the same name remains one of the best tunes that the show has ever put out, and I really loved the soft medley that Breezy had to offer. But overall, there were more misses than hits, and it really felt as though the show was lacking in what was once one of its most prominent trademarks. The Music Hole is somewhat of a return to those old trademarks, by not only basing an entire episode around music, but also the notion of channeling the sadness and heartache within one’s self into something creative and beautiful as a means of coping. In typical AT fashion, that something is music.

TMH 2.png

It’d be one thing if this episode was just jam-packed with songs for the sake of it, but hey, the songs in Music Hole are actually pretty good! Of course, that’s also keeping in mind that a lot of the songs that are featured in this episode aren’t original, but that’s actually kind of cooler to me. It feels like a real, authentic Battle of the Bands in that way, and I think it’s kind of nice that some indie artists and bands like Mitski and Lake probably got a lot more attention from outside audiences because of this episode. This isn’t the first time that an AT episode has included somewhat of product placement for LAKE, and I honestly think it’s a really sweet love letter to the band that they continue to give them publicity because of their role in creating AT’s outro. The original songs are pretty decent as well. I actually really dug the small portion of Susan’s song that we got to hear (leave it to Susan Strong to come back after a 130 episode absence, and then disappear for another 50 episodes) and NEPTR and Flame Princess’s rap was cute and fun as far as FP raps go, which usually aren’t very good or entertaining. At the very least, it’s an appropriate place for her to dish such a tune. The licensed songs also work greatly with the characters that present them. “Francis Forever” might be one of my favorite Marceline songs to date, and I think it’s also because it’s one of the few more recent Marcy songs to not have super obvious subtext behind it. Like, I can listen to this song without hearing the screams of dozens of Bubbline fans that the lyrics are referring entirely to her feelings for PB. That’s always a plus. Also can’t help but join the fun of Ice King interrupting the event by singing “Do The Boogaloo” while dancing along with Gunter. I’m usually not a fan when the series uses well-known licensed songs just for the hell of it, but this example is one that only Ice King could pull off so well.

This episode isn’t only jam-packed with songs, however. It’s also filled to the brim with as many main and secondary characters as possible, and it really just leaves me in awe! Is there a single episode that features all of the main cast and most of the secondary characters in one area together? It’s somewhat of a solo feat for this episode that is only matched by the series finale itself. In general, it opens up for a lot of fun interactions. I thought the LSP, Marceline, and Death trio was awesome, not only because it shows that LSP and Marcy are still close friends, but because LSP is actually a competent drummer, and has no problem taking on a secondary part in the band! The girl’s come a long way. Even just the implication that Ice King was likely asked by Princess Bubblegum to be a bouncer for the Battle of the Bands is an extremely sweet sentiment.

TMH 3.png

But I’m getting ahead of myself a lot, because the main focus of this episode is clearly not the Battle of the Bands. Instead, the episode revolves mostly around Finn in a deep state of depression after the breaking of his Finn sword. It is a bit of a strange continuity burp that Finn seemed pretty much fine in Bun Bun, Normal Man, and Elemental and now he’s in such a sudden area of despair that he can’t even move from one place to another. I’ve seen two theories about Finn’s behavior from episode to episode: one is that the production number of The Music Hole indicates that it was supposed to be aired directly after I Am a Sword, before Bun Bun and Normal Man. While I’m truthfully not entirely educated on how production numbers actually translate into the airing process, I’m gonna go ahead and guess that this theory is wrong, because Flame Princess’s role in The Music Hole doesn’t really make much sense without Bun Bun coming before it. The second theory is that Finn was repressing his feelings in the three episodes that preceded The Music Hole, but truthfully, I think that’s too far of a stretch. I think the real answer is just simply that the staff wanted to tell different stories in the meantime in which Finn was required to be a confident hero. So it’s definitely a bit unusual to go into this one accepting it as a direct follow-up of I Am a Sword when there was nothing to suggest that Finn was actually affected by the issue prior, but despite this, it’s still easy to get fully emerged in Finn’s depression once the episode gets going.

Despite everything the lad has been through, he still finds himself unable to cope with heavy bouts of depression. He’s been able to gather ideas about how to effectively use other activities to divert from the stressors surrounding himself, but when it comes to dealing with issues head on, it takes a bit of time for him to realize that he can’t just simply sit in his own swamp of raw emotions. That’s why I think it’s so sweet that he has guardians like PB and Jake to watch over him. PB and Jake aren’t exactly the most efficient when dealing with Finn’s emotional problems; The Tower featured both Bonnie and Jake coming up with methods of alleviating the pain that Finn was experiencing, and while their support is apparent, the execution of their methods was slightly ineffective, or at worst, more damaging in the long run. Thus, they aren’t really sure how to deal with the situation. Hell, how could anyone? It’s easy to feel the weight and urgency of Finn’s pain, but as I mentioned in my review of I Am a Sword, it’s impossible to understand what he’s going through because it’s a situation that’s strictly personal. But, with any feelings of negativity, often any kind of distraction can be a positive one, which is what PB and Jake realize when they decide to execute “Plan C”: a Battle of the Bands starring the citizens of Ooo. Again, it’s something small and by no means psychological, but it is something positive and light that can help divert Finn’s attention onto something outside of his rut. And it does work, for the most part! While the bags that are drawn under Finn’s eyes indicate that he is still experiencing negative feelings and hasn’t solved his issue completely, he is genuinely enjoying himself and having a good time.

TMH 4.png

Though, often with emotional problems, you can never distract yourself completely from said problems. Distractions can do wonders when helping one cope and live a healthy lifestyle, but they aren’t necessarily dealing with the issue. Finn ultimately still has the loss of his Finn Sword to deal with, and while he doesn’t identify with that at first, he makes this discovery upon meeting the Music Hole. In another sweet love letter, Music Hole is voiced by Ashley Eriksson, the founder of LAKE. Music Hole is an delightful and intriguing specimen that helps to teach Finn a valuable lesson. She’s a very sympathetic and tragic character, left to an eternity of being a bystander with no chance of activism. Though, it seems that she does have a deep understanding of morality, the inner feelings of people, and the acceptance of status regardless. While being essentially doomed, Music Hole accepts her role in the world the best way that she can: by channeling her sadness and isolation into her music. It’s also unique that Finn is the type of person who cannot see her through childlike eyes; while he retains the spirit and goofiness of his younger days, Finn simply can’t view life in an innocent fashion, because he’s been through far too much. Thus, his loss and regret are what shape his perspective, and he’s able to not only acknowledge this sadness rather than putting it off (as he did in Too Old and Breezy) but also uses it as an opportunity to connect with another being who is also suffering from personal issues as well. Finn has all of the support he could ask for, but not many people who can relate to the turmoil within himself.

He’s able to not only talk over his feelings with Music Hole, but to also realize how lucky he is for what he has. Even the company of his brother and (sort of, kind of) sister-in-law is something that’s enough to make Finn feel grateful and more privileged than someone like Music Hole. But the most important lesson Finn gathers from Music Hole is that it’s important to allow sadness to run its course, but not to be consumed by it, and there are many, many creative outlets to channel all of his negative energy into. The most prominent one featured in this episode is song, and Finn allows himself time to properly grieve and express his emotions with the tune “I Look Up to You” that he sings along with Music Hole. The connection between Finn and Music Hole is nothing short from endearing and poignant, and I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t one of those episodes that left me misty-eyed by the end of it. I really love these types of episodes that don’t feel as though they need to end happy or on some sort of a silly note to balance out the drama of the episode. While the ending of The Music Hole isn’t depressing by any means, it’s certainly bittersweet. Finn still possesses great sadness within him, but has learned to accept it and to find new ways to deal with it. The same goes for Music Hole. She’s accepted her sadness and has learned how to utilize her own creativity to cope with it, but she left this episode having something that she’s never had before: a true friend. It’s a truly beautiful connection of two people who are utterly lost in life, yet use their own feelings within them to create something wonderful from it.

