Tag Archive | Somvilay Xayaphone

“The Pajama War” Review

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Original Airdate: January 8, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim

There’s been years of awkward tension surrounding Finn and PB by this point. Finn loved her, briefly moved on from her, went running back for more, and then generally distanced himself as he began to get wrapped up with other issues. The Tower showcased PB more as a therapist than as a friend to Finn, even though her efforts came from a caring place, and the two haven’t truly hungout as friends in what seems like forever. The Pajama War puts an end to any apprehension between the two and allows Finn and PB to connect through their respective periods of growth.

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The name and initial premise of the episode sounds jarringly similar to Slumber Party Panic, and while The Pajama War isn’t a direct sequel to that episode in the way that Too Old is a sequel to Too Young, there’s a couple different allusions to it. The hilarious interaction between Finn and Mr. Pig at the beginning when Finn mentions Tree Trunks’ “hot buns” is an obvious reference to his line in the first episode, and works as a mechanism to show just how much time has passed since the series premiere. Likewise, the dynamic between Finn and PB in this one really shows how much has changed in their own relationship; Finn no longer swoons over her and feels head over heels in her presence. He still loves her, but understands that there is no romantic future between the two. Likewise, PB still deeply cares for him, but no longer wants to tease him or give him false hope for such a future. So the two are casually nice and polite to each other, but don’t know exactly how to connect after so much change has occurred over time. Their interactions are clearly awkward after their failure to land a seat in “music chairs” leaves them stuck in a closet to play “7 Minutes in Heaven.” Finn has a way of politely trying to respect people’s boundaries as much as possible: he attempts to be as quiet and to mind his own business as much as possible around PB, and is even surprised when she invites him to go for a walk with her. This is once again brought up again later in Bun Bun, when Finn almost immediately leaves the Fire Kingdom until Flame Princess invites him in. After making a long chain of mistakes, Finn realizes how pushy and clingy he may have been, especially with his female comrades. That being said, he’s still very naive. He chooses the polite and respectful path, but doesn’t realize that those people he hurt still care for him and want to be his friend.

During their time together, the two mainly shoot the breeze; they go for a walk in a VR grassland, play with PB’s giant cat named Timmy, and eat edible fire. It’s pretty cool to see that Prubs has an entire secret room where she can get away from the stressors of her everyday life, though I also bet that she rarely ever uses it. Bubblegum’s whole deal is being encased in her work and barely ever having time for herself, but as of her recent decision to allow herself to take a chill pill for once, she’s allowed herself an opportunity to explore her own laidback realm with the company of her close friend. It also allows the two to open up to each other for the first time in a while. It’s kind of awesome that we have PB talking about her own revelation that she wants to relax more and allow her citizens to go about their lives as they please only an episode after The Cooler. Adventure Time usually takes its sweet time with following up on plot points, though it’s refreshing to see this element of PB’s development being referenced so soon. One thing that hasn’t been referenced in quite some time is Finn’s father, who Finn seems to have been dwelling on over time and has come to his own conclusions about Martin’s questionable behavior. As Finn states, “but, but maybe acting like daddy just isn’t what he does. Maybe my dad’s not a dad but a kid stuck in a dad’s body.” It’s a step forward for Finn to feel some form of empathy for his father, though he’s still attempting to justify Martin’s behavior. It isn’t for some time that Finn finally accepts his father for being genuinely shitty, as Finn still wants to believe that Martin is worth changing. PB and Finn are able to chat about these issues casually, as most people with a long history are. Though, in the spirit of close friends, they don’t focus on this heaviness, and get right back into having carefree fun.

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There’s also a small, but huge moment when Finn realizes the Candy People have gone completely insane. He’s hesitant to tell Bubblegum, but then shows her quickly after she asks a second time. The Finn we saw in Too Old would have totally tried to divert the attention from the video so he could spend more time with Bubblegum, but it’s clearly framed here that Finn doesn’t want to show PB because he doesn’t want her to suffer. It’s an example of Finn being much more selfless in his behavior to the princess; he doesn’t want to be dishonest with her, but he also doesn’t want to tell her anything at the expense of her own happiness. Months earlier, his primary concern would have been his own suffering, but as Breezy proved, his love and care for others is what defines Finn as a person.

