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Adventure Time is back with 26 of its best episodes, all neatly packaged in this new season three set. Instead of running the season down with short little episode-by-episode blurbs, I’ve decided to break down seven (eight?) of my personal favourites. Full plot descriptions are included, so I suppose concerned readers should look out for spoilers.

 Adventure Time: Season 3

Episode 2: Morituri Te Salutamus


Finn (Jeremy Shada) & Jake (John DiMaggio) wander into an arena where they are dared to battle the Fight King’s gladiator ghosts. It is, of course, a trap and they are forced to continue fighting to earn their freedom. Jake is not particularly amused, so he creates a ‘dirt dummy Jake’ and he decides to dig for lava while Finn continues fighting the wailing warriors. The Fight King’s curse appears to inspire Finn’s bloodlust, but it’s all a ruse to free the trapped spirits. Morituri Te Salutamus has a lot in common with various episodes of Genndy Tartakovsky’s similarly surrealistic Samurai Jack, specifically Jack and the Smackback, where he is forced to do battle in a Thunderdome-like arena, and Jack and the Lava Monster, where he fights an ancient warrior who is cursed to stay alive until a worthy warrior can kill him in combat. I adore the way these episodes retell classic myths in a quirky, modern fashion without being gimmicky or preachy.

Episode 5: Too Young


In what probably should have been the season’s first episode, Princess Bubblegum’s (Hynden Walch, Isabella Acres as a child) near-death after being possessed by the Lich (Ron Perlman) has left her diminished in size and, apparently, age. The good news is that she is now the same age as Finn, making her a more appropriate love interest. The bad news is that the screeching terror known as the Earl of Lemongrab (Justin Roiland) will become the default leader of Ooo until she comes of age. Despite enjoying her time with Finn (they pull pranks on Lemongrab, hoping it will make him leave), the princess uses her scientific knowledge to make herself 18 again (which is amusing, since the series’ lore puts her closer to hundreds of years old). It’s all very cute and silly, of course, but Too Young stands apart, because Bubblegum must reject Finn romantically when she grows up again. This opposes the ‘happily ever after’ message children are usually spoon fed by their entertainment. The resolution also isn’t a total return to status quo and the pain of rejection actually turns into an ongoing issue for Finn – one Jake then helps him through in the episodes that follow.

 Adventure Time: Season 3

Episode 6: The Monster


Lumpy Space Princess (Pendleton Ward) is high among Adventure Time’s most ridiculous characters, but her exaggerated valley girl personality is also the source of the shows most honest comedy. I believe most of us have an LSP in our lives – someone who means well, but is just too self-obsessed to not make themselves the center of every situation. The spoiled child of wealth, LSP ran away from home some time during season two and is trying to live off the land. Worried, her parents ask Finn & Jake to find her and bring her sandwiches. They are waylaid when tiny villagers tell them that a scary monster is eating all of their crops. Soon, the boys discover that Lumpy Space Princess is the monster. She tells them the story of her escape from Lumpy Space and her trials in the woods, where a family of wolves rescued her. But, LSP’s penchant for CW-like drama eventually makes her an outcast among the wolves (either that or the wolves are just hungry) and she starts a racket where she dresses like a monster to steal crops. Eventually, the villagers corner her and, in her grandest moment of asininity, LSP asks ‘Why don’t you just get your parents to buy you more crops?,’ only to realize that the villagers are adults. Touched, she gives them her sandwiches and returns home.

Episode 9: Fionna and Cake


Fionna and Cake is a silly, gimmicky episode that is entirely worth it for the punch line. Without any warning or back-story, all of Ooo’s residents are gender-swapped and voiced by a mini-cavalcade of celebrity favourites, including Madeleine Martin (as Fionna the human), Roz Ryan (as Cake the cat), and Neil Patrick Harris (as Prince Gumball). Some of the jokes are amusing (Lady Rainicorn’s gender-swap equivalent, Lord Monochromicorn speaks in Morse Code) and there’s a cute musical break, but the entire episode feels off. The story is devoted to Fionna and Prince Gumball’s date and everything goes according to overplayed romantic tropes (gender-swapping aside). Then, when the story approaches its inevitable climax, it’s revealed that the whole thing was the Ice King’s awkward fan-fiction, which he is reading to Finn & Jake – a captive audience, trapped in ice.

