Adventure Time Cartoon (English)

August 26th, 2016

front porchI’m late to this party, I know. It was last year or so when Dreiser (the very same Dreiser who coined “AniLesboCon”) sat my ass down and did an epic description of the Marceline x Princess Bubblegum (Bubbeline) relationship across all of Adventure Time. I’d seen some random episodes of AT and liked it fine, but up to that point, my favorite character was BMO. ^_^ I loved the happy-go-lucky stories, the anime references, the goofy way things played out, but never was caught up by the story overall.

I mean, sure we all like Jake makin’ bacon pancakes, but the show was very hit or miss for me. I did like Bubblegum Princess and Marceline quite a lot. When AT did a Marceline-focused arc, I promised myself I’d sit down and really watch it, but then just never did.

Recently one of my favorite lesbian sites on the Internets, Autostraddle wrote up a passionate review of their relationship and went so far as to detail episodes one should watch, in order, to see their story. Finally, I went and did the thing.

Start here, with “Adventure Time” Lets Marceline And Princess Bubblegum Grow Up (And Old) Together  by Heather Hogan. Even if you don’t watch all the episodes, the article is A level fangirling and worth reading for itself. ^_^

In 2014, Olivia Olsen, Marceline’s voice actress, stated that she had been told by series creator Pendleton Ward that Marcy and BP had been (and she thought they ought to be) a couple, but because queer programming might offend some TV markets, it was left as subtext.

There was some kerfuffle after this. Denialists aside, at this point, it’s almost *more* enraging for fans when absurdly obvious subtext stays subtext. Which is partially why Rebecca Sugar, who had worked on AT, created Steven Universe. She saw a huge need for overt text queer representation in cartoons. So yay Adventure Time for cracking that door open. I especially wanted to give this cartoon some props for that, before taking on the new season of Steven Universe.

I’m going to say that, plausible deniability be damned, no one smells another person’s t-shirt every morning, if they are just friends. ^_^ Marcy and BP get close from time to time to saying something important, but they aren’t going to because this is a show about people for whom romance gets in the way of watching a movie or going on adventures. Nonetheless, BP’s assurance that when Marceline dies, she’d be the one to bury her and Marceline’s request that they grow up and spend their lives together pretty much indicates exactly what you’d expect.

While in Japan in the spring I came across this little tote bag and completely lost my shit. ^_^

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I had no use for it and it was way too expensive but I went back 3 times to fight with myself about buying it. ^_^

So, with Marceline and Bubblegum, we have canon, but not overt text. Very close, but not quite in the gold. Adventure Time gets a silver medal from us on presentation and general audience reaction.

Ratings:

Art – 6 Even as goofy as it is, it’s sometimes good
Story – 8 It can be hit or miss, but more hit than miss
Characters – 9 Their self-awareness and honesty can take an adult’s breath away. Thundarr was never like this.
Yuri – 4 It’s subtexty, but sometimes gets really close to that line

Overall – 8

Possibly even more importantly, Adventure Time heralded a new age of amazing American cartoon storytelling, the likes of which I had not seen in decades. We’re in a really good place for cartooning in America and I, for one, am thrilled.

4 Responses

  1. Mariko says:

    Re: the new age of American cartoon storytelling

    American animation that isn’t aimed at kids has pretty much tended to go one of three ways

    1. Envelope-pushing and crass (e.g. South Park, Family Guy)
    2. Absurdist (anything on Adult Swim)
    3. Kooky family (e.g. King of the Hill, The Simpsons)

    Not that I don’t enjoy (some of) those shows, but they’re nothing I would collect or obsess over. And while I appreciate the burgeoning willingness for kids animation here to address more complex themes, and the emerging attempts at more thoughtful animated shows aimed at an older audience, there is one thing they *all* have in common that I just can’t get over. They are all so *ugly*!

    I don’t mean that they don’t take talent to animate, or don’t have a fully realized world or a unique sense of style. I mean the characters are almost universally drawn to be unpleasant to look at or amorphously shaped. More than anything else I think this is going to hold American animation back from tackling any stories with depth, scope, and emotion. I just can’t take seriously and get involved in the relationship between humanoid blobs or funhouse grotesques.

    I’m not saying that American creators need to mimic anime – there’s a whole host of cultural reasons that that would be a fool’s errand. AtLA/TLoK are the two notable exceptions I can think of, and the seams show a lot on those series. But there are plenty of talented artists in American comics who can draw beautiful, rich worlds (*cough* J.H. Williams III). Why do we only get shows with ugly buffoons?

  2. Will says:

    @Mariko

    I would as well. I think part of the problem is there’s a cultural resistance to any sort of adult animation that doesn’t fall into those three categories you mentioned. And because animation is so expensive and merchandise isn’t as common for adult cartoons (barring mega popular stuff like The Simpsons or Family Guy) there probably is a bigger emphasis on making sure it’s cheap and under budget.

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