Adventure Time: Distant Lands exists to cater to fans. The show came to a perfect conclusion with a finale that I’ve referenced in not one, but two lists of the best episodes of the show. But fans (myself very much included) wanted more of Ooo and all the wonderful characters that we grew to love over the show’s ten season run. So the Distant Lands specials were announced and are being made to attempt to satiate a rabid fandom. But perhaps more than any of the other specials in the Distant Lands crop, Obsidian, Princess Bubblegum and Marceline’s own special, needed to be 100% undiluted fan service.
After watching the couple fight, make up, and not explicitly get back together in the original run of the show, fans wanted more. And after years of guessing and hoping but not knowing for sure whether the two were canonically a couple until it was finally confirmed in that wonderful finale, fans deserved to see them explicitly together. Thankfully, Obsidian fully delivers, though not before a bit of a confusing start.
Obsidian takes us to the never-before-seen Glass Kingdom, where the glass people worship Marceline as “Saint Marceline” who saved them from a dragon by banishing it to the volcano at the center of the kingdom. We meet Glassboy (Michaela Dietz, whose voice viewers may recognize as Amethyst from Steven Universe) who believes that the dragon may be dead and that the volcano may in fact be able to cure cracks – like the one he has on his head. Glassboy opens the locked gates to the volcano and sneaks in to attempt to fix his crack, but in the process raises the dragon from its slumber.
An opening that references Marceline but doesn’t actually involve her or Princess Bubblegum at all isn’t the best start for a special that so many have been eagerly awaiting because it will give them a chance to see their favorite couple together. But when Glassboy convinces his princess that Marceline is still alive and that he will find her, we shift into the opening credits sequence that parallels Glassboy’s journey to more familiar parts of Ooo with scenes of domestic bliss from Marceline and Princess Bubblegum’s life together.
We watch the couple build a cabinet, make a pie, just hang out on the couch together, and see Marceline splayed out on her side of the bed next to a perfectly tucked in Bubblegum. These are little moments that mean the world to fans.
Sadly, the animation style of Obsidian has (to use the show’s parlance) donked up PB and Marcy’s faces. It’s hard to pin down exactly what the issue is, but it seems that their eyes are drawn larger and closer together than they were during the original run of the show, which just makes them look off. The new look isn’t detrimental to the special, but it’s disappointing that what is supposed to be “better” animation just ends up looking wrong for those of us who have spent years looking at their faces.
After Glassboy reaches PB and Marcy, with some help from deep cut character Choose Goose in a brief but delightful cameo, and former Ice King Simon who is now living a (mostly) healthy life, the three set off for the Glass Kingdom so that Marcy can once again defeat the dragon.
But the Glass Kingdom holds difficult memories for the couple. As we learn through a series of flashbacks, it’s where they originally broke up. The where doesn’t really matter, but we also get to see the how and the why, which are major reveals and fantastically realized. We learn that the two had a relationship-ending fight when first fighting the dragon some hundreds of years ago. A fight that led Marceline to sing a song that’s one of the best she’s ever sung, and one of two in the special that are destined to become Adventure Time fandom classics. The song is absolutely brutal lyrically, but also an absolute jam, making for a simultaneously fun and painful viewing and listening experience.
Obsidian doesn’t only contain essential backstory for the main couple, though – it also fills in some of Marceline’s story with her mom. These flashbacks are heartbreaking as we learn how hard Marcy’s mom worked to keep her half-demon daughter safe in a post-apocalyptic world, while also raising her to be a good person, and struggling with an unidentified disease.
Obsidian covers an incredible amount of emotional and narrative ground in its 46 minutes, and gives us gorgeously sappy romantic moments like Marceline singing Bubblegum a love song (the other song in the special destined to be a classic) and lines like “you’re everything to me.” And while the animation may not be exactly right – to be fair, it’s especially wrong the few times that Marcy transforms – the episode has an unexpected but entirely welcome dose of anime inspired creatures and action sequences that keep it visually exciting.
The special is a huge success in terms of wearing the fact of its fan service on its sleeve, while also making all of that fan service work in a narrative. Beyond the flashbacks of the couple’s breakup, we also get to see some of their first romantic relationship, cameos from beloved characters who run the gamut of A to C listers in the Adventure Time canon, and, perhaps most importantly, we get an origin story for Princess Bubblegum’s rock shirt.
And yet, because this is the first real taste we’ve had of Ooo’s number one couple 100% openly being a couple – and because the world of Adventure Time continues to feel so ripe for more stories, especially when it keeps on growing to include more kingdoms and planets like it did in the BMO special – Obsidian still ends up feeling like it’s not enough. This feeling may change with repeated viewings, but after watching it once I couldn’t help but feel like I needed more.
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Obsidian is fan service at its finest, providing great romantic moments for its central couple as well as emotionally potent flashbacks that flesh out their backstory, all while delivering a fun and exciting one-off adventure.
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