Adventure Time Seasons 1 – 5 Box Set
Studio: Frederator Studios
Publisher: Madman Entertainment
Format: DVD (reviewed) / Blu-ray
Release Date: November 4, 2015
Price: DVD $129.95 AUD – Available Here / Blu-ray $149.95 AUD – Available Here
Finn the Human lives with his best friend Jake the Dog in an elaborate tree house in the land of Ooo. They also live with a sentient robot called BMO. Finn and Jake have many other friends as well. To name just a few, they include Tree Trunks, an elephant who bakes the best apple pie in the world, Marceline, a 1,000 year old vampire, and Lady Rainicorn, Jake’s girlfriend. Finn and Jake live close to the Candy Kingdom, a place where everything is made of candy, including the ground, the buildings and even its citizens. It is ruled by Princess Bubblegum, a person who frequently employs the help of the more-than-willing Finn. Finn and Jake’s main nemesis is the Ice King. There are several other princesses living in Ooo who often fall victim to the Ice King’s plans. Most of these plans involve him kidnapping one or more princesses with the intention of forcing them to marry him, but he never succeeds. Finn and Jake spend most of their time stopping the Ice King, performing other heroic deeds and playing video games.
Adventure Time is the kind of series you could show to just about anyone. It takes a little while for the creative team to work out exactly what kind of series it is, but it is entertaining right from the very beginning regardless of that. It features many types of humour that will appeal to different people. Those who appreciate visual humour will find the ridiculous faces that the characters make, the bizarre and unique characters who live in Ooo and the crazy action found in many episodes to be entertaining. Toilet humour is often present too. It is not overused to the point of being annoying, but it does make the show seem as if it is more for children and teenagers than for more mature people. The humour can be rather clever at times; it is unfortunate that there is much less of a reliance on such comedy than there is on simple jokes. There are occasional references to various elements of real world popular culture, but these references are not overused and are generally parodic.
If a person were to randomly watch an episode without having any background knowledge of the series, they might have a small chance of understanding what is going on, although perhaps not why any of it is happening. All of the main characters are present from the beginning, including Finn the Human, Jake the Dog and Princess Bubblegum. Those three characters are not introduced in the show itself. However, some recurring characters are given at least one full episode in which they are introduced to Finn and Jake, such as the Flame Princess, the Ice King and Marceline. Throughout these five seasons, many characters have flashbacks to their pasts. Few minor recurring characters get flashbacks, but although some characters’ personalities are established from the beginning, others evolve as the series progresses. The number of recurring characters is relatively small at first, but the cast gradually grows to the point where half of a season could be spent with familiar recurring characters. Therefore, watching the episodes in order without skipping a single one is vital to understanding the events of many episodes, but by no means all of them. Much of the show may be comprised of bizarre randomness, but many episodes have a moral point to make. Some of these episodes may be useful for children, some may be beneficial for teenagers and some may even be valuable for parents. There are times when the series almost delves into educational territory, but for the most part, it generally focuses on the personal growth of the main characters or on the characters just having fun.
The main characters are based on familiar archetypes. Finn is a typical hero character, but he is also depicted as being like a normal human. He loves playing video games, and his taste in food resembles that of a typical child in western society. He eventually goes through a period of character development when he is forced to deal with the romantic feelings he harbours in his heart. Jake does not grow very often, but his relationship with Lady Rainicorn and the major event that occurs in their lives later on will make his character more relatable to some, even if only for a few episodes. Princess Bubblegum may get kidnapped from time to time, just like princesses often do in both western culture and in popular Japanese video games, but she is more three dimensional than most other princesses in popular culture. In a way, she may actually be one of the wackiest and most devious characters in the series. She has a tendency to conduct experiments involving the animation of inanimate objects or reanimating the dead, making her reminiscent of Doctor Frankenstein. Even the Ice King has character development. He does return to his old ways immediately after the first exposition about his past, but there are more and more moments after that when his character is depicted sympathetically.
The series features more and more emotional elements as the series progresses. Many characters have deep emotional sides and are often forced to deal with reality checks; they are not perfect and are prone to making mistakes. These moments, and the flashbacks to the characters’ pasts, make it possible to understand why characters are who they are and why they do what they do. Episodes featuring Marceline are typically much more emotional than others, and her past is brought up several times. Emotions are also a fundamental element of episodes featuring the Flame Princess, whom Finn defends time and time again over the course of several episodes. He aims to prove that love will prevail and that just about any challenge can be overcome with strength, willpower and confidence. Many episodes end ambiguously, often with the characters facing another, impossible challenge. Nonetheless, it is often rewarding to see every episode through to the end. Some ambiguous plot points return in later episodes, but this series is rarely about conclusions. It is about fun and adventure, and it succeeds in delivering both of those elements. Anyone seeking answers will likely have to watch at least a dozen episodes or more before having even a single question answered. There are some episodes which are meant to be more-or-less standalone, such as the gender-swap episodes featuring Fionna and Cake. These episodes are not significant to the series in any way, but they do allow for a different kind of storytelling and for important themes to be discussed.
