Tag Archive | Marceline

“Simon & Marcy” Review

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Original Airdate: March 25, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Rebecca Sugar & Cole Sanchez

“There’s so much that exists outside of show because it’s a post-apocalyptic future, which means that the present exists in the reality of this show. You have to extend this whole world back into the past and every that’s happening in it is real, and there’s so much that you didn’t see that’s implied to have happened, and that becomes real, but it also becomes something that you invent. So you have a personal ownership over everything that created Ooo, and it really does feel like your imagination because it’s asking you to imagine so much of it and connect all these dots.”

If this Rebecca Sugar quote sounds familiar to you, that’s because I used it for reference back in my I Remember You review to show how eloquently it went with the theme of the episode. Interestingly enough, this is a quote that I actually think works more against this episode than supports what it was going for. Yeah, this is one where my opinion might come off a little pretentious and douche-y. Whereas people have regarded I Remember You as the “really good episode that isn’t as good as everyone says it is,” that’s somewhat how I feel about Simon & Marcy. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s hard to argue that this episode isn’t at least good, but that is to say that it’s one I do have a lot of problems with, though this may just be on a personal level. Let’s dig right into it.

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First off, let’s address the bits I don’t like, and then we’ll gradually work our way towards the good stuff. I think my biggest issue with this episode is simply that, well, it’s one of Adventure Time‘s least surprising entries. This isn’t one where I was disappointed because it didn’t go the way I had wanted to, because that would simply be unfair to the episode itself, but this is one where I was disappointed because it went EXACTLY how I expected. And honestly, that’s a pretty surprising feat for any Adventure Time episode. Even an episode like I Remember You, where we all knew that Ice King and Marceline’s backstory would be explored in some shape or form, the way it was presented, as well as it being the most raw AT experience to date, was intriguing, to say the least. This one just plays as a straightforward backstory episode, and it’s certainly not presented badly at all, yet, it really makes me question the intent and purpose of this episode if it was just going to simply show us what we already could’ve pieced together on our own. Future episodes like Evergreen or Bonnibel Bubblegum, were both mainly backstory focused episodes, but they had their own unique twists and turns that saved them from potential predictability. Here, I could kind of gather exactly where it was going to go, what it had to say, and how the characters and relationship would be portrayed by the first second. It just seems a little too standard for Adventure Time‘s… standards.

Like the quote at the beginning of this post suggests, part of the fun of Adventure Time is piecing together the parts of the show we don’t see. We never got to see how PB and Marceline became friends, but we still believe that they were close and are even able to share our own interpretations of how they got together and how they eventually separated. Similarly, we’ve never seen an episode of Simon and Betty’s married life, though we know they were in love and we feel the tragedy of their relationship regardless. Likewise, Simon and Marcy are two characters who, even without seeing this episode, you can gather a lot of their backstory from just looking at the evidence already at hand: Simon found Marceline during the fallout of the apocalypse, took care of her until the crown took over, and separated from Marcy for thousands of years. You can gather all of that from just simply watching I Remember You. So in a way, I think this one actually shows a little too much and goes beyond how much I actually feel like I’d need or want to see in terms of the Simon and Marcy arc, or, in a contradicting sense, not enough. It shows a good chunk, but nothing where I feel like I learned anything new or I’ve gained more insight into the actual Simon and Marcy story.

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And I wouldn’t mind it as much if the episode was a little more complex, say, if it had bits of Marcy and Simon’s relationship throughout a period of months (similar to the journal entries from Marcy’s Super Secret Scrapbook, how dope would that be?) but instead we’re left with what I consider to be a somewhat low stakes adventure as Simon tries to find chicken soup for Marceline and battles off oozers in the process. I think the boundaries could’ve been pushed even further, with Marceline’s sickness being more crucial than it seemed, and the inevitability of surviving after the war coming into question. Go full on Grave of the Fireflies on our asses! But again, that’s me wanting something from this episode that it clearly isn’t trying to accomplish. It’s trying to be a lighter tale that Marceline tells the boys and Ice King in order to keep the spirit of her and Simon’s relationship alive. But again, I really question whether this is the kind of expedition I wanted to see from the two old pals or if I actually learned anything new.

There’s also some nitpicks I have as well, mainly from a writing perspective. I think a lot of lines that they give Simon come off as really clunky and confusing on occasions. Probably the worst line of dialogue in the entire episode is when Simon first puts on the crown and states, “YOU WILL NO LONGER TERRIFY A 47-YEAR-OLD MAN AND A 7-YEAR-OLD GIRL.” I know it’s supposed to be Ice King speaking, and yeah, he’s crazy and everything, but by God, who the fuck talks like that? That line literally only exists to give us a frame of time as to how old Simon and Marcy are, and I wish they could’ve done away with it completely. Aside from that, there’s parts where… I think Simon is being quirky, but I can’t tell if that’s what they were going for or if it’s supposed to further show how he’s transforming into the Ice King. For example, the scene where he’s singing to Marceline, or when he asks her if she’d like a ride on his back. Like, I guess you could kind of suggest either; that he was being goofy and charming towards Marcy, or he was losing it a little bit while the crown took over, but I can never figure out which I’m supposed to feel. I guess that’s what makes it interesting, but it’s more confusing than intriguing for myself.

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Alright, before y’all raise your pitchforks and torches and burn me at the stake, I do LIKE this episode. The main factor that I enjoy about it is, surprise, surprise, the relationship between Simon and Marceline. They really are just adorable to watch, and yeah, it’s everything I expected them to be, but it still is enlightening to see them work off of each other so well. I honestly can’t praise Ava Acres enough, but she really does such a tremendous job portraying young Marcy. Everything she does, says, and feels is extremely endearing, and I really enjoy whenever she’s able to have some sort of part on the show. And I love how much this episode hammers in that Simon needs Marceline as much as Marcy needs him. Without Marceline, Simon would most likely have just given into the crown, and not even attempted to fight off its power, but he fights and does his all to make sure that Marceline’s safe. It’s a pretty beautiful relationship that the two have, and in contrast to my bitching prior, it really is what saves this episode and helps it land on its feet.

