Tag Archive | TV

“Lady Rainicorn of the Crystal Dimension” Review

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Original Airdate: April 16, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Graham Falk

Before we start, I wanted to make a brief announcement. By next summer, this blog will be wrapping up, as I move into the final few seasons. I should have a schedule out at some point for the remaining 50-or-so episodes and when their respective reviews will be posted. Not sure about post-blog content yet, but I am starting up a podcast reviewing animated programs in general that I’m particularly psyched about! I’m sharing this because I have an open application for anyone who might be interested in co-hosting with myself. If you’re interested in applying, feel free to do so and you might have the chance to work with a huge dork like myself! The application will be open until the first week in December, so I’ll keep advertising on the blog until then. On with the review!

It’s easy to see why Lady Rainicorn is the virtually the most ignored main character in the series. Like so many other unintelligible or foreign characters from other miscellaneous TV programs (Kenny from South Park, Coco from Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, Boomhauer from King of the Hill, etc.), Lady is difficult to incorporate into main stories because a majority of AT’s audience, including the characters themselves, do not understand Lady’s Korean (or whatever language she speaks in dubbed versions) dialect. Lady’s native tongue is primarily what makes her interesting and unique, but while the other prominent characters begin to develop and change throughout the series, Lady and the other unintelligible characters I mentioned tend to generally lose focus, as the initial charm of their character cannot compete with the changes surrounding them. That being said, I do love Lady as a character. As unique as her voice is on its own, I actually think that she possesses a more intriguing trait that ties into my fondness for her: she’s perhaps the most normal and mature character in the series. It’s odd to say that when referring to a sentient rainbow unicorn, but it’s the truth; while the main cast is either enjoyably goofy (Jake, LSP, BMO) or filled to the brim with baggage (Princess Bubblegum, Marceline) or somewhere in between (Finn, Ice King), Lady proves to be the most laid back in her behavior and the most stable when it comes to her emotions. Now, that doesn’t mean she has no problems, as seen in this episode, but she’s matured to the point where she’s confident enough to tackle her issues head on and dismiss them accordingly. And we see her do just that in this episode, where she not only confronts her hateful past boyfriend, but her past in general.

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It’s important to note that this is the first episode in the series to use subtitles to translate Lady’s dialogue (among others) to the audience. I’m kind of half and half about this decision; on the one hand, I feel like part of the charm regarding Lady also contributed to the fact that the audience was never spoon-fed when it came to trying to decipher exactly what Lady is saying, whether it be theorized guesses, or just working off of body language and tone. On the other hand, I’m… not entirely sure this episode would work without them? It’s hard to say, because I want to claim that I’d be able to get through this one fine without subtitles, but I’ll never truly know because I’ll never have the option to do so. So, ultimately I feel as though it was a fully necessary decision, but one that I will always feel a bit iffy about just because I generally feel like it takes away part of the fun about Lady’s character. The only other issue I have with the subtitles actually doesn’t apply anymore; when this episode first aired, the giant fucking Cartoon Network logo took up half of the screen and covered parts of the dialogue, which was hella distracting. Luckily, DVD and digital releases mean I no longer have to complain about this minor inconvenience anymore! On the whole, it is really cool that a majority of the dialogue in this episode is spoken in Korean. I don’t know how well the younger kiddos are into reading written dialogue, but I still think it’s cool for the sensibilities of non-Korean speaking lads to be challenged by watching an entire 11 minute block of Korean speech. That’s also implying that any younger kids actually watched this episode, what with the fact that CN completely gave up on advertising by this point in time, which led to record-low ratings for this episode, but I digress.

While this episode is somewhat intended to be a Lady-focused episode, T.V. takes just as much spotlight when he essentially lures Lee in, LR’s former boyfriend, and instigates the main conflict of the episode. While I do enjoy this one overall, I think this is the episode that made T.V. go from a pup that I just didn’t care much for, to my least favorite of his siblings. He really has no motivation in the entire episode, and merely is there to, as I mentioned, drive the conflict forward and to be as selfish and lazy as possible. A lot of people would argue that Kim Kil Whan is more unlikable because of his actions in Ocarina, but I think that Kim Kil Whan is at least a less hollow character. KKW is certainly harsh in his actions, though he’s driven by his desires to ensure that his father leads a worthwhile life (in his eyes, at least), while T.V. is simply driven by his desire to do whatever he wants and to mooch off of the people who treat him better than he deserves to be treated, and he still gets rewarded by the end of the episode. It really reminds me of all the Lumpy Space Princess episodes where she acts like an absolute asshole to others and suffers no repercussions. Just leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. 