 Adventure Time: Season 3

Episode 10: What Was Missing


Finn, Jake, BMO (Niki Yang), Marceline (Olivia Olson), and Bubblegum all have valuable personal items stolen by a rogue ‘Door Lord’ (a mumbling man-creature that has the power to jump from location to location instantaneously with the help of portable doors). They chase the thief, but are stopped by a giant door that requires a song to be opened. While conceiving said song, long gestating personal conflicts are brought to light and arguments begin. What Was Missing is a good representation of Adventure Time’s ability to sentimentally thrive without losing its oddball edge. The song that eventually binds the friends together (‘Best Friends in the World’) is quintessentially Adventure Time-esque – the lyrics sound as if they were genuinely made up on the spot and the music is created by an unlikely assortment of instruments, including an electric bass, a modified Game Boy, and a viola.

Some viewers apparently decided that Marceline and Bubblegum’s unspecified past relationship was a romantic one, which stirred some controversy. Though I welcome and support any semblance of a same-sex relationship in a children’s cartoon, the episode itself seems to be in reference to a typical falling out between high school aged girls in the real world. Marceline is a classic social outcast and Bubblegum is a classic popular girl , so I assume they were childhood friends (Marceline and Bubblegum are established as two of the oldest characters in Ooo) that toke different paths in their teen years and resenting each other for it. The evidence of this kind of reconciliation is similarly important to young minds that are perhaps approaching the age when personalities begin to clash. Co-writer Rebecca Sugar herself has stated that What Was Missing is about the power of honesty and Adventure Time can always be counted on for expressing common emotional themes, like the aging process, with plenty of honesty (see also: Too Young).

 Adventure Time: Season 3

Episode 17: Thank You


Adventure Time is an indomitably adorable show, but some episodes are so cute they even defy those already astronomical expectations. Thank You is stomach-turningly precious. Just the cutest damn thing you can imagine. It’s also one of the show’s most simplistically moving episodes, a fact not lost on Cartoon Network, who made it the season’s official Annie Award and Primetime Emmys entry. They even aired the episode in theaters to ensure it was eligible for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film (it was not nominated in the end). Thank You is generally dialogue-free (aside from brief, unrelated scenes of Finn & Jake fighting with the Ice King over stolen sandwiches) and a testament to the power of purely visual storytelling. The story told concerns the unlikely friendship of a lone snow golem (a giant, living snowman) and a firewolf puppy (a dog-like creature made of fire and lava). It is a beautifully simple, well-told parable about natural enemies overcoming their essential instincts. The snow golem’s physicality, which can change shape and size depending on temperature or amounts of snow, gives the animators an excuse to flex their creative muscles as well.

Episodes 19 & 20: Holly Jolly Secrets


Season two revealed that the Ice King’s (Tom Kenny) apparent villainy was fueled by his overbearing loneliness. Well, that and his overwhelming insanity. With the real evil of characters like the Lich now established, Ice King becomes nothing more than a pathetic nuisance for our heroes. Holly Jolly Secrets supplies fans a heartbreaking glance at his tragic back-story and teaches the young ones a valuable lesson about judgment without hammering them over the head with it. It all starts as a typical, sad Ice King story. Finn & Jake start watching a series of VHS diaries that supposedly contain Ice King’s darkest secrets. At first, they appear to have no vital information, only footage of Ice King working out or crying, but, eventually, they stumble upon older footage of an antiquarian of ancient artefacts named Simon Petrikov, who relates his story. Sometime before the Mushroom Wars, Simon acquired a magical crown that, when worn, scrambles his mind and unleashes special ice-themed powers. As time passes, Simon’s body temperature drops, his nose grows to a point, he begins to grow a thick white beard, and his girlfriend (his ‘princess’) leaves him in frustration. He dips deeper into insanity and slowly turns into the Ice King. The episode adds another layer of poignancy by ensuring the modern Ice King, himself, sees the footage, but his mind is too far gone to understand what he is seeing. Finn & Jake are moved and arrange to call a truce and watch videos with Ice King (and an assortment of other characters) once every year (thus creating a reason for Christmas in the post-Christianity land of Ooo). This all leads into an even more moving series of stories involving Simon and Marceline that start cropping up in season four.

