Tag Archive | Magic Man

“Temple of Mars” Review

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Original Airdate: March 18, 2018

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard

Weirdly enough, both Hulu and the Final Seasons DVD set list Temple of Mars before Jake the Starchild. Wonder how much that ruined anyone’s experience that was going in blind. Also, this isn’t particularly noteworthy or even likely intentional, but Temple of Mars‘ acronym is T.O.M. Aside from the finale, this is Tom Herpich’s final episode. Heh.

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Way back in 2016, Tom Herpich wrote his sentiments about Adventure Time ending and what was left for the series in its next two years on air in a Tumblr post. In this post, he also mentions that he had recently wrapped up his final board with Steve, of which he deemed “one of his favorites.” I’m still unsure if this was referring to their section in Come Along With Me or Temple of Mars, buuuut I lean more towards the latter. In my own personal opinion, I like Temple of Mars, though it surprises me that Herpich would (allegedly) hold it so highly. It doesn’t really strike me as a culmination of his art house style, and considering that some of my favorite episodes in the series are Mars-centric episodes, I do feel as though this entry doesn’t quite live up to the hype of its predecessors. But, instead of complaining about this episode for what it’s not, I am generally satisfied with it for what it is.

Right off the bat, what Temple of Mars offers strength-wise is stellar character interactions. Having Jermaine return to the forefront is a decision I really appreciate, especially since the series draws so close to its climax. It is weird – there are clear signs that Adventure Time certainly wasn’t ready to come to a close, but there are other signs of it subtly wrapping up other individual aspects, like Marceline and Hunson’s relationship, Jake’s alien side, and Jermaine’s connection to his brothers. Of course, a lot of these characters and arcs aren’t really necessary to the grand scheme of things, but regardless, these are nice little additions that make me feel slightly less sour about the show being canned on such a short notice.

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More than anything, I appreciate that this episode takes time to explore Jermaine and Finn’s connection. In his eponymous first episode, Jermaine’s anger was mainly reflected towards Jake, while Finn mostly stood by as an accomplice. I get the feeling that Finn and Jermaine were never truly close – Jermaine was likely the responsible one, while Jake was the one that Finn would pal around with during his formative years. Before Finn had the chance to truly form a relationship with Jermaine during his transition into young adulthood, the two were practically separated. Jermaine likely regrets the years of being estranged from his youngest brother, and it’s sweet to see that he does remind Finn that he can count on him during stressful times. It’s also clear that Jermaine doesn’t necessarily understand Finn’s behavioral patterns. Finn’s actions are clearly inspired by his inability to allow any other tragedies to bestow his already mucked up mind, but I get the feeling that Jermaine simply excuses it to the observed position of Finn and Jake living entirely carefree lives. Hence why Jermaine refers to the Tree Fort as a “playhouse,” his judgement is still very much there. The included callbacks to Jermaine were welcomed, such as the face mug and the boys’ freezer, though they don’t really stick out in any metaphorical or ponderous way.

Jermaine’s added fear to the idea of going to Mars is both humorous and cute. For years, I’ve referred to Finn as the straight man in a world full of wacky characters, but I do feel as though Jermaine is a straight man’s straight man. As much as he is empathetic and easy to connect to, Finn still really isn’t the brightest bulb or the most “normal” at that (this is the boy that doesn’t blink twice on a wayward trip to Mars), so it’s cool to have a character that clearly represents the surface level elements of a grown adult. The goofy aspects aside, Jermaine does actually have a lot in common with Greg Universe in terms of their humanity. Tom Scharpling really was the perfect choice for ol’ Jerm.

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The reintroduction of Betty and Norm- er, King Man, is pretty delightful, though I kinda wish Finn’s anger towards Betty was spelled out over a longer period. I mean, everything ended up alright by the end of Elements, but it’s strange to me how quickly Finn goes from “fuck yourself,” to “come on this journey with me and my brother!” Perhaps he decided to show some of King Man’s inspired “empathy,” buuuut, I don’t know. In defense of the episode, I’m not really sure how a Betty-Finn conflict would’ve been crammed in to an already jam-packed episode, so I’ll let it slide. It was great to see King Man again, and I’m so glad the show has sought out to acknowledge that, magic-less or not, he’s still kind of a douche. I can’t think of a single way Betty’s punishment would actually help her, and it’s likely to send her into further insanity. King Man technically should be responsible for the state of Betty’s condition (though he’s not entirely at fault), but since he has a nice, cushion-y spot on Mars’ throne, he doesn’t really have anyone to tell him otherwise.

Once inside the temple, we’re treated to an interesting sequence featuring a group of frogs all taking on the appearance of Ice King, except for one stray frog resembling Fern. The Fern frog leaping at Finn, as Finn chooses to ignore it, seems to embody the idea that Finn no longer finds himself stuck thinking about Fern on an endless basis. Though his mind wants him to “remember” and stay in a stagnant state of pain and suffering. Betty, on the other hand, does not choose to move forward. She wants to stay and observe her passing thoughts, as if they hold the key to solving her every living problem, even though the answer isn’t found in her mind, but her ability to shift her attention onto something else. Not exactly sure why frogs were chosen to represent habitual thinking – frogs in dreams are said to represent spiritual and emotional transformation, but I’m not exactly sure that’s what Herpich was going for.

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It is interesting how Jermaine went through perhaps the most stress of his companions, and now he’s in the best shape possible. Granted, I think Jermaine, by his nature, is slightly neurotic and prone to chronic stress. Yet, he was able to find his peace of mind, while his brother continues to struggle with his own personal dilemmas. It just goes to show how far off Jermaine’s accusations are of Finn and Jake living totally carefree lives, even if they are legitimately privileged regardless. This section of the episode also marks the Ice Thing’s first appearance since Graybles 1000+. I can’t help but feel this inclusion was when the staff figured they would have more time to actually flesh out what the Ice Thing is and how Ice King would eventually transform into him, but considering that we’re only two episodes away from the finale, I don’t think that wish was ever fully fulfilled. This section does provide for a bit of fun analysis, in a very small, almost insignificant moment. Betty’s fascination with the Ice King masked frogs shows how truly encompassed her mind is with the Ice King, and how she doesn’t really put any foot forward to try and sway her mind or shift her focus. Of course, it’s easier said than done, especially when dealing with strong emotional trauma. However, Betty’s representation of her current approach at living is summed up quite nicely with her line of, “He’s… changing? Oh no.” This could imply one of two things: 1. Betty is adverse to changing her lifestyle because she is so set on figuring out how to fix Simon that changing her behavior isn’t really an option; 2. Betty is adverse to change in general, viewing it as an inherently bad thing. As seen in her lack of acceptance of Ice King in general, this makes sense as well.

This turmoil builds up to Betty’s confrontation of her past, which is admittedly quite a somber sequence. These last few seasons have done a great job at fleshing out Betty’s madness and sadness, and Temple of Mars is a particular highlight. The idea of choosing to focus on one’s self is additional advice that is easier said than done. It’s certainly what she needs, but she’s incapable of seeing how that’s even possible. Again, I think it ties in really well with the motif of both anxiety and grief – no matter how much you want to get better and shift your focus, occasionally the fixation of your energy is so strong that it’s impossible to even know where to start. Betty takes the first step forward (or, so it seems) into a better life by answering her test with a response of self-healing, rather than desperate manifesting.