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Thankfully, the other two main characters of this episode are much more enjoyable. I think Lee is a particularly interesting villain with a unique voice (he’s actually portrayed by former storyboard artist Bert Youn, awesome!). I like how Lee isn’t necessarily one-dimensional in his bigotry, as he’s more so seeking socio-economic security, rather than being racist for the sake of being racist. Lee wants to root for whoever’s on top, whether that means demeaning those different from him, or going against his own species as a result. But he isn’t just a straightforward villain, and he’s actually quite charming, for the most part. This especially factors into how Lady and Lee ended up together to begin with. While Lee is obviously rebellious and close-minded, it seems like he actually treated Lady well, for the most part. He was seemingly kind, loving, and even intended on keeping her away from his more elaborate plans to harm dog-kind. Of course, he’s clearly shown to be manipulative when Lady does find out, and likely cares more about his rank within the Crystal Dimension more than he actually cares for her. It really does ring true to me that toxic people are typically the most charming individuals you come across: they’re funny, down to have a good time, and bring with them loads of energy and immediate social gratification. It isn’t until later that the charm begins to fade and the true ugliness of these beings begins to show, in which Lady gradually picks up on as she spends time with Lee. That’s the other factor regarding toxic people: those who surround them are sometimes the nicest souls out there, but easily impressionable and ignorant to seeing the cons of humanity. Their entire backstory is told successfully through the use Lady’s easily seen progression and the clear implication that prejudice following the Rainicorn-Dog Wars still exists in the mainstream.

There’s a lot of really neat subtext regarding the post-Rainicorn-Dog Wars world. It’s very clear that, while prejudice is still rampant, there are means of progression in terms of some citizens. It’s clear that the native language of rainicorns is Korean, while dogs primarily speak English. Bob and Ethel (who make their triumphant return!) use translators, likely because they want to adapt to the changing society and to communicate with other dogs around them. While other characters like Roy speak in English entirely… which is strange, because he seems to be on board with Lee’s whole plan, but it could also mean that he too is tired of conforming to the standards that society has pushed onto him. I’m just glad that Fred Stoller got to provide his talents for the show. And I just noticed that their names are Lee and Roy. Leroy. Hm.

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Keeping in tradition with the rest of this episode, this one just looks awesome. Crystals Have Power previously introduced us to a considerably less interesting Crystal Dimension, but this one is awesome. I love the combination of bleak, subdued backgrounds, coupled with the bright and colorful crystals that surround them. There’s so many locations and backdrops that were specially made for this episode; background designers Andy Ristaino and Chris Tsirgiotis really put in all of their effort to ensure that the Crystal Dimension feels big and expansive, and they truly made something beautiful in the process. Not to mention, it allowed for them to have as much fun with making everything as crystallized as possible. Even the clouds are crystals! Aside from backgrounds, this episode has a keen sense of character design to it as well. It is so clearly Graham Falk’s work, and that fact really shines through when looking at all of the different dog designs that he drew up. I too love that he made a valiant effort to divert from making all of the dogs look too similar to Jake, but also made it apparent that he didn’t want to make them too different either. Falk’s zany sense of humor is also apparent as always, but most prominent when Lady merely uses a newspaper to wade off the opposition of Lee’s dog guards. That had me in stitches.

One main criticism I have about this one is that I don’t really like how it ends. Aside from the T.V. aspect I mentioned earlier, I feel like the crystallized sandwich has no real payoff. I guess it is somewhat of a humorous tie-in to Jake’s love of sandwiches, and that dogs in general have some special kind affection for the food item in general, but I just don’t really get how it works and why it consumed Lee, but not T.V. And the way T.V. saves the day by simply placing the sandwich back in the box is really lame. I feel like Graham Falk wrote in this aspect to merely drive the conflict of the episode, but didn’t really have anywhere to go with it from there. It really feels like a rushed and barely thought out conclusion.

But, in general, I think Lady Rainicorn of the Crystal Dimension is nice. I don’t think it’s particularly great, but after seven seasons, it’s entirely necessary for Lady to have this type of star role for an episode. It’s an interesting exploration of her backstory, and the backstory of the Crystal Dimension in general, with silly gags and animation scattered throughout. It has its issues story and character-wise, but it’s one that provides for a strong exploration of one of AT’s most mysterious characters.

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Favorite line: “Prayer works!”

