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A Nuggets Essay©: Serialized Story Elements: Steven Universe v.s Adventure Time! (Hayden v. Nuggets)

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  1. 1. Which show does a better job handling it's plot elements?

    • Adventure Time!
    • Steven Universe!


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hayden is being a motherfucking DIPSHIT on xat so I'm going to bring this debate to the good people of SBC to settle this shit once and for all

For you people who watch both of the shows, which show would you say is better at handling it's darker plot elements? I said Steven Universe. Here's why.

While I'm hesitant to call Steven Universe a better show, there are unquestionably some things it does better than Adventure Time in my opinion - one of those things is how it's handled it's overarching plot elements. A lot of this is due to the nature of both shows at their start. Most of Steven Universe's deeper reveals (the Gems being aliens, Homeworld being a shitty place, etc) were planned from the start, and it's always leaned more into action/anime elements than Adventure Time has. Because of that, Steven Universe has tighter writing. Adventure Time is a more unorthodox creature, more freeform with it's storytelling, and that's because what Adventure Time is in it's current form was never planned. Adventure Time started as a straightforward comedy with Dungeons and Dragons elements, and the deeper lore didn't exist until a couple writers ran with certain elements. Ooo wasn't explicitly post-apocalyptic until Pen decided it was partway through the first season after the episode Business Time. Since then, the show became a rolling ball of backstories, with random things getting picked up and being ran with as the show got deeper and darker, culminating in the show's mixed 6th season.

There are advantages to this. Adventure Time feels like a much lighter show and is much easier to pick up due to this. Adventure Time still has it's feet firmly planted in that Season 1 turf, it's just that some water has risen and the ground is a lot murkier. That is to say, Adventure Time can switch tones at the drop of a hat, doing deathly serious or philosophical episodes and following them up with silly episodes that feel like they fell straight out of Season 1 (and in the case of episodes like Cloudy, actually did). This keeps Adventure Time from ever feeling too dark and dipping into territory that isn't suited for a show that primarily focuses on comedy and philosophy. And admittedly, Steven Universe has, very rarely gotten too dark for it's own good. 

But there are disadvantages to this too: notably,  mood whiplash. Adventure Time dabbles in some heavy shit. Alzheimer's, loss, abandonment, worthlessness, loneliness borne of post-apocalyptic war, sexual awakening, and catastrophic death are just a couple subjects the show has brushed over. These elements started showing up in quick bursts during season 2, more often in Season 3, and in Season 4 and after, began sprinkling themselves among most episodes in the background. However, a common complaint among fans who enjoyed these deeper overarching elements have taken issue with how inconsistently Adventure Time has dealt with those themes. Episodes revolving around the Mushroom War/Ice King/Betty/The Lich backstory are often very special events that usually last only one or two episodes, while the show will often rein back in for long stretches of absurd comedy episodes or episodes that focus on Finn's love life. While Finn's love life is not without it's deeper elements ("Frost & Fire", "Breezy" & "Dungeon Train" are some of this show's most affecting episodes, well, ever), it is often the backstory of how this world came to be that entices fans. However, over the course of the show, the focus on these elements has been very slight. Although one of the characters in the Series Bible, the Lich's actual antagonist appearances total to about eight actual episodes. The Simon/Ice King/Betty escapades have totaled to about 5 episodes.  Even in a moment that led to one of Adventure Time's biggest upsets (Finn meeting his Dad), the impetus to this is delivered in a random and haphazard way at the end of an episode that had almost nothing to do with the reveal itself.  Adventure Time often shows glimpses of being a deeper, darker, more action oriented show like SU, but because it lacks an intense serialized pace, it becomes a darker adventure show for about two episodes before reverting back into whatever it was before. And there's nothing wrong with that. Intense serialization is not necessary for Adventure Time because it's not an action show - it's kind of everything.

The issue is that when Adventure Time does devote itself to intense serialization, it transcends itself and becomes a much better show. Stakes, Islands, and Elements are miniseries (almost) entirely devoted to explaining the lore behind the show with a frame of Finn and Jake going on adventures. It doesn't break the tone of the show, but the writing is much tighter because the episodes directly follow one another, and because the arcs are devoted to dealing with what the fans have wanted, everyone was happy. There are certainly detours into silly stuff, like Cloudy, but for the most part, everything is in-line with the plot, and the silliness is grounded and has a reason to exist. At the very least, no random offenders such as James II or Jake the Brick are offered in these 8-episode stretches. Adventure Time's willingness to go back to Season 1 comedy at the drop of a hat is one of it's greatest strengths, keeping it a youthful feeling show, but offers up no resolve for people who enjoy the deeper elements. It would be different if AT was like SU and offered some bits and lore about stuff in random episodes, but when Adventure Time lays off the lore, it lays off hard, and for a long time. Martin appears in the first two episodes of Season 6, and then twice more before he shows up in the finale. Martin's purpose in the show was ultimately to show how shitty he was and how that affected Finn, but so little of the show dealt with it outside of Tower and Breezy that his entire arc felt poorly thought out and haphazard. also the entire Betty episode  Sugar's show, with the exception of ONE episode, never feels like that.  