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I do think the conclusion is way too hokey for my liking. I know there’s kind of a no-holds-barred atmosphere of the world of Adventure Time where literally anything can happen, but I fail to see how Finn, Jermaine, and Betty’s journey has ANYTHING to do with channeling Jake’s energy so that he would be transported into the temple. It seems like Tom and Steve had decided they wanted to explore the psyche of these various different characters and interactions, and then thought to themselves 10 minutes in that, “oh shit, we’d better bring Jake back.” I was even shocked by Jermaine’s quick acceptance of King Man’s explanation. He’s the straight man after all, it would make way more sense (and also be funnier) if he shot back with, “that’s a load of horseshit,” or something along those lines. The second conclusion, in which Betty realizes her true potential, is quite satisfying. In reality, Betty is way too far gone that it just wouldn’t make sense for her to turn her life around so quickly. It makes sense that she would take away some inspiration, but the wrong inspiration at that. I could’ve sworn that I was watching some bad DVR rip of the episode upon first viewing, because Temple of Mars‘ close takes AT‘s abrupt endings to a whole new level. But, it is a quick cut-off that I enjoy regardless. The entire concept of GOLB being brought back into things is something that’s purposely been left in the dark for quite sometime, and enough to leave a character like King Man speechless, who has spent his life devoted to finding the deity. It definitely had me hyped for the show’s conclusion no doubt, even if I ended up having mixed feelings about GOLB’s inclusion as a whole.

So, while Temple of Mars isn’t exactly the experimental nuttiness that I would expect from a Mars entry, it’s still quite enjoyable. It contains some of the best interaction material we’ve seen all season, and is definitely one of Betty’s best roles to date. Some of the visuals are quite nice, especially the return of the rust-filled void of Mars, and the temple itself. Nice moments of lore here and there, such as Betty’s mention of the Enchiridion, or the foreshadowed idea that Margles is still very much on King Man’s radar. There are some good gags here and there, but others that kind of fall flat. The big build up to Finn’s bald head was a joke I found quite unfunny as a whole, and somewhat of a cheap gag that doesn’t really add much. Regardless, it’s certainly a strong point for the season specifically for its inclusion of great character moments, namely Betty and Jermaine, who truly are the stars of Temple of Mars.

Favorite line: “If anyone else feels like solving any of these puzzles, just jump right in, you know?”

“Normal Man” Review

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Original Airdate: May 12, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Sam Alden

I guess it’s only appropriate the essential conclusion to Magic Man’s character arc corresponds with Jesse Moynihan’s final storyboarding effort in the series. While not Magic Man’s creator, Jesse paved the way for MM’s character by fleshing him out well beyond his initial archetype and in turn ended up creating one of AT’s most complex characters. Moynihan’s love and passion for the character really shines through in episodes like Sons of Mars and You Forgot Your Floaties, of which are two of my favorite episodes primarily because of how much Moynihan’s heart and soul was placed into them. While Normal Man lacks the headiness of those episodes (though, legend has it that this was supposed to be a much, much darker episode), it makes up for it by being both hilarious and deeply introspective. Normal Man works off of what Bun Bun set up in a lot of ways: the idea and theme of change. While Bun Bun dealt primarily with changes happening over time and within relationships, Normal Man mostly deals with a deeply interesting question: can shitty people truly change? And if so, does it make up for all of the horrible things they’ve done in the past? Normal Man argues both yes and no; a person is able to change their ways and start a new life, but only after gaining the respect and trust of others, which can often be just as difficult a journey.

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While not as experimental, the initial opening of the episode is about as Moynihan-y as it gets: Tiny Manticore, at the command of Normal Man, sets out to rescue his brother Glob from space, after his dissemination in Astral Plane. It’s all good fun, well-animated, and sets a very tense mood once Tiny Manticore decides to take control, but it all sets up for one huge problem I have with the premise of this episode. Now, I do really enjoy Normal Man overall, but there’s one recurring issue that really just rubs me the exact wrong way every time I watch it, and I’m surprised that no one ever talks about it. Normal Man and all other characters in the episode refer to the GGGG head as “Glob,” but… that’s not Glob. Glob was voiced by Tom Gammill in both Sons of Mars and Astral Plane, while Tom Kenny typically voices Gob. So… what is Kenny doing voicing Glob in this one? Well, my money’s on the fact that they simply couldn’t get Gammill to provide his voice for the episode, and considering that Kenny already provides his voice for two other characters in this episode, it was the easiest option at hand. On top of that, they likely thought nobody would notice due to the fact that Kenny does provide the voice for one of the four heads. Well, I NOTICED ADVENTURE TIME. YOU THINK YOU CAN FOOL ME?

Ahem. To be honest, I know this probably seems like a really overblown nitpick, but it still bugs the hell out of me. If the show wants to establish this really convincing overarching lore, then they really can’t expect me to look over this as a simple mistake. It’s actually something that also happens in You Forgot Your Floaties, when MM refers to GGGG as his sibling “Glob” followed by Tom Kenny’s lines. I do wonder if Glob is just generally the universal nickname for the “G” man, because I’m pretty sure everyone tends to neglect to remember the other G’s to begin with. When keeping that in mind, I guess it’s somewhat justified, though I overall think there needs to be stricter rules for writing the character in general, because I feel as though Glob is handled waaay too loosely to the point where the staff forgets that he’s essentially four entities in one body. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

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Anyways, the scenes to follow this convergence are a lot of fun. This is actually the second time this season that Finn has treated Jake like a straight-up dog (the first was Don’t Look when Finn utters, “what is it, boy?”) and I’m wondering if Finn subtlely picks up on these traditional behaviors whenever he enters the Farmworld. It’s funny to see him essentially wanting to adopt more humanistic behaviors, as Jake is pretty resentful to the idea.

It’s also funny to see how the boys truly resent Normal Man, and even nearly kill him. You don’t really blame them for being this way either, because the last time they even saw the guy, he turned them into food products and practically left them for dead. It’s cool how Finn takes on the responsibility likely due to the sole fact that Glob is involved. Besides being a very important figure overall, I have a feeling that Finn feels as though he almost owes it to Glob for having a part in his sacrifice back in Astral Plane. Also, Finn’s dad was the reason Glob was demolished. That probably had some moralistic factor in it as well. One of the nice smaller details in this episode is that Finn begins using his Root Sword again! It only comes back for this episode and the next, but it’s really cool that the show remembered that it even existed, while also remembering that it was one of Finn’s only swords to not get busted or altered in one way or another. It’s a nice little Easter egg for longtime viewers, of which are pretty much AT’s main audience by this point in time.

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What follows is classic Adventure Time; Wild Trap Mountain is about as fun a location can get. The mountain is jam-packed with tons of terrific foes, like the “Weekend Survivalists,” that one dude that NOBODY messes with (his description on the wiki reads “simply a dude that no one messes with.” It kills me), Waking Dream Demons, and of course, the Squirrel that hates Jake. I’m usually not a fan of the Squirrel outside of his debut episode in The Duke of Nuts, but man, the joke somehow manages to be way funnier the third time than it was the second time. Even after Normal Man explains who he is, Jake is equally surprised when the Squirrel reintroduces himself. It’s just priceless–that poor Squirrel only wants the satisfaction of attention. The Wild Trap Mountain journey in general is executed just perfectly. I love how it slowly builds from a tense, quiet crawl into a frantic, energetic speed-run to the top. Everything goes unimaginably wrong in the span of seconds and everything is resolved in the matter of seconds, in a way where the episode really doesn’t compensate for whether you’re even comprehending every moment or not. It’s just great. It’s also worth noting that Finn nearly stabs himself when being possessed by a parasite, which is the third time this is alluded this season, and the third time alluded to in a Jesse and Sam episode! It certainly wasn’t a coincidence that those instances were included.

