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Adventure Time? More Like Mad Denture Crime! - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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January 27th, 2013


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11:00 pm - Adventure Time? More Like Mad Denture Crime!
On the surface, Adventure Time looks like an incredibly silly children's show. It's about a boy (Finn the Human) and a dog (Jake the Dog) having adventures fighting bizarre monsters and disregarding all laws of physics and anatomy. There's someone called the Ice King who goes around stealing princesses. The main female character is named Princess Bubblegum, for crying out loud. It sounds pretty stupid, but it sure does seem to be popular with a certain demographic, and it's not eight-year-olds.

Adventure Time is not a cartoon for kids that is also for adults. It is a cartoon for adults that is also for kids, and therein lies its genius.

The show takes place in the colorful Land of Ooo. Everything is happy and bright and there's a Candy Kingdom and people are made of candy and this is awesome, right? Well, take a glance at the very first shot of the opening credits and pay attention to stray bits of dialogue and flashbacks, and you realize that this magical land is actually a post-apocalyptic world. There is not a huge amount of worldbuilding, but it's there, and it's always intriguing.

This complexity extends to the characters as well. Finn is a hero who loves helping people, but he can't help everyone. Jake may put up a lazy gadabout exterior, but he takes his responsibility for Finn seriously. Princess Bubblegum engages in mad science but must also consider what is best for her subjects. The Ice King has a nasty habit of kidnapping princesses, but it's just because he's insecure and lonely. Marceline is a vampire bassist, but she also has daddy issues. Lumpy Space Princess knows that she's so lumping hot, but she wants her parents to accept her. It's hard to imagine, but these characters are actually more three-dimensional than they look.

I love Adventure Time for many reasons. I love that Finn genuinely likes helping people, that the main character of the show has an unsullied, pure heart. I love that Jake has stretchy powers that are used more creatively than I have ever seen (Mr. Fantastic ain't got nothing on him). I love that Princess Bubblegum is a scientist princess, showing young girls that being a strong, intelligent woman and being a pretty pink princess are not mutually exclusive. I love BMO, the cutest little video game machine you ever did see.

I love...I love that I am finding it impossible to write a coherent review of this show because it is so delightfully incoherent. But that is a lie. Everything in Adventure Time makes sense in that world. It can be very surreal at times, as if the writers are just slapping together a stream-of-consciousness sequence of events, but with few exceptions, I don't think that's the case (some episodes are weird even for this show). They've created a world where a talking peppermint can coexist with a Hot Dog Princess, where a lemonheaded tyrant can coexist with a saucy, pie-baking elephant, where Lumpy Space Princess...exists. And they're able to do it in tightly written ten-minute episodes. I never knew you could tell such great stories in ten minutes! The episodes don't feel rushed at all; they actually have time to breathe. It's pretty impressive. And although the show isn't very serial at all, it does introduce more and more serial elements as it goes on, which makes it even better.

One of my favorite things about Adventure Time is its use of language. There is a certain hipster sensibility to it—hence my assertion that it is actually targeted to an older audience, despite being perfectly appropriate for and enjoyable to children—that can sometimes feel a little grating, but I love how natural all the invented slang is. "What the math?" is an actual thing people say. This is a show where Finn shouts, "YOUTH CULTURE FOREVER!!!" and it's goddamn hilarious and appropriate. Although most of his exclamations are just brilliant nonsense. The whole show displays a very playful outlook on language and makes the most ridiculous combination of words and/or syllables sound perfect. Not to mention the times when it just has characters spout Dadaist koans we imbue with our own meaning.

Thankfully, the voice actors perform all this nonsense with great aplomb. I was particularly impressed with Finn's voice actor, who manages to not only find different ways of shrieking as a battle cry but also make it endearing rather than annoying. The show also attracts a lot of great guest voices, from Weird Al to George Takei. Plus, many of the cast sing, and Adventure Time has some very catchy, entertaining songs, some of them rather emotional.

Emotional? Oh yes. Anyone recommending Adventure Time these days is basically required to provide the following warning: this show will destroy all your feelings. It doesn't seem like it would. And, no, most episodes are just hilarious good times. But every now and then, it will surprise you with unexpected emotional devastation. Also, warning you won't help you. I thought I was prepared but I wasn't. THERE WERE TEARS.

I could write so much more about why I love various episodes of Adventure Time and how much I love nearly all the characters, but I didn't know much at all about the show going in, and I've probably already said too much. It's a bit uneven at first, but it then it really hits its stride, and then seasons three and four are really good. Season five has been great so far! It's okay if you're still skeptical after this review, but I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at how much this show has to offer.

