When it was first announced that Masaaki Yuasa would be directing, writing, and animating an episode of Adventure Time, I was over the moon. After the first guest animated episode of the show was so fantastic, I had high hopes for "Food Chain." And let me just say you won't be disappointed. While it's outside the series cannon, this will surely become one of the most memorable and important episodes of the series. But enough baseless gratitude! Let's get to the recap.
The episode starts with a number of candy-kids running through an educational obstacle-course that teaches them about the food chain. They're having a blast, laughing and screaming with joy as they run, jump, and eat their way through the cycle. Finn watches, confused about what's so fun. Jake doesn't quite agree, keeping an open mind about munching on caterpillars.
That's when Princess Bubblegum gives a lecture on the food chain in more depth. Caterpillars eat plants, small birds eat caterpillars, big birds eat the little birds, bacteria consumes and fertilizes the dead big birds, plants grow out of the fertilized soil, and the caterpillar eats the plant again.
The kids watching (including the coolest kid in class, Terry), aren't impressed. To them, that wheel is just a bunch of boring pictures. Finn seems to be in agreement, though he doesn't voice it in the open like the little ones do. He just asks Jake, "what's the big d'z about the food chain, anyway?" But unbeknownst to Finn, a devious interloper is eavesdropping. And that's when the magic man transforms the duo into birds.
Immediately following their transformation, the two burst into the most appropriate, electronic rendition of Mozart's "Queen of the Night Aria" I've ever seen in my life. It comes out of nowhere and is still one of the best moments of the episode.
Once they both acknowledge that they're birds, Finn remembers that he's hungry. Jake leads them to a patch of grass with a whole host of caterpillars who are prime feast material. Without a second thought, Jake gobbles up a mouthful. Finn is a little grossed out, and even pukes after his buddy convinces him to partake. But that doesn't stop him from going to town on caterpillars for an hour, getting a little chubs in the process.
As they lounge their meal away, a predator appears, looking for a feast of its own. It chases Finn (who is too full to really fly) around for a bit until it looks like it's game over. That's when the magic man makes Finn exchange places with the bigger bird. Now the one doing the chasing, Finn still misses his meal. The only problem is while he was full before, now he's practically starving. And old.
This brings us to the creepiest part of the episode, if only because gaunt-ass bird!Finn is one scary looking mother fucker. I mean, those jagged cheeks and exposed ribs are one thing, but the purple rings around his eyes and the massive amounts of mucousy saliva are gnarly. Plus he wants to eat Jake, which is just dirt-balls. But despite his best efforts, Finn's best friend won't just let himself be lunch, which causes him to collapse from fatigue and die (yes, Finn just dies) amid the sound of funeral-style bagpipe music. The laws of nature have claimed another victim.
That's when hundreds of little bacteria!Finn show up to munch on his own bird-corpse (this episode is pretty morbid). To them, the body looks like a whole smorgasbord of delicious food. This time it's Jake as the skeptical one, saying that while he'll eat a lot of things, dead bodies aren't on the menu. Finn (making a fantastic face, as seen just below Jake) says it's a good conversation starter, though Jake doesn't budge. And just after the bacteria finish eating, a big wind blows everything away, pushing Finn and Jake into the next stage of the cycle.
Finn and Jake are arguably best as flowers, if only because how the episode handles the passage of time. The two speak in slow motion as days and nights pass them by in a rapid fashion. As they sing their song, caterpillars feast on their leaves, causing the two friends no shortage of anguish. But just as they're about to be nibbled into oblivion, some birds show up to save them. Still in slow motion, they praise their heroes as some TV-screen static shifts them into the next phase of their lesson.
Now they're caterpillars, baking under a harsh sun while looking for shelter and sustenance. While inching along, they come across a female caterpillar on her own, sending Finn into an immediate fit of goo-goo-eyes. She introduces herself as Erin, and says she's out looking for food and water for her family — but she's not sure if she'll make it. In fact, she almost collapses right then and there. Finn catches her, begging for a place of nourishment to show itself. Sure enough, Jake points to the very same oasis where they spent time as birds and flowers. The day is saved.The three nom on some choice leaves, resulting in a particularly anime-looking shot of Erin (would you kill me if I call it kawaii?). Everyone fills their stomach in short order and decides to relax atop a leaf as the sun sets. Jake forces Finn into a flirty situation with Erin, prompting the human-caterpillar to, out of nowhere, ask her if she wants to get married. What a romantic.
Anyway, the scene skips to their wedding day, which is a beautiful affair attended by all the caterpillars of the oasis. Jake marries them and everyone cheers, but some small birds crash the party. As everyone is quickly snacked up by the birds, Finn tells Erin that he'll marry her again when they reach the caterpillar cycle again. Erin says she's down, but also tells him that, when she hits the bacteria phase, she might see what else is out there. Before the shocked Finn knows how to respond, he's a human again, choking down a mouthful of caterpillars. He spits them out on the table, but the whole experience has led him to a beautiful epiphany.
And thus begins another fantastic song. I don't know what it was about the style of Finn's performance, but it screamed of classic anime, to me. Plus, who knew Finn could tap-dance?
Once his song is over and enlightenment has been reached, Finn floats above the candy-kids, serene, like some kind of nature prophet. The kids still couldn't give a shit about the food chain, though, because they didn't experience its majesty first hand. They run off to go play in the obstacle course again and the episode ends like it started.
Kind of like the food chain. Well, would you look at that. They're so clever.
- None! This episode wasn't canonical, so there's little to muse over. Sometimes it's just nice to smell the roses.
All in all, this is a must-watch episode. Rather, it's a must-watch-ten-times-or-more episode. I hope they continue this trend of guest animators, continuing the process of cementing Finn and Jake as universal cartoon characters who can fit into any culture and style of animation.