Upon reaching the top of the mountain, the episode goes from energetic and thrilling to just plain hilarious. The back-and-forths between Finn, Jake, Normal Man, Glob, and Tiny are just great; from Tiny Manticore noting Normal Man’s naturally insincere sounding voice, to “two boomerangs,” to “hang on like hot snot!” this is one episode that’s relentless with jokes and one-liners happening one after the other, in the best possible way necessary. The episode does save for one soft, genuine moment as Normal Man apologizes to his brother for being a “bean show” for hundreds of years. It’s a unique situation because, while Normal Man can’t really be blamed entirely for his behavior, because magic had a huge effect on his general cognition, but he isn’t really free of blame either. He is the person who nearly killed our main heroes, threw everyone in Mars under the bus (a hilarious gag, by the way), and betrayed his brother. It does show, however, that Normal Man truly is a normal man, and like any human (or humanoid, in this case), he does express remorse over his past behavior and acknowledges his faults, rather than trying to ignore that they ever happened. The way the brothers reconcile is sweet, and shows the optimistic viewpoint that, yes, people can change and repent if they truly make an effort to better themselves in the process. While the citizens of Mars aren’t as impressed, Normal Man’s at least left with the confidence that, if he truly proves himself to be the nice, reformed person that he wants to be seen as, he’ll have no problem adjusting to his current lifestyle.

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Normal Man isn’t quite the deep, analytical expedition I would expect from Moynihan’s AT finale, but it does possess many elements of some of his greatest entries: mythological aspects, character development, and bizarre side character cameos, with a hint of hilarity. This really is a nice wrap-up for Normal Man’s character (even though this isn’t the last we see of him) and I’m truly glad that Moynihan essentially got to see his hard work come full circle. I really did love the guy as a writer; while he was often controversial in both his writing style and his general demeanor, there was never a doubt in my mind that Jesse wasn’t putting every single bit of his blood, sweat, and tears into each individual episode that he worked on. While I’m pretty fond of Tom Herpich as a writer overall, I don’t think there’s a single artist or writer on Adventure Time, or any animated series in general, quite as ambitious and personalized as Moynihan. I actually interviewed him a few years back after he left the show, and while he has a reputation for being pretentious among AT fans and non-fans alike, he really seemed like a humble, thoughtful dude in his responses. To end this blog with a quick tribute, I leave with you an interesting take on why Jesse thinks AT is special and different in general, per our interview.

“I don’t know really. Sometimes I felt like we were working on something very special and different, based on critical feedback. But other times I couldn’t figure out how to measure that against other shows and the feedback they were getting. I came to realize that this specialness was arbitrary and couldn’t really be gauged by any reliable standard. The only thing I could rely on was my own internal experience of working on the show, and my feeling of growing as a writer during my time there. So yeah, for me it felt very special and different. For the rest of the world of individual tastes, I really have no idea. A fan could come up to me and say how great Adventure Time is, and in the same sentence tell me how great something else is that I don’t value so much.”

Also, can we take a brief moment to appreciate that LSP and Lemongrab went on a date together? It’s a crack-pairing from heaven, I tell’s ya!

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Favorite line: “You turned me into a giant starfish!” “You turned me into a flaming pile of garbage!”

“You Forgot Your Floaties” Review

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Original Airdate: June 1, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan

With all that I ended up writing about Breezy, you’d likely assume that it was my favorite episode of season six. It comes close, but such an achievement would not be accomplished until You Forgot Your Floaties came along. This is an absolute favorite of mine, and I don’t just mean top 10 or 20 – this is top 3 material right here. Jesse Moynihan goes outright ballistic with how much emphasis he puts on ambiguity, to the point where it feels as though nothing is completely spelled out for the benefit of the audience. I wouldn’t say it’s left to the viewer’s interpretation as much as The Mountain; most of You Forgot Your Floaties is interpreted with a common consensus among fans. It’s scattered with riddle-like speak, but nothing that feels nearly impossible to decode or to be understood. But it’s not just the deeper layers that help this one to really stick out, it’s a passion story about a character of whom is known no better than by Moynihan himself. Magic Man’s backstory was previously elaborated on in Sons of Mars, and the hints of tragedy regarding his character come full circle in this one, as he finally confronts the madness and sadness within himself. Betty also gets some much needed screentime after her previously physical debut in Betty, and is cleverly used in comparison to Magic Man himself as an unfortunate soul who painfully lost her significant other. It doesn’t sound like a typical episode of a children’s animated show, or even most adult animated shows for that matter. You Forgot Your Floaties is an unbelievably impressive tale focusing on the hidden depth behind the true nature of magic within the world of Adventure Time, and stands out as one of the most unique episodes of television that I’ve ever witnessed.

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In typical Moynihan form, this episode doesn’t waste much time throwing us directly into the action, as Finn and Jake search thoroughly for the remnants of Glob’s helmet after his “death” in Astral Plane. This episode doesn’t feature much of Finn and Jake, but it’s fun to have this little opening regardless. As always, the boys are tons of fun, and their dialogue exchanges are as delightfully quirky as ever. I think I quote “I have a weird feeling in my fat basket” at least once a week. It’s also cool to see their general interest in retrieving remnants of Glob’s being; though Finn humorously implies that the two are scavengers, I get the feeling that part of him also desires to keep Glob’s head as a choice souvenir, as it seems like just the bit of treasure that Finn would want to proudly protect within the comforts of the Tree Fort.

But, as Finn and Jake are quickly turned into breakfast foods at the episode’s beginning, we’re introduced to our main characters within this episode: Magic Man and Betty. The  episode also wastes no time by showing Magic Man at his absolute most sadistic and cruel. I mean, he’s done shit like this to Finn and Jake before, but here, he practically kills Finn and Jake and leaves them to rot as food products while he leaves Earth for eternity. It also ties into what’s quite frankly amazing about Magic Man as a character: despite what a sadist he truly is, it’s still easy to feel empathy for him in his more vulnerable moments. There’s something irresistibly tragic to me about jerks who were once caring, passionate souls, but were hardened by the circumstances of their life and no longer could bring themselves to show any form of affection whatsoever. It’s the Joker archetype of character building that sort of reigns similar to Ice King’s tragic history, though not exactly in the same realm of tragedy. Magic Man is consciously aware of his loss, and chose a path of madness and sadness during his inability to cope with said loss in his life. Though, that latter part is certainly up for debate. Just how much are sadness and madness directly caused by magic?

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Betty brings up M.M.S. – or Magic, Madness and Sadness – which she directly correlates to the nature of being a magic user in general. It brings up a unique argument about the nature of how magic users operate when it comes to their own emotional states. We’ve seen magic users who do seem relatively competent and happy-go-lucky demeanor, but mainly on the surface. Ron James is even used as an example of sadness, of which we’ve never even known about his character in the past. Yet, I don’t necessarily think that magic, madness, and sadness are inherently linked in one defining path… I think it’s a bit more complicated than that. Magic is something that can be used for the greater good, and as of this episode, we’ve seen two examples of how having such mystical powers can affect somebody inadvertently: Evergreen went mad trying to keep himself safe and preserve the world, while Magic Man went both mad and incredibly sad while trying to perfect his magic in order to bring back his late wife. So no, I don’t think magic users are intrinsically sad by just simply possessing magic abilities, but also that having such power can often lead to thoughts and desires that could be considered unorthodox by any “normies”, ex. “How can I save myself from certain disasters with magic?” “How can I save the people I love with such abilities?”

