Tag Archive | Rebecca Sugar

“Susan Strong” Review

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Original Airdate: March 7, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Rebecca Sugar & Adam Muto

Finn “the Human” has been nothing more but a descriptive title for the first handful of episodes. Upon first watching up to this point as a thirteen-year-old, I didn’t quite yet grasp the connections to the apocalypse and lack humans within the world of Ooo. Her Parents alludes to the idea that humans are of a rare species, but still treated the topic as if it was simply brushing it off. Susan Strong, on the other hand, is the first direct mention that Finn is indeed the last known remaining human in Ooo. Finn is certainly the easiest for the audience to connect to, as he is the only major human character, and while we are able to easily relate to him, his lack of understanding of his own culture is what causes him great uncertainty and a difficulty to be able to connect with the world Ooo.

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Of course, Finn has a terrific support system of friends and family, but the idea of never knowing his own heritage or culture surely must be a burden for him. So when Finn comes across a tribe of alleged humans, it’s no doubt that he’s ecstatic to be able to make that connection with his own kind, especially a bystander he appropriately names “Susan Strong.” Susan’s broken dialogue (which the AT staff has deemed “Somvilayism”) can be a bit grating at times, but her introduction as a character is pretty adorable. She’s reacting practically how anyone who is just discovering the world would act, much like a baby, and just enjoying every second of it. Or being afraid, which is a perfectly natural (and sometimes hilarious) reaction too.

Speaking of adorable, every scene building on the friendship between Finn and Susan is just delightful. Both are so extremely excited to be around each other: Susan discovering the Land of Ooo and Finn discovering one of his own kind. It’s really heartwarming to see the two of them being able to feel so high with each other only through a short period of time. And yes, the scenes with Finn teaching Susan about how the world works go by very, very fast, but the strong friendship (no pun intended) between both of them is still perfectly believable. They’re both going through very exciting first experiences, and they luckily get to share those experiences together, which Finn sings about in the song “Susan Strong.”

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The general look of this episode is gorgeous. The colors really help bring out the vibrancy in each character; the shadows underground, the sunset in the woods, and the nighttime skies in the Candy Kingdom all blend with the color palettes of our main characters, causing them look really fluid with their surroundings. In addition, the animation is especially really good in this episode! Rebecca Sugar definitely adds much detail to her drawings while going through the storyboard process, which shows by how smoothly and flowing each character moves, specifically during the song sequence.

Of course, Finn’s fun with his human friends doesn’t last however, as Susan proves that she isn’t educated enough to be welcomed into the Candy Kingdom. On a side note, one thing that doesn’t necessarily add up with continuity is Princess Bubblegum’s general lack of defense against the Hyoomens. I realized this from a comment on the episode I saw recently, and it actually has me scratching my head a bit. Where are the Gumball Guardians, or even the Banana Guards? I have a hard time believing she’s that unprepared to protect her kingdom from possibly being eaten. The only hypotheses I can come up with are: 1. She wants her people to attempt to defend themselves. 2. If the Candy People were actually eaten, PB could always just clone new ones. 3. She didn’t want to hurt Finn’s people. The first one doesn’t hold much water the second one seems a little dark even for Bubs, and the third one still seems a bit phony but that’s the only conclusion I can come up with. It just seems to distance itself with what we’ve learned about the Princess over the years.

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Aside from that minor issue, the reveal that the sewer people weren’t actually human is certainly one of the weightier moments in the first two seasons, and it’s generally heartbreaking that Finn solemnly asks Susan who/what she really is. It’s sad stuff; Finn finally had someone as closely related to him as possible, but remains alone at the end, as he began in the beginning of the episode. But, as Jake profoundly tells him, “we’re all wild animals, brother,” Finn replies “I guess we are… brother.” Perhaps Finn did lose the closest thing to a relative that he has, but on the bright side, he still has a brother, and as Adventure Time has proved time and time again, that just might be enough.

Favorite line: “Grass can’t hurt you!” (Primarily for the irony)

“The Real You” Review

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Original Airdate: February 14, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Rebecca Sugar & Adam Muto

Finn’s crush on PB is certainly endearing, but it isn’t one of the stronger points of the series. It is a crucial part of the first few seasons and it does lead to terrific tension and development as the series progresses, but the concept of the “younger boy liking an older girl” or unrequited love in general is very common in most animated series like Gravity Falls or Foster’s Home, heck, even live action shows use this trope. That’s not to say the show uses them badly, but it’s just sort of treads similar waters. The aspect that makes it a bit more interesting is that it brings out one of Finn’s major character flaws: his social awkwardness and willingness to risk anything for Bubblegum.

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I’m also not one to insinuate that a character flaw is necessarily a bad thing; it can be, but in a majority of situations, it makes the main protagonist appear more interesting. Having a character that is flawed and imperfect helps the audience to better identify with the characters and its world, and using a pre-pubescent Finn’s crush on PB is a perfect example of that. It’s easy to empathize with Finn’s deep feelings of infatuation for Bubblegum and pinpoint it as a developmentally appropriate stage of life.