As the two reflect while watching the VR sunset, they confide to each other how much they enjoyed hanging out. That’s the subtle beauty of Adventure Time; you don’t need to have PB and Finn talk about how awkward things have been and then decide to be best friends once more or something shmaltzy like that. As solid writing typically goes, The Pajama War shows, rather than tells. It shows PB and Finn bonding and rekindling their friendship, but kind of leaves things ambiguous for the future. When this episode first aired, there were a ton of people who thought it was implying that Finn and PB would eventually hook up, but the show has continued to disprove that possibility from this point on. It’s a terrific shift in dynamic for the series, and continues to showcase AT’s desire to move forward with its characters in new and exciting directions.

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And I didn’t even mention the main plot yet featuring the Candy People, which is good fun! Albeit nothing special or new, but entertaining regardless. It’s always nice to see side characters like Manfried, the suddenly very popular Colonel Candy Corn (seriously, what is it about season six and its obsession with this guy?), and Crunchy, whose introspective fascination in tyranny makes a lot more sense in hindsight. It also ties back into the allusions of Slumber Party Panic, by mainly focusing on the absurd nature of the Candy Kingdom’s citizens. It’s a great opportunity to showcase the stupidity of the Candy People, and just how easy it would be for their society to collapse without Bubblegum around. It really paints a gray picture for PBubs: as much as she wants to be chill and let her people live their lives, they’re incredibly stupid and have no shot of living a well-kept life on their own. At least she tried to have faith in them, even if it backfired. Regardless, I don’t have much to say about the A-Plot. It’s full of intermittent humorous moments, like the way Jake sadistically watches as the Candy Kingdom collapses before his eyes, but it isn’t really worth going over in great detail.

As a whole, I think this one is mostly solid. It captures the heart of PB and Finn’s developing friendship, with the Candy People providing good laughs in between. Granted, this is one I respect more than I actually enjoy on a personal level, but it’s deserving of that respect. This is probably Somvilay Xayaphone and Seo Kim’s best episode of the season (this one has Seo written all over it, with its Fubblegum centered premise and its desire to be as cute as possible), and that’s because it focuses on the growth and development of our main characters. And, as Somvilay and Seo have proven in these later seasons, that growth is something they can pull of with great results.

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Favorite line: “For a society to function, it needs rules. 1. You must drink tea with your pizza. 2. Pizza can only be eaten alone. 3. If a pizza is found in a field, you must make the next person you see holding a glass of milk eat it.”

“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?”

“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


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.”

“Box Prince” Review

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Original Airdate: October 7, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim

Well, I hope you guys like cats, because the bare essentials of Box Prince is simply that cats are silly and cute and we should laugh at them. It’s a pretty disposable episode that was born out of an already pretty empty story, that doesn’t really have any of the usual AT goodness to make it stand out on its own. And it’s quite a shame seeing as how we got really fun and energetic bits of fluff with Love Games or Time Sandwich.

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The story is about as paper thin as possible; Finn traveling to a supposed “Box Kingdom” and helping this “Box Prince” regain his status sounds like a funny idea when written down, but the idea of the entire joke of the episode being “these are just cats and nothing else” makes the entirety of the episode feel quite repetitive. The joke wore on me about five seconds in, and from that point on, it really just felt like a big waste of my time. No conflict, no actual jokes outside of the initial concept, and absolutely no investment from myself, as pretty much anyone going into this knows exactly how it’s going to end. In addition to that, I think Finn’s portrayed as a little too dumb in this one. I appreciate that he was willing to look upon the cat and take his supposed dilemma quite seriously, though I can’t really believe that he would actually take this issue seriously. Or rather, even make up this issue in his head. I would’ve liked if, at the end of the episode, Finn simply acknowledged that he was going along with it the entire time and said something along the lines of “that was a fun waste of 11 minutes,” but otherwise, I think this scenario is a bit tough to believe. Finn isn’t the brightest bulb in the shed, but he’s not flat-out dumb either.

