September 18, 2016 by Wayne.
The first few episodes of Adventure Time were lighthearted, goofball-y cartoon fare that got by with its charm and cuteness (it had both in doses). Years later, AT is now the grand-daddy of modern animation, with many storyboarders and writers graduating from the show to start their own – much like Simpsons in its heyday. And yet despite its stature and age, AT has surprisingly grown into one of the most truly avant garde and thematically rich shows around. There are cartoons that more brutally reflect reality (hey Bojack & Morty), some that have gone on arguably longer streaks of brilliant episodes (Steven Universe? Bob’s Burgers? The entirety of Over the Garden Wall) and even some that have developed a rich, rewarding world that rivals AT itself (RIP Gravity Falls), but surely there aren’t any that have managed to do all that combined in the span of its ongoing lifetime. And what’s more, Adventure Time did it all first!
In its later years, Adventure Time has eschewed the simplicity of earlier episodes for more opaque, melancholic episodes that seek to explore ideas in the most abstract ways without feeling the need to wrap them up into a simple conclusion. You know that gorgeous end credits song? The one that’s bittersweet, and tinged with a deep nostalgic sadness? Over time, AT has come to embody the very essence of that song.
There’s a danger in leading the vanguard, of course. Season 6 drew widespread complaints about being off the mark. In response, season 7 has seen some of the best writing yet, and all that without the backbone of an ongoing season-long threat. Who knows where they’ll go next. Adventure Time is one of the many modern-day cartoons that stand comfortably alongside their live action peers in this so-called golden age, and it’s a pleasure to be along for the ride.