Betty seems to have the upperhand by understanding just how much magic affects other people, but simply knowing her facts doesn’t protect her from the inevitability of falling into the same steps as her acquaintance. The connection between Betty and Magic Man is quite interesting and unique. I get the feeling that Betty knows just how untrustworthy Magic Man is, but needs to be around him in order to get some kind of breakthrough in her studies regarding how to reverse Simon’s behavioral antics. Betty knows exactly how sad and mad Magic Man is, and wants to discover what kind of raw energy and history surrounds him so that she can discover the true cause of M.M.S. and how it connects to magic as a whole. Of course, this conversation leads to a lot of different neat Moynihanian metaphors that only someone as bizarre as him could come up with, namely regarding the coconut crab who swims within Betty’s neighbor’s pool. It’s such a weird and unusual analogy to capture the idea of people metaphorically failing to stay afloat as they try and manage to survive through the sadness and madness surrounding themselves.

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Magic Man’s continuous inference that his past and mind is essentially a waste basket (which is referenced again later on) connects to the fact that Margles is gone and erased from history, and that any past he had with her must be erased from viewing eye as well. His line, “you imagined the lock before the key,” references the ideology that there’s nothing to see within Magic Man as it is. With his suppression and his madness, it’s easy for Magic Man to get lost within his own psychosis and to create his own false sense of being, though Betty smartly brings the actual key, which is the one remaining token to Magic Man’s past: the picture of MM and Margles.

It’s also worth noting how funny this episode manages to be even amongst all of this heady drama. Tiny Manticore makes interlaced appearances throughout Betty and Magic Man’s interactions, and he’s simply hilarious. For a character who only had a couple of minutes of screentime in Sons of Mars, he actually manages to be a pretty fun and likable character through competent voice acting by Tom Kenny, per usual, and his absolute desire to be a hero, despite his unfortunate role of being stuck with Stockholm Syndrome.

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A pretty rad poem read off by Magic Man is what transitions into Betty entering the mind of her manic partner,

“Smooth and gray as far as you can see. No life grows in me. Nothing to weed. Nothing to seed. Pure and perfect. Like the marble floors of a bank.You slide with no obstacles, forever blank.”

Again, Magic Man once more tries to mask his sadness by offering a blank perspective of his true state of being. It’s appropriate then, that a literal “mask” is the key to figuring out the truth behind Magic Man’s life history, as the picture leads Betty past the smooth and gray marble floors and into the eyes of Margles. The following scenes are pretty fucking amazing all-around, and played as seriously and dramatically as possible. Again, Kenny’s voice acting is absolutely superb in capturing the more subdued and quiet side of Magic Man, as he slowly utters, “Margles? Wake up, Margles.” Even with a voice that’s designed to sound manipulative and snarky, Kenny is able to breathe a surge of humanity into such an apathetic character. It’s even more interesting that this story takes the relationship between Margles and Magic Man to an entire new level and defied expectations almost completely. This is a lot more interesting than the implication in Sons of Mars that Margles just simply fell off Olympus Mons and died, and it’s further elaborated on by showing that said Margles isn’t even really Margles. M.A.R.G.L.E.S., or magical automated resistance generating laser energy supplier, was created to protect against the second coming of GOLB, but it’s very clear that this is where Magic Man’s madness and sadness came into play. The second coming of GOLB was likely a heavily anticipated event that Magic Man was forced to be prepared for, though he was unable to leave the hardship of his deceased wife out of it. He was left with the hardship of choosing between creating a being that would protect the greater good, versus a being that he loved deeply and wanted nothing more than to be with forever. He settled for both, but ultimately still suffered because of his inability to cope with said feelings. Yet, his magic created a visual appearance of Margles, but not a reincarnation of Magic Man’s past wife.

Magic Man’s proclamation of his sadness on Olympus Mons really sums up the nature of just how powerful his feelings of sadness and loss are. Adventure Time always hits it out of the park whenever it deals with sadness, and this is no exception. Using a fantasy world emphasizes exactly how desperate one can become when dealing with such sadness and loss within one’s life. Magic Man detailing: “every dimension, every dead world” as a means of how far he went just for the possibility of bringing his wife really adds depth and meaning to just how much Magic Man adored Margles. For a relationship that was barely ever elaborated on before, You Forgot Your Floaties manages to encapsulate the true extent to how much Magic Man loved Margles, and the true impact that her death left on him. Going back to the waste basket comment, the extent of Magic Man’s madness is shown through Prismo’s timeroom, when he wish for Margles only ends up appearing as the wastebasket that Magic Man previously mentioned to be what existed in his mind: nothingness. The Margles that Magic Man created, in turn, was not the Margles he was expecting to see. After hundreds of years without seeing Margles, even Magic Man himself cannot truly recreate the past that he once lived. The new Margles was exactly what Magic Man stated to be: a product of his nightmares. A Margles who was created for one function, but was deeply conflicted with another. I always figured the events on Olympus Mons were traumatizing for Magic Man, but my God, the way it’s presented in the episode really makes it as maddening as possible. After hundreds upon hundreds of years for searching for his wife, Magic Man finally is faced with the opportunity to see his wife again, though it all proves to be a complete failure. After dedicating his life to such work, it’s no wonder Magic Man gave up on his life almost completely. With all that he strived to do for his own good and the good of his wife, it simply ended up as an utter disaster. Which is where Betty comes back into the story…

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After making countless attempts to save her fiance from the magic that possesses him, Betty is left with the magic, madness, and sadness that took control of Magic Man after the transmutator malfunctioned. Betty took her own dive in the pool of madness and sadness after trying to figure out how exactly magic makes other wizards and beings tick, though she ultimately took a dive too deep and was unable to resurface from it. As a resurfacing Simon silently mutters, “you forgot your floaties,” Betty finally realizes how far she’s submerged herself within the loomy gloom. She’s effectively surrounded herself with exactly what she was trying to fix, and follows in Magic Man’s steps of being completely stuck in her own purgatory of sadness at the hands of their loved ones. Without even realizing it at first, this episode really manages to parallel Betty and Magic Man to a tee, and feels like one of the most unique and ambitious character studies to date. It analyzes entirely how one character feels (Magic Man) but also shows how much it applies to Betty’s character as well. It really is an act of brilliance in just how much we learn about these two characters in the course of eleven minutes, with a heavy emphasis on the emotion that Adventure Time tends to capture better than any other: sadness. Of course, there’s the lovely and delightful ending that features the ultimate moment of triumph: Tiny Manticore flying Bread Boy Finn to Wizard City in order to save his humanity. A truly brave soul he is.

This one is truly amazing on all levels: the way it delves into its main characters, its beautiful setting (always love to see Mars), the unique dialogue, its presentation of sadness and madness, worldbuilding, lore, and much, much more. This is one that only seems to get better every time I watch it, and once again brings me back to my main point: this episode is about as unique as they get. Never in my life have I seen a story told this different in its connection to themes, story, and characters, and it’s one that continues to shock me in just how devoted it is to tell a compelling story, rather than to comply with what actually works with the common everyday television audience. As much flack as Moynihan gets, he really is a dude that’s dedicated to telling some of the most bizarrely ambitious stories that television has ever seen. And, as You Forgot Your Floaties proves, television could benefit from having more stories this ambitious and remarkable.

