Tag Archive | Jillian Tamaki

“The Diary” Review

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Original Airdate: February 26, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Jillian Tamaki

T.V. is likely my personal least favorite of the pups. I don’t have any personal gripes against him, I just think he’s the least interesting out of his four siblings. Even Kim Kil Whan, who was a bit of an asshole in his debut episode, at least has a thoroughly compelling connection to his father. T.V. has neither that nor a very diverse personality; he’s a lazy homebody, and even when done right, these characters are never truly fun to be around in my opinion. Jake is partially lazy, though his character isn’t limited to his laziness: he’s caring, compassionate, and funny. T.V., on the other hand, is mostly limited to his lack of enthusiasm about practically everything and his ultimate desire to be unproductive, which makes his character feel quite hollow and dull in comparison to all of these other well-fleshed out characters in the Land of Ooo. Now, that rant aside, I actually think that The Diary is a really good way to make use of his character. It uses his desire to get invested in whatever escapist fantasy is most convenient to him quite nicely, and makes for a decent character study on how much one should invest their time into the lives and drama of others. Also, this is one that’s straight up beautiful. It was solo-boarded by Jillian Tamaki, who assisted Jesse Moynihan with Astral Plane, and her emphasis on cinematic moments and serene artistry help to really make this episode shine on a visual perspective.

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My feelings in the first paragraph mostly represent how T.V. goes through little development following subsequent appearances after this episode, but I think his character, at least in this episode, is expanded on in somewhat interesting ways. The beginning sequence that features him playing video game clearly elaborates on his feelings and overall insecurities; his choice to “run away” from the dragon, rather than fighting it, could represent his own “fight or flight” response to dealing with his own anxieties and fears. It’s nice to see that Lady, despite being a caring and fair mother, knows her limitations when allowing T.V. to go about his adult life in an unconventional ways. It’s also crazy to think that this is Lady’s ONLY major appearance in season six, and it’s limited down to only a few scenes and lines of dialogue. Lady’s practically an afterthought by this point in time, but it at least makes sense since she is the only character the audience can’t directly understand. Quite a shame though, because I do like her character a lot, but her nature and being limits herself to only a few brief appearances per season. But I digress; Jake’s attitude towards his son is also quite fitting, seeing as how T.V. does embody a part of Jake’s self. And even though Jake’s view of his son isn’t necessarily responsible and he probably shouldn’t encourage such behavior, it is sweet to see him approve of his son regardless of his lack of productivity. I’m sure many people could jump on the fact that this support probably makes Jake an even worse father, but he does begin to recognize when things in T.V.’s life go awry later on, and does at least assist him along the way. It’s a good bonding experience for the two.

T.V. anti-social behavior is presented well in brief instances, such as his quick transportation away from the kind old man who merely wanted to say hello. T.V. doesn’t seek excitement or satisfaction in reality, as he would rather be consumed by his own intriguing fantasy worlds and realms that can help him to escape from his failure to connect to the real world. It isn’t until T.V. comes across the journal of “B.P.” (of whom I swore was going to be Breakfast Princess when this episode first aired) that he begins to get invested in the real-life struggles of an anonymous teenage, which eventually become twisted into more fantastical opportunities to place himself into and project imaginary realities. It’s cool to see just how enthralled T.V. is by the life of this one random Candy Person, and also how it likely strikes him as unique from any type of fantastical experience he has had in the past. This story is tied to real life people, relationships, and situations. It’s no wonder that T.V. does eventually get sucked in to the point where he begins to confuse his own reality with that of B.P.’s life. T.V. is all about playing different characters and taking on new identities, to the point where he doesn’t even have his own life experiences and characteristics to even know himself. His experience as B.P. is his way of living vicariously through others, as well as giving him a sense of purpose in life.