 Adventure Time: Season 3

Video


Remember when they only released Adventure Time on gritty, gross, pixilated DVDs and those releases only included a handful of random episodes? Remember how excited we (the adult fans that probably invest too much in this children’s show) were when we heard Cartoon Network was finally announced that they were releasing full season sets on Blu-ray? Remember how disappointed we were when we realized they were cramming twenty-six 11-minute episodes onto a single disc? Remember when you actually saw those discs and realized that 286 minutes wasn’t an excessive amount of material for a 50GB Blu-ray disc? Yeah, nothing has changed but the episodes, themselves. Season 3 is once again presented in 1080p, 1.78:1 HD and, once again, all 26 episodes have been crammed onto a 50GB. The image quality matches those season 2 and 3 collections, including solid, simple shapes, sharp edges, vivid colours, and strong element separation. I might be looking too hard for issues where there aren’t any, but I think I noticed some minor inconsistencies from episode to episode. For instance, darker episodes that include more murky colour palettes, like Morituri Te Salutamus, have more prominent banding effects and slightly thicker edge haloes. Holly Jolly Secrets Part I also features some significantly stronger banding effects, specifically over the end credits. In other words, there’s really no reason to complain.

 Adventure Time: Season 3

Audio


So, the good news is that the video quality more or less matches the previous two collections. The bad news is that the audio quality also matches those collections. That means that we’re stuck with another lossy (192kbps) Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, despite the fact that Adventure Time airs in 5.1 and is available in 5.1 on both Netflix and iTunes. All of the fan complaints clearly fell on deaf ears and it is very, very disappointing. Assuming you aren’t terribly concerned with the sound designer’s efforts, I suppose there’s not a lot of reason to complain – the dialogue is clear, the effects are clean and relatively well-spread over the stereo speakers (the glow of the happy door in What Was Missing has a nice, underlying warmth), and Casey James Basichis & Tim Kiefer’s music sounds fine without the LFE influence. A bummer, but not a deal-breaker, I guess.

 Adventure Time: Season 3

Extras


Every episode on the collection includes a commentary track. The participants include:
  • Episodes 1-8, 17, with creator Pendleton Ward, series writer Kent Osborne, storyboard artist/creative director/writer Cole Sanchez, storyboard artist/writer Somvilay Xayaphone, writer/songwriter Rebecca Sugar, storyboard artist/writer Jesse Moynihan, and storyboard artist/writer/character designer Tom Herpich.
  • Episodes 9 & 10, 14-16, 19-22, and 24-26 with Ward, Osborne, Sugar, Moynihan, Xayaphone, Herpich, and co-producer/storyboard artist/writer/creative director Adam Muto.
  • Episode 11 with Ward, Osborne, Sugar, Sanchez, Herpich, and storyboard artist/writer Bert Youn.
  • Episodes 12-13 with Ward, Osborne, Sugar, Moynihan, and Herpich.
  • Episode 18, 23 with Ward, Osborne, Sugar, Sanchez, Xayaphone, Herpich, and Youn.

The disc also features an alternative intro by Screen Novelties (the opening titles done in Legos, :40, HD), and How an Idea Becomes Adventure Time (7:40, HD), a behind-the-scenes look at the writing process with Ward, Muto, and Osborne.

 Adventure Time: Season 3

Overall


Adventure Time’s third season would be a series high-point…if it didn’t somehow maintain quality for the latest two seasons. This Blu-ray is the best way for a fan to fill their collection with physical media – the image quality is stronger or as strong as other digital HD versions and the commentary tracks are fun – but the compressed 2.0 audio continues to be a problem for these releases. It would be very nice if future Blu-ray season collections featured lossless 5.1 tracks. My fingers remain crossed.

 Adventure Time: Season 3

 Adventure Time: Season 3

 Adventure Time: Season 3

 Adventure Time: Season 3

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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