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Sunny Fox

And here, at long, long last, we are: the final episode of Samurai Jack. When last we left him, it seemed Jack had finally been beaten by the shapeshifting Master of Darkness… and Daddy’s Little Destroyer. Let’s see how this all pans out…

What Happens
Throughout the land, all the various peoples and groups that Jack had encountered gather around their viewing devices in dread, because Aku is making an announcement. Aku uses the opening from previous seasons to preface his gloating. Then Aku himself appears, showing off the captured Samurai Jack and his sword. In order to break the spirit of his subjects for all time, he is broadcasting live his final victory in finishing off Jack… if only he could decide quite how to do this momentous event just right…

Jack pleads with Akushi to fight, but it seems to have no effect, and Aku finally decides to let her have the honour of killing his defeated enemy. However, before the final blow is struck, the armies of every group still able to put up a fight attack Aku’s tower. In the ensuing battle, Jack is blasted free. He tries to get the sword while Aku is distracted by the others, but Akushi stops him.

While able to inconvenience Aku to a degree, the armies of good are unable to actually do any significant damage, and Aku even starts using his evil to create an army of his own. Things seem to be looking bleak for our heroes, but then the Scotsman’s ghost arrives with the red-haired, reindeer-riding cavalry!

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Scotland! F*ck yeah!

Using a set of mystical ghostly bagpipes to transport his daughters through the sky, and to launch an attack powerful enough to affect Aku himself, the Scotsman reunites with Jack, naming each of his daughters and offering Jack his pick.

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I think the last ones name is Ovalylongag

Jack demurs and shows the Scotsman his new girlfriend… but, said girlfriend still being a black blob of Aku’s evil at this point, the Scotsman is less than impressed.

Aku, frustrated by the attacks on him, launches himself into the sky and rains down spears of darkness, to devastating effect. The armies of good are being routed, until the Scotsman uses his bagpipes to create a shield, and even destabilize Akushi. Jack is caught inside Akushi's roiling black blob, and struggles to reach Ashi, who is still fighting the ocean of darkness. It seems like they will lose the struggle, and Jack desperately shouts to Ashi that he loves her.

Ejected from Akushi, Jack lands flat on his back, and Akushi begins to choke him to death. (Now there’s an erotic asphyxiation meme waiting to happen.) Then her hold on his throat loosens as Ashi, empowered by Jack’s confession of love, manages to overcome the evil, reverting to her black catsuit look. Aku orders her to kill Jack again, but this time she is in control and denies Aku as her father. He attacks and she fights back with the same powers that Aku has, like eyebeams and shapeshifting. It seems her victory over Aku’s compulsion hasn’t severed her access to his powers. All his powers… as Jack and Ashi both quickly realize, that includes time travel! Ashi stretches her arm to grab and return Jack’s sword. Then she uses her screech powers to make a portal back to the past and, as Aku realizes with despair, it’s one he can’t interfere with or destroy.

Back in the past, the initial fight between the as-yet-nameless Samurai and Aku plays out as before, with Aku sending him into the future… however, Jack and Ashi arrive back in the following moment. Aku chokes out what will turn out to be his final words, “You’re back already?!” as Jack wastes no time using his sword to cut down, trap and then destroy Aku once and for all.

Soon after, all the people the Samurai trained growing up, as well as all the citizens of the Empire, are gathering for his wedding to Ashi. As she walks down the aisle towards him, she suddenly stumbles and collapses. Jack runs to embrace her, as she tells him what is happening: since Aku was killed in the past, he never donated his evil essence to the Cult in the future and thus Ashi was never born. She fades away, leaving Jack clutching her empty wedding kimono.

The disconsolate Jack rides his horse through a misty gloomy forest. He sits down by a tree and mourns. A ladybug lands on his hand, and he slowly smiles with renewed hope and lets it fly away, as the sun comes out and lights up the same trees that Future!Aku had destroyed. The screen fades to black as the title “Episode CI” lingers.
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So beautiful, it almost makes me forget the writers tearing my heart out and stomping on it...

Thoughts on the Episode
And thus the curtain falls on Samurai Jack. It’s been a long ride, with many ups and downs. I’m glad that we got this final Season to resolve Jack’s story, but… sob… They killed Kenny ret-goned Ashi!

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You bastards!

In a way, I admire the sheer brass testicles / ovaries of the writers that led them to go this route, but… why? Why can’t we have nice things?! I didn’t think something like this would happen, really, even given how dark Season 5 could get. This… this was just mean-spirited. And it’s not like it was a necessary consequence of time travel, either. You can’t simply resolve the grandfather paradox by erasing Ashi. If Ashi didn’t exist, Jack would never have gone back to the past, thus wouldn’t have been able to kill Aku and thus make Ashi not exist. (I’m not going to do the cross-eyed joke! I’m not in the mood.) And then there’s the fact that Jack still remembers her… unless the ending scene is meant to imply that the memory of her faded away eventually, just as she did – unlikely with the way the scene was shot and how Jack’s expressions were shown, but still something your mileage could vary on. Speaking of delayed-reaction reordering of timelines, that’s another weird thing… why did it take so long for Ashi to be affected? Just so that the timing could be even more sucky for our poor hero? Dick move, writers, dick move. I mean, I can understand making the artistic choice they did, but I really did want Ashi to get her happy ending with Jack. I'm just really sad I didn't get to see my prediction come true... instead, heartbreak. But I'll live.

If I were able to rewrite the ending, it would go like this… Jack and Ashi arrive in the past the moment BEFORE the Samurai gets sent to the future. Jack and the Samurai team up to take out Aku, and kill him with a super-cool double magical sword strike. As Aku dies, Ashi feels Aku’s evil leave her, as before, but as Jack tries to help her up, their hands go through each other.

Jack and Ashi realize that preventing the Samurai from going to the future in the first place means they, the second copy of the sword, and the future timeline of Aku’s reign (coincidentally, virtually the entire series itself) all will cease to exist. After taking a short time to explain to the Samurai what would have happened, they start to fade away. Jack and Ashi redeclare their love for each other and share a final kiss as they fade out of existence, saddened but consoled by the fact that they are leaving existence together. The Samurai revels in his victory over Aku and the celebrations begin.

Jump ahead a while, the Samurai is married, with a new born heir being held by the new Empress, wife and mother… who just happens to look a lot like Ashi. Bam! Perfect happy ending… Ashi still goes out, but now so does Jack, who now never had to suffer those 50 years of despair. We can still have our victory at a price without leaving the hero to suffer alone. Since the Samurai was never affected by Aku’s time travel, he ages perfectly normally, thus removing the question mark over whether or not Jack is still immortal. The Prophecy of the Guardian’s time portal is also resolved by never actually having happened, so the inconsistency of Jack’s older appearance in that vision vs the events of Season 5 is reconciled. All tied up with a neat bow, thank you very much! It’s such a pity the writers didn’t consult me, I coulda set them straight… sigh.

Other thoughts: So in the end, the Guardian was apparently killed by Aku. I had hoped we might see him one last time… even if it were merely a flashback to witness the battle between them. Seeing the various friends Jack had made reappear en masse makes his absence even more notable. At least the Scotsman got his chance to shine and reunite with Jack.

Oh, the irony… Aku managed to destroy all the time portals, yet still sowed the seeds of his own destruction by “blessing” the Cult of Aku. This lead not only to Ashi being born, meeting Jack and helping him regain his determination to destroy Aku, but also equipped her with the exact necessary power to negate all his efforts at preventing Jack’s return to the past. Add in the fact that he could have won if he had simply done to Jack what he did to the Scotsman a few episodes earlier and the Pie of Irony is complete, ready to throw in Aku’s flaming-eyebrows, fang-mouthed face. Heh.

 

Overall, Season 5 has been a fun but bumpy ride. I give you my thanks for joining me on this journey. I may or may not write a review of the whole of the season/series at a later time, and I think I should probably start on FiM Season 7 like I’ve been saying I’ll do for the past couple of months. Please look forward to it, and join me again in the future. In the meantime, feel free to give your own perspectives in the comments. How did you feel about how the season wrapped up? Do you think my ending would have been better? (Because I do.) What did you enjoy most about the season? What did you enjoy least? Share your thoughts. And until the next time we meet, stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Why does this episode make think of John Lithgow and Sylvester Stallone? Huh Anyway, the penultimate episode of Samurai Jack is upon us! Let’s see how the lovebirds are doing...

 

What Happens

Following on from the last episode, Jack and Ashi are kissing. However, the romance is dampened by the fact that they still have slug juice in their mouths, causing them to separate and spit the taste out. Reassuring each other that it isn’t a reflection on the kiss itself, they decide to get clean. While Ashi, still wrapped in Jack’s gi, goes to find some suitable clothes, Jack heads outside the ship and luckily finds a broken pipe to use as a shower. Ashi, now clad in a green one-piece dress, appreciates the view of Jack nekkid, but leaves his now-clean gi where he can find it.

The two both manage to find some bugs in the desert to cook for dinner that night, despite being chewy and rather unappetizing. Jack reminisces on the beauty of the valley where he grew up, before Aku returned, and mentions that he thinks that he will only ever have the memory, which saddens Ashi.

We switch back over to Scaramouch’s journey and Scarry has coopted an octopus to serve as his body. He finally finds Aku’s spire, and despite an automated recording from Aku that he is not currently receiving visitors, proceeds inside. He convinces Aku to talk to him and tells him about the issing-May ord-Sway of ack-Jay. Aku is pleased to hear this, and restores Scaramouch’s body as reward for bringing the good-bad news. They dance.

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Do the Robot!

In the morning, Ashi wakes to find that Jack has left her behind in secret and follows his trail again. (Note the separate beds… I guess a kiss is as far as they went… pity) Jack walks through the desert, and finds himself in a familiar place… the wreckage of giant robots all around. As he clambers over them, he comes to a destroyed time portal and sees some familiar red sun-glasses broken on the ground. It seems the Guardian and his time portal are no more. (Ah, man. I had hoped to see him again. I guess prophecy is not infallible…)

Ashi arrives and soon, so do Aku and Scaramouch. Aku does his usual “fooooolish Samurai!” bit, until Jack unsheathes his sword. Scaramouch barely manages to protest before Aku blows him up… this time for good. (He just got… Scarasmooshed… B) YEEAAHHH!)

Jack tries to attack Aku, but the Shogun of Sorrow avoids him easily, despite being distracted by something that smells like him, but isn’t. Aku then turns to Ashi… As it turns out, Aku did once visit the Cult of the Daughters, and even contributed some of his evil (from his hands, I might hasten to clarify) for the High Priestess to drink, thus impregnating her with Ashi and her sisters. (So the name “the Daughters of Aku” turned out to be literal. I must confess, I didn’t see that one coming…)

Ashi is unable to control her body, attacking Jack with a purloined sword. After they trade a few blows, Aku fully releases the evil within Ashi, turning her into a black-clad clone of himself, with GREAT FLAMING EYEBROWS! The fight resumes, Akushii being much stronger and faster now. Jack still manages to graze her with the sword, releasing the good part of Ashi long enough to beg Jack to kill her before she is again subsumed.

However, Jack cannot bring himself to do it, and drops his sword. A triumphant Aku holds it up as Jack collapses before Akushii and… WATCH OUT!

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Thoughts on the Episode

You see, Friendship is Magic: that is how you do a cliffhanger! I always disliked the habit of two-parters in FiM being aired together… it leaves no time for tension to build. And for now, that is where I will leave it. Comments welcomed, and look forward to a bumper review when this whole shebang is all wrapped up. Stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

In this episode, another of my theories goes belly up (I sincerely hope), and I’m forced to make some retractions… what do you think of that, Jack?

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“Drinks all around!”

Oops, wrong Jack. Anyhoo, let’s move on to the seventh episode of Samurai Jack, Season 5. Fish heads, tiger heads and Stanley Kubric inspired imagery await us…

 

What happens

A gigantic monolithic ship is hit by asteroids and crash lands. Next we see Jack and Ashi in a desert city. Jack samples some of the local cuisine and gets his head transformed into a fish. Ashi is less than enthused, but luckily it quickly wears off. They board a gigantic camel, along with a large number of tiger-headed aliens.

In the crowded quarters, Jack and Ashi are pushed together, and it gets a little awkward… we see quite a bit of UST between the two as they try to avoid touching hands and any other bits, in fact. The will-they-or-won’t-they-tête-à-tête is interrupted as they are attacked by the tiger aliens, and forced to escape out a window. They swing down to the desert on the reins and continue on foot.

A gigantic sandstorm begins, and they seek shelter in the crashed ship from earlier, which is revealed to be huge. They make their way deeper and end up getting lost, when something starts chasing them. Ashi gets bitten by a venomous slug, forcing Jack to suck out the venom.

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So, heres Jack sucking on Ashis um, ashi

Oh, by the way, “ashi” means “leg” in Japanese, so get your mind out of the gutter! You’re blocking my light. As they continue on, they find themselves being stalked. Their enemy is revealed as a colony of slugs like the one from earlier that form a giant monster.

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My God its full of slugs!

Jack eventually finds an armoury with a device that can destroy the monster, but the critical part of the explanation is lost when Jack is distracted by Ashi accidentally discharging a blaster into the wall. The two take the device and move on, Jack desperately trying to activate it.

Ashi, having armed herself with a double headed sword and a shield, once again takes point as Jack struggles to use the device. The slug monster attacks them again, and Ashi ends up losing her outfit to its attacks. She feels no real qualms about fighting in the buff, but Jack certainly does and is forced to use his gi to cover her. When Jack admits he has no idea how to work the device, they trade roles back and forth. They finally manage to activate it just as the slugs swarm all over them. The device makes the slugs explode, leaving the pair alive, panting from exertion and covered with slug goo. Perfect time for a Big Damn Kiss!

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"Romance in Samurai Jack? Surely you cant be serious!
I am serious, and dont call me Shirley.

MAKE OUT!

Thoughts on the Episode

On Jack and Ashi’s blossoming romance: *sigh*… the Rule 34 squad is going to have a field day with this episode. Which brings us to my first retraction: I was also wrong that Jack and Ashi would be revealed to be father and daughter. At least, I really really hope I’m wrong about that, because otherwise… ewww.:scots: Even worse, Ashi technically already fulfilled the first part of the Electra Complex double whammy, when she killed her own mother. We can probably take it as read that there is no familial relation between the two, because surely that would be a bit too squicky even for this season.

With that caveat, I don’t really object to Jack and Ashi getting their freak on together. Sure, there’s an age gap and a probably even larger experience gap, but they’ve been through a lot together in a short space of time, and Ashi’s speech about how he saved her life and showed her the truth of Aku’s evil gives them bonus relationship points. Plus there’s a hint of real world psychology in the way they ended up, ahem, sucking face. Known as Misattribution of Arousal, in situations that involve a heightened arousal of the nervous system, the signals generated by fear, exertion or similar can be misinterpreted as physical attraction. How much this works in reality is up for debate, as with so much psychology/sociology research (the “squishy” sciences), but it’s a good enough working theory. Ashi not feeling any shame about fighting naked is a pretty clever touch, given the revelation that she always fights essentially naked, and Jack’s reaction to her nudity is adorable and in-character too. So all in all, the romance angle is pretty well justified in my mind, but YMMV.

Since I’m in a retracting mood (I’m assuming Jack is not, at this point ;))… uh, do you remember my review of Episode XCIII, in which I opined that the tiger-wolf subplot was unnecessary and didn’t contribute? Well, whoops. Second retraction: that was foreshadowing for this episode that the tiger guys would try to kill Jack.

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This might also have been a bit of a clue, in hindsight.

In other news: I liked the villain of this episode, a non-sentient hive-mind of venomous slugs. There’s been a great variety of foes for Ashi and Jack to fight this season, so the creativity category gets a solid ten out of ten. This show has never had a problem with creativity and it’s good to see this is still the case.

In the category of things to question, I’m not sure how much I liked the fish-head scene. It seems rather out of place… although, one earlier season episode had Jack being magically transformed into a chicken by a bad tempered wizard, so perhaps it’s more a return to form i.t.o. the comedy? It just seems odd given the darker tone of Season 5, so maybe the contrast is responsible for this seeming like a Big Lipped Fishhead Moment.

It also seems a bit odd to dedicate a whole episode to forging Ashi and Jack into a Battle Couple. Fun though it was, it didn’t really change much in the grand scheme of things, making it seem like filler. There again, it avoids the whole Avatar: The Last Airbender issue of keeping the leads’ romantic relationship up in the air unnecessarily, so perhaps the episode deserves its place in the lineup.

To sum up, this was definitely an interesting turn of events, but I’m not entirely displeased by it. It’s good to see Jack having things going his way after how much he’s been suffering, and they do make a good couple… assuming as always that certain theories are wrong. Jack will one day be an emperor, after all, and an emperor needs an empress. In fact, I foresee the final scene of the season showing Jack and Ashi in the past, with their newborn heir as the ultimate happy ending… make it sho, numba one!

And with that, little remains but for me to invite you to comment as you will, and as always, hope that you stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

In this episode, questions are answered and unexpected characters make their reappearances. Join me as we rejoin Ashi and Jack on their quest to regain the Sword of Evil’s Bane…

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No, not that one

So let’s jump on our oversized budgerigars and have a look.

 

What happens

The episode opens in the past, as Jack Classic climbs a mountain pass, escorted by the cutest little mountain goats that ever did goat. At the top he finds some old stone pillars and (wonder-of-wonders!) a working time portal… and it’s not guarded by an African-American Blue Warrior…

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No, not that one

Jack leaps into the portal and it seems like his quest has finally been achieved… until, in the ultimate Dick Move, Aku reaches in and plucks him out of the time portal. Casually blowing the time portal to pieces with his eye beams, Aku gleefully informs his nemesis that that was the last one in existence and taunts him about how he almost made this time. Enraged, Jack leaps at Aku, but the villain, leery of his sword, avoids his attacks and transforms the goats into gigantic evil minions to occupy Jack while he escapes. Still blinded by his anger, Jack doesn’t recognize these as the same goats who accompanied him earlier and he kills all three. Seeing them return to their normal forms, but still quite dead, Jack is horrified, and drops his sword. One of the pillars falls and knocks the sword into the pit where the time portal once was. Jack is left unable to anything except watch it fall into the darkness.

Back in present day, Jack and Ashi ride a gigantic budgerigar (if you’re unfamiliar with the term, a budgerigar is a kind of small parrot – err, except that this one is, ya know, gigantic and all…)

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Were gonna need a bigger Speedo(TM) to smuggle this one…

The Australians out there should get that joke. They descend into the hole to look for the sword but are unable to find it. Ashi wonders if someone took it, but Jack, seeing the bones of one of the goats he killed, is sure that the sword abandoned him when he killed innocent creatures in his anger. He decides he needs to go on a spiritual journey to retrieve it. They return to the top and Jack sits near the edge of the cliff to meditate.

Meanwhile, Ashi is left to guard his back, and it’s a good thing she’s there… an army of orcs has arrived to kill Jack. Ashi makes like Gandalf and blocks the path. Despite being derided for thinking “one little girl” is enough to defeat an entire army, she promptly does just that… However, the army is merely a distraction… an assassin slips past and starts to climb towards Jack.

Ashi reaches the top first, courtesy of your friendly neighborhood giant parakeet, and is confronted by an unexpected enemy… her mother, the High Priestess. The HP tries to get Ashi to turn on Jack, but having seen the truth of things, she refuses, and they fight. The HP proves a strong opponent, but when she gets a chance to leap towards Jack’s unprotected back, Ashi throws an arrow through her and she plunges over the cliff. Exhausted, Ashi collapses.

Meanwhile Jack makes a trip while tripping and reaches a temple with a small old monk who asks him to make tea. He does so, but when the monk tastes it, he declares it bad… Jack is not balanced internally, and therefore cannot make good tea. HalluciJack reappears and he’s once again the crazy version. He screams imprecations at the old monk and tells Jack to force him to give the sword back. Jack finally realizes that HalluciJack is the reason why he is no longer worthy of wielding the sword… or maybe we should call him… Mad Jack! Dun dun DUN! Eeeyarrrk! Gesundheid! Yes, Mad Jack is back! Jack faces off against the manifestation of his own negative emotions, and with Eye Beams of Understanding, destroys Mad Jack. This brings him back into inner harmony and he meets the three gods Ra, Odin and Vishnu. They not only return his sword, but they also use a clothes beam…

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No, not that one

…to restore his previous look.

