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Adventure Time: The Complete Fifth Season

Warner Bros. // Unrated // July 14, 2015 // Region 0
List Price: $39.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted July 30, 2015 | E-mail the Author
"This brioche won't stop growing! Ron James, what took you?"
"Yo, my lab got creamed! I had to dummy-rig an alchemical filter out of a dirty bidet and a vaporizer!"

- why I love Adventure Time in thirty words

What time is it? It's time for another season of Adventure Stories! Y'know, that show about an impoverished, one-armed little boy named Finn who gets into all kinds of shenanigans with his totally ordinary dog Jake and his mule Bertram in a world with bunches of human-type people and, no sirree Bob, no magic whatsoever.

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Aargh, sorry. I spilled Mello Yello all over my notes, and now they're all smudgy and sticky and yellow and hard to read. What does this say again? Oh, yeah! Thrill to another season of Adventure Time, Cartoon Network's longrunning computer animated series, wait, that's not right either.

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Sorry, that last screenshot brings up so many wistful memories of Tearaway that I don't even remember where I was going with this. So, um:

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I'm pretty much in awe. By the end of its fifth season, Adventure Time had more than 150 episodes under its belt, not to mention towering stacks of comic books, video games, and basically ventures into every form of media you could possibly rattle off. Not only is the well not running dry, but this is its most phenomenal season yet.

Adventure Time's greatest strengths stem from how...well, adventurous it is. While so many other animated series are desperate to keep the status quo chugging along and to wrap everything up in a neat, tidy bow every episode, Adventure Time is continually looking forward. If the series feels like bringing in some guest animators and opting for an entirely different visual style, go for it! If they feel like doing an homage to heist flicks or Rule 63 fan fiction or loot-grinding in RPG video games, why not? With so much lore built up around the Land of Ooo and its sure-seems-like-hundreds of characters, there's so much more to revel in than just another Finn-'n-Jake monster melee (although there's plenty of that too). Most of these episodes are self-contained enough to still be satisfying if you only tune in every once in a while, but Adventure Time rewards loyal viewing with deeper-than-you-might've-guessed continuity in its plot and character arcs, and it's more willing than ever to explore some stories across multiple eps. Part of the initial appeal of Adventure Time to me was how brilliantly random its sense of humor was. The show's still hysterical beyond description, but as we've gotten more and more emotionally invested in these characters, Adventure Time doesn't just wanna stop there. There's a great deal of depth and a real emotional wallop to many of these episodes, and it's deftly blended in with sight gags like a juicer in a Lemongrab prison toilet or a demented children's book about baby-eating foxes that made me laugh harder than just about anything else I've seen all year. Jugging that many seemingly disparate tones takes a lot of work, a lot of thought, and a whole lot of talent. It's so outstanding that I'm almost compelled to write a long, rambling essay instead of an actual review. Almost.

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If Adventure Time's fifth season is about any one thing in particular, it's growing up. I mean, yeah, you could've said that about a bunch of the other seasons too, but it's especially true here. The running theme throughout many of these episodes is putting aside one's selfish desires for the people who matter the most. It doesn't matter if you're the last surviving human desperate to push your dog-armor to the brink, it doesn't matter if you're so excited about seeing the rest of the best dream ever that you manipulate and exploit everyone around you, and it doesn't even matter if you're a sentient lemon who wants to plunk around on your harp and nomnom all the cupcakes instead of fulfulling your destiny. At least some characters are doing it right. Flame Princess strives this season to snuff out an incendiary temper that threatens to put her into archvillain territory. Slime Princess would just as soon marry for love, but she'll settle for whatever if it means she can reclaim her birthright and not lose the throne to her sinister sister. And Jake...I mean:

