Tag Archive | Somvilay Xayaphone

“King Worm” Review

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Original Airdate: August 13, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Bert Youn, Steve Wolfhard & Somvilay Xayaphone

There’s no denying that Adventure Time has some kind of giant dream fetish. Up to this point, there’s been several trippy dream sequences (namely in The New Frontier and BMO Noire) and there will be many, many more to come, but this is the first episode to completely revolve around the absurdity of Finn’s unconscious projections. There’s a couple of neat ideas in here, like the idea of foreshadowing future events to come and resurfacing Finn’s developed fears throughout the years, but ultimately, it kinda falls flat for me. The humor of the episode derives from unusual and bizarre imagery, but I don’t think King Worm ever commits to this concept strongly enough and the end result is a very slow-paced and somewhat awkward entry.

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Somvilay drew Finn’s hat’s ears longer unintentionally at first, and the staff just kind of rolled with it as a way to distinguish Finn’s dream-self.

I mentioned in my Burning Low review that the preview for that episode was a giant tease, and while I don’t think this one falls under the same category, it’s a preview that was so fucking awesome that it made the entire experience legitimately underwhelming. I mean, check this shit out! It’s sick. It promises a high-stakes battle in Finn’s dreamworld that he may not even be able to escape. And there’s a keyword included in that sentence that’s the main issue of the episode: the stakes feel incredibly low. The way Finn is written in this one is just somewhat bland and dull, he doesn’t seem to react to his environment that strongly, and it’s actually tough for me to feel like there’s a legitimate conflict when Finn is completely stone-faced for half of the episode. He doesn’t even slightly flinch when his best friend melts in front of him! I know he realizes that it’s not real, but still, real or not, that’s gotta be traumatizing.

With the dream sequences, there’s nothing that creatively interesting to me. Again, there’s hints of the future with Finn glancing at his alternate self in the mirror and the army of Gunters which are nice touches, and there’s a few standout moments I enjoy. The dream version of Lady was adorably creepy, if that’s even possible (though that scene in particular really took its sweet time), and the bit with Joshua added a psychedelic edge, but besides that I can’t really think of anything that noteworthy in the first act. A lot of the “weird” moments aren’t really unique, psychedelic, or funny enough to get a reaction out of me. The episode was heavily inspired by YouTube Poops, and honestly, that just isn’t my type of humor. Not to downplay the creativity that goes into some YouTube Poops, but even with some of the better videos I’ve seen, they always come up hit-or-miss regardless. The season nine episode Orb later attempts this same plot with arguably much better results because it knows how to make dreams over-the-top and insane enough to be enjoyable. This one is a lot more subtle and downplayed, which works on occasion, like the scene where Ice King is running up the hill and then randomly runs right up to Finn and Jake, but I think any type of story like this is strengthened by being as overtly surreal as possible. While this one doesn’t fail at doing so, it fails at choosing the proper tone to assist the story. In addition to that, there’s a ton of little bits of information and the subconscious in Orb that are able to be analyzed further and thought about in great detail, while King Worm doesn’t give us much to chew on in the aftermath. Not that every episode of AT should have to be analyzed in great detail, but there should be some lasting impression.

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The one bit I do really like is where Finn does face his subconscious fears, namely involving his fear of the ocean, the ghost from The Creeps, the Lich, clowns, and, most notably, the idea that he is “too young” and is therefore looked down upon. It blends complexities within Finn’s inner soul perfectly while also being perfectly amusing, and is the final driving point that defeats the King Worm. Though enjoyable, I do wish this whole scenario was a bit longer and even darker. I think it is played a bit too comically and never acquires enough time for legitimate fruition.

The other thing I really like about this one are the backgrounds. Besides regulars ghostshrimp and Santino Lascano, background designers for this episode in particular included Derek Hunter, Jon Vermilyea, and Peter Herpich (Tom’s brother). The landscapes are very well crafted in a topsy-turvy sort of way, and they all look beautiful. It’s just the kind of imaginative absurdity I wanted from the rest of the episode. Somvilay also includes some of his trademark dynamic shots, which usually look very off-putting, but work with this type of episode regardless.

