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WTDW: What's the Deal with... "Tricks Up My Sleeve"

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

Sunny Fox

 

Why Alicorn Princess Twilight is a stroke of genius (A Bookend Diaries Supplemental)

This one is going to be a doozy… Those (all one of you) who have read my posts in the Alicorn Twilight subforum will probably already be aware of my feelings regarding the biggest controversy the show has yet seen. I haven’t gone out of my way to avoid making it obvious, but I haven’t really given a definitive statement on the issue either. I support the idea of Twilight becoming an alicorn and a princess. I think it’s interesting, well-deserved, and can open up new story possibilities. I remain cautiously optimistic that Season IV will ultimately convince many fans that it was the right way for the writers to take the series. I do, however, recognize the potential for it to backfire horribly. Either way, considering the Unpleasable Fanbase that FiM has, I don’t see the controversy being settled quickly, so the way this situation develops will be fun to watch, if nothing else. I will sum up my position as “wait and see with more interest than dread.” There are two common criticisms of Alicorn Twilight that I disagree with, and I want to try to explain why. 1. “It was not foreshadowed”; the No Plot Development criticism 2. “It was too soon”; the No Character Development criticism What follows is probably the biggest wall of text I have ever written. To make it easier to navigate, I have put each section in spoiler tags. Click them if you dare. 1. No Plot Development   2. No Character Development As a final thought, it may be that I’m just reading more into the events I mentioned than the writers intended. Maybe I’m so desperate to justify the move of making Twilight an alicorn that I am seeing things that aren’t there, and giving credit where it is not due. I will certainly admit to this possibility, as long as others admit to the possibility that they might be allowing their dislike of the move to blind them to what might be there. Ultimately, I realize I probably can’t change anyone’s mind if they dislike Alicorn Twilight. But I would hope they would consider what I’ve pointed out fairly, and not just dismiss it because they want to continue disliking it. If, after that, they’re still not convinced, I can do no more.  The defence rests, and shall spend the rest of the day chasing some rainbows.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Was Season III Really That Bad? (A Bookend Diaries Supplemental)

As the subtitle might suggest, I feel that this season in particular has caused the most consternation among certain groups of fans. This is not only because of Twilight becoming an alicorn and a princess, although that is certainly a large part of it. It is also because the season had a non-standard number of episodes, as well as, if the claims are to be believed, the writing suffering a drop in quality regarding pacing, plot development and character development. “Jumping the shark” and particularly “Mary Sue” are terms that have been thrown around with remarkable regularity in recent recollection. I would agree that Season III has had some episodes that were not up to its usual standards. On the other hand, so did Season II, notably “The Mysterious Mare-Do-Well”, which is generally disparaged, and “A Canterlot Wedding”. The latter doesn't get as much criticism as it deserves, even though I find it to be one of the weakest episodes overall, plot- and villain-wise. Even Season 1 had its stinkers (“Over a Barrel” and “Owl’s Well that Ends Well”, I’m looking at you…). Part of the problem is that Season III was shorter, and so the subpar episodes stand out more. Apart from that caveat, I think the criticism is mostly a fair one. Let’s hope Season IV can mitigate the damage. Has Friendship is Magic moved in a parabolic path over a cartilaginous ocean-dwelling apex predator? I wouldn’t say so. There certainly has been a status quo shake-up, but whether the bell is tolling or not will depend on Season IV, and where the writers decide to take the series from here on out. I’m somewhat nervous because I recognize the potential for things to go awry, but I don’t think all is lost just yet. I trust the writers. I may be forced to swallow my words later, but I’m an optimist at heart. Now what really grinds my gears is when people use (or misuse) the term Mary Sue. In its original meaning, it referred specifically to a type of character in fan-fiction, an idealized author avatar that exists for wish fulfillment. Under this old definition, it cannot be applied to Alicorn Twilight since she is not a fan made character. But, of course, the meaning and usage of words changes, since language and culture is ever-evolving, and we have to recognize that. That would be a lot easier if the definition of Mary Sue weren’t so nebulous. It seems the most common use of Mary Sue here is to mean a character that has no flaws. Even if I were to go so far as to agree that Alicorn Twilight is now perfect and without flaws, which I don’t, the definition still fails to apply because she got there by a process of character development. Mary Sues are created, they do not evolve. Otherwise, developing a character necessarily means making her more of a Mary Sue, which would make either Mary Sue-ism good, or character development bad. You can’t have your Mary Sue and eat her too… ...wait, what? Was Season III the best season? No. Was it terribad? I don’t think so. Sure, Rarity didn't get a focus episode, but she did have some great scenes and lines. Some of the characters were slightly flanderised and some of the episodes were not paced well, but there was something to praise and something to complain about in every episode, which is as it ever has been. Season IV will probably also have a few great episodes and a few mediocre ones, but I bet it will be entertaining. Let’s not write the series off just yet. And if you’re going to say Mary Sue, you’d better have a firm definition of the phrase in mind.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Then vs. Than

I am, I will admit, a bit of a "Grammar Nazi." You could even go so far as to call me a pendant, because I always strive to be correct in my use of language. And 99% of the time, I am. Although I prefer the term "Grammar Fascist", since the Nazis were hardly the only fascists around at the time, and why should they get all the publicity? So I'm going to set some people straight on the difference between 'then' and 'than'. I come across this particular error frequently. And when it's a person who isn't a native English speaker, I am willing to forgive it. If it's just due to laziness, then I feel no particular need to be charitable. Of course, the usual objection is "if the meaning is clear, who cares if the language usage isn't perfectly correct?" Well, I do. Blame it on being an English teacher (or a smartass, the two are virtually one in the same ) Besides, I think being correct in one's use of English indicates an attention to detail and a careful disposition, both of which I find worthy traits. And why shouldn't you strive to improve, native speaker or not? That said, please don't consider this as snobbery. I just care about the English language and wish it to be used properly. So when to use 'then' and when to use 'than'? Ironically, 'when' is a determining factor. 'Then' is used when describing some kind of sequence. It could be a simple description of timing, e.g. "I had a bath, then I ate dinner, then I went to bed." In this sentence, the order of events (when each event happened in relation to the others) is being described. "I had a bath and ate dinner and went to bed" provides the same information, but in this case, it's not explicit in which order the events happened. It could well be that "eating dinner" came before "having a bath". Context dictates that "going to bed" should be understood to be the event transpiring last, since it's hard to imagine a situation in which you ate dinner or had a bath after going to bed, but it's still technically possible. A second use of 'then' is when used as a conditional, e.g. "When English is used correctly, then I am happy." or "If it rains, then I will stay inside and watch ponies". It's more subtle, but the sequence is still there. The clause before the 'then' occurs first, and is the cause of the clause after the 'then', which has to happen second. 'Than' is used when a comparison is being made, e.g. "Rainbow Dash is faster than Lightning Dust." And that's it. If you find yourself wondering which one to use, remember that comparing needs 'than', when needs 'then.' PS:  

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

The Scotsman’s Back (Episode XCVI)

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. 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! 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.
D’aawww! Who’s 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!   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

Sunny Fox

 

The MLPF World Cup and the Fluttershy Effect

Warning: This blog entry will contain many more swear words than usual. Reader discretion is advised... I really mean it... lotsa swear words... Are you sure you really want to go through with this? Don't say I didn't warn you! Nothing's going to dissuade you from reading this, is it. Oh well. I warned you, and you didn't listen to me, so that's your own lookout. Begin RANT END RANT I think I'll go back to my reviewing now... Stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

The Finger of God

The finger of God strikes the finger of God? The irony! I think we all know who's to blame... "I just don't know what went wrong!" Source: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/01/rios-christ-chips-finger-in-lightning-storm/

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

The Equestria Girls Franchise Saved Your Life

Yes, you. Science is now recognizing the significance of so called "butterfly effects". Even small, essentially undetectable variations in the starting state of a deterministic system can lead to vast different outcomes over time as the system states diverge. Essentially, if you can calculate values to a million decimal places, a difference in the million-and-first decimal place will eventually grow and wreck your prediction. The upshot of this is that even the smallest effects can change the course your life takes. The usual shorthand is "a butterfly flaps its wings, and <somewhere> gets a drought instead of a flood." I'd prefer to rephrase this as, "a butterfly distracts you for a second, causing you to avoid getting hit by a car you would have been hit by if the butterfly hadn't distracted you." So, let's replace that butterfly with the entire Equestria Girls franchise. Imagine you are walking home, and come to a red light. Maybe you were musing on the utter failure of the EQG concept to deliver a satisfying movie. Your musing leads you to miss the light changing green. Just as you realize this and are about to step forward, some jerk, driving while talking on a cell phone, sails through the intersection at a great pace, and misses you by mere centimeters. Thus you live when you would have died. Equestria Girls just saved your life. You're welcome. Now, wait, some of my more astute readers might be thinking. If I accept that the existence of EQG leads to me living when I would have died had it not existed, doesn't it work just as well the other way around? To whit, by the same logic, there have to be people who would have lived, but died because EQG existed. And to those readers I would say... "Good job! Have a Smartypants, you gold star, you!"
A surprising accurate reflection of my expression at the time of writing this... But here's the clever bit. Those people aren't really in a position to read this entry. Presumably, they have ceased to be, pining for the fjords; or they have either loftier concerns or more pressing problems to occupy them right now. Only people who are still on this mortal coil thanks to EQG can read this and potentially recognize its applicability to them. Now the chance that it actually applies to any one reader of my humble little blog is vanishingly small, that is true. However, as the time since EQG came out grows, so more people will be exposed to it. Secondly, the longer this blog entry exists, the more people can potentially read it and can apply it to themselves. So the chance that it will apply to at least one reader approaches 1 the longer time goes on. The logic is inescapable. Eventually, it will be true of someone who reads this blog entry. It might even be you. Until next time, stay sunny side up, and look both ways before crossing the street!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