In addition to great voice acting from Acres, Tom Kenny does a superb job at giving Simon a quiet, likable charm to him. Just as Holly Jolly Secrets proved, Kenny is capable of more than just silly voices and wacky characters, and when he pulls off a competently serious performance, it really knocks things out of the ballpark. This is really the first time we get to see Simon in a full length episode as well, and aside from those moments I mentioned above, I do like how he’s portrayed as somewhat of an awkward father figure. I’d even suggest that, most of the time, he really doesn’t know what he’s doing. Of course, he puts his all into caring for Marceline no matter what it is, but instances such as when he’s trying to ride the motorcycle, which backfires, or the simple solution that he legitimately does believe that chicken soup will cure Marcy of her illness, shows that he isn’t the most competent person in his position, but it really only adds to his charm and likability. He most likely wasn’t ready to be a “father”, but pretty much had to given the circumstances around him.

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And my polarizing views aside, this one does have one of my favorite AT moments off all time, which is the inclusion of the Cheers theme song. Besides being an avid fan of Cheers myself, the way it’s used by Simon as a method of keeping his sanity and holding onto his own reality is quite brilliant and incredibly powerful to watch. The entire sequence is like a suckerpunch to the gut; as Simon softly begins the song, it quickly transpires into a frantic and violent melody that gets more distorted as it goes on, and then quickly returns to soft and solemn on the line “Where everybody knows your name,” where Simon realizes that he doesn’t even remember his own name, or at this point, Marcy’s for that matter. It’s a tragic scene that uses once again uses raw emotion and music to convey some really sound emotional drama.

There’s also some little bits I get into a lot, mostly with the backgrounds. This one is eye-candy galore, with some really nice debris and wreckage in the background that just really sucks ya into this apocalyptic world, and for the most part, it’s all visually interesting. I think pretty much all of us have that bridge implanted in our subconscious somewhere. While some of the humor can be a little awkward and out of place, some gags do get a laugh out of me. I like the birthday cards they have inside the soupery, and the Clambulance, as stupid as it is, is such a bizarre idea that I can’t help but snicker at the very concept of it. Also, some nice little chunks of lore with the inclusion of the gooey, bubblegum substance, which we wouldn’t really understand the meaning of until Bonnie & Neddy. Or Explore the Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW, if you got through the boring redundancy of that game, or just watched it on YouTube.

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So overall, despite what seems like many, many issues I have with this one, I do like it to a degree, just not as much as most people do. From a personal standpoint, the episode as a whole kind of defies what I believe is the fun, imaginative aspect of piecing parts together in the world of Adventure Time, but I am glad that we got to see the wonderful relationship that is Simon and Marcy. I could’ve easily believed they were as close as they’re portrayed without this episode, but it is nice that it exists for all the people who wanted to see what they were like together. It just so happens that it played out exactly how I thought it would and that hurt the element of surprise that AT so often excels at, but everything I expected is really sweet and enjoyable, and I’d be wrong to say that Simon and Marcy are portrayed badly otherwise. This was Rebecca Sugar’s last episode during her time on the show, and I think it was a goal for her to nuke us with emotional goodness for her final episode. It goes a little bit overboard and is slightly distracting for me, but I’m glad she left fans with such a sweet, heavy, tune filled episode that is pretty much everything any Adventure Time fan has ever wanted from Sugar. Nevertheless, thank you for some terrific entries the past few seasons, Rebecca! Your presence on the show is truly appreciated by all (sometimes to a pretty extreme degree). I conclude this review with a beautifully written selection of panels from Adventure Time Comics Issue #16, featuring Simon and Marceline. It made my heart grow heavy.

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Favorite line: “Yeah, lay down, Marceline, go to sleep! Right? What are we talking about?”

 

 

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“I Remember You” Review

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Original Airdate: October 15, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Rebecca Sugar & Cole Sanchez

“There’s so much that exists outside of show because it’s a post-apocalyptic future, which means that the present exists in the reality of this show. You have to extend this whole world back into the past and every that’s happening in it is real, and there’s so much that you didn’t see that’s implied to have happened, and that becomes real, but it also becomes something that you invent. So you have a personal ownership over everything that created Ooo, and it really does feel like your imagination because it’s asking you to imagine so much of it and connect all these dots.”

An eloquently put statement from Rebecca Sugar about Adventure Time’s success that can really be applied to this episode in particular. Ah, I Remember You. Where do I even start with this episode that’s considered damn-near perfect by nearly everyone who has ever seen it? Well, for starters, I actually don’t think it’s entirely perfect. There’s definitely some parts that drag, some parts that don’t seem to add anything, and even Ice King can grate on being borderline annoying at times. But even that said, there’s no denying the passion, the raw emotion, and the beautiful connection that was created between two of the show’s most tragic characters make it difficult even for me to deny this as one of AT’s greatest efforts.

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I think it’s been somewhat evident this season that the Cole Sanchez-Rebecca Sugar duo is, at worst, a bit dissonant from each other. They’ve created some of the best episodes this season had to offer, but also just felt much more separated in tone than the Muto-Sugar duo combination. It’s not to say Sanchez suffers from poor writing himself, but always seemed to dabble more in Adventure Time’s sillier side. There’s nothing wrong with this, but, as is, it can be quite a contrast in even just the simple squishy and stretchy expressions of Finn and Jake to the endless amounts of detail Sugar adds when drawing them, sometimes making it feel like a jarring experience.Here, it works to the duo’s advantage.