TMH 5

And that’s pretty much what The Music Hole sets out to do: to show the beauty in sadness by displaying all of the wonderful things that can come from it, and can also work to help one move on from it. Adventure Time has set out to prove this with so many other musical moments in the past, but The Music Hole really feels like a culmination of everything that the show has been trying to accomplish by this point in time with this art form. This episode is also deeply fun and humorous; I didn’t expect to actually enjoy the Battle of the Bands sequences, but they’re kept really lively with priceless character moments. I especially love when things go absolutely haywire, as Gunters swarm the audience and start breaking the fuck out of the Banana Guards’ legs. That looked excruciatingly painful. This episode is also a visual treat, not only utilizing gorgeous color schemes, but there’s also several instances where Finn’s face or torso is shaded throughout The Music Hole, adding a lot of depth and volume to his figure. I only have one possible criticism for the episode… well, two actually, if you include the slightly out-of-nowhere rut that Finn is in starting with this episode: I don’t really get if Jake and Lady can hear Music Hole talking or not. I mean, the way this episode plays out, it doesn’t seem like they can. They don’t interact with Music Hole at all aside from looking at her while she chats with Finn. Yet, when Music Hole reappears later on (without giving too much away for y’all who might be reading along with the series) Jake seems to be able to interact with her. I guess I just don’t really understand the rules with Music Hole? Like, can people only hear her when she talks, and isn’t singing? I guess that’s something I can chat more about down the line.  With everything this episode sets out to accomplish and does so successfully, it’s really up there with my other favorite episodes of season seven, and one of my top 20 favorites from the show as a whole. The Music Hole is masterful in helping Finn to continue to understand the parts of himself that he’s less comfortable with, and uses music to accompany these changing feelings in the best way necessary.

If you like the songs that you heard in this episode, please by all means show them some love and support! Follow the links down below for more information about the artists and songs featured in this episode.

LAKE’s website: https://laketheband.bandcamp.com/track/i-look-up-to-you

Where to purchase “I Look Up to You”: https://laketheband.bandcamp.com/track/i-look-up-to-you

Mitski’s website: https://mitski.com/

Where to purchase “Francis Forever”: https://www.amazon.com/Francis-Forever/dp/B019QTSA5C

Favorite line: “He’s all jefferied up in the dumb piece.”

Advertisements

“Elemental” Review

E 1.png

Original Airdate: May 19, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne

After the events of Evergreen, a bit of a hunger arose inside of me to see more into the backstory of the elementals and their role in the state of Ooo and the world in general. Only a season later, Elemental comes around and interestingly brings back said storyline, drops a bomb by revealing information about some of our central characters, and opens up for a lot in future entries. With that in mind, Elemental is mostly just set up for future episodes down the line, in typical Adventure Time fashion. So, we don’t get too far into said lore or story before the episode shuts down completely, but it does have a decent amount of fun along the way. This is a Kent Osborne solo-board, which is still kind of surprising to me. Aside from being a regular board artist on Ice King-centric episodes, I never pictured Osborne being especially into to the underlying lore of the series. Though, he is one of the head story editors, after all, and had a hefty part is crafting Elemental’s plot.

E 2.png

Osborne’s silliness really permeates throughout those first few minutes: we’re treated to Starchy’s sad entrance into his house as he once again remembers that his wife left him, the initial driving conflict of there being no hangers in Ooo, and Jake gassing out Finn during a stakeout. I do enjoy how this episode continuously references Ice King’s behavior as “classic Ice King,” and yeah, that’s exactly how it feels. Osborne has had a big part in creating some of Ice King’s greatest entries in the past, such as Loyalty to the King, Still, Holly Jolly Secrets, and so on, and this episode really feels like a return to form in the wacky adventures of IK, Finn, and Jake. Though again, it feels classic while also feeling current, because it really shows in just how the boys treat him. While they still reprimand Ice King for attempting to steal, they talk to him more like a little brother than they do an actual enemy. Even upon being confronted, Ice King just mutters, “oh, hey guys.” They have a pretty established understanding of each other by this point in time.

The ball doesn’t really start rolling until Patience St. Pim is introduced a few minutes in, who might be one of the most fun villains this show has ever put out. I say might, because this episode is really her one, true moment of stardom, and it’s a ton of fun. I really love how (literally) animated she is as a character, with nearly every sentence she utters being followed by some form of dance move. I also really enjoy the way she interacts with others. The episode has a lot of fun with how much Patience doesn’t understand about current society, as she treats Jake like an actual dog and asks which year it is (which apparently isn’t recorded anymore. Ah, lore!). Going back to what I was saying about the dynamic between IK and F&J, it’s sweet that the boys are quick to defend Ice King as semi-reformed, referencing once again that he hasn’t even attempted to kidnap a princess since The Party’s Over, Isla de Senorita, a whole two seasons ago. But, for every step forward with Ice King is always two steps back, as he continues to be easily influenced by the power of a pretty lady.

E 3.png

Ice King’s methods of capturing the princesses are hilariously cruel, especially Flame Princess’s. I can only imagine how she feels around him after previously destroying his entire kingdom in Frost & Fire. It’s also interesting to note production-wise that Slime Princess was not voiced by Maria Bamford in this episode. Instead, her brief line was provided by Melissa Villasenor, who voiced Grob in the previous episode. It’s always kind of funny to me that the show persistently utilizes Villasenor’s talents, but only for her to provide a line or two. Her previous credentials include Rainy in Another Way, a Fruit Witch in Dad’s Dungeon, and Sveinn in Broke His Crown. It’s a silly concept to me; does she just happen to stumble by the recording booth every so often and they ask, “hey, could you read these three words for us? Okay, thanks.”

It’s also a lot of fun to see Patience interact with all of the other elementals. I truly love how PB deductively tries to get information out of Patience simply by playing good cop. It’s rare that PB ever resists the urge for absolute rampage, but here, she’s actually using logic in a situation where her hands are essentially tied. Once Patience gets into discussing elemental history, things really get interesting. It’s thoroughly cool to see these various flashes of different incarnations of the elementals, as well as how they persisted within the human world. It’s pretty neat to hear the notion, “it was a non-magic world back then.” With that in mind, I wonder what truly sets apart this era of humanity from everything that came before it and everything that came after it. Does it have something to do with radioactive fallout? The catalyst comets? The Lich? Whatever it is, it’s cool to see that there were essences of magic even then, and that those who were affected by it chose to keep it secretive, and intrinsically knew the weight of the power that they possessed. The parallels between Patience and her former incarnation, Urgence, are very much apparent. Aside from the two having correlations in their names alone, both resist the idea of ending their legacy and choose to defy those that are closest to them. Within the AT lore, ice is easily represented by lonely and solemn behavior, and I think it’s pretty clear that both Patience and Urgence fear death and demise more than anything. Their resistance comes from the fact that they can’t accept the idea of being condemned to an eternity of nothingness over being alive and in power. I also commend this episode for showing the literal apocalypse on screen for a split second. Never thought I’d see that through the course of the series.

E 4.png

The final leg of the episode is mostly dedicated to a highly energetic confrontation with Patience, in which PB initially tries to defeat her using her elemental powers (though fails, because PB isn’t exactly a firm believer in magic), only for Slime Princess to be the true hero when she channels into her own abilities. The episode ends on a really… odd note, as PB states that “she isn’t going anywhere for awhile.” Uh, but won’t she just get out immediately after the slime is scraped off of her? Is PB really just going to let this potentially dangerous criminal go because she was contained by a temporary setback? It’s a pretty stupid ending that feels like it doesn’t have a real way to successfully wrap things up, while also leaving possibilities open for the future, and makes other characters seem a lot dumber in the process.

But regardless, I do think this one has a lot of fun moments, some interesting lore, and nice subtle moments to top off. I do wish the episode didn’t feel so tightly packed together, as it feels like it strives for a lot in the course of 11 minutes and can barely even wrap it up in that time, but I’ll reinstate that I at least had a good time along the way thanks so some solid writing from Osborne. Interestingly enough, I’m not a huge fan of this one on a storyboarding perspective. I usually like the super cute, squishy designs that Osborne provides for the characters, but here, I think it’s a little too much. Half of the episode features Jake right eye almost entirely off of his face, and his mouth closer to his legs than his body. It was definitely more distracting than charming for me this time around. Regardless, I think the story of the elements eventually leads to some really entertaining and intriguing entries, and Elemental is a mostly solid starting point.

