In case I have not said it enough, Adventure Time may very well be the best show on television right now. While I have been watching the series on television since somewhere in the second season, I have not really had the chance to watch the entire series from the beginning until the season 1 DVD set was released last year. But now, we have the chance to watch the series in glorious high-definition thanks to Time Warner releasing the first two seasons of Adventure Time on Blu-ray and boy is it mathematical!
Now, if you are new to Adventure Time, here's a quick elevator pitch for all of you who have been living under a rock since 2010: a human boy (Finn) and his best friend, a dog with magical stretchy powers (Jake), live in the land of Ooo, fight monsters and be all-around heroes while staying best buds. Most of the first season is used to set the characters and universe of the series up for the viewers. But don't take that as a negative comment. Season One has some of the series' best remembered episodes. Episode 1.02, “Trouble in Lumpy Space” introduces us to one of the best secondary characters of the series, Lumpy Space Princess, who is voiced by none other than series creator Pendleton Ward. But the third episode – “Prisoners of Love” – gives us the series' best anti-hero, the Ice King. Not only do we get him doing what he will be known to do for the rest of the series – stealing princesses – but we even get him as the sad Ice King who really just wants to be loved…or even liked.
As the season continues, the series shares much more about the land of Ooo, what it was before and what happened to make such a strange place for the last human boy to live in. One of my personal favorite episodes is 1.16, “Ocean of Fear”, where the boys go down in a mini-submarine and we see what lies on the ocean floor. The best part of the series is that none of the story and rarely any dialogue ever discusses what the world was like before Ooo, what happened to all the humans and how these creatures were formed. That story is all told visually in the minor details, which makes Adventure Time one of the best series for both kids and adults to watch. Pen Ward's hidden story of Ooo is one of the best fictions on television today and this is a series of eleven-minute cartoons marketed to children.
But while I love the first season for all its magnificence, Season Two manages to top it with a high number of quality episodes, including my personal favorite episode (which was also nominated for an Emmy in 2011), “It Came From the Nightosphere”. In this episode – written by Adam Muto and Rebecca Sugar – Finn heads over to Marceline's to help her record her new song, which is about her father eating her fries when she was a child. Long story short, we meet Marceline's father (ruler of the Nightosphere) who begins consuming the souls of everyone in Ooo until Marceline and Finn stop him. I don't want to give anything away for those of you who haven't jumped into the series yet, but this episode features what I can only describe as the only time a cartoon has ever made me tear. For realsies, folks!
You also get episodes like “Her Parents” (2.09), the season ending two-parter (“Mortal Folly”, 2.25, and “Mortal Recoil”, 2.26), “Susan Strong” (2.18, which features a possible other human in Ooo) and “Belly of the Beast” (2.21) with Andy Samberg as a party-loving bear. The season ends with the introducing the series' real bad guy, the guy that the great Billy defeated oh-so many years ago, The Lich, who reappears a few times later in the series. What the second season does best is show how much story can ooze out of this series of mini-sodes. The Adventure Time team makes sure the series goes in new directions with each episode and the audience will never get bored or feel they have seen this done elsewhere. Adventure Time feels like it comes straight out of the '90s golden era of animated television series, where the networks and creators aren't afraid to not please everyone watching. But, with that said, if you're watching it, you'll be hard-pressed to find something you can't connect with. It's The Legend of Zelda mixed with Tiny Toon Adventures and a splash of Jonny Quest a.k.a. the Gen-Y wet dream cocktail.
First off, thanks to Blu-ray, Adventure Time is finally in HD just as it is originally broadcast! While I enjoyed my first season DVD, the lossless audio and crystal clear images are so pretty on an HDTV. DVD just cannot do this show justice. But all the special features have carried over from the DVD set – the “Behind the Scenes” featurette, the “Behind the Behind the Scenes” featurette, animatics, commentary on four episodes, et al. The only thing that I was saddened with on the disc was the lack of Blu-ray-exclusive special features; just something for those of us who already went out and got the first season when it was released last year. That said, the “Behind the Scenes” featurette is one of the strangest and best mini-documentaries that I have seen for a television series. The “Behind the Behind the Scenes” featurette was surely justified, folks.
The Season Two set, while not having animatics and only one featurette, has commentary on each and every episode! That's right, guys: Pen Ward and many of the writing and storyboard artists discuss the series on all 26 episodes. As a fan of The Simpsons DVDs, this is a most welcome inclusion on the set and makes it very much worth your hard-earned dolla-dolla bills, y'all. If this continues for the rest of the season releases, I will be pre-ordering each set without fail.
THE WHOLE SHEBANG
Look, if you like the series, there's a whole lot of reason for you to pick these babies up (see everything said above). If you have yet to watch the series, the Blu-ray sets are the best way to experience them for all you firsties (see previous parenthetical). Even the box design on both sets features the series' irreverent humor, but you only get to see that when you have the chance to open one. So, if you needed one more reason to pick these sets up, there is always that. As for the rest of you, why are you still reading this review? If Adventure Time will teach you anything, it is that all time is better spent in the land of Ooo.
Pop culture geek Nick Boisson lives in front of his computer, where he is Section Editor of Comics Bulletin's video game appendage and shares his slushily obsessive love of video games, comics, television and film with the Internet masses. In the physical realm, he just moved to Austin, Texas and is trying to figure out just how many times it is possible to go to the Alamo Drafthouse theatres without seeming too weird.