Adventure TIme’s sister series is worth taking a look at. (WARNING: SPOILERS)
If you’re in any way familiar with the world of animation today, you’ve probably heard of a little show called Adventure Time.
Since its debut, it has captivated audiences and critics alike with its unique look, interesting characters, fascinating world, and an overarching story that slowly unravels before the viewer, giving the sense that all events have been calculated and the people at the helm knew exactly where this story was going right from the beginning. This has resulted in an accolade of awards and a large, passionate online following.
However, we are not here to talk about that show. Instead, we’re here to talk about its lesser known, online based, smaller sibling:
They were the guardians of the galaxy before it was cool.
But first, a little history:
Between December 2008 and August 2009, Nicktoons Network collaborated with Frederator Studios and aired an animation showcase series called Random! Cartoons. This was where animator/future auteur Pendleton Ward would create two original shorts: The first one was about a young boy and his magic dog who save a princess from an evil king, the other was about a team of teenage soldiers-for-hire who save a planet from a tickle monster. The former would be picked up by Cartoon Network to be turned into a full series in 2010, the other would be adapted into a comic to be released in October 2012 and then would be turned into a flagship series for Frederator’s fledgling Youtube-based branch called Cartoon Hangover. In November 2012, Bravest Warriors made its animated debut.
Taking place in the year 3085, when humankind has left Earth to colonize Mars, the eponymous warriors are a team of intergalactic mercenaries. There’s the idealist leader Chris Kirkman, the offbeat Wallow, the snarky Danny Vazquez, and the good-natured Beth Tezuka. They accept missions from all matter of alien life forms to save their worlds. They fight using heat-sensitive stickers that, when rubbed, produce a pet that can transform into many gadgets/weapons.
Witness the tools of your destruction.
Despite being credited as creator, Ward’s involvement with the production has been very limited. Arguably the biggest creative voice behind the scenes is director Breehn Burns. Two seasons in, the show has shown some similarities to AT, including a comparable art design, quirky characters, and a slow paced “tipping of the hand” approach to its storytelling. However, this series is a lot more straightforward in its plot exposition, relying more on the mystery and suspense of the situation the characters find themselves in. Where the biggest surprises in AT come from learning about the world the characters inhabit, the biggest surprises in BW are based on the long term consequences of the characters’ actions.
Let’s meet our heroes, starting with our valiant leader.
So far, the biggest overarching narratives in the series regard Chris’ character. Early on, we learn that he possesses unique powers that will allow him to become an Emotion Lord, a seemingly immortal being with the power to manipulate reality. When Chris encounters with his older self, it’s clear that he has ulterior motives behind his seemingly vaguely motivated actions and is holding back on explaining everything to them, apparently because it’s for everyone’s safety. What’s clear is that Chris is meant to fulfill his destiny as an Emotion Lord. Unfortunately, his strong morals make the journey towards this alleged conclusion very bumpy. Also, this collides with his other major arc, his relationship with Beth.
“I love you…..r sense of fashion!”
We’re told that he and Beth have been friends since childhood and he has developed a strong affection for her. However, many obstacles impede him from making anything happen with her. Sometimes, it’s his own ineptitude and reluctance to make a move, sometimes it’s more difficult circumstances, such as his growing attraction to Beth’s enigmatic friend (and also unofficial fifth warrior) Plum, and the Emotion Lord apparently knowing something about her future that Chris doesn’t.
Speaking of Beth, while relegated to the role of “the girl” for most of the show’s first season (they address this in a very tongue-in-cheek matter at one point), she gets an arc of her own for Season 2. As of the beginning of the series, we’re told that the current group of warriors is supposed to be a replacement for a former team called the Courageous Battlers, which was formed by the teens’ parents. For several years now, they’ve been captured in an alternate dimension called the See-Through Zone. When Beth encounters a door that allows her to enter it, she encounters her father, Johnny Tezuka, who is being controlled by a Lovecraftian-esque monster to create a cult that will give him power and allow it to materialize in the real world. Despite their best efforts to capture him, he manages to continue with his plans. Despite all of this, Beth remains steadfast in her determination to stop him at all costs. (Obviously, there’s a little more to it than that, but that would be telling too much.) Regarding her relationship to Chris, it’s implied that she also has strong feelings towards him (at several points showing jealousy/discomfort at the prospect of Chris spending time with Plum), but much like him, she is very hesitant to make her feelings public.
