Adventure Time is one of those shows that has been popping up on my radar for a while now from a range of unexpected sources. Ostensibly a kids show, I kept seeing praise on twitter especially from comic writers, as well as mates in my day to day life telling me how good it was. So I decided to check out Season 1 to see if the hype is justified.
It is. The series follows Finn the Human and Jake the Dog as they search out eclectic adventures in the land of Oo. The vibe is hyperkinetic, assaulting you with a delightful and disparate range of stories, characters, colours, songs, themes and fable-like messages to ponder. Likewise, the sense of humour is both great and varied. Everything from fart jokes to more incisive material undermining storytelling tradition, gender roles and even prison policy takes centre stage. But the overarching theme of the humour is that there isn’t really one, it’s all very scattershot and warped. As with all the best TV for kids, or at least with some intention of attaching young viewers, there are numerous lessons being taught here. Gratefully though they are genuine and perhaps the least twee sketching of the nature of good vs. evil I have seen. At the core of this, from which all the randomness spews out of, is the relationship between Finn and Jake. It’s a tops ‘best friends’ dynamic that feels exceptionally real to life and as such I could see a lot of kids getting a lot from that vision.
On the surface, the major trait of the visual style is big, bold and simple. That stuff is great, but dig a little deeper and the creativity only deepens, with the ol fashioned film title cards and classic filmmaking shots weaved in. Often the voice acting on kids shows is a bit of an afterthought, slapped on as bland as possible so as to not distract from the pretty pictures. Not so with Adventure Time where each character’s unique persona is conveyed more through their voice than anything else. They also have the ability to reduce my wife to a crying fit of laughter, as evidenced by basically the entire first episode featuring Lumpy Space Princess. Actually my minimal, and rather selfish, criticism of the show mainly consists of the fact that LSP is absent for a long stretch of the season. Though on a more objective level, I think that does feed into a rather flat section through the middle of the series where a lack of focus on the delight of the vast number of supporting characters results in a slight dip in enjoyment levels. Throw Princess Bubblegum in there too as a character that goes missing for long stretches, her strong female leadership character and level of geekiness is missed as much as LSP’s over the top hilarity.
Verdict: This is such a unique show compared to what was around when I was a kid, which makes me happy that the current media environment allows creativity like this to be not only made, but widely seen. It is hilarious, with a distinct depth to the adventure that will charm viewers of all ages. Oh and also, the ‘one shot’ behind the scenes featurette on the DVD (well at least the Aussie Madman release) is my favourite extra ever. Pint of Kilkenny