Here, in the very first scene, we open to Ice King singing a very poor adaptation of Marceline’s “Fry Song” which is just the kind of silly opening that’s warranted with the emotional rollercoaster that’s on the way, and evident why we need a scene like this. We don’t only care about Ice King because he’s a sad soul who lost his former self, but because he’s zany and enjoyable to be around. And that’s not to say it’s even a distinction in writing style; it’s not like Rebecca Sugar isn’t one to dabble in Ice King’s antics and purely sees him as a completely tragic character. It’s common sense among the AT staff that, to care about these characters when issues arise and life hits hard, we first must be able to laugh at them, have fun with them, and genuinely enjoy being around them. And Ice King is pretty much the epitome of that archetype, literally revolving on all ends of the spectrum: funny, nonsensical, endearing, sad, lonely, and sympathetic.

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There’s plenty of fun gags at the start, namely Gunter’s adorable pet-like behavior, the umpteenth mention of J.T. Doggzone in two episodes, and the humorous exchange between Finn and Jake. I think the boys are really used as point to showcase the significance in Ice King’s transition from creepy villain to incompetent ally. There’s very few times after this episode where Finn and Jake legitimately go as far as to spy on him (though, it’ll take a lot longer for them to actually warm up to him) and it’s blown up in their own faces when they realize, at heart, Ice King is just an eccentric goofball. He doesn’t want to hurt anyone or destroy all of Ooo, but instead desires faithful companions to be at his side.

It’s when Marceline enters the scene (sporting a tucked in anti-smoking shirt, which is surprisingly one of my favorite Marcy outfits, mainly for it’s simplicity) that the tension begins to heat up. The first interaction between Marcy and the IK harkens back to Sugar’s statement, as Marceline claims “I told you never to come here again,” implying this has happened several times in the past, which is only further emphasized in Marceline’s Nuts song. The reason Marceline has moved around so frequently is either partially or directly related to Ice King continuously coming to visit her or spy on her, something that was used as just a quirky character trait of hers way back in season one, but now comes full circle as a result of her deteriorating friend she can no longer stand to be around. One can only imagine the types of interactions they’ve had before; it’s debatable what kind of relationship they have had before this, but it’s clear that Ice King does have some form of admiration for the Vampire Queen, which may be because he does subconsciously remember her a slight bit. Even more devastating, you can draw the parallels that perhaps Ice King has always seen her as a potential royal stereotype that he has attempted to kidnap before. No matter what the likelihood of any of these theories are, it does allow the viewer to put the pieces together however they like, and for me, it’s one that, no matter what context, is always tragic.

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From this point, the episode practically becomes one big musical. While I did enjoy What Was Missing quite fondly, you may recall in my review that I mentioned Sugar’s style of writing, especially in terms of musical score, pretty much dominated the episode and felt more like an episode of Steven Universe than Adventure Time. I think these songs are all perfectly crafted and all serve a clear purpose in terms of character perspective and development. Yes, they do feel like the Sugar-iest scenes that have ever played out on the show, and while I’ve made that seem like a bad thing in the past, it’s really not. I think it’s only a problem when it poses somewhat of a distracting issue in terms of story or pacing, but honestly, it works perfectly here. An episode could be riddled with Somvilayisms or be filled with Moynihan-type trippiness, but if it’s hilarious or thought-provoking, I don’t mind in the slightest. And here, the characters act as dramatically and passionately open about their emotions as they ever have (well, namely Marceline), but it’s so beautifully and captivatingly done that I couldn’t see this story done any other way.

It all begins with Oh Bubblegum, Ice King’s ballad to Princess Bubblegum, which is actually my favorite song in the episode. Ice King’s singing voice is clearly terrible on purpose, but it’s oozing with emotion and so blatantly has Ice King reveal his inner thoughts and self-esteem issues. He demandingly questions why, after all this time, he still doesn’t have anyone to love or a princess to call his own, which he sees as pure evidence that there’s something completely wrong with him. It’s a song that basically embodies everything I mentioned the Ice King is: silly and quirky, but also sad and lonely. Every song is accompanied by the hum of an omnichord, and it both emphasizes the whimsical and cutesy nature that each song has to offer, but also provides an ominously off-putting tone as well, which really hits home in the more uncomfortable parts of each musical number. Also, I’m gonna put to bed the idea that Marceline’s look of concern toward Ice King during his song has absolutely anything to do with her feelings revolving around PB. Absolutely no fucking way in hell I believe that look of sympathy was for anything besides Ice King’s depressing nature. There’s a ton of shipping fuel I buy into between Marceline and Bubblegum, but this isn’t one of them. Though, I’m not sure how many people even believe this theory anymore.

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When Marcy attempts to stop Ice King’s insanity, it’s a portion that I think halts the episode for a brief moment. I think Ice King’s shame for pushing Marceline feels a little melodramatic and tonally dissonant from the rest of the episode, but it’s this irritability that transitions in Marceline’s solo-song Nuts, which has her open up about her own insanity and mental exhaustion that the Ice King has caused her over the years. There’s plenty of Alzheimer’s connection you can make within the story of I Remember You, and the connection between Marceline and Ice King in general, and I think Marcy’s frustration and own helplessness are brought out full force in this ditty. It’s pretty easy to sense that she knows she can’t fix the Ice King and that, whatever has happened to him, he’s already too far gone to return to his former self. Marceline acknowledges that she wants to hangout with him and help him however she can, but it’s clear that the man she once knew and loved is gone and it’s really just painfully unfortunate that she has to accept what he has become.