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Shave and a haircut three gods, 50 years and a secret test of character!... TWO BITS!

Returned to reality, Jack is finally, truly truly truly outrageous back! He finds Ashi and revives her and she compliments his new (for her) look. Where to next? Aku! WATCH OUT!

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Thoughts on the Episode

Well, a lot of interesting parallels with previous episodes are on display here. Of necessity, I’ll need to explain one or two things that happened in the previous seasons for context. First of all, there was an episode that featured Mad Jack… a being Aku manifested from Jack’s own anger; think Dark Link. He had all of Jack’s prowess and was essentially unbeatable in combat. Jack’s solution to this was pretty much the same one as in this episode… he calmed himself down and got rid of his anger, thus causing Mad Jack to fade away. My previous theory re Omen and HJ is therefore wrong, but I’m happier with it this way. It provides us with a great callback. Okay, so maybe it isn’t literally Mad Jack back, but it’s close enough for government work.

Second, there was an episode where Jack was lured into a graveyard and attacked by zombies resurrected by Aku, who actually managed to steal Jack’s sword from him and pin him down. When he tried to stab Jack with the sword, however, it simply bounced off without leaving so much as a scratch. Jack then says that “in the hands of evil, [the sword] could never be used to harm an innocent,” before reclaiming it and forcing Aku to flee. Is there a contradiction here? Perhaps not; Jack is not evil, so he can harm innocents with the sword. It could also be that the transformed goats were given a veneer of evil by Aku, and this by-passed the protection enough that it could kill them, leaving them still dead when they reverted. Thus the heartbreak. Speaking of, this incident could help explain why Jack was so distraught when he thought the children from two episodes previous had died, and why he didn’t bother to check first. It’s still a question mark for me, but less of one now.

The sword continues to display some measure of sentience and mystical power, literally vanishing from the world when its wielder was deemed unworthy to wield it. I mean, heh, what does it think it is, Mjolnir? Come to think of it, Odin WAS instrumental in its creation, so that kind of makes sense. Hmm... Well played, writers… well played.

So here’s a bit of a discussion point – given that the High Priestess displays quite the serious skill of her own in fighting Ashi, who curb-stomped an army of thousands single-handed, why did she not simply join the Daughters when there were still seven of them and assist them in crushing Jack? Did she think she had to stay behind in case they failed and she would have to replicate the feat of having sextuplets? This seems like a serious case of Villainous Stupidity on her part. Poor form, writers… poor form!

Well, at any rate, Jack has his sword back, HJ/MJ and HP (probably) are toast and Ashi is still alive. Aku’s days appear to be numbered… in fact, only three episodes remain! Join me again for the next episode of Samurai Jack Season 5. In the meantime, leave your comments below and remember to stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

The fun fun fun continues with the sixth episode of Samurai Ashi… I mean, Samurai Jack Season 5. While Ashi tracks Jack’s journey, a villain unexpectedly returns, on a journey of his own. Will the villain’s dastardly plan succeed? Will Ashi find Jack before he does something irreversible? Isn’t it weird how the word “irreversible” is itself irreversible? (Well, not if you want it to make sense anyway…) Questions, questions! And the answers lie below, so let’s leap right in…

 

What happens

We rejoin a concerned Ashi riding on an airship. She is attacked by two large hooded creatures who have heard her asking about Jack’s whereabouts. She dodges them and tells them she is trying to find Jack to help him. They reveal themselves as two of the Woolies – a race that Jack saved in the previous seasons. We get a flashback to the relevant event. (Get used to that happening in this episode.) A staff member of the airship tells Ashi that Jack got off in this area, and she immediately leaps out of the airship. She uses her sickle-onna-chain to slow her descent into a forest and continues on her journey.

Back in the destroyed village from the first episode of Season 5, what is left of Scaramouch reactivates and rejoices in being alive, baby… despite being just a head and neck, which reduces him to moving around at the pace that a bunny hops. Or perhaps the pace that a fox trots.

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How is he going to do the Fandango, now?

With his phone destroyed, he shoulders the burden of giving Aku the news about Jack’s loss of his sword in person, and legs it, since he has some news he needs to get off his chest. You’ve got to hand it to him for being resolute, folks! You wouldn’t think he had the stomach for it! He’s not totally ‘armless yet! Okay, I’ll stop now. For every body’s sake.

Ashi sees a group of Akubots riddled with arrows on the retreat. The archers responsible for the robot rout confront her and ask if she is a friend or foe of Jack’s. When she says she is the former, they lead her to their village complete with giant Jack statue and relate their tale (by flashback, natch). They were tricked by Aku (slight “retcon” there, I’ll come back to it) into gaining superlative skill at the cost of being enslaved to protect a magic Wishing Well. Jack defeated them and destroyed the Well instead of wishing for passage home, and thus freed them. However, they haven’t seen him recently, so she continues on.

Scaramouch finds a port, and tries to board a ship. He is stopped by a bouncer (oh, the irony!), who won’t let him on because he’s just a head, and when he boasts about being Aku’s favourite bounty hunter / assassin, is pointed to a sign that lists him as #3. He finally gets on board by bribing a guy with a shrunken head into letting him use his body. Once they part ways, Scarrie opines that the guy looks kind of like a talking penis… Yes, he uses the actual word “penis”. We’ll come back to that, too.

Back to Ashi, who hears rave music and travels down to Funky town. When she asks a party-goer if a Samurai came this way, a spotlight shines down on her. The DJ (who is YARC - Yet Another Returning Character) asks the obligatory “Friend or Foe” question, and then plays a tribute track to Jack, telling how, well, just guess… Yup, you got it in one… how Jack saved them once. They all dance the Jack Dance and make S shapes with their fingers, before sending Ashi to the next checkpoint.

Said checkpoint is a clear water spring with a waterfall and pool and all. Ashi remembers a particular childhood ceremony, where was dumped naked into a bunch of presumably not entirely mundane coals, thus creating her catsuit by burning it directly onto her skin! She enters the pool and uses a rock to scrape the catsuit away. Since this leaves her naked, she creates a dress using the plant life around her to replace it.

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I guess its the latest spring fashion! (The joke works in two ways! )

Scarrie is enjoying his cruise, albeit with a few bumps along the way, but he manages to locate a phone and get through to Aku. Before he can spill the beans re Swordless Jack, though, he gets into an argument with some dogmen about the noise they are making, and is thrown overboard. Aku hangs up, never realizing how close he came to getting the information he needed to hunt down and destroy Jack once and for all. Huzzah! Good going, Scaradouche! You see, Lone Star, Good will always triumph, because Evil is dumb! Or something like that.

Ashi finds a bar where she meets Da Samurai (YARC), who is now the bartender, and has been for many years. She hears how Jack defeated many of the bar patrons in the past, and even taught Da Samurai what it really means to be a samurai. The group is also graced by a cameo from Demongo the Soul Collector (YARC). Leaving the bar, she runs into a shadowy figure who directs her towards Jack (YARC?). She finds him sitting in a graveyard with a bare blade in front of him. The Apparition, who is finally officially named as the Omen in the credits, appears and floats over to her, telling her she can witness, but not interfere. When she asks what she is to witness, Omen responds “the end.” The Omen then tells Jack he has been dishonoured by his failures, and he must therefore commit seppuku.

Ashi tries to get through to Jack as he prepares to disembowel himself, and the Omen fights with her. Overmatched by the spirit in strength, but agile enough to evade his attacks, Ashi continues to remind Jack of all the people he has helped over the years, and the lives he has saved (including hers.) Nothing seems to help, and the Omen declares “No more words!” but Ashi finally reveals to Jack that the children he thought he had helped kill are still alive. This breaks Jack out of his suicidal depression and he quickly puts paid to the Omen.

Jack compliments Ashi’s new look, and thanks her for her help. She asks “What now?” and Jack replies, “It's time to find my sword.” Aww, snap! Looks like Aku had better… WATCH OUT!

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Thoughts on the Episode

Let’s first deal with the ever-classy Scaramouch, and the “penis” line. Umm… yeah… for the record, I did NOT expect that sort of line in Samurai Jack. Ever. I kind of had to stop the video for a minute after that and simply... marvel. By the way, how does a robot even have the context for that sort of comment? All he should have down there is plastic underpants and a trademark! (I will wuvs you forever :wub: if you can tell me where that reference originates! )

He got very close to ruining things for Jack, but luckily, his cocky attitude (heh) got him in enough trouble that he wasn’t able to get the message across to Aku, so sighs of relief all around. "Evil will oft evil mars", indeed. If he had just been polite to those he encountered, he would have succeeded and that would probably have been curtains for Jack before he could get his sword back.

Speaking of the sword, I’m glad that Jack is finally back on track as far as defeating Aku once and for all goes. While my suggestion that Ashi might have to sacrifice herself to bring Jack back to the land of the living was incorrect, (although she did risk being killed by the Omen, so give me half points, okay?) she might still have to do so to retrieve the sword. I hope not, though; killing her off after she finally came over to the Light side would be pretty cruel. Blood, eyebeams of death and mentions of male reproductive anatomy aside, I don’t think Season 5 is going to go that dark.

Next, as I contemplate Ashi, there’s that whole thing with the origin of her form-fitting catsuit. It appears to be less a garment and more, well, wearable charcoal. This reveal pretty much means the Daughters have in fact been wearing little more than black body paint this entire time, which is just odd to contemplate. I mean, freedom of movement I can see as being an advantage, but what about modesty, huh? They aren’t Doctor Manhattan, with his "withdrawing from humanity" excuse, is all I’m saying. Plus the logistics of it all… how do the Daughters go to the bathroom or deal with menstruation or any of that? On second thought, maybe it doesn’t need to be thought about too much.

I like Ashi's new look, particularly the Expository Hairstyle Change. It makes her look even more Asian, which brings me to a Wild Mass Guess: could Jack, somehow, be the FATHER of the Daughters of Aku? I admit it’s unlikely that the High Priestess was impregnated by Jack, given the whole “we have to kill the Samurai” deal, but it would certainly put an ironic spin on Ashi’s quest to kill him and subsequent conversion to being his ally. Then again, "[50 - Ashi's Age + nine months] years of no progress" + young man's body = rather big need for stress relief... intriguing... It's probably just my imagination running wild again, but time will tell.

Ashi’s journey is a textbook example of a Continuity Cavalcade, with many appearances from characters featured in episodes from previous seasons or YARCs, as I decided to call them. It fulfills two purposes… it expands the knowledge of newcomers to the series and serves as a nostalgia buffet for fans like me. Best of all, because of the first point, it’s not actually fan service! Slice of Life, take note! Again, I note the distinct lack of the Guardian, but there are still four episodes to go, so plenty of time for him to reappear. Perhaps once Jack actually defeats Aku, he will age a bit (not the full 50 years, but a decade at least) and his appearance will become more like it was shown in the relevant episode, and we'll have a final Jack / Guardian showdown. Or maybe that’s all going to be retconned. Again, not much to do about it but wait and see. Genndy Tartakovsky, don't fail me now!

Speaking of retcons, the archers mention that they found out after the fact that Aku was the one who cursed them. If I remember the episode in question correctly, the Well was a Jerkass Genie that had nothing to do with Aku: it granted wishes, but always in some kind of twisted, monkey’s-paw-esque way. The archers wished for unbeatable skill with their bows, which they were given... in return for becoming mindless slaves conscripted into protecting the Well. Jack decided he couldn’t risk his wish to return to his own time being corrupted in the same way, and therefore destroyed the Well instead. This episode says it was Aku’s doing all along… which I find somewhat unsatisfying. It’s not like Aku is the ONLY evil being in existence, and having it all bad stuff somehow trace back to him seems unnecessarily trite and simply bad writing, in the final analysis. Oh, Well. (Heh.)

A quick word on the Jack Track; I blame that on Tara “Twilight Sparkle” Strong, as she provides the voice of Ashi. I guess she can’t appear in any series where there isn’t at least one musical interlude. In seriousness, though, I used the word “blame”, but the song isn’t that bad, and to see Ashi just having fun dancing for once was very heartwarming. Plus lots of hot swaying bods to look at.

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Why isnt Scaramouch at the rave? Because he had no body to go with! Dah dum TISH!

This episode again had no HalluciJack. Maybe the Omen and HalluiJack were connected in some way, so once the Omen had Jack ready to commit seppuku, HJ was no longer necessary. Maybe we’ll never know, but some clarity there would be appreciated. (Yes, I know I’ve implied in the past that “mystery is good”, but I want this particular thing explained, dammit! So sue me.)

Again, this was a good episode, niggles aside. Plenty of call backs, more Scaramouchy goodness (as it were), Ashi getting a new outfit to mirror her change of heart, and best of all, Jack’s finally got his game face on, and is determined to find his sword, defeat Aku and get back, back to the past! And Sunny Fox will be with him each step of the way!

Until the next episode airs, feel free to make your mark below, tell me what you think, and don’t forget to always stay, as they say, sunny side up!

PS – I guess I should get around to reviewing Season 7 of MLP at some point… I'll keep you updated, y'all. Mwah!

Sunny Fox

And he got biz-zay! It’s a whole family of Supers Scots!

 

What happens

Three armies arrive at Aku’s tower, one army of tanks, one army of rhino-riders and one army of statuesque red-headed Scottish warrior women. These are led by the Scotsman, Jack’s old buddy… now literally his old buddy. Although he is now grey-haired, one-eyed and wheelchair-bound, the Scotsman hasn’t lost his pep, and is delighted to have found Aku’s lair. After seeing what his daughter is wearing to the battle, he tells her and the others to cover up, producing a mass groan of “Da-aaaad…!” They obey him and cover themselves, promptly to uncover themselves again as the Scotsman gives the order to charge.

The tanks and rhinos advance and launch missiles at Aku’s tower, while the Scots charge, the Scotsman's wheelchair being pushed by Scottish Daughter #1, Flora. Inside, Aku demands to know what all the noise is, and is told by his computer’s voice – no doubt on loan from Invader Zim – that he is under attack. Unzipping his vid-window, Aku is delighted to see some enemies he can crush – which he does, literally; he shapeshifts into a ball and simply rolls over the first two armies.

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Miley Cyrus, eat your heart out!

Seeing this, the Scotsman realizes that the attack was foolhardy and instructs his daughters to run for it while he distracts Aku, who is aiming to complete the slaughter. The Scotsman taunts Aku, calling him a scared baby hiding in his crib, terrified that Samurai Jack is still out there inspiring people to resist him. Aku cuts him off by way of laser eyebeams, leaving behind the Scotman’s skeleton for a moment or two before it crumbles to dust. Aku is satisfied at first, but then gets depressed again at the reminder of the Samurai and goes back to his tower.

The Scottish Daughters mourn the loss of their father and pick up his broken sword as a memento, but then his ashes stir and the Scotsman’s ghost appears. The Scotsghost is delighted to note he is back and back in his prime, no less. His answer to his marveling Scottish Daughters as to how this is possible? Why, Celtic magic, o’ course!

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Magic runes, laddie! All them fancy eye beams will get ye nowhere!

The Scottsghost vows to raise another even bigger army and to find Samurai Jack to lead them.

Meanwhile, Ashi and Jack are still on that island. Ashi has a vision of the High Priestess urging her to complete her mission and kill Jack, but she argues with it instead, saying she wants to know the truth. The HP accuses her of always being the weak one, but the vision ends.

Ashi then gets to ride on Jack’s giant snake… wait, let me rephrase that… Jack summons a sea serpent to swim them to the shore, and says farewell to Ashi. She continues to follow him, however, and when he stops for the night, she demands that he prove to her that he is the good guy and Aku is the bad guy. Jack refuses, not believing she is able to let go of her long-infused hatred enough to accept the truth. She is angry at this, and makes as if to leave, but Jack changes his mind and tells her he will prove that he is telling the truth if she follows him tomorrow.

Ashi lies on a rock looking at the sky and asks if it is true that Aku made the stars, but Jack tells her the fairy tale that his mother taught him about two children, Sun and Moon, who rode a phoenix and shot arrows into the sky to make the stars.

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Daawww! Whos a cute little anthropomorphic representation of a heavenly body? You are! Yes, you are!

The following day, Jack and Ashi travel to a field of jagged rocks with a single tree. He tells her that this field used to be covered with those trees, but Aku destroyed them, leaving but one left as a taunting reminder of what he had done. Seeing she is still not convinced, Jack takes her to a space port, where a gang of exiled criminals have just docked. An official of Aku allocates them land that is already occupied by innocent, peaceful people, and it is implied the criminals will simply dispose of them when they land.

The two end up in a village that has been destroyed, and all the children kidnapped. Ashi is finally convinced of the truth of the evilness of Aku, and they attempt a rescue, but the children have been given implants that allow them to be controlled and turned into an army of mindless beserkers. Jack tries to fend them off while Ashi tries to locate the controlling device. She does, but is trapped and electrically tortured by the operator while the children continue to attack Jack in a frenzy, who is unable to fight effectively due to his need to hold back. Ashi manages to free herself, knock out the operator and shut down the machine.

This causes the children to “short out” and collapse. Jack, horrified that he and Ashi might have killed them all, gives a scream of denial and slumps down. The Apparition appears and tells Jack, “It is time.” Jack simply agrees, and walks off into the green mist. Meanwhile, Ashi comes back down to find the children lying there. She cradles one of them and is delighted when the child stirs. The rest start waking up as well. Overjoyed at their triumph, Ashi looks around for Jack, and is anguished when she can’t find him. She starts calling for him, for the very first time using his full name. Annnd… WATCH OUT!

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Thoughts on the Episode

Huzzah! for the return of the Scotsman! I always did like that guy, and although I knew he would reappear (Thanks, Internet, for spoiling that! #sarcasm), it did me good to see him still fighting the good fight. Not a smart fight, mind you, but a good fight. And boy howdy, are his little swimmers strong! Every one of those Scottish ladies is his daughter. His poor wife! I assume she has passed by this point, since he doesn’t mention her. Classic cranky old father behaviour when he harangues them all for dressing like “ye was going to a dance!” and making them cover up, however briefly. Tension breaking moment of humour there, I like it, I do like it. The Scotsman is just hilarious in general, though. Seeing Aku effortlessly plough through two armies… “Ye know what, this was a bad idea!” Gee, ya think?

Now all we need to complete the roster of awesome is for the Guardian to return. Aku claims to have destroyed all the time portals… but I think he missed that one. Because Jack has to go back to the past somehow, and that portal was the only one that came equipped with a prophecy. Although how that vision of an older Jack defeating the Guardian gels with the current situation of Jack’s current status as the Ageless, we’ll have to wait and see. Anyhoo, previous Season tangent ahoy! Gotta get back, back to the past present!

I’ll admit my flabber was ghasted when the Scottsman was blasted. My gob was thoroughly smacked. After waiting so long to see his return, I felt it was a very unceremonious, nigh ignominious death. I mean, I know Season 5 hasn’t been puppies (with laser-beam eyes or otherwise) and rainbows (on fire or otherwise), but that seemed rather bleak even for the darker and bloodier tone the new episodes have got going on. Sheesh… Luckily, he soon comes back as the Scotsghost, so that turned out all right.

Speaking of ghosts… while we don’t get a HJ appearance, we do get the Apparition… and boo yah! I was right about him being some sort of “Jack joins his ancestors in death” deal. In the wake of the “death” of yet more innocents, this time children, and believing himself partially responsible, Jack finally agrees it’s time to leave this cruel reality, shuffle off the mortal coil, join the Choir Invisible, pine for the fjords, yeah, you get the idea.

I’m not quite sure I feel about that. Yes, Jack isn’t exactly a paragon of stability these days, but to just assume that all the children had died without even checking to make sure seems a step a little too far. With such good writing as we’ve been treated to up to this point, this particular development seems forced. I guess it ain’t SJ S5 without a cliffhanger ending. And the operator’s speech about “children are gullible and therefore easy to control”, while ironic in being delivered to Ashi, doesn’t really make much sense given that, y’know, the village kids are literally being controlled. It’s not at all the same situation as Ashi’s.

Those nitpicks aside, though, this episode was fine. Perhaps not quite as engaging as some previous episodes, but Ashi is now on the side of right, Jack is off communing with his dearly departed, the Scotsghost is raising an army and things proceed apace towards their conclusion. And just one more review to go before we’re all caught up! Will Ashi find Jack? Will she have to remain behind in the world of the dead in order to send him back to the land of the living? Will Batman ever get rid of that bomb? Questions, questions!