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The entire last half was boarded by Steve Wolfhard, his first board for the series!

Overall, this one just doesn’t sell me. I’m not even sure what the timeline is with King Worm; the character of King Worm hypnotized Finn and Jake all the way back in Evicted!, so are we just supposed to believe he came back a second time after hypnotizing them the first? It makes no sense to me. I think it could’ve been a lot more engaging and imaginative with its humor, and as is, it stands as one of my least favorite episodes of the fourth season.

Favorite line: “Make-out dreams? Nice…”

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“Card Wars” Review

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Original Airdate: July 16, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Bert Youn

Card Wars is somewhat of a fan favorite and was very popular when it was first released. It spawned its very own Card Wars card game, a mobile app, a spin-off comic series, its own DVD release, and a sequel episode. It’s pretty safe to say it’s one of the most known AT episodes overall, and while I couldn’t really call it a personal fave of mine, it really does highlight the fact that Adventure Time doesn’t necessarily need to be adventurous to put out a solid episode, just likable characters and good writing.

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The entire premise is a lot of fun; I really enjoy any type of story that involves jealousy or competitiveness, and this one is particularly done well. The actual gameplay of Card Wars is not very interesting in itself, but the interactions between Finn and Jake are really what carry it through. I love Jake’s portrayal and how you know from the beginning that he was practically begging Finn to get involved with the game so he could mercilessly defeat him, and seeing it backfire greatly is just an excellent pay off. It’s quite enjoyable to see Finn basking in the glory of winning at Card Wars as he should be; where Finn is simply having fun and enjoying the game, Jake is taking it way too seriously than it actually is, which is what drives the conflict compellingly forward. It’s honestly a pretty scary depiction of Jake; we rarely see him get remotely angry or too solemn about anything, and it seems that his connection to Card Wars is really what stems to his greatest character flaws.

The game of Card Wars itself is something that Pen and Pat McHale spawned from a long term idea they’ve wanted to do since season one, so it’s nice to see one of their passion projects resurface. I think it’s pretty obvious that the game itself is heavily inspired by other card and roleplaying games such as Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh!, or Dungeons & Dragons. I was never part of the audience that appealed to any of those brands, so I feel like I can’t connect to the actual game as much as others might, but I think it’s still pretty interesting and delightful in its own right. Again, I think they missed a bit of an opportunity to make the game a bit more goofy and entertaining, but Finn and Jake’s reactions to said moves are really what drive the humor, not the game itself.

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I think it was sweet for Finn to decide to lose the game for the sake of his brother’s sanity. His relationship with Jake is more important to him than some game he doesn’t even care for much, so it was very endearing to see him choose to lose and do it with honor and grace. He does it in such a genuine and honest way as well, even when Jake is testing his patience by rubbing it in his face. I guess if there’s one thing that leaves me with a bit of discomfort, it is that Jake got to win while being such a sore loser. I think it ends up just making me feel more bad for Finn, but it’s somewhat justified towards the end as Jake realizes he may have gone too far and wants to prevent his brother from drinking that nasty ass soda. It’s a sweet ending that shows that, even through their differences, the two bros will never hold anything that petty against each other. Only thing that remains is poor BMO, who got the silent treatment while Finn easily evaded such a punishment.

The drawings in this one are great as well. I love the really grotesque close-ups Bert Youn works with, in this is an episode that highlights a good handful of them. There’s so many different special poses designed by Nate Cash that a large amount of the humor from Card Wars comes specifically from the expressions. There’s also a couple of really funny Somvilay sight gags, including the bit where Jake shapeshifts into Lady Rainicorn’s head, and where Jake abruptly tosses a pile of plates out the window to clear room for the game. The latter one always gets me laughing. Here’s some of my favorites of Bert’s shots:

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I have surprisingly little more to say about this one besides the fact that it just works. While it focuses on the game of Card Wars heavily, the real spotlight is on Finn and Jake’s relationship, and I often say that at its most simplistic, Adventure Time is still able to succeed in phenomenal ways. Not one I like a whole lot, but definitely an enjoyable entry in the increasingly entertaining fourth season.