The miniseries are what Steven Universe (post-Ocean Gem, at least) tends to be like. When Steven Universe isn't directly dealing with it's major overarching themes, lore, or villains (and arguably 70% of the Post-Season 1A material deals with this) then it's giving out small glimpses of Steven's power, or dropping small hints of backstory (Pearl's relationship with Rose was built up for a long time before they just finally just said what it was) or foreshadowing towards other elements. Steven Universe also took a page out of AT's book and managed to recontextualize many of it's earlier episodes in a darker context, making entire episodes from the first, siller half of the first season have a purpose. There's a non-debatable ratio of story/foreshadowing/hint/lore-oriented episodes that leans in favor of Steven Universe. Because Steven Universe was always intended to have its story doled out as it went, it offers up more concrete conclusions to the arcs it brings up. Jake has his kids in what was built up to be a very important event, but except for a handful of episodes afterward, they have failed to be the subject of any important episodes (and more importantly, only like two that were even good, but that's neither here nor there. fuck those kids man).

These differences are pretty easily surmised: Adventure Time, while very freeform, is ultimately more comedy oriented than Steven Universe, which is a show more primarily focused on action, lore and it's overall plot. But while Steven Universe had no trouble playing down to Adventure Time's writing level in it's episodes pre-Mirror Gem, Adventure Time has trouble playing up to Steven's level on a consistent basis. That doesn't mean that it's a better show. But I do think that it means it has a better handle on it's storytelling elements than Adventure Time does. And that's how I feel on the matter. 

BUT! I'm not always right! usually, but not always  So what do you guys believe ? WHO RIGHT?

so in summary: fuck Hayden, get rekt u lil bitchmade bitch

adderall is a hellufa drug

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Damn, I wish I was on xat more last night. I sure missed a lot of shit going down lmao.

Here's my take on this debate.

I agree with you on a lot of points, Nugs. I always felt like SU was a bit better at handling it's overarching arcs because even back when many people considered season 2-4 to be best of AT, you can see that the show didn't keep up with some of it's arcs that much. That doesn't mean they ended up being disappointing episodes but considering how many times the show hyped something up and in the end, it dropped some of these too soon and it tackled those in future episodes, I'd say yeah. AT has some issues with it's storytelling. And yeah, SU is also darker andmore serious with it's themes. However, as much as I think SU is tackling serialization better, SU also has same problems with AT that many people started to criticize SU more. In fact AT just became a story focused show in past 2 years and SU started to lose control of it's plots.

So many examples. Amethyst's past with Greg was never mentioned again, Lapis didn't get to do that much on this show anymore, they solved cluster way too soon and they never brought it up until one episode of season 4, Bismuth was ignored for rest of the series with exception of one episode, just when Jasper became interesting they temporary wrote her off, up until last season 4 episodes the arc of Steven dealing with his mother's guilt wasn't focused on that much, Peridot became useless, Amethyst's issues are solved quickly, Rubies jumped back and forth and Zoo is still there with people being enslaved. This became such a huge problem in season 4 because they started to be more down to earth with focusing on human characters I didn't give a crap about (Onion, Mr. Smiley, Ronaldo, Steven's uncle) and it kept teasing us there'll be answers of Rose's past and it barely gave it to us. I don't mind down to earth episodes if there's some humor in it and it still has gems mixed with humans (that's when human episodes gets so interesting) but lately it's not that either. I actually find SU to be more disappointing because it once was amazing with it's arcs and looking at back and now, I don't feel the same hype anymore.

At first I really thought SU was going somewhere epic like AT and even though season 5 of SU reached my hopeful expectations so far, AT has been better with it's arcs more than SU these days.

In the end, both shows deal with more of less same problems that drives me nuts but I still like both show nevertheless.

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I agree that SU does a better job at handling its plots. AT does get some great storylines, but SU tends to focus on them a bit more while AT feels like it leaves them hanging so long you tend to forget there was a storyline going on at all.

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While AT has a lot going on and leaves a lot floating up there for a long time, at least conclusions can be satisfying. The handling of the Cluster Arc was the worst thing I've seen from a show the past few years. The buildup with introducing messed up forced fusions was great, but they don't even worry about The Cluster in the barn episodes and look at the ending, absolutely nothing because friendship power suddenly allows them to not want to destroy the world? Don't mention Amethyst trying to traumitize Greg by transforming into Rose again? Lapis and Peridot being reduced into side characters for absolutely no reason?