E 5.png

Favorite line: “You’re like, a beautiful Ice King.” “Oh boy, here we go!”

“Normal Man” Review

NM 1.png

Original Airdate: May 12, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Sam Alden

I guess it’s only appropriate the essential conclusion to Magic Man’s character arc corresponds with Jesse Moynihan’s final storyboarding effort in the series. While not Magic Man’s creator, Jesse paved the way for MM’s character by fleshing him out well beyond his initial archetype and in turn ended up creating one of AT’s most complex characters. Moynihan’s love and passion for the character really shines through in episodes like Sons of Mars and You Forgot Your Floaties, of which are two of my favorite episodes primarily because of how much Moynihan’s heart and soul was placed into them. While Normal Man lacks the headiness of those episodes (though, legend has it that this was supposed to be a much, much darker episode), it makes up for it by being both hilarious and deeply introspective. Normal Man works off of what Bun Bun set up in a lot of ways: the idea and theme of change. While Bun Bun dealt primarily with changes happening over time and within relationships, Normal Man mostly deals with a deeply interesting question: can shitty people truly change? And if so, does it make up for all of the horrible things they’ve done in the past? Normal Man argues both yes and no; a person is able to change their ways and start a new life, but only after gaining the respect and trust of others, which can often be just as difficult a journey.

NM 2.png

While not as experimental, the initial opening of the episode is about as Moynihan-y as it gets: Tiny Manticore, at the command of Normal Man, sets out to rescue his brother Glob from space, after his dissemination in Astral Plane. It’s all good fun, well-animated, and sets a very tense mood once Tiny Manticore decides to take control, but it all sets up for one huge problem I have with the premise of this episode. Now, I do really enjoy Normal Man overall, but there’s one recurring issue that really just rubs me the exact wrong way every time I watch it, and I’m surprised that no one ever talks about it. Normal Man and all other characters in the episode refer to the GGGG head as “Glob,” but… that’s not Glob. Glob was voiced by Tom Gammill in both Sons of Mars and Astral Plane, while Tom Kenny typically voices Gob. So… what is Kenny doing voicing Glob in this one? Well, my money’s on the fact that they simply couldn’t get Gammill to provide his voice for the episode, and considering that Kenny already provides his voice for two other characters in this episode, it was the easiest option at hand. On top of that, they likely thought nobody would notice due to the fact that Kenny does provide the voice for one of the four heads. Well, I NOTICED ADVENTURE TIME. YOU THINK YOU CAN FOOL ME?

Ahem. To be honest, I know this probably seems like a really overblown nitpick, but it still bugs the hell out of me. If the show wants to establish this really convincing overarching lore, then they really can’t expect me to look over this as a simple mistake. It’s actually something that also happens in You Forgot Your Floaties, when MM refers to GGGG as his sibling “Glob” followed by Tom Kenny’s lines. I do wonder if Glob is just generally the universal nickname for the “G” man, because I’m pretty sure everyone tends to neglect to remember the other G’s to begin with. When keeping that in mind, I guess it’s somewhat justified, though I overall think there needs to be stricter rules for writing the character in general, because I feel as though Glob is handled waaay too loosely to the point where the staff forgets that he’s essentially four entities in one body. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

NM 3.png

Anyways, the scenes to follow this convergence are a lot of fun. This is actually the second time this season that Finn has treated Jake like a straight-up dog (the first was Don’t Look when Finn utters, “what is it, boy?”) and I’m wondering if Finn subtlely picks up on these traditional behaviors whenever he enters the Farmworld. It’s funny to see him essentially wanting to adopt more humanistic behaviors, as Jake is pretty resentful to the idea.

It’s also funny to see how the boys truly resent Normal Man, and even nearly kill him. You don’t really blame them for being this way either, because the last time they even saw the guy, he turned them into food products and practically left them for dead. It’s cool how Finn takes on the responsibility likely due to the sole fact that Glob is involved. Besides being a very important figure overall, I have a feeling that Finn feels as though he almost owes it to Glob for having a part in his sacrifice back in Astral Plane. Also, Finn’s dad was the reason Glob was demolished. That probably had some moralistic factor in it as well. One of the nice smaller details in this episode is that Finn begins using his Root Sword again! It only comes back for this episode and the next, but it’s really cool that the show remembered that it even existed, while also remembering that it was one of Finn’s only swords to not get busted or altered in one way or another. It’s a nice little Easter egg for longtime viewers, of which are pretty much AT’s main audience by this point in time.

NM 4.png

What follows is classic Adventure Time; Wild Trap Mountain is about as fun a location can get. The mountain is jam-packed with tons of terrific foes, like the “Weekend Survivalists,” that one dude that NOBODY messes with (his description on the wiki reads “simply a dude that no one messes with.” It kills me), Waking Dream Demons, and of course, the Squirrel that hates Jake. I’m usually not a fan of the Squirrel outside of his debut episode in The Duke of Nuts, but man, the joke somehow manages to be way funnier the third time than it was the second time. Even after Normal Man explains who he is, Jake is equally surprised when the Squirrel reintroduces himself. It’s just priceless–that poor Squirrel only wants the satisfaction of attention. The Wild Trap Mountain journey in general is executed just perfectly. I love how it slowly builds from a tense, quiet crawl into a frantic, energetic speed-run to the top. Everything goes unimaginably wrong in the span of seconds and everything is resolved in the matter of seconds, in a way where the episode really doesn’t compensate for whether you’re even comprehending every moment or not. It’s just great. It’s also worth noting that Finn nearly stabs himself when being possessed by a parasite, which is the third time this is alluded this season, and the third time alluded to in a Jesse and Sam episode! It certainly wasn’t a coincidence that those instances were included.

Upon reaching the top of the mountain, the episode goes from energetic and thrilling to just plain hilarious. The back-and-forths between Finn, Jake, Normal Man, Glob, and Tiny are just great; from Tiny Manticore noting Normal Man’s naturally insincere sounding voice, to “two boomerangs,” to “hang on like hot snot!” this is one episode that’s relentless with jokes and one-liners happening one after the other, in the best possible way necessary. The episode does save for one soft, genuine moment as Normal Man apologizes to his brother for being a “bean show” for hundreds of years. It’s a unique situation because, while Normal Man can’t really be blamed entirely for his behavior, because magic had a huge effect on his general cognition, but he isn’t really free of blame either. He is the person who nearly killed our main heroes, threw everyone in Mars under the bus (a hilarious gag, by the way), and betrayed his brother. It does show, however, that Normal Man truly is a normal man, and like any human (or humanoid, in this case), he does express remorse over his past behavior and acknowledges his faults, rather than trying to ignore that they ever happened. The way the brothers reconcile is sweet, and shows the optimistic viewpoint that, yes, people can change and repent if they truly make an effort to better themselves in the process. While the citizens of Mars aren’t as impressed, Normal Man’s at least left with the confidence that, if he truly proves himself to be the nice, reformed person that he wants to be seen as, he’ll have no problem adjusting to his current lifestyle.

NM 5.png

Normal Man isn’t quite the deep, analytical expedition I would expect from Moynihan’s AT finale, but it does possess many elements of some of his greatest entries: mythological aspects, character development, and bizarre side character cameos, with a hint of hilarity. This really is a nice wrap-up for Normal Man’s character (even though this isn’t the last we see of him) and I’m truly glad that Moynihan essentially got to see his hard work come full circle. I really did love the guy as a writer; while he was often controversial in both his writing style and his general demeanor, there was never a doubt in my mind that Jesse wasn’t putting every single bit of his blood, sweat, and tears into each individual episode that he worked on. While I’m pretty fond of Tom Herpich as a writer overall, I don’t think there’s a single artist or writer on Adventure Time, or any animated series in general, quite as ambitious and personalized as Moynihan. I actually interviewed him a few years back after he left the show, and while he has a reputation for being pretentious among AT fans and non-fans alike, he really seemed like a humble, thoughtful dude in his responses. To end this blog with a quick tribute, I leave with you an interesting take on why Jesse thinks AT is special and different in general, per our interview.