The Bookend Diaries – Part 9: Heroic Serendipidity Strikes Again

Sombra begins moving in on the now-defenseless Empire…only to be stopped in the opening minute of Part 2 by Cadence recovering enough to recast her spell. Here Sombra gets his own bit of serendipity as part of his horn is cut off and falls inside the shield, allowing him to start affecting the city itself… Meanwhile, Twilight takes charge, telling Rainbow to keep the crystal ponies occupied while she finds the real Crystal Heart. Rainbow Dash, of course, uses blunt, nigh draconian, methods of keeping ponies away, which prompts AJ to take over protecting the fake Heart by using misdirection rather than her gimlet eye. Rainbow tells Rarity the sitch, who tells Spike, who runs off to find Twilight and accompany her on her sub-quest, leaving Rarity to demonstrate her quick thinking in coming up with an explanation. He promises not to lift a claw to help her, but he ends up helping her anyway, as she winds her way through the traps Sombra laid out a millennium before. Twilight seems really good at dark magic, despite only seeing it done once. I hope this comes back in Season 4, because it would be really scary to have Twilight being corrupted. (Warning! Equestria Girls reference is incoming! Battle stations! I wonder if her use of dark magic had anything to do with Sunset Shimmer becoming a demon when she donned the crown…) Anyway, after the “worst fear door”, which would have stopped Twilight in her tracks if not for Spike, they start up the staircase. Spike again helps out by pointing out that the staircase is a delaying tactic, which Twilight deals with by reversing their personal gravity. MC Escher would be proud, but it’s probably not a good spell to cast when you’re outdoors, I’d wager. Reaching the chamber with the Heart, Twilight gets trapped by Sombra when she sets off the alarm by getting too close. Her usual trick of teleporting out is easily countered, making me wonder just how powerful a unicorn King Sombra is. Luckily, Spike is there to get the Heart, and despite initial reluctance, he is sent to bring it to Cadence. Meanwhile, the crystal ponies know something is wrong and start to crowd around the pedestal. Despite Rarity’s best efforts at distracting them (“I made it work” is probably one of the best Rarity lines in the entire show), the jig is up (literally) when Pinkie knocks over the fake Heart pedestal accidentally, revealing the fake Heart to the crystal ponies. Applejack puts her hoof in her mouth by saying the real one is on the way, which turns out not to be a lie, in fact, since Spike is bringing it. Rarity remarks that she was going to say it was “being polished” to buy them time. Oops, indeed. Leave the quick thinking and the mathematics to Rarity next time, AJ. Dodging black crystals, Spike makes his way towards Cadence, but starts to fall as Sombra finally regains a physical form and makes his own bid to win the Heart. And then comes possibly the strangest moment in the show… Shining Armor picks up and throws his wife. Again, there seems to be some connection between Cadence and the Heart, since when it starts glowing, she seems to recover enough to spread her wings. Cadence grabs the Heart, gives Spike his first alicorn ride, and, in a nice touch, lands on the fake Heart, shattering it. She calls on the crystal ponies to use their light and love to power up the Heart, and they do so. The resulting shockwave crystalifies (I know that’s not a word, just go with it) our Mane 6, the rulers and even good old Spike. It also shatters Sombra’s crystals, and even Sombra himself, making him the first villain to be outright killed on-screen. He gets some awesome points just for that, in my book. His horn seems intact, and the show’s writers will certainly be missing a trick if they don’t bring it back into play sometime later. Light and love flow out over Equestria, huzzah! The hero and his stalwart companions return to Ponyville, Rarity bemoaning the loss of her crystal form along the way. Luckily, Applejack manages to cheer her up with a kind word. They seem better friends than ever, which I like. Shining Armor also hangs a lampshade on his general uselessness… he totally got controlled by Chrysalis, and got his flank handed to him by Sombra. I mean, I understand that the show is all about how cool the female cast is, but bro, come on. You’re making your gender look bad here. Back in Canterlot, Princess Celestia cheerfully goes back on her earlier words about Twilight having to do everything herself. I mean, she doesn’t even try to make out as if her instructions were actually cryptically useful. I guess even she knows when that sort of thing wouldn’t fly. So Twilight passes her test, her friends sing a reprise about how they knew she was up for the challenge the entire time, and Spike puts the finishing touch on the episode by (unconvincingly) claiming he was never worried and knew everything would be alright. But right before that, Luna pulls out a book that will be very important later on: Starswirl’s journal. So that is the opening to Season III. It was good, had some lovely songs, introduced a new species of pony (or sub-species perhaps) and provided us with some glimpses of future events. Of course, the letdown is strong with this one, since King Sombra turned out to be a very poorly fleshed out character, even though, as I argue here, he’s actually pretty effective in terms of technical villainy, and only lost through a series of unfortunate (for him) events. Still, there’s no denying that the other villains were a lot more charismatic in their own ways. Pros: Crystal Rarity and normal Rarity, Spike gets to do something useful for once, great songs and animation, foreshadowing. Cons: Uninteresting villain, Shining Armor is useless, Crystal Empire is not an empire in anything more than name. Just one more episode to look at before I draw the Bookend Diaries to a close. This is the big one, the base breaker, the controversy that has split our fandom in twain: Magical Mystery Cure. Be afraid, be very afraid. Keep on chasing those rainbows.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

The Bookend Diaries – Part 8: Yeeeesss... Crysssstaaaaals...

Hard on the heels of Season II’s music-heavy two-part is another music-heavy two-parter, “The Crystal Empire”. In four episodes and two stories we’ve had something like five or six songs. Not that the songs are bad, but there are just such a lot of them. The episode opens with a report that the titular Empire has returned from a thousand year displacement curse, inducing Princess Celestia to send newly-weds Cadence and Shining Armor there. Although it is not outright stated, my belief is that the return of the Empire was caused by the wedding. The timing is just too convenient. Lending strength to this theory is the observation that Candence’s cutie mark contains the Crystal Heart, and that one of the crystal ponies indeed calls her “The Crystal Princess”. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Celestia also sends for Twilight, telling her that she is going to have to take a test. Even your assistant is embarrassed for you. Twilight, predictably, gets herself into an absolute state at the news. Celestia really needs to learn to clarify when she writes those letters of hers. Despite Luna offering to go to the Empire too, Celestia insists on Twilight being sent, saying that it will let them know whether or not she is ready for what will be coming later in the Season. After informing Twilight about the Empire, and the true nature of her test, she reaffirms her belief that Twilight will succeed, despite stern, sceptical looks from Luna. Celestia also makes it clear that Twilight must do it all on her own. Although if Twilight is supposed to be doing this alone, why did Celestia send the rest of the Mane 6 as well? Does your manipulation know no limits, your Majesty? The first song of the episode follows. I’m not sure of the official title of the song (anyone out there who knows is welcome to inform me) so I’ll just call it “Prepared for This”. It’s a very beautifully animated sequence, with Twilight wondering if she is up to the challenge. And Spike sings, too, which is a nice touch. His voice isn’t great, but then he is supposed to be a child, so I’m going to forgive him. As Celestia promised, her friends are waiting at Ponyville Station for her. Twilight gets them up to speed, and they soon arrive in the Arctic North of Equestria to meet Shining Armor. Here we are also introduced to the villain, King Sombra, who curses Shining Armor’s horn when the latter turns back to buy the Mane 6 time to reach the Empire… which turns out to be not an empire. They really should call it The Crystal City. The more you think about it, the more you wonder why it was called an Empire at all. And if Cadence and Shining Armor are rulers of an empire, doesn’t that technically make them an emperor and empress? Do they now outrank Luna and Celestia? Rarity is in her element… the metaphorical one, not the “of Harmony” one. She loves gems and she’s in a city made of the stuff. Rarity’s reaction to hearing about the existence of Crystal Ponies is one of the highlights of this episode for me. I know, shocking, right? These sorts of scenes are why I don’t feel too bad about Rarity not getting a focus episode in this Season. The team goes out to get more information about protecting the Empire, but the crystal ponies seem really out of it, and are of no use at all. Pinkie Pie is in rare form, particularly the scene where “Fluttershy” walks up to Twilight, only to turn out to be Pinkie in a Fluttershy costume. FS herself is understandably confused. Rarity being too caught up in imaging herself as a crystal unicorn to even ask any questions is also pretty funny, and typical. It serves as a call back to Dragonshy, too. They finally manage to find a library, with a really confused librarian, whom Pinkie likes for some inscrutable reason. After searching, they find a book about the history of the crystal ponies, leading to the second song of the episode. “The Ballad of the Crystal Ponies” will do for a title, although I don’t know the official name of this one either. I really like this song, and it sets up for the Crystal Fair. The centerpiece of this is “the Crystal Heart”, which Twilight has made. This has the effect of perking up the crystal ponies, which returns their mane-styles and colors to normal, although it doesn’t restore their shininess (insert Pokemon joke here). It also reminds them about the existence of the Crystal Heart. It turns out the Crystal Heart is a very specific relic and treasure, which Sombra has locked away and apparently removed any mention of. How odd that OCD Twilight did not notice the obviously torn out last page of the book. Yeah, good one, Twilie. Even your brother is embarrassed for you. Cadence takes the opportunity to swoon, and without her light and love barring his way, Sombra begins moving in on the now-defenseless Empire…

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

The Bookend Diaries – Part 7: Villainous Stupidity Strikes Yet Again

This is where Chrysalis really manages to shoot herself in the hoof (those holes had to get there somehow). Not only does she confirm to Twilight that she is indeed evil, but she also imprisons her right next door to her other prisoner, and in fact seems to specifically engineer a meeting between them, allowing them to team up. Maybe she was hoping Twilight would be angry enough to just kill the real Cadence outright, especially as she seemed intent on taunting her to raise her ire, but it seems a poor gamble to take when you’re on the cusp of victory. It's going to backfire horribly, as we’ll see. A quick song-and-dance greeting ritual establishes the true Cadence’s bona fides (a little too quickly, if you ask me) and they team up to escape. This also makes the “hope for friendly fire kill plan” even more unlikely. Chrysalis knows it failed because she sends the bridesmaids to block their exit, but still laughs as if everything is going according to plan as she leaves, which is odd, to say the least. Of course, as stupid and self-defeating as Chrysalis’ action is, it also results in the best song of the episode, "This Day Aria." What else is there to say, it’s a perfect song. It also moves the action along quite nicely, as Twilight and Cadence make their way through the cavern while the wedding continues above them. No pony notices the groom’s zombified expression and glowing green mind control eyes, for some reason. After Twilight spots an exit, she teleports herself and Cadence to it, only to have the bridesmaids step in to stop them. Yet more questions: what did Chrysalis originally mind control them for, anyway? They vanished before Twilight ever confronted her, so they can’t have been waiting down there in order to block the way the whole time. Unless Chrysalis expected Cadence to make a break for it herself, in which case, why did the latter wait for Twilight to find her before trying to get away? None of this makes much sense to me. The way the pair escapes is also a bit of a head-tilter. The bridesmaids run off after the bouquet that Cadence quite literally makes appear from nowhere, in a bit of totally unnecessary fridge logic. (Welcome to Plot Convenience Theatre!) That would have been a great time for Twilight to use the Want-It-Need-It spell from “Lesson Zero”; they could literally have used a rock for the same purpose without creating yet another flaw for me to scratch my head over, and added a lovely little continuity nod at the same time. When the pair makes it back to the wedding, it sure is nice of Cadence to wait for Twilight to burst in first, just so everypony can look unhappy to see her. Confronted by the real bride, and having her secret being revealed, Chrysalis returns to her true form, ignoring the fact that freaking Princess Celestia is officiating the wedding. As it turns out, though, Chrysalis is now strong enough to win the Beam Spam battle, slapping down Celestia like an unruly child. (Well, not really, even she was surprised she won, but just go with it) Now this I like, as it destroys the impression that the alicorn Princesses are somehow living gods, which I never approved of anyway. The (now second) most powerful magic wielder out of commission, the time has come to fall back on the last line of defense for Equestria, the Elements of Harmony. Which are locked in a tower. Which is protected by a spell only Celestia knows how to bypass. Hmm. It seems like Chrysalis isn’t the only poor planner in this episode, after all. All of which is moot, since despite a great action fight scene, the Mane 6 are captured before they can get to the Elements. All seems lost… the shield has failed, Celestia is now a pod pony, the Mane 6, Cadence and Shining Armor are prisoners, and the changelings are roaming around in their true forms, feeding from the fearful ponies of Canterlot. Wait, what? If changelings get power from love, how does fear sustain them? If they can suck the love out of somepony in their true form, and while the pony in question is fearing or hating them, why do they need the ability to take on the form of a loved one in the first place? I’ve been scratching my head so much, I’m right through my skull and hitting pink stuff directly. Quick, Chrysalis, sing an ironic reprise of an earlier song to distract me! Once again creating the impression that those holes go through her brain as well as her legs, Chrysalis not only leaves the Mane 6 free, but allows Twilight to free Cadence, who in turn breaks Chrysalis' hold over Shining Armor. I mean, being sure of your victory is one thing, but allowing your prisoners to do everything in their power to stop you when you shouldn't really be giving them the chance is simply stupid. Again. Such arrogance goes well beyond just being a fatal flaw, it's downright perverse. Unfortunately, par for the course for MLP villains. Cadence's love gives Shining Armor the power to cast his protection spell. A lovely little animation error gives Cadence her crown back before she even begins, but I like the idea that the magic repairs all her scratches and other evidence of her underground incarceration. Sort of a "beauty is never tarnished" moment. It also briefly gives both her and Shining Armor's manes the wavy look of the alicorns, although if this is a true change or just their manes blowing in the breeze, I'm not certain. Here's another bugbear of mine. People claim that the spell is the power of love used as a weapon, in much the same way as the Elements of Harmony. It's not really, it's just Shining Armor's protection spell. Cadence is only using her magical lurrve powers to give him the strength to cast it. Anyway, the spell manages to knock all the changelings away (again, is that spell specifically targeting changelings?) sending them flying back to the place they came from. It also seems to dissolve the changeling's mucousy stuff, while not touching any of the ponies. Action over, it's back to the wedding, with real Chrysalis just loving everything about the planned ceremony. I guess that's understandable. It's got to be better than what she started the day expecting to face. So ceremony, kiss, Sonic Rainboom on command. Then a slow dance, Luna pitches up after being who knows where, ponies sing ("Love is in Bloom" is pretty standard, a nice tune but nowhere near "This Day Aria") and dance and cry and laugh and all that good stuff that a wedding brings. And Spike brings out his bachelor party brick joke for an everypony laughs ending. Oh, and fireworks. Pros - The songs are pretty good. Despite it's flaws, the story is entertaining. The scene where they fight the Changeling horde is wonderful, and harkens back to the days of the Powerpuff Girls. Cons - Shining Armor and Cadence (a new alicorn) are thrown in, bam, no warning from any of the other 50 episodes in the series. The villain apparently goes to great lengths to ruin her own plans. A lot of stuff doesn't make sense. Overall, despite it's flaws, the story is really enjoyable, and has some nice touches. If anyone can provide some possible justifications for the flawed logic, I'd be happy to hear what you have to say. So, now that we have had our happy ending, all that remains to say is this: Until next time, keep on chasing those rainbows!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