You could say SU and AT have the same problems in not giving enough focus but I ultimately like the execution of AT's much better by miles. AT knows when it wants to do a storyline or focus episode by episode such as the specials with all the MOs. AT isn't a show that needs to have nothing but progression and I've been eased into that. I have no idea what SU was even trying to do with themselves though and it feels like a disappointing mess. Too much so in terms of the darker stuff, since the show share what I feel are those same problems in terms of story spacing it's ultimately down to execution and AT's storylines when resolved are so much more satisfying because it feels like the writers have an actual clear vision half the time.

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3 minutes ago, Sunshine Banjo Face said:

While AT has a lot going on and leaves a lot floating up there for a long time, at least conclusions can be satisfying. The handling of the Cluster Arc was the worst thing I've seen from a show the past few years. The buildup with introducing messed up forced fusions was great, but they don't even worry about The Cluster in the barn episodes and look at the ending, absolutely nothing because friendship power suddenly allows them to not want to destroy the world? Don't mention Amethyst trying to traumitize Greg by transforming into Rose again? Lapis and Peridot being reduced into side characters for absolutely no reason?

You could say SU and AT have the same problems in not giving enough focus but I ultimately like the execution of AT's much better by miles. AT knows when it wants to do a storyline or focus episode by episode such as the specials with all the MOs. AT isn't a show that needs to have nothing but progression and I've been eased into that. I have no idea what SU was even trying to do with themselves though and it feels like a disappointing mess.

that part I can totally agree with it. Whenever SU hypes something greater than AT, it ends up being a bigger disappointment. There are still some arcs that I liked how it ended and season 5 is off to a fantastic start but in the end, Regular Show season 8 wins with storytelling. :funny: 

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Poll is 3-3 fam

If SU is more plot focused, it's definitely the best modern example for why shows need to inherit AT's style of condensing

When SU does a bomb week, usually only the last episode of the bomb advances something, while the rest has to pad up to that

Hayden is better debater because Hayden does not storm out of debate and make validation poll thread on SBC (smirk)

 

13 hours ago, Bada Bing Nuggets said:

hayden is being a motherfucking DIPSHIT on xat

I don't always dip in shit, but when I do, I'm swimming in SU's pacing problems

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1 hour ago, Sunshine Banjo Face said:

While AT has a lot going on and leaves a lot floating up there for a long time, at least conclusions can be satisfying. The handling of the Cluster Arc was the worst thing I've seen from a show the past few years. The buildup with introducing messed up forced fusions was great, but they don't even worry about The Cluster in the barn episodes and look at the ending, absolutely nothing because friendship power suddenly allows them to not want to destroy the world? Don't mention Amethyst trying to traumitize Greg by transforming into Rose again? Lapis and Peridot being reduced into side characters for absolutely no reason?

You could say SU and AT have the same problems in not giving enough focus but I ultimately like the execution of AT's much better by miles. AT knows when it wants to do a storyline or focus episode by episode such as the specials with all the MOs. AT isn't a show that needs to have nothing but progression and I've been eased into that. I have no idea what SU was even trying to do with themselves though and it feels like a disappointing mess. Too much so in terms of the darker stuff, since the show share what I feel are those same problems in terms of story spacing it's ultimately down to execution and AT's storylines when resolved are so much more satisfying because it feels like the writers have an actual clear vision half the time.

For everything you mentioned, I could raise you something from Adventure Time that's failed at the same level - Peridot and Lapis' sidelining is pretty much the equivalent of Jake The Dad and it's resulting episodes with Jake's children. The Cluster arc was indeed disappointing, yeah, but I'd argue it's the Martin/Orgalorg arc in an inverse way. Finn's dad and Orgalorg had some spectacularly shitty and rushed buildup, but ended up paying off somewhat nicely in "The Comet". Steven Universe did the inverse by having a wonderful buildup to the Cluster before creating a giant anti-climax. Are we ever gonna reference why Finn sees Princess Bubblegum in Breezy and immediately gets his arm back? Speaking of that, where the fuck is Breezy? Why was Prismo introduced and then shoved in a box to only pop out once a season?

I want to point out that because both of these shows aren't over yet, that some plot elements could very well be picked up - the cluster was just mentioned a couple episodes back in SU, and I think it's too big a plot point to really be finished just yet. SU has pretty much referenced everything it's done in the past and I don't think things like Amethyst and Greg are just gonna go away. Same for Marceline, who still has one pretty big loose end to tie up.

I'm not denying the fact that both of these shows have blown it royally when it comes to plot progression, but rather that one just does it better than the other. SU is on Season 5 and has doled out much more about it's world than AT had done by this point, and even though there were hiccups and episodes of unimportance like Rocknaldo (and holy shit is that a painful episode), it's been a wholly less frustrating experience than Adventure Time at it's worst. Besides maybe the end of the cluster arc, SU has never pissed me off as much as the episodes James II or Betty did (and no matter what way you slice it, at least one of those is an undebatable example of bad storytelling), because the way these shows deal out their story cushion the blow when they do fuck up with the big things. That's all I'm saying.

