Tag Archive | Jeremy Shada

“Mortal Folly” Review

MF 1

Original Airdate: May 2, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Rebecca Sugar & Adam Muto

This is a big one. This is the game-changer for most viewers, as it was for me at the young age of thirteen. The stakes are instantly raised in this episode with the introduction of the Lich as a major villain. We’ve previously seen him in His Hero, but this is the first time we truly get to experience the Lich as a villain. His presence in this episode adds new heightened danger that Finn and Jake aren’t typically used to dealing with, and this time they aren’t just facing a threat to save a single princess or candy person. As Jake acknowledges, they’re fighting for the sake of the entire world.

MF 2.png

Immediately we’re thrown into the action, with brief meditations seen by both Finn and Jake. Most notably, Finn imagines himself as a big, bulky hero (including a pretty sick bionic arm) showing that his view on true heroes is still a bit materialistic. As Finn has learned countless times throughout this particular season, a hero is not defined by shape, size, or glamour, and while he has begun to grasp this concept, he still is drawn to those attributes that legendary heroes such as Billy possess. As His Hero displayed, Finn was able to prove himself as a true hero by choosing his own path over the path of his mentor, and it’s appropriately fitting that Mortal Folly has him following in his mentor’s footsteps once again by facing off against the ultimate evil.

After we’re treated to a nice bit of lore and backstory regarding the Lich and Billy, the snail that appears in the background of every single episode frees our grotesquely designed villain from his prison. This really is terrific use of the snail as a plot device; it’s rewarding to those who have been paying attention long enough to notice the hidden snail, as well as a way of building up apprehension by having it possessed. Every time it appears after this, there’s a certain fear of what’s to come and a constant reminder that it’s still a part of the story. But before we get to that, the Lich’s place in this episode is eerie and unsettling, fitting with his appearance that’s especially grotesque and diverse from most other designs in the series. While working on this episode, Sugar and Muto tried to avoid any typical villain cliches as possible to make the Lich seem menacing and serious, and a big kudos to them for pulling it off so well.

MF 4.png

Of course, the episode isn’t entirely focused on tension and darkness. At the center lies a large heart with the relationship between PB and Finn. Although, it is kind of off when you think about it. I know Finn is considered a legendary hero in Ooo and he does ultimately end up defeating the Lich for the time being, but you’d think with all of the life experience Bubblegum possesses, she wouldn’t send a thirteen-year-old out to preserve the fate of the universe. But of course, these were different times, so I can ignore it. It doesn’t divert from the adorable amount of compassion for each other that the two share, and there’s no way you can convince me that PB doesn’t care about Finn in this situation. The sweater she gives him, whether it was meant to be protective from the Lich’s powers or not, was an ultimate token of her appreciation for Finn, and it’s really sweet that he has no hesitation wearing it at all.

On the other hand, if there’s one thing that constantly brings down this episode, it’s Ice King. Not to say he’s without his funny moments, but his interference with Finn and Jake really diverts from the main focus of the episode. I understand that they had to break the episode up a bit and it was completely necessary to include Ice King in it, but from a viewer’s perspective, it really takes you out of the moment when our two main heroes are on an epic quest to save the world and IK continuously gets in the way of it.

MF 3.png

Thankfully, the last third of the episode is primarily focused on the main issues at hand. I love, love, LOVE the abandoned subway setting. It makes for such a cool and well designed battle arena, and is just oozing with post-apocalyptic eye candy. Love the skeletons, love the colors, love how it’s not even explicitly mentioned as a subway. Things get serious when Billy’s gauntlet is crushed by the Lich without any hesitation at all, which is kinda fucked up when you think about it. That gauntlet was totally sentient! It blinked! The atmosphere immediately grows quiet and blood curdling when Finn’s pendant breaks and we get our first-ever bit of dialogue from the Lich, delivered menacingly, yet attractively by Ron Perlman.

“Aren’t you cold, Finn…? Walk into the well… Finn… Aren’t you cold…?”

It’s important to remember that, save for a few moments, we never really get to see the Lich do much of anything destructive throughout the series. Sure, it’s implied he had a big part in the outcome of the Great Mushroom War, but aside from that, everything that is threatening about the Lich comes entirely through his design and his voice. This makes him one of my favorite animated villains of all-time. We only get to see him every so often, but every time we do, we know this guy has potential to blow up entire worlds if he wants to. We know that he can’t be defeated anytime soon. We know that he could set off countless Mushroom Wars with the snap of a finger. Most importantly, we know that the Lich is the ultimate evil. Not through his actions, not through his adversaries, not through his treacherous backstory or anything like that, but simply because of his demeanor. He has no motivation for wanting to destroy all humanity besides the fact that he can and wants to. And there’s nothing scary than that.