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Finn just happens to struggle a little more with all of this than everyone else. Over the course of several episodes, we get to see some of the highs (dungeon looting!) and a whole bunch of the lows of his relationship with Flame Princess, including some hiccups that...linger. Not only does "Frost and Fire" have Finn changing his relationship status on whatever the Ooo-quivalent of Facebook is, but it puts him a little too close to the Ice King, who Finn and Jake now get to call "roomie". Finn learns the downside of playing "The Sims"with other folks' emotions in "All the Little People", when he winds up with a bagful of toy-sized Ooo-ians that he can couple up however he wants. Whew, and if you thought some of the stuff Finn's been doing is cringeworthy up till now, just wait until you get to "Red Throne". I'd say more but don't want to spoil absolutely everything that happens, so take my "yikes!" on faith. Anyway, Finn is continually forced to deal with the consequences of his actions. Not only does he have to come to terms with some of the unpleasantness of his past, but...oh, man, the reveal at the tailend of the season finalé! Season six has already premiered, so you probably know what it is already, but if not, I'll keep making vague, tantalizing teases instead!

There are entirely too many other highlights to list. This season spends a lot of time quipping about C-list characters, but it loves 'em enough to shine the spotlight in their direction for episodes at a time, and my favorite of that bunch is "Mystery Dungeon". Think Adventure Time meets Cube, with five characters in search of an exit. "Simon and Marcy" aired before the video game The Last of Us came out for the PS3, but I'd like to pretend that the episode is an homage anyway, set in a pretty-much-zombie-riddled post-apocalyptic city when Marceline was a tiny little vampire girl and Simon Petrikov was still a middle-aged schlub who had not yet fully transitioned into the Ice King. It's one of many episodes this season where there are real emotional stakes. I can't say enough good things about how Adventure Time builds up the Ice King this time around, actually. For instance, after being spurned by a princess for the eight hojillionth time in "The Party's Over, Isla de Señorita", the Ice King decides to throw it all away and start over on a remote desert island. Turns out that the island is sentient and way-female, and the two of 'em bond over being jilted lovers. The Ice King encourages her to call it quits with the dismissive, only-out-for-a-good-time Party God, but when she can't muster the nerve, he pushes up his sleeves and...yeah. Finn, Jake, and a grrr-magic Princess Bubblegum impersonate sorcerors in "Wizards Only, Fools" in the hopes of helping out a sick dude who scoffs at science-y type medicine, but there are dire consequences for impersonating a wizard, and 'cause of that, we get an even more awesome bunch of sequences in prison. "Earth and Water" not only further fleshes out the character of Flame Princess, but we get a snow-a constrictors pun as the Ice King's castle is being rebuilt, and now my life is just a little bit better. "We Fixed a Truck" doesn't just bring back Weird Al as the voice of Banana Man, but he sings, so...yeah. Love.

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I kind of run the risk of listing all 52 (!) episodes from this season as my favorites. I mean, I'm already kicking myself for not raving about the brilliance of "Root Beer Guy". There really are only a couple of clunkers, and they all come pretty late in the season. "James" seems like it'd be right up my alley, with its claustrophobic story about Finn, Jake, and Princess Bubblegum being stranded in a ship-thingie and surrounded by legions of toxic mutants. Also onboard is -- you guessed it by reading the title -- James, a sandwich cookie who starts off being charmingly goofy but quickly devolves into something a little more nails-on-chalkboard. James is insufferable by design and isn't redeemed the way the episode thinks he is, and there's too much standing around and bickering rather than...doing anything. "Box Prince" isn't a bad episode, but it leans pretty heavily on "cute cats are cute!", so if that's not your thing, it's kind of a swing-and-a-miss. "Another Five More Short Graybles" might be my favorite title of the season, but this barrage of mini-stories isn't nearly as fun and doesn't have as strong a running theme(s?) as the pitch perfect "Five More Short Graybles" earlier in this collection.

Anyway, if you're reading a review of the fifth season of Adventure Time, chances are that you're already tuned in at some point. All you need to know is that however amazing you think the series has been up till now, this double-length run of episodes is, impossibly, even better. Writing this review is tough 'cause I'm bursting with joy as if someone put vinegar and baking soda in my pudding, so I'll say Highly Recommended and stop myself here before I make any more of a mess.