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As I mentioned, probably the strongest aspect of this episode is its use of visual storytelling. Not only is it chock full of different backgrounds, per usual, but it also utilizes great attention to detail that helps it to truly shine. I love those scenes right after T.V. finds the journal and begins to roam around in the changing environment. As the day goes from afternoon, to evening, to night, the shadings and colors the reflect T.V. are really quite beautiful. There’s also some terrific shots that feature nature just being nature as B.P.’s voice is heard reading the journal in a very poetic way, like the squirrel who attempts to get T.V.’s attention and the heart shaped rose petals that land on top of T.V. That’s Alia Shawkat voicing B.P., who later would go on to voice Jake’s daughter Charlie, and Shawkat does a great job of carrying out B.P.’s writings with complete sincerity and in a compelling, tense way. Also, the way her writings and drawings begin to materialize on screen as T.V. continues reading is also a visual treat, and helps to add energy to the actual backgrounds even when nothing particularly eye-catching is going on. Along with Evergreen and Jake the Brick, The Diary is yet another season six episode that makes use of its artistry in the best possible way. After all, if you’re gonna pull off these really deep, poetic themes and messages, why not make the episode look as great as possible to go along with said beauty? Aside from beauty, the episode does touch on surrealism in its visuals as well. T.V.’s roleplaying journey into B.P.’s life is the perfect visual representation of the literal existential rollercoaster that T.V. has gotten himself into, and his line “you don’t know me, nobody knows me!” could be his attempt to get into character, or he may be touching on his own real life issues as well. It’s tense, entertaining, and captivating.

While I think the scenery and the atmosphere are certainly the strongest aspects of this one, the episode does have a decent mystery that certainly kept my attention on the first viewing, and still has me generally intrigued even after knowing the ending. It kind of reminds me of the bunny plot from Jake the Brick; the identity and mystery behind B.P. isn’t really inherently interesting, but it’s made to feel like something that’s genuinely worth finding out because of how much the characters care about it. And it isn’t till Jake finds his son in utter deterioration that he begins to get behind the mystery as well. I thought it was quite sweet to actually see Jake try to help his son see the mystery through, though again, not sure how great of a parent this actually makes him. I think on a parental level, it’s summed up quite nicely by how Lady rolls her eyes and simply chooses to ignore the situation, rather than to invest her time in their dilemma. It’s both hilarious, and kind of paints a picture on their views of responsibilities. Though the show never fails at making Jake likable and caring, even when his role as a good dad is in question.

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The writing itself doesn’t provide for many jokes or funny gags, but like most episodes from this season, it seems like it’s more interested in telling an enticing story, rather than trying to completely amuse the audience. There’s subtle moments, like the grass guy from the flea market who narrates the backstory of his music box. It comes off as both kind of poignant and even quite funny, as he begins to recall literally everything about who bought the actual box.

It probably goes without saying that I think the character of B.P. herself is quite enjoyable and kind of cute. I like how she’s written to embody the life of a teenage girl, but without being completely stuck up and egotistical. Her quirks are emphasized more than anything, and she parallels T.V.’s obsessions quite nicely. She too begins to center her life around the entire identity of a single person, that being Justin, and shuts herself off from society because of him (also, I like the fact that T.V. and B.P. both share names based on acronyms). It’s a simple, but neat little tale about teenage infatuation, and leads to her final monologue, which is once again presented with great visual flare and some solid voice work.

You know when you’re little and the future feels really far away? You don’t know what it looks like, you just hope you’ll have stuff figured out by then. You’ll know exactly how to act, and feel. You’ll have conquered all your fears, and you’ll never feel dumb or uncomfortable. You don’t think about how you’ll actually get there. The middle parts, between now and then, the middle parts suck. Which is why I split, I guess. Okay, so riding out your teen years in a cave is pretty dramatic, but do you know how much reading you get done in a cave? I even figured out a cure for my crab hand! Oh Justin, I hope you’re not too upset. And I hope you didn’t spend too much money on that birthday present. It wouldn’t have worked out between us anyway. You’re kind of clingy.”

The ending of her speech is a hilarious subversion of what we already know about B.P.’s character, but the rest of it comes off as some insightful stuff. And it comes as a notion that nobody is really prepared for the issues that face them in the real world. Growing into those teen and early adult years pose as the most confusing, because nobody wants to accept exactly how difficult life truly is. That’s why T.V. refuses to live his own life at least, and finds joy and solace through masking his struggles with the power of fantasy. Facing the real world means facing issues that often times don’t have solutions, and some that truly do suck, but T.V., like B.P., has his own unique way of struggling through said problems. Whether or not these methods are actually orthodox and reasonable is certainly in question, and the episode doesn’t stray away from such queries. Though B.P. proves to move on to live a successful life, powering through those sucky middle parts the only way she knew how to.

