This week, Adventure Time takes us all on a field trip to teach us about the food chain! Spoilers occur.
Right from the first second of this episode, you should know something is up. Our intro doesn't look quite right. Not only is there a (very enthusiastic) man singing our theme song, but the actual images on screen are a bit...
...different. There's a reason for that. This episode is by a guest creator. The last time I can think of where this happened was "A Glitch is a Glitch," which is a horrendous episode, salvaged only by the fact that it's only ten minutes long, and is followed by one of the best of the series. Much like "A Glitch is a Glitch," this episode is animated in a different style.
Our guest creator this time around is Masaaki Yuasa, and I'm sure this is probably tantamount to blasphemy to some, but I'm not familiar with his work outside of this episode. I glanced at his Wikipedia page, and I don't recognize anything he's worked on as something I've watched. I'm really not that into anime, I like it a lot, but, for example, I'm only now getting into Evangelion.
Anyway, without going into this with too much bias, I'm just going to throw out that I've known about this guest episode coming for a while, and Cartoon Network even released the first few minutes several weeks ago, which I watched, and wasn't incredibly impressed with. As such, I went into this expecting the worst, another "A Glitch is a Glitch" scenario.
We open on the Candy Kingdom's Museum of Natural History. Finn and Jake are there, along with what appears to be a group of preschoolers/elementary school kids, for a field trip being taught by Princess Bubblegum. As Finn and Jake watch the young kids play caterpillar, eating giant leaves made out of candy, and discuss whether leaves would be tasty or not if you were a "boid," (I don't know why, but I really love the way Jake says "boid"), we see a familiar face in the background.
That's right, Magic Man is there. I'm sure this couldn't possibly lead to anything strange happening.
Now, you can't really tell it from these still images, but the difference in animation is definitely noteworthy here. There's a certain stationary quality to Finn and Jake's movements here, along with what seems to me to be a slightly brighter color palette. It also uses weird, low angles a lot of the time during movement, which gives things a very strange, off-putting feel here. It's what put me off to this episode when I watched the first few minutes which were released early. In contrast to what comes a few minutes later though, well... Let's continue.
Princess Bubblegum teaches a very bored group of kids about the food chain, how the caterpillar eats the plant, then the bird eats the caterpillar, then the big bird eats the small bird, before dying and decomposing, which sprouts a new plant, which the caterpillar eats. It's called the circle of life, Simba.
"No way I'm eating a bug's butt!" Finn says, clearly still unclear on the point of the food chain in the first place. As Finn tells Jake that the food chain doesn't matter, we see Magic Man behind the two of them, and as he flashes with magic, something strange begins to happen.
"Hey, have you noticed we're birds now?" Jake says after a brief (but delightful) musical interlude. Aww, I wanted to hear him say "boids" again.
This is where the animation in this episode starts to shine. It's very fluid and loose, but in a completely different way from how Adventure Time's animation is usually fluid and loose. It's here where I started enjoying this episode, and it only gets stranger as it continues.
Finn and Jake fly down to an oasis in the middle of a desert, to find caterpillars to eat. Finn's stuffed himself with caterpillars, and can barely move. Of course, at that moment, a predator appears. Finn can't get away in time, but just before the larger bird snatches him, Magic Man changes Finn once again, this time into the larger bird.
Finn flies back over to Jake, but because he's now a predator to Jake, he can only see him as a (literal) piece of meat. He begins (disgustingly) drooling. "Hey, why don't you take a seat in my mouth?" "Why? That's weird." "It's ok, it's ok, just give it a try! It's a new experience, right?" My personal favorite line of the episode.
Jake escapes just before Finn eats him, and after telling him off, flies away. Since Finn can't find any food, he loses the strength to fly, and falls to the ground, dying. Time for another change, methinks.
As bacteria, Finn eats his own former corpse (,,,weird sentence,) as Jake looks onward mildly disgusted. After decomposing the corpse, the bacteria are blown on the wind, and Finn and Jake become flowers.
Of course, the only thing that makes sense to put here is a bizarre psuedo-slow-motion song about how flowers perceive time differently, as Finn and Jake are slowly eaten by caterpillars, only to be saved by the small birds they were before, their saviors. They even use some of the same animation, which is a nice touch. It's a weird touch, but a nice one.
You can probably see where this is going, before long Finn and Jake become caterpillars.
The two of them are struggling through the hot desert, searching for food and water. The background here moves in a strange way which reminds me of the witches labyrinth from Madoka Magica, and I need to make every effort I can to reference Madoka Magica. Actually, this is the second week in a row Adventure Time has reminded me of Madoka, weird.
Before long the two of them come across a new, female caterpillar named Erin, and Finn immediately falls in love. I really, really feel like this Erin character's voice actress is significant somehow, because it feels really out of place, but I don't know what the significance is.
Before long, Finn, Jake, and Erin come across the very same oasis, eating plants (the very same plants Finn and Jake were just moments ago) to their hearts content. Before long, Finn and Erin decide to get married. I expected this to hold some greater significance, but no, as soon as they get married, the birds come across the oasis, and we see the same scene again, but this time from the perspective of the caterpillars. It is a slaughter.
As Finn and Erin fly through the air, just before being eaten, Magic Man changes Finn and Jake back to normal, leaving only Finn with his memories of the experience. Weird.
All right, let's end it with a song, why not?
I can honestly say I don't think a big Broadway finale is something Adventure Time has done before. Good to see it's keeping it fresh.
Finally, Finn, now a food chain guru of sorts, hovers in the space in front of the kids from the start, wise beyond his years (actually, he's like what, fifteen now? So wise for about ten years younger than he actually is) about the food chain.
The kids are less than impressed, as they run off to play, and the episode ends with the very same shots it began with. That's some straight up Dark-Soulsian type stuff right there, Adventure Time.
This was a really stellar episode. I really, really liked it, and after last week's episode was good only with the qualifier of also making me really uncomfortable, this kind of weird bombastic fun episode was just what the show needed.
The animation is, of course, killer, but I also want to note that the music in this episode is really top notch, not just the songs (although those are really great), but the background music. It fit the tone the episode was going for really well.
I know that Adventure Time is ostensibly a kid's show, but let's be real, last week's episode featured at the very least LSP sexually assaulting Finn, this show belongs on Adult Swim, and in my opinion it always has. However, this episode here managed to capture a spirit which I've never felt Adventure Time has had. If Adventure Time were really a show targeted at children, this is the kind of show it would be, and that is by no means a bad thing.
(Note: This was originally posted to whereinirant.com, my personal site. Check it out for similar content.)