A show targeted at 2-11 year olds, about a young boy and his talking dog. There’s no sex, no violence (okay, a bit of violence), no drugs or debacles involving melting baked alaska, so how has it drawn such a large adult audience? Adventure Time (mostly) follows Finn and Jake on their adventures in the magical land of Ooo. The show features a huge cast of eccentric characters in its incredibly colourful world. At first glance it just seems like any other saturday morning kids cartoon. So what makes Adventure Time so special? There are a million explanations for why the show is popular.
There is an element of nostalgia, Finn lives the perfect image of a nostalgic childhood. He lives in a tree house with his best friend and spends his time exploring and adventuring. Adventure Time perfectly evokes a romantic nostalgia of childhood in it’s audience. At the same time, many of its characters feel the same nostalgia as they fondly look back to a time before the apocalyptic disaster that created Ooo. Arguably the bright colours and warm vibe the show has makes it a nice break from the intensity of life. Sometimes when the stress of uni builds, it’s nice to turn to something lighthearted. While you might indulge in sit-coms, New Girl has jumped the shark (what’s up with the stupid cheap fashion ad of an opening), Brooklyn Nine-Nine has stagnated in it’s second season and The Big Bang Theory has been shit for about seven seasons now. Adventure Time is there, with it’s short ten minute episodes and loveable characters.
Even so, those factors could be applied to many kid’s cartoons. But really the simplest answer is that Adventure Time is just good – great in fact. Adventure Time’s humour is broad, not simply relying on childish toilet humour or unnecessary slapstick. The show is filled with wit and has many underlying adult jokes that would simply pass over the heads of a younger audience, suggesting an awareness of its secondary demographic.
The breadth and depth of its characters is astounding. Adventure Time fosters brilliant emotional connections with its cast. Whether it’s Finn’s desire to be taken seriously, the Ice King’s desperate efforts to find love, or Gunther’s hunger for souls, you can sympathise with all the characters for one reason or another. The characters are excellently developed rather than falling into common tropes. Princess Bubblegum, rather than simply being an object Finn and Jake have to save, is a brilliant scientist and machiavellian manipulator, striving for the greater good of her Kingdom. The show, much like the Land of Ooo, has a darkness in both its story and humour.
The show tackles a huge range of issues from changing one’s self to appeal to others to abusive relationships. The humour in many places is incredibly dark, episodes often ending abruptly following some grim twist. At first glance the show might appear to be insanely random, but as you follow it, everything has a precision to it, a tightly managed continuity in which nothing is forgotten. Every seemingly random event is somehow explained, even the gender swap episodes are fan-fiction the Ice King writes about Finn and Jake. So if you don’t already watch the show, start. Even with the recent surge of animated shows directly aimed at adults, Adventure Time still holds its head high.