Please leave comments, commendations or condemnations below, if you consider that course congruent with your conscience. Chocolate chip cookies, you’ll have to send by courier. Stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

I’m getting a sinking feeling that the theme naming of these entries is going to become harder to pull off... and speaking of sinking feelings, let’s check in with Jack and Ashi!

 

What happens

Jack falls from the sky, hitting a few branches on the way down that slow his descent enough for the snow to cushion his impact and save his life. When he regains consciousness, he leaps up in panic, swinging a spear around in case of attack (STOP! Hammerspace! ...Oh, God, I’m old…) The only creatures in sight are some crows, and Jack calms down a bit. He notices a blood trail, and follows it to find Ashi, lying as if dead. The crows begin to caw at him, Jack hearing it as a chorus accusing him of murder; in defiance, he shouts back that it was the Daughters’ choices that lead to their death, ending the latest hallucination… but not the last one we’ll see in this episode.

When he gets close to Ashi’s “body”, she leaps up and attacks him with her sausage-onna-bun sickle-onna-chain (actually, the former is generally considered to be more lethal than the latter). However, on her own she is quickly defeated and left dangling wrapped up in her own chain again. She verbally lays into Jack once more, but when he just stands there watching her swing, she eventually runs down. Jack tells her she is confused about the respective locations of Jack and Aku on the spectrum of morality, and muses that he has met machines programmed with Aku’s lies and hate, but never a human. Ashi is having none of it, however, having been warned by the High Priestess that Jack is deceptive. Tricksy and false, precious, yesss.

Their “conversation” is interrupted by a colossal worm devouring them and half the nearby landscape. Even while falling towards the monster’s maw, Ashi is still trying to cut down Jack, which pretty much just annoys him at this point. She knocks herself out on some of the floating debris, and Jack grabs her as they enter the body of the creature, Jack slowing their descent with his feet.

After setting her down, Jack rests for a bit, only to hear joyous laughter from an awoken Ashi, who praises Aku and rejoices that Jack has finally been defeated: they’ve both been devoured and are in her opinion already dead. Jack replies that he has been inside giant beasts before and escaped. A group of large bugs approaches, and Jack uses the chains still wrapped around Ashi to make her into a backpack, to her annoyance.

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Presenting: AshiUshiro! Stylish and practical! Get yours today at your local GIANT WORM!

She still tries to sabotage Jack, even as he fights, but a glancing blow from an enemy knocks her unconscious. Jack defeats the monsters and escapes further into the kaiju. During a rest period, Jack hallucinates some more (I’m getting tired of typing that word at this point), having a conversation with a British-sounding puffball and then HalluciJack. HJ scoffs at him for “getting involved” again with Ashi, and reckons that he should just give over trying to convince her to join his side and simply leave her to her own devices. Jack notes that Ashi is resisting him not because she is inherently evil, but because she’s been fed lies her whole life; she’s essentially an innocent victim. He also blames himself for the situation, since he never found a way to defeat Aku and return to his own time. While Ashi watches Jack argue with himself, another kind of bug monster abducts her, and Jack is forced to rescue her. Then back on his back she goes as the journey continues.

Various scenes of odd Parasites Of Unusual Size ensue, until Jack and Ashi find themselves close to an exit from the monster (That’s good!)… pity it’s located over a pit of acid. (That’s bad.) However, various flying creatures are in the same area. (That’s good!) But so is a giant predatory flying fish. (That’s bad.) Barely avoiding the predator, Jack and Ashi are shot out of the exit, escaping the kaiju and landing in the sea. Luckily, there is an island nearby. Jack drags Ashi to it and then sits down to rest and recover. Ashi, seeing him with his guard down and his back turned, manages to find her sickle and creeps towards him. However, a ladybug suddenly flies past. Ashi remembers the High Priestess crushing one that found its way in the Cult's cave, and notes that this one lands on Jack's hand. He simply smiles and lets it fly away. Comparing his behaviour with what she has been taught he is like, she finds she is unable to kill him. She drops the weapon and hugs her knees while she contemplates and… SHE DOUBTS!

 

Thoughts on the Episode

I laugh at Ashi and Jack’s first conversation. “You are very troubled…and very confused,” indeed. It’s a minor laugh in a rather dark season. In retrospect, the whole getting swallowed thing was ultimately fortunate for Jack. Actions speak louder than words, and Jack’s continual heroism in keeping Ashi alive really hits home for her in the end. Not to mention the ladybug scene. Throughout Ashi’s appearances, there’s been one aspect of her nature that is highlighted: her curiosity. Curiosity is the bleach to indoctrination’s mould. A curious person asks questions and their eyes (and minds) are open, so they are the hardest to pull the wool over. Once she saw that Jack’s actions gave the lie to the picture of him she had been painted, she found it impossible to hold to her belief in his evilocity (Yes, I know that’s not a real word, just go with it). Of course, while she can’t simply kill him out of hand anymore, she still doesn’t fully trust him. She’s simply considering the new information she now has about him.

While Jack is quite right about her being a victim of a slanted worldview and therefore blameless, he doesn’t seem to have extended that logic to the Daughters he has already killed. Or perhaps he has, and that guilt is just hidden. Will we see Jack having hallu – grrr… visions of the Daughters in a later episode? Perhaps he reasons that despite their innocence, at the time he had the choice of him or them, and can lay the blame for their deaths at the feet of whoever raised them to hate him. Questions, questions.

Obligatory HalluciJack cameo is obligatory. Quite strange how he notes that Ashi has disappeared before Jack notices. Is HJ really a product of Jack's mental strain, or could it be somehow independent? A ghost Aku cursed him with that tries its best to get him to just "end it all"? I'm probably overthinking things.

Jack inside a giant monster: been there, done that, got the furry-back armour. Still, Ashi is now at least entertaining the belief that Jack isn't the evil she was told he was, so the interlude didn’t happen without reason. We are moving right along to the reappearance of everyone’s favourite Celtic warrior, so I’ll see you in the next episode, and don’t forget to stay sunny side up!

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Sunny Fox

Rivers and caves and wolves, oh my! Welcome back, loyal readers! Today I look at the third episode of Samurai Jack Season 5. There’s quite a lot to get through, too, so let’s not waste any more time and dive in like we just got stabbed in the gut and found a river!

 

What happens

Following Jack’s first battle with the Daughters of Aku, he is left bleeding out while floating downstream.

After the shock of going over a waterfall, Jack regains consciousness long enough to grab onto a log, and is later startled by a frog sitting on the log that shouts, “They’re coming!” causing him to panic. Jack finally gets to shore, leaving a few patches and handprints of blood. Finding a cave, he drags himself into it, finally pulling out the dagger from his stomach before collapsing again. HalluciJack returns, looking a lot more monstrous this time.

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Here’s JACKIE!!

(And yes, I know they used this joke in the show.) He taunts Jack about having killed a human for the first time, not simply a robot… although he also points out that Jack has left literal piles of robot corpses in his wake, (at least one of which was sentient, which is pretty close to killing a living person). Jack is so weak he can barely speak, much less argue with his alter-ego. HalluciJack continues, saying that the rest of the Daughters will still be coming after him, and that he will have to kill them, or let them kill him instead… or is that exactly what Jack is counting on? Jack denies it. The white wolf from the previous episode also comes into the cave, but sensing that Jack is a kindred spirit, the wolf doesn’t attack, instead allowing him to share the den. Pulling himself together a bit, he uses a piece of bone and some plant fibres as needle and thread to stitch up his own wound. Jack continues to spend time with the white wolf as they both recover from their injuries. The wolf helps Jack find food, licks his wounds and even curls up with him on cold nights. Eventually, the wolf is back to its full strength, and sets out, leaving Jack to ponder.

Jack has a flashback to his childhood before the return of Aku, when his father, the Emperor, had his carriage/palanquin/whatever-they-used-in-ancient-Japan-to-cart-around-Royalty attacked by bandits. After killing all the guards, the bandits call him out. The Emperor calmly tells him them to leave peacefully, or they will be killed. When the bandits refuse and attack anyway, the Emperor slaughters them in seconds. Jack is watching through a gap in the door, and has his face splattered with blood. Later on, the Emperor cleans Jack’s face, and tells him that everyone is a product of their choices. This memory gives Jack the resolve to fight the Daughters, even kill them if necessary.

Meanwhile, the Daughters have managed to find their way out of the collapsed temple, dragging the body of their dead sister. However, they simply dump her body and leave, stating that “Death is failure.” The remaining sisters travel down the river, finding the occasional evidence of Jack’s trail, following it into the forest. While in the forest, they see a deer. Having never been outside their Cult’s temple, however, they are unsure exactly what it is, presuming it’s a minion of Aku. Then the larger buck steps into the open, and they conclude this is a stronger minion, that will kill and eat the smaller deer. Instead, the two start nuzzling, which totally surprises and even weirds out the Daughters.

As the Daughters stalk closer, they hear Jack’s voice from the trees. He gives them the same ultimatum his father gave the bandits, to leave or stay and face their “destiny”. Ashi retorts that “Our destiny is your death!”, and they reject his offer. Jack suddenly bursts out from under the snow, using handmade spears to kill three of them in rapid succession. The remaining three Daughters team up and manage to hold their own for the most part. However, Jack has prepared the terrain too well, and after a running battle, they have a final showdown on a fallen tree over a high cliff face. Forced by the narrow arena to face him one on one, the Daughter quickly find out that Jack still outclasses them individually. The first sister (who uses a spear) he fights barehanded, eventually throwing her off the tree, presumably to plunge to her doom. The second sister attacks and Jack punches her so hard her neck is broken, and she too falls. The final sister (Ashi, who else?) manages to put up the strongest fight, but even she is ultimately defeated and left dangling from her chain, losing her mask in the process. She goes into a furious tirade against Jack, insulting him, and vowing to never stop trying to kill him. Jack is unmoved and calmly unwraps the chain from his arm and lets Ashi drop, still screaming imprecations. He breathes a sigh of relief… then the tree below him snaps off and he too falls.

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I guess he forgot to WATCH OUT!

 

Thoughts on the Episode

Jack hallucinates a lot in this season, doesn’t he? The frog, the haranguing from HalluciJack, the weird blood-trickling-everywhere scene when he meets the wolf; the list goes on. I think this is justified due to his 50 years of induced mental issues, plus massive blood loss. No, really, with all the blood spilled it’s a wonder he has any left in him five minutes in. Although HalluciJack does state that the wound itself is not the reason he becomes so weak and feverish (“You’ve survived worse.” Yes, but not on-screen, HalluciJack!), but instead the realization that he has killed another human being for the first time. This episode confirms that up to this point, Jack has only fought or killed robots, certain previous season episodes about bounty hunter team-ups notwithstanding. Hurray, we can stop arguing about it now! And it only took 13 years, too. :dry:

The white wolf returns! As I mentioned in my previous episode review, the parallel story of the wolf being included in it strikes me as unnecessary. Here he actually plays a role in helping Jack to survive, so he has a valid justification for inclusion. In my opinion, the wolf’s appearance here in this episode would have worked equally as well had it been the first time we saw him. We know who the wolf is and how he was injured, but I would have preferred the air of mystery. It would have worked well with the frog, too, to create an “even nature wants Jack to survive” theme. Ah, well, their story, their blatant symbolism and unnecessary clarity, I suppose.

The interlude with the Daughters and the deer is simultaneously amusing and saddening. It highlights just how ignorant the Daughters are of the world they are supposedly trying to defend by killing the Samurai. The one Daughter opining, “I don’t like it!” when the deer are showing affection makes it clear just how little affection the Daughters have experienced themselves in their lives, to the point where it’s an alien and uncomfortable concept to them.

Moving on to Jack’s flash back – once again, the sheer beauty of the animation and the skill of the writing are demonstrated – the colours are fantastically vibrant, and the way Jack and his father share a moment of quiet awkwardness in the wake of what would definitely be a shocking experience for a young child is simply wonderful storytelling. The expressions let us experience the emotions of the two better than any dialogue could. And the father’s explanation of what happened and how it was necessary, even if unfortunate, is exactly how a good father would discuss a difficult topic with a young child. Choice and consequence: people must decide their own path and they have to accept the outcome of their choices. And if that means you have to kill them to defend yourself and your family, then that’s their responsibility, not yours. How good a moral that ultimately is, is an exercise left to the reader.

Jack’s rematch with the Daughters is awesome. Jack shows just how skilled a warrior he is, and turns the tables on them perfectly by ambushing them in turn. Reality Ensues: training from birth is not effective as 50 years of fighting experience, not to mention Jack’s own extensive training with multiple weapons. Only as a group do they have any chance of defeating Jack. A thought here about the Daughters: they do clearly know how to work together and fight as a unit, as their Ashura mode shows.

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Maybe it’s actually the Dazzlings in disguise?

I like the way Jack uses his battle experience to good effect to lure them out to where he makes his stand, choosing a place where the terrain nullifies the advantage of their superior numbers, allowing him to basically curb stomp them one by one. Ashi is the only one who manages to injure Jack when alone, and even then it was more that Jack was allowing her attack to hit so that he could use the chain against her.

Ashi’s final tirade against Jack smacks of a child throwing a temper tantrum, and Jack clearly treats it as such. He barely bothers to listen as he unwraps the chain and drops Ashi. That he follows her in free fall a few moments later is quite ironic, and gives us a downer ending (pun intended). It was not something I expected, to be honest, so good for you, writers! On another note – Jack definitely kills the first three sisters, and the one he punched probably died immediately, but apart from Ashi, there was one more sister he simply tossed off the tree, who by rights should be alive. Although she fell into a different place than it seems Jack and Ashi did, and may therefore have made landfall in a rather more fatal fashion. Still, it’s possible she might return.

This episode crammed a lot in: Jack’s recovery, his flashback and the final fight, but it managed to do it all with aplomb. If the previous episode had a gripe-worthy element or two, this episode pretty much redeems all of that. Plus yay for white wolf survival! This fox approves. Season 5 goes from (slightly lowered) strength to strength. Join me again soon as we find out who will be dropping in on the next episode. Same fox-time; same fox-blog.

Stay sunny side up and don’t forget to WATCH OUT! (Like Jack did.)

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Sunny Fox

Here we go with the second episode of Season 5, featuring the first fight between immortal wandering Ronin Jack and the team of warriors dedicated literally from birth to slaying him, the Daughters of Aku. Things are going to get interesting...

 

What happens

The first part of this episode allows us to catch up with an old friend: the Shapeshifting Master of Darkness, the Emperor of Evil, the Shogun of Sorrow… the one, the only, AKU! After waking up, while dealing with dirt-tracking delegations and socializing with scheming scientists, Aku tries to brush aside any mention of the Samurai, saying he no longer cares whether Jack is still running around, and sinks back down out of sight.

In actuality, though, he is very much in despair and depression over the issue. He has a conversation with a psychiatrist version of himself, lamenting the fact that his plan of destroying all the time portals and letting old age defeat Jack for him has backfired so horribly, since Jack no longer ages.

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Special Offer: Two LARGE HAMS for the price of one!

He wonders idly if there is not someone out there who will take care of the whole having-an-immortal-mortal-enemy-thorn-in-his-side issue for him.

Cut to Jack, as he is ambushed by the Daughters, who wreck his bike and attack him with such speed and ferocity that he can barely even track their movements as they hit from all sides. In the melee, he loses his Tuning Fork Sword to one of his attackers. Pressed to his limit, he manages to use a belt of grenades as a smokescreen and hides under a metal dome (wreckage of a giant robot Jack easily defeated earlier in the episode) as it begins to rain. And enter HallicuJack – a version similar in appearance to Jack as he had been in previous seasons, his hair still neatly tied up, clean shaven and dressed in his signature robe.

Jack and HalluciJack have an argument as HalluciJack claims that these new enemies are too strong for him, and he should just give up. Jack responds that his opponents are only nuts and bolts; he has been in seemingly hopeless situations before, but then finds a way to survive. HalluciJack counters that that was when he still had his sword, and further states that he just wants this to end and that their ancestors are waiting for him to join them. Jack sees the Apparition again, but behind it, he sees the entrance to a temple. Ignoring HalluciJack’s certainty that he’ll be killed before he reaches it, Jack sprints for the entrance and its promise of safety, the Daughters soon following.

Jack goes to ground in the darkness, but rather than searching for the needle in this temple haystack, the Daughters instead hide themselves to lure him out. After a period of stillness, Jack attempts to sneak out again, but can’t avoid encounters with the Daughters. Eventually, he runs into a giant cavern filled with sarcophagi and the remains of an unknown Warrior King and his armies.

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He keeps them up his sleevies…

Jack hides in one of the sarcophagi, and the Daughters regroup in order to stalk him. After a tense game of hide and seek, Jack is discovered and the fight resumes. Finally, the last of Jack’s armour is destroyed, leaving him clad only in a loincloth. He manages to gain some distance and runs desperately through the corridors seeking escape. One of the Daughters (the one who took his Tuning Fork Sword) cuts him off, but with only a single opponent to face, Jack manages to take it back and in one swift counter-attack, slits her throat. Her mask falls apart, revealing the face beneath. Jack is horrified to realize that what he thought was just another machine was really a human being. He also discovers that she managed to stab him with her own dagger in the last moments of the fight. Bleeding heavily, Jack drags himself towards the end of the corridor, leaving a long smear of his own blood on the stone. He uses the Tuning Fork Sword on the walls of the corridor, and falls into a fast-flowing river, just as the temple explodes and partially collapses. Jack floats face down in the water, bleeding aaaand… WATCH OUT!

 

Thoughts on the Episode

Savvy readers may note that the summary makes no mention of the white wolf fighting the tigers. I left it out because one – it interrupts the flow of the summary unnecessarily; and letter number B – I feel it didn’t add anything to the episode itself. I know that the wolf’s story parallels Jack’s own struggle against the Daughters, and that the wolf himself reappears in the following episode, but symbolism for its own sake, particularly blatant symbolism, can be distracting and actually detract from a story. And I think it kind of did here. Also, we know Jack will survive, so showing the wolf apparently dead after the battle with the tigers doesn’t even work as misdirection. Still, these are relatively minor gripes. Back to the episode itself.

Yay! Aku’s back, too! And we get to see his take on the whole situation, which is “yup, this sucks”. The psychiatrist version of Aku is pretty funny, seemingly being more eloquent than Aku himself, even though it doesn’t make that much sense, considering it IS Aku himself. While the original voice actor of Aku, Mako Iwamatsu, unfortunately is no longer with us, the new guy, Greg Baldwin (thanks, IMDB!) does a pretty good version… not perfect, but then, Mako was one of a kind. I had kind of hoped that Aku would remain unseen for a while longer, to make his eventual return to the small screen more impactful, but since we already heard him on the phone, I guess him being The Ghost in this season wouldn’t make that much sense. Greg Baldwin has bills to pay, too, you know. This scene does serve to give a bit of light humour amid the rather dark tone of the rest of the episode, so there’s that, I guess.

This episode being mostly a running battle with Jack against the Daughters, there isn’t much to talk about apart from the HalluciJack scene (a rather darker mirror of the earlier Aku segment) and the hide-and-seek scene, so let’s go over those.

The fact that the Apparition appears when the HalluciJack part of Jack mentions suicide firms my opinion that the Apparition is the representation of Jack’s desire to end it all, which he struggles against. There’s a bit of libido / destrudo dualism there – while the word libido has been co-opted to mean “sex drive” in common parlance, it’s probably more accurately described as the desire for life, as opposed to the desire for death – and making an external representation to portray an internal struggle is pretty common in fiction. Stinker HalluciJack is going to be a fixture from here on out, though, so we’ll have a chance to discuss him again further down the line.

The scene with the cavern and the Daughters hunting Jack down is simply wonderful, and perhaps the best part of this episode – the music ratchets up the tension beautifully (the music is almost too beautiful) and Jack’s terror is highlighted here, but I do have one or two questions. First, I didn’t quite understand the firefly bit. Does that represent Jack’s fading hope the closer the Daughters come, or did the firefly somehow lead them to him – which doesn’t make sense since it was inside with Jack. Secondly, exactly how do the Daughters all gravitate to the correct sarcophagus, if the firefly was inside and didn’t lead them there? Any explanation would be welcome, since I don’t quite understand that part.