The Bookend Diaries – Part 6: Spontaneous Generation of (Family) Matter

Oh, dear. “A Canterlot Wedding.” In my opinion, this is by far the most flawed episode in the series to date. (Yes, that includes “Magical Mystery Cure”, which I didn’t find to be as bad as all that. But I’ll talk more about that at another time.) In fact, there is so much that is unclear or plain doesn’t make sense in this episode, that I felt compelled to write a fan-fiction trying to provide some justification for it. Maybe I'll even get around to posting it here on Running the Gamut some time. The episode starts with the Mane 6 having a picnic (Spike was apparently not invited, poor guy) on a beautiful day. Spike crashes the party to deliver the news of the upcoming wedding in Canterlot, where each of the Mane 6 is given a task. Poor Twilight then finds out that the groom is none other than her brother. A brother whom she is apparently very close to, but has never once mentioned, even in passing, an entire 50 episodes into the show. If you want to talk about “coming out of nowhere”, this is the quintessential example. Avatar: The Last Airbender did it much better. Although Princess Azula is only introduced towards the end of the first season, we are given a sneak peak of her half-way through, during a flashback to why Prince Zuko was banished. We even get an early hint to her character when we see her smirking smugly at what is happening to her brother. In FiM’s case, what makes this sudden addition even more egregious is the fact that during the BBBFF song, we see that Shining Armor saw Twilight off on her journey to Ponyville. This is the script-writing equivalent of Spike taping himself into the picture from “Sweet and Elite”. Speaking of the BBBFF song, and on a more positive note, as it were, it’s a very good song. Tara Strong manages to put a great deal of emotion into this performance. As for the visuals, any time we get to see a member of the Mane 6 as a cute little filly is fine by me. I also suggest checking out the Sim Gretina remix of the song, it’s awesome. After the song, we clearly see Twilight is upset with her brother for not telling her about his impending marriage. Not that she seems to have made much effort to keep in touch with him, either. Still, her feelings are understandable. The reaction of her friends to how vociferous she is about it should be kept in mind for later. So the group is off to Canterlot to help organize the wedding, with Twilight still peeved and determined to confront Shining Armor. And this is where the major question marks start appearing. Shining Armor states that a threat was made against Canterlot, but they don’t know who is responsible. As a direct result of that, Shining Armor has been asked to provide additional protection with his shield spell, and by increasing the number of guards. Chrysalis’s plan to replace Cadence was necessitated by the shield, which never would have been set up if not for the threat she made. Or is there some other reason why she had to im-pony-ate Cadence? What did she get in exchange for giving up the element of surprise? The only way I can think of to resolve this issue is if the threat was made by a third party, who has their own reasons for revealing the danger Canterlot is facing. But such a third party is never introduced. Secondly, if they don’t know the identity of the threat, why is Shining Armor’s spell apparently keyed to changelings? Is it designed to allow through only ponies who have been invited to the wedding? How does it judge that, since they apparently are not carrying invitations when they enter? Has Shining Armor memorized the identity and appearance of every single wedding guest, in order to incorporate them into the spell? None of this is ever explained or addressed. Twilight forgives her brother, accepts her role as Best Mare, finds out her future sister-in-law is her old foal-sitter (which was called baby-sitting in “Baby Cakes”, so yay for inconsistent terminology) and then finds out her foal-sitter doesn’t remember their greeting ritual, and is acting very differently to how Twilight remembers. Understandably, Twilight doesn’t realize she is an imposter, but instead thinks that her personality has soured. Another thing to keep in mind – the others of the Mane 6 don’t get to see this interaction, or how Twilight reconciles with her brother. She also is never shown telling them anything about it later. All the Mane 6 sees is Twilight sulking, apparently still annoyed at the whole situation and making snide remarks about Cadence. In light of this, I don’t agree with fans who say Twilight’s friends should have given her the benefit of the doubt, due to the lesson from “Lesson Zero”. Apart from the aforementioned, it should also be remembered that this episode takes place after “It’s about Time”. This episode featured Twilight freaking out over something that turns out to be a false alarm, even getting the entire town of Ponyville to help her, including a full sweep of Equestria via pegasus surveillance. I don’t blame them for doubting her in the slightest. Having no luck convincing her friends, Twilight goes to talk to Shining Armor, who is wearing his favorite uncle’s clothes (even more family members from nowhere). Before she can raise her concerns, Chrysalis interrupts and takes issue with Shining Armor wearing the outfit. Of course, she doesn’t care about what he is wearing. More important to her is the fact that he is acting against her wishes, a sign that he is escaping her control, which apparently is causing his headache as he struggles. So she recasts the spell, making the eavesdropping Twilight realize she is evil. Having no one to turn to, Twilight confronts Chrysalis at the wedding rehearsal. Her apparently irrationality and Chrysalis’ crocodile tears lead to everyone in the Mane 6, Spike, her brother and even her idol and mentor (who has never once doubted her, as said in the pilot) abandoning her in disgust. For Twilight, this is the lowest point she could reach, as she is forced to consider her own actions, and even she begins to doubt herself. A dark reprise of her earlier song really hits me in the feels here… Keep chasing… you know what? I’m not even going to bother this time. I’m just too depressed.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

The Bookend Diaries – Part 5: Villainous Stupidity Strikes Again

When we last left our intrepid heroines, they had all been twisted and turned against each other, leaving poor Twilight Sparkle in tears and utterly disheartened, even to the point of deciding to leave Ponyville forever. However, everything changes when Twilight gets a pile of her returned friendship letters from Celestia, delivered via the rather hapless Spike. This didn’t make sense at the time, and seemed a little too convenient. However, Season III shows us there is a way that Celestia could have known about Twilight’s situation, since “Magical Mystery Cure” explains that she is somehow watching over Twilight throughout the show. This reminder of how important her friendships with the Mane 6 are is enough to snap her out of her own Discordation, and to realize that she can undo the effects of Discord’s manipulation by reminding her friends of the same thing. Leaving poor sick Spike to recuperate, Twilight proceeds to hunt down Applejack. She encounters a tapdancing Granny Smith and Big MoleIntosh, who apparently now has Winona’s brain. Does that mean Big MacIntosh’s mind is in Winona’s body? Casting a memory spell of all the good times she had with her friends brings back the real Applejack. With her help, Twilight then finds and restores the others, leaving only the missing Rainbow Dash preventing them from reuniting and reactivating the Elements of Harmony. Find her they do, and a chase scene ensues. This is one of the highlights of this episode. It has tension, excitement, thrills and spills, and a good dose of comedy, such as Fluttershy politely asking Rainbow if she minds being held down. There’s also Pinkie forgetting to tie the rope Applejack is lassoing Rainbow with to anything, causing her and Rarity to both experience flight for the second time. This is also a brilliant continuity nod in that both of those non-pegasus ponies have flown in one way or another before. All in all, this scene is perfect, culminating in a very funny line, “Maybe it’s a little early for a group hug.” Having the gang all back together and back to normal, they go to confront Discord, who is being delightfully random, and giving us a real reason to laugh at chocolate milk. And here, unfortunately, the trend of making a really threatening villain pick up the Villain Ball so as to have them being defeated returns. Both Spike and Pinkie earlier commented on the gray aspect, both have proven Fourth Wall capability, which Discord also has, so why can’t he see his hold on the Mane 6 has been broken? They are all acting united instead of squabbling among themselves, so that should have been a major tip-off as well. This all leads to the resolution and Discord’s defeat seeming very contrived and forced. The writers built him up so much, with his power to reshape reality on a whim and his intimate knowledge of the Mane 6 that allowed him to manipulate them so handily, that he couldn’t be defeated unless he allowed it through his own stupidity. I pointed this out as a major concern with Nightmare Moon in the pilot, as well, except that here, there isn’t a possible excuse like in Luna’s case, which makes it even worse. Unfortunately, this is going to come up yet again later. Friendship is Magic does not handle its villains very well. The final scene is paying homage to the ending of one of the Star Wars movies, which I find ironic, since Discord’s voice actor played the character Q. So by all rights, the final scene should be a shout out to Star Trek instead. Such an enormous ceremony is yet another reason to believe that this should have been the Season I finale rather than the opening of Season II, but that’s just my little idiosyncratic neurosis. Apart from the issues with Discord’s defeat, this episode is among my favourites, and certainly either the best or second best of the Bookend Episodes for me. Discord is delightfully wicked, managing to combine endearing silliness with true menace and malice. There is a great deal of comedy in these episodes as well, which I always appreciate. There are a few minor niggles such as Spike being psychic and the exact nature of the graying effect of Discordation, but despite the flaws, this episode is really, really enjoyable. Pros – An awesome Joker-esque villain. The comedic touches are wonderful. Seeing the Mane 6 act so horribly to one another in a show where they are usually good friends is a change of pace. Cons – That awesome villain allows himself to be defeated by his own stupidity. There are some minor plot holes. Wow, that episode took three whole entries to cover! Next time I’ll be tackling the (indisputable) Season II finale, “A Canterlot Wedding.” Until then, keep on chasing those chocolate-milk cotton-candy clouds!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

