Tag Archive | Somvilay Xayaphone

“Everything’s Jake” Review

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Original Airdate: November 24, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Seo Kim & Somvilay Xayaphone

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

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

“The waffle doll shall fall

Lest you eat the yellow dough.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Princess Day” Review

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Original Airdate: July 31, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim

Princess Day was a pretty big deal when it first came out. It not only had its own DVD release, but even released on said DVD two days before its original airdate, which is a first for the series in general. It was also advertised like CRAZY; promos for both the episode and the DVD ran rampant during every commercial break at the time, and had a special sneak preview at San Diego Comic Con. I have no idea where the hype for this episode came from, because the end result is pretty underwhelming and is far from a significant Adventure Time entry. There was also a similarly huge marketing campaign for Frost & Fire, though that at least made sense because it was a huge turning point for the series. It’s even more interesting to see that the last episode, Thanks for the Crabapples, Giuseppe! went mostly unadvertised and drew in more viewers than this episode. Wonder if Princess Day links back to the reason that Cartoon Network has some kind of burning vengeance with the series. Aside from that bit of history, Princess Day fairs at a slightly better LSP characterization than I’m used to (I’ve had trouble trying to get a feel for Seo Kim’s influence on the series in the past, but I’m starting to realize that she actually works pretty well with Lumpy Space Princess’s character), though it suffers from many other issues in return.

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I think a lot the issues with this one stem from the story. I’m… not really sure how this one would have worked. The idea of all the princesses coming together to celebrate a “princess day” sounds like a cute idea, but one that doesn’t really seem as though it has many story options outside of an idea that sounds almost like fanfiction. In addition to that, I think it’s kind of lame that the meeting of princesses only contains a handful of princesses we’ve already seen before. It could’ve been a cool opportunity to meet some new princesses, or at least allow some of the lesser known ones to have their chance to shine. Hell, Jungle Princess and Purple Princess have been in this series since the beginning and have never been given a single line! Breakfast Princess even mentions a never-before-seen Business Princess, though she’s not even shown! Of course, it was strictly for gag purposes, but it just felt somewhat lazy given that the entire conference room is shown and there’s no sign of such a princess even being there. It was nice to see Grey DeLisle back as the ever petty Breakfast Princess and the newly vocalized Strudel Princess, whose voice I swore I recognized, and then I realized it’s because her voice actor, Melany Ochoa, voiced one of the kid characters from Gold Stars. While we’re on the subject, though, what the fuck happened to Toast Princess?? There’s something strangely uncanny about Strudel Princess, so I wouldn’t be surprised if some disturbing shit went on there.

I actually like what the beginning of the episode accomplishes. Putting LSP in such a role where she’s surrounded by materialistic people with an even more arrogant attitude instantly makes her more likable and sympathetic. It’s almost like a high school setting, where LSP is a person that we don’t really inherently love, yet she’s at least honest and less synthetic than the rest of the crowd. Her rebellious nature works in a sympathetic way, and does make me legitimately care for her. Breakfast Princess was layin’ down some harsh shit, after all. It’s LSP’s connection with another main character that causes the story to suffer.

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I might as well start off by saying that I think it’s absolutely ridiculous how they phoned in Marceline avoiding the sun in this one. There’s the inclusion of a sunscreen bottle in the title card and at the beginning of the episode, but… I’m pretty sure that’s not how vampirism works?? I don’t think simply using sunscreen is a creative way to get around this issue, and the implication of it just makes no sense. Why wouldn’t Marceline just use sunscreen at all times then, aside from the fashion aspect? I really hated this element of the episode and it makes vampirism seem less like an actual disability for Marceline and more like a slight inconvenience. Moving on from that, the friendship between Lumpy Space Princess and Marceline certainly isn’t inherently bad; I think it’s actually kind of sweet that Marceline is into LSP’s behavior, and that she is able to relate to her on some level. It’s pretty cool to see Lumpy Space Princess with her first legitimate friend, because while she’s been shown to be semi-close with Finn and Jake, I think their kinship has kind of fizzled out by this point in the series (I’m only now realizing how little Lumpy Space Princess and Finn actually interact throughout the latter half of the series). And though Marceline has PB, it’s pretty obviously shown in this episode that Bubblegum can sometimes be a buzzkill in terms of Marcy’s rebellious streak. Thus, the friendship feels like a genuinely made development, but what writers Somvilay Xayaphone and Seo Kim do with said connection in this one is… odd.

The two plan on getting back at Breakfast Princess by breaking into her room and taking her belongings, so along the way they do so by injuring two innocent guards (or Maple Men, which are much less funny versions of the Banana Guards), nearly killing another, stealing Breakfast Princess’s car, hitting her with it, holding her hostage, and then accidentally destroying the car… okay. These are all semi-harsh things for the two gals to participate for, even given their streak of misdemeanors, though I think it’s the explanation of said behavior that really proves how misguided this episode is.