That being said, Finn’s desire to become smarter to impress the princess is very enjoyable and almost works as a trip through memory lane for anyone who is Finn’s age or remembers being an awkward and quirky preteen. We’re treated to some delightfully silly gags along the way: the school of worms, Finn and Jake studying while making a beat out of their blinking, Jake shrinking down small but still drawing a face on his finger, and the return of Choose Goose! Hearing Jeff Bennett’s Hanna Barbera-esque voice as CG is always a treat, and never fails to make me laugh.

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First ever appearance of the giant crater within Earth. Awesome!

Speaking of voice acting, Jeremy Shada gives a terrific performance of Finn in this episode. He hilariously pulls off the “mad with power” inflections and overtones, and really puts everything into making his character feel as authentic as possible. It shows how great Shada is as a voice actor, and just how well he is able to follow Finn’s progressions of age and altercations. My only complaint is that we don’t get to spend more time with “smart” Finn. Finn doesn’t actually put the glasses on till about 7 minutes in, so it feels like we don’t get to enjoy his presence nearly enough. The scene with the class of worms was humorous, but it could’ve easily been substituted for some more crazy Finn.

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This episode also marks the end to one of the most recurring possessions thus far: Finn’s golden sword (a.k.a. Scarlett). Scarlett is one of the most identifiable objects in the entire series, and pretty much any promo you’ll ever see for the show has Finn wielding his golden sword. It’s only appropriate that the sword is sacrificed in this episode, however. This is the beginning of Finn’s upcoming entrance into his teenager years, and signifies the end of an era for himself. The sacrifice also showcases the honesty and truth behind Finn’s feelings for PB: he’s willing to give up one of his most prized possessions for her love. Of course, it was unintentional, but hey, smart Finn had it planned all along! Soon he will be entering more dangerous and difficult challenges, as well as further awkwardness between himself and Bubblegum.

Favorite line: “I can’t help it, man! I’m all about stupid!!”

“The Other Tarts” Review

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Original Airdate: January 3, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Ako Castuera

This cosmic dance of bursting decadence and withheld permissions twists all our arms collectively, but if sweetness can win, and it can, then I’ll still be here tomorrow to high-five you yesterday, my friend. Peace.”

This monologue is what spawned Adventure Time’s first bit of philosophy within the series. In general, it’s one of my all time favorite moments, because it combines everything I love so dearly about this show: the weirdness, passion, and beauty of the AT world and its characters. There have been plenty of different analyses and breakdowns of this bit of dialogue, primarily the concept of the social pressures of life and how they can restrict our moral compass and own desires from doing what we truly want. For me, it’s just a bit of beautiful nonsense, but that doesn’t undermine how terrifically it’s written, visualized, and acted. That’s Stephen Root playing the part of the crazy Tart Toter, and he’d later go on to voice Finn’s deadbeat dad, but that’s far down the road.

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As for the episode itself, it’s a delightful little Finn and Jake adventure. Of course, the plot follows a predictable direction: a character tells the main protagonists not to fuck up or something bad will happen, the main protagonists fuck up, nothing bad happens. Of course, with any show, a predictable plot can be executed with just how well it’s written and the strength of the characters in focus. Finn’s determination to complete their job in regards to impressing Bubblegum is both sweet and unique. It adds an extra layer to how far Finn will go for her at this point in this series, as well as showing his desire for everything to go exactly as planned. His paranoia behind the success of his mission really shows how much he cares for PB from both a romantic and heroic standpoint. While Jake just simply is along to crack jokes and keep the atmosphere light for his friend.

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Cinnamon Bun begins to take on a bigger role in the series as of this episode (this is actually this first time he’s referred to as “half-baked”) and he’s admittedly one of the weaker secondary characters in my eyes. He’s very much in the same vein as LSP; works well in small doses, but is really only there to be dimwitted and loud. That being said, his depiction in this episode works greatly with the plot. He’s only on screen for a brief bit, and actually succeeds with his task. I really don’t like characters that are written so stupidly that they drag down the plot and only make situations worse for other characters, so it’s rewarding and somewhat endearing that Finn and Jake’s original distrust in CB had them proven wrong.

This is just simply a charming episode; lovely characterizations of Finn, Jake, PB, among others and all of their quirky flaws that make them so interesting. Not to mention the classic bizarre side characters each episode has to offer, such as the hostile butterfly and JJ the robot (apparently Tom Herpich has some weird fascination with the letter “j”). The Tart Toter himself is beautifully drawn and so well acted that he feels like such a large presence on the show itself, despite it being his only speaking appearance. I love the random details of his design, from the oozing icing in his mouth to the birds quite randomly strapped to his limbs. Of course, I could listen to the Tart Toter’s monologue all day long. It’s a brief 30 seconds of everything that makes Adventure Time so special.

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Favorite line: ^ See above.

 

“Chamber of Frozen Blades” Review

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Original Airdate: January 17, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Rebecca Sugar & Adam Muto

Gunther the penguin is arguably one of Adventure Time’s strangest secondary characters. He’s either shown as a nonchalant penguin or some sort of deity and bastardization of creation. He balances between the two in this episode and it’s a hilarious introduction to the love/hate relationship he shares with Ice King.