The Bookend Diaries – Part 4: Twists and Turns

When the team reaches the labyrinth, Discord takes away their horns and wings to “prevent cheating”. It’s a lovely continuity nod, since he leers at Applejack rather than one of the pegasuses (pegasii?) as he says it. Scary, to think he knows about their antics from as far back in the series as “Fallweather Friends”. The real reason for taking their abilities away, of course, is that both magic (Twilight’s teleportation) and wings (flying over the hedge walls) would defeat his essential strategy of divide and conquer. Then our villain appears for the first time in the flesh, accompanied by ominous lightning and evil laughter. Well, it starts off evil and then changes to simply uproarious. It’s unsettling the way Discord goes from seeming truly terrifying to comedic in the space of a breath. To be expected of the living embodiment of chaos, I suppose. He’s got just a little bit of the Joker in him, which makes him both frightening and entertaining to watch. Having separated the team, and prevented them from regrouping, he then proceeds to “Discord” them in various ways. For Applejack and Pinkie Pie, he appears to turn them by making their Element into something painful for them. In the case of Pinkie, it’s particularly heart-wrenching considering what “Party of One” revealed about her insecurities. For Rarity, rather than getting her to view generosity as something bad or painful, Discord instead appeals to her greedy side. Here we see Rarity put up more of a fight against Discord’s influence than any of the others so far. As we saw earlier, the “Discording” has two stages. One stage is the hypnosis stage, where the pony gets Mind Control Eyes, then the altered personality stage, where the pony gets grayed out slightly, and acts the opposite of their Element. Rarity managed to shake off stage one, and even started walking away. But then she glances back, and it’s over. Mythology has many examples of the Fatal Backward Glance, such as Lot’s wife in the Bible, or Orpheus from Greek mythology. Of course, the diamond she thinks she sees is just a worthless rock, but she apparently likes to talk to it in romantic terms. Rarity, the geosexual. Now comes Fluttershy. In contrast to Rarity, who fought his influence for a while before succumbing, Discord finds he simply can’t get any kind of hold on Fluttershy at all. I’m not sure how praiseworthy I find this to be. At any rate, Discord loses patience and has to brute-force her corruption. Which means he could have done it to any of them, at any time. That’s right, he’s doing this the long way around because it’s more enjoyable for him that way. His palpable sense of glee in mind-raping the heroines qualifies him as evil in my opinion, no matter what spin later episodes put on it. Lastly, Rainbow has her turn to be Discorded. Again, Discord shows how devious a few simple words can be. He gives her a choice, and states that if she chooses wrong, “the foundations of home will crumble" for her. He then gives her a pretty disturbing vision (both in and out universe) of Cloudsdale being destroyed. True to form, this isn’t the home he was talking about. Her choice to take her wings back, thereby breaking the first rule of Discord’s game, (not the second rule as some people think, Discord even outright says “somepony broke the No-Wings-No-Magic Rule!”) actually causes the foundations of Ponyville, now her true home, to crumble. Since the game is over, Discord announces his victory, and the first half of the episode ends with him seemingly triumphant. In the second half, as Twilight’s friends continue to fight each other, Discord shows her how thoroughly he has duped her. He feigns surprise that she misunderstood him, but as I mentioned in the last entry, it’s pretty clear he knew and intended her to misunderstand. Just more devilish deviousness designed by dear Discord. Once he leaves, Twilight cottons on to the second part of his original riddle, and leads the gang towards home, despite constant interference from Discord’s magic and her friends alike. Eventually, Twilight gets hold of the Elements. This is a small nitpick, but how does Spike suddenly know the situation? “Now you can defeat Discord!” No one told him about Discord, Twilight even refusing to discuss it, twice. Also, “why does everyone look so gray?” is a rather confusing line, since Twilight didn't comment on it previously, and no one except Spike and later Pinkie ever comments on it either. At any rate, the Discorded ponies and honorary Rainbow Dash are not able to activate the Elements. Discord proceeds to taunt Twilight before skating away. Another small annoyance, but why do people think Discord’s footsteps are making funny sounds when it’s pretty clearly his clapping that is doing so? They start when he starts clapping, and end when he stops clapping, and he was walking both before and after without any funny sounds. It’s a minor gripe, but these things annoy me, damn it. With her friends all abandoning her, Twilight finally breaks down herself. As the Element that was revealed by uniting the other Elements in the Mane 6, it’s very fitting that she is defeated by Discord dividing them instead. Good symmetry there, which makes the pilot and this episode seem like bookends, further reinforcing the impression that this episode should have been the finale of Season I. Discord again appears, and it seems as if he might actually be having second thoughts. However, it’s just him being devious again, since he is obviously delighted to find that he has succeeded in destroying Twilight and breaking up the Mane 6. Remind me again why people are so eager to find reasons to say that he isn't all that evil? Well, I think this is a good stopping point for today. Look forward to the next entry, which will close out this review. Until then (say it with me) keep chasing those rainbows!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

The Bookend Diaries – Part 3: Our Introduction to the Most Dangerous Entity in Equestria

What’s that, you say? Where is my review of “The Best Night Ever”? I skipped it, for three reasons. 1. It’s my blog, by Celestia’s Royal Rump. 2. I want to watch BronyCurious' critique of the episode, but that might affect my own perceptions, so I want to get this one done soonest. 3. I personally consider "Return of Harmony" to be the end of Season I, not the beginning of Season II, no matter what the back covers of my DVDs or indeed the universe at large may claim. Why? Because the opening credits, and the way the glow of a unicorn’s horn is visually represented is the same as Season I episodes, that's why. (I do have to put season 2 in the tags, though) Also, TBNE doesn't really fit in with the others. It has no real villain or even a particularly serious situation for the Mane 6 to overcome. It deals mostly with their disappointment at having their own expectations dashed. Fluttershy goes temporarily insane. The moral is "Wanting is better than having." There, I did end up reviewing after all. "Lesson Zero" is what I consider the start of Season II. While it shares many elements with TNBE that I stated above, it at least had the effect of doing away with the "only Twilight sends letters" and the "each episode ends with a letter to Celestia" clauses that had been implicit until that point. (Yes, there were exceptions, like the CMC episodes, but they were exceptions, not the rule) The fact that it shook up the status quo qualifies it for Season opener status. At least, in my eyes it does. Now, onto the episode at hand: It starts with a rather light-hearted scene featuring the CMC fighting over the meaning of the appearance of Discord (the irony) which apparently empowers him to escape his prison of stone. The dark heartbeat, the ominous crack in the statue, and the evil chuckle all serve to create a good sense of tension. Cut to the Mane 6, having to deal with the first effects of Discord's chaotic magic. This scene shows off all the Mane 6 again, and reaffirms their teamwork. I particularly like Rarity here (What? Inconceivable!) She states that she isn't willing to come out from under her umbrella, yet passes it over to Twilight without a second thought when she thinks it will help her in her pondering. After solving the problem, they are summoned by Celestia. This scene is important for many reasons. It gives a great deal of exposition regarding the EoH, adds more historical information concerning Equestria's past, and even serves as a reminder of the events of the pilot. Celestia also wastes no time bringing out the Elements and telling her task team to take down their foe at once. Serious business indeed, when the usually unflappable, extremely powerful and generally artful ruler gives you the weapon and points you in the direction of your enemy in such straightforward terms. Or would give you the weapon, if she had it to give. Dun dun DUN! The Elements are gone, leaving even Celestia with her jaw dropping. And now the villain makes his entrance, in possibly the most unsettling way he can, by sliding around the stained glass windows. Discord, the mischievous spirit of chaos and disharmony. John de Lancie's performance as Discord is definitely one of the strongest points for this episode. Of course, he's had a lot of practice as Q. Again, the way Celestia responds to him shows just how much of threat she considers him to be. Her expression, as Discord puts it, is indeed grim. Discord also shows that he is fully aware of each of the Mane 6 and their Element, all of which serve to make him even scarier. There is little worse than having an enemy who is not only powerful, but also knowledgeable about you. This leads to a problem down the line, however, which I will discuss more later. Having given them his riddle, Discord departs. It's quite amazing how deep his simple few words are when you examine them carefully. "Twists and turns are my master plan. Then find the Elements back where you began..." His master plan was to essentially "twist" the personalities of each of the Mane 6 sans Twilight, and to "turn" them against each other. This so that even when they do regain the Elements, they will be in no shape to wield their power against him. This figurative level is masked by the more literal meaning, which Discord was clearly counting on Twilight to focus on, she being a literal sort of character, and it leads them directly into his trap. Well played, Discord... well played. Another delightful bit of irony is the fact that right after Discord delivers his message, Fluttershy actually gives the correct answer, when she asks "Can we go home now?" Had Twilight listened to her, they could have gotten hold of the Elements without falling into Discord's trap, and defeated him rather painlessly. I'm sure that Discord, devious as he is, allowed them that possibility, just so that he could later laugh at them for not seeing it. In fact, his laugh as the Mane 6 head towards the labyrinth seems to be mocking them for that very reason. My goodness, all these words, and I've only covered the first 10 minutes of the episode. I think it would be a good idea to pause briefly here. More about this episode next time. Until then, keep chasing those rainbows!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