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As LSP feels regret over their behavior, Marceline justifies it by saying, “I don’t think there are bad people. I think good people do bad stuff sometimes, and, oh, that’s bad. But only if you do it once, it’s just a mistake, and…that’s not bad. I think.” I guess it could be interpreted that Marceline’s explanation is purposely misguided, but man, it just makes her look somewhat stupid. I mean, how could any of their behavior be interpreted as mistakes? They continuously cause mayhem throughout the kingdom and do things that likely should’ve put them both in jail. I still can’t believe how genuinely calm Breakfast Princess was over this whole ordeal. And it’s weird, because I usually don’t think about this kind of stuff, but what kind of message is this sending out to the younger viewers? That doing bad things is okay as long as you acknowledge that they are mistakes after you commit them? To top it all off, Marceline mentions that she feels bad about stealing the CD. Uhhh, you feel bad about stealing a CD but not nearly killing four people? Princess Day really dumbs Marceline down to pretty extreme levels, and I can honestly say this is probably one of her worst appearances to date. After developing her moral conscience in great lengths throughout the series, this is what we’re shown that she has learned over the years?

The episode is pretty dry on humor as well. A majority of it focuses mostly on Marcy and LSP pulling their shenanigans, though these scenes are mostly just kind of… mean. I don’t really have a problem with mean-spirited humor, as long as it’s presented in a humorous light, but the way these Maple Men react to being attacked is more sad than actually amusing. It really paints Marceline and Lumpy Space Princess as genuinely shitty people in the process, so it’s hard to laugh along with this one on most levels, and hard to sympathize with the two even more when it comes down to their soul-searching.

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From a technical aspect, Princess Day is decent. The backgrounds are pretty great in this one; I always love visiting Breakfast Kingdom and the various creative possibilities for its surroundings. This episode also utilizes quite a bit of CGI, and it blends quite nicely, especially during Marcy and LSP’s song sequence and the door that slooowly opens while LSP tries to come up with a distraction. It’s funny, however, that the 2-D aspect is lacking in quite a few scenes. There’s some clunky bits of animation throughout, mainly within Breakfast Princess’s room. There’s a scene where Marceline slaps all of BP’s CDs off of a desk and onto her bed, and it’s missing a few frames there. It’s depicted as if the pile just magically hops onto the bed with little mess being made.

So yeah, is there anything storywise I like about this episode? Very few moments come to mind; Strudel Princess taking over the Princess Day meeting was cute, though underdeveloped. I would have liked if this was branched out as an actual subplot, rather than just left for the end of the episode. And surprisingly… that’s it. I really can’t say this was an utter disappointment, because I didn’t really have high expectations for this one in general. Though it was advertised out the wazoo, I kind of figured that Princess Day would be overhyped. Regardless, I didn’t realize it’d be this bad either. Even the developments with LSP and Marceline’s friendship felt meaningless, as they’d only be shown as chums in two other episodes after this one, and it’s almost entirely sidelined when Bubbline begins to develop further. Princess Day is season six at presumably it’s absolute lowest, providing a story that’s utterly pointless in how mean-spirited it is and offering very little of substance in return.

Favorite line: “I can’t just pop out eggs on command! I’m an artisan!”

“Thanks for the Crabapples, Giuseppe!” Review

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Original Airdate: July 24, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim

Thanks for the Crabapples, Giuseppe! is a silly enough name on its own, and it makes for a pretty silly episode focusing on the C-List group of wizards (or at least magical beings, in Little Dude’s case) and their field trip to Big Butt Rock. But even with that said, it’s not as goofy as one would expect regarding an Ice King and Abracadaniel buddy-buddy comedy. Like most other season six episodes, Thanks for the Crabapples, Giuseppe! has its moments that focus on being poetic scattered throughout, though I think the humor in all other parts is a bit lacking. Not to say that a lot of jokes fail, it just doesn’t really feel like it’s especially trying to be funny most of the time. A lot of Somvilay’s episodes this season, and from this point on in the series, somewhat feel like he’s attempting to cut back on his diverse sense of anti-humor and mostly just wants to tell a straightforward story. I dunno, maybe it’s that his sense of anti-humor has just gotten slightly less stilted and noticeable that it doesn’t really come off as huge issue for me, but I can’t think of any moments from his portion (or Seo Kim’s, for that matter) that I particularly hated. It just so happens that a good portion of it felt slightly insignificant, though it has its fair share of laughs and enjoyable moments.

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The premise in this one is actually quite good. I like that all these lovable wizards from past episodes come back, along with Ice King, for the purpose of spending a dorky time with each other and feeling like they’re part of something greater. It’s really sweet to see them all working off of each other, and even sweeter to see Ice King spend time with ACTUAL friends who enjoy his company. Totally seems to be boosting the dude’s morale; he’s pretty tame in terms of his behavior in this one, and it really shows how much he benefits from having positive reinforcement around him. It’s also fun to see the obscure little side characters joining the trip such as the mostly enigmatic Beau, Leaf Man (who gets a lot more attention in the Ice King comic series), and Giuseppe, whose importance grows throughout the duration of the episode. Also awesome to see a little cameo appearance of the Old Lady Village while Abracadaniel drives the bus! I love how old ladies are officially a race within the AT universe at this point.