Ice King’s sweeter and more empathetic side is brought out by Nuts, but also immediately becomes void when he attempts to kiss Marceline. This is really the most uncomfortable scene in the episode, as someone who was once a father figure to Marceline makes sexual advances onto her. It’s a writing choice that Sugar herself felt hesitant about, but one that Pendleton Ward really, really wanted in, and man does it pack a punch. Obviously it’s a somewhat harmless activity on Ice King’s part, given his ignorant nature when it comes to human relationships (though it was pretty creepy how he used a mere hug as a segue into first base), but you can only imagine the trauma or disgust that Marceline is feeling with him. It’s here Marceline blows up, and refers to the Ice King as his former alias, “Simon.” I get the feeling that Marceline has never actually tried to make Ice King remember who he is before, as she was either too hurt or confused to understand what had happened to him, but it becomes clear that she’s fed up with his jogged memory and wants simply to have her caretaker back again. She uses pictures (complete with Simon holding the Enchiridion, oh, the lore!), notes, and former writings of the old antiquarian, but nothing seems to work. Again, another great parallel to Alzheimer’s in the sense that, however much proof or evidence you show someone suffering with the terrible, terrible illness, nothing seems to work as an effective target to help jump the mind.

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Marceline then discovers a note written by Simon, which can be translated into a poem or tune to sing, to which Ice King takes as immediate inspiration into his next song. Remember You is the dramatic pinnacle of the entire episode. It’s here Marceline realizes that, no matter what has happened, Simon does love her and did what he could to make sure she survived. He never wanted to watch Marceline suffer, and admittedly probably never expected that she’d even live long enough to watch him become the villain, but had to do what he did to survive. No matter how selfless a person is, any mentally healthy person is likely to not welcome death with open arms, and Simon wanted to preserve his scholarly mind for as long humanly possible. There’s no possible chance that Marceline could ever think that Simon didn’t care for her or want the best for her after reading the note, and she can both emotionally react to it and acknowledge that the best thing she can do for Simon in return is accepting Ice King for who he is. No matter how annoying or distorted, Ice King is still Marceline’s old friend deep down inside, and the only aspect of Simon that remains in tact. The two bask in their new bond: Ice King, realizing he has a new friend to jam with, and Marceline, who sees the beauty and the sorrow in what is likely Simon’s last remaining form of communication he wrote to her, that he was probably too insane at that point to give to her in person. The episode closes with a flashback to the Great Mushroom War, and what is probably the first overt piece of visual evidence of the actual apocalypse. Marceline and Ice King’s soft voices lull the last scene powerfully through (some honest-to-Glob tearjerk worthy inflections from Tom Kenny) as an already transformed Simon hands a young Marcy a stuffed animal to comfort her, which eventually becomes her most prized possession, Hambo. A perfect heartwarming ending that gets me near-misty eyed every time I watch.

Everything this episode embodies is masterful, from creating a beautiful connection between the only characters who lived through the Mushroom War, to allowing them to powerfully emote through the art of music. This episode is essentially a “box episode” in the sense that it takes place almost entirely in Marceline’s house and focuses solely on the interactions between two lead characters. It’s almost like a stage play (with some musical elements) and really works as a captivating piece of character development and the reason why this show is more than just a silly cartoon for kids. It’s passionate, it’s creative, it’s honest, it’s funny, it’s dramatic, it’s philosophical, it’s so many things that really just knock it out of the ballpark. There’s that bit of a lull, and some parts that don’t work. Like, what was the point of including Finn and Jake spying on the Ice King in the last few minutes? Did they really think Marcy wouldn’t be able to take care of herself? I understand they may have been concerned with Ice King’s behavior, but really, c’mon. Marcy herself asked them to leave. But, any minor problems aside, this episode is just too damn good. It’s cliche at this point to endlessly praise it, but I’m not going to lie when I think something is really good. It emphasizes everything that makes Adventure Time beautiful and admirable, and still amazes me by how well crafted and inherently sad I Remember You is to this day.

Favorite line: “Your constant harassment of the female gender makes me siiick.”

 

“Daddy’s Little Monster” Review

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Original Airdate: April 30, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Cole Sanchez & Rebecca Sugar

Daddy’s Little Monster answers the questions left behind in Return to the Nightosphere with pretty satisfying results. This one had some competition with the hilarity and bizarreness of the last episode, but I think Daddy’s Little Monster takes a bit of a new direction that still makes for an equally enjoyable episode.

This one starts exactly where Return to the Nightosphere left off, as Jake tries to charge up his camera phone through BMO after a refreshing shower. BMO’s technology functions usually incorporate some kind of double entendre revolving around making stool, but this one seems especially straining for the little guy. Almost like he’s passing a kidney stone or something. It’s also interesting to see a cellular phone in the Land of Ooo; to my knowledge, we only ever regularly see LSP’s cell phone up to this point, so it almost makes me wonder where exactly Jake retrieved it from. Though, from this episode on, it seems like almost everyone in Ooo and beyond has a cell phone. Kinda wish they kept up with the cool and unique personal phones Finn and Jake had that were adapted from a transistor radio and a walkie-talkie. They just seemed like fitting and creative pieces of technology for a post-apocalyptic world.

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Aside from that, we do get a lengthy sequence of exposition as Finn and Jake watch video evidence of what happened to Marceline. It’s all very energetic and humorous though, especially with the return of none other than Hunson Abadeer! That guy is so lively and vibrant that I love every second of him being on-screen. It’s rare we even get to ever see him, so his return is certainly welcomed. Marceline’s quick song about wanting Hunson’s respect is alright I suppose, but that’s because its counterpart from the last Nightosphere episode was The Fry Song. Pretty hard to compete with that, and the song itself is just sort of a brief leighway into Marcy’s main conflict with her father. It has some nice lyrics, and reveals more baggage in the ever-dysfunctional relationship between Hunson and Marceline. I also love Jake throughout the duration of the video: he’s constantly rotating the phone up and down from body-view to his feet. I also find his line “ow, my hippocampus!” to be great, because it works as a funny one-liner, as well as revealing where Finn and Jake’s amnesia came from in the previous episode.