The Bookend Diaries – Part 2: Nightmare Moon can't Win for Losing

Welcome back to the Bookend Diaries. This entry will handle the second half of the pilot. The wheels seem to fall off a little bit here. First of all, Nightmare Moon, who seemed like such a badass, ends up being totally ineffectual. You can control lightning! Fry those foals who dare to stand against you! NNM flies off, and then seems to fly straight back again to spy on Twilight. How did she know to keep an eye on Twilight in any case? Sure, Twilight was the only one who knew who she was, but she never mentioned the Elements of Harmony. And even if she could find them, Nightmare Moon can fly faster than Rainbow, and turn into mist or even mimic other ponies, like she does with the Shadowbolts. She’s immortal, has apparently trapped or somehow disabled the only pony who is as powerful as herself, and had she just kept away from Twilight, it wouldn’t have mattered if she did find the Elements. All she had to do was not provide a target. Unless she subconsciously wanted to be stopped so that she could become Luna again and rejoin her sister, which I guess is possible, but it’s not made very clear. The second issue is the clumsy foreshadowing in this episode. As Twilight reads out each Element, not only is each relevant pony focused on in turn, but they each blink with an audible sound effect as the Element is named. It would have been perfectly obvious without going to such lengths. Then there’s the journey through the Everfree Forest, where each pony gets to demonstrate their personality trait. First, Applejack tells Twilight to let go of the cliff and she’ll be safe. One sentence, “The others are waiting to catch you!” would be enough to let Twilight know the situation. And I thought Applejack was meant to be one of the straight-talkers of the show. Next the Manticore. Fluttershy’s kindness is great, but where is the giant thorn earlier in the fight? Its size should have made it clearly visible when the Manticore spread its paws, or scratched at the ground, or ran on all four legs after the ponies. A much better way to handle it would be to show the Manticore favouring its one paw, or limping slightly or something. It would serve just as well to demonstrate Fluttershy's kindness for her to be the only one to notice the thorn while the others were only able to see the threat the Manticore posed, instead of a pretty saccharine line like "Sometimes we all just need to be shown a little kindness". And it would show off her motherly traits better too. The next scene brings us the very first song in the series, delightfully lampshaded by Twilight and Rarity. ("Tell me she's not..." "She is.") It's not a great song, especially compared with some from later episodes, but not too bad either, and has a rather good message for the target demographic... how to deal with imaginary fears. I think Rainbow should have been a bit braver than that, though. She loses a lot of street cred here. I blush to admit I can't really find any fault with the generosity scene. I hope it's not just because Rarity is my favourite character, but I don't see a single thing wrong here. It was pretty generous of Rarity to cut off her tail to gift it to the River Serpent, especially since she couldn't have known it would grow back when she took up her Element. The fakeout of Rarity seemingly killing the Serpent was a little bit strange, and perhaps unnecessary, though. I am so balanced! Now a scene I really do have a problem with. It's meant to highlight Rainbow's trait of Loyalty. But if you think about it, Rainbow Dash’s loyalty isn’t really being tested. It would have been if Nightmare Moon had appeared to her as the actual Wonderbolts, and not a unconvincing knockoff. Her design for the Shadowbolts is close enough to imply that she knew what they look like, and it would have been much more of a temptation for Rainbow. Or why not tell her she could tie the bridge, but then take her away from the rest, leaving them one Element short? Rainbow had already agreed to go with them after tying the line. Or I don't know, Nightmare Moon, how about destroying the bridge with freaking lightning!? It all just seems a little bit contrived, mainly because it is. Now we come to the showdown with Nightmare Moon. The fight itself is pretty cool, and you really feel Twilight's total loss of hope when it seems Nightmare Moon has shattered the Elements. Then Twilight's friends come in, she realises they are the Elements of Harmony, lies (in some cases) about how they all showed their Element traits. This part is a little sappy, but... Well whup my withers, Full Spectrum! Isn't that just like a boy? Can't handle the least bit of sentiment! Applejack? Why are you in my blog? I just came to give ya'll a piece of my mind! What's all this talk about sappy? This is what all this excitement has bin leadin' up to! It's the heart of this entire show that ya'll been claimin' to like. Okay, okay, I'm sorry I said it was sappy. But don't worry, I'll acknowledge the really cool bits too. Case in point, the Elements being triggered! The gigantic rainbow, levitating ponies, Twilight's white-out eyes... this whole scene is perfect. So Nightmare Moon is revealed to be Luna, everyone is really surprised, except that Twilight shouldn't be, having read about the Royal sisters in the first half; Princess Celestia returns to congratulate the newly formed Mane 6 on their victory and reconnect with her little sister, and Pinkie cries with sappinesshappiness for a bit and then seemingly transports everypony back to Ponyville for a party. Twilight is of course given new instructions to stay in Ponyville, and the adventure continues. Overall, the pilot has its flaws, which keep it from being brilliant, but it is still a very passable start to a phenomenal series. The biggest minus I can point out is that the villain was shown to be a little less of a threat than they seemed to be originally, and at several points was forced to pick up the Villain Ball. And run with it. And score an own goal with it. Sadly, this is going to become a trend, as I will discuss in later entries. Pluses: Nightmare Moon's defeat looks absolutely awesome. We get more insight into the characters of our heroines. Minuses: A rather self-defeating villain. Some scenes raise too many questions. The foreshadowing is as subtle as a sledgehammer. Some rather diabeeetus-inducing parts (Gets hit with an apple on the head. Ow!) So that's my thoughts on the pilot. As before, leave sundry complaints, compliments or death threats (okay, maybe not that last one) below in the comments. Or just tiptoe quietly away, you know, whatever makes you happy. Until next time, keep chasing those rainbows!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

The Bookend Diaries – Part 15: The Final Rankings

It’s time to bring together all the disparate threads of the Bookend Diaries. (It’s mostly because I like round numbers. 0 and 8 are my favorites). I will consider the Premieres and Finales separately, and rank them in each category from worst to best. Since villains tend to take centre stage in these episodes, I’ll rank them too. Premieres: Friendship is Magic; Return of Harmony; The Crystal Empire; Princess Twilight Sparkle Finales: The Best Night Ever; A Canterlot Wedding; Magical Mystery Cure; Twilight’s Kingdom Yes, I know I previously left out The Best Night Ever, and even opined that it shouldn’t be considered the Season 1 Finale. I haven’t changed my mind, as such, but since it technically did air as the final episode of Season 1, for the sake of completeness, I’ve added it in there. The Season Premieres Booby Prize Third Place Second Place The Winner   The Season Finales Booby Prize Third Place First Place TIE Villain Ranking: So that’s that, at least until Season 5 begins. As always, feel free to comment, and stay sunny side up.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

The Bookend Diaries – Part 13: Season 4 Finale "Twilight’s Kingdom": Heroic Stupidity Strikes Again

