Jul 25, 2013

[TV] Adventure Time: Season 1

As a follow-up to my review of Marceline and the Scream Queens, I decided to finally address the lack of Adventure Time related content on this blog. I thought it might be easier to just create an overall post to celebrate the show, but instead I figured it's still worth exploring each season and exploring what makes the show great.

It's hard to explain precisely what makes this show so great. It's subtle in its intelligence, quite frankly, but it's also crazily silly in a very good way. Some argue that the show's greatness is centered around nostalgia while others just find it amusing due to the sheer randomness of it all.

I doubt that I will perfectly capture what makes the show so great in a single review - and at the end of the day this will be my perspective of why I enjoy the show and not necessarily how you may enjoy it. But for most geeks that I've discussed the show with there's definitely a major consensus in favor of this algrebraic cartoon.

Synopsis: Adventure Time is an animated TV series created by Pendleton Ward as aired on Cartoon Network. The show actually began as a short on Random! Cartoons and became a viral hit before Cartoon Network picked up the show. The game draws a lot of inspiration from the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game and various classic video games.

The show is set in the magical Land of Ooo where Finn (Jeremy Shada) happens to be the last human alive. His primary companion and best friend is Jake (John DiMaggio), the magical shape-changing dog. Together they embark on various adventures in Ooo and meet a wide variety of characters along the way. Some of the main characters on the show includes Princess Bubblegum (Hynden Walch), ruler of the Candy Kingdom and quite the scientists, and Ice King (Tom Kenny), who is somewhat the villain when the show begins as he's obsessed with kidnapping princesses and force them to love him.

The show is actually structured as 11-minute episodes that are aired two at a time to fill up a standard half-hour television programming block. So that means a whole lot of awesome crammed into a rather short span of time. And take note - each episode can generally stand on its own.

The very first episode just jumps into things and it doesn't even follow typical conventions of introducing us to the characters and the world. Instead, you are forced to just keep up with the action and pick things up as you go along. And believe me, not knowing much about the world is not an immediate issue. This first episode has Finn, Princess Bubblegum and other residents of the Candy Kindom fight off a horde of candy people zombies.

But the second 11-minute episode jumps to a completely different perspective and introduces us to Lumpy Space Princess (voiced by Pendleton Ward), who accidentally gives Jake "The Lumps", which may turn him into another lumpy creature like LSP. So they have to race off to Lumpy Space and try to find a cure for him - provided LSP doesn't get too distracted by all the drama waiting for her back home.

And that's just how random the shows go - in just 11-ish minutes, Finn, Jake and the gang take us on totally different adventures in the Land of Ooo. So in that sense it does sort of feel like a gaming group going on a new dungeon quest every week. Or whatever - who can truly fully understand Adventure Time?

But beyond the feelings of nostalgia and subtle geek references woven into each episode, what truly makes Adventure Time such an amazing adventure is how it slowly builds up back story. At first everything seems like yet another random trip around Ooo, but over time you get to realize more about the world that all these adventures are taking place in. For one thing, Ooo is littered with artifacts from what appears to be human society - something that we see in the title sequence at the start of every episode. But at the same time we have to remember the fact that Finn is known to be the last human - so what happened to everyone else?

So for kids, it's yet another fun cartoon with crazy characters, zany adventures and the fun song or two to boot. But for older viewers, we are constantly bombarded with gems from our childhood and random little clues that all point to a very complex world that Ooo really is. And we further explore the mystery of Ooo in future series, albeit never directly.

Other fun characters in the show include BMO (Niki Yang), the sentient gaming console, and Marceline (Olivia Olson), the musically-incline vampire queen. I could go on and on and on naming different characters, but this is only the first season! I'll give you time to breathe.

Adventure Time is an amazing cartoon that works on so many levels despite its seeming randomness and lack of structure. It's a very subtle show in that regard and the greater meta-plot is one that you have to work for by paying attention to everything that goes on in the background and to approach each character as being important since you never know when they'll never appear. Naturally, this first season got me totally hooked on the show and rates a full 5 amazing contortions that Jake manages with his body out of a possible 5.

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