Finn and Jake’s roles in this episode are fairly brief, though I think it’s pretty great. I love how judgmental they are and how much they believe they are above hanging out with Ice King and friends, only to give in and actually be disappointed when they drive off with babes. This season does a great job showcasing the various lives of different characters within Ooo, and it’s nice to see that, while Finn and Jake are the stars of the show, they aren’t the stars of Ooo. Life and adventures go on without them, and Ice King doesn’t even think twice when leaving them behind. Shows how he has grown as a character by some degree.

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As I mentioned, on the humor and entertainment front, this one can be a bit dry. It kind of derives from most scenes feeling slightly long-winded, with only one or two jokes in each segment really hitting. Abracadaniel trying to hit on the Water Nymphs and asking them to join their bus trip isn’t inherently funny, though it has that one bit with Ron James’ enticing eyes, which is humorously depicted through a slightly cute, slightly off-putting drawing. The couple of minutes dedicated to the bus losing gas, as Abracadaniel uses Ice King’s crown to create a road path isn’t particularly fun either, though the gimmick where the bus slides slowly slides off as he tosses the crabapples to Ice King is pretty funny. It’s just kind of an episode that trails by for the most part, with incremental bits of humor along the way.

While we’re on the topic of Giuseppe, however, I think his presence in general adds a lot to the episode. After he’s left behind at the crabapple tree, Ice King reads Giuseppe’s poem that he left behind on his roll of TP. It reads as follows:

“These are not my teardrops, daughter dear,

but just a sheen of dew that lingers here,

past other fields where other fathers lie,

who kept their daughters better far than I.”

A simple, yet melancholic poem that is executed greatly through the use of beautiful paintings. I like the ambiguity of the poem as well; it could be interpreted that it’s just a random tale of a man who failed to save his daughter from dying, though by the color scheme of the man interpreted in the image, one may conclude that this is Giuseppe, which adds to the weight of the poem itself. But regardless of how “deep” it is, I like how there’s a bit of underlying humor involved in the presentation of Giuseppe’s character in general. I enjoy how touched the other wizards are by his writings, and how he’s generally treated as a prophet throughout the entire episode. There’s something really funny about this old, decrepit, gassy man being looked upon as something of a God, that’s made even better through the fact that Giuseppe doesn’t speak at all throughout this entire episode’s run. You never really know what he’s thinking; Giuseppe could have had the entire trip planned out from the start as a means of helping his fellow magic users to bond with each other. Or, he could just be this random old guy who ended up unintentionally having a huge effect on the gang. The presentation leaves a lot that’s up for debate.

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Following Giuseppe’s poem, the episode really picks up once the bus gets stuck within a swamp. I love the water nymphs bailing almost immediately after failing to pick up the bus (they don’t even attempt to help anyone), the screaming bus brought to life by the Life Giving Magis that can’t swim, and man, the gag with Ron James’s head switching potion is just hilarious. Tree Trunks appearing on Ron James body, as Ron James ends up in TT’s house, where he is being groomed by Mr. Pig using a prosthetic arm is a hysterical “what the fuck” moment that really plays off of shock value. The expression on Mr. Pig’s face during the activity is really what sells it. Ice King trying to use that potion to escape, only to switch heads with the Magis next to him, is also a deeply funny bit that works so well in regards to expectation and the speed with which the jokes is carried out.

And, in a relatively solid twist, Giuseppe comes back to save the day! It’s a pretty cool moment that makes for a visual spectacle, as Giuseppe descends into the air and illuminates the swamp. Adventure Time once again succeeds in building off of the life of a one-off character by making their presence seem increasingly important in the lives of the other characters. Whether funny or profound, I enjoy just how much Giuseppe impacted this society of wizards to have their own identity based off of a singular spontaneous incident. That brief moment at the end where Magis and Abracadaniel exchange thumbs up, as Ice King quietly mutters “Giuseppe…” in the background (which is a truly funny delivery) shows what a memorable experience it was for these characters, which makes it appear as a memorable moment for the audience in general.

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But aside from those bits and some decent jokes scattered throughout, Thanks for the Crabapples, Giuseppe! is mostly forgettable. Reiterating what I mentioned earlier, there’s nothing even bad about it, but there’s nothing particularly interesting about it until about two-thirds of the way through. The group of wizards in general are funny on their own in their individual episodes, though as a group, they mostly come off as your typical loser gang. Ice King in particular isn’t even really that funny in this one, and he’s mostly just there to be the everyman of the group. The scenery is okay, the writing is okay, and the characters are okay; everything about this one just feels “alright.” The Giuseppe moments certainly justify its existence on either a profound or humorous level, but otherwise, it’s mostly passable in a season of some really memorable entries.

Favorite line: “At sundown, we’ll gather on the Cheek’s Peak, and using the ah-has, deep feels, and woo-woos we score from the journey, we will chant a totally original spell, thus forming an entirely new school of magic.”

“James II” Review

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Original Airdate: April 28, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim

For as dark and gritty as the episode James was, James II interestingly has little in common with its predecessor in terms of tone. James II is more focused on being as silly as possible, and while this humor bases itself primarily on juvenility, it does prove as a moderately successful entry, more so than the original James.