“I don’t know really. Sometimes I felt like we were working on something very special and different, based on critical feedback. But other times I couldn’t figure out how to measure that against other shows and the feedback they were getting. I came to realize that this specialness was arbitrary and couldn’t really be gauged by any reliable standard. The only thing I could rely on was my own internal experience of working on the show, and my feeling of growing as a writer during my time there. So yeah, for me it felt very special and different. For the rest of the world of individual tastes, I really have no idea. A fan could come up to me and say how great Adventure Time is, and in the same sentence tell me how great something else is that I don’t value so much.”

Also, can we take a brief moment to appreciate that LSP and Lemongrab went on a date together? It’s a crack-pairing from heaven, I tell’s ya!

NM 6.png

Favorite line: “You turned me into a giant starfish!” “You turned me into a flaming pile of garbage!”

“Bun Bun” Review

BB 1.png

Original Airdate: May 5, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim

The Red Throne Apology Letter – er, I mean, Bun Bun, checks in on Flame Princess, Cinnamon Bun, and Flame King after quite some time, and appropriately focuses on the changes that have occurred since the last time we’ve seen them. The Red Throne is pretty well-known for its notoriously bad reception from the fanbase. Hell, I’d even include it on my own personal bottom ten list (though not entirely for the reasons that everyone else hates it) and I think it’s pretty safe to say that I’m not the only one, as it seems that even the staff picked up on this. Bun Bun was written by Somvilay Xayaphone and Seo Kim, of whom also boarded The Red Throne, and man, it really feels like they did everything in their power to make atonement. The best part about this atonement is that it doesn’t feel as if it only exists for the purpose of fanservice, but it’s actually a thoroughly interesting exploration of not only how much Finn has changed over the course of a year, but Cinnamon Bun of all characters! Much like his former self, I think Cinnamon Bun’s developmental arc has been half-baked at best. He started out as a prominent secondary character with little intelligence, left his star role in the Candy Kingdom to become Flame Princess’s knight, and suddenly achieved competency after becoming fully baked within the Kingdom, where his character pretty much fell off from any form of prominence afterwards. While a fitting resolution to his gag personality, I was still somewhat hungry for a story revolving around the newly intellectual CB and how much he’s truly shifted from his original state of being. This episode plays around with this in the best way, by showing how even those around Cinnamon Bun don’t truly know how to support and care for him beyond what they gathered from his personality before.

BB 2.png

As I mentioned, the central theme of this episode is very clearly the changing nature of relationships, as several characters try to adjust or, at the very least, accept these changes around them. Flame Princess moves past the anger and hatred she feels towards her father, as she allows him to go free on his own and to make a new life for himself, Finn shifts through the awkwardness he feels around his ex-girlfriend and finally makes an effort to mend their broken relationship, and Princess Bubblegum struggles to truly empathize with her former assistant as she tries to help him in the only way she knows how: by creating life, per usual. The PB-CB dynamic in this one is perhaps the most interesting and poignant. Both characters have gone through major shifts in the year prior, and that awkward convening they share at the beginning of the episode exemplifies that. Perspectives shift over time, but true inflections based off of past feelings typically reign through, even when time passes. Bubblegum still looks as Cinnamon Bun as her servant who needs constant attention and supervision, and CB didn’t leave on the best terms with his supervisor, as he began a new, comfortable lifestyle since ditching the CK. It’s kind of like the relationship between a child and a super overprotective mother: even when the child has become secure and independent, the mother still craves the opportunity to coddle and care for her child. While PB has a… complex relationship with Cinnamon Bun, she still deeply cares for him, as she does for all of her other citizens, and is also likely stricken with some guilt, considering how she treated CB in the past. Thus, Bun Bun comes along.

Bun Bun is a shockingly endearing character of whom should be really annoying, but is surprisingly quite adorable and hilarious. I’m not sure if it’s because of Ashly Burch’s delightful inflections, or the matter that the character herself is just given great lines, but despite causing constant problems within the story, Bun Bun never once gets on my nerves. I think Somvilay and Seo Kim did a great job of writing her in a way where she’s somewhat annoying to the characters surrounding her, but not to the audience. The charm of Bun Bun’s character comes from that fact that she’s literally just been born and is genuinely ecstatic to exist at all. I love how every small little thing amazes her and she’s learning new things literally by the second. She actually reminds me a lot of Kent, in a way. I also love how much the contrivances of her character are played around with, in the most meta way possible. Finn’s line of, “that’s funny that you don’t know that word, but you know the word ‘opposite,’” sums it up real nicely. I actually think Bun Bun is way less annoying than Cinnamon Bun was in his more incompetent days, and I’m glad that she didn’t appear a ton more after this episode, just because I wouldn’t want subsequent appearances to ruin her initial charm.

BB 3.png

The connection between CB and BB is equally interesting, because I feel as though their relationship once again helps to unravel the subtle insecurities within Cinnamon Bun. It’s neat to see how CB initially somewhat resents and is a bit embarrassed by Bun Bun after enduring her shenanigans, as he likely recognizes this behavior as how he once acted before he matured. Bun Bun’s actions parallel Cinnamon Bun’s to a tee, even in the instance of directly disobeying orders only seconds after they are given (a small homage to Earth & Water) as well as Bun Bun’s sweet flip. Cinnamon Bun is a dignified knight and guardian now, and no longer has time for the goofy antics that he once pursued, or so he thinks. As him and Bun Bun begin to spend more time together once the Flame King is accidentally released, CB does start to recognize Bun Bun’s special nature when watching her interact so civilly with the FK (apologies for the dozens of different acronyms in this post). CB realizes that Bun Bun is a lot like himself; CB too ditched his old methods of living to become apart of a new kingdom and to help lay down the foundation of said kingdom. Despite having part in this, CB denies his previous existence because he associates it with his own shortcomings: he wants to be seen as a serious, competent knight, and not the goofball he once was. What he doesn’t realize at first is that he only became a knight through his zany state of being, and not because he was a intelligent warrior to begin with. It’s only then that he begins to adopt his state of being: he can be silly and quirky while also being a noble person. The true brilliance of Cinnamon Bun was always his direct honesty and sweetness to other people, and had he been lacking these traits from the start, he wouldn’t be who he is today. It’s then that he acknowledges the true brilliance behind Bun Bun, and that who she is does not need to be changed or altered in any which way.

While that alone is enough content to fill an entire episode, Bun Bun ingeniously ties together Flame Princess and Finn’s resolution as a subplot. Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way either. While I’m sure Seo and Somvilay could have came up with an 11 minute Finn/FP team-up story, I’m glad that they mostly just focused on giving the two a few quiet scenes in which they could bond over. From their initial introduction, it’s clear that Finn still feels deeply guilty about what happened between the two. Maybe not enough to think about it for days on end, but to the point where he respects Flame Princess’s boundaries (finally) enough to immediately depart a social situation with her after his work was complete. While it definitely shows how awkward he is due to the fact that he doesn’t even try to engage in some form of small talk with FP after delivering Bun Bun, it’s genuinely a huge step for Finn to completely choose to disengage in connecting with FP after years of absolute thirst. It’s cool to see that he is willing to back off entirely, not only for the sake of Flame Princess, but for the sake of himself. The little guy’s been through a lot in the past year, and it’s only suitable that he takes appropriate measures to ensure that he’s caring for himself and his own well-being, and that means perhaps eliminating FP from his life all together. But, FP is generally a lot more chill and less in-her-head than Finn is, and still wants to hangout with him, despite everything that happened. Time heals most wounds, and in her busy schedule, FP has likely allowed for a lot of time to move past her break-up, as well as to forgive Finn for what he’s done. Since Finn is the one who fucked up, it’s a lot more difficult for him because he isn’t really allowed to invite himself back into Flame Princess’s life unless she lets him, to which he’s even surprised is permitted to happen.

