Original Airdate: April 16, 2016
Written & Storyboarded by: Graham Falk
Before we start, I wanted to make a brief announcement. By next summer, this blog will be wrapping up, as I move into the final few seasons. I should have a schedule out at some point for the remaining 50-or-so episodes and when their respective reviews will be posted. Not sure about post-blog content yet, but I am starting up a podcast reviewing animated programs in general that I’m particularly psyched about! I’m sharing this because I have an open application for anyone who might be interested in co-hosting with myself. If you’re interested in applying, feel free to do so and you might have the chance to work with a huge dork like myself! The application will be open until the first week in December, so I’ll keep advertising on the blog until then. On with the review!
It’s easy to see why Lady Rainicorn is the virtually the most ignored main character in the series. Like so many other unintelligible or foreign characters from other miscellaneous TV programs (Kenny from South Park, Coco from Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, Boomhauer from King of the Hill, etc.), Lady is difficult to incorporate into main stories because a majority of AT’s audience, including the characters themselves, do not understand Lady’s Korean (or whatever language she speaks in dubbed versions) dialect. Lady’s native tongue is primarily what makes her interesting and unique, but while the other prominent characters begin to develop and change throughout the series, Lady and the other unintelligible characters I mentioned tend to generally lose focus, as the initial charm of their character cannot compete with the changes surrounding them. That being said, I do love Lady as a character. As unique as her voice is on its own, I actually think that she possesses a more intriguing trait that ties into my fondness for her: she’s perhaps the most normal and mature character in the series. It’s odd to say that when referring to a sentient rainbow unicorn, but it’s the truth; while the main cast is either enjoyably goofy (Jake, LSP, BMO) or filled to the brim with baggage (Princess Bubblegum, Marceline) or somewhere in between (Finn, Ice King), Lady proves to be the most laid back in her behavior and the most stable when it comes to her emotions. Now, that doesn’t mean she has no problems, as seen in this episode, but she’s matured to the point where she’s confident enough to tackle her issues head on and dismiss them accordingly. And we see her do just that in this episode, where she not only confronts her hateful past boyfriend, but her past in general.
It’s important to note that this is the first episode in the series to use subtitles to translate Lady’s dialogue (among others) to the audience. I’m kind of half and half about this decision; on the one hand, I feel like part of the charm regarding Lady also contributed to the fact that the audience was never spoon-fed when it came to trying to decipher exactly what Lady is saying, whether it be theorized guesses, or just working off of body language and tone. On the other hand, I’m… not entirely sure this episode would work without them? It’s hard to say, because I want to claim that I’d be able to get through this one fine without subtitles, but I’ll never truly know because I’ll never have the option to do so. So, ultimately I feel as though it was a fully necessary decision, but one that I will always feel a bit iffy about just because I generally feel like it takes away part of the fun about Lady’s character. The only other issue I have with the subtitles actually doesn’t apply anymore; when this episode first aired, the giant fucking Cartoon Network logo took up half of the screen and covered parts of the dialogue, which was hella distracting. Luckily, DVD and digital releases mean I no longer have to complain about this minor inconvenience anymore! On the whole, it is really cool that a majority of the dialogue in this episode is spoken in Korean. I don’t know how well the younger kiddos are into reading written dialogue, but I still think it’s cool for the sensibilities of non-Korean speaking lads to be challenged by watching an entire 11 minute block of Korean speech. That’s also implying that any younger kids actually watched this episode, what with the fact that CN completely gave up on advertising by this point in time, which led to record-low ratings for this episode, but I digress.
While this episode is somewhat intended to be a Lady-focused episode, T.V. takes just as much spotlight when he essentially lures Lee in, LR’s former boyfriend, and instigates the main conflict of the episode. While I do enjoy this one overall, I think this is the episode that made T.V. go from a pup that I just didn’t care much for, to my least favorite of his siblings. He really has no motivation in the entire episode, and merely is there to, as I mentioned, drive the conflict forward and to be as selfish and lazy as possible. A lot of people would argue that Kim Kil Whan is more unlikable because of his actions in Ocarina, but I think that Kim Kil Whan is at least a less hollow character. KKW is certainly harsh in his actions, though he’s driven by his desires to ensure that his father leads a worthwhile life (in his eyes, at least), while T.V. is simply driven by his desire to do whatever he wants and to mooch off of the people who treat him better than he deserves to be treated, and he still gets rewarded by the end of the episode. It really reminds me of all the Lumpy Space Princess episodes where she acts like an absolute asshole to others and suffers no repercussions. Just leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.