The final fight with the single Daughter provides us with the non-robotic reveal, and reaffirms Jack’s superiority – while outclassed by the Daughters as a whole in this episode, one-on-one he is still the better warrior. In fact, the final stab the Daughter gets in probably would have been avoidable had Jack not been in a blind panic and already at the tail end of his strength from the previous fighting. This scene also cements the tone shift by actually presenting real, red, non-oil blood being spilled for the first time – on both sides. We’ve seen Jack get scratches now and then before, but actual messy, bleeding abdominal stab wounds is a first here. It’s done so suddenly that the blood is legitimately shocking on first viewing. Well, unless you’ve been watching the previews or adverts, it would be. It’s fortunate for Jack that the sister he faced had his TFS: convenient coincidence is convenient.

Another honourable mention for the scenes fought in darkness, lit up only when steel strikes sparks. It’s simply beautiful to watch and gives an idea of just how skilled the fighters all are… just not quite skilled enough on the Daughters’ side, as the above paragraph demonstrates.

Overall, despite some question marks, the second episode of Season 5 is pretty solid. The Daughters are set up as a legitimate threat to Jack’s life, his continual struggle with pushing himself on despite having little hope and running more on pure stubbornness to survive than any kind of end goal helps us identify with and root for our favourite samurai, and there is even a little comic relief from everyone’s favourite Architect of Annihilation Aku to keep the mood from getting too bleak.

And that was episode, still bringing the thrills. I’ll be back to give my thoughts on the next episode real soon. Complain or compliment below, you know the drill.

Stay sunny side up, y’all, and remember to WATCH OUT!

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Sunny Fox

Very recently in a close-by land...A wish really did come true... Yes, cartoon fans, Samurai Jack is back on the grid! A mere 13 years after the series was left in limbo, a final ten-part conclusion is airing. Jack's back, babe! And he is sporting a new beard, a new ride and a new attitude. It's beau coup cuckoo, babe! Skeeeee-dee-bab-bab-boo! (That's scat speak for SPOILERS AHEAD, YO! - and those spoilers will cover more than just the first episode - you've been warned!)

What Happens
The first episode of the new season begins with a trio of aliens (rather cute anthropomorphic dog-ant hybrids of some sort) running from Aku's minions. The three (either a mother, daughter and babe-in-arms, or a big sister, little sister, and a babe-in-arms, or some combination of those - does it really matter?) are quickly surrounded by the robotic bugs. Thinking this the end of the line for them, the two eldest each give a final message of "I <3 you", using their antennae to spell it out. All of a sudden a warrior in samurai armour riding a motorcycle appears and quickly lays waste to the robotic bugs, using spiked wheels, a staff/spear/trident thingie and even various guns. During the fight, his mask gets destroyed, revealing a familiar face with a distinctly unfamiliar amount of facial hair. "Jack"   "?" signals the middle child. After defeating the final attacker, the Jack rides off wordlessly, with the grateful middle sister signalling "Thank you!" to him as he leaves.

The intro plays... we get a voice over from Jack (Phil LaMarr reprising his role as the eponymous samurai) stating that "Fifty years have passed..." He also mentions that he has found that he is not aging and expresses his despair that Aku is choking the past, present and future. Despite the bleak overtones, Jack's final words show he is still determined to succeed... "Got to get back... back to the past... Samurai Jack!"

The new season wastes exactly zero time in clarifying that it aims to be far darker than previous seasons, with a silhouetted scene of a woman crying out in the throes of childbirth. As each of the seven children is born, they are held up by the Cult of Aku and then placed on a altar. The high priestess (also the new mother of the seven - how she can bare to stand up and then doesn't die from blood loss, I have no idea) pledges the seven daughters to Aku's service - specifically to kill Jack, thereby succeeding where all others have failed.

The next scene is Jack riding through a bleak desert (no symbolism there, no indeedy) and then finding himself in the Running of the Leaves.

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Shouldn't that involve actual running?

He sees a column of smoke in the distance, but decides to ignore it. He comes upon a stream, and refreshes himself. He is soon disturbed by visions of his father, mother and his people, crying out to him and asking why he never returned to save them from Aku; accusing him of leaving them to die. He then sees a mysterious ghostly apparition of a warrior on horseback wearing samurai armour, which finally scares him enough to run towards the smoke. Stopping to make camp, Jack finds the visions returning in even greater force when he rests, pushing him to make haste.

In an odd example of Time Dilation Story-telling, we see the Daughters of Aku training as they grow from toddlers to young adulthood. One of them in particular (named Ashi) stands out... first by making a mistake during the martial arts training (and being told that one mistake = death), then by sneaking away to gape at the beauty of the world outside their conclave enclave cave while the others face off an Amazonian fighter of their order (which scene incidentally provides us with the central tenet of the Daughters' training and indoctrination: Aku is a powerful and beneficent creator and the Samurai is an evil monster who seeks to desecrate what Aku has created - the jury's still out on whether the Cult as a whole believes this, or if it's just a convenient way of instilling a wish for Jack's demise into the Daughters). Later on, a teenage Ashi almost falls off a pillar, just managing to hold on with one hand. Another sister attempts to help her, but is stopped by the High Priestess, who states that "the weak have no place with Aku". She then grinds her staff on Ashi's hand and demands "Are you weak?!"... to which Ashi gives a kiai yell and then regains her footing and pushes on... to the approval of the HP.

Back in modern day, Jack finally reaches the smoke, and finds an entire village (more like a city) in ruins, its now-dead inhabitants sprawled everywhere. As the smoke clears, the perpetrator is revealed... a robotic assassin who introduces himself as Scaramouch the Merciless (plus a tithe of titles too tiring to type). He exhorts Jack to take out his ka-ray-zee sword, and is delighted to discover that Jack no longer has his sword... a quick flashback reveals that it fell into a pit (presumably) many years ago. Scaramouch attempts to contact Aku via phone to relay this vital info, but Jack puts the kibosh on that by throwing a kunai at the phone and then firing a few Consecutive Normal Punches at Scaramouch's face. Unfortunately, Jack is not Saitama, and Scaramouch manages to recover and gain some distance.

Scaramouch uses his magic flute to animate the rubble into a golem to attack Jack. Jack defeats the golem but then starts hallucinating starving children pleading for him to help them, prompting Scaramouch to observe that he's gone beau coup cuckoo. Scaramouch sends some rocks flying at Jack, inadvertently snapping him out of his reverie. This time, Jack manages to destroy the flute. Scaramouch is not particularly put out, using his scatting powers to remote control his scimitar and pulling out a "tuning fork" sword - anything it hits soon explodes. This causes one of Jack's daggers to blow up. Scaramouch declares "No one plays the blades like I do... NO ONE!" and sends his scimitar at Jack again. Elegantly dodging the attack, Jack allows Scaramouch to hit his final remaining dagger three times... and pause... (kidney punch!) Scaramouch declares it's been fun, but the outcome of the fight is clear... Jack's going to lose and die... until Jack nonchalantly throws the dagger at Scaramouch just as it explodes. This gives Jack the opening to cut Scaramouch in twain with his own scimitar. Scaramouch declares "th-th-th-the-the... that's all folks!" before exploding. Jack takes the tuning fork sword and strides off, once more victorious.

Next we switch tracks to the Daughters as their final trial is at hand. The seven climb a spire, fighting off the best fighters of the Cult. Ashi dodges a few arrows, and uses one to stab the archer in the eye, before stealing her bow and shooting two of the Cultists her sisters are facing, also in the eye. Both turn and mutter "Ashi." (The Daughters do, I mean, not the Cultists, who are in fact dead now.) All seven make it to the top, to be greeted by the High Priestess, who declares their training complete and them ready...  "You are Seven... but now you wear the face of One... One Purpose, for which you were born... to kill THE SAMURAI!" They exit the temple and WATCH OUT! Gotta get back, back to the past... Samurai Jack!

Thoughts on the Episode
Hmm, let me guess which of the Seven Daughters of Aku is going to feature most heavily from here on out... it's got to be... Grumpy! Oh, wait, that's one of the seven dwarfs... my bad. I doubt I'd have been hailed as any kind of seer for predicting that she would become one of the central characters this season (since she does). More on that later. The whole concept of the Daughters, from the depiction of their birth with attendant screams of birthing pain, to their brutal training regime, to their final violent test of readiness, highlights that the new season is going to be far darker and bloodier than previous... and I say, bring it on! Not to mention that their tight-fitting catsuits really accentuate their, um... skills.

Jack himself is quite understandably having difficulty after fifty years of non-stop wandering the land, not even aging; a side effect of being flung into the future, it seems. The loss of his sword, being in itself a massive development, has forced him to update his armoury and adopt the use of guns (Holy Sidearms, Batman!) Then there's the hallucinations - his people alternately drowning in streams, burning alive, children begging them to save him, "have you forgotten?", "why have you forsaken us?" and all the rest... understandable manifestations of his guilt, although pretty disturbing to watch. And we haven't even met HalluciJack yet! Although we do first see the Samurai Apparition in this episodes. Some fans think this ghost represents someone Jack fought in the past and now wishes to escape. I'm more of the opinion that the Apparition represents Jack's final "solution" - killing himself and joining his ancestors. Which is really kind of messed up, now that I think about. Where there's life, there's hope, but Jack definitely is struggling with finding the will to keep going. Small prediction here: Jack will get his sword back - it is still the only thing that can actually defeat Aku. Unless he finds some other way, but if he hasn't managed to do so in 50 years... I also think that Ashi will help him to do it, maybe sacrificing herself in the process.

Moving on to the villain of the first episode (the Daughters don't count): Scaramouch the Merciless, babe!

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"Hiya, Jack, baby, welcome to Scatman's World!"

This guy is just a lot of fun, combining over the top theatrics with a pretty BA skillset. He also has a bit of hidden pride, seen when he declares "No one dances the blades like I do, babe. NO ONE!" while giving Jack a death glare, right before going back to Affably Evil scatting. His weapons of choice all fit right in with his theme of musical assassin - a scimitar he can control by scatting, which is heavy enough that Jack himself has to drag it along the ground, a pipe that can control the debris around him and even form it into attack monsters, and finally that sword that sets up a resonance on anything non-organic, causing it to shatter explosively. Although perhaps he is not as valuable to Aku as he suspects, since Aku doesn't recognize him over the phone. Despite being quite fun to watch, he is totally a bad dude, and Jack's fully justified in ending him for killing an entire village just to draw Jack out.

The fight itself is pretty spectacular, demonstrating that while Jack may have lost his sword, he hasn't lost his skills. In the end, Jack doesn't even really seem to be pushed to his limits. Without his PTSD getting in the way, it would have been even more one-sided. The way he simply tosses his final dagger as an improvised hand grenade is not only made awesome by his sheer coolness, but also demonstrates that he has brains as well as brawn... although, that was never really in doubt for anyone who knows about the previous seasons.

A quick mention of the animation - gorgeous as always! Just looking at some of the establishing shots of the landscape, I could weep for their sheer beauty. And the action is wonderfully animated too. This is currently my desktop background:

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So the final season of Samurai Jack is at long, long last under way. It hasn't disappointed me yet, 4 episodes into its 10 episode run, and I don't expect it will. What do you think of the continuation? (Not a reboot, thank Odin, Ra and Vishnu!) If you like, leave comments below and WATCH OUT! for my next review of Samurai Jack season 5, babe!

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Sunny Fox

Let's face it.... there are two songs from Rainbow Rocks, (one sung by RD and one sung by ... ugh... Trixie) that are pretty pedestrian, compared to such gems as "Welcome to the Show" and "Let's Have a Battle". Neither RD nor Trixie are exactly my favorite characters, and their respective songs don't do them any real favours in that respect.

But for this entry, I'll focus on Trixie's "boast song". And it contains this wonderful line:

"You're from the past, I'm from the Space Age..."

Ummm.... Trixie, darling... you do realize the Space Age started in 1957,right? So I don't know quite what you're trying to get across here.

Yeah, this entry is pretty thin on content... Oh well, stay sunny side up anyway...

Sunny Fox

Long ago, when I was a little pony, things were very different here in Ponyville… 'cause there was. No. Ponyville! – Granny Smith

Today’s review is for an episode that reminds us all that the older folks in our life deserve a great deal of respect, no matter how strange their ways may seem to us.

It’s late at night at Sweet Apple Acres, and the timber wolves begin to howl. Granny Smith is outside, banging pots together and shouting about how the Zap Apples are a-coming. This delights the rest of the Apples, particularly Apple Bloom, who is finally old enough to help her granny make Zap Apple Jam.

The following day, the family starts making preparations for the coming Zap Apple Harvest, and many of these preparations require somewhat… odd steps to be taken. One such step is for Granny Smith and Apple Bloom in matching bunny costumes to leap over watering cans while singing the Alphabet Song.

Diamond Tiara and her father Filthy Rich arrive at the farm to negotiate the rights of selling the first hundred jars of Zap Apple Jam, and DT starts smirking at seeing the rather idiosyncratic process in progress. She offers some faked sympathy for Apple Bloom having to deal with such apparently senile antics from her Granny. While Apple Bloom hadn’t considered her granny’s behaviour strange before, she certainly does from that point on.

A newly-embarrassed Apple Bloom accompanies Granny Smith on a shopping expedition, and mortification sets in at seeing her talking to the bees, biting the cooking wares, calling her by pet names etc. Even worse, both DT and Silver Spoon are present, adding to the shame.

At school the following day, Apple Bloom is still moping, while Filthy Rich is making a presentation for Family Appreciation Day, talking about how his shop cornered the market and made him… well, Filthy Rich, of course. Most of the class (even Silver Spoon) is bored to the point of stupification, and Sweetie Belle is fast asleep, but Diamond Tiara is perfectly attentive. It’s the first time she’s been seen smiling a purely joyful smile without any hint of mockery or cruelty, and it’s when I first considered that there might be some redeeming qualities to the here-to-fore unremittingly negatively portrayed little filly.

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She loves her daddy, she can’t be all bad.

After Cheerilee thanks Filthy Rich for his talk, she checks to see who the next student due to bring in a family member is. Of course, it’s Apple Bloom. She explains that both Big MacIntosh and Applejack will be busy with the harvest, since the Zap Apples will disappear if not picked quickly enough, and won’t be available. Diamond Tiara, in a return to form, mentions that Granny Smith will be available, as she is certain that it’ll result in yet more embarrassment for Apple Bloom. So is Apple Bloom.

As the weekend passes, the Zap Apples gradually mature. The CMC try various methods of avoiding having Granny Smith speak at school, including faking an illness for AB, impersonating Granny during her nap to cancel her appointment with Cheerilee, and even trying to pick the apples off the trees prematurely.

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Sweetie Bot enacting Bucking Protocol 11.802B…
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ACCESS DENIED!

Every attempt fails. Even sending Granny Smith out of town to visit Uncle Apple Strudel just ends with both of them showing up at the school.

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Ha ha! The senility has been doubled!

Just as Apple Bloom resigns herself to the knowledge that her life is destined to be an endless succession of humiliation, Granny Smith starts to speak of a time when Ponyville wasn’t even on the map. Here the story shifts to a sepia-toned historical flashback.

We see Granny Smith as a cute little filly, traveling across Equestria with her family of seed collectors. They eventually travel to an old timey Canterlot and meet the ever youthful Princess Celestia, the most regal of ponies, who sees how worn out they are and gives them a plot of land near the Everfree Forest, where they decide to settle and plant an orchard.

A quick comment here: many fans criticized Celestia for reckless endangerment for putting them so close to the Forest, but Granny Smith does mention that it was made clear that they should stay out of it, so I disagree there. Most of the dangerous critters stay in the forest anyway. Even the parasprite from Swarm of the Century was found very close to the edge of the forest. If Fluttershy hadn’t brought it into town, there would have been no problem. But to continue...

However, since the orchards they planted would take time to grow, there was a problem with getting enough food. Driven by hunger, Granny Smith decides to go alone into the Forest to find food. She eventually comes across the Zap Apple trees, but after getting a few of the fruit packed away, she is chased out of the Forest by the timber wolves. Luckily, she finds a pot to bang, scaring the wolves away.

The Zap Apple seeds, once planted, sprout immediately into full grown trees, solving the food shortage. The Smith family learned about the magical ways of the trees, and Granny Smith also learned that there were special rules for making the Zap Apple jam. All her silly methods actually turned out to be the result of a long process of trial and error, and not a sign of senility, after all. Attracted by the Zap Apple jam, more ponies came to settle, and eventually founded Ponyville.

Back in the present, Granny Smith’s story is applauded by the youngsters, starting with Silver Spoon of all ponies. This does not please Diamond Tiara, who exclaims that Granny Smith is “just a kooky old lady”. Apple Bloom immediately jumps to her Granny’s defense, saying she’s the most amazing pony in Ponyville, and even apologizes for not realizing it earlier. The story ends happily for everyone except DT, who is forced by her father to put on a bunny suit and join the others in jumping over the water cans.

 

Thoughts on the Episode
The best part of this episode is the moral: respect your elders. The way it’s brought across is a little esoteric, but this is a magical land of talking equines, after all. It’s also a great exercise in world building, explaining the origins of Ponyville itself, and adding to the lore of the world with the Zap Apples.

As I stated above, this episode first hints that Diamond Tiara can be a better pony that we’re usually shown, she looks really cute when she genuinely smiles. Silver Spoon also gets a bit of credit, since she was the first to begin the applause after Granny’s story. We even get a bit of an insight into Filthy Rich. Although there it’s a bit more ambiguous… did he punish Diamond Tiara because he is a responsible parent, or did he do so just to keep up appearances and avoid damage to his reputation? Or maybe a bit of both. Apart from his frowns whenever someone calls him by his first name (which is understandable, all things considered) he seems a pretty decent pony, so I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.

The main weakness in this episode is the fridge logic it generates. It was stated in Winter Wrap-Up that Ponyville hasn’t used magic to clear up winter for hundreds of years, and it hardly seems likely that Granny Smith is as old as a few centuries.

The “failure is the only option” aspect of the plot is a little forced, culminating in the mother of all coincidences, with Uncle Apple Strudel waiting at the station for Granny Smith, but as this is kind of a standard plot in TV shows, it’s not a major gripe.

Highlights/Quotes
Granny Smith: Here, take this.
<hands Apple Bloom a branch and twigs>
Apple Bloom: Is this one of your gazillion secret herbal ingredients for the Zap Apple Jam?
Granny Smith: That there’s a broom. Now get sweeping, pipsqueak!

Apple Bloom in a bunny suit. Her ears even react with her emotions!

The scene with Cheerilee visiting the farm is wonderful, especially when Granny wakes up and assures the rather confused teacher that she will be attending after all. Watch the movements of her still-CMC-controlled limbs: she ends up patting Cheerilee on the head and squishing her cheek before slowly being pulled up towards the second story. It makes me chuckle every time I see it.

Granny’s story is pretty cool, and as stated before, Silver Spoon begins the applause.

 

Pros: A great moral for kids. Some funny events. Silver Spoon gets a pet the dog moment.
Cons: A few too many coincidences. Some of what is shown here contradicts previously established information.

 

Final Rating
5 – Celestia Rank: A great episode. It will be re-watched frequently.
4 – Luna Rank: A good episode, but with one or two problems that prevent it from being great.
3 – Spike Rank: An average episode. Positives and negatives are balanced.
2 – Discord Rank: Worth watching once. After that, turn it to stone and put it in the garden.
1 – Nightmare Moon Rank: Send it to the moon!

Next episode, we’ll move from a story about the previous generation to a story about the next generation. I wonder: will my review engage you? I’ll do my best to make it so. Until then, feel free to comment, compliment or complain, and stay on the sunny side!

Sunny Fox

Hold on to your hooves! I am just about to be brilliant! – Chancellor Puddinghead (Pinkie Pie)

Apart from the characters, one of the biggest draws of this show is the intriguing world of Equestria itself. In this episode, we’ll get to learn a bit more about the history of this place of wonder, magic and pastel-coloured ponies.

 

Summary
The Mane Six (and STEVEN! I mean, Spike) are in Canterlot to put on a play about the founding of Equestria. As they head to the Palace, they play a game of I Spy, although it seems that ponies don’t actually know how the game is supposed to work, instead just shouting out things they can see. As they are donning their costumes, a few squabbles mar the group’s usual harmony, exacerbated by an open window letting in frigid air from the blizzard raging outside.

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You thought I was going to put some kind of Frozen reference here, didn’t you?