Favorite line: “BMO! Jake’s acting banununununus!”

“Princess Monster Wife” Review

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Original Airdate: May 28, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Bert Youn & Somvilay Xayaphone

Princess Monster Wife is Ice King’s return to centerstage after a long absence from major appearances since Holly Jolly Secrets. It’s also a pretty classic Ice King story, as he returns to his roots of kidnapping princesses, with a twist. At first, I was pretty opposed to this one. I didn’t like the idea of Ice King continuing to pull his typical shenanigans after the big, heavy reveal of his backstory, but I think they really took a unique root with it that we haven’t seen much of: Ice King actually being a good husband.

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A large majority of this one is just simply the connection between the IK and PMW, and it’s actually quite heartwrenching and poignant. Again, upon first watching this episode, I thought it was a tad slow. A lot of it is dragging with depression, but that’s another aspect I’ve grown to enjoy more. The character of Princess Monster Wife is quite difficult to watch, generally because she views herself as a monster and the entire rest of the world, besides her husband, supports it. One of my all-time favorite movies is The Elephant Man, and this is a story quite similar to it that I think is pulled off very well. Princess Monster Wife has just enough to her that I think she’s a relatively well-defined character; she’s thoughtful and friendly, but isn’t able to give love to anyone because she doesn’t even love herself and can’t find any reasons to do so. It’s a very tragic look at self-loathing that really tears me up inside every time I see this character and the reactions she receives from everyone around her. The scene where she looks at herself in the sink is arguably the hardest to watch.

Ice King is the best character to combat that personality, however, and we see him in one of his most likable depictions of all time. Despite the world deeming his wife as a monster, Ice King is still entirely supportive and loving towards her, no matter what society thinks. It’s really charming and endearing to see him behave like such a gentleman and genuine person, especially in scenes where he describes washing dishes with her and the entire scheme of putting her through a penguin fashion show. The fact that he’d go through all of that alone is a really amazing thing for him to do, and I just enjoy seeing the IK legitimately handle a relationship with such grace. It proves that, while Ice King is completely immature emotionally, he is able to function like a normal, well-kept human being when he has the right person beside him, and perhaps PMW’s mental fragility was what helped him gain control of his own. I love their relationship, and his desire to be “normal” like the families on TV.

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The ending proves, however, that no matter how well Ice King is able to handle a real life relationship, he’s still very much insane and self-centered. Despite his loving behavior towards PMW, he still considers her “his stuff” and will have completely forgotten her existence five minutes later. It doesn’t feel mean-spirited at all to me, and just feels like fitting behavior for Ice King. Even though he was able to have a caring relationship with Princess Monster Wife, he still stole from others to create her, and most likely would have moved on to something different within a week. It was just nice to see that he was able to at least behave like a genuine person at all when faced with a loving relationship.

The song in this one is great and hilarious. Written by Pat McHale, Something Special is somewhat of a homage to A Whole New World, and one that both feels very silly and quite captivating. The landscape while Ice King and PMW are flying is really beautiful, taking us throughout the ice castle, as well as showing off some familiar faces (the ice toads, ice bulls, and Gunter’s baby kitten). And of course, you have Ice King singing in a high-pitched female voice, which is just great.

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The humor is this one is a bit scarce, though, like I said, it wasn’t really going for jokes a lot of the time. It was going more for real genuine sequences between our two main leads (in fact, it almost feels like a stage play a majority of the time) and how they work off of each other. That said, it does have its moments. The premise itself is so bizarre and absurd that I can’t help but laugh at it. It makes sense that IK would be able to take parts from PB or Hot Dog Princess, but how the fuck did he rip off Turtle Princess and LSP’s faces? Do bodies just work like that in Ooo? The penguin fashion show was pretty amusing as well, as we final get an actual consensus that there isn’t just one Gunther. Ice King just makes up penguin names as he goes along and such.