1 hour ago, Hayden said:

Poll is 3-3 fam

If SU is more plot focused, it's definitely the best modern example for why shows need to inherit AT's style of condensing

When SU does a bomb week, usually only the last episode of the bomb advances something, while the rest has to pad up to that

Hayden is better debater because Hayden does not storm out of debate and make validation poll thread on SBC (smirk)

come with some actual formulated arguments beyond two sentences and a snide comment and I might validate your existence with a rebuttal next time

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2 minutes ago, Bada Bing Nuggets said:

come with some actual formulated arguments beyond two sentences and a snide comment and I might validate your existence with a rebuttal next time

I didn't set aside time in my weekend to write cartoon essays. Why couldn't this just stay as a quick exchange on xat?

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3 minutes ago, Bada Bing Nuggets said:

The Cluster arc was indeed disappointing, yeah, but I'd argue it's the Martin/Orgalorg arc in an inverse way. Finn's dad and Orgalorg had some spectacularly shitty and rushed buildup, but ended up paying off somewhat nicely in "The Comet". Steven Universe did the inverse by having a wonderful buildup to the Cluster before creating a giant anti-climax.

The rest I could see fairly and I'd honestly need to rewatch multiple times to say which is worse in a fair debate but The Cluster's anti-climax, an example of one of many slaps in the face from SU, is the worst examples you can put out there and it isn't really comparable unless they bring up the bubbled gems later on. Have this thing that destroys the entire planet and fucks up literally everything that took thousands of years of war to protect...nope they're dicking around while building the drill. The anti-climax felt there was before the actual episode with The Cluster. SU does absolutely nothing until it has to, and even then it finds a way to chicken out. Ooooh here's a bunch of invading Rubies. MAKE THEM PLAY BASEBALL FOR SOME REASON! Lars and Sadie have relationship issues, never do anything about it that seems to impact later episodes! I don't even have to mention Bismuth not being mentioned so they can have more episodes with Ronaldo and the fucking mailman! 

AT's best is better than SU's and SU's worst is some of the most infuriating television I've come across and ever will.

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1 hour ago, Hayden said:

I didn't set aside time in my weekend to write cartoon essays. Why couldn't this just stay as a quick exchange on xat?

I just thought it was an interesting debate and wanted to see what other people thought but it looks like I took the L here

1 hour ago, Sunshine Banjo Face said:

The rest I could see fairly and I'd honestly need to rewatch multiple times to say which is worse in a fair debate but The Cluster's anti-climax, an example of one of many slaps in the face from SU, is the worst examples you can put out there and it isn't really comparable unless they bring up the bubbled gems later on. Have this thing that destroys the entire planet and fucks up literally everything that took thousands of years of war to protect...nope they're dicking around while building the drill. The anti-climax felt there was before the actual episode with The Cluster. SU does absolutely nothing until it has to, and even then it finds a way to chicken out. Ooooh here's a bunch of invading Rubies. MAKE THEM PLAY BASEBALL FOR SOME REASON! Lars and Sadie have relationship issues, never do anything about it that seems to impact later episodes! I don't even have to mention Bismuth not being mentioned so they can have more episodes with Ronaldo and the fucking mailman! 

AT's best is better than SU's and SU's worst is some of the most infuriating television I've come across and ever will.

Like I said, the fact that Universe is still ongoing while Adventure Time is on its way out plays a part. We probably have differing opinions considering I binged all of the show in one go, but even the Cluster's anti-climax never registered to me as a climax of sorts because I don't really think that plot line is totally over. 

The baseball episode was a little stupid, but the Rubies introduced in that episode became instrumental in two following episodes that were obviously table setting for something bigger (and Bubbled was really good). And Lars is very obviously about to go somewhere and is going through some character development this season. Bismuth has never bothered me because Bismuth is a very one shot event that ultimately answers all the questions her episode brought up in the same 22 minutes she was introduced in. 

i think what the cluster arc and Bismuth was to you, Adventure Time's fifth and sixth season are to me. Episodes like James II and Betty pissed me off (more than Universe ever has) in the same way Gem Drill probably did for you. Had I known that episodes like Broke His Crown were coming, I'd probably have eased up on Betty. It's what comes with shows that are ongoing. 

My point with the whole thing was that Steven Universe has made a habit of coming back to things that might seem initially stupid and eventually resolving them semi-satisfactorily (with the exception of Lapis and Peridot, who are, yeah, just there lmao). Adventure Time for a couple of years where you didn't quite have that guarantee (and considering how the rest of this season goes, who knows). It's just the difference I see in the writing for the two. But I guess it's different strokes for different folks. Sorry.

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