In conclusion, this surprisingly smart show is truly obsessed with butts.
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Current Music: Laika - Sugar Daddy

(19 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


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From:loopychew
Date:January 28th, 2013 02:48 pm (UTC)
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Oh God I've been putting this one off forever. (Then again, I still haven't started Season 3 of Archer yet, either.)
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From:lenadances
Date:January 28th, 2013 06:09 pm (UTC)
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Oh hell yes. The recent ep with Jake and Rainicorn's puppies had me and my husband pointing at the screen and going "YES. THAT IS IT. THAT IS EXACTLY HOW NEW PARENTHOOD IS, ONLY WITH A SWORD." And BMO's noir detective adventure episodes is beyond awesome. And the Ice King's genderswapped fan fiction that may be MORE AWESOME than their regular world! And the unexpected and devastating connection between the Ice King and Marceline! And. Just. EVERYTHING.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:January 28th, 2013 06:15 pm (UTC)
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YES. ALL OF THAT.
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From:adaptation
Date:January 28th, 2013 06:50 pm (UTC)
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I watched the first two episodes for a psych paper I was writing last semester, but never got farther than that, just because it was the end of the semester and my brain was full of learning

I must have done pretty well on the paper, because I ended up getting a decent grade in the class. I totally spaced on picking the paper up, though, and I'm sure the prof has tossed it in the bin by now.
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From:thetheatremouse
Date:January 29th, 2013 03:30 am (UTC)
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This was recommended to be a year or so ago and I have tried a couple of times to get into it, with minimal success. Maybe I need to start at the beginning? I'm all afraid of missing out on awesomeness ever since what happened with ATLA.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:January 29th, 2013 04:09 am (UTC)
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Maybe you watched some weaker episodes? You don't really have to start at the beginning, although I always advise that. It's the end of season two where the show really starts introducing more serial elements, but even the first episode of season two, "It Came from the Nightosphere," is a big character development episode for Marceline. So you kind of never know when an episode is going to be frivolous or meaningful, but it's usually going to be fun. It did take me a while to get totally into it, but I was glad I stuck with it.
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From:thetheatremouse
Date:January 30th, 2013 04:05 am (UTC)
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The first one I saw was the one with... the wiggler? I think that's what it was called. I also watched a second, which I now can't remember in enough detail to describe. But I will give it another shot. I'll try three in a row and see if I get snagged.

Edited at 2013-01-30 04:06 am (UTC)
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From:spectralbovine
Date:January 30th, 2013 04:41 am (UTC)
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Oh, "The Jiggler" isn't one of my favorites. Didn't do too much for me. There are many better episodes.
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From:thetheatremouse
Date:February 27th, 2013 03:17 am (UTC)
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Okay, I've watched 8 more now. I'm assuming they're the 8 most recent since they were On Demand on my TV.

I'm still not, say, completely enthralled, but I am wanting to see more. Fionna and Cake was a highlight...but it's possible I was swayed by Actors-I-Enjoy Singing! The musical theatre nerd in me is not afraid to admit that possible bias.
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From:shamoogity
Date:January 31st, 2013 12:27 am (UTC)
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I don't have any specific comments, but I just wanted to say I LOVE your TV reviews. You articulate so many of thoughts that I couldn't explain myself. Maybe you are the ~voice of a generation~ (a generation of Internet nerds like me at least).
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From:spectralbovine
Date:January 31st, 2013 12:31 am (UTC)
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Aw, thanks. I really appreciate that, especially now that LJ is dead and no one comments anymore. I feel like my reviews aren't ever as good as I hope they'll be, but I'm glad they're somewhat articulate and convincing at times.
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From:shamoogity
Date:January 31st, 2013 02:49 am (UTC)
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I have been having a lot of nostalgia re the golden days of LJ lately. Maybe because I've been excited about TV lately. It's also just the community though. I know everyone's got twitter and tumblr and all nowadays, but it's just not the same.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:February 1st, 2013 02:38 pm (UTC)
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I don't even understand how Tumblr works! How does anyone have a real discussion? You reply to people's posts on your own Tumblr where everyone can see it and everyone is just reblogging things but there is no centralized place where everyone is talking about one thing? I don't get it.
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From:sisterjune
Date:February 2nd, 2013 01:59 pm (UTC)
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well you can send asks to people sometimes anon as well and also if you reply or make a post you can tag people so they see what you wrote to them and also if you check the notes of a post you made or post you reblogged you can see responses. people do have discussions but it was definitely easier and neater with livejournal. (also there is a reply feature for some posts and it'll show up in the person's notes as well but only if its an original post ofc)
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From:shamoogity
Date:February 10th, 2013 02:33 am (UTC)
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Late reply, but I don't get tumblr at all either. Or Twitter to be honest. I think I've gotten old.
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From:sisterjune
Date:February 2nd, 2013 02:05 pm (UTC)
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this is late but i just remembered to check my flist again after forever. glad you wrote this! I love adventure time so so much and everything you said was correct. tbh this is the kind of show that's made for me cause i love colorful and creative worlds and animation. its both really fun, really imaginative and at times really moving. i even like the stupid nonsensical episodes that dont have any actual point to them. also the adventures! i thought it looked interesting from the start but i hesitated cause i assumed it was just finn and his dog was gonna really dumb in a boring almost dudebro type way but i was SO WRONG! and there's lots of funny and interesting lady characters. I love that bubblegum is a mad scientist and marceline is a punk rocker lol and oh man LSP XD and the show has so many quotable lines too. I lost count of the times I immitated earl of lemongrab's UNACCEPTABLLEEEEEEE and HUNDRED YEARS DUNGEON when something upsetting happens XD or saying MATHEMATICAL! when i'm excited/happy XD the language is creative and fun. esp for me who makes up dumb phrases or used really old outdated ones all the time. ok i'll stop. that was a wordy one. i dont know many adv time fans sadly. some on my (tumblr) dash watch it but they dont blog about it much so :(
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From:spectralbovine
Date:February 5th, 2013 12:43 am (UTC)
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Really. Um, I'm tearing up right now just thinking about it.

It's hitting Netflix Instant next month! Or you can watch it here.
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