Original Airdate: February 21, 2011
Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich and Ako Castuera
Adventure Time has such an expansive and absurd world that a change in style can still necessarily fit with the general tone of the world on one condition: as long as the characters and environment still feel as though they are a part of the Land of Ooo. That’s why some of the upcoming guest animated episodes end up failing. While they keep the style and tone unique, the characters and environment don’t feel equivalent to the ones we’ve invested so much time and care into.
It isn’t necessarily a traditional guest animated episode (it was actually animated in house by Jacky Ke Jiang; be sure to check out some of his other stuff, it’s terrific!), but Guardians of Sunshine takes our main duo through new dimensions and animation style while still staying true to the essence of Adventure Time. It helps that, while it is animated differently, it’s still written by series regulars Tom Herpich and Ako Castuera. Upcoming episodes like A Glitch is a Glitch and Water Park Prank feel like they’re written by people who are trying to understand the show, but just can’t quite get their grasp on it. This episode blends new styles with consistency to detail in terms of characters, giving it a better chance to succeed.
And boy, is this one fun. Not only does it feel like a blend between vintage Atari and something of the late 90’s variety, but it captures the spirit of video games so well and so hilariously. The great little touches like the choppiness of Finn and Jake’s arms and legs, Finn’s face playing Pong, and Jake’s randomly pointy head are just so irresistibly silly. The general movement and design of the villains is so fluid and visually interesting; I especially like the way Busybee floats so smoothly and vibrantly, yet still has a blank, happy expression on its face. It makes me chuckle every time.
Adam Muto mentions in the commentary for this episode that he believes this is the first time in the series where the stakes feel high, and I could agree with that statement. Never before have Finn and Jake risked actually dying, and the tension of using up the few lives that they actually do have makes it a bit of a nail-biter. Of course, we know our heroes aren’t going to actually die, but there’s something compelling about putting characters in legitimate danger that simulates the notion that something bad really will happen. Adventure Time has pulled off that notion time and time again, but this was the first time it felt real.
This is undeniably one of the most enjoyable episodes of the season. Plenty of terrific gags, a blend of CG to mix things up a bit, and a compelling adventure to send our two main protagonists on. If there’s one thing that brings down this episode, it’s BMO’s treatment. Man, do I feel bad for the little guy! It legitimately pains me to see all of the villains break through the side of him like that. It’s actually sort of interesting that we get to see the little console as the “only sane man” of the group. Typically BMO is prominent for his childlike innocence, but I almost sort of like seeing him in this light for a brief amount of time. I just wish Finn and Jake would feel a little sorry for what they put him through, but it’s okay. BMO’s sending their asses back to the video game world, cheat code style!