BB 4.png

During a lunch that they share together, Finn finally breaks the ice on what’s going through his head this entire time. It seems like it’s really tough for him to confront head on, but he does it with absolute grace in one of his most refined moments of all time.

“It’s just, when we broke up, I said sorry, but I didn’t fully understand exactly what I did wrong. I get it now. I shouldn’t have manipulated you. That was a really, really messed-up thing to do, and I’m truly sorry.”

A simplistic apology, to be certain, but one that is so successful because of its simplicity. Finn doesn’t ramble on or try to justify his behavior in one way or another; he simply acknowledges his faults in the past, empathizes with FP, and apologizes for hurting her in any way. I truly appreciate the brilliant subtleties that went into this apology as well; Finn doesn’t just simply say that he’s sorry, but he outwardly addresses the fact that his first apology was insincere because he just wanted to feel better about himself. It’s a stunningly mature moment that finally resolves any lingering drama between him and Phoebe, and I couldn’t have asked for it any other way. The cool part is that the episode also takes the time to go in a Pajama War route by simply having Flame Princess and Finn catch up with each other and have some fun. It gets the heavy bits out of the way early on to allow for these two likable characters to enjoy each other’s presence, and it’s quite sweet. I always imagined this type of episode to reunite Finn and FP as lovers, but I’m really glad that Bun Bun has them patching things up as friends, and nothing more beyond that. I feel as though for Finn to truly learn his lesson, he would have to be fine with having Flame Princess as a friend or an acquaintance, and that’s exactly what happens here.

BB 5.png

We’re also treated to the triumphant return of Flame King who, as always, is carried by his terrific voicework courtesy of Keith David. Flame King’s bits are likely the weakest bits of the episode, though not bad by any means, and I do like how FK’s plight parallels his daughter’s journey into independence, similar to how BB’s path correlates with Cinnamon Bun’s. While Flame King is left with nothing, he’s still able to gain change by trying something entirely new, with a surprising guest along the way. The scenes between FK and Bun Bun are short, but rather endearing. There’s just something really funny and sweet about a violent jerk like the Flame King enjoying the company of a cute, little kid like Bun Bun. Out of all the connections we’ve had in this episode, I actually really would like to see more of these two working off of each other. I feel like it opens up for a lot of funny possibilities.

Two quick issues I had with this one: like a lot of Somvilay episodes, this one was weighed down by some clunky storyboarding efforts. I get the fact that Finn’s backpack was supposed to be enlarged by the inclusion of his fire suit, but man, it just looks absolutely ridiculous in a way that’s more awkward than funny. There’s a lot of moments like this, especially at the beginning, though it’s more of a nitpick at this point than anything. The other issue I had with this one is more of a personal gripe, but I find it kind of sad that this episode is pretty much the “designated Flame Princess episode” of the season and she really doesn’t get to do much. I wouldn’t really sacrifice any parts of the episode, as I thought they were all pretty important, but it is kind of disappointing that her character feels more like an extension of Finn’s character and an afterthought by this point in time. One of the reasons I really like The Cooler was because it explored a unique relationship that we don’t see much of and helped to add to Flame Princess’s character in new and different ways. By this episode, it feels like the writers don’t really know what to do with her character, to the point where her main personality trait is that she likes to freestyle rap when she’s not ruling her kingdom, which is ultimately a poor decision, in my humble opinion. Though again, this is more an issue I have with the direction of her character, rather than the direction of the episode itself. She has her moments here; I love the initial “security check” of Bun Bun upon entering the Fire Kingdom. Even after making peace with Bubblegum, FP still doesn’t completely trust her.

BB 6.png

Bun Bun is pretty fantastic overall, though. I really love how seamlessly it ties together change among three unlikely characters, and packs it all into one successful 11 minute package. This is essentially the last major role Cinnamon Bun possesses in the remainder of the series, and I think it’s a pretty pitch perfect cap for his character. He perhaps goes through the biggest transition out of any character in the series, and Bun Bun explores this transition in possibly the most meaningful and interesting of ways, to the point where I’m really fond of Cinnamon Bun in his new state of being. As I’ve also mentioned, it’s another terrific example of how Finn is also changing for the better, and making up for his past mistakes as much as he can. I never would have expected an episode where CB and Finn deal with the internal changes within themselves side-by-side, but dammit Adventure Time, I’ll take it!

Favorite line: “I’m 100% evil. What’s evil?”

 

“I Am a Sword” Review

IAAS 1.png

Original Airdate: April 23, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Sam Alden & Jesse Moynihan

Couple of announcements before we start: I’ll be gaining back some of my free-time as we approach the month of December, so expect semi-daily reviews to return shortly. In fact, next week I plan on covering four whole episodes: Bun Bun, Normal ManElemental, and Five Short Tables. Consider it my Thanksgiving Day treat!

Secondly, the application for the Animation Podcast I’m starting up is still open till mid-December. As I mentioned, I’ll be advertising the application on this blog sporadically throughout the next couple weeks. You can apply to be a co-host on the Podcast HERE.

Finally, you can expect the release schedule of the final 50 episodes to be posted on this blog within the next few weeks. The schedule will be strictly estimated; I may jump ahead or behind (unlikely) depending on what occurs in my life. Though I will try and follow it as closely as possible, and I will eventually open up a survey where all of you readers can suggest possible “top” lists and ideas for post-blog content. Alrighty, I’ve rambled on long enough, onto the review!

IAAS 2

The concept of the Finn Sword has always been a curious one for myself: is the Finn inside of the Finn Sword the real Finn? Is the Finn within the Finn Sword a real, living entity, or some sort of a remnant of Finn’s memories? What is the true connection between Finn and the Finn Sword? Some of these questions are sort of answered in I Am a Sword and beyond, but other questions are left purposely vague. The connection with Finn and Finn Sword mostly exists on a metaphorical level, as their surface level relationship is not only difficult to understand as a viewer, but for those who surround Finn as well. Even those closest to Finn, like Jake, just dismiss it as borderline materialism. Though, the strong point of the episode is that it makes it apparent that this is a deeply personal issue for Finn, but we’re still willing to sympathize with him for those metaphorical reasons mentioned. I Am a Sword explores the connection between a boy and his sword quite interestingly, in ways that are as heady as Jesse Moynihan has ever been, with added bouts of hilarity from both Moynihan and Sam Alden.

The episode opens with one of my favorite shots in the series, as Finn and Jake roam the span of a wooden bridge as the sun sets in the background. This image is so impactful that 90% of all online new sources included it when announcing that Adventure Time was ending back in 2016. Even I’m guilty, heh. In general, the moment serves as a nice introduction to the main story at hand and sets things up for the remainder of the episode when Finn accidentally launches the Finn Sword into the unknown. While a bit of a foolish decision for him to make, Finn has never been the most… careful person. He’s constantly throwing himself into the face of danger, whether it be to save his former girlfriend from burning out, the fate of humanity from Orgalorg, or even just proving a point to his brother. This is one of Finn’s major characteristics, and it certainly doesn’t make him unlikable, but it’s worth some reevaluation in regards to how this behavior affects the people around him, or even himself. I do wonder how exactly the Finn within the Finn Sword operates logically, in the sense that the Finn Sword is very clearly disapproving of Finn’s behavior. Since the Finn Sword knew Finn’s last name was Mertens back in Dentist, I do wonder if the Finn within the sword operates more on Finn’s subconscious feelings and behavioral ticks more than anything. Perhaps part of Finn knows that he shouldn’t be partaking in such risky behavior, but is compelled more by his desires to have fun and live life in an adventurous sense instead, while the Finn Sword has no purpose beyond being an alternate version of Finn, so he’s merely there to guide himself into methods of a less stressful lifestyle. Obviously, that method ended up failing.