Jake’s bit in this episode feels even less inspired. I’m not a fan of Jake when he’s merely portrayed as a lazy dick; the last episode did such a good job of showing how awesome it is when he dedicates himself to something, and especially when it’s Finn. Yet, here we see him barely even looking up at Finn and telling him to go away so he can play BMO and eat nachos in peace. Feels kind of day and night, doesn’t it? I don’t mind Jake’s laziness to a degree, but when it brings down the overall energy and pleasantness of the episode, it becomes a bit of a problem it my book. But people love his quote “if you get everything you want the minute you want it, what’s the point of living?” which is followed by a somewhat humorous montage contradicting this statement, but still, I don’t think makes Jake’s mostly detached behavior any more fun to watch. And a lot of people like to turn and say, “oh, well this is why Jake doesn’t always use his powers to get himself out of sticky situations, because he wants to deal with his problems!!” Well, if that’s the case, that’s wildly ridiculous and somewhat psychotic from Jake’s perspective; if Jake really allows himself and Finn to be put in potential danger simply because he wants to “deal with life’s problems,” that’s a little insane and I don’t really think that’s what the line was intended to imply at all. The only reason I like this subplot slightly better is because of how BMO and Jake work off of each other. It’s by no means terrific interactions, as it’s basically just BMO glaring at Jake after every single comment he makes, but it is nice to see the two of them just simply hanging out together. It’s rare we get to see such a mundane and laidback occurrence in place.

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This episode seems like one Somvilay Xayaphone and Seo Kim enjoyed doing a lot, simply because it seems like their interests are at their fullest potential. Somvilay gets to include his infamous anti-humor and Seo Kim gets to fill the episode with adorable kittens. But none of their work really strikes a chord; Somvilay’s drawings can get a giggle here and there, but his actual jokes, or in this case non-jokes, don’t really hit the mark on any level. I remember getting the pun, “na… chos,” when I first heard it, but just ended up reflecting back on it and not thinking it was that funny at all. In addition to that, the jokes don’t really work off of logic much either. Like, if the kingdom is supposedly not authentic, then why do the boxes change faces? I could see if this was used as a point to show how the kingdom was actually real, but the point by the end of the episode is that it isn’t.

I think this episode is best on a visual scale. Again, I don’t get into the actual drawings of Finn and Jake much, but the backgrounds look really nice, especially in the Box Kingdom. There’s also a moment of really nice animation when Finn is following Box Prince through the forest that particularly stuck out to me.

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But by its end, I almost completely forget what I have just watched. Box Prince ends up feeling like a waste of time, with little lasting impressions outside a few key moments. But I will say this about it: it’s nowhere near good, but it’s not particularly awful either. Yet, it’s that statement that makes it somewhat even more deplorable for me. If an episode’s good, I can go in great lengths to talk about why it’s so awesome. If an episode is bad, I can go into detail on why it doesn’t match the standard quality of AT. Box Prince is somewhere in the middle of those too, and feels more like a requirement for me to cover than something I’m actually interested in writing about. I feel bad tearing into such an inoffensive episode, but as AT has proved time and time again, it can add substance to just about any story. Box Prince, unfortunately, is not one of those stories.

Favorite line: “Floss is for losers.”

“Earth & Water” Review


Original Airdate: September 2, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Seo Kim & Somvilay Xayaphone

I have some time off next week, kids! I’m trying to get some of the lighter episodes in this bunch done since I have the available time, so I’ll most likely be covering from Time Sandwich to Red Starved. So expect somewhat daily reviews within the next week. Until then, we have Earth & Water! An episode that takes a breather from Finn’s perspective of the break-up to focus some much needed time on Flame Princess’s perspective, and we get some interesting insights, but a lot of it feels more like plot setup rather than interesting character study.