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On a random tangent, I like how the title can be interpreted two different ways: this is the sequel episode to James, and it focuses on the second incarnation of James. It’s also always interesting to me just how quickly this sequel episode came out. I mean, this is Adventure Time we’re talking about, the show that took nearly four years to include Susan Strong in another episode, yet James and James II only have a twelve episode gap between each other. Granted, it’s still a gap across two seasons, and I suppose they wanted to get this one out of the way early, considering that it didn’t have many lingering possibilities for drama or substance in the future.

Getting into the actual content of the episode, I do actually like how the premise is carried out. I talked about my feelings for James in his inception episode, and while I don’t really like him, I don’t necessarily despise him either. He’s annoying, but he’s not really “OG level Cinnamon Bun” annoying. And while this episode doesn’t really do anything to make me enjoy his character anymore than I already did, it does at least include him in some funny conceptual ideas. The notion that James keeps repeatedly killing himself, and convincing other Jameses to kill themselves, for the pure fact that he wants a medal out of it, is pretty funny. I also like Finn’s retort of “dude, I’ve been to your funeral like, 25 times,” implying that there were literally individual funerals for every James that died, and that they probably went the same exact way every time. I know Jake calls out PB for being “cold-hearty” at the beginning of the episode, but that momma really is caring if she brought her baby back to life 25 times AND treated him as if he were a hero each instance. Gotta give her props for her patience with the entire situation. Also, I LOVE her explorer attire and hairstyle at the beginning of the episode. Wish that was a look she sported more often.

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When it comes down to the actual story of the episode, it’s pretty bare. PB is trying to capture James and uses the Banana Guard’s help to do so, despite their failure to grasp the logic of the situation. I think Banana Guard humor is pretty hit-or-miss; they certainly have their moments, as demonstrated in this episode (like the Banana Guard that gets really emotional over wanting to have the same name as his fellow brethren) though I feel like the “stupid cop” shtick is so done to death in pretty much every show in existence that I would have liked something a bit more subversive from the Banana Guards’ behavior. They certainly aren’t characters I dislike or find annoying, but aren’t really characters I particularly love either. Some of the gags can go on for a bit too long in this episode especially, and really slow down the pacing of the episode as a whole. Though, the actual Benny Hill style chasing scene between the Banana Guards and the Jameses is a bit too silly for me to resist, and at the very least got a dumb smile out of me (the Jameses coming out disguised in nothing but gloves isn’t exactly a new joke, but one I found just wacky enough to work regardless).

My favorite part about these scenes in particular are the little interludes with Finn, Jake, and Bubblegum. I really like the fact that Finn and Jake don’t take the situation seriously at all, because they know there’s nothing actually dire going on and their assistance isn’t really needed. Also, I like how they kind of help Bubblegum to relax a little bit! It was sweet to see her laughing and enjoying the ludicrous nature of the situation with her closest friends. PB can take her kingdom and its inhabitants a bit too seriously at times, so it’s nice that she has friends like Finn and Jake who can show her how absolutely ridiculous his citizens act in hindsight.

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The episode as a whole picks up when the zombified James and his legion of Goo Monsters invade the kingdom, which provides for a handful of fun moments. It’s nice to see the Gumball Guardians actually get in on the action this time around! It somewhat surprises me that the Goo Monsters are deemed “evil” enough to warrant a response from the security bots, though regardless, they kicked a ton of ass and it’s always nice to see their involvement in Candy Kingdom affairs. My absolute favorite moment in the entire episode comes from when Finn discovers the vulnerable candy orphans, and then proceeds to punt one (equipped with a soccer ball sound effect) inside the walls. Such an abrupt and unexpected joke, and one that gets a big, hearty laugh from me every time I see it.

The ending is a fitting conclusion for Jameses “arc”, as they all pile onto the original James and morph with his body (while one of the smushed Goo Monsters continuously grabs for PB’s dress, a funny detail I only now just noticed). The decision that PB makes to basically ban the Jameses from her kingdom is certainly a cruel one, albeit pretty humorous. I like that she basically just didn’t want to deal with his antics anymore, so gave him incentive (a medal everyday) to get the fuck out of her kingdom and never come back. Yet, I still have faith that she kept her word and sent James a medal every single day. But how would she even know where to find him? Hmmmm…

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So yeah, this one isn’t anything special, but it’s nothing bad either. I think a lot of people were disappointed with how the Goo Monsters cliffhanger from James was executed in this episode, but for myself, I left that episode with very little positive lasting impressions, so I didn’t even really care what came from the story. This episode at least offers some mild entertainment, and while it’s not always exceptionally funny, it at least left me with a better feeling than its predecessor did. The Goo Monsters aren’t even really powerful enough to come across as an effective threat, and unless they caused some sort of zombie outbreak within Ooo (which has already been done twice) I couldn’t really see them working in any other scenario. Regardless of whether it’s high quality humor or not, James II at least allows some light after the heavy nature of the season premiere, and it uses its goofy nature in a relatively successful execution of the story.

Favorite line: “Dude, I’ve been to your funeral like twenty-five times.”

