Tag Archive | Flame Princess

“Playing with Fire” Review

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Release Date: May 15, 2013

Written by: Danielle Corsetto

Illustrated by: Zachary Sterling

As far as the expanded universe goes for AT, I’m slightly two-sided on how I feel about the comic and graphic novel portion. I’m pretty much on the same boat with everyone else as far as the main comic series goes: it was fun and well-written for the first 30 issues or so, and now it’s pretty poor both visually and in terms of story. There’s other stuff that’s great, like the Adventure Time Comics series and the Ice King six-parter, but not much really draws me outside of those. I could care less about the Fionna & Cake series or the pretty pitiful Adventure Time/Regular Show crossover comics, while everything else has just somewhat fallen under my radar. However, what I’d consider the best of the comic series in terms of quality, art-style, and story is the Playing with Fire graphic novel.

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For anyone who hasn’t read it, I’ll give a brief synopsis. While attending a carnival in the Carnival Kingdom, Finn begins realizing that Flame Princess may not be in control of her emotions (no duh). Flame Princess does simmer down when she enters a fortune teller’s booth, where the fortune teller herself places a curse on Finn that makes him tiny and apathetic. FP, enraged, teams up with Jake to get through the Fortune Teller’s puzzle quest. Jake wants to do things the traditional way and figure out the dungeon’s riddles, but FP’s rage and anger causes her to burn her way through. It’s then that she has a vision involving her father, who promises her a hierarchy of villainy and evil, to which FP decides she should finish the puzzle in the traditional way as Finn would. FP rescues Finn, only for the Fortune Teller to be so touched by the princess’s devotion to her man that she grants them one wish, to which Flame Princess, at first reluctant, decides all the stolen souls should return to their host bodies. Flame Princess finally feels like a hero, but is still haunted by the fact that she is from the Fire Kingdom, and is concerned with the future identity of herself. Annnnnd, it’s never touched on again because Finn and FP break up. Oh well!

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Even if it isn’t acknowledged in universe, I think this graphic novel tells a really compelling story that I would’ve liked to see this as an actual episode. Not only does it pose an interesting look at Flame Princess as she continues to battle with her own identity, but it’s just simply a lot of fun as well. I really like the idea of Jake and Flame Princess teaming up, and the drastic differences between the two. Jake’s very different, in the sense that he’s laidback, cool, and tends to be a traditionalist when it comes to adventuring, while Flame Princess is hot-headed, easily revved up, and does things primarily her way. I mean, when it boils down to it, it really is just Vault of Bones with Jake in Finn’s place, but it covers this story so well (and maybe even a little more in depth than said episode) that I really don’t mind it at all. The characters are a lot more vocal with their emotions, mainly that Finn begins to raise concern over FP’s anger and FP herself does not know who she truly is. Is she a villain, destined for a future of following in her father’s footsteps, or someone who deserves to be recognized as pure of heart? The novel constantly battles around with those ideas, and there is some legitimate intrigue as to what Flame Princess’s future holds.

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It also is nice, for any of the AT comics in general, that their stories tend to incorporate more side and recurring character from the Land of Ooo. We get a fun little bit of NEPTR being a giant loser, a character who only appeared once in season five, which is the time period when the actual novel came out. There’s also a fun scene using Choose Goose that doesn’t even address him by name but helps further the story, and it’s just nice to see a character like him, who really does not appear that often in the actual show.

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You know it’s a sign of good writing when I can read the entire novel in each respective character’s voice and never glance over something that feels out of character for someone to say. The art style also really matches perfectly with the tone and atmosphere it’s going for. Zachary Sterling, who illustrates the second-era of AT comics, actually did a really bang-up job with this one. I’m not really a fan of the visuals of the recent comics, but the expressions and drawings of the characters look really pleasing and sometimes quite humorous.

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So overall, it’s a good read. I’d say if you’re a fan of Flame Princess, and her character arc in general, this is definitely a must-read. Don’t expect to get any new information that will someday be important in the actual series (though I’m sure people don’t expect that at this point) but expect good writing and characterizations of our favorite heroes in Ooo.

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“Ignition Point” Review

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Original Airdate: September 17, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Bert Youn & Somvilay Xayaphone

Ignition Point is once again an episode that involves Flame Princess, yet does not put her at centerstage. I think at this point, I was yearning a bit for a more of an in depth look at FP as her own character, but, like Princess Bubblegum, that’s gonna take some time down the line. As for the episode itself, I think it starts off wonderfully, in the cutest and silliest AT-style representation of a young couple. The music is great as well, stripped from the You Made Me score. It’s somewhat disappointingly my favorite part of the episode, and while the main story contains some laughs, it never really delivers what could’ve been a pretty interesting journey that both Finn and FP could’ve went on.