If there’s one thing I really didn’t like when I first saw the episode that I still feel pretty iffy on, it’s Finn and Jake’s behavior. I really don’t know how I feel about it; on one hand, I can’t really blame them for passing out because it’s pretty much against their will, but their general behavior towards PMW is quite unlikable to me. I mean, I understand their job is to rescue princess parts because what Ice King did is fucked up, but directly calling her ugly and insulting her face is pretty harsh to me. Perhaps they didn’t realize how sentient PMW was, but it just really doesn’t work for me. It just comes off as dick-ish.

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Besides that, I really like this one. Like I mentioned, it’s just a very gutwrenching tale that brings out the best in Ice King and a unique one-off character that proves to be quite beautiful by the end of the story. Princess Monster Wife is the one who legitimately saves the day, and will always hold the Ice King’s love for her near and dear. It’s a very tragic kind of love story that’s actually the best type of love story we’ve seen this season so far.

As a side note, I wanted to share with y’all my Adventure Time collection I’ve been working on for a while! Years of collecting shizz like the nerdy fanboy I am is just something I take great pleasure in, while also spending a reasonable amount of time and money, so I hope you guys are able to enjoy as well!

Favorite line: “You’re all gonna clap and cheer or I’m gonna smack your buns.”

“Hug Wolf” Review

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Original Airdate: May 14, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Bert Youn

I’m pretty sure anyone who has seen this episode before knows it as the “rape analogy episode” and to be fair, that’s not a bad way of remembering it. The hug wolves and concept of hugging quite strongly allude to how sex, which is considered virtually good, can be twisted for very violent and inappropriate causes. It’s surprising a kid’s show is tackling a subject like this, but even more surprising to me that it’s a pretty light and humorous episode otherwise. It’s not a “very special episode” or completely dark and serious, but rather tackles a relatively heavy subject matter with plenty of silly and enjoyable scenes to carry it through.

The quest at the beginning I think is a really awesome and energetic start. Feels very mythological, while also incorporating some nice fast-paced intensity as Finn shakes off the Hug Wolf. The allusions to sexual harassment are there in the very first scene, as Finn states that the Hug Wolf “didn’t even ask for his name.”

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It’s actually kind of amazing to me just how much they do with the “hugging” conflict in this episode. You have Finn, who is a relatively simple and good-hearted guy, that is completely altered once he gives into his desires, or “curse.” There’s the Candy Baby, who asks his mother why Finn is locked up because “hugs” are considered nice (much like sexual relationships themselves, and how they can turn very toxic in cases where consent isn’t involved) and his mother, who just silences him because he’s too young to understand the weight of the issue. Then there’s Cinnamon Bun, who, despite being opposed to getting hugged by Finn, constantly goes against himself, presumably because he’s lonely and enjoys the attention and idea of being loved. And throughout the episode there’s brief lines like “No hugging! Without consent!” and “uhhh, I have a wife,” that drive the whole metaphor further. These are all very realistic depictions of societal reactions and behaviors to sexual harassment that are kept brilliantly subtle and intriguing by just how many references there are, but as I mentioned, it’s made even better by the fact that all of the examples I listed are still pretty hilarious because all of them deal with hugging. No matter how heavy the implication, the idea that Finn is hugging people without their approval is just hilarious in it’s own right.

BMO’s pretty adorable in this episode, and I love the bit where he’s hiding from Finn and, instead of comforting him, Jake just simply replies “well, that plant’s not gonna protect you.” It’s a pretty hilarious one for Somvilay, with a lot of great touches when it comes to his obscure sense of humor. Like the bit where Finn’s slouched under the bridge, and we briefly see Princess Bubblegum chasing after a cat. What the fuck is the story with that?? I’m guessing that they needed a reason to not include PB in this episode, so that was their excuse. She was chasing a cat. Wonder what the story behind that was. There’s also the fly that lands on Jake’s head in the library and just chills there for like, a full 30 seconds. The reason behind this was so Jake’s expository dialogue wouldn’t seem boring, and it strangely sort of works. I dunno, that gets an odd chuckle out of me.