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First off, I do enjoy how this episode kind of establishes Finn and FP’s break up as AT’s first truly serialized arc. These past three episodes have focused heavily on the fallout of the relationship between Finn and Flame Princess, and the motif of Finn’s guilt and sadness would carry over heavily throughout the the second half of season five, and even into season six. Overall, I think it works pretty successfully; I know a lot people would go on to complain about how Adventure Time became too focused on “relationship bullshit,” but I don’t mind it because it’s not presented badly. The relationship drama of these characters never feels like the focal point, the focal point is always how the break up has affected themselves and their individual identities. And here, Finn is clearly still sad, and I’m glad his sadness isn’t glanced over so quickly. Of course, the next two episodes don’t touch on these issues at all; they’re about an ultimate sandwich and Finn’s past lives respectively. Yet, the sadness shown by Finn works as an in depth look at how he deals with these issues. When he’s sitting around idly as Jake continues to beat him in video games, he’s more prone to fall into depressive territory. As he gets distracted later on by battling snow-a-constrictors, he acknowledges that it helped him get his mind off of his worries. So whether it’s fighting snow beasts, helping his friend rescue his perfect sandwich, or discovering a part of himself he never knew existed, Finn is able to cope with his problems when he’s faced with something that consumes his time. When he isn’t, he’s destined to face his sorrow and continue to feel bad for himself, which consistently happens in Earth & Water when he’s faced with the fact that he hasn’t yet come to terms with his errors. Enter Ice King.

Ice King’s moments are brief and thin, but are still a lot of fun. This also establishes Ice King’s big move into Finn and Jake’s Treehouse, which is a shamefully under-focused subplot, though it does lead to to some fun comedic opportunities in the future.

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The main focus of the episode, as I mentioned, is how FP is dealing with the break-up, with bits and pieces of PB goodness sprinkled throughout the episode. Starting off by talking about the relationship between the two seems most appropriate, as the budding conflict between PB and FP is actually one of my favorite dynamics in the series. The butting of heads between PB and Marcy is clearly the more mainstream and popular conflict, but I enjoy how PB and FP’s issues with each other stems from an entirely different basis. PB simply cares for her kingdom and the wellbeing of her people; she’s terrified of the idea of Flame Princess because of her unbalanced nature. So much so that she legitimately considers cutting off FP’s emotions entirely just to assure protection of her kingdom. Though, it doesn’t come off completely cruel or irrational. Bonnie likely realizes that Flame Princess isn’t only a threat to the Candy Kingdom, but also to herself. FP’s instability nearly led to her burning out in Burning Low, and as it does show in some portions of the episode, PB certainly does care about Flame Princess to an extent. Second, PB’s disconnection from her own emotions has proven quasi-effective for herself; though it’s helped her to focus on her own work, she doesn’t yet realize the damaging effect it also has on her own identity. So it’s quite likely that she simply believes that FP being cut off from her emotions could prove to be beneficial for both of them.

FP’s depiction in this one is poignant; I don’t think her turmoil is explored as well as it could have been, as this is really the only episode that actually focuses on how she feels in regards to her break-up with Finn, and it’s only elaborated on for a brief span of six minutes, if that. Yet, I do like what we get. I enjoy how she’s totally willing to just eliminate her emotions completely, it really shows how big of an impact Finn’s douchery had on FP, and that his lack of an apology early on has likely led to much stress and dismay for her in the long run. And of course, the main issue at hand that I think is really valid and understandable: Flame Princess is sick of being lied to and deceived. After dealing with Finn’s secretive desires, PB’s plotting and shady experimenting, and the long running Shakespeare-ish and deceptive nature of the Fire Kingdom, her pain is well-defined, and made even stronger by the flashback sequence of her early years.

