Somehow, until just a few months ago, the most epic show ever had escaped my field of vision. This coming from a guy who spends no less than 15 hours a week watching animation of some kind. Yet somehow I totally missed Adventure Time! An awesome show from Pendleton Ward (who previously worked on the Misadventures of Flapjack, a show that was very hit and miss with me) that I would simply summarize as a 10 year olds D&D game brought to life through animation, as the adventures of Finn the Human and Jake the Dog quest for glory amongst the strange and delightful Land of Ooo meeting characters like Princess Bubblegum, Marceline the Vampire Queen, and squaring off with their nemesis the Ice King. If that doesn’t pique your interest, don’t be dissuaded – these primitive constructs known as words can do little to properly contain the sheer amount of win that this show possesses.
At first I really just enjoyed the show, it was clever, fun and probably the most energetic thing since I replaced my hamsters water bottle with a can of Red Bull (his wheel is now powering my xbox 360) but then I learned something while surfing around the net. Something that would change my perspective on the entire show and propel it from cool show to a level of awesome not witnessed since ninjas first lifted guitars and unleashed a lick powerful enough to shatter Pangea: Adventure Time is set in a post apocalyptic world.
Did that just blow your mind? This cutesy, crazy and colorful cartoon world that bursts forth with rich childlike wonder actually takes place in a post apocalyptic Earth. Granted, this is never directly addressed in the cartoon thus far. I can only imagine it’s something that Cartoon Network would be hesitant in bringing up (I’ll admit that they have loosened their standards. We’ve gone from Duo being ‘The Great Destroyer’ instead of ‘The God of Death’ in Gundam Wing to Jedi being killed outright in Clone Wars – Granted it’s usually offscreen, but still.) The Word of God still has insisted that The Land of Ooo is very much a post apocalyptic Earth and there are quite a few hints of this throughout the show that reference back to the end of the world and the so called “Mushroom War.”
Some of the clearest examples is when the main characters, Finn the Human and Jake the Dog, encounter strange things that don’t seem to belong in their world. Stuff like tanks, airplanes, or in the case of the episode ‘The Ocean of Fear’ they find an entire submerged and ruined modern day metropolis at the bottom of the ocean. Finn and Jake never call attention to it, heck they don’t even seem to notice it – it’s a tease for the audience. The fact that a major city that resembles something like New York or Los Angeles is sitting at the bottom of the ocean is probably the most direct they ever came to referencing Earth that was.
Subtler hints to how this could have happened have been tucked in places as well, like in the episode ‘Susan Strong’ Finn finds a tribe of hyoomans (which he mistakes for humans, a shocking development because as of up to this point in the show Finn had been the only human, hence the name ‘Finn the Human’) however it turns out that the hyoomans are… well, let’s just say they don’t turn out to be humans. However, in earlier edits of the episode, on the metal pipe that led down the hyooman tribe’s land, there originally was a radioactive hazard symbol. A possible hint that nuclear radiation is responsible for the creation of the Land of Ooo? Never been confirmed. Yet. But the fact that the world of Adventure Time is simply a silly and strange take on the same concept that brought us the Fallout series fills me with demented glee and horrifically wicked laughter.
The sheer possibilities of this underlying concept makes my mind boggle with possibilities. Every hint, every tease and every murmur from the show’s creative team about it drives me more into the lore of this nonsensical world. Because it’s not nonsensical. It’s our world. Just something happened to make it that way. Talk about a tantalizing tidbit of toon teasery! If there is only one word to describe how much this show’s dark underlying secret, I would have to borrow from Finn’s lexicon and say it’s “algebraic” (which I suppose is slightly more complicated than Reboot’s “alphanumeric”?) If you haven’t already taken a look at this show, I think it is totally worth it for this reason alone (the amounts of insane humor and ‘I can’t believe they got that past the censors’ moments always helps too. Reminds me of the stuff they got away with on Animaniacs sometimes.)
Adventure Time with Finn & Jake is currently premiering new episodes on Cartoon Networks Monday Comedy block at 8pm, with reruns throughout the week.