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It’s always enjoyable to visit the Fire Kingdom and its inhabitants, and we do get a bit of new information regarding how their people, as well as their government system as a whole, work. It’s intriguing to watch the people of the Fire Kingdom interact and work off of each other, because they’re pretty much exactly like the Candy People. Dimwitted, unusual, and seemingly harmless, the Fire People don’t seem to reflect Flame King’s statement that everyone in the Fire Kingdom is inherently evil by birth. I’ve never been as into the alignment system as I know y’all are, so I won’t get into too much detail about that, but I think it’s just very interesting on a lore-level. Flame King’s statement that everyone in the Fire Kingdom is evil is not completely false or unbelievable, as what we learn down the line about elementals is their inherent nature based on their specific element. As is, fire elementals generally are born with sinister feelings and emotional dissonance, though the less they are consumed by their own elemental nature, the more they’re able to form their own destiny and choose their own path. It’s an interesting look at identity among the people of the Fire Kingdom including Flame Princess and her dad, and definitely holds a lot to interpret among who FP is herself and how she can gain control of her own identity.

Sadly, I think a lot of that is squandered by a good chunk of meandering filler. There are definitely some enjoyable jokes to be had; I love the painting joke for the main reason that the Fire People are just inexplicably walking backwards for no reason. It looks really funny, and is one that I actually didn’t even notice the first couple times I saw this episode. As usual, I do enjoy a lot of the exchanges between Finn and Jake, namely in the scene where Jake neglects to catch Finn or when Jake accidentally insults Flame Princess. Though, this scene always has confused me. Why would Jake call, who is presumably both he and Finn’s grandma, “my grandma?” Finn has never once referred to Joshua and Margaret as “Jake’s dad and mom,” so why would their grandma be any different? It just seems like a strange bit of wording that makes it feel like discontinuity.

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As I mentioned though, this is another one of Somvilay and Bert’s that just feels incredibly slow. There’s a lot of crawling through the vents of the Fire Kingdom and interacting with the surroundings that just don’t seem to add anything, and aren’t particularly funny either. I just feel like a lot of it is plodding through, when there’s tons of interesting turns this story could’ve taken. We honestly never really get to see Finn’s side of how he feels in regards to the information Flame King shared with him, and honestly, I really would’ve liked to see that. Later on, we only ever get to see Flame Princess’s inner turmoil with this information, but I feel like Finn, being the hero that he is, should’ve at least had a bit of contemplation in regards to this topic, instead of just glancing over it and barely interacting with the idea at all. I can’t blame this episode for Finn barely acknowledging it at all, but at the same time, I think Ignition Point could’ve benefitted from having a lot more meat. Again, not every single episode needs to be analytical and revolve around the deep inner turmoil between the characters, but the fact that the episode offers such an intriguing idea like that makes me disappointed it wasted those ideas on such subpar gags.

The Hamlet homage is certainly an interesting and fun bit (especially the “naked babies” portion), but again, I don’t feel like I’m watching anything that entertainingly satirical. AT is a series that typically doesn’t rely on pop cultural references in terms of its story or humor, so when it does, I’m not entirely into it or blown away. I think the concept of the Flame King’s nephews trying to usurp him still works as a plot device, but I don’t think the references are that significant or poetic on their own.

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This is an episode Tom Herpich originally pitched at the writer’s retreat, and I really think it could’ve benefitted from having him behind the helms. Herpich was most interested in focusing on the corrupted government aspect of this episode, and if Princess Cookie and You Made Me are evidence of anything, he’s pretty damn skilled at writing these types of stories. Somvilay and Bert are more about focusing on the sillier aspects of the series (unless we’re talking about Princess Monster Wife) and it works here to a certain degree, but not in the most beneficial way in terms of story. I’m not sure if my bitching is warranted, because I’m discussing what the episode should’ve been instead of accepting it at a surface level, but honestly, there’s just not much that draws me into this one otherwise. I come back for some of the silly jokes and the interesting ideas you could draw from the environment of the Fire Kingdom, but the story is pretty drawn out and forgettable and I don’t feel like I’ve gained much at all from watching it that couldn’t be summed up by the last minute. It is always nice to see Flame King, though. That Keith David voice never wears on me.

It’s a shame that the concept of Flame Princess being inherently evil never comes into full fruition. It’s elaborated on a good deal in an enjoyable upcoming episode, but never really goes anywhere despite that. The most interesting piece of information on this topic actually comes from AT literature, which I will be exploring once this season commences.

