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As per my Adventure Time season three Blu-ray review, I’m choosing to discuss a selection of my personal favourite season four episodes, instead of running the entire thing down with short little episode-by-episode blurbs (though there isn’t a single weak episode in season four). And, just like last time, the plot descriptions include spoilers.

 Adventure Time: Season Four

Episode 2: Five Short Graybles


The first in a series of anthology episodes, hosted by a future-man named Cuber (Emo Philips), who refers to his tales as ‘graybles.’ Graybles include Finn (Jeremy Shada) and Jake (John DiMaggio) preparing increasingly complex high-fives, Princess Bubblegum (Hynden Walch) creating the perfect sandwich (complete with a reference to Cronenberg’s The Fly), the Ice King trying to find the source of a terrible odor, and Lumpy Space Princess (creator Pendleton Ward) at a talent show. The standout section is a bit where Finn and Jack spy on BMO’s daily activities, which include pretending he/she is a ‘real boy’ who has to brush his teeth and urinate into the toilet. It’s the kind of adorable existential tragedy Adventure Time does so well. BMO’s depressing lack of identity is appropriately shrugged off before the kiddies in the house get wise to this sad self-awareness. There’s more great BMO role-playing in episode 17, BMO Noire, where he/she creates an elaborate, hardboiled detective mystery, supplying the voices for all of the voiceless animals he/she encounters.

Episodes 5 & 6: Return to the Nightosphere (Part 1)/ Daddy's Little Monster (Part 2)


Season two’s It Came From the Nightosphere established that Marceline the Vampire (Olivia Olson) had a shaky relationship with her father, Hunson Abadeer, aka: The Lord of Evil (Martin Olson). This two-part follow-up begins with Finn & Jake waking up in Hunson’s underworld, the Nightosphere, with no memory of how they got there. The first part features the heroes retracing their footsteps through Adventure Time hell to solve the mystery their arrival in the show’s version of hell. The Nightosphere itself is an imaginatively nightmarish vision that is safe for kids without underplaying the threat or scariness. In fact, the most frightening thing in this Hieronymus Bosch-inspired hellscape – the impossible bureaucracy – probably only plays as scary to the adults in the audience that might have experienced Kafkaesque terror in the workforce. Kids probably think it’s just funny. The second part is more mythology-heavy and character-based. Hunson tries to force Marceline into taking over his duties ruling the Nightosphere by giving her an enchanted amulet that turns her into an evil monster. Marceline’s cruelty while under the amulet’s power is amusingly cruel (she makes one demon barf infinite bananas and gives another abs on his face) and Finn & Jake eventually defeat the evil with the help of an improvised political rap.

 Adventure Time: Season Four

Episode 12: Gotcha!


The season’s first and only Lumpy Space Princess episode is a knee-slapper. In it, LSP’s insatiable lust for drama drives her to write a tell-all memoir about how to seduce the boys of Ooo. Her exposé leads her to take an undercover job as Finn & Jake’s ‘adventure secretary.’ LSP’s deluded self-worth has her naming every creature in the forest and pretending that their natural animal reactions are unwanted sexual advances (‘back up off me, Ricky!’), but her original book plans fail when she finally realizes that she’s falling for Finn, instead of seducing him into falling for her. She learns a valuable lesson about the value of inner beauty (‘Finn is hot on the inside!’), but can’t resist the dramatic reveal of her true intentions by the end (Finn doesn’t care).

Episode 13: Princess Cookie


A cookie named Baby-Snaps (Donald Faison) takes Candy Kingdom grocery shoppers hostage and demands that Princess Bubblegum hands over her crown. When Bubblegum threatens to make things ‘messy’ by sending in the Banana Guards, Finn & Jake try to diffuse the situation, but the plan is complicated when Jake discovers that Baby-Snaps is only angry because Bubblegum laughed at him when he told her that he wanted to be a princess, too. There’s obvious significance to Baby-Snaps’ gender identity (which leads him to a suicide attempt and eventually lands him in Ooo’s insane asylum), but Jake doesn’t judge his desire to be a princess and resolves the situation by offering him a homemade crown of his own. Princess Cookie is perhaps a bit heavy-handed and might even sell the metaphor short by being silly about it, but earns respect for the underlying message.

 Adventure Time: Season Four

Episode 14: Card Wars


On a particularly boring afternoon, Jake approaches Finn with a trading card game. Finn asks BMO if he/she wants to participate, to which he/she replies ‘I do not play such games with Jake’ and skateboards away. Finn doesn’t heed his/her warning and ends up on the wrong end of Jake’s alarmingly cutthroat attitude. Card Wars hits a special personal place for me as someone that is mystified by the rules of trading card games and the fervent competition they bring out in people. The battle card game Finn & Jake are playing is a loving spoof of the convoluted rules of real-world games, like Magic: The Gathering, and an accurate portrayal of how difficult it is for a casual player to play along with a more…practiced and obsessive person.

