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Adventure Time: The Final Seasons
It would be impossible to make an argument against the case of "Adventure Time" being a cultural phenomenon. Launched in 2010 from Cartoon Network, the series was the brainchild of Pendleton Ward who served as storyline writer for eight of the series' 10 seasons amongst other credits. Over nearly a decade since the Finn the Human (voiced by Jeremy Shada) and Jake the Dog (voiced by voice acting legend John DiMaggio) treated viewers to a whimsical, irreverent and wholly original adventure in the debut episode "Slumber Party Panic", the series has gone on to spawn countless off-shoots. Numerous video games that captured the spirit of the show even when some were plagued by rote gameplay, multiple comic lines, and entire games spawned from the series' unique parody of pop culture have captured the imagination (as well as wallets) of fans, both fanatical and causal alike. However, as the old adage goes, "all good things must end" and so did "Adventure Time" with it's final season this past fall. Any fan will tell you the home video release of the series has been controversial, but finally, at least on DVD the entire series is available in North America with this release, collecting the final three seasons.
While I do wholeheartedly consider myself a fan of the series, especially in its early days, I won't try and feign knowledge of the past few years of the show. A combination of shifting interests, the series' inconsistent home video release (I think it's a real shame Blu-Ray releases have been abandoned mid-way through in Region 1), and the show's rich cast of characters and in-jokes being a little too much to keep track of, I return to the series to review this final collection of episodes and in a way offer a somewhat outsider's perspective to the end. Immediately I noticed with the departure of Ward as showrunner in season eight, the series took some creative leaps, ending the 27-episode season with a eight episode miniseries titled "Islands" which provides some much needed character development to a series that on the surface appears to appeal to kids, but attracts an adult fanbase as well as an audience who if they started watching as kids are well into their teens by now. The saga of Finn's history was a breath of fresh air into a series that despite having running continuity more or less, could only do so much in the short runtime of each self-contained episode.
While "Islands" appeared to attract viewers back in the ratings, it wasn't enough to continue the downward trend in viewership, even as season nine largely consisted of another miniseries, "Elements" which took up eight of that season's much reduced 14 episode tally. Season nine ends on a heavier emotional note than much earlier seasons, leading to a take-no-prisoners send off in season ten. Consisting of 16 episodes, the tenth and final season is a quality offering of entertainment, building to a four-episode finale aptly titled "Come Along with Me". Much has already been written about the episode, which to the uninitiated can seem like an incomprehensible mess; even to someone familiar with the series, it's something truly stunning. I can't recall an animated series having such an ambitious send-off as "Adventure Time" and for me the raw emotional value of seeing all my favorite characters come together in a massive war to end all wars, is on par with the subdued heartfelt sentimentality of "David the Gnome's" legendary, tear-inducing finale. Never to rest on its laurels, "Adventure Time" goes out on a high-note, subverting the expectations of the audience with heartfelt character resolution.
The best praise I can heap onto the final seasons of "Adventure Time" is it made me want to go back and revisit the original series as well as catch up on previous seasons I missed out on. The characters remained familiar, despite having undergone legitimate narrative developments, and most of all the series retained its sense of whimsy and earnest fun, even when stepping up the emotional stakes. "Adventure Time" is a true hallmark in modern animation; while series such as "Rick and Morty" continue to attract audiences with their equally adult approach to storytelling, "Adventure Time" managed to fill a void missing in entertainment: that rare bridge across ages, genders, and ideals. A truly magical experience through and through.
The set is presented in its 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio. The animated source material is represented with vibrancy; colors pop, contrast is well-balanced, and there's minimal digital artifacting. The series despite its structurally simplistic design, is a pleasure to look at here, and the wild character designs and landscapes are all served well by the transfer.
The English Dolby 2.0 audio track is definitely a solid audio representation of a dialogue heavy show; it's a solid mix for a basic stereo track and accurately recreates the original audio experience. Levels are balanced and free of distortion. English SDH subtitles are also included.
Extras consist of early animatics for choice episodes, a standard behind-the-scenes featurette, a collection of early song demos, and some character art in the form of a stills gallery.FINAL THOUGHTS
While the final seasons of "Adventure Time" are nowhere near appropriate for a newcomer to jump in, the overall quality of the final three seasons make for reason enough for someone to invest their time in the series as a whole. Pendleton Ward's unique creation remained clever and meaningful until its final moment, long after its creator moved on to new endeavours; few shows make it ten seasons, and even fewer end on as high a note as "Adventure Time" did. Highly Recommended.