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And I never in a million years thought we would’ve gotten an episode dedicated to the backstory of Nurse Poundcake, but here we are! It’s amazing how resilient Adventure Time is in adding depth to some of the most unimportant and obscure characters in the Land of Ooo, and how it actually kind of works. Nurse Poundcake’s story is one of success and triumph after long periods of fear and doubt, proving that all those struggles as a young adult are generally meaningless, as life continues to progress forward. T.V. may not be able to live his life through B.P.’s eyes anymore, though he’s hopefully left with the idea that even through his sucky young adult life, there’s still an opportunity for him to progress forward and have an impact on the world. Or maybe he’ll just continue to mooch off of his mom forever, as he’s later seen doing. Ah well!

The Diary makes for a decent story and character study, but I think it’s really just another great example of Adventure Time using the art form of animation to its strongest extent. It doesn’t skip a single beat in trying to create spectacular visuals to surround an overtly poetic story. Granted, I think there’s a lot of other season six episodes with better stories, but this one is really solid based on its atmosphere and tone alone. That’s not to say the plot isn’t good, as it still stands as relatively intriguing from beginning to end. I think the mystery element is a bit squandered in subsequent viewings, considering that it can’t really surprise me anymore, but it isn’t really supposed to be the big draw of the episode to begin with. The Diary is a somewhat stressful tale about the act of living through others, but one that is carried out with an enlightening message on life and supported through sheer eye-candy. No pun intended.

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Favorite line: “Son?” “Mom?” “Close enough.”


“Astral Plane” Review

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Original Airdate: January 22, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Jillian Tamaki

Finn no longer suffers from the major depression that he experienced at the beginning of the season, but that hasn’t stopped him from his search for meaning and self-examining behavior. Finn is at the age (likely 16 by now) where he’s beginning to question his own purpose in the world, as well as the purpose of the world itself. And often, when looking at life and its results as a whole, disappointment is certainly one of the most common feelings that we as human beings experience, and the Land of Ooo isn’t a stranger to that either. Finn gets a firsthand experience of how loneliness impacts the people of Ooo, and begins to wonder if living life is actually really worth it. This one is written and storyboarded by Jesse Moynihan and Jillian Tamaki, who joined the AT crew for this episode, as well as The Diary later on. While Astral Plane includes some of those typical Moynihanisms that seem more as though they’d be coming from his mouth than the mouth of our main character, the episode does manage to come off in a pretty natural and interesting way, and does genuinely exude some though-provoking material.

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Not only is Finn beginning to act older and more mature, but the way he’s drawn in this one actually makes him look taller as well. It’s a nice touch, though I wouldn’t really call it a permanent change for his character design. Every storyboard artist has their own take on Finn, so his appearance is never really entirely consistent to begin with. But still, the effort is felt, and it’s really nice to just see how much he’s grown both physically and mentally. His camping experience with Jake is also super cute; I love any moments that showcase the two brothers just hanging out and enjoying each other’s company, and Finn’s ponderous concern about owning pets is just the kind of goofy conversation I would expect them to share, which also ties into Finn’s behavior in the episode.

It’s notable that Finn entering his astral form in this episode is kept mostly ambiguous. While he did so by sheer concentration back in Still, this one has him summoned against his will, which could be contributed to the nature of the comet. But of course, as we learn, the comet is actually Martin’s star ship, so I’m quite curious as to why exactly Finn entered this plane of existence. Was it because of his search for answers that sent him hurdling toward Martin, or possibly just to Mars? Was his ascension inadvertently caused by Martin? It’s tough to know, and I myself don’t have a definitive answer. But regardless, the ride is more noteworthy than the actual destination.

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As Finn laments later in the episode:

“If just being born is the greatest act of creation. Then what are you suppose to do after that? Isn’t everything that comes next just sort of a disappointment? Slowly entropying until we deflate into a pile of mush?”

This is reflected through his experiences in the astral plane, and just how much he realizes by observing other people. Using this quote for reference, I’ll be diving into each character’s story individually.