A somewhat beleaguered Spike is serving as narrator to a packed audience of ponies. He sets the scene as some number of years BC (Before Celestia) in a land that is close to, yet is not Equestria. In this age, the Earth Ponies still grow the food, which they provide to both the Pegasuseseseses (Yes, I stole that joke from Pinkie and no, I’m not sorry about it) and the unicorns in exchange for controlled weather and a basic day / night cycle respectively. However, despite this cozy arrangement, the three tribes view each other with animosity and hatred.

Unbeknownst to the three tribes, their mutual ill-feeling has attracted some weird flying horse spirit thingies, which create a protracted blizzard that threatens to starve / freeze them all to death. They set up a summit between the tribe leaders: Princess Platinum for the unicorns on behalf of her father, played by Rarity (the princess, not the father); Commander Hurricane of the Spartanesque pegasus race, played by Rainbow; and Chancellor Puddinghead of the earth ponies, played by Pinkie Pie.

The summit fails as each leader is unable to resist blaming the other races for the current predicament instead of trying to work out a solution. They each return to their associated underling: Clover the Clever (Twilight), Private Pansy (Fluttershy – a flower, not a tree, but close enough) and Smart Cookie (AJ) and declare an intention to break away from the other tribes and found a new land.

After some shenanigans, each leader finds Equestria and tries to claim it for their tribe, only to find the others there too. As they argue, the Windigos and their blizzard catch up to them, forcing them all to take shelter in a nearby cave. The close proximity only fuels their feud, and eventually the three leaders are frozen mid-rant (a power I wish I had, sometimes). This leaves their three assistants alone against the Windigos, whom Clover the Clever recognizes from a description given to her by a certain wizardly unicorn of some renown.

As the ice encroaches on them, the three find that they don’t share the dislike of the others that their leaders have, and forge a friendship, just as they too are covered by ice. Suddenly, magical fire appears from Clover’s horn. It unfreezes the three of them, and then immolates the Windigos in the most graphic manner, marking the first onscreen casualties of the show… if you consider the Windigos alive in the first place, of course. With the Windigos gone, the leaders unfreeze and have a change of heart, deciding to live in harmony from this time forth in their newly minted land of Equestria.

Back in the modern day, the Mane Six finish the play with a song, the audience joining in. As they congratulate each other backstage, the window flies open again, provoking another round of arguing. This is quickly ended when they hear a Windigo in the distance, reminding them of the perils of disharmony. Rainbow agrees to close the window, and everypony laughs as the Hearth’s Warming Fire burns brightly in the night.

 

Thoughts on the Episode
I do love that world building.

The most interesting part of this episode is to me is the dual nature of the narrative. In some parts, it’s clearly a play performed by the Mane Six, with stage props and painted scenery, while at other times it seems to be the actual historical events. Switching back and forth between the two is a very interesting way of telling the story, somewhat more ambitious than simply showing flashbacks, which is as far as previous episodes ever went. There’s even a rather meta joke thrown in, where Private Pansy declares “I can see my [Fluttershy’s] future house from here” while in the historical context, blurring that line just slightly.

When this episode aired, there was quite a debate over the flag seen at the end having a motif of the two Royal Sisters, who it was declared earlier were not yet in power. I don’t really understand why it’s a difficulty: you can also see painted scenery in the background, so it’s the play context we’re dealing with here, making that flag a mere modern prop. Sometimes this fandom can come up with some really convoluted theories to explain something that is really rather simple.

It’s interesting that Starswirl the Bearded was name-dropped as being a mentor of Clover the Clever. Quite how that ties into the timeline and the eventual arrival of the Royal Pony Sisters is currently unknown (and please, let’s not involve the comics in this discussion). Although I doubt the historical personages actually looked like the Mane Six, it’s possible that Clover the Clever is an ancestor to Twilight herself, and the fire produced by the three assistants is an early version of the Elements of Harmony. However, I find it unlikely that we’ll ever get straight answers to these questions, given that it’s been three seasons and the writers are all different these days. C’est la vie

Ultimately, there’s not much more to say about this episode. As mentioned earlier, it’s a little disturbing to see the Windigos pretty much burn to death on-screen, as they do seem to be experiencing pain. They’re evil spirits, fair enough, but still, it’s quite graphic for a family show like this. There are no real flaws in the story itself that I think it can be marked down on, but I don’t think it does enough right to give it full marks.

 

Pros: World building. The framing for the narrative is ambitious and well done. A good song.
Cons: There are many unanswered questions, and presumably they will remain so. A rather disturbing “death” for the Windigos. That’s not how “I Spy” is supposed to be played.

 

Final Rating
5 – Celestia Rank: A great episode. It will be re-watched frequently.
4 – Luna Rank: A good episode, but with one or two problems that prevent it from being great.
3 – Spike Rank: An average episode. Positives and negatives are balanced.
2 – Discord Rank: Worth watching once. After that, turn it to stone and put it in the garden.
1 – Nightmare Moon Rank: Send it to the moon!

Here endeth the lesson… feel free to comment below if you think I missed anything in this episode. It looks like the next couple of episodes are going to be pretty family based, with both the older and the next generations getting their turn in the spotlight, and I’ll be there to tell you what you should I think about it. Until then, take care and stay on the sunny side!

Sunny Fox

Spike WANT! – Spike

Sparity doesn’t really get much focus in the show (although the same can’t be said of the fandom) but in this episode it does come into play. So take a seat (on second thought, leave the seat, but sit down in it) and we’ll dive right in.

 

Summary
It’s Reshelving Day at the Golden Oak Library, and Twilight wants no distractions. Unfortunately, it seems at least two of her friends didn’t get the memo: Spike, giggling to himself about a delicious Fire Ruby he has been saving for his upcoming birthday, and Rarity, who has come to the library to get a book on ruffled taffeta capes. Nice Sorcerer’s Apprentice musical reference, there.

Upon seeing the Fire Ruby, Rarity is beside herself with admiration. Ha! I would never let the sight of something beautiful distract me from my goal, I’m focused, I’m…

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Um… what was I saying, again?

Rarity gets an unpleasant surprise when she hears that Spike intends to eat the jewel as a snack, but after seeing her gush over how lovely it is, Spike decides he’d rather give it to her. A surprised and delighted Rarity thanks him profusely and gives him a smooch on the cheek before leaving. Even Twilight comments on how generous a gift it was, and Spike promises never to wash his cheek again.

We cut to Spike’s birthday party a week later, and we see that Spike’s kept to his word and has a rather grimy cheek as a result. Twilight decides the dirt has got to go, and uses her teleportation on Spike to try to pull him close enough to get it gone.

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Does this qualify as a “running gag”?

The impasse is ended decisively when Pinkie somehow gets teleported in instead. Her arrival allows Twilight to close the distance and sanitize the cheek area. Meanwhile, rest of the Mane Six have arrived with presents, leaving Spike rather bewildered, since he usually only gets one present, from Twilight, and you have one guess what that always turns out to be. Twilight retreats with a sheepish grin. Rarity is also in attendance, having set the Fire Ruby into a golden choker, and again thanking Spike for the gift. She calls it the most generous gift she has ever received, and that it’s inspired her to make capes for all her friends.

Spike hears from Pinkie that the Cakes have something for him as well, and he heads to Sugarcube Corner to get it – a sapphire cupcake. Musing on how nice it is to get non-book presents on one’s birthday, Spike runs right into Cheerilee returning from a shopping trip. After apologizing, and helping Cheerilee to gather her spilled goods, Spike explains that it’s his birthday, leading Cheerilee to give him a hat for her present.

Hitting on a new strategy to gain more stuff, Spike uses the fact that it’s his birthday as a tool to part ponies from their things, getting more demanding as he goes.

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I guess you could call him a “smooth criminal”? B)YEEAAA… no.

Twilight stops him, but only briefly: as soon as her back is turned, he has turned back to gathering. And he’s acting a bit more reptilian than usual…

The next morning, Twilight finds Spike buried under a pile of ill-gotten gains, and a lot bigger, to her consternation. A visit to a pony pediatrician and then the local veterinarian yield no answers. Oddly, Spike is more annoyed by the pediatrician babying him than by the vet treating him like a dog… maybe the writers of Equestria Girls took note? A visit to Zecora finally gets results – Spike is growing up because he is hoarding stuff, a natural trait of dragons, it seems. Unfortunately, it’s a vicious cycle: the more he hoards, the bigger and greedier he gets. (The most popular fan theory is that dragon mothers carefully control this behaviour in their kids in order to avoid what is happening to Spike.) During the explanation, Spike takes all of Zecora's things and books it.

By the time Twilight finds her way back to town, and locates Spike, he is already beyond reasoning, even trying to take Scootaloo’s scooter, and has descended into Hulk speak, such as demonstrated in this entry’s quote above. As Spike’s rampage continues, Applejack gets roped in to help, much to Dash’s amusement.

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"Um... Should I leave you two alone?"

Fluttershy and Pinkie are pulled in, too, and finally, the now gigantic Spike grabs Rarity herself in a reference to King Kong, no less.

Ponyville panics as air raid sirens blear and a few ponies have near misses with Spike’s stomping. Seeking larger and larger containers for his booty (I can weirdly relate) Spike steals the watertower, dropping a wave of water onto Ponyville. Fluttershy and Rainbow try to talk Spike into dropping Rarity, but instead he uses his tail to flail at them, eventually trapping them in Rarity’s ruffled taffeta cape, which tears off and dunks them into the local stream.

The Wonderbolts arrive, driving Spike out of town and up the mountainside first introduced in Dragonshy. He puts all his hoarded items into a cave and then uses the watertower to trap the Wonderbolts, letting out a roar of triumph. Rarity is unimpressed, however, telling him off for (among other things) ruining her cape. This reveals her Fire Ruby, and when she sees that he’s noticed it, refuses to give it to him, because it’s a present from her friend Spikey-Wikey. However, the sight of the Ruby brings back the memory of Spike’s generosity in giving it to her, and undoes the whole transformation – revealing that the rampaging dragon is none other than Spike, but also leaving the two of them in midair. Cartoon physics, what’re ya gonna do?

As they plummet, Rainbow and Flutters grab the torn bit of cape and fly towards them in a race against gravity. Meanwhile, Spike begins to confess his crush to Rarity but she stops him with a gentle hoof to his lips – she already knows what he wants to say. They share a touching moment of understanding… and then die on impact with the ground… Nah, I’m just kidding. :P Of course Rainbow and Fluttershy catch them, and lower them safely to solid ground.

Spike contemplates the wreckage of the town, and is depressed at what he caused… but Rarity gives him a pep talk, saying that he managed to stop himself in the end, and that he’s her hero, even giving him another smooch. A little later, Spike sends a Letter to Celestia to tell her that he has learned that while it’s good to get presents, the greater joy is in giving gifts to others, while Rarity gives the others their completed capes. The episode irises out on the framed kiss mark on Spike’s cheek… m’wah!

 

Thoughts on the Episode
Let me get this part out of the way. Rarity obtaining Spike’s Fire Ruby is NOT an act of greed on her part. I’ve made this argument when looking at Rarity’s flaws, so I’m disinclined to repeat it here. Feel free to follow the link if you need further convincing, but if anyone were to mention that event as an example of Rarity being greedy or selfish, I can put it no more bluntly: that person is wrong. Objectively wrong. (And I don’t say that very often.) Moving on.

There’s quite a bit of food for thought in this episode, as it relates to Spike. We’ve seen a magically aged Spike in Season 1, and this form doesn’t match that one at all. This is apparently a natural version of growing up for dragons, so the form shown in this episode is probably the “correct” one. One thing the forms agree on, though, is that even as an adult, Spike has no wings. He’s a wingless dragon. That theory was pretty much demonstrated as true if you look for the clues in that S1 episode itself...
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...but at least this gains us some more confirmation.

There’s humour and to spare here. From the visual gags such as Pinkie being teleported in instead of Spike; to the dialogue, such as the “assaulting him with cake” line; to even some more medium aware jokes like the close focus on Twilight and Zecora’s faces in their discussion, which allows Spike to ransack the hut. There is plenty to laugh at. Yet there is still excellent action, and some really touching moments. It’s the great balance of all these different emotional elements that really make this one for the record books.

The characters are also perfectly represented, with Twilight being a firm but caring disciplinarian, Pinkie being funny and energetic, but not overbearingly so, and Fluttershy and Rainbow combo-pleading-demanding Spike to drop Rarity. There’s also Rarity herself, determined to share the generosity that was shown to her by giving something to her friends.

Of course, no review of this episode would be complete without a discussion of Spike’s midair confession. It’s a pretty clear homage to a scene in Spirited Away, even down to the tears “falling up”. It’s also one of the few moments where Spike’s crush on Rarity is given more attention than a quick joke here and there. And wow, does it tug on the heartstrings. It confirms that Rarity is aware of Spike’s feelings, even if she perhaps can’t answer them. As I’ve surmised before, she might be avoiding dealing with it directly in order to protect Spike’s emotions from her inevitable rejection. If one wishes to view that in a positive or negative light, that’s a personal choice. I think she’s doing it for good reasons, not to take advantage of Spike, but that’s just me. This whole confession scene is also a bit of a triumph for Fluttershy and Rainbow, for the former showing she can keep up with Dash when motivated, and for the latter demonstrating her loyalty, speed and quick thinking. That this touching moment leads to no real change in the status quo is more a criticism of later episodes than something that should be used to mark this one down.

It’s interesting that they showed Spike’s memory of gifting the Fire Ruby as different from the earlier scene, because it’s actually very true to life. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but your memory of any one event probably doesn’t mesh particularly well with what actually happened. All memories are more similar to a reconstructed dream of the event than to an objective video record. Odd but true. And the further back the memory lies, the more lies the memory backs. (Heh. I’m pretty proud of that one.) Psychology is so fascinating. But I’m getting off topic.

If there is anything of a flaw in this episode, it’s that Spike’s rampage doesn’t really have any consequences, considering the huge amount of damage caused. Even though Rarity does try to put the best spin on it she can, the truth is Spike very nearly killed ponies, and did cause enough damage that it would be a very taxing thing to fix. A more complete acknowledgement of this would have been a good move. One other gripe could be that the moral, while a good one, seems a bit esoteric. “Tis better to give than to receive”… because receiving things makes you grow to gigantic size and steal things, and giving things away puts things right?

Overall, though, there’s just not much wrong with this episode. I’m sad Junebug doesn’t get any attention, though.

 

Highlights/Quotes

At the party
Rainbow: Don’t you know you get presents on your birthday?
Spike: Well, this the first birthday I’ve had in Ponyville. I usually get just one present. <Noticeably less than enthusiastic> From Twilight. <Even less so> A book.
<A sheepishly grinning Twilight backs away while hiding a covered book behind her back as a bleating SFX plays>

Spike raids Sugarcube Corner
Twilight: Pinkie, stop giving him cake!
Pinkie: I’m not giving him cake! I’m ASSAULTING him with cake!
<Spike grabs all the cakes>
Pinkie: HOW DARE YOU TAKE THE CAKE!?

Rarity takes the gigantic rampaging dragon to task, despite being in its clutches
Rarity: Oh, be quiet. You've got nothing to be proud of. You steal everypony's things, terrorize the town, and use me as a weapon against my own friends! Which, as horrible as it is, I can almost understand because you're a dragon and all. But this! <shows him her cape> This is a crime against fashion!
<Bonus points for Large!Spike making a "blah blah blah" motion with his claw as she's speaking>

The Confession Scene. No more need be said.

 

Pros: One of the best balances of humour, heartwarming and hijinks yet produced by the show; every character is given the respect they deserve; Sparity, while not explored, is acknowledged; good references.
Cons: The moral is somewhat oddly presented; there are no consequences for Spike’s rampage.

 

Final Rating
5 – Celestia Rank: A great episode. It will be re-watched frequently.
4 – Luna Rank: A good episode, but with one or two problems that prevent it from being great.
3 – Spike Rank: An average episode. Positives and negatives are balanced.
2 – Discord Rank: Worth watching once. After that, turn it to stone and put it in the garden.
1 – Nightmare Moon Rank: Send it to the moon!

Next time on Dragonball Z Sunny Fox Reviews Season 2, we can look forward to getting some of that good world-building. Until then, as always, stay on the sunny side of life.

Sunny Fox

What croquet mallet? – Rarity

I love Rarity but this episode really tries its hardest to make me dislike her. I mean love as a character, not romantically – whatever floats your boat, but that’s just not my kind of thing. But in the words of the Cat!Inquisitor, “This is your judgement day, bud. I gotta be cruel. There can’t be no favours.” Enough stalling, let’s do this.

 

Summary
Rarity is in Canterlot to buy fabric, and is staying at the Castle as a guest of Princess Celestia by way of Twilight’s request. She decides that making Twilight a dress for her upcoming birthday party would be the perfect way to thank her. She has a chance encounter with a pair of Canterlot socialites, Jet Set and Upper Crust, who admiringly ask about her hat. When she is outed as being from Ponyville, the two retract their approval and insult Rarity as being “country”, before sticking their noses in the air and leaving. This snub spurs Rarity to show her class by making Twilight’s dress super fancy and something “worthy of Canterlot”.

On her way back to her apartment with necessary supplies, she literally runs into a pony of very high social standing named Fancy Pants.

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Now isn’t that an ironic name? He doesn’t even wear pants.

Stammering apologies, Rarity lets slip that she is a guest of the Princess, which Fancy Pants thinks makes her worthy of his attentions, and he invites her to join him in his VIP (Very Important Pony) box at the Wonderbolts Derby. After a brief internal debate about whether to prioritize the social boost spending time with FP will bring, or the time needed to make Twilight’s elaborate dress, she chooses the former.

Joining FP are other important high society ponies, who are shocked to hear her contradict him in who is most likely to win the Derby. As it turns out, Rarity’s inside knowledge of the Wonderbolts, which of course comes from Rainbow Dash, means her prediction is vindicated. This further impresses FP and his hangers on. I like this scene for its treatment of both Rarity and Fancy Pants. First, it shows Rarity is not afraid to speak her mind, and second, it shows FP is quite gracious when contradicted and proven wrong. As a bonus, it’s the first time Fleetfoot is named.

Unfortunately, this is almost immediately followed by Rarity lying about who Rainbow Dash is, saying she’s the Wonderbolts’ trainer. This is bad because, well, lying is wrong, and inexcusable, even for one’s favourite pony. Secondly, it’s a lie that makes no sense: she could just as easily told the truth. Rainbow Dash is the winner of the Best Young Flier competition, and one of the ponies who saved Equestria twice, and a pony who clearly has the ability to become a Wonderbolt herself. Which should be plenty important enough for anypony. Nice going, writer!

Suddenly being the center of attention, Rarity is invited to various events by the socialites. She tries to refuse so as to work more on Twilight’s dress, but eventually gives in, by way of a musical montage. I love this song, Becoming Popular. I don’t care who you think is the best singer out of the Mane Six, unless you say “Kazumi Evans”, you’re simply wrong. (Okay, not really, music is very subjective… still, you can’t deny she has a lovely voice.)

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Art Gallery Rarity – the true masterpiece on display.

Rarity, having made little progress on Twilight’s dress, is about to return home in time to finish it, when she gets a written invite to the Canterlot Garden Party, courtesy of the two snooty ponies she wasn’t important enough for before. She decides to go, despite this meaning she will miss Twilight’s birthday. She next perpetrates the biggest lie ever written in the show, claiming Opal is too sick to travel as an excuse for why she can’t be there. Despite the entertaining histrionics, this is again a lie that is pretty unnecessary, and y’know, wrong. (It might even be… badong!) The simple truth would probably have been accepted.

Rarity is about to leave for the party when the Mane Six surprise her: they decided to move the Twilight’s birthday to Canterlot so Rarity could attend despite Opal’s condition… when they ask to see Opal, Rarity douses her with water to make her look sick, which earns her a face that promises retribution…

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Of course you realize, this means war?

Luckily, Twilight prefers thinks the plain dress and thinks Rarity deliberately made it that way. The group head to the Canterlot Ball Room, which Pinkie has decorated using her party canon (first appearance!), since the Garden is being used for the Garden Party. As the evening proceeds, Rarity joins in the party antics of the Mane Six, but decides to try to split her time between the two parties. This leads to one of the funnier sequences in the show, plus what I consider the best visual gag ever:

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Of course, splitting her time between two parties tires her out, and she ends up being found out when she accidentally brings in a croquet mallet from outside. She tries to apologize, but Twilight still doesn’t realize she was being dishonest, and thinking of her as just being business savvy, is perfectly okay with Rarity going to the other party.