I don't know what dark magicks Warner Bros. has summoned to cram a hair over five hours of 1080p video onto each of these Blu-ray discs, but Adventure Time continues to look phenomenal in high-def. The image is a good bit cleaner and crisper than what I'm used to seeing on cable, and Adventure Time's visual style compresses beautifully. When I was trawling for screenshots and had my nose smooshed right up against my computer monitor, I could infrequently see tiny, tiny traces of artifacting in still images, but in motion and at a rational viewing distance...? Aside from the deliberately glitchy "A Glitch is a Glitch" -- and, geez, that's a lot of glitch -- this presentation is pretty much perfect. I'm still impressed by the sharp, well-defined linework, and ditto for its colors, which are as bright and bold as ever. Nothing but sweet, cheery things to say!

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This season of Adventure Time is encoded with VC-1 -- hey, I don't get to type that out too often! -- and presented at its original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.78:1. This season is split across two dual-layer Blu-ray discs.

Oh, you want to know what I think about the audio on this season of Adventure Time?

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That sounds about right...or, wait, looks about right about the sound. Something's right. Anyway, each of these 52 episodes is packing a Dolby Digital stereo soundtrack at a bitrate of 320kbps. If you're a home theater geek who's only just now diving into Adventure Time on Blu-ray, the lack of lossless audio may be puzzling. Even with five hours of video crammed onto each disc, there's plenty of room left to bump things up to DTS-HD Master Audio, so I don't really get it. In practice, it's really not a big deal, and even though I am totally the type of person to throw out technical jargon like "bitrate of 320kbps", I honestly doubt that my ears could tell the difference anyway. Every element in the mix -- from the voice acting to the infectiously catchy music -- is crystal clear, nicely balanced, and flawlessly rendered. Even without a dedicated LFE channel to lean on, there's still a low-end kick packing a heckuva wallop. No gripes or complaints or "...except!"s at all. Hurray!

The only other audio option is a set of English (SDH) subtitles.

  • Animatics (too lazy to total 'em up; SD): 49 of this season's 52 episodes feature standard-def animatics as extras. (Think storyboards overlaid with dialogue, and you're in the ballpark.) If you're curious, the holdouts are "A Glitch Is a Glitch", "James Baxter the Horse", and "James". I just sampled a few of 'em, and they ran as short as 13 seconds and as long as a minute-and-a-half-ish. I didn't have time to sift through them all -- stupid deadline -- but hopefully I didn't overlook anything indescribably awesome like the short hiding in the first season's animatics.
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  • Adventure Time Forever (16 min; HD): The only other extra is a retrospective with a small army of the folks behind-the-scenes who bring Adventure Time to life. They delve into the difficult birthing process of the show -- and I mean birthing creatively, not with fluids and placentas and stuff -- from figuring out what Adventure Time's first season was supposed to be as they went along to ::gulp!:: not even being sure that there'd ever be a second season. The crew touches on some of the episodes where they really knew they were making something extraordinary, and they also chat about how much they appreciate the show's rabid fanbase and their hopes for a long, long, long run.

The fifth season of Adventure Time comes packaged with Jake-style cover art and a cut-out-window slipcover, and a tiny episode guide has been lovingly tucked inside. Also riding shotgun is an UltraViolet digital copy code, but be warned that a bunch of these episodes are mislabeled on Flixster.

The Final Word
I think it's Kent Osborne who says in "Adventure Time Forever" that he'd love to see the show run for a thousand episodes. That may sound nuts, but by the end of season five, we're already 156 episodes in, and Adventure Time is somehow better than it's ever been. If any show could pull off that thousand episode feat, it's this one. The talent behind the series refuses to settle into the comfortable sort of rut that a lot of animated shows do at this stage of the game. With a sprawling cast of characters, a rich and constantly evolving mythology to mine, and an eagerness to experiment with everything from its visual style to the length of its stories, Adventure Time is in the running as the most daring and most inventive series on television, animated or otherwise. Doubling the episode order for any other show could be a recipe for disaster, but here, it just means twice as much Adventure Time to love and laugh with and get all teary-eyed over. Very, very Highly Recommended.
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