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Favorite line: “Balls, man, that has never happened before!”

“Everything’s Jake” Review

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Original Airdate: November 24, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Seo Kim & Somvilay Xayaphone

The Futurama Reunion Special – er, I mean, Everything’s Jake is a relatively enjoyable episode the centers around a wildly creative premise. Granted, I don’t think it’s a story that is executed in the funniest or most entertaining way possible; for an episode that utilizes Magic Man as an instigator of the main conflict, the stakes feel generally low. Though, it has its shining moments, mostly on a visual aspect.

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I do like how Magic Man is used in a similar way in which he appeared in All the Little People. He sets up the main conflict, though he has virtually no role in the rest of the episode. His riddle in this one is as follows:

“The waffle doll shall fall

Lest you eat the yellow dough.”

It’s probably his most nonsensical brain teaser to date, though it’s pretty obvious what its message is: unless Jake eats the yellow dough (a bagel?), the waffle doll seen within the store in his belly will continue to fall, due to his stomach quakes. It’s notable as well that the doll within the store is the only thing NOT yellow, or any variation of the color.

And this episode is certainly swamped with the color yellow, but in a surprisingly pleasant way. The Jake city itself is pretty damn detailed, and I appreciate this was fleshed out in such a way that makes it feel relatively huge. It would have been so easy to keep the visual appeal of Jake’s insides as simplistic as possible, but there are buildings, highways, laboratories, and fields galore. I also like the bit of choppiness in the linework that makes the area feel more like Jake, as well as the way characters interact with their surroundings. The stickiness with each character’s steps is really a nice detail, showing that they aren’t really able to function without their connection to Jake’s body.

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The characters themselves all look really bizarre and unique! I was actually under the impression that this episode was boarded by Cole and Andy, though I was surprised midway through when I realized that it’s a Somvilay and Seo episode. They both did really great with this one! I’m typically fairly critical of their drawings, even in better episodes like Blade of Grass, though aside from their signature chubby cheeks, you’d hardly even guess that it’s them behind the scenes.

As for the major characters of the episode, I think it’s impossible to discuss them without noting that they’re all portrayed by legendary voice actor, Billy West. Referencing my earlier gag, he carries over three of the voices he used in the series Futurama when performing as Goose, the Mayor, and Dr. Adamkinson. West is one of my all-time favorite voice actors, so his presence is certainly welcomed on my all-time favorite show, but I think his potential is actually a bit squandered by the fact that he’s only using pre-disposed voices. I mean, it’s cool to see West and DiMaggio reunite again in the voice acting world, but I feel like the characters aren’t really able to be fleshed out because they merely feel like references. Granted, I think anyone unaware of Futurama’s existence will be able to enjoy this one just fine even if they aren’t in on the joke, but I just felt like I witnessed West playing different characters throughout the episode than actually watching authentic, interesting characters. It’s one of the few times in this show that I find the voice acting quite distracting from the actual story, and I feel bad because I do love West’s inflections. Regardless, I think said characters have their moments.

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Goose is a cute character. I appreciate his overly melodramatic relationship with Jake (I actually would have thought it was funnier if Jake completely forgot about Goose by the end of the episode, though his traumatized exterior is still amusing), and he has a pretty irresistibly adorable design that almost makes him appear as an off-brand version of Jake. Dr. Adamkinson is, as mentioned, a pretty direct reference to Professor Farnsworth, though he’s still quite amusing to watch. I love the hilarious fake-out interaction he has with his “dad” before he leaves (who is voiced by Tress MacNeille; it really is a reunion special!!) and his heady surface-world interaction with a Cthulhu impersonating Finn.

I think the other issue with this is that the focus never really feels like it’s on Jake, and I don’t believe the characters are especially strong on their own to hold up the episode. This episode could have been a lot stronger, in my opinion, if the conflict of Jake being trapped in his own body was emphasized more heavily. I think Magic Man’s role seems somewhat pointless in the aftermath; he always appears to fuck shit up or teach some kind of lesson, and it doesn’t seem like either really came into play. Jake briefly is imprisoned, though it only takes a mere distraction from Goose to actually get him out. Just seems like a misuse of Magic’s character. Though, Jake destroying an entire civilization for the sole purpose that he was hungry could be an underlying result of his shenanigans. Only Jake would be able to pull off such a motive.

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But I’ve ranted long enough, because I’m being way too harsh on this episode. It’s a light, harmless Jake adventure. I think the problems I do have with this one are more on the personal side, and the only general complaint I do have is that I think there could’ve been more opportunities for humor. Otherwise, it’s a casual and fun visual journey into an interesting new realm, with some mildly interesting and quirky characters Jake meets along the way. Also, almost forgot to mention that Jake was knitting a hat for Finn and a sweater for BMO at the beginning of this episode, that BMO is later seen wearing in the episode. Cute!

Favorite line: “Hey, I got a for-real important question: do you like cereal in your cake?”

“All the Little People” Review

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Original Airdate: December 3, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Ako Castuera

There’s a certain amount of criteria that must be met for an episode of AT to rank among my all-time favorites. It needs to:

  1. Be different from the show’s usual formula, while still retaining the charm and delightful characterization of any regular episode.
  2. Capture everything that makes the series so special, including good humor, heart, charismatic characters, and thought-provoking material.
  3. Be unique to anything else I’ve ever seen on television.

While there’s certainly plenty of episodes that meet parts of this criteria, only a select few meet all three individual points. All the Little People, with its very dark and uncomfortable approach at capturing Finn’s constantly evolving adolescence, hits on all of these points. It still takes place in the Land of Ooo and follows the latest debacle of our two main heroes, but rather than fighting a physical enemy or solving some sort of quest, Finn instead has to battle with his own identity and how much control he should be able to have over other people. It gets heavy-handed and grim, but remains bright and colorful throughout, and still captures the quirkiness, heart, and depth of our main boys. And I can’t think of a single series that captures a teenager’s fascination with relationships, combined with the the act of manipulation and the question of power so delicately and perfectly. It lands right up there with Sons of Mars, I Remember You, and Incendium on my personal group of favorites.

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Right from the title card, it’s hard not to be left with an ominous feelings of what’s ahead. The picture itself appears innocent and playful, as Magic Man designs toys (the Little People) of Finn and others. The music cue is what really makes the artwork feel significant and impactful. The entire episode’s soundtrack derives from the tune of a quarter-tone piano, and the title card itself includes a sample of it. Once the loud and hollow cue of a bass-drum goes off during this sample, you really get a feeling of “oh shit, something big is going down.” I don’t give the composers of this show, Tim Kiefer and Casey James, enough credit in these reviews, but they really did a stupendous job in particular with the score for this episode. The entire score feels unwelcoming, and really compliments the the tone and atmosphere of the actual episode.

The beginning of the episode starts off with a beautifully lit sunset, as the boys sit wistfully by a cliff and discuss relationships. I really love how the main story of this episode is set up by Finn asking simple and innocent questions about relationships and how they work. Though he’s involved in a committed relationship, Finn is only fourteen, and wildly inexperienced. He still has much time before he is able to grasp the fundamentals of a successful and healthy relationship, and still has many questions on how he will be able to achieve such a relationship. It’s interesting to see that, while he deeply cares for Flame Princess, it seems he may have some doubts about his relationship. He and FP have great chemistry, but still are wildly different in nature and interests. Jake, being someone who has tons of life experience and knows what a healthy relationship should consist of, gives Finn the most simple and surprisingly most logic answer of “just go with your heart.” It’s a sweet moment between the brothers that showcases the differences of the boys in the best ways possible, and clearly captures early on that Jake understands the matrix of relationships, while Finn may not be able to fully understand yet.