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There’s other great moments in this one, mainly deriving from the victims at Finn’s expense. Mr. Cupcake’s monologue about his frosted drink directly before he gets attacked really cracks me up; Dee Bradley Baker rarely fails to get a laugh out of me when voicing the debonair cupcake man. I love the Pen Ward-Candy dad that protects his daughter with a candy cane gun, and most of all the general stupidity of the other Candy People. There’s the one guy that is mad at Finn but doesn’t feel like walking under the bridge, and then the fellow that solely agrees with the “last guy”, even though the last guy only said, “yeah!” It’s one that’s constantly amusing throughout, and really highlights the goofiness of the Candy People.

The ending closes on a perfect note: as Finn and the alpha hug wolf reunite, they literally “hug it out” and return to normal. The resolution of two people who have similar desires and act on them in consensual and loving way was a pretty great message to me. By the end, Finn and the woman have no intention to carry out their desires in an unhealthy way on other people because they were able to find that healthy balance that hugs are supposed to be intended for. And of course, there’s the very abrupt callback to the beginning where the woman randomly turns back into the Tree of Blight. Another great “what the fuck” moment to close it out.

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As mentioned in the commentary for this episode, what the fuck is that green guy supposed to be? Apparently he is a Candy Person, but what candy is green and hairy? Maybe he’s “under your car seat” candy.

I do quite enjoy Hug Wolf for a majority of the reasons I mentioned above. It doesn’t take itself too dramatically; it balances metaphorical writing with silly jokes and characters very impressively. It even kind of works as some decent folklore, with a pretty spooky mythical feeling, dark purple and gray colors, and a complimentary apprehensive atmosphere. It’s an episode that has a lot going on at once, and one that I think works well on several different levels.

Favorite line: “When you see the wicker devil in tree afterlife, tell ‘im Jake says, ‘hello.'”

“Dream of Love” Review

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Original Airdate: April 23, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Bert Youn & Somvilay Xayaphone

Interesting how we got a bit of a taste of the cons of long-term relationships last episode, while this episode heavily focuses on some of the issues involving infatuation when it comes to partners who become acquainted very early on. And while I’ve seen a bunch of people really voice their general distaste for the last episode, this is one I’d consider pretty bottom-of-the-barrel. It’s the first Tree Trunks-centric episode that completely retcons her ability to hold an episode on her own, and pretty much stays consistent from this point on. I do still really like Tree Trunks, there’s a part of me that will always have a soft spot for her. But it’s entirely difficult for me to argue that she really isn’t able to carry a story on her own, much like LSP, and her connection to Mr. Pig only really emphasizes those issues to me.

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TT and Mr. Pig work fine as a couple overall, I suppose. I’m not really the biggest Mr. Pig fan; I think his voice actor is very talented and has played some very funny roles, but they never really give Mr. Pig much to work with. He doesn’t really have a clear character besides the fact that he’s quirky and slightly reserved. His connection with Tree Trunks doesn’t really make him any more interesting, and there’s plenty of moments of him in this episode that just feel completely dry and humorless. The only real laugh I got out of him was his brief line about returning to eating criminals, which is a pretty silly callback to Apple Thief. Besides that, his character doesn’t do much for me, so it’s a bit difficult to be able to put him in center-stage and not feel generally uninterested in the situation at hand.

While Finn and Jake we’re pretty heavily involved in the last story and really rounded out the melodrama surrounding them, they just don’t do much that’s noteworthy in this one. They try and mend the situation, but ultimately are pretty much what drive the main conflict, which also isn’t a very compelling one. They work as the mediator between the two characters in trying to mend their relationship, and while they give in to the characters’ desires by the end of the episode, I can’t help but feel that we were slightly cheated out of a decent lesson when it comes to romance. I mean, I get it, Tree Trunks and Mr. Pig shouldn’t have to hide their love in front of the eyes of others for approval, but they were legitimately invading the privacy of bystanders and taking attention away from other people. From practically ruining PB’s concert to making out in a mother’s baby carriage, they were doing some pretty shitty stuff that should’ve been addressed, and I would’ve liked it a lot better if they maybe set boundaries by the end of it that still worked for the relationship. The notion that everyone was just generally wrong for being pissed off by Tree Trunks and Mr. Pig wasn’t really a well-crafted resolution. Granted though, some of the Candy People did act like legitimate dickholes, and that only really brings down the episode further for me. I mean, being uncomfortable is one thing, but there’s a lot of other obnoxious moments with the Candy People screaming and wailing at the sight of TT and Mr. P, and their brief moment of celebration when the two are being separated. It really see’s both sides of the situation, but arguably in the worst way possible that just really makes me dislike both parties in this scenario.

