With 10 seasons, 3 mini-series, and a total runtime of 2 days, 22 hours and 45 minutes, Adventure Time came to Cartoon Network in April of 2010 and ended in September of 2018. Although I'm sure most of us had grown up with it, its basic concept is that of a young hero, Finn, exploring and going on adventures with his dog brother, Jake, in the mythical Land of Ooo. However, with such a simple premise, how did this show achieve 16 Emmy nominations and win 6 of them?
While continuing its ever-present concept, Jake and Finn adventuring, the world develops slowly with each 11-minute episode. When the series first starts, it's clear it's a show for children, as our adventurer was as young and immature as we were. However, from the beginning, this show has never shied away from challenging him, showing his faults and allowing him to grow from them while still keeping his good-natured spirit. As it continues, the types of personal challenges get deeper and the characters grow in number. While unlocking these characters, their personalities, and their ideals, we're able to see just how complex and fleshed out they each are.
This show presents a very unique strength in which when these characters were shown in all their faults, insecurities, and mistakes, they were able to challenge the issues and mistakes we ourselves were making. They facilitated a space where we could watch a magical and exciting episode but still take away deeper meaning and reflect on ourselves. This is shown in the varying depth of challenges Finn is faced with. As he grows and develops over the years they range from feeling remorse, impulse control, projection, bad relationships, having to face his shortcomings, an absent father, his past, rejection, crippling fears, and so much more while keeping up their most basic concept. This format kept up the magic, making it easy to digest and love the show because although there were challenges, there were bonds made. Witnessing the rainbow after the storm kept this show from being too heavy and hard to understand in our developing minds.
The ever-changing characters end up just as fleshed out and essential as Finn. This leads to another brilliant theme: the portrayal of different perspectives. When the show started, it was purely through the lens of Finn, but as deeper reflection was provided and more characters were added to the mix, we see the series take on a broader, more clear filter. We're able to absorb the tremendous layers of the world around him, just as he is. As the complications, nuances, and troubles are continuously presented, we unravel the Land of Ooo and the personalities of the characters in it.
The hidden beauty of Adventure Time is its ability to mature with its audience, to continuously change its tone as the world grows and expands around its aging audience: something extremely rare to find in a show of this nature. The message in each episode varied so deeply and was presented in such an infinite amount of ways that by the end of it, without knowing, we had grown into our own heroes.