‘Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake’ is Totally Algebraic

“Fionna and Cake” provides the same humor and the sentimentality “Adventure Time” fans have grown to love.

“Every day’s the same — painfully mundane,” indie artist Zuzu sings in the first episode of Max’s “Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake.” The opening song “Not Myself” details main character Fionna’s struggle with the monotony and difficulties of everyday life — but the show itself is anything but boring.

“Fionna and Cake,” developed by Adam Muto, is a spin-off of Cartoon Network’s “Adventure Time.” The animated show follows Fionna the Human and Cake the Cat — the alternative versions of Finn the Human and Jake the Dog from the original run of “Adventure Time.”

This is the series’ first season, which aired from Aug. 31 to Sept. 28, releasing two episodes every Thursday for a total of 10 episodes.

Fionna (Madeleine Martin) and Cake (Roz Ryan) appear in five episodes of “Adventure Time.” They’re introduced in Season 3, Episode 9 titled “Adventure Time With Fionna and Cake.” In these episodes, Fionna and Cake exist as characters from fanfiction written about Finn and Jake by semi-villain Ice King. They live in an alternate world identical to Finn and Jake’s with one exception — every character is gender-swapped.

While their “Adventure Time” world is magical and exhilarating, the city in “Fionna and Cake” is average and filled with the humdrum of everyday life. Instead of slaying dragons and rescuing Prince Gumball, Fionna is working at a tour bus company and living in a studio apartment with her pet cat, Cake.

Fionna resents the dullness of her life and yearns for thrilling adventures. Her wish is answered when she and Cake accidentally stumble into Finn and Jake’s world through a portal created by Simon Petrikov — formerly known as the Ice King (Tom Kenny).

Simon, Fionna and Cake jump through alternate universes to find another version of the ice crown so Simon can restore magic to Fionna’s world. 

The series depends heavily on viewers’ prior knowledge of “Adventure Time.” From character references to continuing plotlines, many crucial narratives and themes are lost to the casual watcher. 

Most of the profoundly emotional scenes center around Simon — a character with a remarkably complex history explored in-depth throughout the 10 seasons of “Adventure Time.” “Fionna and Cake” does offer more into his past, particularly with his lover Betty. But when lacking background expertise, Simon’s scenes aren’t poignant — they’re just sad.

Former “Adventure Time” composers Rebecca Sugar (“Steven Universe”), Amanda Jones and Patrick McHale (“Over the Garden Wall”) have returned to deliver delightfully creative songs for the series.

McHale’s “Winter Wonder World” is a cheerfully playful song about an alternate universe Ice King accompanied by elegant, soft-hued art produced by SmallBü Animation Studio.

Donald Glover, the rapper-actor known by his alias Childish Gambino, reprises his role as Marshall Lee but is given only one scene to perform half a song. Considering the almost 48 million streams on Spotify of Glover’s song “Good Little Girl” from Season 5, Episode 11 of “Adventure Time” titled “Bad Little Boy,” his brief musical cameo is disappointing. 

The voice acting matches the emotional cadence of deeper scenes, while maintaining the upbeat liveliness of a cartoon. Only two of the main characters were voiced by different actors than in “Adventure Time.”

Wishmaster Prismo, originally performed by Kumail Nanjiani, is now voiced by Sean Rohani. Gary Prince, the human, gender-swapped version of Princess Bubblegum, has been switched from Neil Patrick Harris to Andrew Rannells.

Rohani’s voice blends in seamlessly, filling Nanjiani’s shoes with ease. Rannells’ voice, on the other hand, is a jarring change. With his nasally pitch, Rannells’ contributions contrast Harris’ calmer tone. 

“Fionna and Cake” seems aware of their viewers growing up since the run of “Adventure Time.” The show is rated TV-14 for profanity, gore, nudity and substance use, compared to the PG rating of “Adventure Time.” Some scenes are outrightly disturbing — an impressive feat considering the series’ adorable and simple animation style.

Typical of “Adventure Time” episodes, the series also delves into more mature themes of self-worth, acceptance and loss. “Fionna and Cake” handles these topics with refined tact as characters grow, make mistakes and offer forgiveness.

“Fionna and Cake” provides the same humor and the sentimentality “Adventure Time” fans have grown to love. But the show also takes care to establish itself as its own story, and Fionna and Cake as their own characters outside of Finn and Jake.

All episodes of “Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake” are currently streaming on Max.

Featured image courtesy of Max

Catherine Meyer

Catherine Meyer