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And then there’s the song, which really just goes on for waaaay too long in my opinion. It’s a full two minutes out of the episode, and it just feels so obvious and generic to me. It’s not even that catchy or visually interesting, it just drags on and on, and when you think it’s about done, it keeps on going and going. One of my least favorite songs in the entire series without a doubt, and just drives the episode to a complete halt. You pretty much know where it’s gonna go from the first lyric, so there’s no point in drawing it out unless they just wanted to kill time.

I can’t really think of anything particularly funny in this one either. There’s the scene where Finn is replicating the sounds PB is producing through her xylophone, which is pretty amusing. Then there’s also the movie clip with the Gingerbread actor ordering people to look at different cups, but that’s about it. It feels pretty humorless, and there’s not even different aims at anti-humor or visual gags that feel new or unique.

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It’s just a misfire in my opinion. I’m not really sure what I was supposed to get out of this one, but whatever it was, it just didn’t happen. There’s an intended message of allowing yourself to do what makes you happy, but it’s squandered by the two main characters consistently invading the privacy of other people in their actions. I just didn’t buy into Tree Trunks and Mr. Pig’s love at all; it seemed like very tradition infatuation, and the direction that their relationship takes later on only furthers my belief that these feelings were very much exaggerated. It’s one that feels very lifeless for a romantic tale, and one that doesn’t utilize any of the characters to their best advantages. I’m usually fairly forgiving with a lot of episodes that seem to be very unpopular in the fandom, but this one in particular just kinda rubs me the wrong way. Certainly not one of my favorites.

Also, what was up with that sequence at the beginning with Finn and Jake rolling on the grass and Lady Rainicorn who appears and disappears out of nowhere? I like to believe she kept on rolling for like, a whole week.

Favorite line:Look at this cup! Now, look at this cup! Look at this one!

“Paper Pete” Review

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Original Airdate: January 16, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne & Somvilay Xayaphone

Paper Pete is perhaps one of, if not the most forgettable episode of Adventure Time for me. It’s not a particularly horrendous one, but it poses a premise and characters so bland that it never really has a chance to be significant in any form.

The idea of Jake studying a Rainicornocopia is a pretty cool concept, even before the Rainipups themselves were actually born. I like Jake’s heartfelt interest and compassion for Lady to go out and educate himself on something that’s important for the both of them. It’s also fitting that Jake wouldn’t be able to even get past the first paragraph, and even more logical considering he has no idea how Rainicorn children work when he eventually has five of his own.

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Somvilay’s bubbly design of Finn in this one is cute!

As for the plot itself, I think it’s somewhat of a frustrating, yet commonly used story for animated and live-action series alike. I think the idea of Finn “making up adventures” is a bit of a weird argument from Jake, considering it isn’t a common aspect of Finn’s character in general. It works primarily as a plot device for this one, and it’s slightly annoying to watch Jake blatantly ignore what’s right in front of him. Jake vs. Me-Mow had a similar plot, and that episode did it much, much better in my opinion. It’s hard to pull off that story in general without causing some form of frustration for the viewer.

Paper Pete, voiced by Peter Browngardt, makes his first and only appearance in this episode. Usually AT side characters stick out in their own absurd and quirky fashion, but Paper Pete doesn’t really have any strong character traits. He’s not particularly funny, interesting, or even well-designed. It’s a bit odd they got Peter Browngardt for this role. Besides the name, Peter Browngardt is known for his over-the-top and ludicrous characters, namely Uncle Grandpa. It’s a weird pairing for a character who kind of feels like an afterthought, despite having an entire episode named after him.