Then disaster… Rainbow Dash suggests they all go to the other party, which they promptly do. This is probably not as presumptuous on Dash’s part as it might seem; after all, they had no idea that Rarity had been specifically invited, or that it was an exclusive party. Still, their behaviour at the party is pretty disruptive and boorish.

Rarity tries to pretend she’s not part of their group, but when Fancy Pants asks about Twilight’s dress, the jig is up. Twilight proudly proclaims that Rarity made her dress, and she loves it. Fancy Pants asks if Rarity does know the other ponies, and she hesitates… however, seeing the dismay starting to appear on the faces of her friends, Rarity confirms that she does know them, and that she considers them wonderful ponies and wonderful friends. When Jet Set and Upper Crust deride them all as “ruffians”, they are unexpectedly defended by Fancy Pants himself, who says they are “charmingly rustic”.

Rarity starts a Lesson Letter to Celestia, but gets to deliver it to her in person instead, saying that one is a product of where they come from, and they should always be proud of it.

 

Thoughts on the Episode
This episode is entertaining, but it really does a number on Rarity’s integrity. She tells blatant lies for her own benefit, sneaks around behinds the back of her friends, and generally behaves more like a weasel than a pony. And this is coming from ME, so you know it has to be bad! Perhaps even worse, her lies and bad behaviour are never discovered, never acknowledged or even noticed in-universe. I also feel that her treatment of Opal was reprehensible. Never mind Rainbow’s treatment of Tank; this was outright animal abuse. I can only hope Opal gave Rarity a good few bites and scratches when they got home, because they would definitely be deserved. And although she was polite to her poor, put upon bellhop, neither she nor Princess Celestia really seemed to care about his problems. The moral too pretty much comes out of nowhere, and the lesson pretty meaningless considering she spent much of the episode trying to deny her roots. Worse, she sacrificed nothing of herself to learn the lesson. Oh, and one more big flaw in the episode: No Spike! At Twilight’s birthday party! He’s not even mentioned. Not cool, writers, not cool!

Now that I’ve fully acknowledged the bad, allow me to focus on some good. First, we see that Rarity really does have what it takes to make it in Canterlot. As in real life, making the right connections socially is an important part of making a success of your endeavours, especially in a society where status is paramount. Her ability to think on her hooves is demonstrated as well, even if it is mostly used in devious ways.

Fancy Pants was a great character to introduce. Despite his position as an elite of Canterlot, he seems quite down-to-earth, friendly and kind. (And he has a huge… horn… wink wink, nudge nudge) He’s nowhere near humble, of course, but he still provides a wonderful contrast to Jet Set and Upper Crust. Our first view of these two is them stalking about, noses in the air. And they’re a pair of trend chasers, too. They are snobs, through and through, and give the lie to anyone who ever described Rarity as such. There’s a difference between pride and arrogance, and arrogance is needed for someone to be a snob. Despite her poor showing in other areas in this episode, at least Rarity is not anything like those two.

Also, it should be acknowledged that she did make the right choice in the end. And she didn’t have to actually make the bad decision and then somehow make it right, as happens in some other episodes. When push came to shove, she came down on the correct side.

I enjoyed the humour in this episode too. The two-party sequence is extremely funny, and is done with minimal dialogue, letting the visuals and facial expressions do the work of portraying the hilarity.

 

Highlights/Quotes
The song: absolutely spectacular.

Party cannon becomes part of the canon!

The aforementioned conga line gag. Plus Rarity absently dipping her hors d'oeuvres into the chocolate.

It’s all in the details, Dash:
Dash: Okay, what’s with the croquet mallet?
Rarity (muffled): What croquet mallet?
Dash: Duh, the one in your mouth.

 

Pros: Great humour, especially visually; some nice firsts introduced in the form of FP and the party canon.
Cons: Rarity really misbehaves and yet avoids due karma mostly through luck; a clumsy, tacked-on moral; no sign of Spike.

 

Final Rating
5 – Celestia Rank: A great episode. It will be re-watched frequently.
4 – Luna Rank: A good episode, but with one or two problems that prevent it from being great.
3 – Spike Rank: An average episode. Positives and negatives are balanced.
2 – Discord Rank: Worth watching once. After that, turn it to stone and put it in the garden.
1 – Nightmare Moon Rank: Send it to the moon!

Woah, ironic. At any rate, I think I’ve spoken enough ill of Rarity… in the next episode, there’s a scene where I can actually defend her actions, and thus the rightful order shall be restored to the universe of this sunshine vulpine. Until then, remember that honesty is the best policy (even if you think you can get away with lying) and stay on the sunny side.

Sunny Fox

I hate being alone. – Rainbow Dash

You know that I said this is a bad Rainbow Dash episode? Well, I take it back. It’s a bad Mane Six episode. Heck, it’s a bad Ponyvillian episode. Nopony is going to come out of this one looking good. :unamused: Let’s get this over with.

 

Summary
It’s a sunny day in Ponyville, but the local weathermare is reporting a high chance of DOOM! in the local area. Rainbow Dash helps out some of the ponies when disaster strikes, and is duly given due praise. However, she starts liking the praise a bit too much, and it starts inflating her ego. After a few too many boastful comments, the Mane Six start to get annoyed with her.

Sometime later, a thief has apparently stolen Twilight’s balloon, and wrecked it, and is plummeting to her DOOM! while Dash delays her rescue to sign some autographs. When she does get on the case, the balloonist is instead rescued by a mysterious masked figure, leaving Dash to get tangled in the balloon. The fickle fools of the town immediately decide that this new hero is the bee’s knees, and Mayor Mare makes the new arrival eponymous. Dash is none too happy at being overshadowed.

Over the course of the next few subjective hours of screen time, a pattern becomes evident. Dash arrives to help prevent a runaway vehicle, but fails. Mare-Do-Well pitches up and stops the cart, proving that she’s stronger than Dash (who is a Pegasus, why should she be strong at all, anyway?)

At a construction site, a mechanical failure leads to a building falling apart. Dash’s attempt to boast is cut short by a plank flying through the air.

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Actually, I think Spiderman threw that one because Dash stole his catchphrase.

She does manage to save one construction worker who would surely have been DOOMED by being crushed under falling bricks, but Mare-Do-Well saves the other four, by apparently being able to sense when debris is going to fall before it actually does. Not that the worker Dash saved says “thanks” or anything, the ingrate.

Next, Rainbow sees a leak in the dam, and plugs it with a hoof… actually causing the crack to widen. Then she literally pats herself on the back, leading to the collapse she was trying to prevent.

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Quick! Get Superman to spin the earth backwards! We’ve already ripped off Batman and Spiderman, so why not?

Mare-Do-Well saves her from the flood and magicks the rocks back into place, leaving Dash to wonder how she can compete. She tries to console herself by thinking about the fact that she can fly and Mare-Do-Well can’t… only she CAN. :dry:

Dash sulks while the Mane Six discuss how wonderful Mare-Do-Well is: strong, fast, magical, fashionable and best of all, humble about her heroics. Dash shouts at them all and storms out, looking for something to prove she is better than Mare-Do-Well, but the DOOM! seems to be expended. Stupidity ensues, and eventually Dash gives up.

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She’s looking pretty DOOM!y… I mean, GLOOM!y.

Things get even worse when she finds out Ponyville is giving Mare-Do-Well an award for her good deeds. Dash decides to unmask the Mare, and chases her around, eventually tracking her down and pulling off the mask to reveal Rarity. Then more Mare-Do-Wells come out and reveal themselves as the rest of the Mane Six. They were taking turns playing the Mare in order to show Dash a lesson about being a hero with humility. Dash gets the point, and this interminable episode grinds to its conclusion.

 

Thoughts on the Episode
There’s a comic in the episode discussion thread that perfectly sums up this episode’s huge fatal flaw. I’m sure you’ve already seen it. Despite the fact that sitting her down and just telling Dash that she was making too much of herself would probably have avoided this entire problem, their first reaction is to gang up on and humiliate her. The burned hoof may teach best, but you don’t go grabbing the hoof and thrusting it into the flame deliberately. There’s also not much point in having a moral of “don’t talk yourself up too much” when they were doing just that in praising Mare-Do-Well, who was them all along. One could perhaps argue that they were aware of that, but doing it purely to try to get through to Dash, but really, they could have just owned up to it right there instead of allowing Dash to leave.

This episode doesn’t give Dash much respect either. Yes, she can be boastful, but not to that extent. And while she’s not book smart, she isn’t an idiot either. Once she saw that Mare-Do-Well had both a horn and wings, she should have immediately realized it could only be one of the Alicorn Princesses or multiple ponies sharing the wearing of the cape. The Royal Sisters are ruled out due to size, since they’re noticeably larger than most ponies and Mare-Do-Well is certainly not. That she didn’t cotton on is pretty much a middle finger to her from the writers.

The citizens of Ponyville look pretty bad by the end, too. As soon as Mare-Do-Well makes the first rescue, they instantly forget about Dash. Even Scootaloo, who has always idolized Dash, turns on her. The construction worker whose life she saved runs off without a word of thanks, or even an acknowledgement that both of them were needed for the rescue. The whole town comes across as fickle and forgetful.

Is there anything good to be had here? Maybe one or two of the jokes can get a slight chuckle. There’s also some continuity nods here and there, like Pinkie Sense playing a role in the construction site scene. The design of the Mare-Do-Well costume is pretty cool, despite being lifted from Batman. On the whole, though, this episode is just a chore to sit through, and it’s probably worse for Dash’s fans on account of how she gets treated… by the other characters and by the writers.

 

Quotes (There are no highlights)
Twilight: Call me silly, but I think all this attention might be going to Rainbow’s head…
Pinkie: I think you may be right, Silly.

 

Pros: Maybe one or two gags worthy of a smile; Pinkie Sense gets a reference.
Cons: Everypony gets a slap in the face; utterly predictable; a botched moral; both Marvel and DC should sue for copyright infringement.

 

Final Rating
5 – Celestia Rank: A great episode. It will be re-watched frequently.
4 – Luna Rank: A good episode, but with one or two problems that prevent it from being great.
3 – Spike Rank: An average episode. Positives and negatives are balanced.
2 – Discord Rank: Worth watching once. After that, turn it to stone and put it in the garden.
1 – Nightmare Moon Rank: Send it to the mooooon!

Well, thank Celestia that’s done. After two episodes of Dash, the next one will focus on Rarity, with some bad behaviour on the part of my favorite fashionista pony. Hey, she’s not perfect, I can admit that. :proud: Tune in next time, same website, same blog, and as always, stay on the sunny side.

Sunny Fox

This isn’t a game, you know… Now these games will determine which of you is fit to be my pet. – Rainbow Dash

Could it be? A Rainbow-Dash-centric episodes that doesn't totally suck? This must be my lucky day. How did DHX manage it? Let's take a look at May the Best Pet Win! and see.

 

Summary
Rainbow Dash is speeding through the air one fine day, and is joined by Owlowicious. The two begin to race, and oddly Owlowicious is even faster than Dash. She doesn't particularly care, just having fun with the pure rush of speed and joy of competition. Wait a moment... Rainbow Dash is losing a race, and she doesn't care? Well then, this has to be a dream. This is confirmed when Owlowicious starts morphing into a mix of all the Mane Six' pets. The appearance of Opal popping out of Angel Bunny's mouth, hissing, shocks Dash enough to jar her awake from a nap (a nice callback to the habit mentioned in earlier episodes), to find all the pets around her.

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Welp, that's my next month's worth of nightmares prepared... Thanks, DHX!

The Mane Six also appear, having arrived for their weekly Pony-Pet Playdate. Fluttershy is worried that Dash might be angry at being left out of the loop, but she agrees that since she doesn't have a pet of her own, it didn't make sense to invite her. But after hearing how much fun she is missing out on, she decides to get a pet of her own, to Fluttershy's delight.

Back at the cottage, Fluttershy and Dash sing a duet as she shows off all the potential pets in her menagerie. It takes a while, but Flutters finally gets the hint that it needs to be a creature that can fly. Dash decides the only way to find the best pet is to have a competition. This takes the form of various contests to ascertain speed, coolness, bravery and other factors Dash is looking for in a pet. Flutters begs Dash to let a tortoise compete, despite not meeting the flying requirement. He totally tanks the tests, too.

Finally, though, the field is narrowed down to four fliers: an eagle, an owl, a falcon and a bat. Dash announces the final event... a race through Ghastly Gorge, with the competitor that crosses the finish line with Dash being the winning pet. The tortoise competes too, despite not making the cut earlier.

While the various hazards of Ghastly Gorge hamper the rest, Dash manages to sail through, having flown the course multiple times. However, her nonchalant attitude becomes her downfall, as she fails to watch where she's going, and smacks into a cliff face. This causes an avalanche of falling rocks, one of which pins her wing to the ground, while the other racers pass her and leaving her behind. Trapped, scared and on the verge of tears, Dash is delighted to hear someone is coming. She's less delighted when she sees it's the tortoise. However, he is able to get his head under the rock, and lifts it, freeing her.

Meanwhile, the Mane Six are waiting at the finish line, and grow concerned when Dash isn't the first to cross. Seeing the rockslide in the distance, concern turns to panic, but they soon spot the tortoise heading their way, carrying a rather rueful Rainbow.

Although the first one to finish the race was the falcon, Dash points out a technicality... she had said that the pet who crossed the finish line with her would earn the right to join Team Dashie, and that was the tortoise. The falcon accepts this disappointment with dignity, and a wing shake for the winner.

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Poor fella; don't worry, you're still a champion in my book.

Perhaps the guilt at not trying to assist Dash in her predicament is the reason he takes it so well... or maybe it's because he can't actually speak up to object. Toss a coin to decide. Either way, Dash dubs her new pet Tank, in honour of his determination. When Fluttershy points out that Tank, being a tortoise, can't fly and will keep Dash grounded (but not in the good way), they rig up a propeller for him. Maybe she should rename him Helicopter.

Dash closes the episode with a Letter to Princess Celestia, delivering the moral: speed, ability to fly and coolness are all worthy things to have, but physical ability is as important as having the right attitude.

 

Thoughts on the Episode
I'm not a huge fan of Rainbow Dash, and to be honest, many of her focus episodes don't help her case in the slightest. Some of the most disappointing episodes in the series for me are Dash episodes. This is not only because she's possibly my least favourite Mane Six, those episodes truly do suck over and above that. Here, however is a Dash episode actually done well, developing and improving her character by having her learn a valuable lesson about tenacity, as well as introducing Tank to the series; would that all of her episodes could do so well.

While the final outcome is no real surprise, there is adequately competent foreshadowing throughout the episode. That Tank can lift objects with his head was demonstrated early on, during the bravery test. In the song, Tank briefly dons a pair of sunglasses when Dash mentions that she wants a cool pet, and we see Dash wearing a pair of her own, so there's a minor link there too.

The humour of the episode is pretty good. There are a few running gags, such as the whole turtle-tortoise debate, deliciously subverted at the end by Fluttershy being the one corrected on her nomenclature, and a brick joke or two such as Dash saying "gesundheid", first to the eagle and then to Twilight. Drill sergeant Dash is pretty funny, too. The best gag is where Twilight objects that coolness, awesomeness and radicalness are all pretty much the same thing, earning her a condescending pat on the head from Dash. And doesn't she just look delighted?

The musical number of this episode is also pretty great, and to this day I still enjoy listening to the song when it come up on my MP3 player. Speaking of the music, there's also a bit of fourth wall joke made when Dash whistles a few bars along with the background music ("Ride of the Valkyries", unless I miss my guess) during the race. It's a minor touch, but I thought it was creative anyway.

The moral of the episode is pretty standard, but it's a particularly good lesson for Dash to have learned to see value in things other than speed and coolness, particularly determination and perseverance, the things that I appreciate in Dash's character myself. It's also pretty appropriate that Tank convinces her by demonstrating her own Element, Loyalty; another example of how they complement each other.

The episode is not without its flaws, however. Dash's dismissive attitude towards Tank in the beginning and her treatment of him don't fall far short of animal abuse, until he actually saves her hide. She's also remarkably blasé about the setting the final race in a place like Ghastly Gorge, with its not inconsiderable dangers to life and wing... those Quarray Eels in particular are pretty nasty. It's played for laughs, but the bat ends up basically eaten, and only escapes through the eels nose. There's also the fact that Dash seems more interested in being first than seeing the ability of the animals: she outright says "But I'm supposed to win!" when she gets trapped and sees the others flying away without her. She also used the trick favoured by all five year olds (people, not ponies) of speeding up the ready-set-go for an unfair advantage.

She also exploits the loophole of "the one who crosses the finish line with me is the winner" to deny the falcon his rightful prize. She specifically states that requirement as necessary to prove that the winner can keep up with her, which Tank assuredly can't. She may be sticking to the letter of the law, but she sure is violating the spirit of it (not particularly unknown behaviour from her.) It might have made a stronger statement is Dash admitted that the falcon actually had won the right to be her pet, but she was reversing her decision in light of Tank's heroic assistance.

 

Highlights / Quotes

The song.

Rainbow Dash: <snip> Coolness. Awesomeness. And radicalness.
Twilight Sparkle: Aren't those all the same thing?
<beat>
Rainbow Dash: You would think that, Twilight. And that's why you would never qualify to be my pet.

The bat plays the MLP theme on a set of glasses, then shatters them with a hypersonic shriek.
Rainbow Dash: Whoa! That was truly awesome! But I'm afraid this is the radicalness competition, so I'm gonna have to take some points off.

 

Pros: Dash develops; good humour; a worthwhile moral; that falcon rocks.
Cons: Some questionable actions from Dash; perhaps a spot predicable; loophole abuse.

 

Final Rating
5 – Celestia Rank: A great episode. It will be re-watched frequently.
4 – Luna Rank: A good episode, but with one or two problems that prevent it from being great.
3 – Spike Rank: An average episode. Positives and negatives are balanced.
2 – Discord Rank: Worth watching once. After that, turn it to stone and put it in the garden.
1 – Nightmare Moon Rank: Send it to the moooooon!

So that was a good Rainbow Dash episode... give or take the odd wobble. Next up, unfortunately, is an episode set to upset all the gains from this one... until then, stay on the sunny side.

Sunny Fox

I'm jutht too impathient to be pathient... - Apple Bloom

Our intrepid Cutie Mark Crusaders Pin Twins Three Strikes Bowling Dolls arrive at the Ponyville Bowling Alley, aiming to get their cutie marks in bowling. However, bowling soon turns to blowing it: Sweetie Belle gets only gutter balls - and is incongruously happy about it - and Scootaloo bucks her ball so hard it ends up ricocheting all over the bowling alley, earning her some shocked stares from the other bowlers. On her turn, Apple Bloom appears successful in getting a strike. She also hears a spectator pony happily pointing out a cool, new "bowling" cutie mark. She is bitterly disappointed to find out that both the successful strike and the new cutie mark belong to another filly a few lanes over. Her own ball just manages to reach far enough to nudge the first pin.

Although this technically makes her the best bowler out of the three, it sends her into a funk that nothing seems able to lift... not a cake from the Cakes, nor a hat from Rarity, nor a party from Pinkie. Still disconsolate, AB splits from the others and heads into the Everfree Forest. A trip over a root causes her to fall down and break one of her front teeth.

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The tooth hurts.

Luckily, Zecora soon finds her and takes her back to her hut. She even mixes up a potion to mend AB's dental disaster. Realizing that Zecora has a potion, brew or tincture for any occasion, she suggests that Zecora might be able to mix a potion that reveals her cutie mark. Zecora denies this as a possibility and continues to mix up another potion to help a rooster who has lost his ability to crow. She shows AB one of the ingredients: "heart's desire", a flower that can be used to fix any problem. When Zecora has to leave to find a missing ingredient, she leaves behind AB... who begins to scheme...

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¯You're a sneaky one, Apple Bloom...¯

At the school the next day, AB is proud to present her (literally) shiny, new cutie mark, a silver circle. She claims it's something called a Loopdy Hoop (I guess Hula Hoop is a trademarked name) and demonstrates her skills with it. Even Cheerilee is eager to see what tricks she can do. In the middle of her routine, another cutie mark suddenly appears... this one for spinning plates. Since no pony ever has two cutie marks, DT and SS (who else? :dry: ) declare they must both be fake somehow. (They're right, as it happens.) When AB is challenged to show she can do this second talent too, she does, eventually involving most of the town in her combination demonstration.