“The Red Throne” Review

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Original Airdate: February 10, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim

The Red Throne is perhaps Finn at his most unlikable. While he’s had his noticeable fuck-ups in episodes like Frost & Fire and Too Old, The Red Throne views Finn as a complete, pathetic mess. And by God, Somvilay and Seo Kim did not hold back with this portrayal, to the absolute detriment of the episode. While I thought episodes like Frost & Fire and Too Old were great introspective episodes into some of the darker aspects of Finn’s character, The Red Throne simply focuses on his utter stupidity, and ends up making him seem like a complete and absolute piece of shit. This is the one time in the series I can honestly say that Finn simply did not feel like the character he was made to be. It’s one thing to give him a set of flaws that he struggles with, but another to just make him completely off the walls in order to prove a point. That’s called flanderization.

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The great tragedy of this one is that I actually like the premise of it. Flame Princess being usurped from her kingdom and having no one else to turn to except for Finn, as he still isn’t completely over her, is a pretty great idea. It could even go down the same path where Finn is still trying to make things work, but realizing by the end of the trip that it simply isn’t going to happen. But man, they make Finn as stupid and as creepy as possible, to the point where he seems like a legitimate sociopath. In Too Old, Finn tries to push a relationship with Princess Bubblegum in a rather creepy and manipulative way, but he’s given a reality check by the end of it and doesn’t attempt to continually pursue her from that point on in the episode. Even in Rattleballs, where he isn’t necessarily trying to force a romantic relationship, but comes off a bit obsessive and clingy, he still listens to everything that Bubblegum tells him. Here, Flame Princess tells Finn within the first few seconds of her being in the Treehouse that “this doesn’t mean we’re getting back together,” yet Finn is CONSTANTLY trying to pursue it throughout the entire episode. This isn’t a quirky little mistake or fuck-up on Finn’s point, this is borderline harassment. The point when he puts his hand on FP’s shoulder as she shakes him off, and then he scoots closer to her two seconds later is just awful. And I get the point of him acting like a idiot is so an actual idiot like Cinnamon Bun can look smarter in comparison, but the way it’s executed just leaves me with less sympathy for Finn in his actual life crisis. We’re supposed to want him to patch things up with Flame Princess, and even if he fails and is an awkward doofus about it, we can at least feel bad for him. But by the end of it, I just end up angry with Finn. This episode gives me no reason to feel for him; there’s no tragedy in the situation, or at least it feels like there’s no tragedy. It just feels like a sequence of events to show off how much of a douche Finn has become, and it’s somewhat disheartening. It doesn’t even feel like he’s attempting to be a decent person. I’d get if he was trying to be really pushy with how nice he is to Flame Princess, or if he was just a nervous dork the entire time, but having him be so forceful and unwilling to recognize boundaries makes him seem so despicable.

The funny part about the Finn aspect is that it isn’t even the worst part of the episode. The pacing is Ignition Point levels of bad, and it really shows in the scenes featuring Flame King and Don Jon. Don Jon himself is a character who is entirely insignificant; the only thing I ever remember about him is his design, though I remember thinking it was cool in Wizard Battle far before this episode even came into fruition. Don Jon’s character is dull and uninspired, with very few actual character traits and interesting abilities. Even Keith David, who usually pulls off some standout performances as Flame King, isn’t really given much to work with. And by God, do I fucking hate that overly long fight sequence between the two. Yeah, yeah, I get that it’s supposed to be a reference to the incredibly slow fight sequence between Keith David and Roddy Piper (the voice of Don Jon) in the film They Live, but when has Adventure Time ever relied completely on referential humor for laughs and entertainment? Having Roddy Piper voice Don Jon in general is enough of a satisfying homage, I don’t get why they needed to add in the fight sequence which arguably just slows down an already awkwardly paced episode. And it certainly does not translate into the animation process in a visually interesting or smooth way.

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Even the bits of the episode I liked more than others were weighed down by some clunky writing. Cinnamon Bun’s transition into Flame Princess’s noble knight is a decision I overall enjoyed for his character, though I feel as though this shift from an idiot to almost entirely competent seems… unconvincing. After all, it was only three episodes ago that we saw Cinnamon Bun as stupid as ever in Apple Wedding, so I feel like watching him be this really devoted knight out of nowhere would be better presented with proper setup. Apple Wedding would have to sacrifice some of his funnier moments, though it would have been nice if he at least had some signs of growing intelligence. I do, however, like the analogy of how he was “fully baked” after being hit with a bout of fire; it’s a nice little touch for all of those paying attention when PB mentioned Cinnamon Bun to be “half-baked” in The Other Tarts. I think it definitely would’ve made more sense with the episode if CB suddenly became more intelligent after the actual baking sequence, though again, this episode really wants to emphasize that CB is being more emotionally mature than Finn. Though, I have to question, when looking at where the series is now and comparing it back to this episode, would Cinnamon Bun’s baking process actually be the reason that he’s so blubbering and stupid? It seems like all Candy Kingdom citizens are made to be inherently stupid, so I’m wondering if the “solution” to CB’s stupidity still makes sense in the grand scheme of things. But I digress.

It’s sad that Flame Princess is given a major role in this episode, because she isn’t really given a ton to work with either. Flame Princess is practically a blank slate in this one that is just simply there to react to everything going on and to continuously turn down Finn. Again, it damages the episode because it makes Flame Princess feel like an extension of Finn’s character; she’s given pretty simplistic dialogue to correspond with the events surrounding her, and the circumstances surrounding her aren’t really explored in an interesting way. This doesn’t need to be this really big, emotional episode for Flame Princess, but I just wish she felt like more than just the source of Finn’s affection. It’s quite sad, but I’m glad The Cooler explored her new position without Finn being involved.