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This is where Magic Man makes his brief entrance, while he enjoys the boys’ conversation and even shares a laugh with them. Even to this day, it’s hard to understand what exactly Magic Man’s motivation is, whether to teach Finn a lesson in responsibility, or simply to fuck with his life as always. There’s tons of different angles you can take with it, but probably my favorite is just simply the idea that Magic Man wanted to show Finn what it’s like to have power over other people. Magic Man is constantly ruining the lives of others and playing god by using his magic to determine the destiny of others, so he’s now showing Finn how easy it is to take things out of control and abuse the power one does have over other living beings.  

Before Magic Man departs, he states, “I’m not coming back.”

And yeah, there’s tons of different moments I can point out to when it comes to allusions to Finn’s sexual awakening; Finn’s reaction to Jake noticing that he has something in his pants, the way Finn shakes the little people, yadda yadda. To mention it all would be somewhat redundant. It’s all there and all pretty obvious, but I think there are way more interesting bits regarding Finn’s identity as a hero and as person than just pointing to any scene that references Finn’s horny, teen urges. It’s a fun glimpse at how much they were able to get past the radar, but it’d be silly to waste a ton of time highlighting anything that y’all probably already thought about the minute you saw it.

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The most interesting aspect is really just the way Finn interacts with the Little People. I enjoy how the Little People are versions of pre-existing characters we already know. They could’ve just went full-on Sims and had these miniature versions be any random customized figurines, but the fact that they are citizens of Ooo helps us connect to them more emotionally, while still being able to disconnect them from their grown counterpart. The Peanuts adult speech patterns of the Little People are cute and endearing, and really help to separate them from appearing to be sentient beings. As Finn continuously says throughout the episode, “they’re just toys,” which shows his ignorance towards understanding that the Little People are anything besides just that: interactive figures for the pleasures of Finn and Jake. Had the Little People been speaking English as opposed to their trademark “wa wa wa’s,” I think Finn’s actions would easily be more despicable and unpleasant, but the fact that the distinction is there makes it seem more understandable that Finn would want to use them however he likes. I mean, being honest, who wouldn’t want to interact with these characters the way that Finn is? Having a tiny bag containing little versions of all the people you know would be dangerously intriguing, which makes Finn’s decision to experiment with them more empathetic and less cruel.

It is noteworthy that, the first time Finn does choose to experiment with the Little People, he first checks to see if Jake is awake.  It’s clear that Finn know that he’s doing something wrong, even if he’s not sure why. Whether he didn’t want Jake to wake up and see that he was destroying the miniature version of he and Lady’s relationship, or that he simply didn’t want Jake to know that he was experimenting with these figures at all, it’s clear that Finn’s fascination with these figures succeeds his desire to be morally correct and thoughtful in regards to his interactions. That’s why, when Jake does realize what Finn’s been doing the next morning, he’s noticeably freaked out. Probably the most shocking moment in the entire episode is Jake discovering the little Finn and little Rainicorn smooching, as Finn reacts apathetically to the entire situation. Finn acknowledges once again, “they’re just toys,” (while also reading a book by J.T. Doggzone that has the exact same quote from Jake in the beginning of the episode, hint hint) showing that, even though he’s spent an entire night seeing how the Little People would interact with each other, his desire to play with the Little People and see how their relationships with each other work out has only gotten worse.

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This is where Finn’s manipulative side comes out in full force; it will later plague his life in ways he probably could never have imagined, but one of his greatest character flaws comes from simple curiosity and desire to have people’s lives follow in the ways that he’s most interested in. Like I said, when putting it in this context, it makes Finn seem like a monstrous, immoral jerk, but his ignorance toward the situation and general fascination are hard to pinpoint as truly sociopathic for a 14-year-old boy. Most of this intrigue derives from his initial curiosity with how relationships work in the very first frame: he’s simply invested in the unusual relationships he’s created with the Little People and interested in how they are able to function in certain partnerships. This, of course, includes an obligatory inclusion of the threesome between Lollipop Girl, Choose Goose, and Abracadaniel that everyone has been requesting to see for years. It refers back to my statement earlier that this episode manages to be very unsettling while also being silly and colorful. I can’t even describe my feelings of combined disgust and enjoyment with Turtle Princess spanking Xergiok’s behind. It’s also a nice return for some characters we really never get to see or haven’t seen since the very first season, even if it isn’t actually said characters.

Following this bit is probably the most interesting piece in the episode, which is Finn experimenting with the tiny FP and tiny PB respectively. It starts out innocently enough as Finn just casually and happily watches the two figurines romanticize with each other (much to the dismay of a crying little Lady; the first big indicator that the Little People are capable of real, human emotions). Things take a turn when Finn then begins to experiment with little PB and little Finn’s interactions, which quickly take the same direction as the prior encounter. I think the particular pacing in this part is just great; just from Finn’s facial expressions, there’s a lot to read into. He looks very concerned and troubled when little PB and little him begin to interact, perhaps due to the nature of his feelings and commitment to Flame Princess, which probably brings him a great deal of shame and guilt that he is pursuing this fantasy. He quickly shakes off the guilt when he notices that no one is watching, and continues to be invested on what will happen next. When little PB and little Finn begin to kiss, Finn is surprised. This is the first time he’s experiencing a mutual “hook-up” with PB, aside from when she was briefly 13, and even though it’s not actually him experiencing it, he’s still enticed and enthralled by the turn of events. This of course, is another big indicator that Finn still isn’t really over Bubblegum. Sure, the little version of himself and little Lady (boy, am I tired of putting “little” before every character’s name in this post) hooking up doesn’t mean that Finn is also interested in Lady. That was probably just an early experiment to test out all of the interesting connections he could make between the Little People. Yet, when little Finn and little PB do connect, Finn is obviously much more interested in seeing what happens with the two, and it’s clear he is living out some sort of fantasy through the Little People. Little Finn’s glory doesn’t last long, however, when little Flame Princess releases her anger against little PB, but Finn himself couldn’t be more interested. He’s understandably turned on by the idea of his two main flames fighting over him! Again, another very uncomfortable scene that’s balanced with some really great visual humor. I love Finn’s absolutely stimulated face throughout the fight sequence, and of course, the hilarious visual of little PB squeezing little Lady’s tears to douse little Flame Princess. That was priceless. It adds another bit of foreshadowing to the mix, showing Finn’s arousal to people fighting over him and an instance where he’d rather pursue his own needs of autonomy than follow a more logical and moral standpoint.

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Finn finally does come to his senses upon Jake’s return. Finn begins to realize that these tiny people, whether toys, separate entities, or plain dark magic, are suffering, and they are suffering because of the way Finn has messed with their lives. Jake says it best:

This is messed up dude! You’ve crossed the line from weird curiosity into some dark, messed up stuff. The destruction, the depravity, the wrongness of it all!

The somberness of Jake’s words, combined with the horrifying transformative montage of a melting Peppermint Butler, a physically abusive Turtle Princess, and a mangled Goose-Abracadaniel-Lollipop threesome, really drives the point home. Jake told Finn how relationships work at the beginning of the episode: there aren’t designed perfect relationships for others, but rather the feelings people have for each other and what they choose to do with those feelings that define a healthy relationship. Finn chose to ignore that advice and play match-maker, which backfired for others as well as himself. Finn’s only choice left is to fix what he started, as he strives to do so often as a hero. Finn uses the new method he’s discovered to communicate with the Little People, and to correct the damage he’s caused.

