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Adventure Time: The Complete Fourth Season

Cartoon Network Studios (2012), Warner Home Video (October 7, 2014), 1 Disc, 286 minutes, 16:9 ratio, Dolby Stereo 2.0, Rated TV-PG, Retail: $32.07

Storyboard:

Finn and Jake learn many things this season. They find out why dating Flame Princess may not be the best idea, just how wicked Marceline’s dad can be, the dangers of mimicking bears and hug wolves, and whether the Ice King is as big a threat as his penguins.

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The Sweatbox Review:

Riding high on the terrific ratings and critical success of the first three seasons, the writing staff of Adventure Time admitted in interviews that there was pressure to keep it all going, and at a high level. Not many cartoon shows get renewed that many times, and the team had to prove to the fans that the show’s quality could be sustained— and maybe even improved. Creator Pendleton Ward has said that this meant digging deep and finding ways to keep the show fresh, not to mention consistently weird and exciting. This meant introducing new characters and concepts, and further fleshing out some of the old characters.

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The season begins with Hot To The Touch, where we follow Finn on his journey to explore the crush he has on Flame Princess. While that episode suggests certain dangers that may be inherent in their relationship, that theme is explored even further later in the season, in Burning Low, as perceived jealousy on behalf of Princess Bubblegum gives way to understanding just how dangerous Flame Princess could be. On the way there, though, we also get a few other winners, like Web Weirdos, involving a spider couple whose quarrelling gets in the way of eating Finn and Jake. Then, there’s also Dream Of Love, where Tree Trunks and Pig find that their excessive public displays of affection are not appreciated by the citizens of the Candy Kingdom.

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One of my favorite stories from this season is the two-parter featuring Marceline and her father. Return To The Nightosphere sets things up, but it is Daddy’s Little Monster that makes us fully aware of just how messed up this daddy-daughter relationship really is. Good ol’ dad, you see, turns his little girl into a monster because he thinks she just needs to get a feel for the family business.

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In Your Footsteps is another strong story, beginning as a heart-warming tale of Finn befriending a bear— a bear that wants to be a little too much like him. The sinister overtones of the story produce a twist ending that will build to the end of the season. The bits of continuity in this season do give the episodes a little more weight, slightly stepping away from the “weird for weird’s sake” vibe that the show previously could succumb to. Still, there are some good standalone stories too, like Hug Wolf (think werewolves with affectionate means of saying hello) and Princess Monster Wife, a poignant tale of Ice King’s own Frankenstein beast.

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Already, this is looking like a pretty strong string of shows, and we’re not even halfway through the season yet. I watched all the episodes, and the show really does chug along quite well. It’s tempting to discuss each episode, but let’s just say that I enjoyed the new tricks that the writers began to play. Casting the video game machine BMO in a black and white detective story in BMO Noire accomplishes the task of spotlighting a favorite character while also adding a new flavor to the show. Card Wars presents a whole new side of Jake: a super competitive, and not un-jerkish side. And who could deny wanting to see the return of Ricardo the living heart (Lady And Peebles), and the annoying but sympathetic Lemongrab (You Made Me). Plus, there’s more of Flame Princess (and her dad the flame King), the introduction of The Farm and Mega Frog, and the attempted subjugation of Oo by Ice King’s hench-penguin Gunter. It’s wacky, I tells ya!

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The mixture of fun, strangeness, and pathos reaches its peak in I Remember You, when we learn that Ice King and Marceline knew each other before the great war. While it is cool to see more of that world’s history, and to get clues about the pasts of the characters, this episode has an unmistakable sadness about it that reminds you that the writers aren’t just there to show you odd stuff. This show has some hidden depth, even if I’m not convinced that it’s all been thought out in advance. Still, even if such details emerge haphazardly, it does keep the show fresh and interesting. The writers haven’t lost their creativity, and it seems like they’re just starting to really flex their storytelling muscles. Season Four is 26 episodes worth of awesome.

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After four seasons, I’ve finally decided that I am a fan.

Is This Thing Loaded?

The one featurette on this disc is Distant Bands: The Music Of Adventure Time (19:38). Creator Pen Ward and is collaborators discuss various songs from the show, from over the course of its first four seasons. Clearly, much of the charm of this series comes from its off-kilter music, which mixes the silly, the sad, and the heartfelt to bring poignancy to the show. And fun, of course!

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And, if you would like to watch all 26 episodes all over again, you might like to do so with the Audio Commentaries supplied.

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The disc also has ads for the third season DVDs for Adventure Time and Regular Show.

Case Study:

The standard Blu-ray case (eco version) holds a single Blu-ray disc. The cover is logo-less, depicting a surprise image of Marceline, while the cover slip gives her a more familiar hairstyle. The case contains an insert with an ultraviolet code, and another insert with an episode listing.

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Ink And Paint:

The 16:9 picture is close to perfect, with allowance for an occasional bit of aliasing. Colors pop brilliantly, while blacks stay as sinister as needed. I could love this show even with the sound off, as it’s a feast for the eyes, once you get used to the unique character designs. But of course, you wouldn’t really want to miss out on the sound, though Warner didn’t put their best foot forward…

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Scratch Tracks:

Once again, Warner offers a season of Adventure Time in only lossy Dolby Stereo 2.0. Of course… it does sound okay, with occasional nice use of surround effects, but it’s a shame that a show that relies so much on its music isn’t given a lossless audio track, or at least the 5.1 track that is broadcast. One can only assume it’s a space-saving issue on the disc, but I’m sure most fans would prefer to go to a second disc, and get a full 5.1 lossless experience.

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English subtitles for the hearing impaired are provided.

Final Cut:

Fans need not worry about any drop in quality just yet, and I have the feeling that the show will only continue to improve. What initially seemed (to me) to be to be a show with lots of color and an oddness that only kids could really enjoy, has morphed into something truly special. The stories have a true sweetness to them, a belief in love and heroism that anyone can rally behind; and yet the writers can bring on the pathos when they want as well. The large and strange cast only get more interesting, and the insane stories are becoming more cohesive and heartfelt. I look forward to the coming seasons to see how the show continues to mature.

Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?



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