Let's Talk About: Adventure Time

Ah, Adventure Time. When I first started watching the show back in 2013, I knew I’d found something amazing. From the very first episode I fell in love with the land of Ooo and the majority of its inhabitants, even the Ice King, before I knew why he was crazy. The voice of the show was something I felt resonated with me and even now, three years and several seasons later, I still adore this cartoon and everything about it. Adventure Time has touched me, made me laugh, inspired me, made me cry, given me valuable advice and even changed my life a little, and that’s why I want to write about it here.

Now, the show might seem pretty simple; on the surface it’s just about a boy and his dog going on adventures, battling the bad guys and saving the princess. It might even seem stupid to some people; admittedly, there are some lowbrow jokes in Adventure Time and sure, humour is a matter of taste. But it’s so much more than that. Finn isn’t just a human boy - he’s the only human left in Ooo (for a while), with a complex psychology behind that naive exterior. Jake isn’t just a dog - he’s a talking dog with stretchy powers, endless words of wisdom and a killer talent for playing the viola. And if you’ve watched at least one episode, you’ll know that the relationship between Finn and Jake isn’t just ‘boy and dog’; they’re brothers, best friends, fellow heroes and adventurers until the end. The strength of the bond between the two is something that the show cherishes and conveys in the most wonderful of ways, from Jake’s little nuggets of guidance in episodes like ‘His Hero’, to Finn’s headstrong devotion to his brother in ‘The New Frontier’.

Of course, you can be sure that the rest of Ooo are all equally as colourful, complex and just a little bit crazy. For starters, Princess Bubblegum isn’t your typical princess; she’s an incredibly intelligent scientist, inventor and powerful ruler over the Candy Kingdom, not to mention that every single candy person was created by Bubblegum herself. Not bad for a piece of candy. We then have the Ice King, the insane and lonely ruler of the Ice Kingdom who we’ve all been able to identify with at some point. Yet, he isn’t at all what he seems. Before he was the Ice King he was charming antiquarian Simon Petrikov, who became cursed by the crown after purchasing it from a dock worker. Add his fierce protection of a young Marceline during the Mushroom War into the mix and we begin to understand and sympathise with the Ice King. Let’s not forget BMO, the adorable, sentient video-game system who loves to play make believe but can offer up sage advice and profound statements with the best of them.

There’s such a remarkable amount of characters in Adventure Time that it’d be near impossible to cover them all. What’s special about the show is that every single character is crafted with love and given a unique role. Whether it’s Lemongrab’s questionable ruling methods over his Earldom, Lumpy Space Princess’ stubborn attempt at independent life, Magic Man’s obnoxious antics or Tree Trunks’ search for a happy marriage, every part is played spectacularly well by each character. I haven’t even mentioned half of the major characters yet, not to mention any of the minor characters like the Psychic Tandem War Elephant and Abracadaniel. Add to this the various communities around Ooo, like the Box Kingdom, Cloud Kingdom and the City of Thieves and you’ve got an entire plethora of weird and wonderful, yet memorable characters and societies, all with their individual mannerisms and ways of life.

We see these characters come to life through the beautiful narratives that play out in each episode, some storylines often stretching out across several episodes or even entire seasons. Each episode brings a different character into focus, revealing more about their own unique background and with a fresh narrative that may seem more bizarre than the last, but never disappoints. The stories that Adventure Time tells are never afraid to delve into harrowing and emotive issues, as well as complex philosophical problems and they do so brilliantly, in a way that even young children are capable of understanding. Throughout the show we see Jake come to accept his inevitable demise, Finn come to terms with a deep-seated phobia of the ocean along with several heartbreaks, the suffering of an entire Earldom under a totalitarian ruler and Simon Petrikov’s gradual descent into madness as the Ice King. These issues reflect the harsher aspects of reality and are all handled with a gentle sensitivity that allows us to connect with the characters and their experiences. 

One of the most heartbreaking issues dealt with in Adventure Time occurs in both the episodes ‘Escape to the Citadel’, and ‘The Tower’, where Finn manages to find his long lost father, who, to be frank, is a huge douche. As he’s escaping Finn attempts to stop him but fails, losing his arm in the process. Consequently, we then watch Finn as he deals with the heartbreak of his father’s abandonment and the awkward adjustment he must make to living with one arm. Personally I found it hard to sit through, mostly because I understood what Finn was feeling (minus the losing an arm part). I had felt the pain that his asshole dad was causing him. Cartoons and shows become extra special when we can relate to the characters within them, and that’s partly why Adventure Time is so special to me.

If you’re still unconvinced that Adventure Time is the best cartoon of recent times, I strongly recommend that you go and watch an episode. I could talk about the show all day, but the best way to value the characters, immerse yourself in the narratives and truly understand the show’s beauty is to explore the Land of Ooo yourself. I guarantee you’ll fall in love.

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