Get ready for a double post next week, kids! In honor of the 100th episode (even though this technically was the 100th in airing order), I’ll being posting The Hard Easy and Reign of Gunthers on the same Friday. That way we’ll get to the real meat with I Remember You even faster.

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Favorite line: “It’s just the air smells bad from your magic tricks, and now I feel sad.”

“Hot to the Touch” Review

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Original Airdate: April 2, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Rebecca Sugar & Cole Sanchez

Here we are, kids! Season four! As I’ve mentioned a couple times prior to this review, season four is a really big turning point for the series. Things get darker, edgier, and more impactful from hereon in, folks. Fresh off the batch is Hot to the Touch, a continuation from where season three’s cliffhanger left off. When the original synopsis for this episode was released, I had much different expectations for it. I generally didn’t expect for this one to pick right up where Incendium left off, as it typically wasn’t really something AT had done before, aside from the Mortal Folly/Mortal Recoil two-parter. I thought there’d be a lot more of Finn just sort of observing Flame Princess from afar, and trying to learn little tidbits about her in the process. There is a little bit of that, but what we got as a whole was a pretty satisfying episode, though not without it’s issues.

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First off, I think Flame Princess’s character is crafted perfectly in this episode. I dunno, after this one, I think they kinda jumped the gun and made her a lot less interesting than this episode set her up to be. I like her curiosity, how uneducated of the world around her she is, and how her moral code is constantly put into question. With a few exceptions (and some cool development much later on) I think her character was sorta squandered down into just a straight good guy following Hot to the Touch. Not to say Flame Princess is an awful character after this episode, but it almost feels like day and night to watch her so recklessly destroy a kingdom in this one and then be all cute and bubbly the next. I just really think they had a lot of momentum going with her ambiguity and then sorta dropped it way too quickly. It’s not an actual issue with the episode, though, and is one of my very favorite appearances of FP’s character in general. Also, she frequently mentions that she’s an elemental! It’s cool to see this mentioned so early on, and makes me wonder how Flame Princess became so familiar with this label to begin with. Perhaps Flame King educated her on this matter? It’s really up for discussion.

Finn’s interest in Flame Princess is very cute; I love his instant infatuation with FP and how he’s quickly able to profess his love for her without even really knowing her. That’s a typical thirteen-year-old for you (or is he 14 now?). I love how honest he is right off the bat, completely contradicting his prior relationship with PB. It’s rewarding to see the little guy be so open regarding his feelings and to not hold back, learning from his mistakes the first time. In addition to that, there is an interesting bit of turmoil he experiences when he has to choose between being a hero or preserving the one he cares about. The decision seems simple at first, but it all becomes more difficult when we learn that putting out FP’s flames legitimately hurt her. All of us want Finn to choose the obvious route of being heroic, but also don’t want to see Flame Princess get injured in the process. As for his ending breakdown… we’ll get to that in a bit.

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Jake is the perfect everyman in this episode: completely supportive of his hormonal brother, but being very rational when handling the situation. I love how much he goes through just for his friend, from helping him pursue his new love interest to trying to protect the Goblin Kingdom in the process. And, as a result, Jake is actually the true hero of this episode! Yeah, he helps Finn get closer to Flame Princess AND saves everyone in the Goblin Kingdom. What did you do again, Finn? You’re slippin’, buddy.

There’s a lot of enjoyable moments in this one. I love Finn’s awkwardness when it comes to pursuing FP, right down to the fact that he’s basically being a giant stalker and even acknowledges himself in the act. There’s plenty of silly side characters, from the smoking bird (who, for some reason, speaks in rhymes) and the return of the quirky goblins! And hey, speaking of characters returning, my boi NEPTR’s back!! NEPTR is one of my all-time favorites, and it’s really delightful to see the little scamp once again. I love the fact that everyone just generally disregards everything he says, including his entire existence. It just seems like such an oddly cynical and sadistic turn for such loving characters, and I really like how different it is because of that. NEPTR will always be BMO-Light to the rest of the cast. Also, that rap was fucking dope!