IAAS 3.png

Finn’s feelings of guilt can easily be attributed to this neglect to care for himself and the people around him in a meaningful way, of which can be identified as a result of Finn’s trauma through his experiences with his father, that are mostly notable recently in Beyond the Grotto and Don’t Look. While Beyond the Grotto has Finn recognize that he was mistreating the Sea Lard, Don’t Look involves Finn’s ultimate guilt in not caring for those even closer to him. I Am a Sword takes it one step further by showing Finn’s guilt for mistreating perhaps the closest person to him: virtually, himself. The thing that Finn fears most is, like I’ve mentioned, treating others in a way that his father treated him. While I think that Finn is entirely too hard on himself with this comparison, it does bring up an interesting idea about Finn’s growth as he enters into his late-teen years: how much of himself does he have to sacrifice in order to be the person he wants to be? I’d be open to the argument that he doesn’t have to change anything about himself, but it’s really apparent with practically anyone that people do need to change in order to grow up, whether actively or on a subconscious level. Not necessarily in a drastic, persona shifting way, but in the sense of shaping your character and personality around the desires and moralistic attributes that one does possess. For years, we’ve watched Finn throw himself and the people around him into various different dangerous obstacles and trials, but only now is he discovering the possible consequences. While he’ll always be an adventurer at heart, his main desires and goals in present time are to be as morally astute as he can possibly be, and his recklessness is finally starting to cause major issues in his life. Of course, there’s a happy medium between the occasional thrill and being vigilant when doing so, but Finn first has to learn when to think and analyze before he seeks out such a sense of entertainment.

Finn’s moral dilemma within his own self can easily be elaborated on through Finn Sword’s experiences with Bandit Princess. Finn Sword is forced against his will to partake in illegal activities and even kill/harm other people as a result. Finn himself feels as if he’s forced to hurt other people in his actions because of the guilt that has overcome him in relation to his own personality. Finn fears that he’ll be compelled to hurt himself and more people in the future because of the way he is, as Finn Sword feels because he has no control over what he is: a sword.

IAAS 4.png

May I also take this opportunity to shoutout what a terrific one-shot villain Bandit Princess is? Not only does she possess a fantastic design, but she’s voiced by none other than Amy Sedaris, of whom I adore from a comedic standpoint, and also for her voicework. What makes Bandit Princess a terrific villain is not only that she’s hilariously hammy and boasts a terrific design, but she’s also legitimately threatening in a way that a lot of Adventure Time villains aren’t. Bandit Princess is actually shown to kill people on-screen, which is primarily a rarity for the series. Of course, it’s handled in the most PG way possible, with Mayor Cameron’s (of whom I never expected to see again)  body finding its way back to his head, but of course, there’s also the rich man and the guard of the bank, of whom we never see again and can only assumed to be dead. With a show that’s filled with threatening space gods and deities, it’s amazing that a character who is virtually powerless can be so menacing with the simple use of an item.

It’s one thing this episode specializes with in its theme: the power that items have over others. Bandit Princess achieves power from weapons, the spiky people achieve power from having money, and even a tertiary character like Spear Bear bases his entire identity around his sole possession. Of course, I could go into great detail about this overarching theme, but I’m gonna leave that topic for someone who does my job better than I ever could, Uncivilized Elk! This video hits it out of the park with everything that this theme aims to accomplish. Check it out if you haven’t! Also interesting to note: Bandit Princess was originally supposed to be portrayed by Penny from City of Thieves, as seen in this concept art. This is a callback that I’m actually glad we didn’t get, because I overall really enjoy Bandit Princess as a character, and feel as though Penny simply could not take on this role in an enjoyable fashion. It does make me wonder if Bandit Princess is the technical ruler of the City of Thieves, or if it’s a self-proclaimed title to begin with.

IAAS 5

Speaking of callbacks, this episode is riddled with them, in the best way necessary. Not only does it help contribute to that overarching theme I had mentioned earlier, but it’s also refreshing to use pre-existing locations as a method of exploring the Land of Ooo. While it’s always nice to visit new territory and landscapes, it’s also cool to see that these tertiary locations are a legitimate part of Ooo, and that Finn and Jake are able to access them at any point. Though not intentional, I think it’s even cooler that Moynihan and Alden chose perhaps the two most disposable episodes (Gut Grinder and Box Prince) to revisit, which shows that even the most forgettable AT entries still exist and have importance within this world.

The moments of hilarity within this episode are too many to name. Right up there with Joshua & Margaret Investigations, this episode has a plethora of funny one-liners. Of my favorites are Jake listing off the various different things that give Finn nightmares (of which are too high in number by this point), Finn and Jake’s back-and-forth about what happens to decapitated chickens, and one line that I still find so hilarious that I’m just gonna leave it at the bottom of the page to (hopefully) leave you with a laugh after you’re done reading. It’s really amazing to me that heady writers like Jesse and even Sam are, without a doubt, the best comedy writers from this seasons. Flute Spell, I Am a Sword, and Normal Man all play around with some rather intricate stories, but are ultimately just as hilarious as they are thought-provoking. One thing Alden gets down pretty well is the smaller details; Finn helping BMO get a staple out from the stapler was just adorable, and the game Finn ends up playing is actually created by Charlie! Look at Jake, being a good dad and supporting his kids’ endeavors.

IAAS 6.png

Love how this shot mirrors Finn & Jake looking over the Spiky Village in Gut Grinder.

What the episode ultimately boils down to is Finn making the same mistake that he made at the beginning of the episode: trusting his impulses, rather than his methods of logical thinking. While he may see it as a choice of pride, Finn is enrolling himself in yet another reckless decision where he simply does not have the upperhand, and he actively refuses to let Jake help him out. Instead of confronting the issue at hand by addressing what went wrong, Finn thinks he’s doing right by making the situation his sole responsibility, but ignores what got him there to begin with. While I call bullshit on a golf club being his weapon of choice (he still has the root sword, and we even saw Nothung within his treasury!) it’s a great item that’s used to represent how he truly didn’t think this situation out to begin with, and had it not been for his grass sword, he likely would’ve been toast. But the grass sword can also be a key indicator of Finn’s lack of control, as it’s the finishing blow that destroys the Finn sword completely.

It’s funny, because I remember when this episode first aired, people were convinced that Finn would be in a coma until the Finn Sword was revived. While I was never under that impression, it is easy to see how affected Finn is by the death of his Finn Sword, and how he was always true in his efforts to inform others about the special connection. That connection was always legitimate, and Finn is now left with the terrible sadness of essentially “losing himself” by not being able to trust in his own actions. Season seven has been great with refusing to stray away from Finn’s own personal issues; while season six could easily be seen as a culmination of everything that Finn has learned so far in his life, season seven shows that, even with the potential for resolution, life continues to throw curve balls regardless. As BMO so eloquently states:

You mean some people are just pure city sidewalk boom-boom from a rat donk and that’s all there is to it?”

IAAS 7.png

The statement is there to show that there will always be shitty people who do shitty things to others, but Jake’s unsure response shows that there’s something even more threatening than not trusting others, and that’s of course the lack of trust in one’s self. Finn has been faced with shitty people for a majority of his life, and while he’s always been able to cope with that, he fails to cope with specific issues within himself. And the world will continue to be wooly-booly for himself, unless he’s able to regain that trust and self-control back. While Finn is stuck with repressing his issues for now, we’re left with one haunting image that shows how this issue is fair from over: a green glow emitting from the Finn Sword. Finn’s battle with his own identity has only just begun!

I Am a Sword is not only deeply hilarious, but also takes a look at the larger picture with how Finn is dealing with his own insecurities at this point in his maturity. This episode shows that, while he’s learned a lot, he still has a long way to go in his own personal growth, and that relates entirely to how he views himself and treats the people around him. It also does a terrific job of exploring one of the most complex relationships in the entire show, that will only continue to grow in complexity as time goes on.

IAAS 8.png

Favorite line: “I was born with rabies and my parents didn’t love me ’cause they both had mono!”