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There’s a lot of funny moments once Finn and Jake return to the Nightosphere. I love Jake’s half-assed attempt at shifting into a demon, followed by his really grotesque transformation. The demons return once again and are equally as funny as their last appearance; love how the demonized Marcy finds a way to fuck with them no matter what, even when they try to find loopholes around their predicament. That one guy just wanted abs too God damn badly. Also, that fucking demon who was chewing out Finn and Jake for cutting in line was all kinds of amusingly obnoxious. I love the Political Rap that follows as well, written by J-Moyns himself. It’s so pandering to the demons listening, and yet I love the way they all just immediately go along with it. Especially the line “this system is broke, yo!” That really seemed to hit home.

The scene with Hunson in his kitchen (equipped with magnets from Vegas and Orlando; Hunson really got around in his younger days!) is both enjoyable and pretty interesting, really. Hunson’s actions are obviously morally wrong, but it’s clear that him and Marceline are two completely different people, and it’s often pretty relatable that a parent may want something for their child that just simply isn’t attractive to them. Hunson’s actions aren’t completely unlikable because he certainly seems to hold Marceline to a high standard by considering her worthy of ruling his kingdom, and only wants Marcy to be raised the way he was raised and possibly find more common ground with her. The reason he’s wrong in his actions, though, is obviously because he chose to do it against Marceline’s will and didn’t respect her choice of wanting to go her own path.

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Finn see’s this as an opportunity to save Marceline, and, though it backfires, Finn chooses the heroic and equally chaotically evil choice of putting on Marceline’s amulet. It’s cool to see such a twisted version of Finn’s personality. Even though he saves Marceline and Jake, he’s pretty much immediately taken over by the gem’s demonic powers afterwards, and can’t resist the overwhelming feelings of evil inside of him. That’s when Hunson comes out to save the day! I think this part in particular can be up for interpretation. It’s never explained fully whether Hunson knew this was Finn or not, and I like to believe he assumed the beast was Marceline and finally came to his senses in regards to allow her to go upon her own life path. Looking at it that way is a very sweet moment from the ruler of all darkness, and even if he knew it was Finn, he still chose to put an end to the suffering that Marcy and her friends had gone through.

The only thing about this one I didn’t like that much was the climax. I think the conversation between Hunson and Marceline was resolved way too quickly. It goes from quiet, to tense, to charming, to cheerful all over to course of about 20 seconds. I like Hunson admitting he’s proud of Marceline, but this scene just wasn’t enough of a selling point for me. I was really convinced that Hunson does care about Marceline during their interactions towards the end of the original Nightosphere episode, but it’s done so quickly this time around that I feel like there’s not enough time for a big emotional impact. It’s done well enough, but after one big two parter, I would have liked somewhat of a bigger payoff. Also, apparently a lot of people thought Marceline was completely serious when she said she’d stop being friends with Finn, which almost had me convinced because we won’t see her for another 18 episodes now. Marcy’s pretty much missing in action for the rest of the season from this point on, aside from one final prominent appearance.

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But I do like this one a lot, and I think it really does work well as a two parter. It was a great exploration of a rarely seen area in Adventure Time, and continued to build on a relatively important relationship. I love the Nightosphere, I love Hunson, I love his connection with Marcy, and I just really love all the creativity that went into these past two episodes. This is the last we see of Hunson for now (not sure why they’ve never incorporated him in another story till the upcoming season 9 episode, I suppose they just never found a place for him) and I’m glad we got to see enough into his character and his relationship with Marceline to hold me over till then.

Also, I’ll never look at a banana the same way again.

Favorite line: “See how I’m not killing you?”

“Return to the Nightosphere” Review

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Original Airdate: April 30, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Jesse Moynihan

After three stories involving romance and one experimental episode, it’s nice that season four has its first true adventurous episode. Season four didn’t really have the best start, but this is one that feels like a breath of fresh air. It introduces us to the realm of the Nightosphere, and what a terrifically designed place it is! The episode is pretty much carried by the intrigue of this foreign underworld, and also because it’s just simply freakin’ hilarious.

The episode doesn’t waste any time by immediately throwing our two main characters into their main conflict right away, making the audience equally as interested in figuring out their dilemma as Finn and Jake are. There’s a ton of intrigue surrounding this one, from the way Hunson Abadeer is regarded amongst the citizens (the name “Hunson Abadeer” actually comes from Jesse Moynihan’s car, which was given the name by his brother) and just what the hell the meaning of bananas is.

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Part of the fun of this episode just comes from the surroundings. The civilians and environment of the Nightosphere are just spectacular. I love the random demons who hang around Finn and Jake at the beginning and just roll around and wave their arms. Then there’s the longshot a couple minutes in, which Jesse Moynihan has a pretty big self-indulged boner for, but can you blame him? It looks fantastic! Jesse’s been known for his long pans, especially in an episode like Death in Bloom, and this one really takes the cake. It’s funny, fast-moving, and builds a lot of atmosphere within the Dark World. There’s so much to take in that it’s impossible to notice everything on a first viewing; dozens of different areas on fire and surrounded by lava, wacky beasts, laser fights, a stock woman scream in the background, hooded groups of people walking into a building and (presumably) committing suicide as a tall demon watches, and so on. It’s something you can tell Moynihan really went all out with, and his pride in it really makes it all the more admirable to me.

There’s also other cool designs, such as the transportation demon, the teller, the guy on the boat, and many others. The thing about the demons is that they’re so obscure and oddly designed, and there’s actually a pretty big animation error with one of these characters that it’s hardly even noticeable because of it. Yeah, one of the demon’s ears were recognized as hands during the animation process, and it’s a bit of a confusing sequence once you realize those aren’t his hands, but it still kind of works to me in a silly way. Even if it was an error, it almost entirely makes sense with the world of these demons that moving their ears around like arms is just something that’s a social norm. And even though these demons are so obscure and unique, I love how their dialogue is so mundane and casual. Some of their exchanges are great, especially the one with the anxiety ridden demon waiting in line who can’t make brown (as someone who suffers from chronic IBS, this dude really hit home for me).