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Is there anything I like about this one? Few very moments come to mind, though I can think of a couple. Well, it’s nice to see the Fire Kingdom again, for one. As usual, it looks really nice, and I like the use of Cinnamon Bun’s flame shielded color pattern to contrast from the darker oranges, reds, and browns that the backgrounds have to offer. Really helps him pop. I like Cinnamon Bun’s new character role as I mentioned, but I would enjoy it if it felt more natural and less forced by the episode. Also, the moment when Flame Princess enters and Finn immediately lets her know that Jake is staying at Lady Rainicorn’s house is pretty funny. Though it also contributes to his horny douchebaggery, I feel like it’s an appropriate and pretty funny concept for him to immediately mention that he has the Treehouse to himself as Flame Princess spontaneously bursts through the window. Without any context, I’m not surprised that it’s the first thing that came to Finn’s mind.

As a whole, this one is a pretty big stinker. If it was done with more care and compassion for the characters, it could’ve succeeded, but instead we got a series of cheap character gags that feel hollow and heartless. The exploration of Finn’s character in regard to his break-up with Flame Princess has been intriguingly insightful thus far, so it’s quite a shame that this episode put a bit of a damper on this arc. This is one of the few times when I can honestly say I just straight-up don’t like Finn’s portrayal, and that his behavior just simply did not seem completely true to his character.

Lots of exciting episode reviews coming within the next month! These next five episodes, which I have deemed AT’s Renaissance, are some of the most enticing episodes the show has to offer. While not all of them are personal favorites of mine, they all offer something entirely different that defines what makes Adventure Time such an astounding show overall.

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Favorite line: “Girls’ bathroom is over there. Also, it’s the boys’ bathroom.”

“Blade of Grass” Review

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Original Airdate: January 20, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim

Blade of Grass effectively introduces a major plot point to not only the season, but the series as a whole. The introduction of the grass sword would open up a whole variety of doors for Finn’s character, as well as a future character down the line. Yet, despite some of its surreal imagery, this episode doesn’t feel especially heavy or impactful, but it doesn’t really need to be. Somvilay and Seo Kim efficiently worked together to create a fun and intriguing episode, and their best episode of the season overall.

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LOVE the way this one begins. It’s probably Adventure Time at its most odd, with Finn and Jake battling off a bunch of mullet-sporting zombies within a slide park. The idea alone is completely ludicrous enough to get a laugh out of me, and I still to this day have no fucking clue what the slider guys are supposed to be. On the more heartwarming side, Finn is still using his Demon Blood Sword even after it was previously smashed. It seems evident that this episode needed to happen for Finn to acquire a new blade, but I’m glad it does show how much of an attachment Finn had to the Demon Blood Sword. And why shouldn’t he? That sword was bangin’ and it came from his dad, the latter arguably having a bigger emotional impact on Finn in general.

I love the little farmer’s market introduced in this episode that becomes a recurring location from this point on. It feels very fitting with the world of Adventure Time, and I’m glad the series didn’t go full-out Root Beer Guy after said episode and turn the Land of Ooo into one big modern day metropolis. It’s nice to have little medieval elements like this sprinkled around. It’s also been quite some time since we’ve seen Choose Goose, so it was good to reintroduce him once more. I especially like both the callback to Blood Under the Skin and Play Date as Finn describes the armor that Choose Goose once gave him.

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Once Finn receives the grass blade, the episode becomes an effective mixture between comedy and some horror elements. Again, I think this is some of Somvilay and Seo’s best joke telling, simply because it focuses mostly on the story while sprinkling in their own charms along the way. Occasionally, Somvilay’s focus on anti-humor can be so all-consuming and an effort to make the episode as non-jokey as possible that it simply becomes distracting and sometimes quite dry. Here, all of his non-jokes work naturally into the story in a way where his influence is still noticeable, but the episode as a whole doesn’t feel like his own experimental project. There are some nice gags throughout this one, like the random pizza that comes flying out of nowhere, or Finn finally ditching the sword and uttering, “worst three bucks I’ve ever spent.” Honestly, Finn, I love you buddy, but what were you really expecting here? Also, the battle outside of the candle shop is one of my favorite moments in the episode, again, mostly in terms of surreality. The “hooligans who steal candles” are silly renditions of cliched 60’s gang members, and Finn’s interactions with them are equally as hilarious. Also, I think the older candle store owner may surpass Slime Princess for my favorite character performed by Maria Bamford. I absolutely love her forced Irish accent.