How does it feel? Knowing that soon, every pegasus, unicorn and earth pony will bow to my will... and that there is nothing that you can do to stop it? - Lord Tirek So, Season 4 has come and gone. It certainly went out with a bang, providing us with the most impressive display of magical battle the series has yet seen. Still, despite the visual feast, the finale has its problems. Let’s plunge right in, shall we? The finale starts with another trip to the Crystal Empire, this time to meet with delegates from Maretonia. Spike is quick to remind everyone of his status as the Great and Honorable Spike the Brave and Glorious, which Rainbow is getting tired of hearing. Rarity has a glorious snark prepared, “And we never hear a peep out of you regarding your exploits…”, only to be gloriously snarked in turn by Applejack when she says Twilight gets to smile and wave as a princess: “And how is that different to smiling and waving as NOT a princess?” In contrast to the gang’s good-natured teasing, Twilight’s mood is rather dour, as she feels a bit disillusioned with her status as Princess. She doesn’t feel like she is actually contributing much in this role. This is made worse when it turns out her task during the delegates’ visit is to unfurl a banner, and she is shut out of the conference between the delegates and the other Princesses. The delegates are two of the ponies we saw in “Equestria Games”, a rather imposing stallion with a beard and a mare who looks very much like a taller version of Rarity, with an elaborate headdress. (Why the country isn’t called Maresopotamia is beyond me. Perhaps it sounded a bit hard to pronounce, so the writers decided to go with Maretonia instead.) On coming out of the chamber, they thank Twilight for understanding their desire to keep the conference between as few ponies as possible, and take their leave. When the other Princesses join her, Twilight pours out her heart to them in song. The three Princesses (also in song) try to reassure Twilight that she will find out her destiny in time. (Didn’t Celestia say she already met her destiny in “Magical Mystery Cure”?) This song is really kind of moving, and for bonus points features Princess Luna actually singing for the first time. Her singing voice, as with Rarity, is provided by Kazumi Evans. Her spirits somewhat lifted, Twilight retires for the night, as do the other Princesses. Unfortunately, things are not all hunky dory in Equestria. A mysterious hooded figure is prowling around, draining unicorns of their magic. Princess Celestia sees this happening in a dream vision, and Luna confirms her fears… Lord Tirek is back on the scene! Calling for Twilight and her friends, Celestia tells the tale of Tirek and his brother Scorpan. While they originally came to Equestria to take all the magic of the ponies, Scorpan eventually was befriended by them, and told them all about Tirek’s evil plan before booking. Beaten and captured, Tirek was sent to Tartarus. However, he escaped when Cerberus left his post way back during the events of “It’s About Time”. One wonders what he was doing all that time, but Celestia implies that his imprisonment left him too weak to steal any magic until now. However, now that he has recovered his strength, each pony he drains will make him stronger and more dangerous. While it’s great to have such a great call back to previous events in the series, it makes me wonder why his absence from the prison was never noticed. Somepony has been really incompetent. Either Twilight was stupid and didn’t tell Celestia about Cerberus going AWOL, or Celestia was stupid and failed to check to make sure none of the extremely dangerous prisoners escaped. (Are the villains in Season 5 all going to be Tartarus escapees? I really hope not. That would just be lazy writing.) I’m going to go with the second one, because that way, I get to do a thing where I set up a theme. It’s also likely that Twilight would have mentioned it in one of her reports, being the thorough pony that she is, so I’m leaning towards it being Celestia’s fault. Back to the story. Twilight assumes that the duty of defeating Tirek will fall to her, but is again disappointed when the Princess tells her that she is sending Discord instead. Since he can sense magical imbalances (when was THAT ability ever mentioned before?), the next time Tirek drains a unicorn’s magic, Discord will be able to find him, and defeat him. Since Tirek is so weak, he won’t be able to drain the more powerful Discord of his magic. Back in Ponyville, Twilight is yet more depressed that she isn’t being as useful as she wants. Discord pops in as Poppins, and gloats over that for a bit, before handing the ponies the journal they’ve been keeping with some of the “more interesting” parts bookmarked, and insinuating that the box might be important for Twilight’s Princessness, before leaving on his mission. Tirek drains another pony, and turns toward who he thinks is his next victim… only to find that the hunter has become the hunted, because it’s Discord! Tirek’s magical attacks turn out to be useless and Discord is easily able to capture him.
I’ve heard of splitting headaches, but this is ridiculous. Of course, it’s at this point that Celestia’s plan backfires massively. The wily Tirek manages to convince Discord to turn on the ponies (his devotion to Fluttershy notwithstanding) and help Tirek drain their magic. After reading the bookmarked parts of the journal, Twilight comes to realize the pattern that has been repeating over the event of the Season, and that each pony has been given something after inspiring another pony by standing by their Element of Harmony despite hardship. The flashbacks were a little unnecessary, in my opinion, and waste a little bit of time unnecessarily, but that’s a small gripe. Gathering their objects, Pinkie decides to interrogate Boneless… but he’s keeping mum.
I’d have thought a guy called Boneless would have been spineless too. Throwing it at the box accidentally results in the toy transforming into a true key. Of course, the Mane Six soon discover that each item can be turned into a key in the same way… but one keyhole is left over, since Twilight hasn’t found her key item yet. While this is going on, Tirek and his new ally are going around Equestria taking the pony magic. Once Tirek has enough unicorn magic, he is able to take the Pegasus flight ability (thus confirming that Pegasus flight is a form of magic rather being purely physical) and even the strength of the earth ponies, becoming larger, stronger and hornier with each meal. Princess Celestia calls Twilight and is forced to admit to her that she trusted Discord too much. Ya think? You sent the freaking Spirit of Chaos and Mischief (who once ruled all of Equestria) to capture another evil pony-goat-centaur thing who also wants to rule all of Equestria, and YOU DIDN’T HAVE A BACKUP PLAN?! You didn’t even consider that he might turn on you and team up with the bad guy? I mean, I can understand Fluttershy being blindsided by Discord’s betrayal, but you’re the leader of the entire country. You need to be a bit more savvy than that, Princess. And that’s my theme… Celestia is fugging stupid! At any rate, Tirek is on his way to steal the Princesses’ alicorn magic, and with it, he will be unstoppable. So the only option is for them to give up their magic before he can get to it. But it can’t vanish into nowhere… Twilight is going to have to contain it! “But wait,” you might say… “Silly SolarFox, you just said that Celestia didn’t have a backup plan. Doesn’t this qualify?” No, it doesn’t. First of all, it seems to be a response to the events. If they had given Twilight their magic before sending Discord out, as insurance, then it could qualify as a backup plan. Secondly (and this is another check mark under the Stupid Celestia column) one of the original reasons for sending Discord to stop Tirek is his ability to sense magical imbalances. So the “give all alicorn magic to Twilight” plan is fatally flawed, since Discord is obviously going to be able (and indeed, he does) sense that the magic is all in Twilight. Sure, he kept it from Tirek, but Celestia couldn’t have predicted that he would, especially since, y’know, he’d just betrayed them all. That being the case, this measure smacks of a desperation play, rather than a calculated backup plan. Luckily, we can have a slight break from Celestial Stupidity as the first half of the finale closes out. When the second half begins, the Princesses invest all their magic into Twilight, leaving them drained and weak, and Twilight sparkling. She is told to go into hiding, and not to tell her friends, because otherwise they’ll be in danger. Aren’t they already in danger? Tirek is looking to drain every pony in Equestria, so they can hardly get into more danger than that. A better idea would to tell them exactly what’s up and have them ALL go into hiding together, so he and Discord can’t use them as hostages against Twilight.
Then again, how likely is that to happen…? Oh. Right. So Twilight heads back to Ponyville, and keeps her secret, despite her frequent Power Incontinence confusing and concerning her friends. She decides to go alone to the Castle of the Pony Sisters, leaving her friends to keep everypony indoors, just in case. Meanwhile, Tirek drains the magic of the Royal Guard, including Shining Armor, who gives Discord a furious “How could you do this?” line, which actually does seem to somewhat shake him. Heading into the Throne Room, Tirek is furious to discover that the Princesses have hidden their magic from him, and he promptly sends them to Tartarus. Discord is seeking proof that Tirek will keep his end of the bargain, and to convince him, Tirek gives him a medallion that he says belonged to someone close to him, as a sign of their alliance. At this, Discord declares he does love a good accessory, and even muses that maybe Rarity has rubbed off on him a little. Seeing a stained-glass window of a fourth alicorn princess, Tirek realizes that she must now have the magic of the Princesses. Discord, admitting that he was holding that information back as insurance, tells him about Twilight and her friends. They quickly repair to Ponyville. The Mane Six members along with Spike are still unaware of his change of heart and ask him if his quest was successful. His response doesn’t thrill them… he traps all six in a cage and steps aside to reveal Tirek. Fluttershy is in tears when she realizes that Discord has turned on them, although he says they shouldn’t have been surprised. Discord: Surely you saw this coming? Fluttershy: *sobbing* I didn’t. I really didn’t. I don’t generally fawn over Fluttershy like her fans do, but just seeing that face so entirely heart-broken… yeah, that didn’t feel good at all. Applejack, trying to hold and comfort her, gives Discord such a dirty look it’s a surprise he didn’t melt on the spot. Tirek drains the ponies of their magic, and for good measure, decides that he’s had enough of this alliance, and he turns on Discord, draining his magic as well. Betrayed in turn, and utterly bewildered, Discord asks Tirek why… wasn’t the medallion a sign of everlasting loyalty? Tirek, now enormous enough to dwarf Discord, sneers that the medallion belonged to his traitorous brother and meant nothing to him in the first place. Applejack is less than sympathetic: Applejack: Surely you saw this coming? Discord: I didn’t. I truly didn’t.
Oh, Applejack, will you ever stop your trolling? As Twilight tries to get her magic under control (randomly teleporting across Equestria before ending up between two rocks), Tirek finds her. She manages to teleport to the library, but a gigantic blast from Tirek totals it. Luckily, Twilight is able to pull Owliwicious out before it goes up, and he beats a hasty, if somewhat sad, retreat. A moment of silence, for the Golden Oak Library... okay, now it's time to kick some pony-goat-centaur thing ass. Enraged by the destruction of the library, Twilight proceeds to open up a can of magical whoop-ass on the hulking brute, in what is the most absolutely amazing fight sequence, a la Dragonball Z, with zwee fighting, actual physical hitting, magical beam attacks, mountains being destroyed and all. Words can't really do it justice, it just has to be seen to be believed.
For your crimes against the Dewey Decimal System, I WILL MAKE YOU PAY! Finding the powered up Twilight Sparkle evenly matched with him, Tirek decides to play his ace in the hole - he shows Twilight her friends (the Mane Six, Spike and Discord) trapped in bubbles, and offers to release them if Twilight will give him the alicorn magic. But wait... what is that rainbow shining over each bubble in turn? Twilight agrees to those terms, insisting that Discord be released as well. After he lets them go, he takes Twilight's magic, and grows to absolutely enormous size. Meanwhile, Discord apologizes to everypony, and says that now he realizes how important their friendship is. He gives Twilight Scorpan's medallion as a gesture of his new and now genuine appreciation for the magic of friendship. Realizing they have the final key, the Mane Six hurry back to the box and open it. That same rainbow appears as they unlock it, and connects up to the Elements on the Tree of Harmony. Then it powers them all up. With their new powers (and new manestyles) they make short work of Tirek and send him back to Tartarus. Then they travel all over Equestria, restoring the stolen magic to the ponies. Finally, the box plants itself just outside of Ponyville and a castle grows out of the ground... The Princesses, now freed from Tartarus, arrive, and Celestia tells Twilight that this castle is hers. She's going to be the Princess of Friendship, and along with the others in the Mane Six. Even Spike gets a small little throne beside Twilight's. As the final song of the season plays, the Ponyville residents come to the castle, and the Rainbow of Light flies through Equestria, to be seen by all the new friends the Mane Six have made this season. And so the fourth Season comes to a close, and the great Pony Drought begins once more.   Thoughts on the Episode Visually, this episode is just gorgeous. Apart from the climactic battle, which is very impressive, there are some nice little touches as well. Things like Spike eye's not going grey (since he has no magic to begin with, unless you count the fire breathing as magic). There was also the part when Twilight had to lower the moon and raise the sun, where her mane started to flow and get all starry, just like Luna and Celestia. There are however, some really questionable decisions on the part of writers, as relates to Celestia and her plans. The logical problems don't ruin the experience entirely, but they're pretty darn grating when you think about them. Discord's betrayal and subsequent return to the fold are believably done. You really get the sense that he truly has learned his lesson this time around. A taste of his own two-faced medicine, if you will. About Tirek as a villain... it's pretty awesome that he can be both subversive and manipulative, as well as a threat purely on his ability to drain magic and gain power. His look certainly changes the most out of all the villains we've seen so far. His story arc was very creative, and I think the writing team can be said to have made up for their Celestia blunders. If anything, he can claim that he lost due to circumstances mostly outside of his control, although turning on Discord probably wasn't his smartest move. I hope that fans who complained that Twilight becoming an alicorn meant the end of her character development have seen the error of their ways. And the ones who complained that her friends are no longer important, too. This finale seems to have quite firmly addressed those issues. One more minor gripe, and it might not make me very popular, but I felt there was just too much Derpy. She features very prominently and distractingly in a few scenes, which is pretty irksome to me, not being a fan of hers. Of course, her hardcore fans no doubt feel otherwise. Well, Season 4 was very entertaining to me, and more than made up for Season 3 being a little sub-par. Now that Twilight has truly taken up her mantle of Princess of Friendship, it'll be interesting to see where she and her friends, go from here.   Highlights Applejack giving Discord a truly humbling ironic echo That final battle. Good lord! Pros: A visual extravaganza; A really effective and menacing villain; Closing out of the Rainbow of Light story arc on a strong note. Cons: Celestia is losing her touch; the Rainbow Power designs look a little silly   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

Sunny Fox

 

The Bookend Diaries – Part 12: "Princess Twilight Sparkle" A Moment of Silence, Please, for the Pink Mane Celestia Theory

This might be a good juncture to say, "I told you so". Yes, it's immature of me, but I so seldom get this much vindication, I'm taking the opportunity to gloat. The first part of the second episode shows us the confrontation between Princess Celestia, and the newly minted Nightmare Moon, who is seeking to destroy her. This is probably the most intense action scene in the series so far, and seriously would not look out of place in most animés... except maybe for this shot...
Beware the power of my planking! Celestia seems either unwilling or unable to return fire with her own Solar Beam, and despite managing to dodge for a while, takes a full on hit from Nightmare Moon's magic, and plummets senseless to the ground. Twilight, for the first time ever, drops the title when she cries out in concern. Yes, folks, not "Princess Celestia!", just "Celestia!" Twilight, still unaware that she is watching a vision of the past, believes Celestia to be dead. Her mane seems to stop flowing when she's unconscious, but it restarts when she gets up, to Twilight's relief. The horseshoe finally drops for Twilight when Celestia, having no choice but to take it to the next level, DBZ style, reveals the Elements of Harmony, still in their Hyrule form. The Elements, when activated, start to spin around Celestia, and man, does it look amazing... not to mention badass. It does, however, strongly remind me of the finale to Avatar: The Last Airbender... I wonder if that was intentional.
#&%&$$&&&..... This caption has imploded due to the awesomeness of these two pictures. Despite tears streaming down her face (the most emotion Celestia has ever shown), she proceeds to smack a mare up with what could only loosely be described as a beam'o'war, since it's so very one-sided. Nightmare Moon is banished, and the vision ends. The next scene gives us a bit of comic relief after all the emotion, with Discord taking palpable glee in mocking how Twilight was behaving while in her trance. He also hangs a neat little lampshade on the distinct lack of musical accompaniment in this two-parter (thank Celestia for that) with "I do hope she breaks into a song this time!" Time for flashback, take two! The architecture here is interesting, with brick walls and thatched roofs, not seen since "Hearth's Warming Eve". It appears as if Discord took over not very long after Equestria was founded. More and more gaps in the history of Equestria are being plugged, and I for one couldn't be happier. I love backstory. Celestia and Luna face down Discord, using the Elements of Harmony in tandem, and turn him to stone. The very next instant, the vision shifts to show Twilight how they actually found the Elements on the Tree of Harmony. Of course, now we have to wonder exactly where the Tree came from, but I'm sure later episodes will shed more light on that. Looks like Season 4 is going to have an arc. Wonderful! All we know is that the Tree is somehow acting as a limiter on the Everfree Forest, and it appears as if that limiter has been removed. Finally making some progress, the Mane 6 head off into the Everfree Forest once more, to find the Tree. They almost immediately run into a crocodile, (which could be pronounced "Crackodile", it's pretty hard to decide) which despite being huge, is rather easily defeated. Disappointing, really. However, this scare is enough to make "team mom" Applejack concerned about risking Princess Twilight, and she convinces the group that Twilight should head back to Ponyville and stay safe, just in case Luna and Celestia are never found. This is despite the fact that a mere minute earlier, they all agreed happily when Twilight said, "Whatever happens, we'll face it together." In fact, this is one of the few things I didn't like in this episode. Sending Twilight back, only to have her come find them a few scenes later anyway. It just seems unnecessarily dramatic to me, although I guess what Applejack says is true enough in its own right. Ah, well, it gives us more Discord antics to enjoy, so I suppose it's alright. Not to mention the newest meme we're all going to be tired of seeing within a month couple of days: Twilight's golden scepter.
Well, it ain't no GAK, but it'll do... Twilight, needled sufficiently, heads back to find her friends, (how is Spike keeping up with her galloping...? Strange...) who have just managed to locate the Tree, and Pinkie in particular has located some stairs... methinks Sombra was here... he likes stairs, apparently. While Twilight is being attacked by spindly soporific scent spitting spores, Rainbow and AJ are having plant troubles of their own:
Everfree Forest uses Vine Whip! It's super-effective! Unable to figure out how to help the Tree, they start to argue over sending Twilight away, until Spike arrives and in typical Spike fashion, can only communicate that someone is in danger with one word sentences. However, it's enough for them to find and rescue Twilight from the evil vines. Then they all say what we've known all along... the Mane 6 need to stay together, no matter what. Back at the Tree, Twilight realizes that the Elements need to be returned to it. Of course, this defeats the invading vine army, much to Discord's annoyance, and releases the two Princesses, who have been trapped here the whole time. The Tree also provides this Season's mysterious McGuffin... a box with six locks. Celestia seems to know something about it, but even she is unaware of where the keys are to be found. On their return to Ponyville, Discord outs himself as the one responsible for the vine attack... which raises a question. If he knew about the Tree of Harmony and planted the seeds hoping to drain its magic, why didn't he know about the Elements and that they had the power to turn him into stone? Is he just being Discord, or is there a more nefarious plan in play here? I hope answers will be forthcoming later in Season 4. At any rate, the Summer Sun Celebration goes forward, Luna lowers the moon, Celestia raises the sun, and Twilight does her big finish that she mentioned at the start of the premiere. Notably, she flies exactly between the moon and the sun as she uses her magic to create a starburst (it's not a Sonic Rainboom, so RD fans, you can stop crying foul ) The symbolism is unmistakable.
The importance of being Twilight... And that was the premiere. Not a perfect episode, but near enough to it. The animation was beautiful, with plenty of shading, camera effects such as blurring and soft focus (I don't know the technical terms, but I do know it looks lovely). The actions scenes were detailed and enthralling. The characters, especially Twilight and Discord, were exactly as they should be. And last but not least, the removal of the Elements and the mystery of the Box set up the rest of the Season very nicely. 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! My friends, I am no longer worried about the future of Friendship is Magic. Season 4 looks like it's going to be a doozy. And you can count on your friendly neighborhood Sunny Fox to be there as the journey continues. Stay sunny side up, folks!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