After talking with little Finn, little PB, little Lady, and little FP, Finn simply states, “I’m not coming back.”

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It mirrors Magic Man’s line from the beginning, and shows how similar, yet different the two are in terms of their power over other people. Magic Man uses his power to destroy and harm other lifeforms, and, instead of leaving these lifeforms in a safe place of comfort, he always departs with a message of hopelessness and pessimism. Finn had also used his powers over others to mess with and harm their lives, though unintentionally, yet he corrects those actions by fixing his dilemma and leaving the Little People on a note where they’re able to carelessly enjoy their lives. But still, it’s almost a bit of a paradox, because Magic Man did teach Finn a lesson and left him to carelessly go on with his life after correcting his mistakes, so it causes the statement to draw even stronger connections between these two characters. Regardless of intention, it’s really great to be able to have this connection between these two wildly different characters, and still have it feel appropriate with the story and each of their motivations. And of course, what better way to end on a happy note than to have a Little People dance party with Ice King and BMO really hitting it off? Can’t wait for the continuation of this relationship 110 episodes from now!

If there’s one sole thing I don’t like about this episode, it’s that Goddamn “16 weeks later” title card. Yeah, yeah, it’s a gag that lasts two seconds and probably shouldn’t be taken so literally, but AT takes place in a world of realism and has certain rules to abide by, and time is definitely one of them. This is something Jesse Moynihan seems to do a lot, and while I think it worked in an episode like Return to the Nightosphere, it really, really does not work here. I have a tough time believing that Jake went without talking to Finn, who is still in his sweaty, disgusting pajamas for 112 days. Also, if it was that long, why does everything feel like it’s only been a day? Little Lady is mourning over her relationship with little Finn as if it had just ended, with little PB also holding a similar grudge. Again, I get it, it’s a brief gag that’s only supposed to emphasize how freaked out Jake was by Finn’s actions, but I just don’t buy it. It’s a cheap gag that they really could’ve just removed completely. It’s not funny or entertaining enough to even include.

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But, that minor gripe aside, boy, do I love this one! It really is such a rich character study of our main hero, taking him in places he’s really never been, and foreshadowing more awkward and intense drama that will follow in his early teen years. It’s an episode I love primarily for it’s atmosphere; everything feels very unsettling by Finn’s actions, the music, the situational pieces, and just the outlandish nature of the Little People in general. The entire episode feels like a Twilight Zone segment, in the sense that Finn is somewhat of the everyman. I mean, he typically can be seen as the everyman, but this example is probably the most notable in the viewpoint of a completely harmless activity gone terribly wrong at the hands of an normal, charismatic person. Finn does some awful, terrible things, but we still root for him because we know he’s in a situation that even the most level-headed person wouldn’t be able to resist. It’s one I never get sick of revisiting, and one that certainly has a high place on my all-time favorites list.

Hope everybody had a great holiday as well! Thankful for all of your readers out there who visit this blog every week to see me read way too far into a children’s cartoon like a giant nerd. There’s plenty of great content to come in the next few months, and I’m excited to continue on this journey through Season Five. Thanks everyone!

Favorite line: “You’ve crossed the line from weird curiosity into some dark, messed up stuff.”

 

“Sons of Mars” Review

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Original Airdate: July 23, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Jesse Moynihan

The official planned release date for reviews will be Fridays from now on. The only exception may be next Friday, only because I’ll be pretty damn busy. And I know one review a week might seem slim, but I’m going to try my best to increase that amount through time and see how much I’m able to juggle at once. Again, thank you all for being patient!

So, to end this summer of daily reviews, we have Sons of Mars! A personal favorite of mine that I may have seen one too many times (the luster has faded a bit because of how many rewatches I’ve sat through) but one that signifies how all-around awesome it is. It’s loaded with world-building and mythology, and delves into the lives and stories of its central characters.

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First and foremost, this episode reintroduces Magic Man, and he enters in the most sadistic and jarring way possible by turning that fucking creepy deer from No One Can Hear You into a telescope. This is still when it was fairly uncommon for AT one-off characters to return, so it was very surprising to see the nihilistic wizard who lacks empathy back once again, but surely rewarding. Magic Man is one of my favorite characters in the series, simply because I enjoy how little of a fuck he gives for other people, yet still manages to retain an unusually sympathetic side. This is the first episode to showcase this, as we get a look into some of his inner turmoil. Speaking of firsts, this episode is a pretty prominent point in Jesse Moynihan’s writing tendencies, as he began to get much more personal and surreal in his boarding efforts. Much of Magic Man’s story in Sons of Mars revolves around Moynihan’s own experiences with his girlfriend Margaret, who he called “Margles.” Jesse used this pet name to portray Magic’s lost love interest, and did his damndest to channel all of the negative emotion he had been feeling into this character and particular episode. In the words of Moynihan himself, “Magic Man had gone insane because I had gone insane.” This kind of self-insertion doesn’t seem to appeal to AT’s audience much, and would only receive even more negative attention as Jesse turned it into a regular practice. I dunno, for me personally, I think it’s one of the most interesting and ambitious aspects of Jesse’s writing in general. There’s no one on the staff quite as heady as Moynihan, and while I’ve criticized specific styles of the writers and storyboard artists on the show somewhat often, Moynihan’s is one I’ve never really had a clear problem with. It’s something I completely understand as to why people find it pretentious, but it also makes for some of the most imaginative and poignant stories and character arcs in the entire series. Moynihan’s ability to connect with Magic Man so closely and make one of the biggest assholes in Ooo seem more human is a really impressive task and one that I think was exceedingly well done. Moynihan believes he may have went a bit overboard with just how much of his own self he inserted into this episode, but I think it was handled with a great deal of subtlety. She’s only even mentioned twice briefly, but the most powerful moment comes from Magic Man discovering her photo after Finn tosses it aside. In a rare moment of Magic Man acting completely straightforward and honest, he quietly acknowledges the location of his Martian transporter. It’s a moment that feels so real and genuine, and doesn’t at all feel like it’s forcing me to care about a relationship that we barely know anything about. All we know by this encounter is that Magic Man had a significant other, who he tragically lost. But it’s how it personally affects Magic Man that makes it so much more interesting. The heartwrenching promo art sets up this unseen relationship, and amazes me at just how vaguely emotion is conveyed in this one without going into too much detail about what happened in the past.