Aside from the humor, the episode in general does a great job of showing how big of a threat the grass sword can be. There’s heavy bits of foreshadowing here, especially within the dream sequence and actions of the sword in general. In the dream, we see the grass sword completely consume Finn’s body as he becomes one whole “grass Finn.” And the way the sword cuts through objects and turns them into little Finn heads shows what a fascination the sword has with Finn in general. Obviously I don’t think they thought a ton into the future in terms of the whole “grass Finn” thing in this episode, but I’m glad the connection was made regardless. I just wish the sword was a bit more consistent with it; this is the only episode where the sword cuts objects into Finn shapes, and I think it’d be much less distracting if it wasn’t shown every single time Finn cuts into something following the pillow tag. To be fair, we don’t even really get to see this sword a ton as it is, so I can’t really blame this for being inconsistent. The grass sword in general is cool; I think it’s pretty neat how the entire blade is given weight and strength through the mere sounds that it makes. The blade as a whole looks pretty frail and inferior to Finn’s previous swords, though something as simple as the Grassy Wizard placing it down with a metal “clang” can make it feel a lot more powerful and effective. I enjoy the way it’s categorized as more than just a sword as well. The curse plays a very large part into its existence, and its focused on in all the right ways. I really like how the sword even possesses some elements that the Ice Crown does, in the sense that it longs for the person who wears it and is relentless in its efforts to be used.

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Finn realizes the weight of the curse as Choose Goose informs him, and I enjoy how Finn’s slow progression into actually liking the sword becomes clear following this moment. Oliver Sava over at the A.V. Club would point out that the grass sword has some sort of correlation with Finn’s sexual awakening, though I don’t really buy into that theory at all. If anything, it seems that the lifelong “curse” could correlate more into a lasting condition or mental illness of some sort. As Finn confronts the Grassy Wizard, he is informed that the curse will last forever, and that Finn’s casual response is not how one is supposed to react to that kind of news. Or Jake’s observation, “now that you’ve accepted it, you can control it!” I think it’s pretty obvious that Finn could easily go his entire life resisting the power of the sword and being in denial about its attachment to him, though Finn would much rather just accept his fate and come to terms with his eternal curse. Once he’s learned to accept reality and fate as it is, he can now control his feelings and issues as if they were never issues to begin with. It’s somewhat enlightening.

This episode is also filled with some really nice color schemes. I love it’s focus on the color green; it never feels too nauseating. The grassy mountain is a pretty cool place with some pretty neat beasts, and the Grassy Wizard in general is a pretty enjoyable dickhead. He would later be brought back in Do No Harm, and I’m glad he had at least on more part in the ongoing Grass Sword saga.

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So yeah, this one is a blend of mostly fun and somewhat tense moments. It does a pretty great job of setting up the grass sword story as a whole, and I think it’s pretty obvious to any regular viewer at this point that Finn is going to lose his arm at any point now. It’s been alluded to so many times up to this point, and the grass sword only adds to the anticipation of Finn’s amputation. The de-arming comes soon enough, and while reactions amongst people on whether it was handled properly wildly ranges, I think it’s at least safe to say for now that we did get a pretty cool sword out of it regardless, even if it was short-lived.

A brief detour from my usual endings, but oh. my. Glob. Have y’all seen the new kidrobot Adventure Time figures? I’m actually obsessed, and I cannot wait for the damage my bank account is going to experience once they’re released.

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Favorite line: “Worst $3 I ever spent.”

“Play Date” Review

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Original Airdate: November 4, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne, Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim

I fell ill last week, so apologies for the lack of a post. Making up for it by double-posting this week, and in addition to that, I’ll have some more free-time next week! I expect to cover at least four to five episodes next week, most likely from James to Rattleballs, and then we’re in the homestretch of season five, folks. For now, Play Date.

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Play Date and The Pit is perhaps the weirdest two parter Adventure Time has ever put out, mostly because they have very little to do with each other aside from Play Date’s climax. Out of the two, however, I think it’s pretty clear that The Pit is the more structured of the two. Play Date has its moments, but ultimately feels like a handful of ideas that never really form into a completely cohesive narrative. Though I’m glad the series did finally take the time to explore a full length episode focusing on Ice King living with the boys, even if it comes out with mixed results.

I think perhaps the strongest part of the episode derives from the first few minutes. Some of the best comedy the show has to offer is how genuinely disgusted and distraught Finn and Jake can respond to the IK’s behavior, such as episodes like Hitman or Still, and the first half is chock full of these moments. Love the bits that emphasize just how annoying and disgusting Ice King is, namely his line “don’t forget the bread!” and the repulsive way he consumes his cereal while wearing nothing but underwear. This leads to some fantastic reactions from Jake, including a hilarious eye-twitch and him actually contemplating murder. On the other hand, however, I do enjoy Finn’s treatment of Ice King in this one. I think the destruction of the Ice Kingdom is a clear point to where Finn began to treat the lunatic with more sympathy and consideration. There’s very few episodes after this where Finn views Ice King as an actual enemy; at most, Finn views him as an annoyance, but even that is toned down a great deal following this one. I think it’s cool to notice these moments of clear development between the two, though it’d be quite sometime before Jake begins to feel the same.

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There’s also quite a few nice touches in the beginning sequence as well. I don’t think the gags involving Finn and Jake using hand motions to explain something to each other are particularly funny, but I at least appreciate how it ended up becoming a running gag in later Somvilay-Seo episodes down the line. It begins to feel like a genuine trait of the relationship between the boys rather than just some random nonsense that was included for the sake of being random nonsense. Also, I thought it was quite adorable that Ice King added himself to Finn and Jake’s clock. While we’re on the subject, I actually discovered while writing this post that there is a licensed Finn & Jake clock on Amazon! I’m immediately considering an impulse buy because of how cute and true to the show it actually is.