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The episode struggles a bit to find a focus; there’s a long sequence of Finn and Jake discussing plans to ambush the Ice King as the hideout in his castle, followed by some cool scenes of the duo practicing ice-ninja moves, but also Ice King taking Gunther to the hospital, and finally, Ice King capturing doctor princess and having a brief battle with the boys. All of these smaller stories seem like they’d work perfectly fine as their own plot, so it’s rather disappointing that none of them could find enough focus.

Despite the ninja subplot sort of feeling like a “hey, what do kids like these days? Ninjas! We’ll have Finn and Jake be ninjas!” kind of plot, it succeeds in having Finn and Jake discover some pretty creative ice powers, and it’s one of the first times we see someone use ice powers that isn’t related to the power of the crown. I’m sure it has something to do with the elemental power of ice, and I really wish this was brought back and harped on later, but sadly it isn’t.

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This episode continues developing the ever-changing relationship between Finn, Jake and the Ice King, and while he’s still by definition considered an antagonist in the series, it’s rewarding to see an scenario where Finn and Jake betray the Ice King’s trust. We already had a bit of this in What Have You Done? And it’s done just as well here.

Two of my favorite tertiary characters are introduced in this episode: Doctor Princess and Flambo. Flambo is a character that never seems to get enough attention from the actual show, but I can’t get enough of him and his odd Brooklyn accent. Also, I’d love to see an entire backstory dedicated to Doctor Princess. Her entire life is a lie.

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If anything, I would have really enjoyed if this episode focused mostly on the subplot with Ice King and Gunther at the hospital. The promos for this episode way back in 2011 suggested that it was what the entire episode would be about, and I was really looking forward to that. Not that the ninja stuff wasn’t relatively cool, but Ice King trying to act cool and pick up ladies at the hospital while Gunther tries to get medical attention just seems so much more rewarding.
Also, I’m holding out for the endgame villain of Adventure Time to be Gunther’s unusual baby.

Favorite line: “It turns out Gunther here, was preggers!”

“Power Animal” Review

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Original Airdate: November 22, 2010

Written & Storyboarded by: Adam Muto & Rebecca Sugar

I mentioned in my review of Blood Under the Skin that Finn’s heroic attributes come not from his physical strength, but his willingness to throw himself directly into danger’s path. Jake the Dog is different; he could literally become gigantic within seconds and crush anything in sight, but typically chooses not too. That’s because Jake simply isn’t about crushing people or having tremendous strength, Jake’s all about kicking back and having a good time. That being said, Power Animal highlights one of Jake’s main character flaws: his inability to focus on crucial situations. This, of course, results in hilarity.

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It’s refreshing to see one of Jake’s character flaws highlighted, as we’ve spent several episodes focusing on Finn’s and only a few focusing on Jake’s. What works best is that Jake never comes off as unlikable or does it seem as though he’s abandoning his best friend, it just feels appropriate given that Jake is so easily wrapped up in the environments around him. This episode could have easily made Jake seem like an asshole for letting his friend suffer, but it does a great job of showcasing Jake’s turmoil for not being able to focus, yet still having a ton of fun with his distractions.

The distractions themselves are all really inventive and humorous on their own. BMO’s singing, the dancing bug and the unfunny mermaids are honestly some of my all time funniest scenes from the show. They all come off as so odd and so out of nowhere that I can’t help but crack up on every watch.

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By God, do I feel sorry for Finn in this episode. I strongly feel the pain of his suffering in this episode, yet also can’t help but enjoy it by just how sadistic the Gnome Leader (voiced by Paul Reubens) is. There’s a bit of fringe horror when you realize that half of this episode involves a twelve-year-old experiencing heinous torture, but as Adventure Time does best, it still makes for some very fun and vibrant moments. Finn’s dream sequence is another walk through bizarre enthusiasm, and I almost wish that we got to spend more time in Finn’s buff fantasy land.

It’s another one of those episodes that’s packed with hilarious side characters, including the Gnome Leader, Party God, and the unfunny mermaids. Aside from the humor, this is actually an extremely well paced episode. I really love how the first few minutes start off being extremely slow and mellow, before launching us into upbeat insanity. There’s an entire minute devoted to Finn and Jake cleaning up the Treehouse and getting ready for bed. I really enjoy moments to just allow the characters to breathe and live life, and it’s nice to have one sprinkled into a very energetic episode.

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What I love most about this episode is that it doesn’t end with Jake conquering his character flaw, but instead he’s somewhat rewarded for it. It’s not necessarily a flaw that is hurting anyone, but can end in certain disaster for others as we see through Finn’s perspective. Through not being focused, Jake uses those moments to enjoy life, hangout, and invest himself in his relationships with other people. The reason Jake gets rewarded in the end is because he’s a fun, energetic, lovable guy. Although he can’t always remember what he’s supposed be doing, he uses every aspect of his time benefiting himself as well as benefiting others, and that’s what makes Jake the Dog so enjoyable.

Favorite line: “No more games, no more PAJAMAS!”