At first glance, Adventure Time looks like one of those shows that will do nothing but test your patience. But under the slightly odd advertisements lays a gem of an animated show that appeals to people of all ages and interests.
It’s a story of a boy and his dog, braving a post-apocalyptic earth that is now solely inhabited by fantastical creatures and people made of candy (yes, you read that right). Finn is the only human left, and with his dog Jake (voiced by the always great John DiMaggio), who has magical powers that not only allow him to talk, but also to shape his body into incredible shapes and sizes, they go on adventures, fight monsters, and save princesses.
So, basically every fantasy you had as a kid is played out in some form or another on this show. And that’s why it’s become such a hit for Cartoon Network. At it’s most basic form, it’s the story of two best friends just having fun. While there’s a lot more to it than that, Adventure Time is really about Finn and Jake and the crazy shenanigans they get themselves into.
One of the things that makes Adventure Time so special is because it is such a big show. It doens’t fit any one genre, it’s both sci-fi and fantasy (with a focus on the fantasy), but also occasionally straying into some deeper themes such as love, pain, violence, and humanity.
After some undefined catastrophe, Earth is now known as the Land of Ooo, and humanity has been replaced by candy people; talking, living, breathing people that just so happen to be made out of candy. Some are more human-like, such as Princess Bubblegum, and others can be as simple as a walking peppermint with a face.
Adventure Time benefits from a large cast of colorful characters, and because the focus isn’t always solely focused on Finn and Jake, nearly every character is given at least one scene to shine. Sometimes they even get entire episodes to themselves, and while these episodes can be more on the whacky side, it fits perfectly with the tone the show has set for itself.
When I was younger, my friends and I would spend hours creating an imaginary world where we could pretend to be courageous heroes who fought evil, saved beautiful princesses, and were just all around cool-guys. It’s a part of my childhood I hold very close to my heart, and part of what pushed me into pursuing creative writing. Somehow, Pendleton Ward has created a show that is everything my friends and I dreamed of as youngsters.
While Adventure Time is designed as a children’s show, it’s much more than that. It’s true some episodes are strictly filler material, designed to make kids laugh, but other times, when Ward is given free reign to do what he wants, we get stories that not only force Finn and Jake to mature, but also ask some pretty weighty questions.
The chief among these involves humanity. For a world where only one human exists, we see a lot of humanity in Ooo, and while Ward never outright asks these questions, he subtly asks the viewer to answer things such as what makes us really human, and what makes a hero heroic?
It’s true that Finn and Jake often battle villainous creatures and even demonic overlords, but one of their chief opponents is a man that is neither good nor bad. The Ice King (voiced by Tom Kenny) is a character that has taken on a life of his own, earning himself a handful of episodes focused solely on his purpose of marrying a beautiful princess.
While his actions are questionable (kidnapping does not count as a first-date sadly), his desire is relatable and even honest. All the Ice King wants is love. He’s a lonely hermit whose only friends are cutesy penguins, and all he wants is someone to love him as much he loves them.
It’s a dilemma everyone faces, and while the Ice King primarily acts as someone for Finn and Jake to beat up, he’s grown into a character that is less of a ‘bad guy’ and more of a lonely, misguided hermit with a knack for outbursts that involve freezing random people.
Even Ice King’s penguin friends, who he universally calls Gunter, are more than cute objects. We see them encourage and even support their ‘daddy’, and in a few episodes that focus on Ice King’s shockingly tragic backstory, we see that the origin of Ice King’s craziness stems from his past as an actual hero. Cue the mind-blowing.
So yes, Adventure Time is a colorful animated kids show that focuses on two funny characters doing outrageous stuff, but if you look deeper (Not Freud deep though) you can see the genius of it. For example, in the first few seasons, Finn is just a kid with a shiny sword, fighting bad guys and crushing over a girl six-years older than him. But in the last season, he finally met a girl his age, who he really liked, maybe even loved.
But there’s a catch; she’s made out of fire. He can’t stay away, no matter how painful it may be, but yet has no idea how the heck it’s going to work. Sound famliar? It should, because this is basically how every boy feels about his first real ‘crush’. This kind of maturing is rarely seen in animated kids’ shows, with the exception of The Clone Wars, and it makes Adventure Time that much better.
I can’t say enough good things about Adventure Time, I really can’t. I would say it’s my greatest guilty pleasure, but there’s no guilt going on here. It’s just good fun. The humor ranges from obviously childish to slightly suggestive, and the visuals can be either colorfully delightful, and dark and scary, making it much more than just a kids’ show.
It doesn’t confine itself to any one kind of genre, and that’s why it has one of the more diverse fan groups out there. While it definitely caters itself to a male crowd, there’s enough here for any girl, no matter how old they may be, to enjoy Adventure Time.
Ward knew this, and in one of the more ingenious ideas I’ve seen, he created an alternate universe within the show where the genders of the characters were all flopped, allowing girls to root for Fiona and Cake as well as Finn and Jake.
I hope you’re already watching Adventure Time, but if not, then I really hope I’ve at least piqued your interest with this blog. There is so much to love here, and it has a wide appeal for fans of fantasy, sci-fi, or just good animation. It’s a mathematically insane show, and I hope it stays on the air for a long, long time.