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Finn and Jake’s incorporation into the episode is just superb as well. I love any plotline that puts the characters into an increasingly boring or painstaking situation, and the “waiting in line” scenario often works a charm. Finn and Jake’s general deterioration throughout this one is great, from their sobbing and transition into insanity while waiting in line to their relentlessness to eventually meet with Abadeer, it’s fun watching these guys really try to stick it out together. Jake even utters the Japanese phrase “jouzu de Ganbatte ne (have faith and go forth)” to keep up Finn’s spirits: something Jesse’s mother would tell him when he was a young lad. D’awww.

It all leads to a pretty dope climax when Finn and Jake battle off with the beast they assume to be Abadeer. There’s a lot of cool details in Hunson’s domain, with some neat frames hung on his wall, including pictures with Peppermint Butler and the King of Mars. We all know Peppermint Butler has close connections to dark lords, but I wonder what the connection is between Hunson and ol’ Abe. Perhaps they’re just on friendly terms, like Abe and Death are. Besides that point, it all leads to a full-on battle in a bright and colorful warp hole, where it’s revealed that the beast was none other than Marceline! Draaaama bomb! Of course, that cliffhanger won’t be addressed till next episode, so we’ll talk about it more then.

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This one is just terrific though. Jam packed with jokes, gags, atmosphere, and placed in an awesome setting. The next one is really more emotion and writing based, so I’m glad we did have this first parter that gave us time to explore the Nightosphere a bit more before getting right into the meat. It’s always fun to check out different lands in the AT world, and the Nightosphere is one of my favorite in that regard. Just an all around good time. Onto Daddy’s Little Monster!

Favorite line: “Charlie, don’t socialize with the smaller demons! They’re dirty and stupid!”

“Marceline’s Closet” Review

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Original Airdate: December 12, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Ako Castuera

Marceline’s Closet isn’t as strong of a character exploration as other Marcy-centric episodes are. For an episode revolving around Finn and Jake accidentally spying on their vampire friend, I think it would’ve been a lot more interesting to see Marceline at her most vulnerable or even look into her deepest darkest secrets, but it’s mostly focused on the dilemma Finn and Jake face in front of them. However, there are a couple of gags and amusing moments the two boys share that do make for a relatively funny episode.

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The beginning starts out really strong with Finn conducting some balloon music. It’s a great musical moment that’s up there with some of the funnier songs in the series. In addition to that, there’s a brief moment of apocalyptic lore that’s so easy to miss. The duo engage in a game of hide-and-seek, or “Cloud Hunt” as they call it, and Finn’s recites this nursery rhyme while counting:

Over the mountain, the ominous cloud

Coming to cover the land in a shroud,

Hide in a bushel, a basement, a cave,

But when cloud comes a-huntin’,

No one’s a save… no, safe!

It’s a lovely little bit of tragedy, similar to Ring Around the Rosey, that just reminds me of why I love this show. Every bit of past history is so hidden in the background and non-expository, and it just feels so natural that way.

Of course, once Finn and Jake enter inside Marceline’s closet is when the true conflict starts. I always do love the classic synopsis of characters hiding inside of another person’s house and trying to avoid getting caught. The stakes don’t feel particularly high in this one, as I don’t really think there’s much to anticipate with Marceline being the culprit. Though, it interestingly enough does bring back a scenario that feels exclusive to earlier seasons, which is Finn and Jake’s general fear of Marceline. We all know Jake’s fear of vampires is still mildly persistent, but Finn has treated Marceline as an equal since the beginning of season two, and it’s fun to see the old dynamic of the two boys being so easily startled by their mostly laid back, yet intimidating friend. And I really wonder if Marceline actually did use blood to write on that note at the beginning. You’re above that lifestyle, gurl!

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There’s a couple of great moments with Finn and Jake in the closet (no pun intended), including Finn’s completely ludicrous plan to fly an egg-making paper plane to get Marcy’s attention. What did making the eggs actually accomplish? I don’t know! I also love Finn’s brief encounter with a bare-bodied Marcy. It’s hilariously awkward to see the little guy so traumatized by seeing not only his friend in the nude, but presumably his first naked woman ever. There’s also some great sight gags, such as Finn and Jake’s terrified expressions and Jake’s silent tantrum of pain as he’s so violently bit by a spider.

So there are a good amount of laughs in this one, I just wish the stuff with Marceline was little more interesting. We don’t really get to see into her life all that much or any interesting tidbits of unknown characteristics. The strongest example we get is a is a song based on one of her diary entries, with the word “Gunter” written on the cover (FORESHADOWING). It’s not a particularly great song, which was written by Jesse Moynihan, and one that he admits wasn’t that great either. I’m not going to be one of “those people” who believes that Rebecca Sugar is the only one who can write for Marceline on the show, because that’s completely invalid. However, I will admit that the musical aspect of the series does suffer a bit without her talents (unless is for comedic purposes, as shown earlier), and that’s something that carries over heavily once she departs from the series. In addition, the lyrics aren’t really that strong either. Coming off the heels of one of Sugar’s most powerful songs in the series I’m Just Your Problem, Dear Diary just feels kind of lacking and out of place. I’m not sure if Marcy sang this song because she knew Finn and Jake were secretly watching her (we never really find out how long she was in on it), but it doesn’t really make sense from a developmental standpoint. Wasn’t the purpose of What Was Missing that Marceline began to embrace the friendships she’s made and even patch up some of her old ones? Why on earth would she believe she didn’t have any friends? You could argue this diary entry could’ve been written at any point, as she mentions it’s based on the past 500 years, but still, it does feel a bit out of place given all that Marcy has been through the past couple seasons.