The first person Finn comes across is Mr. Fox – er, Mr. Fox’s subconscious, more like it. Leaving right where he left off in Another Five More Short Graybles, Mr. Fox lives completely alone in his log cabin, and has essentially only himself to chat with. Thus, Mr. Fox experiences a life of solitude and isolation, but one that’s completely by choice. Mr. Fox is lonely, as Finn notes, but it’s never addressed that Mr. Fox is actually depressed. In fact, his astral self is even somewhat sociable with Finn as he enters in. Yet, Mr. Fox would rather live a life of comfort and peace, rather than one following his dreams or achieving any types of life goals. Finn notes that, while this lifestyle does seem awfully lonely and unfulfilling, it has some perks. People who are lonely often have more time to focus on work and their own personal projects, as Mr. Fox showcases. Though, it argues the question: is it more fulfilling to spend your time alone to work, than to experience life and the outside world? Should one attempt to fill their life with as much as they possibly can, or focus on developing their own skills in absolute seclusion from the outside world? There’s a happy medium for both, but I don’t think there’s a solid solution either way: The former has you sacrificing part of yourself, while the latter leaves you with nobody to share your life with. It’s a dicey path for people who especially love their own work.

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Bounce House Princess, the most obscure featured character in this episode, (seriously, this is her second, and also last, appearance in the series. Kinda weird to see her here, but also welcomed) is the next person Finn experiences on his travels. Bounce House Princess is also an introvert, though one that suffers from a pretty bad case of agoraphobia, and who can blame her? The world is pretty dangerous for a little bounce house, especially when there’s porcupines roaming about Ooo. Bounce House Princess’s dilemma is a sad one; she wants to be able to put herself out there and connect with other people, but she’s too afraid of (literally) getting hurt and/or ruining her life. It shows how dreadful anxiety can be: BHP loathes herself and is angry that she can’t just get out there and socialize with others, though anxiety can be consuming and is something that is somewhat out of her control. And her worst fears actually do come true when she deflates, proving that allowing herself to interact with the world may just be a bad life choice. Poor gal.

Ice King brings to the table his usual awkwardness, though it’s viewed somewhat in a complex light. Here, he’s actually pretty social. He’s talking to ladies at a party, and keeping everyone happy with supplies of ice. Yet, he’s overshadowed by his talent of producing ice, and nobody really wants to get the chance to know him otherwise. He is insane, after all, and everyone in the Cloud Kingdom likely recognizes this. While he’s not outright rejected, it becomes pretty clear that Lauren, the cloud chick, is more interested in Finn than she is by the IK. Thus, Ice King feels lonely, and only contributes to his own loneliness by pushing away the people around him. He freezes all of the Cloud People, thus eliminating a way for himself to be rejected. As Finn notes “it’s like part of him wants to be a sad wong-lord.” While Ice King likely doesn’t want to be sad, he eliminates all opportunities for himself to be happy because of his self-destructive and unorthodox behavior. He wants to be happy, but doesn’t rationally understand people and social cues enough to achieve such bliss. He’s simply stuck in his own awkward ways, unable to move forward because of society’s perception of him, and the fact that he’s never able to make choices to shift this perception. This leads Finn to question, “why would anyone want to be sad?”

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This transitions into Marceline’s tune (it had been months between Princess Day and Astral Plane by this point, I almost forgot that Marceline was even a character) “Yeah Girl, It Stinks,” which is brief, but awfully depressing and sheds light on Marceline’s emotional state as a whole. Practically in response to Finn’s question, Marceline sings about how she pushes away everything and has taught herself to not care simply because everyone she’s ever cared about has either died off or forgotten about her. Marceline also wonders what the point of everything is, because after a thousand years of putting her care and love into the world, everything is fleeting and nothing lasts, and she’ll continue to end up being alone. Marcy realizes that and channels that negative energy into her own creative outlet: music. This causes Finn to question whether sadness spawns creativity, which isn’t completely far from the truth. Oftentimes, sadness and loneliness can be channeled into something exceptionally beautiful through artistic mediums, but like Mr. Fox, is it worth it to feel sad and lonely if it means that you’ll possibly be more creative?

Finn has all of these conclusions about the meaning of sadness and loneliness, but no true answers. It isn’t until he experiences the convergence of space lards, and the birth of a baby lard, that he discovers the true amazing nature of creation and just how spectacular it is. Birth is a nearly unexplainable gift of nature that can ultimately not be conquered by any other event in life as more significant. In general, the scene is pretty gnarly. I love the simplistic design of the lards being used for something so epic, and the continuation of the ever-growing lard species never ceases to amaze me. There’s also the notion that they can see and even know Finn by name, further exemplifying their mystical nature.