“Beyond the Grotto” Review

BTG 1.png

Original Airdate: April 9, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Seo Kim & Somvilay Xayaphone

Beyond the Grotto is the fifth episode in the guest-animator series, and it’s likely the most unique so far. While the past four episodes in this series have been directed, animated, and written entirely by guest animator themselves, this episode is partially animated by Lindsay and Alex Small-Butera (creators of Baman Piderman) but was written, directed, and storyboarded by the usual AT staff members. This is an idea that I both like and dislike: I like it because my main complaint regarding the guest-animated episodes is that they seem to struggle most with matching the tone of the series. But at the same time, I feel like it kind of tarnishes a bit of the charm of each guest animator bringing wildly different styles and tones to the table. Like, there’s no denying that Water Park Prank is one of AT’s worst entries, but it still at least is so different and unique from every other episode in the series that it at least stands out on its own. And that’s not to say this one doesn’t, but I feel as though I could just as easily associate this episode as a “Somvilay and Seo episode,” rather than a guest-animator episode. Before I get too invested in rambling, I will say that this episode does achieve this blend between staff and guest very well, and actually makes the most sense logically out of any guest-animated episode thus far. While Food Chain had Magic Man there to transition into some of the more frenetic bits of animation, it still felt slightly different because of the animation switch throughout, where this episode only switches its style once Finn and Jake go “beyond the grotto.” This episode also boasts particularly strong and fluid animation, and is probably the most visually stunning among the guest series, aside from the aforementioned Food Chain. Though different from most guest-animated episodes, Beyond the Grotto still struggles from similar issues that a majority of the other episodes suffered from: a slightly lackluster story.

BTG 2.png

When it comes down to it, the story of this one is somewhat paper thin. Finn and Jake set out to save the Sea Lard after presumably drowning it, and come across a strange world where they forget themselves and the familiar faces around them. The stories within the world don’t really have any form of connecting story or theme (to my knowledge) and merely exist to show off random interpretations of several characters, including Marceline, BMO, PB, Ice King, Tree Trunks and Mr. Pig. No story in particular has a ton of substance, or is really subject to many funny moments. There’s a couple of unique and interesting moments: I think Marceline’s little song is pretty enjoyable, and I think it’s an especially funny idea that the cute, flower Marceline actually isn’t filled with sadness at all and just enjoys singing songs based on sadness. Though, it’s hard for me to read exactly what this says about Marceline’s character, and the other characters in general. Some inhabitants of the purple world seem to have some allusions to the inner workings of their counterparts, like how Ice King’s consumption of purple products contribute to his own memory loss is an obvious reference to the crown, but then there’s Bush Boots and the BMO Bee, who aren’t really anything beyond surface-level imitations of the characters they are supposed to represent. Thus, the episode feels kind of inconsistent on some level. When rewatching this one, I always feel like I’m going to pick up on something deeper that I didn’t notice at first, but I typically never do. That’s keeping in mind that not every episode has to have some sort of deeper meaning, but when faced with a totally balls-to-the-walls plot, I’d expect something either really funny or profound to go along with it, and this story doesn’t really provide for anything of the sorts. I do enjoy how this is essentially opening up for Finn and Jake to introduce themselves to all of the friends they’ve met over the years; Jake interacting with the Lady butterfly actually has him uttering, “you are crazy, you are sooo crazy,” which is a reference all the way back to the pilot. It’s also interesting to see that, even when forgetting their own identities, Finn and Jake are still invested in helping people out and saving the day. Even without knowing who they are, they’re still driven by kindness and down to lend a helping hand. One other thing worth nothing, BMO’s Bee poem contains these lines:

“Listen for a sound and look, look around. Unless egress is sought, smiles will be not found. Hmm? Hmm? It’s a metaphor.”

I do wonder if that line was used intentionally the reference The Hall of Egress and its ambiguous nature, or Finn’s journey through Egress in general.

BTG 3

While the story is nothing special in this one, the animation clearly justifies Beyond the Grotto’s existence. The fluidity and zing of the animation is terrific, and I love how it’s constantly moving, even when the characters are still. The wildly static lines remind me a lot of Ed, Edd n Eddy, and help the animation to really pop and standout. Also interesting, the characters are outlined with pencil rather than ink, which is another unique way to set this world apart as its own realm. The attention to color is vivid and beautiful in the way that it is constantly reacting with how the characters are shaded and reflect said lighting, especially when Finn and Jake essentially become mute to color in general. The backgrounds are mostly simplified to show off shapes rather than detail, and once again contributes to how beautiful, earthy colors infect every inch of scenery. Background painter Matt Cummings also guest stars on this one, creating gorgeously painted backgrounds with a keen sense of how he can use splotches of color to illuminate the realm’s surroundings.

The only aspect left to talk about with this one are the non-guest animated portions, which are actually some of my favorite parts of this one joke-wise. I love Shelby’s role as a know-it-all coming back once again after last episode, and him actually being wrong about the Sea Lard’s class which, to be fair, could easily be assumed after watching the lard presumably sink to his death. It’s also lovely to see the Water Nymphs once again who, per usual, are bizarre and mysterious characters. They also apparently make hot dogs from frogs, which is both intriguing and kind of repulsive. The interactions with Ice King towards the end are equally hilarious, as Jake once again shows that he isn’t fully adjusted to the IK’s quirky antics (“beat it, creep!”) and that Ice King’s memory is, as expected, still tragically beyond repair. The ending with the sea lard is also cute, though I don’t really get what the lard is all about, and the episode never really gives us any idea as to what his deal is. He’s kind of like the opposite of Gunther; with Gunther, you’re supposed to have some idea about what going on in his little penguin brain, but with the Lard, we’re not really given anything to work with. I do like how he’s essentially a seventh band member to the Treehouse Fort Fam, though upsetting that this is essentially the last time we even see him. Not because he’s necessarily an interesting character, but because it’s just kind of funny that he takes on the role of Finn and Jake’s “pet rock” throughout the series.

BTG 4.png

But yeah, don’t have a ton to add from here. This is essentially an episode that has a 9/10 visual appeal, but a 4/10 story, so it’s kind of middle-ground for myself. I enjoy viewing it from a visual point of view, but there’s very little of substance that actually makes me want to come back to this one. It’s not very interesting, not very funny, and the plot has no real focus beyond just being a series of set pieces that allow for some zany animation. I can certainly appreciate that the episode is built around having moments that allow the animation to truly shine through, but again, visual appeal can only support at least half of the episode. If it went full-on abstract and used music or some other art form to support its visuals, I might be a little more forgiving, but I feel like the intention of the episode is that it still wants to grab my attention, and unfortunately, it just doesn’t do so.

That aside, this still is a gorgeous looking episode and I commend Alex, Lindsay, and Matt for their hard work that truly shines through. You can check out Alex and Lindsay’s site here, subscribe to their Patreon, or visit Matt’s art portfolio here. I’ve become an avid fan of their work since this episode, and I’m looking forward to covering their second AT episode, Ketchup, later on!

BTG 5.png

Favorite line: What memories? I’m like a goldfish over here.” “In what way, exactly?” “Hmm? Oh, hey, Jake.”

“Don’t Look” Review

DL 1.png

Another one of my favorite title cards. A reference to Charles Allan Gilbert’s All is Vanity, the card takes on the shape of a skull when looking at it from afar.

Original Airdate: April 2, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim

Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time shitting on episodes that Somvilay Xayaphone and Seo Kim boarded. I promise I don’t get any kind of sadistic joy out of trashing their work in the least bit, I just generally have problems with their specific boarding tactics that often make for some of the weakest episodes of the series. I’ve gone on and on about how Somvilay’s anti-humor makes for more awkward and slower moments than legitimately funny jokes, and his tendencies towards facial expressions and boarding in general can be really clunky and off-putting. Seo Kim, on the other hand, is not as noticeable of an offender, though she’s easily the least identifiable artist in the series. While each writer has their share of quirks or noticeable styles, Kim’s work is almost always completely homogenized by Somvilay’s. Though (objectively) I think Kim has the superior art style when I do pick up on it, I oftentimes have trouble deciphering which part of the episode she actually worked on, which is something I very seldom say for AT board artists. Throughout the past two seasons, it was hard for me to grow fond of them because, after constant misses, it became stigmatic for myself to go into each Somvilay-Seo episode with considerably low expectations. This added shitting aside, I think they really were able to find their footing at this point in season seven, to the point where their work lands right up there with some of this season’s best entries. Don’t Look manages to be yet another terrific exploration of Finn’s character that is nuanced, intriguing, and poignant in all the right ways. It brings out the best in Somvilay and Seo because it’s something that they’ve both been able to succeed with in the past: a strong, yet vague story at the helm.

