Here’s something about me that’s maybe not-so-geeky: I’m not a big fan of anime.
Oh sure, Sailormoon had a big place in my heart – huge – for about ten years, and only the Japanese version would do; still, nothing else has ever taken its place. And I’ve certainly been introduced to my share of series and stand-alones; I even joined the Anime Club in college due to the urging of some friends. I’ve seen most of the classics. Not bad, but not me.
However, last night I realized that I’ve always been a fan of a certain kind of cartoon. You know the kind – the one that’s ostensibly aimed at kids but hovers right around the line without completely crossing it. The kind that might be family-friendly, but certainly isn’t pandering. And maybe (though this is negotiable) there’s an element of cute, too. When I was eight, it was the Nicktoon lineup; when I was ten, it was X-Men and Animaniacs; when I was thirteen, it was Powerpuff Girls. There have been many others, before and after. And now, well into my adult years…
There’s Adventure Time.
Yes, it’s another one where I’m a few years late to the party. This time it wasn’t due to my own hipster tendencies; by the time I’d heard some people watched it, I’d ditched cable myself and just didn’t pay much attention. I can’t even remember what brought it up this time – I think just references and gifs floating around – but I decided to give it a shot this weekend. And it has quickly shot into my list of “fun and silly stuff to watch regularly,” along with the likes of The Mighty Boosh.
For the uninitiated, Adventure Time airs on Cartoon Network – though it is based on a short produced for Nickelodeon – in 15-minute segments. It centers around Finn, a 12-year-old human boy, and Jake, a magical dog with the ability to grow, shrink and shapeshift (literally – think Meatwad from Aqua Teen Hunger Force). They live in the Land of Ooo, which is presumably in our world, far in the future, post-nuclear-war and post-magic. There are wizards, vampires, a rainicorn (a rainbow unicorn) and tons of monsters, which Finn and Jake, as Adventurers, fight regularly. On paper, it’s your basic fantasy cartoon aimed at the 10-12 set. Except… not.
But Wait, There’s More
The reason Adventure Time appeals to adults is because it’s just so, well, funny. It’s not deliberately trying to go over the younger set’s heads – in fact, I’m sure anything I would find funny would be equally amusing to a ten-year-old – but it’s continually unexpected. The humor can be a little dark, particularly at the ends of episodes, where things don’t always wrap up nicely – but other times they do, so again, you’re on your toes.
I think another reason Adventure Time is successfully, consistently funny is that it does go for the juvenile humor, and doesn’t try to be “too cool” for it. There are silly voices and jokes about bodily functions, because those sorts of things are often funny – and that’s just fine. This isn’t a show that tries too hard, or tries to be smarter than all the others – though in some ways it is.
Think of the Children
When I’m watching or reading anything, the main thing that tends to stick out to me is the quality of the dialogue. In short: is it authentic? When I watched Adventure Time, without consciously thinking about the dialogue, all I could think about was that Finn the Human reminded me strongly of my own eleven-year-old nephew. Sure, I’m not going to be walking around shouting “Mathematical!” but I could see him doing it. I can’t think of one thing that Finn says that feels either too old or too young for his character, and given how conflicting and confusing that age is for people who are in it, that’s pretty amazing. I’m already asking my sister if my nephew watches the show, and if he doesn’t, you can bet his Aunt J is going to be pushing it.
Talkin Bout My Generation
Here’s a moment where I feel old: Adventure Time’s creator, Pendleton Ward, is less than a year older than I am. But maybe that’s yet another reason why this show seems to hit all the right notes for me: presumably he watched many of the same shows growing up, was informed by the same culture. When I watch Adventure Time I’m reminded of Powerpuff Girls and other shows from that era of Cartoon Network; I’m also reminded of the earliest Nicktoon shows; I’m also reminded of cartoons from the 30s, early Disney and Felix the Cat (it’s probably the wavy dance arms); and then just indie stuff I’ve seen online – but it doesn’t feel like a direct copy or descendant of any of it. It feels very much like a natural progression, very much itself.
At any rate, perhaps I’m thinking too much about a show that doesn’t take itself too seriously. All I really know is, Adventure Time is a new favorite, and if you haven’t given it a try, you should.
What about you? Are you a fan of the show? Are there any other shows you think I should be checking out? Share your thoughts with me below!