Though, I think the fun definitely decreases once Abracadaniel’s brought in. I’m very “meh” about Abracadaniel as a character, and I think my problems with him have become more clear as this episode followed We Fixed a Truck. Banana Man and Abracadaniel are similar in their wimpy tendencies, though I think Banana Man is clearly the better character. Banana Man has a defined character through the exploration of his loneliness, forming him into a lovable dork. Abracadaniel, on the other hand, doesn’t really have a defined character. He’s just kind of weird and quirky, but doesn’t really have any charismatic attributes that actually make me care for him. Also, isn’t it weird that he’s just totally fine with hanging out with Finn and Jake? Shouldn’t he still hate them for being part of the reason he ended up in jail in Wizards Only, Fools?

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Thus, the scenes that follow with Abracadaniel and Ice King’s friendship are just… okay. Not really bad or even boring, but just nothing particularly noteworthy or entertaining. I think the episode comes to an absolute halt, however, when Abracadaniel and Ice King put on a show for the boys. It isn’t really funny and doesn’t add anything to the story at all, making it feel like somewhat of a waste of time. I think the point of the scene is to show how Abracadaniel is beginning to overstay his welcome as well, but it really doesn’t help that Finn and Jake hold the same blank face throughout the entire scene. Like, I get that Finn is pretty cool and is willing to accept that Abracadaniel is too afraid to leave the Treehouse, but why is Jake so okay with this? Wasn’t he the one who was prepared to kill Ice King earlier because of his annoying tendencies? I think this is where the source of this episode’s main issue derives from: it quickly changes perspective from Finn and Jake’s to Ice King and Abracadaniel’s. Throughout the first half of the episode, we’re seeing everything mostly through F&J’s eyes, where the second half mostly focuses on Abracadaniel and Ice King’s side of things. And it’s unfortunate, because Finn and Jake reacting to the Ice King’s obscene behavior was arguably more interesting than Ice King and Abracadaniel’s shenanigans. It’s disappointing that the main conflict of the episode was dropped so quickly when Abracadaniel was introduced, yet there were so many more comedic possibilities that could have came from his arrival that were used for some less than satisfactory moments.

Things do pick up in entertainment value once Ice King and Abracadaniel discover the Demon Blood Sword, even if it feels like a disconnect from the entirety of the episode. I will say that I’m glad a moment like this was included to make the episode more memorable, though I feel like it’s somewhat of a copout. It’s like how In Your Footsteps was somewhat uninteresting throughout, yet that one moment was included at the end so the Lich could gain possession of the Enchiridion. I’m not quite sure how I feel about moments like this, because they definitely make the episode they’re featured in more compelling, though sometimes I feel like they’re trying to justify overall mediocrity. But I digress, the moments with Ice King and Abracadaniel in the basement are definitely entertaining. There’s a big eerie feeling surrounding it, as if Ice King is showing Abracadaniel his father’s AR-15 rifle or something of the sorts. As Kee-Oth is reintroduced, and Finn and Jake enter the scene, I do feel like some of these moments were a bit rushed, though it works in such a way that I feel isn’t distracting. Similar to the episode Betty, which we’ll come across shortly, I feel like so much is happening at once that it doesn’t really give me time to think about it. Finn contemplates not breaking the sword, Finn breaks the sword, Kee-Oth regains his blood, Kee-Oth captures Jake, Ice King mentions that his home is rebuilt and he and Abracadaniel leave. All of this occurs in the course of a minute, but it’s done so in an invigorating way and never really lets the energy fizzle out until the very last second.

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A lot of people were pissed with a couple moments towards the end, mainly regarding Finn breaking the sword and Ice King’s behavior. Finn breaking the Demon Blood Sword quickly without a ton of hesitation is upsetting, considering how cool the actual sword is, but I think it’s fitting regarding Finn’s character. Despite how he feels about his awesome sword, and his father too, Finn is willing to smash something so important to him for the sake of the lives of two losers he doesn’t even really like that much. Really just goes to show what a caring person he is, especially considering the immoral things he has done in the past handful of episodes. As for Ice King quickly fleeing the scene after using Finn and Jake for weeks and being responsible for the destruction for Finn’s sword, I respond with “come on.” We all know Ice King is crazy and that he’s incredibly selfish, and there really isn’t anything changing that as long as the crown has possession of his brain. Again, Ice King is simply at his healthiest when he has people who mutually care for him, though he will never be able to completely get past his own insanity and irrational thinking. This felt like classic Ice King, even if it was incredibly jerky of him.

So yeah, this episode is a bit all over the place, but it does have its redeeming qualities. Again, I think The Pit is clearly the better episode and more plot-focused overall, but this episode at least managed to have some memorable moments. It just so happens that about half of it is mixed with mediocrity. But, I’m willing to take an episode filled with some moments of greatness rather than a fully dull episode like Box Prince. And though the epic follow-up that Play Date had suggested by its final scene ended up being mostly comedic and stress free, it still leads to a promising and enjoyable sequel.

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Favorite line: “Someone’s at the door. We have a doorbell now. We’ll get it.”