DL 2.png

This episode starts out in the library, which is always just a giant nostalgia bomb for me. Dunno why, but no setting feels more like its emulating the earlier seasons than the library. I instantly start to think of The Real You and Paper Pete (yeah, I guess I do remember that one!) and am reminded of simpler times. When discussing Dead Mountain, the boys have some truly endearing wishes that they came up with: Finn simply wants to be taller and Jake wouldn’t want to change anything about himself. It’s so sweet that the two are so accepting of who they are that the only thing they would consider changing is their height; Finn has the chance to shift into a buff warrior, or even get rid of his weird, cursed grass arm (which is once again acknowledged) but he’s much more accepting of himself and utilizes self-love to the point where that doesn’t really matter to him. I do like the brief mislead that is used to imply that Finn still has feelings for Princess Bubblegum. It feels like a bit of a derailment for his character at first, but it’s merely used to further elaborate on Finn’s changing feelings later on, and cleverly included to simply be debunked. Finn just really wants to be tall, y’all. It’s also worth noting that Finn turns the pages in the book backwards while reading further, which I don’t believe is the first time it’s happened on the show. Either Ooo books are read manga style, or this is a consistent animation error.

Dead Mountain isn’t an exceptionally interesting location, but it is loaded with several mysteries. The hermit in particular is one detail that I’m constantly pondering over. I like how he’s essentially viewed as “evil” by Finn and Jake, though, what I can gather from his general appearance and setting, it seems like he’s actually a lot more of a victim than anything. His peril was likely similar to Finn’s, in the sense that he put on the glasses and then was subjected to the absolute horror of transforming his friends against their will, which led him to seclude himself within Dead Mountain, where he’s unable to hurt anyone else. Jake later mentions that the hermit turned everyone into “rats and plops,” though it seems apparent that this was just a result of decaying food being present within the cave and not a malefactor of the glasses. This is paralleled terrifically when Finn later returns to Dead Mountain after turning NEPTR into a literal microwave, where he plans to stay to prevent anyone from getting hurt. Finn’s results are essentially the same as the hermit’s, though the hermit presumably wasn’t lucky enough to have himself a wise brother/best friend to snap him out of it.

DL 3.png

The premise for Don’t Look in general is a neat, creative idea that the episode has a lot of fun with. I also like the fact that, while this leads to an essential identity crisis for Finn, the story really isn’t exploited for drama. In fact, the way Finn views others is mostly flattering: Jake as a athletic, teenage brother figure, BMO as a little angel, and Ice King as a multi-layered person that is more than just an icy creep. This is because, while some of Finn’s perspective is altered by the simple fact that his sight cannot carry the vast complexities that inner feelings do, he has grown generally less judgmental of the people around him. Even Ice King, one of Finn’s greatest annoyances in the past, is now looked at as a more sympathetic and fleshed-out being, rather than just the creepy neighbor that can occasionally take on the role of a villain. Some depictions are less flattering, like the nerdy “bookworm” Shelby and Starchy as a literal butt, but it could be argued that this is simply because Finn isn’t as close with the two as he is with Jake, BMO, Ice King, and so their depictions are much more subjected to judgment, and also one-note. Of course, the most interesting perspective of all is how Finn views Princess Bubblegum, which, in her words is “a teen-ish boy heartthrob.” I wouldn’t be the first to point out that this is likely referring to the fact that Finn views her as “just one of the guys” now instead of a romantic love interest. Going back to the beginning of the episode, the writers do occasionally try and fool us by including some elements of the status quo, but the series is progressive enough at this point to prove us wrong and show how much the characters have developed since the beginning.

The projection that truly shows off the horrific abilities of the hermit’s eyes is NEPTR’s transformation from a sentient microwave to a regular microwave, which works as yet another hilarious “fuck you” to NEPTR, and also is used as a mechanism for some profound exploration. There’s really no character better to be used as an icon for misuse than NEPTR; over the years, the little guy has been neglected, abused, and ignored, and I think Finn’s turmoil not only centered around his guilt for taking the life of his friend away, but also that Finn has likely contributed to NEPTR’s label as “property.” In fact, Hot to the Touch exclusively featured Finn essentially using NEPTR for his own gain, even if NEPTR was willing to help the entire time. This is what leads Finn into an absolute panicked state, where he begins to question his true intentions, all while looking at his reflection and transforming into the most “judgmental, self-centered, monstrous” image he can think of: his father. This is one of my favorite subtle moments that the show has ever done. Finn doesn’t remark, “oh my glob, I’m just like my dad!” but we’re instead left with a mere facsimile of Martin that hits home much more effectively than any dialogue would. While Martin hasn’t been mentioned since his ascension into a new realm in The Comet, the trauma he put Finn through is still very potent and real, to the point where Finn fears becoming like his father more than anything. Everything that Finn associates with being a bad or immoral person derive directly from Martin’s personality, and it’s interesting that Finn’s maturation also can be attributed to the fact that he actively wants to avoid any behavior that can be seen as selfish or uncaring, because he doesn’t want to end up down the same path.

DL 4.png

Where Finn tends to react more emotionally to certain situations, Jake is always there to round him out logically. And, as our dog friend eloquently states:

“I mean, maybe your eyes are just bad at describing things, you know? Like, how you feel about people, what they mean to you. That stuff’s in your guts. Eyes can’t grok that. Unless you have the eyes of, like, a trained artist or something.”

It’s a well-stated point that can easily be translated as a moral for audiences as well: we as human beings often beat ourselves up for being judgmental off of our own visual and cognitive cues, though neither a single thought nor observation can truly explain the complexities of an actual interpersonal relationship. Finn’s guilt and shame alone are enough to prove that he cares about NEPTR beyond just his usefulness as an appliance. The last few minutes also work as an excellent way to stress the importance of how Finn views others, but also how he views himself. And oftentimes, the most efficient way to view yourself in the best light is to be around people who care for you and love you, which Jake helps organize (even if Ice King is reluctant at first). This, in turn is what makes the eyes release themselves from Finn’s face, as Finn was able to shift back from true verbal judgment, rather just the one-dimensional visual judgment I had mentioned earlier. Not only did Finn learn the importance of this judgment for himself, but he also knows now that you really can’t gauge any kind of opinion from just seeing people, so it’s important to let people know how you see them. Finn sees NEPTR as a friend and “his half-son” and it’s much more important to him that he shows NEPTR care and love to make it so that his viewpoint is accurate. It’s a sweet ending, and a long awaited happy moment for the little robot, but not as much for our other little robot, as he hilariously falls from the sky when his journey as an angel ends. Poor BMO was just living out his dream, but it was too good to last.

DL 5.png

Couple nitpicks for this one: the hermit’s eyes are slightly inconsistent when it comes to how they affect people. Like, with PB, Ice King, Jake, and BMO, the eyes merely affect how they look, while Shelby and NEPTR are essentially given entirely different personalities/states of being by the way Finn views them. It feels like rules were never truly established with how these magical items work. Otherwise, I just kind wish we were able to see more of how Finn views others. It would’ve been really neat to include characters like Marceline, Flame Princess, Cinnamon Bun, Betty, and so on to see how exactly Finn views them from the eyes’ point of view. But alas, the episode is only 11 minutes, and I gotta accept what we got.

But that’s not to say what we got isn’t pretty great stuff. It’s a rare Somvilay and Seo entry that doesn’t rely mostly on humor, and actually focuses more on telling a very intricate and in depth story with lots of subtle details, of which really are some of my favorite moments in the entire series. It’s another excellent depiction of Finn still dealing with the trials of accepting his identity, as well as moving forward with his own maturation process in Adventure Time’s own bizarre, science fiction-y way. I’m also pleased to say that, personally, I don’t even think this is the best Somvilay/Seo episode of the season. That episode is yet to come!

DL 6

Favorite line: “These balls are going nuts!”