Thankfully, the other two main characters of this episode are much more enjoyable. I think Lee is a particularly interesting villain with a unique voice (he’s actually portrayed by former storyboard artist Bert Youn, awesome!). I like how Lee isn’t necessarily one-dimensional in his bigotry, as he’s more so seeking socio-economic security, rather than being racist for the sake of being racist. Lee wants to root for whoever’s on top, whether that means demeaning those different from him, or going against his own species as a result. But he isn’t just a straightforward villain, and he’s actually quite charming, for the most part. This especially factors into how Lady and Lee ended up together to begin with. While Lee is obviously rebellious and close-minded, it seems like he actually treated Lady well, for the most part. He was seemingly kind, loving, and even intended on keeping her away from his more elaborate plans to harm dog-kind. Of course, he’s clearly shown to be manipulative when Lady does find out, and likely cares more about his rank within the Crystal Dimension more than he actually cares for her. It really does ring true to me that toxic people are typically the most charming individuals you come across: they’re funny, down to have a good time, and bring with them loads of energy and immediate social gratification. It isn’t until later that the charm begins to fade and the true ugliness of these beings begins to show, in which Lady gradually picks up on as she spends time with Lee. That’s the other factor regarding toxic people: those who surround them are sometimes the nicest souls out there, but easily impressionable and ignorant to seeing the cons of humanity. Their entire backstory is told successfully through the use Lady’s easily seen progression and the clear implication that prejudice following the Rainicorn-Dog Wars still exists in the mainstream.
There’s a lot of really neat subtext regarding the post-Rainicorn-Dog Wars world. It’s very clear that, while prejudice is still rampant, there are means of progression in terms of some citizens. It’s clear that the native language of rainicorns is Korean, while dogs primarily speak English. Bob and Ethel (who make their triumphant return!) use translators, likely because they want to adapt to the changing society and to communicate with other dogs around them. While other characters like Roy speak in English entirely… which is strange, because he seems to be on board with Lee’s whole plan, but it could also mean that he too is tired of conforming to the standards that society has pushed onto him. I’m just glad that Fred Stoller got to provide his talents for the show. And I just noticed that their names are Lee and Roy. Leroy. Hm.
Keeping in tradition with the rest of this episode, this one just looks awesome. Crystals Have Power previously introduced us to a considerably less interesting Crystal Dimension, but this one is awesome. I love the combination of bleak, subdued backgrounds, coupled with the bright and colorful crystals that surround them. There’s so many locations and backdrops that were specially made for this episode; background designers Andy Ristaino and Chris Tsirgiotis really put in all of their effort to ensure that the Crystal Dimension feels big and expansive, and they truly made something beautiful in the process. Not to mention, it allowed for them to have as much fun with making everything as crystallized as possible. Even the clouds are crystals! Aside from backgrounds, this episode has a keen sense of character design to it as well. It is so clearly Graham Falk’s work, and that fact really shines through when looking at all of the different dog designs that he drew up. I too love that he made a valiant effort to divert from making all of the dogs look too similar to Jake, but also made it apparent that he didn’t want to make them too different either. Falk’s zany sense of humor is also apparent as always, but most prominent when Lady merely uses a newspaper to wade off the opposition of Lee’s dog guards. That had me in stitches.
One main criticism I have about this one is that I don’t really like how it ends. Aside from the T.V. aspect I mentioned earlier, I feel like the crystallized sandwich has no real payoff. I guess it is somewhat of a humorous tie-in to Jake’s love of sandwiches, and that dogs in general have some special kind affection for the food item in general, but I just don’t really get how it works and why it consumed Lee, but not T.V. And the way T.V. saves the day by simply placing the sandwich back in the box is really lame. I feel like Graham Falk wrote in this aspect to merely drive the conflict of the episode, but didn’t really have anywhere to go with it from there. It really feels like a rushed and barely thought out conclusion.
But, in general, I think Lady Rainicorn of the Crystal Dimension is nice. I don’t think it’s particularly great, but after seven seasons, it’s entirely necessary for Lady to have this type of star role for an episode. It’s an interesting exploration of her backstory, and the backstory of the Crystal Dimension in general, with silly gags and animation scattered throughout. It has its issues story and character-wise, but it’s one that provides for a strong exploration of one of AT’s most mysterious characters.