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The flashback works great as a brief bit of exposition that gives just the right amount of Flame Princess’s past history. I enjoy how the tone of it is mostly kept light as well; plenty of AT’s main cast have a tragic backstory they carry with them, and while FP’s definitely borders on tragedy, it’s told with a humorous edge that mostly focuses on the absurdity of Flame King’s mindset and just how destructive an infant FP could be. It’s a shame because, with a better father, Flame Princess may have been able to control her elemental nature, though FK never got to take the time to know or educate his daughter. He casted off his daughter based on some nonsensical prophecy (which then became self-fulfilled) and chose his own selfish deceit over everything. The flashback sequence is filled with great tidbits; I love the random Messenger from the Fire Kingdom who gets really attached to baby FP, that was both hilarious and also kind of sad. There’s also the inclusion of PB that shows a much kinder side to help round out her questionable behavior in scenes prior. We already learned that PB was the reason behind Flame Princess being kept in captivity, but here, it’s much more reasonable and rational. Bubblegum didn’t “have her locked up,” as it was simply a result of Flame King choosing to be a poor father figure. I’m glad this was included as a way of showing that PB does care to some extent (she’s probably known Flame Princess longer than she’s known Finn, which is also an interesting tidbit), and also works as another way of making the viewer ask “just how old is this bitch?!” Assuming Finn and Flame Princess are around the same age, it’s also pretty cool to see that Finn is around 15-years-old at this point. From Mystery Train to The Comet, we never get a clear timeline of Finn’s age, so it’s nice that little bits like these are included so that it does give us a good idea about how much time has passed.

My disdain for Cinnamon Bun aside, I actually do like his inclusion as FP’s pal in this episode. They actually work off of each other pretty well; CB himself is genuinely pretty cute and nice as opposed to being loud and obnoxious, and this initiates his new role as Flame Princess’s knight that I think really adds to his character. I’ll take competent, badass Cinnamon Bun over braindead, pain-in-the-butt CB any day.

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By the episode’s end, Finn finally does get to apologize to Flame Princess – or, in this case, the new Fire King – and she accepts it, though she does not take Finn back as her boyfriend. Although, she still wants to be friends, as long as Finn is completely honest with her from now on. Finn obliges, though it’s made much clearer later on that Finn was not ready to make such a promise. It’ll take him some time to learn that simply saying something and acting on it are two different things, and it will be long before he finally does commit to being completely honest with his ex-girlfriend.

As is, this episode is decent. I think it has some really good bits, especially the flashback sequence, but as I mentioned, it feels much more like setup than interesting plot exploration. We’re introduced to Ice King moving in with the boys, Flame Princess ruling over the Fire Kingdom, and Cinnamon Bun departing his comfortable home in the Candy Kingdom. All are interesting in their own right, but as mentioned, I would have liked a bit more focus into Flame Princess’s psyche. The past two episodes have been terrific when it has come to diving deeper into the depths of Finn’s character, and this conclusion to the Finn/FP break-up trilogy is just somewhat standard. Also, there’s some bits that don’t really work. Finn and PB attempting to get into the Fire Kingdom using brute force doesn’t really add anything to the episode. It’s mildly amusing, but just sort of meanders from the legitimately intriguing parts that we visited earlier. Overall, a decent contribution to the ongoing saga of Finn and Flame Princess’s fallout, but there are plenty more interesting episodes that focus on this issue to come!

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On a final note, this is the first episode co-boarded and written by Somvilay Xayaphone and Seo Kim. While Kim in particular isn’t one of my favorite staff members, I attribute a lot of praise to her because I feel as though she really helps round out Somvilay Xayaphone’s writing style throughout the remainder of the series, and Xayaphone’s episodes get gradually better from this point on. Emphasis on gradually, however.

Favorite line: “Sorry, I’m on edge ’cause I’m worried that Jerry here will find out I’m dating his sister.”