With more episodes directly referencing or following on from earlier episodes, the amount of comedy featured decreases noticeably. The series still has plenty of humourous moments, but this decrease results in the series almost becoming more like a typical Cartoon Network series; one about action and wackyness that is mainly for children and young teenagers. There are still plenty of things that will fly over the head of anyone not mature enough to understand certain things, but the adventure part of the series eventually ends up taking precedence for the majority of each season, with most of the rest of the episodes dealing with feelings and romance in surprisingly delicate ways.
Cartoon Network’s animated series are immediately identifiable by their use of flash animation and their simple character designs. These series are typically well animated, with a lot of detail going into the backgrounds and a lot of effort being put into the animation. These episodes often give the impression that even more effort has gone into the production of Adventure Time than with most other western animated series. The character designs are all unique and the backgrounds are highly detailed. Perhaps the most noteworthy feature of the animation is that it is consistent.
Given the nature of the series, things can get a little bizarre at times. The main characters often make odd faces that are reminiscent of the ‘troll’ faces that used to appear all over the internet. The visuals become a little gross and even disturbing at times, but older children and teenagers will likely be comfortable watching this series. One of the most surprising things about this series is its multiple attempts at using different and possibly unique animation styles. This series has always made a point of being different to other shows out there, and those unique episodes help make it stand out even more.
The background music is mostly average for a Cartoon Network series. It is not memorable, but neither is it bad. Some of it is decent, but for the most part it is simply there, nothing more. What do stand out are the voice actors. Finn’s voice often sounds like it is on the verge of breaking, and Jake sometimes speaks with a deeper voice, but the performances are all perfect for the characters. One of the best things about this series is that many of the voice actors have multiple roles, meaning that multiple recurring characters can be brought back in the same episode. There is still room for guest voice roles, however, and fans of the two most famous North American sci-fi franchises will immediately recognise some of the guest stars that appear throughout these five seasons. Other famous people also have guest roles in some episodes as well.
There are several extras included on the second disc of the first season. The first is a behind-the-scenes featurette filmed by series creator Pendleton Ward, which takes all of a minute to become downright bizarre. The second is a behind-the-scenes of the behind-the-scenes featurette, which is also strange. A mini-documentary entitled “Adventure Time Music with Casey & Tim” is next on this disc. This feature provides an insight into the music creation process, but it will spoil some episodes from later seasons, as will many of the extras on later discs. Episode commentaries and animatics with commentaries are included, as is a music video for the series, the “Finndemonium Montage!” commercial for Cartoon Network’s broadcast of the series and a short animated scene called “The Wand”. The first three extras are extremely strange and do not seem as if they were meant to be included as extras with the first season set, while the rest are brief but entertaining distractions. The second season set features commentaries and a short video featuring Pendleton Ward behind a camera briefly interviewing various people who work on the series. The third season set again features commentaries, and also includes a video featuring Pendleton Ward and two of the major creative minds who work on the show discussing what makes the series so popular. The fourth season set includes new commentaries and a feature titled “Distant Bands: The Music of Adventure Time”. This feature provides an insight into the music production for the series, and is one of the more interesting extras featured on any sets in this box set. Part 1 of the fifth season comes with animatic clips and the “Adventure Time Forever” featurette. More animatic clips are included with the second half of season five. A physical bonus is also included in the final set; the music sheet for “Lemonhope’s Got Feet” is contained within the disc case.
Adventure Time is a great series that has a broad demographic thanks to its use of a variety of different types of comedy and the themes it explores. It lends itself to marathon viewing sessions, but it is recommended to take a break every hour or so for multiple reasons. This box set contains 156 episodes in total, and there are dozens and dozens of episodes yet to be released on home video. The quality remains consistent throughout, with the visuals and audio in particular not once decreasing in quality. Attempts are occasionally made to do something different, such as setting an episode primarily in an 8-bit video game, and these experimental episodes provide an entertaining diversion from the usual style of crazy and colourful animation. Rarely is any western animated series this fantastic, engaging and unique.
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