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''Adventure Time'': Fionna and Cake
I'm also running out of ways to complain about the fact that Cartoon Network continues to release the show in random episode collections rather than put it out in season sets (preferably on DVD and Blu-Ray; so far, we only have The Complete First Season, and only on DVD), so I'll keep it to a minimum (although, I admit that the announcement that CN shows, including "Adventure Time," start streaming on Netflix at the end of March goes a long way toward addressing that complaint. This collection contains 16 episodes, beginning with the title episode, "Fionna and Cake."
Part of the genius of "Adventure Time" is its boundless creativity, and "Fionna and Cake" fits right in with that. "Adventure Time" crew member Natasha Allegri doodled gender-swapped versions of Finn and Jake for fun, but Ward and company deemed it worthy of its own episode. Fionna (Madeleine Martin), like Finn, is an adventurer in the Land of Ooo, accompanied by her magical, shape-shifting cat, Cake (Roz Ryan). In the episode, she faces off against the evil Ice Queen (Gray DeLisle) for the affections of Prince Bubblegum (Neil Patrick Harris), who Fionna has a crush on. Like all of the best "Adventure Time" episodes, it's funny, it's got a wonderful little song (which Bubblegum sings to Fionna while flying on the back of Lady Monichromicorn), and it even has a nice little message in there for young girls, both about crushes and being a hero.
The collection continues with a selection of episodes from Seasons Two, Three, and Four (as with the last collection, I've got a handy guide noting which seasons the episodes came from. At least one or two of the Season Two episodes are kinda mediocre ("Still," in which the Ice King freezes Finn and Jake and tries to befriend them, is the weakest episode in the set), but the set has a number of episodes focusing on girls, perhaps as an attempt to tie in with "Fionna and Cake." "Incendium," for example, introduces the fiery Flame Princess (Jessica DiCicco), whose age is more befitting Finn's affections than the older Princess Bubblegum. The animation of Jake, who can transform into basically anything, is always a series highlight, and this episode is one of the best, culminating in a sequence where Jake forms Finn out of his body and voices him.
Other highlights include "What Was Missing," which finds the gang chasing after a Door Lord and forming a band to unlock his barricade. Marceline's song "I'm Just Your Problem" is a fan favorite, and personally significant as the moment I decided I was a fan (this was the first episode I saw). "Card Wars" has Finn agreeing to play Jake's favorite card game, only to discover Jake is a more passionate opponent than he realized. As the show often feels like a big riff on Dungeons and Dragons, this spoof of tabletop gaming is full of absurd yet deeply familiar moments: the endless rule-reading, the surprise triumphs, and the seething rage. "Ghost Princess" involves the two pals trying to solve the mystery of a ghost princess' demise in order to free her from the mortal plane, building perfectly to two flashbacks (one sweet, and one unreasonably funny). "Death in Bloom" sends Finn and Jake to the Land of Death looking for a flower's soul, and features a hilarious performance by Miguel Ferrer as Death, who challenges the heroes to a duel. Last, but not least, "You Made Me" brings back the obnoxiously entertaining Earl of Lemongrab (Justin Holland), a loud-mouthed, bitter Princess Bubblegum creation who demands some citizens to lord over.
The episodes on this disc are as follows: "Fionna and Cake," "Storytelling," "The Other Tarts," "The Silent King," "Death in Bloom," "Still," "Wizard Battle," "What Went Wrong," "From Bad to Worse," "Marceline's Closet," "Ghost Princess," "Incendium," "Card Wars," "Princess Cookie," "Lady and Peebles," and "You Made Me." (The last two episodes are listed on the packaging out of order, but both are included.)
"Adventure Time": Fionna and Cake arrives with artwork that seems like a play on the art for The Complete First Season, with Fionna instead of Finn, although it lacks the slipcover revealing additional layers. The disc (featuring a picture of Cake) comes in an eco-friendly Amaray case (the kind that uses less plastic, not the kind with holes punched in it), and there is no insert.
The Video and Audio
Just like all the previous "Adventure Time" releases, the show is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Also in keeping with the other releases, the animation doesn't lend itself to SD, with some aliasing and the appearance of edge enhancement rearing its ugly head all over the colorful images. This time, I also spotted a disturbing amount of interlacing -- I don't know if it was simply more prominent or somehow I missed it on previous releases, but it's persistent here. The sound is fine, covering the voices with big, bold clarity, although, as always, it would be really nice to hear some of the show's creative and catchy songs in 5.1 surround sound. English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing are also provided.
I don't know what the inverse of the phrase "little did you know" is, but any "Adventure Time" fan should be well aware that the only extra here is "Little Did You Know" gallery of five character bios (for Fionna, Cake, Prince Bubblegum, The Tart-Toter, and Princess Cookie).
This is a good collection of episodes, but the presentation is underwhelming and the extras are non-existent. Rent it.
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