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Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake is a Delightful Reintroduction to the Land of Ooo

Pendleton Ward's “Adventure Time” took Cartoon Network and its viewers by storm when it premiered in 2010. Its colorful palette, song & dance breaks, and voice acting made it stand out amongst other animated shows of its time, creating unforgettable iconography that still has a hold on pop culture today. The series originally followed a boy named Finn and his talking dog, Jake, on their daily adventures in the magical land of Ooo. While the show started as a simple adventure saga, it quickly amassed a huge fanbase, leading to a ten-season run that ended in 2018. As the show progressed, so did its character arcs and storylines, making it a cartoon that outshined many of its peers. 

A gender-swapped version of the heroic duo—Fionna and Cake—was introduced in the ninth episode of the third season and subsequently appeared in a handful of episodes, to the delight of fans each time. Now they have their own show, “Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake,” adding to the lore and intrigue of the show's sprawling universe. 

The first episode opens with Fionna and Cake working together like a well-oiled machine, chasing a villainous rat that is also a bus, a nightmarish thing akin to the Catbus from “My Neighbor Totoro.” The opening sequence is like a classic episode of the original show until Fionna jolts awake. It's then revealed that she and Cake were dreaming; they live in a world similar to ours. 

Devoid of magic and intrigue, Fionna works as a tour guide to pay for a messy apartment, coasting along in a life vividly unlike the one viewers have previously seen her lead. However, her life takes an unexpected turn when Cake exhibits strange behavior after their crime-fighting dream. She starts coughing up ice cubes and becomes fixated on anything cold, drawn to the mysteries of what these temperatures mean to her. Fionna finds herself chasing after Cake, who ultimately jumps into a portal that appears in an ice cream trolley. We then get a re-introduction to the land of Ooo, and a reunion with characters fans have loved for years. 

Different iterations of Finn and Jake appear throughout the show, some resembling older versions of the beloved characters, while others are hardened and bitter. Despite not being the exact versions viewers are familiar with, these characters are a joy to watch, delightfully bobbing in and out of the narrative. “Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake” lets us fall in love with different versions of characters that viewers initially fell in love with 13 years ago. In turn, when these characters meet, they are allowed to love each other. 

While films and shows focusing on multiverses are a  bit excessive, in the context of “Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake,” it's successful and entertaining. “Adventure Time” remains one of the few cartoons that has let its characters age with its viewers; “Fionna and Cake” is no different. The threads of memory and belonging remain, but are more natural than in 2018. These themes directly coincide with Fionna and Cake’s presence in a world that views them as fables, though they live a life of unbelievable normalcy. By forcing their world to be devoid of magic, the creators make the land of Ooo even more magical than it already was, not only for the viewers but also for the main characters. 

As the season progresses, Fionna, Cake, and Simon Petrikov—formerly known as Ice King—travel in an attempt for Simon to get back the crown that made him magical. In tracking down the crown, Simon hopes he can make Fionna and Cake’s world magical again, but he also longs to be the man he used to be. The three then travel to different fun worlds and are sidetracked by various tasks and characters. Simon’s desire to find himself again coincides with the addition of magic to Fionna's world, making for the most sentimental element of the show. 

When Fionna utters in awe, “I knew my life was supposed to be magic,” it becomes clear this show understands who its viewers are and what they need after such a long time away from this world. Like Simon, Fionna and Cake are figments of our imagination; they belong to us in the same way they belong to him. As the original “Adventure Time” guided many through childhood and teenagehood, "Fionna and Cake" is here not only for a new generation but for those who grew up with it as well. The interdimensional adventures of these characters lovingly add to Ooo's ever-expanding world and remain true to the show's original themes. In the end, "Adventure Time: Fionna & Cake" remains true to the show's fans as well.

"Adventure Time: Fionna & Cake" premieres on Max on August 31st.

Kaiya Shunyata

Kaiya Shunyata is a freelance pop culture writer and academic based in Canada. They have written for RogerEbert.com, Xtra, Okayplayer, The Daily Beast, AltPress and more. 

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