What time is it? REVIEW TIME!! And what are we reviewing? ADVENTURE TIME!! With this newest DVD collection, Adventure Time: Frost & Fire, Cartoon Network has come out with a collection of just around 3 hours of episodes, and about 5 episodes have some kind of continuity. That may sound like a jab, but trust me, the writers at Adventure Time have an amazing way of making the series as a whole much better than the sum of it’s parts. For those of you wondering what Adventure Time is to begin with, allow me to help you out from under your rock. The series follows a 12-year old boy named Finn (voiced by Jeremy Shada), and his magical, talking, stretching, shape-shifting dog, Jake (voiced by John DiMaggio) around the Land of Ooo, going on, well, adventures. The premise is super straightforward, but in it’s 6th season, these adventures have cumulated into much larger and much more complex plots affecting a range of characters and bringing the magical, mysterious Land of Ooo a whole lot closer to our world than you might think.
The first two episodes of the DVD are what the collection is named for, (Frost & Fire, and the follow up, Earth & Water) and can be viewed as a 2-parter. This introduces Finn’s latest super-powered love interest, Flame Princess (Jessica DiCicco), and since he’s kind of a big deal in the Land of Ooo, when he screws up a fling like pre-teen boys do, it’s catastrophic. The rest of the episodes are from various points in the series and some are two-parters, some are stand alone, but all of them do what Adventure Time does best: entertain while shedding a little light on this vast world.
On the surface, Adventure Time’s minimalist, child-like art style, over-saturated colors, and fabricated, ridiculous slang can make the show seem downright silly. And if you take an episode on it’s own, you won’t see anything to the contrary. In Freak City, for example, Finn is turned into a giant “good-smelling” foot, and sings an auto-tuned song to inspire other characters who’ve been tragically turned into miscellaneous body parts to rise up against their magical attacker. A giant foot, guys. Because why the hell not? But watching more and more of the show reveals a tiny bit more of the world, and the silly, juvenile characters that at first seem pretty static, begin to reveal they all have very broken, surprisingly dark, complex pasts, which just serves to further empathize with the characters.
Adventure Time: Frost & Fire also features major recurring characters like Ice King (Tom Kenny), Princess Bubblegum (Hynden Walsh), and Marceline the Vampire Queen (Olivia Olson). Plus, for the first time we get an origin story of Jake’s awesome stretching powers! —Or some version of it, as the last line of the episode suggests. In the other 2-part episode featured in the collection, Return to the Nightosphere, and Daddy’s Little Monster, we get a trip to the macabre home of Marceline, and the character designs and personalities are even more off the wall. The Nightosphere is a stark contrast to the usually bright and happy surface world of Ooo, without looking too fragmented.
Overall, whether you’re new to the series, or a seasoned veteran like me, Adventure Time: Frost & Fire is a great, eclectic collection of episodes that will entertain the younger audience with it’s weird characters and simple art style, while keeping the older viewers intrigued and interested in the larger, overwhelmingly complex plot lines that run the course of the entire series. My only wish is it came with some kind of special features. Although it’s nice to have a physical case on my DVD shelf with original box art, it basically contains 16 on-demand episodes with no other purchase incentive. Cartoon Network has given backpacks and hats away with their Adventure Time DVD collections before, which can definitely appeal to the younger audience, but what would be more rewarding for fans is visual content.
In a world where On Demand is the norm, buyers need a reason to take the extra step and own something they can’t just as easily access on their cable box. Give us storyboards, video of the voice talent recording their lines, a gallery of the title cards, early designs of characters or worlds featured on the DVD, literally anything, and trust me, with fans as devoted to this already huge franchise, there’d be more reason to take up my shelf space.
So don’t be turned off by just how ridiculous Adventure Time is on it’s surface; there’s a lot of thought that goes into the show, and the more episodes you have under your belt, the better your understanding will be of just how huge and complex the Land of Ooo is.
4/5 Giant “good-smelling” Finn feet.