MF 5.png

But of course, the one thing that protects Finn from potential destruction is the sweater PB made him. It’s sweet, because they didn’t pull some twist that the sweater has protective armor or guns shooting out of it or anything like that. It’s just a sweater. And that, coupled with Finn’s feelings of l-l-liking someone a lot, is what is able to save him in the end. Again, it’s easy to draw contrasts to Billy and Finn here. Billy was able to defeat the Lich with his gauntlet, whereas Finn failed to the first time he tried. It’s obvious that Billy’s power comes almost entirely from his brawn and strength, while Finn’s ultimate power comes from his heart. It’s a corny but important lesson that’s been enforced many times this season, and this feels like an ultimate driving point. It Finn’s sweater that defeats the Lich, as he lets out a final laugh that’s evidence enough that we won’t be seeing the last of him. It’s a triumphant moment of victory for Finn and Jake, but the moment doesn’t last for long, courtesy of the IK’s “dropsies.”

So there’s a good chunk of really good moments surrounding the main plot, and a good chunk of mediocre moments in regards to the Ice King’s bits. There’s still more than enough for this to be considered as a good episode. Terrific atmosphere, intense action, some brilliant character moments, and a very nice jaw-drop worthy ending in preparation for part two to boot.

Favorite line: “No, I’m not! I’VE GOT A SWEATER ON!”

Advertisements

“Belly of the Beast” Review

BOTB 1.png

Original Airdate: April 4, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne & Somvilay Xayaphone

Belly of the Beast poses an interesting argument: is it better to remain ignorant or aware of your surroundings? With the many scary possibilities and dangers in the world around us, many would argue that it is better to ignore the world around you and just live your everyday life. AT delivers this with ambiguous results when Finn and Jake try and save a group of bears who love to party in a monster’s belly, but risk being converted into feces. The series leans more towards Finn and Jake’s understanding of the situation, but also does so without making the other side look like a bunch of idiots. Finn and Jake may be trying to help these people, but at the same time, the bears are just trying to live life and make a party out of it. And there ain’t no party like a beast’s belly party!

BOTB 2.png

One of the bears they do meet along the way is Party Pat, who is voiced by Andy Samberg and, as Pendleton Ward claims, “is basically Pat McHale.” Party Pat’s a delightfully odd central character for this episode; he seems like a really chill dude, but at the same time, I feel as though he could drug someone’s red solo cup at any given point. Samberg gives Pat that ominous and enigmatic feel, and he’s almost unrecognizable as this character. Why they wanted Samberg specifically for this role, I’m not sure. But hey, he does a great job, so why not? And speaking of voice roles, Jeremy Shada’s performance as Finn is hilarious in this episode. Shada has been getting more experimental and having more fun with his character as of lately, delivering some of his funniest bits of dialogue yet.

The animation in particular is really superb. I seriously have a tough time focusing on the main episode because of how many unique dance moves are being performed in the background. Ian-Jones Quartey provided a lot of the drawings of the bears in this episode, and specifically tried to make every bear’s dance routine different and have a specific cycle, which is really reflected in the final product.

BOTB 3.png

Like I mentioned above, the core of this episode is the debate of whether or not the bears should stay in the beast’s belly or not. The episode sort of takes some unusual turns in its execution, however. Although Finn and Jake help everyone to settle down through a humorously depressing song about dying food items (RIP milkshake, RIP donut) the bears ultimately decide to stay in the beast’s belly in the end. This poses a couple of plot holes: Wasn’t the original dilemma that the bears would be digested if they stayed in the monster’s stomach? Nothing has changed since they decided to return, so how does that resolve the central conflict? And if the beast is so concerned with having his mouth scorched by fireworks, then how is he unaffected by drinking lava?? They’re a couple of oddities that make this episode seem a bit uneven. It does help the general tone of the episode that the literal party animals would return once more to where the party all started. Although it may seem bleak for some to be living in a perilous situation, Party Pat and his crew know how to enjoy life and are able to deal with any given issue because of their lifestyle. It’s not for everyone, as Finn and Jake have displayed, but hey, when things get tough, why not party? It’s also an important trial for Finn, as he learns that he simply can’t help those who don’t want to be helped. It’s depressing to see his general disappointment in his failure to save the party crew, but he learns the hard way that he simply can’t force his beliefs onto others.

BOTB 4.png

It’s not necessarily the most structured episode plotwise, but Kent Osborne and Somvilay Xayaphone definitely has a good time with this one. It’s often reflected as one of their personal favorites of season two, and while I can’t say it’s one of my personal faves, it’s a relatively enjoyable one. It has it’s minor flaws like the ones I mentioned, and I’m not really crazy about the “night club” setting throughout the entirety (I thought they could’ve been much more creative with the contents of the beast’s body). It also has funny one-liners, silly side characters, the general annoyance of our main characters, some great songs, and a fast-paced fun environment to boot on the other hand. What more could anyone want in an early season Adventure Time episode?

Favorite line: “HELP ME! … hang these streamers!”

“Guardians of Sunshine” Review

GOS 1.png

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.

GOS 2.png

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.

GOS 3.png

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.

GOS 4.png

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! 

Favorite line: “Easy-peasy, livin’ greasy!”