Let us take a break from all this talk of anime and turn our attention back to the west. So lets kick off with a normal list of my 10 favourite Adventure time episodes, before next week’s post in which I tear Adventure Time apart. I thought about doing a top 10, but I felt that I only have a clear number 1 favourite episode so I’ll deliver that one with a flourish whilst the rest can live on as mostly equals. So let us get stuck in. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Holly Jolly Secrets:
The only time adventure time did anything vaguely Christmassy and it serves as one of the few gabs in the earlier series to show that something interesting was going on with adventure time that far eclipsed what other cartoons at the time were doing. It focuses on Finn and Jake watching some VHS tapes they found whilst exploring and stumble across tapes that were made by Ice King before he became Ice King. What follows is a 22 minute special that humanizes a character that was previously used as punch line. Canonising the fact that his prince obsession stems from the desire and then regret he felt towards his fiancée Betty whilst his Ice Crown drove him slowly insane. It’s a stereotypical twist that in hindsight is seen coming, but, the fact that this episode was made after we were used to seeing the world of adventure time in Black and White, it begins Finn, Jakes and the shows Sympathetic treatment of the Ice King. From here they are quicker to talk him down than punch him down.
I Remember You AND Simon and Marcy:
I’m sticking these two together because whilst they are a season apart in air date they are best watched together. They both focus on the relationship between Ice King and Marceline, a pairing that has been hinted at for a very long time but always left a little on the side. I Remember You brings this into full view as Ice King visits her to get help with some music production, mistakenly using a letter he wrote to Marceline as lyrics she uses it as a chance to try to reconnect with him. It’s a poignant and Slow episode, Finn and Jake appear briefly but then are quickly shuffled off to some other place so all focus is placed on Marcy and Ice King. The song is one of my favourite from the show and is wonderfully incorporated into the development of two characters that have become increasingly multi-faceted over the shows long run time.
Simon and Marcy follows on from this episode and features one of the only episodes set in the post-apocalypse world that the world of OOO evolves from. Simon has taken Marcy under his protection acting as a father figure for her. Fearing the use of his crown but becoming increasingly dependent on it to help Marcy get over a cold. It is another touching entry in the show and forms more backstory for these two characters.
Continuing with a focus on Marceline we have the 8 part extravaganza Stakes. Focusing upon Marceline’s loss of her vampire powers thanks to Princess Bubblegum. She then gains them again after having to defeat a set of vampires she once hunted down. The song repeated throughout the whole block of episodes “Everything Stays” is about how things can be exactly the same but a different perspective can change your perception of it. Marceline chooses to lose her powers, but then gains them again in the exact same way she had first got them, finally coming to terms with who she is. It also offers a brief glimpse at presumably Marceline’s mother, where the song “Everything Stays” comes from. As I’m pretty sure I’ve said on this blog previously, Stakes is a because microcosm of everything that made Adventure Time great and is one of my go to examples for when this show proved it could be clever.
Jake the Brick:
This episode is all about taking it easy and just watching the world go by. Jake is living out his fantasy of being a brick in a rundown shed far in the wilderness and he begins narrating what he sees to Finn via walkie talkie. The whole episode is just John DiMaggio putting his David Attenborough hat on whilst Finn places Jake on the radio for the entire candy kingdom to listen to. It’s another slow episode in which not much happens but the animators have a lot of fun with it, displaying character through action not speech. It’s just nice a calm, with a beautiful sunset wrapping up the whole package.
You know what children need to learn about, existentialism and cosmicism, both schools of thought focusing on pointing out the lack of meaning in life and in the wider world. The comet brings this to full front as Finn’s believe in a natural order to things is challenged by the vast emptiness and pointlessness of space. His dad represents this with his aimless appearance in a giant moth, it goes where it pleases, not driven by anything, just that it exists. Finally a god entity turns up and offers Finn an existence as a higher being. It highlights the fact that there is no good or bad choice, just that he has a choice. He declines the offer and his father accepts. At the end of the episode Finn holds onto his believe in a cosmic order because, in the empty and pointless existence, it is up to the individual to find a meaning themselves.
And that is why I love this episode, that it teaches children this lesson, that life is sometimes crap and sometimes great, it has no meaning and that’s fine.
Frost & Fire:
When looking at Adventure Time as a whole it’s clear to viewers that Finns character growth is directly linked to him going through puberty, the show is about him growing up, the ups, the downs and the very messy bits. This episode is one of the messy bits, and I’m not going to sugar coat it or try and write around the fact. Finn has a wet dream about his girlfriend Flame Princess in this episode. Due to a lack of any context for it however, he thinks that it felt nice so goes out of his way to have it again. Costing his relationship with Flame Princess as he manipulated her into fighting Ice King. This episode truly shows how immature Finn is in things of life, but it doesn’t stigmatise him for it. It shows what would happen if a young boy had no guidance on the changes his body goes through. I’ve said it time and again, Adventure Time is possibly the most accurate representation of puberty available on television. It’s kind of fascinating.
Well that puberty has to finish somewhere and at some point, Finn slowly matures into a young man at age 16. His maturity is seen in this episode “Flute Spell” in how he deals with a possible relationship with Huntress Wizard. He spends part of the episode thinking of courting her, then realises she has someone else she’s interested in, so helps her out. At the end she reveals that whilst she is interested in him, it’s impractical for them to date due to both being to adventurous. A younger Finn would go back to his routes and mope everywhere. But his newer, more mature Finn accepts her decision and just keeps going with life.
What Was Missing? :
Now we get to an episode I can say is my third favourite. There are a handful of episodes where we see the characters deal with something so low stake it is more akin to them doing nothing. They’re wonderful character pieces and this episode is no exception. A door lord has stolen personal treasures from Finn, Jake, Marceline, BMO and Princess Bubblegum and they must sing a song to unlock it. And it is hands down one of my favourite songs of the show. “What am I to You?” features Finn questioning people’s perception of him and if they are the same to how he sees himself. As well as how personal treasures are not as precious as personal memories.
Another epidsode on this list that doesn’t feature Finn or Jake. It begins to focus on Shelby (the worm that lives in Jakes viola) and the brother he suddenly gains. Wanting to raise a good brother he imparts the simple binary mora of good and evil. And with that, the newley christened Kevin is off into the roots of the tree house and into an episode that is a condensed down fantasy epic, following his trials inside the tree that makes up Finn and Jake’s house.
And now, for my favourite episode of Adventure Time, and it is an odd one to choose
Yes, the simplistic episode about Finn and Jake playing some really nerdy card game. And from that simplicity it’s absolutely perfect. I’d do a more in depth explanation of the episode, but it really is the two of them sitting down and playing a game, the stakes are low, if non-existent and the only conflict in the episode is that Jake is both a sore loser and a sore winner with Finn having to try and placate him. As a guy bought up on board games it’s just nice to see two brothers sat down enjoying each other’s companies. It’s simple, it’s slow and it’s beautifully touching and is still, to me, the height of this show.