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The two main conflicts are pretty thin, with one being treated as amusingly ineffective, and the other just being quickly resolved in the end without a ton of time devoted to it. Considering they’re both treated as very minor issues, the conflict almost seems somewhat nonexistent. It’s harder to pull through as a competent episode when there’s no compelling struggle to carry onward, whether it be humorous or thrilling. And the episode ends as it does on every rewatch: with me almost entirely forgetting what I just saw.

I know I’m ripping this episode a new one, but honestly, I’m being a bit harsh on it. It’s nothing terrible: the writing isn’t bad, the animation isn’t bad, the characterizations aren’t bad. There’s a few enjoyable aspects, namely the background artwork. The library setting isn’t really visually interesting, but the detailed backgrounds and just how many shelves upon shelves they can squeeze in is pretty dope to look at. There’s a few good jokes in this one, though scarce. I do like Finn’s general uninterest with the pagelings, and how his main goal is really to just shove his proof in Jake’s face. It’s pretty funny to watch him react to the ineffectual environment, and even his mild annoyance with Paper Pete. Also, Turtle Princess seeing Finn with his shirt off was fucking priceless. So, it’s not bad, but it’s one of AT’s most forgettable efforts for me. This is Kent and Somvilay’s last episode for a while together; Kent began exclusively as a story editor for a while up until season five. Although this wasn’t a perfect episode to leave off on, the two would come back stronger than ever a couple seasons later for one of their best episodes yet.

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Favorite line: (in regards to relating to his future children) “Eh, I’ll just fake it.”

“Holly Jolly Secrets (Part I & II)” Review

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Original Airdate: December 5, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Kent Osborne

Ice King has certainly gone through some major developmental stages during the past season. He’s almost completely transitioned from a villain to Finn and Jake’s creepy, annoying neighbor, and while that characterization has proven to be successful all season, it does risk a chance of being repetitive over time. Unless Ice King was at some point going to transform into a complete hero, it’d be awfully boring to just watch him attempt to capture princesses over and over again, or just endlessly try to be Finn and Jake’s best buddy. Holly Jolly Secrets is the one that changes everything. Everything we thought we knew about the Ice King up to this point was ultimately rendered moot, and an onslaught of new questions and mysteries arose. This introduction to Ice King’s backstory is also pretty much a turning point for the entire show: Adventure Time generally has become darker, more ambitious in its storytelling, and persistent in adding continuing bits of lore and mysticism in its ever-growing world.

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I guess I’ll kick-off this review by talking about its most crucial aspect: the videotape revealing the past life of Simon Petrikov. This portion of the episode is absolutely brilliant. It’s one of my top five favorite moments in the entire show, period, and I often forget how chillingly solemn and ominous it really is. There are so many nice little details, between the progression of time throughout each video journal to the brief existence of pre-Mushroom War propaganda. There’s a plane that flies by, which can honestly be taken as a sign of impending warfare (a later scene leads me to lean more towards this theory) and even the existence of a (presumably) Catholic Church. It really shows humanity and early society in the most explicit, uncut way that adds a bit of subtle lore to the existence of the post-apocalyptic world and how some aspects were generally lost in translation. I love all the subtle changes as Simon slowly becomes the Ice King; one aspect I really enjoy is how Simon’s first appearance in the video seems generally unaltered, yet his eyes are actually white and rounded much like the IK’s, rather than dotted and black like most human beings are shown to possess. It’s a nice bit that shows you just how doomed Simon was from the start, and how even before he lost his sanity, the crown had already claimed its victim. The exploration is fascinating; Simon’s transformation is often compared to Alzheimer’s, and while that correlation is quite accurate, it almost feels like a drug addiction in these video entries. Despite the way it’s destroying his life and pushing away the one he loves most, Simon continues to put on the crown, simply because of his failure to resist the feeling of power and strength it gives him. It’s some really tough stuff to get through, and the connection between his fiancee Betty and the Ice King’s desire to capture princesses is absolutely heartbreaking.

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Somvilay added this banner in to keep the viewer’s attention. A strange bit of meta-humor that AT typically strays away from.