“The Diary” Review

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Original Airdate: February 26, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Jillian Tamaki

T.V. is likely my personal least favorite of the pups. I don’t have any personal gripes against him, I just think he’s the least interesting out of his four siblings. Even Kim Kil Whan, who was a bit of an asshole in his debut episode, at least has a thoroughly compelling connection to his father. T.V. has neither that nor a very diverse personality; he’s a lazy homebody, and even when done right, these characters are never truly fun to be around in my opinion. Jake is partially lazy, though his character isn’t limited to his laziness: he’s caring, compassionate, and funny. T.V., on the other hand, is mostly limited to his lack of enthusiasm about practically everything and his ultimate desire to be unproductive, which makes his character feel quite hollow and dull in comparison to all of these other well-fleshed out characters in the Land of Ooo. Now, that rant aside, I actually think that The Diary is a really good way to make use of his character. It uses his desire to get invested in whatever escapist fantasy is most convenient to him quite nicely, and makes for a decent character study on how much one should invest their time into the lives and drama of others. Also, this is one that’s straight up beautiful. It was solo-boarded by Jillian Tamaki, who assisted Jesse Moynihan with Astral Plane, and her emphasis on cinematic moments and serene artistry help to really make this episode shine on a visual perspective.

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My feelings in the first paragraph mostly represent how T.V. goes through little development following subsequent appearances after this episode, but I think his character, at least in this episode, is expanded on in somewhat interesting ways. The beginning sequence that features him playing video game clearly elaborates on his feelings and overall insecurities; his choice to “run away” from the dragon, rather than fighting it, could represent his own “fight or flight” response to dealing with his own anxieties and fears. It’s nice to see that Lady, despite being a caring and fair mother, knows her limitations when allowing T.V. to go about his adult life in an unconventional ways. It’s also crazy to think that this is Lady’s ONLY major appearance in season six, and it’s limited down to only a few scenes and lines of dialogue. Lady’s practically an afterthought by this point in time, but it at least makes sense since she is the only character the audience can’t directly understand. Quite a shame though, because I do like her character a lot, but her nature and being limits herself to only a few brief appearances per season. But I digress; Jake’s attitude towards his son is also quite fitting, seeing as how T.V. does embody a part of Jake’s self. And even though Jake’s view of his son isn’t necessarily responsible and he probably shouldn’t encourage such behavior, it is sweet to see him approve of his son regardless of his lack of productivity. I’m sure many people could jump on the fact that this support probably makes Jake an even worse father, but he does begin to recognize when things in T.V.’s life go awry later on, and does at least assist him along the way. It’s a good bonding experience for the two.

T.V. anti-social behavior is presented well in brief instances, such as his quick transportation away from the kind old man who merely wanted to say hello. T.V. doesn’t seek excitement or satisfaction in reality, as he would rather be consumed by his own intriguing fantasy worlds and realms that can help him to escape from his failure to connect to the real world. It isn’t until T.V. comes across the journal of “B.P.” (of whom I swore was going to be Breakfast Princess when this episode first aired) that he begins to get invested in the real-life struggles of an anonymous teenage, which eventually become twisted into more fantastical opportunities to place himself into and project imaginary realities. It’s cool to see just how enthralled T.V. is by the life of this one random Candy Person, and also how it likely strikes him as unique from any type of fantastical experience he has had in the past. This story is tied to real life people, relationships, and situations. It’s no wonder that T.V. does eventually get sucked in to the point where he begins to confuse his own reality with that of B.P.’s life. T.V. is all about playing different characters and taking on new identities, to the point where he doesn’t even have his own life experiences and characteristics to even know himself. His experience as B.P. is his way of living vicariously through others, as well as giving him a sense of purpose in life.

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As I mentioned, probably the strongest aspect of this episode is its use of visual storytelling. Not only is it chock full of different backgrounds, per usual, but it also utilizes great attention to detail that helps it to truly shine. I love those scenes right after T.V. finds the journal and begins to roam around in the changing environment. As the day goes from afternoon, to evening, to night, the shadings and colors the reflect T.V. are really quite beautiful. There’s also some terrific shots that feature nature just being nature as B.P.’s voice is heard reading the journal in a very poetic way, like the squirrel who attempts to get T.V.’s attention and the heart shaped rose petals that land on top of T.V. That’s Alia Shawkat voicing B.P., who later would go on to voice Jake’s daughter Charlie, and Shawkat does a great job of carrying out B.P.’s writings with complete sincerity and in a compelling, tense way. Also, the way her writings and drawings begin to materialize on screen as T.V. continues reading is also a visual treat, and helps to add energy to the actual backgrounds even when nothing particularly eye-catching is going on. Along with Evergreen and Jake the Brick, The Diary is yet another season six episode that makes use of its artistry in the best possible way. After all, if you’re gonna pull off these really deep, poetic themes and messages, why not make the episode look as great as possible to go along with said beauty? Aside from beauty, the episode does touch on surrealism in its visuals as well. T.V.’s roleplaying journey into B.P.’s life is the perfect visual representation of the literal existential rollercoaster that T.V. has gotten himself into, and his line “you don’t know me, nobody knows me!” could be his attempt to get into character, or he may be touching on his own real life issues as well. It’s tense, entertaining, and captivating.