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My one problem with this episode, which is actually kind of a major one, is Rebecca Sugar’s part of the episode. I think Cole Sanchez’s section is just fine, but Sugar’s work feels like it’s trying too hard to be really profound and emotional to me. This is a common criticism for a ton of the season six and seven episodes, but really, I think it comes out full-fledged here. Finn’s crying just didn’t hit home for me at all; Rebecca had some big obsession with wanting Finn to cry during her time on the show, and really, I’m not sure I get it. I think some of the most impactful and poignant moments on the show are done without any crying at all (Finn discovering Susan may not be human in Susan Strong, Simon’s video diaries in Holly Jolly Secrets, Finn being abandoned by his father in Escape from the Citadel, etc.). It’s something that carries over heavily into her own show Steven Universe, but really, I just don’t think it works here. And considering the ending is left so ambiguous and poetic, you’d think there’d be room for more development on how Flame Princess and Finn are in a somewhat “forbidden” romance, but it’s rarely even touched upon in the next episode FP is in, outside of the last half, and just feels like a cheap gimmick in order for me to feel something or be left with some lasting impression, but it just doesn’t work at all. Pendleton Ward had this brief bit of wisdom on the episode’s commentary:

“[in reference to writing kid characters] … you just think that they’re gonna skin their knees and cry a bunch, when it’s not fun to watch, I don’t think.”

Though he wasn’t speaking directly about that portion of the episode, it pretty much sums up my feelings. I criticized What Was Missing slightly in the past for Sugar’s style feeling off with AT’s aesthetics, but I think this is a prominent example of her writing failing to meet the emotional complexities of the characters, at least in my eyes. I think Cole gets it right from Finn’s monologue earlier on in the treehouse, that’s meant both to be funny and somewhat profound. That’s exactly what I was looking for throughout a majority of this episode.

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That being said, I do think it’s still a pretty decent season premiere. I think there’s still a lot of enjoyable moments, from the silly jokes, to the beautiful visuals (really nice blends of orange and yellow), to the general intrigue of the main conflict. The characters are written as perfectly as they should be; as I mentioned, this is one of my favorite appearances of Flame Princess to date. Even though I’m not crazy about the ending, it still leaves a ton of ambiguity and mystery that Incendium left off with, giving me enough motivation and anticipation to keep watching forward. And as long as I live, I will never get tired of Finn stretching out Jake’s face like silly putty.

Strap in, everyone! Season four is gonna be one hell of a ride!

Favorite line: “Listen, when I look at you, my brain goes all stupid, and I just wanna hug you, and sit on the couch and play BMO with you.” (the most accurate depiction of teenage feelings of all time)

“Incendium” Review

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One of my favorite title cards. Finn’s turmoil is so wonderfully represented.

Original Airdate: February 13, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Adam Muto & Rebecca Sugar

Incendium is significant because it was the point where I became completely and utterly invested in Adventure Time. There were points prior such as Mortal Recoil, Thank You, and Holly Jolly Secrets where I grew even fonder of the series, but Incendium was the episode where I decided there was absolutely no turning back. I was in it for the long haul from this point on, and prepared for where ever the series would take me next. As you can tell, this is one of my favorites. It’s not one of the funniest or even most dramatic episodes, but this is a direct transition into a new era of AT, and one that doesn’t hold back with its raw emotion, introduction of new characters, and growth from the past three seasons. This is it people: Finn’s most notable entrance into adolescence.

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The concept of this episode came from the writers no longer being able to incorporate Finn’s love interest for PB into compelling stories. Wizard Battle was an episode that proved this relationship to be a bit burnt out in its direction, and one that I was getting dreadfully bored of myself. The beginning of this episode wastes no time by displaying the truth behind how infatuations typically tend to start out as innocent and charming and eventually transition into creepy and desperate. Finn’s behavior can surely be seen as that, though without his intention to be so, and Bubblegum’s response is equally appropriate. It’s a moment that runs so quickly and contains little dialogue, but one that I think is especially well done. It doesn’t focus on making either character unlikable for the sake of the plot, and follows a realistic direction in which the situation was likely to follow. It’s a really impactful, driving moment for Finn to be straight up turned down, something we really haven’t gotten to see yet. It’s also a bit of the least teasing PB’s behavior has ever been; it seems her intentions to show Finn her new invention were strictly out of leisure and companionship, and her personal space being briefly invaded was what turned her off from what was genuinely supposed to be a simple picnic with friends.