The monologue was provided by Patrick McHale, who came up with the idea of Ice King’s tragic backstory. It really feels like a one-man play, but Pendleton Ward himself has compared it to the likes of a radio drama. The speech really shows what a fantastic voice actor Tom Kenny is; he’s so well-known for his portrayals of zany cartoon characters, but the dude can really pull off a legitimately serious and poignant role, and I think that’s a part of his abilities as an actor that’s sadly overlooked. The straight-forward fashion in which he reads these lines, without even slightly sounding phony or forced, is really impressive. It’s a very strong and powerful read through that really adds to this sequence being one of my favorite moments in the entire series. The monotone dialogue is surprisingly what keeps you so drawn to the screen.

However, with all that said, I honestly think the rest of the episode is just okay. The entirety of the episode is padded with quirky video diaries of the Ice King, and truthfully, they don’t do it for me. Like, at all. There’s a few funny lines readings, such as “good morning, you’re watching the evening news,” and IK’s hilarious rendition of Marceline’s Fry Song, (FORESHADOWING) but none of the other tapes do it for me in the slightest. I get it, the episode needed to be stretched out for the purpose of building up to the massive drama bomb, but I wish those tapes and time used at least incorporated more humor and entertainment. The tapes are purposefully boring, but end up slowing down the entire episode to the point where it feels like it takes an eternity to get to the actual meat. There’s an extended scene of BMO fastforwarding one of Ice King’s tapes, and it goes on for like, a solid minute. It’s another one of those episodes that showcases Somvilay’s odd approaches at anti-humor that just simply makes the experience a relatively dull one.

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The original pitch for this episode called for Finn and Jake to watch old Christmas specials, but Pen thought that the idea was awful in hindsight because it destroyed the fabric of the universe that the crew worked so hard at creating. While I can’t say that idea would’ve been better, I do think that the first 18 minutes of this two-parter should’ve been padded with something a little easier to chew on. I feel like it’s incredibly hard for me to think of anything noteworthy about Holly Jolly Secrets that isn’t the big reveal. The characterization of Finn and Jake isn’t that strong; they’re just sort of there to blankly observe until the ending. Even the Ice King isn’t that funny throughout this episode, and coming off the heals of great episodes like Still and Hitman, that’s no excuse.

After the video sequence does end, we do get some legitimately good moments as well. I love the IK’s delusional belief that the most significant thing about the tapes is the fact that he used to wear glasses. It’s a tonally appropriate moment to cap-off one of the heaviest scenes yet with a completely tasteful joke. Finn and Jake’s empathy for the IK is really great, too. It’s a nice moment for Finn to simply just give the Ice King back his tapes; I know people are always a bit annoyed that F&J don’t do more to help out Ice King, but really, what can they do? It’s completely out of their control and knowledge to be able to fix a pretty much unsolvable problem, so even showing him a bit of compassion and sincere appreciation is really sweet. Even though Ice King’s attempts at humor were considerably weak in these episodes, his characterization does come in strong when you realize that he actually hasn’t done anything wrong throughout. All he wanted to do was hang out with Finn and Jake, and when he completely forgets the fact that the two boys even watched his tapes, he rewards them with unusual gifts. It’s such a delightful view of his character that only makes the videos more effective and tragic. The second part ends on a perfect note, as all of the major and minor characters, including a booger and excluding Marceline (FORESHADOWING) sit together by a fire and essentially celebrate Ooo’s first Christmas.

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So yeah, I’m a bit half-and-half on this one. There’s some moments that are absolutely incredibly, yet others that are bafflingly mediocre. It’s safe to say that Simon’s backstory is more than enough to justify Holly Jolly Secrets’ existence, and that it still stands as a very crucial two-parter in the general expansion of the series. The Ice King only gets increasingly more interesting from this point on, and any story arc that was adapted from his backstory can be drawn back directly from this first episode. Holly Jolly Secrets isn’t a two-parter I happen to revisit as a whole a lot, but you can rest assured that I’ll continue coming back to Simon Petrikov’s story for years to come. It’s an emotionally scarring holiday special for the whole family!

Favorite line: “My alarm says it’s time for Finn’s bath. Finn, get naked.”