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The end resolution is a bit of an abrupt and unsatisfying one, though it does completely make sense that Marceline wouldn’t be mad at Finn and Jake in the first place. Her whole game is fucking with people and showing up uninvited. That’s who Marcy is! So yeah, I think this episode is decent. It’s a generally enjoyable premise with a good amount of funny character moments, but it does suffer from being a bit thin when it comes to a story that does potentially call for an interesting character study. Also, the conflict does feel a bit light, as I think it’s pretty obvious that Marcy’s not actually going to react as badly as our two main characters believe. If it was a character like Magic Man or even Marceline’s father, Hunson Abadeer, it could’ve made for a more interesting conflict. But as is, it did an okay job of showcasing Marceline out of the closet (pun intended).

Favorite line: “Well, now we’re both quietly screaming.”

“What Was Missing” Review

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Original Airdate: September 26, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Adam Muto & Rebecca Sugar

I’ve felt iffy about What Was Missing for a very, very long time. It’s arguably one of the most popular episodes to date, and while I’ve always thought that the episode was well crafted, I also sensed a feeling of tonal difference from the rest of the series. What I love about AT is that the characters’ feelings, motivations, and life paths are left most ambiguous and up for debate, and that notion has only increased throughout the run of the show. Rebecca Sugar, on the other hand, has her own specific style that is very different from everyone other staff member on the show, mostly because she has her own vision for the characters and precise ways of writing for them. Sugar’s style is evident on a show like Steven Universe, where all of the characters are very honest and genuine about their emotions and feelings, and almost every episode works towards some sort of conflict resolution or developmental change. AT, as I said, is very different in its approach. It’s more about drawing your own conclusions about what the characters are feeling, and continuously opening new doors (no pun intended) within the Land of Ooo. These are two very different mediums that collide especially in later seasons when Sugar’s style becomes more evident, this episode included. I could even see this working as an SU episode, with Steven, Pearl, and Amethyst filling the shoes of Finn, PB, and Marceline respectively.

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So what point am I trying to make by this? Well, frankly, for a while I was less enthusiastic about What Was Missing than everyone else was. I really just thought it was too big of a tonal shift for the show to take on, and the characters acting this open and honest with each other felt a bit… out of place. However, after rewatching this episode and the commentary for it specifically for the review, I do have a bit more of an appreciation of it. I realize that this is just a very big passion project that involved Sugar pouring every little bit of her heart into it (not ignoring the fact that it’s also Adam’s episode, but let’s face it, this is pretty much Rebecca’s baby).

The songs she wrote for this episode, I’m Not Your Problem and What Am I to You? are some of the best written songs in the entire series, and derive from very personal place in Sugar’s heart. I’m Not Your Problem not only addresses the subtle, long term conflict between Princess Bubblegum and Marceline, but channels an experience Rebecca had while trying to impress a roommate she once had, but failing in that regard. Some of the strongest songs in the series come from personal experiences that help the tune feel more raw and passionate (All Gummed Up Inside, Lost in the Darkness) and this is another great example. It’s an aggressive and intense experience, and pretty much gives us everything we need to know about Marceline and PB’s past history without ever giving us any flashbacks or long bits of exposition. It shows the flaws between both characters: Bubblegum’s unintentional ego and Marceline’s feeling of inadequacy. It’s a very well done conflict that I think a lot of people can identify with, and it’s done in such a unique and entertaining way.

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What Am I to You? is in the same vein. Dealing with Finn’s inferiority complex towards Bubblegum and Marceline is something that feels a bit overlooked and undermined through time, but it’s done in such a catchy and sweet way that it’s hard not to instantly be able to empathize with Finn as a viewer and immediately see things through his perspective. The inspiration behind this song is actually something that admittedly had me tearing up a bit while listening to the commentary (or someone in my house was just coincidentally chopping onions. I like to think the latter). Sugar wrote this song based on her experience with the Adventure Time crew, and how she finally felt accepted in her position and no longer saw her job as work, but rather something she genuinely enjoyed doing with people she loved. It’s a very endearing, loving message that honestly makes the episode itself even more heartwarming, and for that reason, it’s really hard for me not to get drawn into this episode. It puts every bit of care and compassion into it from the crew who love working on this show so much.

Besides that bit, I like the little in-between bits as well. Jake pretending to be the jerk of the band is funny enough, and even gets better when he alters his entire appearance. Finn’s little song about pasta is cute, and I just really love seeing all of these characters together at once. It’s rare that we even get to see Finn, Jake, and Marceline hangout from this point on, so it’s very nice to see Bubblegum and BMO included on this friendship train. It highlights some of the most important flaws of each character and focuses on them in great detail: Finn’s awkward and sometimes creepy interest in Bubblegum, Marceline’s inferiority towards her old friend, PB’s intelligence that can often come off as condescending, and Jake’s inability to take anything seriously. I even like the Door Lord as well, voiced by Steve Agee. His design leads me to believe he’s some sort of relative or distant cousin of Key-per, and it honestly cracks me up everytime he speaks in his hummed speech. Apparently the storyboard has legitimate translations for what he’s saying, but you can pretty much gather the gist of it without even needing to know.

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In the end, it actually is an episode that warrants the characters being so open about their feelings. In fact, it’s basically the whole point. Though I do like the ambiguity that each character possesses in their emotions and personal struggles later on, it’s nice to watch them finally get what is bothering them off their chest, and it’s a pretty good message to show that the truth will set you free a majority of the time. Finn got to open up about his feelings towards Bubblegum to Jake recently in Wizard Battle, and while he isn’t that explicit this time, it’s nice to see that he does acknowledge how he feels about her in a way, and that he’s able to earn a newfound respect in return. In addition, Marceline’s able to do so by accepting the way that she feels towards her ex-BFF. By not getting angry at herself for wanting to reconnect with Bonnie, Marceline allows a possible chance for forgiveness and new beginnings, something she couldn’t envision with her bitterness blinding her beforehand. It also shows PB’s side of things by showing her brief admiration for Marcy by having deep sentimental value in the shirt that she gave her, which was really just icing on the cake. My only problem with this episode is most likely your only problem with this episode: why the hell wasn’t BMO mentioned in the song?! She’s sitting right there, Finn! How couldja forget her like that?