The Bookend Diaries – Part 11: Back in the Saddle with "Princess Twilight Sparkle"

Well, Season 4 is officially underway! with a very satisfying two-parter right out of the starting gate. "Princess Twilight Sparkle Part 1" opens with a flying lesson for the most recently ascended alicorn princess, under the tutelage of Rainbow Dash. However, it seems Twilight's new appendages don't come with a manual. She ends up ploughing into the ground after trying to practice her "big finish" for the upcoming Summer Sun Celebration. This scene makes it pretty clear that Twilight is now taller and more horse-like than her friends, and her horn is noticeably slimmer and longer. Her wings are larger and of a different shape to regular pegasus wings. All of which is to be expected, and I like the changes personally.
She ate her Wheaties... While she may have changed physically, she's still the same old Twilight personality-wise, refusing to wear her crown or to allow her friends to treat her differently... for the moment at least.  In the next scene, the Mane 6 discuss the Celebrations to be held both in Canterlot and back in Ponyville. Twilight's new status means that she has to stay behind instead of being with her friends on the anniversary of their meeting and defeat of Nightmare Moon, which she is unhappy about. However, the others manage to convince her that it won't be as bad as all that. Twilight's stain-glass window is quite interesting to look at, having a picture of Starswirl's journal and another book with Twilight's cutie mark on it. The animation and lighting in this scene really is top notch. However, one gripe is that Pinkie continues to be the "gag" character, doing little more than making odd pronouncements and not otherwise contributing to the scene. The next scene treats her a little better, though.  Back in her suite, Twilight and Spike go through (what else?) a checklist. Being ahead of schedule, Spike suggests a quick trip to Ponyville, but Twilight worries about something going wrong in the meantime. Like in "Lesson Zero," her train of thought becomes a little erratic at the prospect of disappointing Princess Celestia. Also it has shades of Pinkie Pie from "Wonderbolt Academy". Princess Celestia herself soon arrives to provide both reassurance and quite a bit of double-nostril alicorn pictures.
These babies... She confides some of her feelings to Twilight, about how she previously dreaded the Summer Sun Celebration as a reminder of her having to banish her own sister. Now, she says, she can feel joy of her own in having her sister returned. This conversation really does add a lot to Celestia's character, and is pretty touching. Princess Luna, meanwhile, seems to be having a ball raising the moon outside. After their talk, Princess Celestia leaves Twilight to double-check her checklist. A freaky vine comes out of the ground and attacks her. Perhaps it's best that it happens off-screen... Twilight wakes to find that day and night have decided to join forces. With Spike in tow, they head out of the castle. The citizens of Canterlot (many of whom we've seen before from "Sweet and Elite", including Jet Set, Upper Crust and all the high class ponies Rarity accepted invitations from) gather around in the hopes that Princess Twilight will know what's going on. A Royal Guard rescues her from the press to tell her that not only Princess Celestia, but Princess Luna too, is missing. (Spike faints) They then ask her to give them orders. (Spike faints) Reluctant at first, Twilight steps up and tells them to keep looking for the other Princesses. Just then, a guard comes with a message from Ponyville... the Everfree Forest is attacking! (Spike faints - has he been taking swooning lessons from Rarity or something?)
It goes a little something like this... Back in Ponyville, the Mane 6 are having to deal with the encroaching Everfree forest. Fluttershy's animals are all cowering in her cottage, the entire Apple family is fighting a losing battle against weeds, with Big Mac taking the brunt of the forest's sauciness. His usual "yup" and "nope" make their appearances here, so this indicates we're not getting much more lines for him than that even in Season 4. In the sky above, Rainbow Dash is fighting a losing battle of her own against spiky black clouds. One even manages to knock her from the sky, but...
... and right before she hits the ground... shoom... she pulled out... hroom! The plants also seem able to affect a unicorn's horn, as poor Rarity discovers when her magic causes her teapot to go on a rampage. Opalescence is not amused in the slightest, despite Rarity's protests that she isn't doing it on purpose. Even magically challenged Sweetie Belle is not spared from the shenanigans, and ends up being chased by a curtain. The Mane 6 eventually find each other and wonder what's to be done.  While all this is going on, Twilight back in Canterlot decides to go to Ponyville herself. After a literal "forgot she could fly" moment, she and Spike take to the air. Bonus points for the spluttering engine sound effect as Twilight first gets going with a bit of wobbling, and for the seat belt gag (where was that hidden?), then the crash landing, leaving poor Spike to make the acquaintance of Mr. Window. Her friends are glad to see her, and Pinkie's Pinkie Sense gets a workout, allowing her to dodge a branch that then hits Rarity. Oddly enough, it's clearly "twitchy tail", which should mean something falling from the sky, not a branch coming in from the side, but meh... When told that the Princesses are missing, Rarity steals Pinkie's GASP! sound effect in retaliation. After thinking about it for a while, Twilight comes to the conclusion that Discord is the one behind all this, and they don the Elements of Harmony to summon him... and his bathtub. It's funny that he's singing "Winter Wrap Up" as he appears.  Discord himself is in good form, which makes me a little bit less inclined to say he's been ruined by being reformed. I prefer him as a villain myself, but even now, he provides a good deal of entertainment. His protests of innocence fall on deaf ears (except for Fluttershy, and even she isn't quite willing to believe him - she does however make the very good point of "innocent until proven guilty", so props to her for that.) He suggests asking Zecora, who has been driven out of the Everfree Forest.  Conveniently, she has a potion only an alicorn can get to work. I really do wonder why Twilight uses dark magic here, but perhaps that will be explained later. Drinking the potion, she gets a vision.  Back in the Castle of the Royal Pony Sisters, Princess Luna comes out and appears to speak to Twilight, saying that she is not going to stand by while others "bathe in your precious light". Understandably confused, Twilight is then horrified to see that Luna is having a bit of a bad mare day ()
What do you mean, "We've run out of Moon Pies?!" Using her magic to cause an eclipse, Luna begins to transform into Nightmare Moon, in one of the most badass sequences ever shown in the show. The sheer amount of effort that went into this is amazing, and the zoom in on Twilight's aghast expression is fantastic. Now this, fillies and gentlecolts, is how you do a cliff hanger. Honestly, they should have just ended it there, and made everybody squirm for a week.  Whew! What a journey it's been and we're only half way through the premiere! Stay tuned for the next half of my review. Until then, stay sunny side up, everypony!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