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We also get a bit of history with the introduction of Grob Gob Glob Grod and the King of Mars, two very important characters in regards to the overall lore of the series. These two characters have their fair share of goofy and fun moments (including the hilarious run-through of all of Magic Man’s terrible crimes, which they don’t have footage of, so it’s a good thing Grod is good at drawing), but I do really enjoy how the episode still treats them as very crucial beings in the world of AT. Grob Gob Glob Grod (blending the many humorous variations of “glob” mentioned throughout the past few seasons, though has anyone actually said “oh my Grob” before or even mentioned Grob? Poor dude doesn’t get enough praise) is essentially the religious figurehead of this universe, while King of Mars isn’t necessarily a religious figure but instead an all-knowing ruler of entire galaxies, who is represented by Abraham Lincoln himself. Pen Ward obviously incorporated Lincoln in the pilot of Adventure Time as a silly gag that was never intended to be utilized again, but this episode is very clever in never mentioning the 16th president of the U.S. by name, and is only ever referred to by his stance as king. It’s open for a good deal of interpretation as well; I think the whole story behind the King of Mars himself is that he is a magical entity and possesses the power to travel time and the multiverse. Him sacrificing his immortality meant that he would allow himself to be as human and vulnerable as the rest of society, causing him to take his place as a legend of the past, present, and future. A soul who traveled Earth as a human being thousands of years ago, an entity who ruled over the cosmos as the King of Mars, and a spirit who will continue to embark throughout the many lands of Dead World. Honestly, it just makes me think that the actual Abraham Lincoln was a lot more fucking cool than what high school history classes taught me. Props to you, Jesse and Ako. Of course, there are plenty of connections to the King of Mars and Abe Lincoln as well. The notion that he’s the “most honest being in all the land”, the penny he carries with him at all times, and his sad remark about his lack of peers that references his longterm depression. His exchange with Death is one of my all-time favorite moments in the series, and feels like a classic negotiation between two friendly rivals as opposed to good facing off with evil.

And at the center of this heady venture is the relationship between Finn and Jake. It’s funny because, looking deeper into Finn’s mission to get Jake back, he could honestly give less of a shit of the events going on around him. He has one goal: to get his best friend back and save him from certain death. He doesn’t care about the trial Magic Man was put through or the sacrifice of Mars’ thousand year ruler. He just wants his buddy back by his side, and it’s both really endearing and quite funny when you acknowledge that he just does not care that he practically initiated the King’s sacrifice. I mean, it’s pretty clear that ol’ Abe probably would’ve let Jake go when he discovered that Magic Man may have been experiencing real emotions, but Finn just pops the fuck out of nowhere and hits GGGG with a chair that ends up striking Jake with the wand. Finn inadvertently set a prophecy into motion, whether it resulted in positive or negative consequences, though he was correct in citing that nothing would have escalated had Abe and Glob believed in his brother’s statements. It definitely could’ve made Finn come off as a dick, but again, he’s doing everything for the sake of his brother, and he doesn’t care what powerful entities he has to cross to do so.

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Jake’s role in this episode is interesting as well. He doesn’t do a ton, but we’re once again reintroduced to his desire to go out with a bang when it comes to death and destiny, though Jake acknowledges for the first time that, though he’d love to accept the afterlife with open arms, he’d be leaving his best friend behind, and he just can’t do that to Finn. It’s very heartwarming and thoughtful of Jake to put Finn before himself in this situation, and really shows how far he has come from his original stance. Knowing that Finn would do anything to save him and have him by his side, Jake will simply have to put off his own prophetic desires for the person he cares about most, and that’s what is really at the core of this trippy episode: the connection between Finn and Jake. Through all of the drama Magic Man experiences with his own personal problems and the collapsing of Mars’ government, Finn and Jake simply want to be with each other, and in the toughest of life’s problems, the relationship between two best friends can often bring light to some of the darkest of moments. Even the releasing of Tiny Manticore, who wrongfully dissed Finn and Jake, but will regret doing so to the two most caring guys in Ooo for presumably the rest of his life. His new prison is shame, if you haven’t heard.

The entire Martian space system looks amazing. Ghostshrimp once again designed a bunch of the scenery for this one, and I love everything from the design of the numerous domes and silos that populate Mars, as well as the terrific red, purple, and pink color scheme that makes the entire land feel foreign and unique. I think the designs of the martians who view the trial are kind of lame, however, though characters strictly in the background of AT episodes never look superb or detailed. I guess it’s just weird that they decided to include these random Martian civilians in the background at all because wouldn’t they like, be freaking out about what’s going on? They’re kinda just there to be there, so I feel like they could’ve just be excluded completely unless they were in-sync with the tragedies occurring in front of them. The design of GGGG is awesome though, one of my favorite character designs in the series. Love his/her rotating heads and the groovy headgear they wear to cover their baldness.

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Sons of Mars embodies some of the greatest elements of any AT episode up to this point: the honesty of our two main characters, the ambition and headiness of the world surrounding them, the ability to humanize even the most abysmal characters, the intrigue of wanting to see even more of what this world has to offer, and the deep connection between writer and character. It’s one of my personal all-time favorites, and even though I’ve seen it a million times, it just has so much to offer every time I do watch. One of the biggest steps towards more surreal and intoxicating mythology that would grace the series much later on.

Favorite line: “How long have you had this house?” “Yes, that is true!”

 

“Freak City” Review

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Original Airdate: July 26, 2010

Written & Storyboarded by: Pendleton Ward & Tom Herpich

Magic Man is surely one of my favorite recurring characters, and one of my favorite villains in the series. There’s something about his apathetic nature and general disregard for anything and anyone that just gives him such a strong presence among mostly non-sadistic or cynical characters. I’m also a sucker for jerks with tragic backstories, and Magic Man fits the mold perfectly. Has anyone ever noted the similarities between MM and Ice King? They’re both Tom Kenny voiced wizards who tragically lost the ones they loved which drove them to near insanity and sadness. Parallels!

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It still surprises me just how delightfully vicious MM’s actions in the episode are. My blood still runs cold from the sight of that bird’s skin turn inside out, and turning Finn into a giant foot was hilariously wicked. Still, it’s a bit upsetting to me that he ends up disappearing for the majority of the episode. A good chunk of the remainder of the episode is mostly just Finn adjusting to living life as a foot, and a couple of the other poor souls who were transformed into limbs. I would’ve preferred bit more of Finn and Magic Man working off each other, but what we got with the multiple discarded body parts was perfectly passable. Anytime we get to hear Finn’s auto-tuned voice with trippy backgrounds is certainly a highlight. I also find it odd that these limb people never returned later in the show. They’re all pretty funny in their own right and have their own definitive characteristics. Also, their designs! They’re so unique looking and so well detailed that I can’t believe that were never featured in the show again. I really hope they all come back together for the show’s endgame.

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The most noteworthy thing about this episode, however, is that Jake totally has a foot fetish, you guys. He has some odd obsession with wanting to be a foot that he notes that Finn won’t understand till he’s older. I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but it just kinda seems like something they stuck with overtime. He likes getting his feet kissed by clowns, and I remember him continuously talking to his foot in Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage? (pretty solid game, by the way). Maybe Tier 15 involves turning into a giant foot or something? I dunno.

I continuously mention that season one is riddled with great life lessons for Finn, and this one is subtle, yet important. Some people are just giant dicks in life for no reason, and there’s not really anything you can do about it besides accept it. You can try your best to change them, but it usually won’t work to your avail. I’m not sure if that’s what Finn gets out of it in the end, but I’m pretty positive that’s what Magic was trying to teach. And it’s taught in a humorous Magic Man-y way, considering that’s mostly how MM attempts to hammer in life lessons.

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This is also the first episode storyboarded by Tom Herpich, who is honestly one of my favorite storyboard artists on Adventure Time. He’s written for such classics as LemonhopeEscape From the CitadelEvergreen, and The Hall of Egress. This episode isn’t necessarily up to his best work, and I can’t even really figure out which part of the episode he worked on (the storyboard oddly claims that Luther McLaurin and Armen Mirzaian worked on this epsiode) but it’s a decent introduction to a character he was surely much fond of, Magic Man. And of course, Pen Ward’s quirkiness and charming influence on his characters helps boost this to be a genuinely very likable episode.