That’s ONE way to make a first impression.
Danny Vazquez is the team’s egotistic, moody inventor. While not having an arc to himself so far, his presence on the show is defined by walking the line between his very outward over-confidence and a streak of self-hatred. Being a social outcast and tormented by bullies for a good chunk of his childhood (before joining the Warriors), this has turned him into an emotional mess. For example, he once created a robot clone of Chris when he forgot about his birthday. During the finale of Season 2, he blames a comrade’s serious injury on his own cocky posturing and was a wreck for a significant part of the episode. Still, when the situation calls for it, he will rise to the occasion for his friends.
He will love you and feed you and call you George.
Rounding out the main cast is the team’s gentle giant, Wallow. Despite being the most physically imposing member of the team, he is very loving and sweet to all his friends. He has the tendency of adopting cute alien animals and bringing them home. So far, his biggest evolution as a character comes in the form of a flashback episode in which we see how he used to be really into stuffed animals as a child, but developed a fondness for real animals after overcoming his fear of them. Also (MINOR SPOILER), he seems oddly flippant about his less-than-fortunate condition at the end of Season 2.
More than just also-rans.
The most prominent members of the supporting cast include a group of pets to the warriors, such as Catbug, a childlike ladybug/cat hybrid with the ability to travel between dimensions (and also a runaway fan-favorite), Wallow’s rude and somewhat violent pet bear Impossibear (he speaks like a jive black man), and Beth’s childhood pet horse who became paralyzed after discovering the meaning of the universe and forever (no, really).
Don’t be surprised if you hear a familiar voice in this show.
Last but not least, there’s Beth’s best friend, Plum. She’s a merewif, an alien creature that can turn its legs into a mermaid’s tail when in water. She’s very sweet, perky and is shown to be attracted to Chris. She has a double personality living inside her mind, which whom she doesn’t get along. So far, her biggest contribution is potentially jeopardizing (in her own way) Chris and Beth’s possibility of becoming an item, despite caring a lot for both of them.
If any of what you’ve just read sounds interesting to you, I really think you should check this series out. It’s currently on hiatus and Season 3 should premiere in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, you can catch up on it at https://www.youtube.com/user/CartoonHangover/videos. If you feel like getting a taste for the series first, here’s 5 episode recommendations to help you get started:
Chris is confronted by Wallow and Danny about his feelings for Beth.
The purpose of this list is to get you acquainted with the series style and sense of humor before tackling some of its heavier themes. This episode provides one hell of an ice-breaker: what if the Holodeck from Star Trek was in the bathroom? If Adventure Time can come across as a hard PG/Y7 rated show at its most extreme, you can expect something slightly edgier from this. This is only a sample of how nutty the series can get.
The Warriors lose their memories while riding a bus.
The episode starts in medias-res, with the Warriors slowly trying to figure out who they are while in the middle of a crisis situation. It’s like the movie Speed, but with amnesia. AND IN SPACE.
Gas Powered Stick
Beth introduces the other Warriors to her friend Plum.
The introduction to Plum’s character, featuring the male members of the warriors being tempted by her charms, the Emotion Lord putting a series of events into motion, and the possibility that there’s more to Plum than what she leads on.
The team splits up and travels across different planets to save the Sugarbelly aliens.
A lost episode of Season 1, it hinges on having all the characters talking in jibberish throughout most of its runtime, leaving the viewer seriously confused, and hopefully intrigued, by what is going on. One of the weirdest episodes of a very weird series.
The Puppetyville Horror
The team arrives in a yellow planet where they all slowly start to disappear one by one.
Most episodes of Season 2 are payoffs to plotlines from Season 1, with very little space in between for standalone pieces. This is one of them, and thankfully it’s pretty damn funny. Featuring the guest voice talent of Dana Snyder.
Catbug plays with his toys.
One of the shorts released between Seasons 1 and 2. See for yourself whether it’s worth jumping into the Catbug fan-wagon.