Gumball remains my go-to show for fun and relaxation, and it's fast becoming my favourite western show currently airing. Probably Adventure Time has hit greater heights in its run, but is way less consistent and not nearly as smart.
Gumball is quietly subversive and is remarkably up-to-the-minute. They can make all the old familiar references any cartoon can make, to Terminator or Dragonball or The Legend of Zelda, safe established nostalgic works that are obvious points of reference, but this show will also put in nods to The Last of Us or even YouTube series like How To Basic.
One of the standouts this season was the anime homage. I was a little sad only Nicole got to have a fun humanised version for her big fight, the kids ending up as limited-animation chibis, but the Toriyama tribute was spot-on and the fight pretty entertaining. Still, it was one of the laziest episodes of the season, because it did just what you'd expect a cartoon to do when parodying anime. It's much better when they throw everything at the screen, like in the Hallowe’en special where you have the schoolkids dressed up and half a dozen references thrown at the viewer at once.
Several characters get more development. Nicole and Darwin get their pasts filled in. Anais gets to be the centre of some episodes that flesh her out, still awkwardly trying to make friends or becoming a crime scene investigator in a fun send-up of gritty detective shows. Even Richard gets a modicum of depth as his biological father enters the scene. Gumball himself, meanwhile, is intentionally shallow and doesn’t need fleshing out, but there’s something very entertaining about watching him get obsessed by stupid things like finding out why one friend doesn’t slap him affectionately on the butt like he does with his other male friends, even though they all find it intensely annoying.
My favourite two episodes were the ones with the Hot Dog Guy. Gumball tries to be random by hugging this stranger for no reason, and of course it soon spirals out of control and becomes incredibly awkward, neither of them actually wanting to spend time with one another but ending up in situations where it would be rude to refuse one another’s company as things get increasingly homoerotic. Yes, weird for a kids’ cartoon. No, not really homophobic because it’s not funny from the angle that being gay is inherently comical or disgusting, but awkward misunderstandings are both funny and adorable. Yes, weirdly adorable even though one is a little blue cat and the other is a large hotdog.
I’m definitely keen to keep watching, and with the sixth season just starting, it seems I have plenty more.