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And I guess I should acknowledge the brief controversy surrounding this episode. On an AT oriented YouTube channel called Mathematical, which was started up by Frederator Studios, there was a video that gave a brief recap of What Was Missing and analyzed it further by addressing the implied homosexual relationship between PB and Marceline, equipped with fanart of the two in a romantic scenario. The entire channel was shut down, and the mastermind behind it, Dan Rickmers, was fired. To be honest, this is just some dumb bullshit that went down. I get that a couple of years have passed since then and animation and television in general have become considerably more LGBTQ positive recently, but c’mon, PB and Marceline are basically openly lesbian at this point in the series. Whether you interpret them as best friends or an actual couple, the show and the staff seem to be doing everything they can to stress the pairing of them in a romantic sense, so really, was there any point in making such a big deal over allegations if said allegations would later just become practically true without anyone even batting an eye? It was a dumb bit of controversy from the start and only seems more absurd with the current state the show is in.

Getting back to the actual episode, I definitely have grown more positive towards What Was Missing as time goes on. I still don’t know if I’d call it one of my personal favorites, but it’s just so charming and likable that it’s hard for me not to get sucked into what many people consider one of the all time best episodes. It just goes to show that whenever you want the show to be as sweet as can be, ya just add a little Sugar!

Favorite line: “I’ll get your kid back, toy!”

“Memory of a Memory” Review

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Original Airdate: July 25, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Ako Castuera

I incorrectly stated that Conquest of Cuteness was the last Tom-Ako board in my episode review. This is actually the last episode written and storyboarded by the pair, and it’s certainly a good episode to go out on. It’s a very interesting look at Marceline’s past history that I’d actually even like to see this as a half hour special. Just Finn and Jake exploring the memories of Marceline’s past and exploring a new understanding of herself along the way. They did fine with the time they were given, but I can’t help but feel like this one was a bit rushed.

The reason for that is that there’s a lot of exposition at the beginning. It’s all for a purpose, as it is a convoluted inception-type story, which requires a good bit of explanation for the audience. However, it does make the exploration through Marceline’s memories feel all the more shorter, while I feel as though there were points in history I’d like to see more. But of course, this is still early in the series. There are many, many more episodes where we delve deeper in Marceline’s history, so really, I’m just nitpicking.

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The memories Finn and Jake do end up exploring are really interesting. I really love the background details of the scene with young Marcy. Some burning building, tanks, and broken debris continue to entertain the story of the apocalypse, and Marcy’s experiences through it. In addition, I just think young Marcy is too cute. The actress Ava Acres (who actually plays Young PB as well) is really terrific when capturing the innocence of a younger Marceline, while also adding charm and flair to her line deliveries. This episode also introduces Hambo, which will have a much bigger role in the series later on. It is noteworthy that Marcy states “Hambo is my only friend,” which makes me wonder when this flashback is supposed to take place. Simon must have still been around then, as Marceline still appears to be very young. Perhaps it was a point where he was beginning to lose himself more, distancing Marcy. Whatever the reason, it still lines up pretty solidly with everything we’ve learned about Marceline up to now.

Transitioning into a memory with an older Marceline is the hilarious addition of the scene with Hunson literally eating Marcy’s fries, much to her dismay. A bit of fun trivia is that in the Marcy’s Super Secret Scrapbook, this scene is included as a point to emphasize the breaking point of Marceline and Hunson’s relationship with each other (as implied in the song) and the fact that food was fairly scarce during this time, leaving a plate of fries being the only thing Marceline had to eat. Here, it’s just used as a nice little humorous gap following up one of AT’s most popular songs.

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Other great memories explored are the time Marceline lived in the treehouse, her time with her ex-boyfriend Ash, and the final jump to the memory core. The memory core looks really dope. Once the boys enter in, it’s an artistically fluid trip that displays some of the most ambition artwork the show has covered yet. It really feels like something out of a trippy 70’s animated movie, and it’s disappointing it only last for a short bit of time. The reveal that Ash was behind all of it is a relatively good twist. I actually really like the character of Ash. He’s a giant douche, but they manage to give him a lot of funny lines and avoid turning him into the typical snobby jerk you see in most cartoons. He’s just kind of a dumb loser, with zero moral empathy for those around him. Also, the idea of a wizard dating a vampire is pretty rad! Hooray for diversity!

The resolution for the conflict is actually something I think is really clever as well. I think it somewhat comes out of nowhere, as when was there ever a point where Finn actually mentioned this plan before he just went ahead and did it? Besides that, it’s a pretty inventive solution to the issue by entering Finn’s memories. However, it really only makes me want an episode that explores Finn’s memories. The premise for this episode is such a good concept that I wouldn’t mind if every character’s past history was explored this way at some point. All we get from Finn’s past is the now viral Buff Baby song, which is admittedly a lot of fun. Also, it takes place in Joshua and Margaret’s house! That’s three direct mentions of Finn and Jake being adoptive brothers in a row. It feels like the writers were really trying to stress that this season. The episode ends on the best way possible: some delightfully painful abuse towards Ash, courtesy by Finn, Marceline, and Jake’s giant foot. One way to know that Ako is boarding an episode is that she loves drawing Jake with toes.

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In the end, I do enjoy this one, I just wish it had a little more time to breathe. There are just so many great ideas and interesting character explorations that I wish the show could go one step further with it. As I mentioned though, there’s plenty more of Marceline’s past to be explored in the future, so I’m okay with this brief and fun journey through her life experiences.

Favorite line: “Ash gets hungies at eight o’ clock, you need to get back in the kitchen and make me dinner.”