While I think the scenery and the atmosphere are certainly the strongest aspects of this one, the episode does have a decent mystery that certainly kept my attention on the first viewing, and still has me generally intrigued even after knowing the ending. It kind of reminds me of the bunny plot from Jake the Brick; the identity and mystery behind B.P. isn’t really inherently interesting, but it’s made to feel like something that’s genuinely worth finding out because of how much the characters care about it. And it isn’t till Jake finds his son in utter deterioration that he begins to get behind the mystery as well. I thought it was quite sweet to actually see Jake try to help his son see the mystery through, though again, not sure how great of a parent this actually makes him. I think on a parental level, it’s summed up quite nicely by how Lady rolls her eyes and simply chooses to ignore the situation, rather than to invest her time in their dilemma. It’s both hilarious, and kind of paints a picture on their views of responsibilities. Though the show never fails at making Jake likable and caring, even when his role as a good dad is in question.

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The writing itself doesn’t provide for many jokes or funny gags, but like most episodes from this season, it seems like it’s more interested in telling an enticing story, rather than trying to completely amuse the audience. There’s subtle moments, like the grass guy from the flea market who narrates the backstory of his music box. It comes off as both kind of poignant and even quite funny, as he begins to recall literally everything about who bought the actual box.

It probably goes without saying that I think the character of B.P. herself is quite enjoyable and kind of cute. I like how she’s written to embody the life of a teenage girl, but without being completely stuck up and egotistical. Her quirks are emphasized more than anything, and she parallels T.V.’s obsessions quite nicely. She too begins to center her life around the entire identity of a single person, that being Justin, and shuts herself off from society because of him (also, I like the fact that T.V. and B.P. both share names based on acronyms). It’s a simple, but neat little tale about teenage infatuation, and leads to her final monologue, which is once again presented with great visual flare and some solid voice work.

You know when you’re little and the future feels really far away? You don’t know what it looks like, you just hope you’ll have stuff figured out by then. You’ll know exactly how to act, and feel. You’ll have conquered all your fears, and you’ll never feel dumb or uncomfortable. You don’t think about how you’ll actually get there. The middle parts, between now and then, the middle parts suck. Which is why I split, I guess. Okay, so riding out your teen years in a cave is pretty dramatic, but do you know how much reading you get done in a cave? I even figured out a cure for my crab hand! Oh Justin, I hope you’re not too upset. And I hope you didn’t spend too much money on that birthday present. It wouldn’t have worked out between us anyway. You’re kind of clingy.”

The ending of her speech is a hilarious subversion of what we already know about B.P.’s character, but the rest of it comes off as some insightful stuff. And it comes as a notion that nobody is really prepared for the issues that face them in the real world. Growing into those teen and early adult years pose as the most confusing, because nobody wants to accept exactly how difficult life truly is. That’s why T.V. refuses to live his own life at least, and finds joy and solace through masking his struggles with the power of fantasy. Facing the real world means facing issues that often times don’t have solutions, and some that truly do suck, but T.V., like B.P., has his own unique way of struggling through said problems. Whether or not these methods are actually orthodox and reasonable is certainly in question, and the episode doesn’t stray away from such queries. Though B.P. proves to move on to live a successful life, powering through those sucky middle parts the only way she knew how to.

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And I never in a million years thought we would’ve gotten an episode dedicated to the backstory of Nurse Poundcake, but here we are! It’s amazing how resilient Adventure Time is in adding depth to some of the most unimportant and obscure characters in the Land of Ooo, and how it actually kind of works. Nurse Poundcake’s story is one of success and triumph after long periods of fear and doubt, proving that all those struggles as a young adult are generally meaningless, as life continues to progress forward. T.V. may not be able to live his life through B.P.’s eyes anymore, though he’s hopefully left with the idea that even through his sucky young adult life, there’s still an opportunity for him to progress forward and have an impact on the world. Or maybe he’ll just continue to mooch off of his mom forever, as he’s later seen doing. Ah well!

The Diary makes for a decent story and character study, but I think it’s really just another great example of Adventure Time using the art form of animation to its strongest extent. It doesn’t skip a single beat in trying to create spectacular visuals to surround an overtly poetic story. Granted, I think there’s a lot of other season six episodes with better stories, but this one is really solid based on its atmosphere and tone alone. That’s not to say the plot isn’t good, as it still stands as relatively intriguing from beginning to end. I think the mystery element is a bit squandered in subsequent viewings, considering that it can’t really surprise me anymore, but it isn’t really supposed to be the big draw of the episode to begin with. The Diary is a somewhat stressful tale about the act of living through others, but one that is carried out with an enlightening message on life and supported through sheer eye-candy. No pun intended.

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Favorite line: “Son?” “Mom?” “Close enough.”