Episode 15: Sons of Mars


Magic Man (Tom Kenny), a jerk of a Martian magician that nearly ruined Finn’s life in a first season episode entitled Freak City, is discovered on earth by his Martian brothers Grob Gob Glob Grod (four faces that occupy the same head). Before they can take him away to try him for his crimes, Magic Man switches identities with Jake, who is then carted away to Mars. While Jake (trapped looking like Magic Man) awaits vengeance from the likes of Abraham Lincoln (who rules Mars now), Finn is forced to team up with an insane Magic Man (trapped looking like Jake) to help his friend. This fan favourite is one of the most sci-fi heavy episodes in the entire series and is overloaded with cool, imaginative concepts and imagery, not to mention a bunch of completely absurd jokes, like Grob Gob Glob Grod recounting their brother’s crimes with crude drawings on an old-fashioned overhead projector. The best bit, however, is an incidental tiny manticore that is trapped in a bottle in Magic Man’s disgusting hovel of a house. When freed, he insists that he didn’t need Finn’s ‘pity help,’ but then turns to camera and tells us that he ‘is the true coward, hiding from sincere expressions like a vampire in the nude that hides from the light.’

 Adventure Time: Season Four

Episode 25: I Remember You


With season three’s Holly Jolly Secrets, the Adventure Time writers introduced the heart-breaking back-story of the Ice King – the once goofy non-villain became the most tragic figure in the entire show. I Remember You introduces a new wrinkle – Simon Petrikov (the Ice King’s human identity) acted as guardian to a young Marceline following the fallout of the ‘Mushroom War.’ The episode begins with the adult Marceline trying to jog Ice King’s memory via songwriting before delving very briefly into a bleak flashback where Simon discovers the little vampire and comforts her among the ruins of the human world. I Remember You is almost devastating in its emotional overload, which is annoying for those of us that don’t want to explain to our friends why something as outwardly silly as Adventure Time has driven us to tears. Embarrassing sniffles aside, it’s also the first real glimpse into the era between the destruction of our world and the creation of the post-apocalyptic land of Ooo (aside from the window behind Simon in the Holly Jolly Secrets episode). Simon and Marceline’s back-story has been further established in more recent episodes.

 Adventure Time: Season Four

Video


Note that I’m am mostly copy/pasting the A/V sections from my season 3 review, because nothing significant has changed between releases and I’m not creative enough to find new ways to convey the same information.

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 had 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 4 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. There are minor inconsistencies from episode to episode, mainly jagged edges in the busiest shots (the big pan across the Nightosphere, for instance) and some slight uptakes in edge enhancement effects.

 Adventure Time: Season Four

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 Four

Extras


  • Episode Commentaries:
    • Episodes 1, 6, 14, 16, 18-19, and 25 with storyboard artist/lead character designer/writer Andy Ristaino, storyboard artist/creative director/writer Cole Sanchez, writer/songwriter Rebecca Sugar, storyboard supervisor/creative director Nate Cash, storyboard artist/writer/character designer Tom Herpich, and creator Pendleton Ward
    • Episodes 2-5, 7-13, 15, 17, 21, and 24 with storyboard artist/writer Ako Castuera, storyboard artist/writer Jesse Moynihan, Cash, Ward, Sanchez, and Herpich
    • Episodes 20, 22-23, and 26 with Ristanio, Ward, Sugar, and Herpich
  • Distant Bands: The Music of Adventure Time (19:40, HD) – Interviews with members of the creative team as they discuss the bands they’ve formed with each other over the years, writing the show’s theme song, and the strange/beautiful little songs that appear throughout the series.


 Adventure Time: Season Four

Overall


Warner Bros and Cartoon Network continue to disappoint in terms of the audio quality of their Adventure Time Blu-ray releases, but I guess we know by now that they aren’t going to listen to fan complaints regarding the issue, it’s safe for fans to keep collecting them without fear of superior double-dips in the near-future. Season four is one of the always strong series’ strongest seasons and acts as a nice primer for even better stuff to come (season five might be the best). The image quality of this disc is only slightly problematic – at least as good as any downloadable HD version I’ve seen, and the extras, though limited to commentaries and a single featurette, are quite satisfying.

 Adventure Time: Season Four

 Adventure Time: Season Four

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


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