Before it was basic cable’s best animated mindfuck disguised as a children’s series, Adventure Time was an Internet phenomenon. While Pendleton Ward and Frederator Studios struggled to sell a network on the exploits of Finn the human and Jake the dog, the original Adventure Time short racked up thousands of streaming-video views online. With Bravest Warriors, the animator and the studio cut out the middle man, giving Ward’s far-out teenaged space nuts—ostensible leader Chris, levelheaded Beth, wisecracking Danny, and brains of the operation Wallow—a home on Frederator’s Cartoon Hangover channel on YouTube. The wiggly limbs and idiosyncratic vocabulary of Ward’s name-making series carry over to Bravest Warriors, while the looser standards of the Internet and the directorial and writing efforts of Spike & Mike’s Sick & Twisted Festival Of Animation veteran Breehn Burns (Dr. Tran) make subversive text of what can only be subtext on Adventure Time.
Keywords: Tumblr-toons, sassy moments, “Mathematical!”
Where to start: While debut episode “Time Slime” dispenses with the exposition—the Bravest Warriors became intergalactic heroes for hire following the disappearance of their parents, the Courageous Battlers—its follow-up, “Emotion Lord,” serves as a better introduction to the cartoon’s mix of sci-fi hilarity and keenly observed sentiment. More manically paced than the average Bravest Warriors installment, the Warriors’ melee with an emotionally manipulative coot who’s one part Q (the Star Trek Q, not the James Bond Q) and another part Doctor Who takes an unexpected turn when the titular character reveals he also has a bit of Yoda in him. Five episodes later, it’s still unclear whether the Emotion Lord is just pulling a massive prank on Chris and his friends, but the deeper feelings he unlocks with a simple “I cannot train him, he’s not ready” hint that there’s more to Bravest Warriors than space-opera non sequiturs and GIF-ready images of characters puking cashews. Later episodes where the kids grapple with their feelings about one another and their overall mission—amid nonsense about ass-less extraterrestrials and virtual-reality bathrooms—confirm those hints.
Where to watch: New episodes post to YouTube every Thursday.