A weary but proud Apple crew return to the farm, and AB says goodnight. Shortly, though, Applejack is awoken by a strange sound coming her her lil' sis's room...not that, actually it's tap-dancing. A third cutie mark has appeared, and AB now not only can tap-dance, she has to...

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I guess Gloria Estefan was right... the rhythm really IS going to get you...

Applejack takes her to see Twilight, who was just reading about strange diseases. Spike finds her the right book and she reads out information about the Cutie Pox (roll credits!), a mysterious medieval malaise that makes multiple marks and adjudicates arbitrary acting out of the associated abilities. Worst of all, there is no cure listed...

Hoping that Zecora might know of a cure, they try to head through town to her hut, but are slowed by Ab's involuntary talenting (I know that's not a real word, just go with it) including chess, window washing and lion taming. The townsponies panic and run when Spike lets slip that AB has the Cutie Pox. This gives Zecora, who has just arrived in town, the impression that the ponies are still afraid of her. After the misunderstanding is solved, Zecora reveals that she does indeed have a Cutie Pox cure... the seeds of truth, a plant that will only grow and flower when true words are spoken. She also makes it clear she knows that AB went behind her back and used up the last of her heart's desire. Pinkie tries to confess to eating more corncakes than she was allowed, but as high as she goes, it seems she's hedging, eventually begging for it to stop. Jeez, guilty conscious, much?

Since there's a dearth of truth from El Pinko, AB finally admits to using up the last of the heart's desire to make a potion to fake her cutie mark, and that she didn't earn them honestly after all. This confession is enough to make the seeds sprout and grow a flower. AB quickly eats it, erasing all her marks and leaving her a Blank Flank once more. She apologizes to SB and Scoots for being dishonest about her cutie mark.

Given the chance to report to Princess Celestia, AB explains that she has learned that she should be patient, and not will resort to dishonest means to get what she wants. She states that she will wait patiently for her cutie mark to appear.... yeah, that lasts about as long as you'd expect... When it's pointed out that AB actually managed to whip up quite a mean potion on her own, the CMC decide to try for their cutie marks in potion making, and head off at a gallop.

 

Thoughts on the Episode
While the premise for this episode might seem pretty fantastical, there are actually historical precedents, notable various forms of dancing mania, in which people seemed to be compelled to dance, even to the point of exhaustion, heart failure and death. I don't think it's a coincidence that the first uncontrollable action affecting Apple Bloom was a kind of dancing, nor that the Cutie Pox itself was last seen in Equestria many hundreds of year ago, mirroring the fact that such events were recorded in the 1500s. There's too much correlation for coincidence, and I do like it when we can see that the writers have done their research.

The opening bowling scene was rife with Big Lebowski references. I see a little bit of parental appeal creeping in there. It's always fun to see ponified versions of characters from various movies. But, like, that's just my opinion, man. :)

Continuing the theme of patience being a virtue, as most CMC episodes do, here again we see that AB's attempt at using the heart's desire to get what her heart desires backfires spectacularly. That magic is unable to make a cutie mark manifest before its time is also made apparent. Since the heart's desire seems to grant low level wishes, it "did its best" to give AB what she wanted, but since her actual mark appearing was literally impossible, what the heart's desire ended up doing was making something possible (if highly unlikely) happen instead... such as a sudden outbreak of a disease once thought gone for good. Similar to the dancing mania, this is a reference to something that does happen in real life, where diseases thought cured return to bedevil us as a species.

As for things to mark the episode down on, there really aren't too many. Some fans were a bit offended by Applejack's comment about Zecora having a "zebra sense", which was perceived as AJ being a wee mite racist. Although Zecora always has had shades of the Magical Negro trope, that it was "Deep South" Applejack making the comment might come off as hitting is little close to home, and this could be considered carelessness on the part of the writers.

There are also a few too many coincidences. That Zecora just happened to be making a potion with heart's desire, and that she just happened to have the cure for the Cutie Pox when she came to Ponyville to find a replacement for what AB had used up, and that the cure just happened to require a truthful confession in order for AB to learn her lesson... it all adds up to being a little too convenient. Almost as if Zecora planned it all along... hmmm... that bears looking into...

But these issues are relatively minor, and could be considered nitpicks (where not outright paranoia... :lol: ) Overall, this episode is pretty enjoyable, and despite the ending subverting the moral, the moral itself is a pretty good one. This is not quite an indispensable episode, and it doesn't really gain anything on a second viewing, but there are no major defects in it.

 

Highlights/Quotes
The scene with a certain pink party pony confessing to conspicuous corncake consumption was pretty amusing, and totally in character for the somewhat gluttonous Pinkie Pie.

Ponies in hazmat suits. That is all.

 

Pros: Some real life research went into this. Some references for the adults in the audience. Good humour. A worthwhile moral.
Cons: Possible unfortunate implications about "zebra sense". Some convenient coincidences for the plot to work.

 

Final Rating
5 – Celestia Rank: A great episode. It will be re-watched frequently.
4 – Luna Rank: A good episode, but with one or two problems that prevent it from being great.
3 – Spike Rank: An average episode. Positives and negatives are balanced.
2 – Discord Rank: Worth watching once. After that, turn it to stone and put it in the garden.
1 – Nightmare Moon Rank: Send it to the moon!

Stay sunny side up, everybody!

Sunny Fox

Well, then, maybe I’ll try the Sisterhooves Social without a sister. In fact, I think I’ll try the rest of my life without a sister! – Sweetie Belle

Rarity is having a wonderful dream which is intruded on by the smell of smoke. Thinking it’s a fire, she wakes up and tumbles downstairs… only to find that her sister Sweetie Belle is the culprit. The smoke is an intended “breakfast in bed” burning. An annoyed Rarity is about to give her sister a piece of her mind when her parents surprise her with a cheery morning greeting. It turns out, they’re going on holiday, and leaving Rarity to look after Sweetie for an entire week.

After the parents leave, Rarity suggests they clean up the kitchen and prepare an actual edible breakfast. However, Rarity being Rarity, she ends up doing everything herself, to which Sweetie protests. Rarity reluctantly allows her to garnish the finished breakfast, but even that comes with overbearing oversight and demands that it be carried out perfectly. The tension between the sisters continues to rise as Sweetie tries to be helpful, but only ends up messing up something – she washes Rarity’s one of a kind sweater, shrinking it; uses up her stock of rare baby blue sapphires to draw a picture of the two of them, forcing Rarity to go find more; and worst of all, tidies up Rarity’s Inspiration Room, which only serves to disrupt her creation process. Rarity only just manages to push down her anger, but states that she needs a little alone time.

A dejected Sweetie Belle goes for a walk, bumping into Apple Bloom, who listens to her tale of woe. Trying to be helpful, Apple Bloom suggests that Sweetie ask Rarity to join her for the titular Sisterhooves Social, an annual event held at Sweet Apple Acres in which sister teams can compete. Sweetie’s enthusiasm is swiftly dashed, as Rarity tells her that “playing games in the dirt” is simply uncouth. Angry that Rarity is so unwilling to do anything except on her own terms, Sweetie decides that she’s going to disown Rarity as her sister. In the heat of the argument, Rarity is only too happy to agree to these terms, and the two part ways.

Sweetie ends up being consoled by the Apple sisters, and they show her how they work together at almost everything. As Sweetie remarks, it’s like they’re just one pony. Even when it seems like AJ is going to get angry on account of AB splashing her with crushed grapes, it ends with just a playful tussle, much to her relief.

Meanwhile, back at her boutique, Rarity finds that the previous disasters Sweetie caused all seem to have unanticipated benefits: the shrunken sweater is perfectly sized for Opal Wopal, and her newly neatly organized Inspiration Room ends up giving her an idea for another line of clothes: “Full Spectrum Fashions”…

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Hey! I should sue!

Although Rarity tries to rationalize away the good fortune so as to maintain her indignation, she finally comes across the picture that Sweetie drew of the two of them, showing that she really does love Rarity and appreciates the fact they are sisters. Overcome with remorse for her earlier behavior, and wanting to make things right and get her sister back, she heads out to find Sweetie so they can make up.

When she does find Sweetie later that evening, who is having a camp out with the Apple sisters, her attempt at patching things up is quickly scuppered by her own inability to realize that she still wants everything, even the reconciliation, to happen her way, and Sweetie quickly rebuffs her, deciding to adopt AJ as new big sister… to the consternation of everypony else.

Rarity is understandably put out by her failure to return to her sister’s good graces, but AJ finally makes her understand that being sisters requires a give and take, and that Rarity is failing because she is not willing to compromise. Rarity comes to a decision…

The following day is the day of the Sisterhooves Social. Sweetie sadly wishes the Apples luck, but perks up immensely when Apple Bloom steps aside to allow Sweetie to be AJ’s sister for the day… and she means one day. As they come to the first obstacle, a mud pit, AJ falls in and re-emerges covered in mud. (SPOILER! ALERT: It’s actually Rarity, as one could see with a closer look at “Applejack”.)

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The eyes have it…

Working together, the two manage to come within a gnat’s wing of victory, but ultimately get second place. Her spirits not dampened in the slightest, Sweetie Belle gives a big thank you hug to “Applejack”, knocking off her hat and revealing a unicorn horn. Rarity quickly shakes the rest of the mud off, and Sweetie realizes that the Apple sisters were in on the plan too. Given proof that Rarity really is able to put her own wishes aside in favour of doing something nice for her little sister, Sweetie Belle forgives Rarity and readopts her as sister. Rarity suggests they celebrate: with a trip to the spa. She’s quite serious about it, too. Fortunately, despite the spa joke and final semi-disagreement, Rarity really has learned her lesson, and is now willing to compromise with Sweetie… even if it does involve getting a little a lot just the right amount of dirty on occasion.

 

Thoughts on the Episode
While the basis of the episode is Rarity being selfish in her relationship with her sister, it’s not too much of an out of character thing for her. Rarity likes things to be organized, or not, the way she likes it in her own home, which is fair enough. I know from experience that sometimes an older sibling might be slightly less willing to do things that they would do without hesitation for their friends, in a “darkest under the lighthouse” kind of way.

Both sides have a point here; Sweetie is driven by nothing but affection for her older sister and a desire to help her out, but good intentions don’t always equal good results. On the other hand, a sibling relationship does require a certain amount of compromise, and Rarity was at fault for not being willing to do that. The good part is that she does learn her lesson, and it stays learned. In a series that quite frequently has characters forget previous morals and lessons and so have to relearn them, this is quite the refreshing aversion, as we’ll see in some of the later episodes.

Praise should also be given to both Applejack and Apple Bloom for not only behaving like sisters should behave to each other, but also AB being willing to relinquish her “sister rights” and a chance at competing in the Sisterhooves Social, and AJ for her sensible wisdom and wholesome advice. We have seen in previous and following episodes that that relationship is not always as perfect as presented here, but that’s an understandable move on the part of the writers, to contrast the one-sided relationship that Rarity and Sweetie have at first with a more equal partnership, as the Apple siblings represent.

There was some decent humour in this episode, even if it wasn’t a laugh riot. The jump cut with Sweetie confidently predicting that Rarity will love the idea of the Social, to Rarity disparaging it is classic. The voice acting is great, with Rarity’s declaration of intent to get back her sister and Sweetie’s pretty spot on impersonations of her sister being fussy being highlights. Oh, and two words: “One. Day.”

It’s interesting to see the contrast between Rarity and the rest of her family. Her parents, while seeming like good ponies, are nothing like their refined and elegant daughter, and it’s pretty clear that Sweetie takes after her folks much more than Rares does… especially the cooking skills. Rarity points out the burnt juice, but personally, I find it more impressive (for a certain value of “impressive”) that Sweetie is able to melt toast.

There is really very little to criticize in this episode.

 

Highlights/Quotes
That previously mentioned cut:
Sweetie Belle: That sounds like the perfect way for us to hang out! Rarity will think it's an excellent idea.
<CUT>
Rarity: What a ridiculous idea.

The uncouth discussion… about being uncouth:
Applejack: 'Uncouth'? She said the Sisterhooves Social was 'uncouth'?
Apple Bloom: Yeah! Uncouth? [belch] Wait. What's uncouth?
Sweetie Belle: It's not just the Social. She thinks I'm uncouth.
Applejack: Honey, Rarity thinks everything's uncouth.
Apple Bloom: [with mouth full] What's uncouth?
Applejack: It means uncivil. Y'know, bad mannered?
Apple Bloom: [belch]
Applejack: Exactly!

This epic fail at persuasion:
Sweetie Belle: Hm. You want to me to go home with you, so that we can do what YOU want to do?
Rarity: Um… yes?
Sweetie Belle: Just forget it!

She may be willing to lend out her sister, but not for very long:
Applejack: Sisters for a day!
Sweetie Belle: No way!
Apple Bloom: One. Day.
<A little later>
Apple Bloom (poking Sweetie): One. Day. Good luck!

Any example of Squeaky Belle, really.

This moment:
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Even mud knows better than to dare stain Rarity... her fans can be a little protective!

 

Pros: A good moral that sticks; some fine voice acting; AB and AJ are great here; some chuckles to be had.
Cons: Nothing really worth marking the episode down on.

 

Final Rating
5 – Celestia Rank: A great episode. It will be re-watched frequently.
4 – Luna Rank: A good episode, but with one or two problems that prevent it from being great.
3 – Spike Rank: An average episode. Positives and negatives are balanced.
2 – Discord Rank: Worth watching once. After that, turn it to stone and put it in the garden.
1 – Nightmare Moon Rank: Send it to the moon!

Stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Two warnings should be issued... first, this post is about Star vs. The Forces of Evil. If you don't watch that show, this blog entry will be mostly devoid of interest for you. Second, this post is being written by someone who has watched the entire first season of the previously mentioned show, so naturally SPOILERS will abound.

Still here...? Oh, goodie. :)

I'll just give it to ya straight... here are my predictions / thoughts about Season 2 of Star Vs. , especially as regards the now obvious main villain, Toffee.

The very first on-screen appearance of Toffee is a shot of his right hand, which is missing a knuckle's worth of finger.
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Exhibit A...

Which detail is pretty inconsequential... until we get to the first season finalé, Storm the Castle. Here, Toffee kidnaps Marco, drawing Star into a confrontation to rescue him. At one point, Star uses her magic to blast Toffee, vaporizing his arm. However, he later regenerates it, quite handily (hee hee):
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Exhibit B...

The details are somewhat unimportant, but Star is forced into a final choice... watch Marco meet his doom at the (newly regenerated) hand of Toffee, or to destroy her wand... up until this point a McGuffin of literally universal power for whoever wields it. Toffee is apparently willing to forgo this power for his own purposes...

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SURPRISE!

Having no other option, Star duly destroys the wand using the "Whispering Spell", which Toffee tells her is not only the first spell her mother taught her... (wait a minute... how would Toffee, a monster, and thus the ultimate antithesis of the Mewnian Royal Family, know a detail like that...?) but is a sort of Self-Destruct Button for the wand itself. And if there is one thing mad scientists have taught me, it's that Self Destruct sequences always are accompanied by giant explosions. (Thanks Invade Zim and Kaolla Su...)

At this point, I tend to differ from those who claim that Toffee had prior knowledge that the wand would explode... for he clearly is surprised by what happens... at first. After telling his minions "it's been a pleasure"... (which just adds to the ambiguity. It is pretty much what a Big Bad might say to his minions either when he achieves his ultimate goal and nothing more, or if he knew that the result of achieving his ultimate goal would blow them all up... most commentators seem to go for the latter interpretation, although there isn't much to favour either idea) his expression when the wand starts glowing shows clear surprise...

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Star's reactions slightly earlier in the episode imply that the ghost of her wand's unicorn let her know that the explosion would happen. Toffee apparently wasn't privy to this. However, there is this later expression we see on Toffee's face:

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Now it's pretty deliberately framed so that we see this directly after the jewel in the wand is sundered, which would seem to imply that the sundering of the jewel is what makes Toffee smirk... however, this doesn't really gel with what I previously mentioned, and thus makes me suspect sea-animals of the scarlet persuasion... and the further revelation (later in the episode) that the sundered jewel is bad thing for the Mewnians just seems to be calculated to further this impression.

I believe that Toffee was smirking for an entirely different reason. Namely, he knew that if this version of him got nixed by the explosion, there's still his missing finger: a backup from which he could regenerate if he were to be destroyed. So the first prediction I would make, is that Toffee will reappear at some appropriately dramatic point later in the series, explaining exactly what I've put down here... that his missing finger is insurance against his body's destruction.

As for who he is, I suspect he is a missing member of the Mewnian Royal Family, possibly a sibling of Star herself, who was magically transformed into his monster form. First, we've seen that magic can permanently change a human into a troll (Ms. Skullnick), so it's not such a stretch to suggest that a Mewnian could undergo the same to become a monster. Second, it explains Toffee's knowledge of the secret wand destroying spell (which knowledge might not have included the explosion part - which it seems Star herself didn't know until the ghost unicorn told her about it). Third, it explains the line he said in his debut episode... "Yes, well. You're not the first monster to fall victim to their magic," and the look he gives towards the palace... which, admittedly, even a natural born monster might be inclined to say. But here's Exhibit C... why does a lizard have hair? None of the other monsters have hair, unless their design is clearly mammal, such as the bear and giraffe. The lizards, Lobster Claws and chickens don't have anything that could be construed as hair... even Ludo is a kappa, so his hair is expected somewhat. But for Toffee, a lizard monster such as he shouldn't have hair, unless something else is being hinted at here...

So to summarize, here are some of my predictions as regards Toffee for the next Season of Star Vs:

1. Toffee will return, citing his formerly severed finger as the reason for his survival...
2. He will turn out to be a former member of the Mewnian Royal Family, transformed into a monster by magic and thus disowned, giving him a good reason to want to seek revenge on the Mewnians.

What do you think? Is this likely? How do you interpret Toffee and what do you think Star Vs will give us in the future? Feel free to comment, and as always, stay sunny side up. :)

Sunny Fox

Shipping the Mains

I like cartoons. You might have noticed. But there is a trend that sometimes drives me pretty nuts. Whenever you have a pair of main characters (of opposite gender or sometimes of the same gender), there is this tendency to somehow entangle them romantically. No matter how much ship tease the mains have with less central characters, it somehow seems that the two of them always end up together.

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Case in point...

And it almost never works... unless the relationship upgrade happens at the very end of the story (e.g. Korrasami in Legend of Korra), or it's clear from the start that the two only have eyes for each other from the very beginning (e.g. Bob and Dot in ReBoot).

Why does it work in the first instance? Because we can let our imaginations go wild. How will they interact from here on out? What problems will they solve together? What will the children look like? The possibilities become endless. If the story continues after the mains have hooked up, all that potential is necessarily pruned, since we see what canonically happens during the "happily ever after" phase. We get the real life that happens after the honeymoon, and really, who wants to see what Reality Ensues?

Why does it work in the second instance? Because we see what they went through to be together. That's inspirational. They broke through all barriers to be together in the end. We feel that we too can become the kind of person who deserves the love of another compatible person, and that nothing will stop us!

So, the upshot of all this? I've been watching Star vs The Forces of Evil. I don't want Star Butterfly and Marco Diaz to end up as a couple (like... ugh... KP and RS). They work better as Marco X Jackie, and Star X ???. Can't we just have two friends who kick ass together and remain simply friends?!

Star vs is already slated for a second and third season. I hope Star and Marco can stay "friends who will do anything for each other" rather than mucking it up with unnecessary romantic feelings for each other. I ship (when I ship @ all) Marco X Jackie.

Plus, Jackie is totally a secret mermaid.

Anyhoo, stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

My Gemsona

So I've been getting into Steven Universe a bit, and after catching up on all the episodes, I got to thinking about creating my own Gemsona. So here she is, and even though there's probably a billion Gemsona's with this particular name out there, I'm sure she's still a unique Gem. Enjoy, or not...

Background:
Obsidian managed to survive the Gem v. Crystal Gem War, and went on the run, hiding from both sides. Following the War, she wandered the planet. Sometime within the past few centuries, she found herself in Japan (Japan exists within the show - Connie once said "itadakimasu" before eating, although it would probably be more like Japan as usually depicted in Western animation than the historical version). She became enamored of the idea of the ninja, and the form of her current projection is modeled on them. She decided on becoming an assassin, who take jobs not based on the money (since she doesn't need it) but rather on how difficult her target is to get to and eliminate. Since the people who make enemies who want them assassinated are usually not very innocent, she mostly kills people who would be deserving of it i.e. evil people. However, the good she might do in eliminating these people is incidental and not her motivation, which is only the thrill of the challenge. (Of course, as her character interacts with the Crystal Gems and Steven, she'd probably develop into an anti-hero. But at first, it'll just be the thrill of the hunt.)