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Though, the episode hits its climax as Finn hovers over to Mars, which is awesome to see once more. It’s even cooler to see the CG-animated introduction shot of Mars, which looks like something straight out of Futurama. All of Finn’s lingering questions arise when he’s met with the “G-Man” himself, Grob Gob Glob Grod. It’s cool to see the Glob gang back again, and even cooler to see that Finn essentially turns to answers from “God.” Of course, we have the background story of the “comet” heading straight for Mars, which is a direct continuation of the previous episode. Adventure Time is getting much better at picking up more quickly on story arcs and plot points, and that really only continues to improve with the next few seasons. But back to Finn and Glob’s conversation, this is where Finn begins to drop his knowledge on what he’s learned about the world around him, which is where Glob mentions that, “it’s not enough to have created something amazing, right? What if I just let my Martian super society go to butt?” meaning that anything one creates is deserving of protection and care. Creating is one thing, but managing and allowing that creation to thrive and develop is another. Of course, Finn retorts with the obvious, “what’s the point if we’re all gonna die in the end?” which is inherently nihilistic, but a thought process that’s easy to get wrapped up in. Ultimately, life is short and fleeting, and everything we do and everything we are will eventually come to end, so is there really any point in trying to impact the world, one might ask. This is counteracted by Glob’s decision to fly head first into the comet, ultimately deciding to potentially give up his own life for the sake of his own creation. Thus saving Mars and allowing everyone to continue living their own lives. Glob proves that, even through the disappointment of life, there’s something worth fighting for. Whether it be the lives of others, yourself, or the greater good, there’s always something tying purpose and meaning into the gift of life, and that’s defined through actions and personal impressions of yourself. Of course, not everyone in this episode is able to combat their own lives filled with disappointment: Ice King, Marceline, Mr. Fox, and BHP don’t have any well-defined resolutions, but they’re living regardless, knowing to trust their own intuitions and to keep moving forward.

As Finn states upon landing, “Glob is dead,” which is both literal, and humorously ties into Friedrich Nietzsche statement of “God is dead,” which references that fact that the rise of modern philosophy practically disproves the existence and effect of God. Finn realizes that, with all of the enlightening things he’s experienced, there are more complex ways of experiencing life and its meaning than just by one, solely-defined answer. There are many ways to live life, and many other opportunities, both disappointing and successful, in the future. One opportunity that fits under the category of both is the fact that Martin’s spacecraft is actually the comet hurdling toward Earth, and that his next meeting with Finn is inevitable. Though this really kind of bothers me: a space craft is what killed Glob? Really? Considering that he’s practically God in this universe, I have trouble believing that a machine would be his ultimate downfall. Granted, it makes sense that it wouldn’t actually be the catalyst comet, but it still feels like somewhat of a letdown that Glob was killed by a mere spaceship, and that he didn’t even destroy it in the slightest.

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Regardless, Finn, back in his own body, mentions to Jake that Bounce House Princess needs their help. Following in Glob’s own footsteps, Finn realizes that there’s something in life worth protecting. Adventuring has provided a gateway for the boys to preserve life and to help others in the past, and it truly helps to propel Finn forward into a more rounded and meaningful lifestyle.

I really dig the motifs going on in this one; the whole thing kind of feels like a Graybles episode specifically dedicated to sadness. I maybe would have chosen some different characters for representation… like, it’s cool to see obscure characters like Mr. Fox and Bounce House Princess, but I ultimately think it’s easier to connect with the characters we know better. I think Princess Bubblegum would have been able to fill in the shoes for isolation quite nicely, and maybe even Lumpy Space Princess could have fit in Bounce House Princess’s place. But that’s not a complaint by any means, I still do enjoy M.F. and BHP’s individual roles. As always, Moynihan creates a trippy and psychedelic environment that is pretty unforgiving with how philosophical it gets, and it’s always pretty sweet to see something this unique and different on a mainstream children’s network. Of course, to some it’s pretentious, and I understand where those people are coming from, but man, is it interesting regardless. Moynihan and Tamaki successfully create an interesting concept and environment based on the overarching theme of sadness and loneliness, and leave you with no defining answers, but rather even more questions than you had before. In typical Adventure Time fashion, Astral Plane aims to make the viewer think, rather than to be spoon-fed answers. And in a world with goofy Candy People with noodley arms, it’s always nice to see a little touch of sadness and existentialism.

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Favorite line: “Hey, do you ever say ‘Oh my Glob?'” “No, but sometimes Gob does.”