That being said, it’s still one of the most emotional Goddamn scenes in the series to see Finn so drastically torn up. Sure, he’s still a child, and we all know those random teenage love interests never meant anything. But they still stung, dammit! This sequence is complete with one of my favorite Sugar songs, All Gummed Up Inside. Not only are the lyrics a perfect example of a character releasing his/her feelings through song, the combination between the pacing of BMO’s video game in the background and the ukulele chords are just beautiful. It’s really one of the most creatively timed tunes in the series, and one that I constantly find myself revisiting. In addition to the song, the visuals during it are equally as heartwrenching. Sugar outdoes herself with really somber depictions of AT’s characters, and the looks of hopelessness on Finn, Jake, and BMO’s faces are really terrifically drawn. It’s a very powerful moment that fits so much emotion into such a short sequence of time. Also love the callback to Finn clutching that wad of Bubblegum’s hair (although, I gotta wonder where he got those pictures of PB. It’s not even like it’s a picture of him and Peebles hanging out, it’s like, a fucking headshot. Did she just randomly give him a bunch of those?),

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A good remainder of the episode is kept mostly light with a really enjoyable and heartfelt story of Jake trying to find a new woman for his best friend. There’s a lot of really amusing moments from this point on: the reintroduction of Flambo, who, as I’ve mentioned before, is one of my favorite secondary characters in the series. I don’t know what it is about him, I just love his general demeanor and random Brooklyn accent. The interactions between him and Jake are really great; love the laidback way they’re able to just shoot the shit, followed by the always hilarious flame shield incantation (“I cast flame shield on ya’s… also I spat on ya’s!”).

Outside of Thank You, this is the first major appearance of the Fire Kingdom, and it looks dope. Love the various orange, red, yellow, and browns that make up the kingdom, and the contrast of Jake’s blue that really helps him to stick out among the crowds of Fire People and their surroundings. There’s also the introduction of another one of my favorite side characters, Flame King, and the entrance of a brand new major player herself, Flame Princess. This is probably Flame King’s strongest appearance in the series. His voice, provided by Keith David, hits all the right points of intimidation and dry wit. I love the way him and Jake work off of each other, and the various tasks Jake must go through that really are very pointless in hindsight. There’s also the crowd of Fire People that honestly crack me up. The way they just mindlessly repeat everything (a very satirical homage to other TV shows and movies that involve royalty) is always worth a dumb laugh or two from me. The way Jake reprises Finn’s song is really delightful; it’s not quite as catchy or powerful, but I love the way Jake is able to take something so heavy and emotional and reboot it into something more calming and delightful, typically showcasing his best abilities.

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It’s also a bit of a sad scene to watch Jake so disappointed of his failure as he softly apologizes to Finn’s hologram. It’s a moment that also displays another emotional strength of the series: the way the characters are able to so strongly empathize with each other. You can tell that Finn’s inability to reciprocate PB’s love is affecting Jake just as much, and that he’d do anything to help out his brother during his time of need. Which leads to one of the most confusing parts of the episode: Jake’s Finn mimic choking himself. I’m not sure if this was Jake getting way too in character, or if it was an elaborate plan by himself all along, but it just feels a bit aimless to me. Not sure how he knew it would work if it was the latter, and not sure why he would do it to begin with if it was the former.

The third act closes out with some of the strongest raw material of the episode, as Finn begins his fueled rampage and unleashes all of his negative inner feelings. It only last for a brief amount of time, and he’s able to step back once he notices the injured princess, allowing for some nice symbolism with Finn using a piece of Bubblegum to save Flame Princess, and then completely leaving that piece of PB behind. Flame Princess’s character isn’t that well-developed in this one, but the ending does leave a bit of intrigue that we haven’t seen from the show before: someone who is less emotionally mature than Finn. FP is completely bonkers when it comes to controlling her inner feelings, and for the longest time, Finn has had to combat his inferiority when it comes to those more mature than him. This may be where his immediate interest in the princess comes from, and it’s an interesting realization that disregards Finn’s entire romantic past up to this point. Everything changed when the fire nation attacked.

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So yeah, I love this one. It just has such an exciting feel to it, and despite it not having any big battles or giant cliffhangers like other season finales do, this one is simply an important transition into the later seasons of Adventure Time, leaving some old, worn out relationships in the past along with it. It’s a really fun exploration of Finn’s new potential love interest, and one that would forever change his life and future ahead of him. It’s a lovely bit of emotion mixed with amusing gags that I really never get tired of. Shoutout to Rebecca Sugar and Adam Muto for ending their board partnership together with a bang! Surely one of my all-time favorites.

That’s the end of season three, folks! Like always, I’d like to thank anyone who’s been keeping up with the blog and sharing your lovely thoughts with each new post. I really enjoy all the feedback I get with this blog, and it makes the entire experience more rewarding. The season three review should be out later this week, along with a bit of a surprise mini-review that I’m sure most of you weren’t expecting. But, besides that, I’ll be back with Hot to the Touch very shortly!

Favorite line: “If anyone tries to hurt Finn, I will kill them!”