Gem:
Her Gem is a triangular piece of Obsidian, divided into four smaller triangles, the middle one being raised. (Think of the Triforce from Legend of Zelda as a pitch-black gem). It's set into the back of her right hand. She can shape her gem weapons as knives, kunai or throwing stars. She can produce up to 8 of them (4 in each hand, extending from between her fingers) at a time and can throw them pretty accurately. Since obsidian is volcanic in origin, she can make them explode for extra damage or to produce a smoke screen.

Fighting Style: Assassination / Ninjitsu
Her preferred style of combat is almost exclusively to strike from the shadows, then fade away into them. She can change her colour from light grey to pitch black in order to help her hide. If the advantage of surprise fails her, she uses her speed and agility to remain on the move, keeping at a distance from her enemies and throwing her weapons. Like her namesake mineral, she is brittle and therefore not very durable. Despite being relatively fast, she is next to useless in close quarters combat. If she is forced into melee distance, she can extend a shield from her Gemmed right hand. If the shield is hit, it immediately explodes into a larger version of her smoke bomb, allowing her to make a getaway.

Appearance:
She appears to be a young Japanese woman. Her skin usually looks pale, but she can darken it at will, with her lips being a few shades darker. Her hair is shaped into a short bob, and is pure black. (In my mind, she resembles a more feminine version of Touya Akira from Hikaru no Go) Her outfit resembles the traditional black ninja garb of popular culture, rather than any historically-accurate outfits.

A template for her appearance:
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Sunny Fox

So, you're probably aware by now that I didn't find Amending Fences quite the magnum opus that many other fans did. Nor did I find much to enjoy in the character of Moon Dancer (Moondancer?), whose emotional struggles strongly resonated with many bronies.

Nor Minuette, for that matter, but in her case, it's more a matter of personal taste. I don't like people (or ponies) who giggle incessantly; that sort of thing annoys me. "C'mon, let's fly! *giggle* Get it?" No, Minuette, because that is not a joke. Twilight can fly, you can only run. Neither of you are fleeing, so "let's fly" really isn't a pun.

But back to Moondancer. I didn't see a shy pony hurt by somepony's thoughtlessness just when she was starting to open up to the world. I saw a pony who is unfairly projecting her own insecurities and feelings onto Twilight, without Twilight even knowing about it.

If she wants to attach expectations to Twilight without so much as making an attempt at cluing her in, then it’s her own fault if Twilight doesn’t meet those expectations. Yet the episode wants to pretend that Twilight is at fault for this. The writers, and even Twilight herself, are too quick to attach blame to Twilight for MD’s own neuroses. Twilight even says at the end “Back when we were in school together, you invited me to a party. I was so focused on my studies that I didn't show up.” Which is a blatant contradiction of what we saw in the pilot and the flashback based on it. (I'll build more of a point on this later.) MD herself never invited Twilight anywhere. Twilight got a backhanded invite from a different pony. MD set up the party for Twilight, but she didn’t actually invite Twilight, and made no effort to ensure that Twilight knew that it was important to her. As far as I can see, Moondancer inflicted all this on herself.

tl;dr: The source of Moondancer's emotion distress is not Twilight's thoughtlessness, as implied; it's Moondancer's own expectations of what amounted to a secret test of friendship that Twilight "failed".

Is my point becoming clear at all?

Leaving all that aside for the moment, the premise of this episode is one that looks really good on paper. Twilight realizes she was a bad friend in the past, and finds out that her behaviour at that time hurt somepony else, who is still suffering because of it, and she apologizes and makes amends (which is what "mending fences" means, so the pun in the episode title also makes little sense.) Great idea! Sign me up! I just think there were a few problems with the execution of that premise. So, in the spirit of being constructively critical rather than just critical, I offer a few suggestions for alternative routes that MA Larson could have taken that would ameliorate said problems. Even if you, dear reader, remain convinced that the episode's "problems" are not such, I would say that no writer is perfect, and so no episode is perfect. There's room for improvement, even if you love the episode with all your heart.

First, I feel the episode hamstrung itself by making the scene in the pilot, where Twilight blows off the invitation to the party, to be the cause of Moondancer taking the psychological blow that the episode focuses on. Why? Because, quite simply, Moondancer was not in that scene. So even if she knew it was organized by Moondancer, Twilight really had no way to know that declining to go would affect Moondancer so badly - at least not without a sense of intuition and empathy for other ponies that she at this point lacks. It's asking her to be aware of something she couldn't have been known, and then punishing her with blame for her justified ignorance.

So how to fix this? You can still leave that scene in and have it work, but if you're going to rewrite the past anyway, why restrict yourself to what we've seen before? Have a flashback to earlier in the day, before Twilight started reading her history book, where she meets with Moondancer, and Moondancer does actually invite her to her party. She could even say "I'd really like you to be there!" Go the whole hog, and have Twilight actually agree to go! Maybe she then tells Spike about it, so he goes to arrange his gift (neatly sealing up a plothole in the pilot, by the way, namely why Spike knows about the party, when it seems Twilight didn't until she was told by Twinkleshine.) Then later, Twilight gets caught up in her reading, runs into the aforementioned trio, and decides her research is more important than the party, leading to her saying they don't have time for presents and parties, even though they're on a break.

Now we have Moondancer actually inviting Twilight herself, and Twilight betraying her trust by going back on her word to attend, which something I would actually agree that Twilight should be blamed for. It's a bit of arc welding that could easily have been introduced, and would fully justify Moondancer's emotional pain.

There are some other issues that could have been fixed with little effort.

1. The scene where Twilight imagines how Moondancer would have reacted to her no show isn't a flashback, and so we have no real way of knowing if that's what really happened or not. I mean, push comes to shove, I'd probably accept it as accurate, but it grates on me that we have an imagine spot rather than a flashback. How to fix this one? Have Minuette describe it as a flashback of her own. She's basically the main mode of exposition elsewhere in the episode, why not here?

2. Leave out the "I don't even remember my friends' names" running gag entirely. It takes up time unnecessarily, quickly becomes exasperating, and goes against both the idea that Twilight considered them her friends in the past and that Moondancer would have attached so much emotional significance to Twilight. In particular, "Twilight Twinkle" is a red herring in the context of the episode.

3. Use the Cutie Map to start the episode off, rather than using Spike's random comment. You don't even need to include a scene of her checking the map, just have her say "the map sent me to Canterlot". (Yes, yes, "show don't tell", but if time is an issue, this could be used instead) Then Twilight arrives, determined to fix somepony's problem, only to find she caused it in the first place. That would seem much more impactful to me, and drive the lesson home to Twilight more naturally than as it stands.

So, those are the tweaks and changes I would have made to this episode. I've tried to justify them as much as I can, and I hope they sound reasonable. If you can think of anything I've missed, or you want to denounce me as a cynical cretin, feel free to comment. ;)

Oh, um, hello, Moondancer... that is a big stick, isn't it? :blink:
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*THWACK!*

Sunny Fox

Twilight Sparkle! You old so-and-so! What are you doing here?! - Minuette

Summary
After Spike comments that Twilight was a bad friend before coming to Ponyville, she decides to make a trip back to Canterlot to find her old “friends” so that she can apologize to and reconnect with them. The two revisit Twilight’s old quarters, to “start at the beginning”.

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Apparently, it’s a very good place to start…

I will give the writer a point here, for making a clever simile about how Twilight left her previous quarters and her friendships in the same incomplete state. Treasure that, writers, because you got virtually everything else wrong… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Twilight tracks down Minuette (Colgate to the bronies), and after a brief photo op, they head off to find Twilight’s other old “friends” , Lemon Drops and Twinkleshine. At Joe’s Donut Diner, Twilight apologizes for being a bad friend in the past. The three manage to brush it off while still somehow making Twilight feel worse.

A visit to the school science lab triggers a flashback for Twilight, who asks where Moon Dancer (another “friend”) is. They track her down, but find she isn’t interested in seeing any of them. Twilight follows her for a bit, and sees she’s very isolated. She then finds out from Minuette that there was a time she seemed to be opening up… until the party Twilight blew off in the pilot episode. Twilight realizes that her nonattendance is the reason why Moon Dancer is so introverted and shy now. She resolves to apologize and help Dancer to overcome her past pain.

Oh, the old awkward conversation in the library with everyone going “sssshhh!” bit. Really pushing the comedic envelope on this story, aren’t they? After that, Twilight takes Moon Dancer back to her old quarters, and proffers the key to the library, on condition that that she joins the old gang for dinner.

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Oh, hai, Starlight Glimmer! By the way, how’s your stalker life?

It doesn’t go well. Twilight, desperate to fix her mistake, enlists Pinkie Pie’s help in throwing a party for Moon Dancer. After Twilight again apologizes, Moon Dancer finally opens up and confirms that Twilight skipping her party really hurt her and made her retreat back into her shell. Seeing all the friends Twilight has gathered for her (including her sister), Moon Dancer decides to give friendship another chance. Spike gives her a photo of her friends, and the episode ends with Moon Dancer (now fulfilled) and the others heading out for a game of Calvinball.

 

The Bugz
I cannot understand why fans are praising the writing in this episode. I think it’s horrendous. Now don’t get me wrong… if you connected emotionally with Twilight and Moon Dancer’s story because you’ve had similar experiences in the past, and you like it on that account, I have absolutely no issue with that. Entirely without sarcasm I can say that I’m happy for you. But I will try to show that the story itself is very poorly written.

The plot is artificially kicked off by a random comment from Spike. It’s not the first time this has happened (Lesson Zero comes to mind) but in this episode, going this route is missing a huge opportunity for the Cutie Map to come into play. Yes, remember that Map? The express purpose of the Map is to highlight situations requiring the magic of friendship. One would think that a pony that isolated, and (ostensibly) made so by the Princess of Friendship herself, would merit a response from whatever is controlling the thing. But not even a blip. Nearly halfway through the season, the Map has been used a grand total of twice. This was a perfect time to increase that count. It would also have been much more effective for Twilight to arrive in Canterlot, not sure why she had been summoned there, and then on encountering her old “friends”, had the realization that her past actions had led to this situation, and that she now had to fix it. Basically, I think it would be cool to have a moment of realization: "I'm not just here to fix the problem... I AM the problem!"

You might have noticed I’ve been using quote marks every time I type “friends”. This is because whatever relationship Twilight had to the ponies she knew in Canterlot before moving to Ponyville, “friends” is not an accurate description. The pilot goes out of its way to establish that Twilight was isolated and antisocial. In the pilot, Twilight is tasked by Princess Celestia with “making friends”. Not “making new friends”, not “making friends in Ponyville”, “making friends”. There are many other lines that imply heavily that the Mane Six are her first set of friends. But perhaps you don’t consider that proof enough. And that’s fair, it’s got some wiggle room. Now how about A Canterlot Wedding? I don’t need the BBBFF song to make the point. Even before she starts singing, Twilight upright states the following: “Before I came here and learned the importance of friendship, Shining Armor was the only pony I ever really accepted as a friend.” There is no wiggle room or ambiguity there. Shining Armor was her only friend before Ponyville. And she didn’t even mention him until that episode. Now much less must she have cared for the “friends” who in Amending Fences are suddenly so important to her? She couldn’t even remember their names!

Oh, and that’s a running gag that pretty much negates any and all emotion in the episode. Twilight can’t remember her friend’s names, her friends apparently don’t remember Moon Dancer until she brings her up, and Moon Dancer calls her “Twilight Twinkle” accidentally. Yet we find out that they were all friends before and Moon Dancer was so fixated on Twilight being her only chance to find friendship? Somehow, I don’t find that convincing.

I can guess what you’re probably thinking. “Sunny Fox, didn’t you say in your Tanks for the Memories review that you don’t let continuity negate emotion? Aren’t you backpedaling here?” No. I still think an emotion connection with an episode trumps issues of continuity. But here, the emotional connection becomes unbelievable because what we’re given in the episode runs counter to what has been already firmly and unambiguously established. This is no minor point of fridge logic or a continuity error that can be handwaved; this is a full blown retcon of past events for the basis of creating a plot.

The second major difference is that the emotional connection that is the focus of TftM, between Dash and Tank, has been built up over a few episodes, such as the quick, surreptitious nuzzle in Just for Sidekicks, and involves a pony that we already know very well and can connect with, ourselves. We feel Dash’s emotional pain because the relationship is believable in and of itself, and because the closeness of their relationship has already been established prior to the episode. This is most certainly not the case with Twilight and Moon Dancer. (tl;dr: Emotion trumps continuity, but only if the emotion is convincing.)

Other decisions puzzle me as well. The flashback in the science lab has no real purpose. It doesn’t establish any meaningful backstory, other than to confirm Twilight and Moon Dancer went to school together. It certainly doesn’t help convince me that there was anything worthy of the name of friendship between the two. At best, it serves to remind Twilight that she hasn’t seen Moon Dancer yet… which is also unnecessary, since Spike already mentioned her as one of the “friends” to reconnect with, so Twilight doesn’t really need a flashback to justify bringing her up.

Edit: @@Dark Qiviut has pointed out something I missed regarding the flashback. It establishes that Moon Dancer is very similar to Twilight (a bookworm and antisocial) and would therefore probably feel closer to her than the others, which might help explain why she took Twilight's rejection so hard. Good catch, DQ! :)

That’s enough ripping the story to pieces. Let’s look now at the characters.

Minuette was extremely annoying with her constant giggling. I previously described her as a “discount Pinkie Pie”. My mind hasn’t changed. And then when all three get together, the giggles have been tripled! She’s not entirely useless, as she is the main source of exposition for Twilight, but she really grated on my nerves the whole episode.

Speaking of Pinkie Pie, she is brought in (rather unnecessarily, I feel: Twilight couldn’t have planned a party on her own?) to set up the party at the end, and to just be Pinkie. I get the feeling gravity has just entirely given up on being able to control her. It’s worth a chuckle, but it’s still reducing Pinkie from a character to a gag machine.

The episode doesn’t do any favours for Twilight, either. She just assumes she’s so important to other ponies that her losing contact with them is causing them terrible suffering. She was right in Moon Dancer’s case but that’s, what, one out of five? She only could be about 20% wronger if she tried (hur hur hur). Her demeanour in the flashback reminded me more of Diamond Tiara than Twilight. How does one reconcile that with the happy filly who leaps around shouting “yes yes yes yes!” in the Cutie Mark Chronicles? This episode doesn’t make Twilight fallible and thereby relatable, since her mistake was made before her character development. I don’t consider her a Mary Sue, like some of her detractors do, but this episode certainly makes me wonder if they might not have a point about her being represented as infallible these days. The previous episode had a similar problem, because her “failure” wasn’t due to her but to the yaks deplorable tendency to make a huge fuss over tiny inconsequential details. I mean, what kind of immature idiot behaves like that?

Now we come to the real millstone around the neck of this episode: Moon Dancer herself. Let me start with a question: if this character were to be introduced as someone’s OC, what do you think the response would be? Overwhelmingly negative, is my guess. A minor positive point is that they use the colours of G1 Moon Dancer, but she’s just a Twilight recolour with glasses and eyebrows; two thirds of Groucho Marx, as it were.

Apart from her lackluster design, her fixation on Twilight is one of the least justified elements of the story. Apparently, Twilight hurt her by not attending the party she organized, thereby causing her to give up on friendship. There are a number of problems with this. First, she never actually invited Twilight to her party, or made it clear in any way that it was important to her. Twilight was given an off-hand, second-hand invite by Twinkleshine. Second, why was Twilight so important to her in the first place? That flashback indicates that their similarlity might have caused that. But oh-so-similar Twilight wasn’t the one who started to bring her out of her shell. Moon Dancer literally credits the three of them (Minuette, Lemon Heart and Twinkleshine) for making her think she might want to be more social, and as far as we’re aware, everypony but Twilight was at the party. Their support and friendship apparently wasn’t worth anything in Dancer’s eyes; it was Twilight or nothing. Third, as Spike mentions, she was given an assignment by Princess Celestia, and so couldn’t have attended the party even had she wanted to. Princess Celestia knew she needed to send Twilight to Ponyville to stop Nightmare Moon (she as much as says so at the end of the second episode), so the assignment would have given to Twilight regardless. Because of these points above, her reaction to Twilight’s absence from her party becomes an overreaction, and Twilight shouldn’t be blamed for that. All in all, I don't find Moon Dancer's reclusion and subsequence outburst at Twilight was justified, which really rips out the heart of the emotional conflict the episode is built around.

What moral are we meant to take from this? "Attend every event you're invited to, just in case someone's self esteem relies on you being there"? "It's okay to shut yourself off from society because one person snubbed you once"? "Focus on one person and if they won't be your friend, give up on people entirely"? Or just maybe, it might be "Be careful of what you do, because even the smallest action may have consequences"? Yeah, let's go with that one. My point here is that the moral is kind of confused. They may have been going for something like the last one above, but I don't think they did a very good job of it.

 

The Shrugz
It was interesting to see Starlight Glimmer stalking Twilight. I admit I was not observant enough to notice her for myself when I watched the episode, so I only found out by reading the episode's thread. It has to be deliberate, and I'm glad to see that the writers are trying to build a continuing story arc. It doesn't make the episode better or worse, but it's definitely worth mentioning.

I found this entire episode to be in a sense unnecessary. Going back to a single scene, that in all likelihood was there just to establish Twilight's credentials as a antisocial bookworm, and expanding on it, doesn't really contribute to the story of Twilight and the Mane Six learning good lessons through friendship. It's going back and revisiting your past, not improving yourself for the future. I want to see Twilight moving forward, not going back and trying to fix every mistake she's ever made. Let her make new mistakes and learn from those.

Fancy Pants and Fleur de Lis appear to be a couple again. So much for my Rarity x Fancy Pants ship, huh? :P Or is Fancy Pants just a two timer?

Yeah, I call shenanigans on the idea that Spike's tail can perforate and crush a present, disemboweling a teddy bear in the process, yet leave the picture (which generally would have been placed on the bottom of the box with the teddy bear on top) untouched. Minor nitpick, though, so it's a neutral rather than a negative.

And what's up with the title of the episode, anyway? "Mending Fences" would have been just as accurate a title, with the added benefit of actually being an existing expression. Why "amending fences"? It just comes off as trying too hard to make the title some kind of pun (not a new problem with FiM...)

Twilight can invade Flatland, if only for a few minutes. I find it somewhat amusing that some fans have praised this idea for showing a limit on Twilight's magical power. She can go from three dimensions to two and make herself into a sentient line drawing, and because it's a temporary effect, that makes it a restriction? Do tell.

 

The Hugz
As I've mentioned in the episode discussion thread, there is a lesson to be learned here, about how a single act of thoughtlessness can lead to hurting someone, and that one should be careful of that. It's somewhat mired in the poor writing, but I think that's what they were going for.

Spike at least got a little screen time that didn't involve him getting dumped on by the universe. He also showed his more thoughtful side, by presenting Moon Dancer with a present. Which she apparently treasures, even though it didn't come from Twilight...

 

Pros: An interesting premise, and there is a good moral in there somewhere, trying to get out.
Cons: The premise is poorly executed, the central conflict is based on one pony's obsession with Twilight, the characters introduced are nowhere near as likeable as our Mane cast is, the moral is rather unclear.

 

Final Thoughts
I had hoped that on reflection, I would find a few more positives in this episode. Unfortunately, the opposite happened. The more I think about this episode, the clumsier and more nonsensical I find it.

 

Final Ranking:
Rarity’s Cutie Mark Rank – A scintillating story! Sure to be rewatched frequently.
Rock Candy Rank – A highly enjoyable episode, but it couldn’t avoid a cavity or two.
Tom Rank – Average. While it looked like a diamond, it turned out to be just a rock.
blogentry-2257-0-17689000-1436392322.jpgBoulder Rank – Below average. Take it out once or twice, and then leave it in your pocket.
Rock Farm Rock Rank – A terrible episode. Leave it where it lies.

Wow. What has happened to me? Have I become jaded? I've spent most of a day typing up a scathing condemnation of a simple story about righting past wrongs. I blame Slice of Life... it all went downhill from there...

Stay sunny side up, or whatever.