‘Adventure Time’: The Animated Kids Show You Should Be Watching

If you haven’t gotten into Adventure Time, the animated kid’s series on Cartoon Network, now’s the time; the fifth season debuted earlier this month, and the first episode is available on iTunes. Why would you watch a show created for children, you might ask? We’ve fallen in love with Finn the Human and his shape-shifting pal, Jake, who share a tree house in the magical land of Ooo. That’s not to mention the cast of supporting characters who are more often than not made out of something edible. There are stretchable rainbow unicorns, lemony Frankenstein monsters, and Lumpy Space Princesses who are so ready for boys named Brad. So ready. The storylines are just as varied and unexpected as the characters, but if that doesn’t convince you, here are five more reasons you should be watching.

The nostalgia factor.

On the most recent episode of the wonderful PBS web series Idea Channel, host Mike Rugnetta makes an intelligent, not to mention entertaining, case for the kid show’s popularity with adults. He argues that nostalgia is at the root here, with Finn and Jake eliciting warm memories from us old fogies as they travel their world, discovering new creatures and ideas, and saving the day. Thanks for the analysis, Mr. Rungetta! We couldn’t agree more.

It’s delightfully dark.

It’s not all adventuring for our heroes Finn and Jake, however. Ooo has a mysterious back story, involving hints of a possible nuclear fallout that ended humanity as we know it (Finn is the only official human we know of in this world). This gives the show a delicious bit of darkness to temper all the peppermint and bubblegum creatures running around. Many of our favorite characters have their own tragedies as well; watch angsty vampire Marceline and the sad-sack Ice King sing about some pretty traumatic history in the video above.

The show’s creator, Pendleton Ward.

Beyond the kindly glasses and turtle librarian demeanor, Ward seems to genuinely care for his off-kilter creations, who he unleashed on the world as an animated short that went viral in 2008. “It’s just like playing D&D, where I’m role-playing these characters,” he told Co. Create. “I don’t know where they are going to go yet, but I am them when I am writing it. It’s exciting for me to write it. I don’t know what’s going to happen in Finn’s relationship because we haven’t totally figured everything out yet, but that’s okay because we are those characters. All of the writers on the show are living these lives. That’s what makes it cool…”

The positive, feel-good message.

We assume that at least a few viewers aren’t streaming Adventure Time from their dorm rooms. We’re glad that kiddos are watching TV show with a do-your-thing, be-who-you-want-to be kind of vibe. Check out the Princess Bubblegum in the video above, a serious leader who loves pink AND science. There is also Fionna, Jake’s female counterpart in the gender-swapping episode “Adventure Time with Fiona and Cake,” who loves adventure and isn’t waiting around to be saved by a prince (who just happens to be voiced by Neil Patrick Harris).

The wonderful musical interludes.

The song above captures what makes Adventure Time‘s music numbers so great (and strange) — each song sounds like it sprang up organically from the brain of the character who is singing it. Finn probably would tell life to “eat it” if he had just been turned into a foot. It’s clear that the writers know their characters very well, and have a knack for writing songs that fit just right.