Through its unique characters, "Adventure Time" introduced viewers, both old and young, to complex themes. (Illustration by Kristen Lucius, Minneapolis College of Art and Design)

A Look Back on the 10 Seasons of ‘Adventure Time’

How the story of a boy and his magical dog stole the hearts of millions of viewers and made television history.

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How the story of a boy and his magical dog stole the hearts of millions of viewers and made television history.

The popular Cartoon Network show “Adventure Time” said goodbye to eight years of making viewers laugh, cry and yell at their TVs in September 2018. The show premiered officially in April 2010, and, since then, the creators have produced an entire universe, an array of diverse characters and a variety of themes that completely engrossed viewers.

The series follows a boy, Finn, and his supernatural dog (he can stretch and shape his body), Jake, on their adventures through the magical universe that appeared amongst the ruins of Earth after an apocalyptic war.

The show started off as a simple adventure story of a boy and his dog getting in and out of trouble as they help protect the Candy Kingdom and its surrounding areas; however, 10 seasons of air time allowed the show to develop complex storylines, relationships and themes that many other cartoon shows lack. As “Adventure Time” kept producing episodes, the show would grow more and more complex as characters developed and storylines were revealed.

Having such a simple yet nuanced approach allowed the cartoon series to provide viewers with life lessons that many other cartoons would glaze over, or never even think to put into their narrative.

One major lesson that “Adventure Time” left its viewers with is that no matter what happens in life, you will always have your memories. The series consistently shows flashbacks and has episodes that evolve around memories in some way; even the last episode and song by Rebecca Sugar focuses on the power of memory. Sugar’s last song for the series finale is a sweet, moving send-off of the show, highlighting that no matter what, you can look back on the past and hold on to your memories.

Sugar’s lyrics capture the final sentiments of the show ending, while reminding viewers to hold on to everything they have taken from the animation. Sugar starts the final song by singing, “Time is an illusion that helps things make sense / so we’re always living in the present tense / it seems unforgiving when a good thing ends / but you and I will always be back then.” She then repeats the final line to end the song.

“Adventure Time” is also well-known for exploring diverse relationships on the show, and it has been lauded as the first cartoon on Cartoon Network to feature a canon lesbian relationship. Even though the creators would not confirm the relationship between Marceline and Princess Bubblegum because of the backlash it incurred, the series finale showed the pair sharing a much-anticipated kiss.

The series started off keeping the past relationship between PB and Marceline in the dark, mainly focusing on the current frustrations they had with one another. Viewers were only given a few hints that the girls once liked one another, like when PB kept Marceline’s T-shirt.

However, as the series continued, the girls’ relationship improved and creators dropped more hints, making it apparent to viewers that their relationship was in fact romantic without ever explicitly stating it.

What makes the wacky narrative of “Adventure Time” work is the emotional complexity the show builds by focusing on developing relationships. Season 1 is the setup season, mainly there to entertain and draw audiences in, but from Seasons 2 on the creators of the show focus on building the word around them, the history behind the Land of Ooo and, of course, the complexity of the relationships.

In episodes such as “I Remember You,” the tragic past of Marceline and the Ice King is revealed, showing how the apocalyptic war affected them. This is especially the case for the Ice King, who was once a good human named Simon. After he lost everything, from his memories to his loved ones, the anger made him descend into the evil persona of the Ice King.

Simon took care of Marceline, protecting her as they traveled across the nuclear wasteland that would later be Ooo. But the emotional part of the episode comes when Marceline realizes that the Ice King will never remember his life as Simon, or the people he cared about.

“Adventure Time” is one of the few cartoons where viewers grow up with the characters; most of the time characters remain the same age, or very close to the same ager, as when the show first starts. However, viewers experience five years of Finn’s life over the course of the 10 seasons.

When viewers meet Finn he is 13 years old, young and naïve, but in the finale he is 17, more mature and much more nuanced. Audiences see Finn deal with adolescence and all of its heartaches, and they hear the same voice actor from start to finish go through puberty, which makes the aging all seem a little bit more real.

For 10 seasons, “Adventure Time” has developed itself into more than just a simple cartoon show for the entertainment of kids and teens. Rather, the series turned into a multiverse of quirky characters, exciting plots and storylines, bittersweet moments and, of course, exploring problems everyone deals with.

The characters and cast of “Adventure Time” had the space and time to grow with the show, creating a touching narrative amongst all the wacky characters and jokes. Remember, the story never ends, and you and I will be back again.

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