The Bookend Diaries – Part 10: What a Rush! Magical Mystery Cure

Might as well start by addressing the elephant in the room... was this episode rushed and should it have been two episodes? Most fans would probably say yes without hesitation. I've even heard claims that the cutie mark switch-up on it's own was worth two episodes. Just... no. Maybe it could have been one episode on it's own, and then another for the whole transformation of Twilight into an alicorn. It would certainly have been a great cliff-hanger to end the episode when Twilight has just been vaped (read it again, I said vaped) by the Elements of Harmony. However, I'm not so sure in my own mind that the alicorn thing could have filled up an episode on it's own. My guess is that the writers had enough plot for more than episode, but not quite enough for two without significantly padding it out. So instead of padding, they went the other route, and compressed what they had into a single episode. Would I (and others) have been happier with the padding? Perhaps, but it's not really possible to tell without having something to compare... One way they used to speed up the episode was to use songs in place of longer scenes with talking and exposition. Despite the fact that I get annoyed when there are too many songs, I found that they worked here, because they conveyed the emotion that the characters were going through in finding their destinies (I use the term loosely) mixed up. The first song also provides a great mood whiplash... from Twilight singing happily to being made rudely aware that something major had gone wrong. Where do all these domestic pachyderms come from? And one of them seems to be wearing my pajamas... Yeah, you'd better run... anyway: one of the criticisms was that there is a general confusion in this episode about exactly what the cutie mark of a pony represents. Does it represent the pony's destiny, or the job they do? Rainbow Dash got her cutie mark when she discovered a "serious need for speed", not when she became the weather pony for Ponyville. Sticking it on Rarity should speed up her dressmaking rather than setting her up as weather pony. There is no real answer to this one, it is indeed a glaring flaw. But what is the alternative? If Rarity is too fast, you could have it that she rushes her dresses and therefore they wouldn't be as professional. My imagination fails me in providing similar scenarios for all of the Mane 6, but it's pretty clear that the way they went is more dramatic in its effects, so maybe that's why. So Twilight finds out that her friends' "job-destiny-thingthatmakesthemspecialthingies" are mixed up, and then (via flashback) realizes that she is to blame for it, by reading Starswirl's half-completed spell while in the presence of the Elements of Harmony, mixing them up. Maybe because the wording of the spell makes it clear that it was focused on one pony, while the EoH are by nature a power that requires multiple ponies, I dunno. One criticism is that Call of the Cutie established that cutie marks cannot be affected by magic, so this is a contradiction of that, and is therefore a plothole. That’s wrong. At no point in that episode was it stated that cutie marks cannot be affected by magic, only that magic cannot force a cutie mark to appear prematurely. That’s not a plothole, that’s a disproven assumption. The realization that she herself is to blame for ruining her friends’ lives sends Twilight into a (very) temporary HBSoD, which she shakes off by realizing that she can fix the situation by reminding her friends of their friendships. She makes it work, and her friends, along with the entire population of Ponyville, sing another song, A True, True Friend, which is awesome. Many critics have highlighted the fact that everything up to this point has taken only 7 minutes of airtime. They also complain that there is no villain to overcome, and no Equestria-wide threat to resolve. The point of this argument, as I understand it, is that Twilight becoming an alicorn is bad because the event that triggered it was not large or long-lived enough. For me, it is not the event itself that is the focus, it is Twilight’s realization that she had the answer all along. Some will bring up Return of Harmony and say that this is a repeat of what happened in that episode. In a way, it is, but there is a very big difference. The last time, Twilight’s realization was made possible by Celestia sending back all her letters, and Twilight reading them all again. In other words, she had to be shown the answer. In Magical Mystery Cure, the answer comes to her in the absence of any external input because she is finally at the point where she has internalized the lesson. She now has a deep understanding of her relationship with her friends that she didn’t have before this. This is what lets her complete Starswirl’s spell, his great unfinished work, and this is what enables her ascension to an alicorn state. This is her World of Cardboard moment. The specifics of the conflict of the episode are rendered ultimately irrelevant. For me, at least. Another criticism: Twilight creates new magic, becomes an alicorn. Starswirl completed many spells, but didn’t become an alicorn. Is this a contradiction? Perhaps, but the explanation was not entirely clear. Is every new spell a new kind of magic? We don’t know enough yet to say if it contradicts or not. Perhaps one could say that’s just as bad, but I hope there will be clarification in Season IV. So our heroine finds herself in… the Twilight Zone (YEEEEAAAAHHH!), where Celestia is there to meet her. She shows Twilight how she has been stalking her all this time (closing the gap in Return of Harmony) sings a lovely little ballad, and watches while Twilight transforms into an alicorn. The magic clearly comes from Twilight herself, so it’s not that Celestia is turning her into an alicorn. Returning to the real world, Twilight is greeted by her friends, who go gaga over her new wings, and Celestia comes to explain that she is now a princess. Twilight immediately asks if there is a book she can read, just to show she’s still the same adorkable Twilie. For the moment, at least. Then everyone bows, which people don’t like for some reason. Next comes the coronation, and a speech by Twilight, in which she immediately thanks her friends and credits them all with helping her reach this point, which was really nice of her. Then they sing the final song of the Season, and Twilight flies out on her new wings to tell us everything is going to be all right. Why did this need its own episode again? Talking about her wings, it seems she was just so happy that she flew perfectly for her first time. Beginner’s luck, or a terrible plothole that we will all regret? Time will tell. So, that’s Magical Mystery Cure. A lot happens in this episode, by the standards of the show. Does it have its problems? Of course. Some things don’t make a whole lot of sense, and the episode rushes by at an accelerated pace that for some people (maybe most) is simply too fast to satisfy. But it does have a good deal of emotion, a greatly intriguing in medias res opening, many good songs, and it shakes up the status quo with alicorn Twilight, which can be a blessing or a curse, and we don’t know which it is yet. As I’ve said before, the events of the finale for Season III were hinted at much more than for Season II, so I find it less surprising than the existence of Twilight’s brother, and former foalsitter and sister-in-law. Talk about alicorns coming out of left field. Overall, I think it works fine as a finale and an introduction to Twilicorn. Pros: Celestia singing, good opening, other good songs. Cons: Somewhat confused, very fast pacing that not everyone can appreciate. And here ends the Bookend Diaries. It expanded from the planned one entry per finale (five) to ten separate parts and a few supplementals. Those of who have been reading these, and those who commented in the past, thank you for the support. This isn't the end of this blog, however. My original plan of reviewing all the episodes will not be abandoned. I also have some fan fiction ideas going on, so that might make its way onto here. More personal entries are a distinct possibility. At any rate, watch this space for details, and of course, keep on chasing those rainbows. Til we meet again…

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

The Bookend Diaries - Part 14: “The Best Night Ever”: Grand (Galloping Gala) Expectations

No! / I've waited all my life / for this moment, / and I’m not going to / let it slip by! / If it's the last thing I do, / I'm going to make this / The best night ever! – The Mane Six The day of the Grand Galloping Gala has finally arrived, and preparations are being made. Twilight decides to literally make it a fairy tale, as she uses her magic to turn an apple into a carriage, and four white mice into four white horses. One of them apparently has the ability to turn invisible, since only three are seen running off when Opal tries pouncing on them. Twilight is upset that now she has no horses to pull the carriage, but Rarity simply enlists the help of a couple of nearby stallions instead. Of course, no review of this episode would be complete without pointing out the animation error that briefly turns one of the stallions into a Cyclops. Rarity’s charm seems able to rearrange somepony’s facial features; that’s how powerful it is. As the mares prepare to party, Spike goes on about how they can all have fun at the Gala together. Although the girls are intending to pursue their own agendas, Twilight assures Spike that they will spend at least a bit of time together. The scene transitions into tuxedoed Spike driving the carriage while he talks about his plans to show the ponies various attractions of the Castle. Arriving at the Gala, Spike alights and opens the door for the girls, who are looking gorgeous in the dresses that Rarity made for them. What follows is a wonderful melodic treat, as the Gala guests all sing together with the Mane Six, who each get a verse about what they will be doing and what they want to get out of the Gala, as they previously discussed in The Ticket Master. Fluttershy wants to meet and make friends with the rare animals of the Palace Garden. Applejack wants to sell apples and apple accessories to earn some money for repairs at Sweet Apple Acres. Rarity wants to meet and be romanced by Prince Blueblood. Rainbow Dash wants to meet the Wonderbolts and show them her stuff. Twilight wants to spend time talking with her teacher and mentor, the Princess. Pinkie Pie just wants to party. At the end of the song, the group disperses, leaving behind a dejected Spike. Although the girls are thrilled to finally be having “the best night ever”, they each soon find things going awry in a variety of ways: On entering the garden, Fluttershy comes on too strong, and startles the animals. Nor do they warm up to her with time, and there is also an old groundskeeper who constantly gets in her way. As the night wears on, Fluttershy gets more and more unhinged, eventually trying to trap the critters in a net, laughing maniacally while dramatic lightning flares in the background.
It’s alive! IT’S ALIVE! Muuaaahahahaha! In fact, she’s so unbalanced that she literally becomes unbalanced, falling over and setting off her own trap. Applejack sells an apple pie to one of the Wonderbolts, Soarin, but the rest of the party guests consider her goods to be too low class, and prefer the hors de oeuvres. Eventually Applejack decides to bake an elaborately decorated apple cake to prove that her food is good enough for the upper class ponies. Rainbow Dash saves Soarin’s pie when he drops it, and gets to introduce herself to the Wonderbolts. They remember her for being the one who saved them and winning the Best Young Flier’s Competition, as seen in Sonic Rainboom. They thus invite her to hang out with them in the VIP area. However, their celebrity status and popularity with the other guests hinders Rainbow’s attempts to impress them. Rarity manages to corner her “Prince Charming”, only to find he is nothing of the sort, but rather is a preening, self-absorbed twit who expects Rarity to pamper him. He forces her to do things like: open doors for him; pay for food for the both of them (which he spits out and declares to be “common carnival fare”) and use her cloak to walk over a spilled drink. Twilight meets up with Princess Celestia, and is invited to stay by her side for the evening. However, they end up being too busy greeting the party guests for them to have any time for private conversation. The constant hoof shaking also ends up giving poor Twilight a repetitive strain injury. Pinkie Pie joins the upper class ponies on the dance floor, but her exuberance and high energy antics merely exasperate the more sedate party goers. For the second time in the season, her attempts at patching things up via a musical number, the Pony Pokey, prove ineffective. She then tries even harder by starting up a DJ dance party instead. The finale kicks off as Applejack wheels her cake into the room, just when Pinkie Pie decides to do a stage dive, and Rarity comes in behind her Prince Charmless, while Rainbow Dash also enters with the Wonderbolts. Pinkie lands on the cake trolley, sending the convectionary flying towards Blueblood, who drags Rarity in front of him to use as a pony shield, and the cake splatters all over Rarity and her dress. This being the final straw, she lays into Blueblood for being such an ungallant louse. He’s more interested in keeping his just-groomed coat clean, so Rarity shakes some of the cake onto him, causing him to fall on his rump and knock down a statue. Rainbow dashes to the rescue once again, and catches the statue. However, its unwieldy weight is too much for her, and she staggers into some decorative columns, knocking them down like dominoes, and the statue shatters anyway. Twilight enters with Princess Celestia to find the hall in ruins, and stare in shock at the devastation. And just when she thinks things can’t possibly go more pear-shaped… enter Fluttershy, chasing the terrified targets of her friendly overtures, except now they’re not so friendly. At this, the party dissolves into complete chaos, and Princess Celestia suggests they run. Twilight whistles to the crew, and they skedaddle. One of Rarity’s glass slippers comes off in the confusion, and when Pinkie says that this means her prince is sure to find her, Rarity shrieks and runs back to smash the evidence. XD
From Hell’s heart, I stab at thee! Having been left alone all this time, Spike is drowning his sorrows in hot chocolate and donuts at Donut Joe’s, when the ragged group arrives. They tell him the events of the night, and despite agreeing with his conclusion that the night was awful, the Mane Six laugh it off. Twilight is slightly concerned that Princess Celestia might be angry at them for ruining the Gala, but Her Highness joins them to say that she’s fine with it: she had hoped their presence might enliven things, since the Gala is usually a very boring event for her. The Mane Six and Spike decide that since they are now all together, the night isn’t so awful after all!   Thoughts on the Episode A better one-episode finale than Magical Mystery Cure, that’s for sure. Not that I found as many problems with that episode as some, but I can’t deny this trumps it in quality to a significant degree. While the plotlines for each of the Mane Six are pretty amusing, Fluttershy’s slow break down into insanity and the resulting violent outburst definitely takes the cake.
“Takes the cake”?! Very funny! This episode is also the culmination of the first season’s “story arc”, which began with The Ticket Master, continued with Suited for Success, and was briefly referenced in Feeling Pinkie Keen (Spike’s outfit is the same one that Twilight created then, minus the top hat, which they never ended up finishing.) The Gala dresses also appeared in various other places throughout the season. The moral of this episode is “Things don’t always go the way you want them to, but if you’re with friends, you’ll still have a lot of fun”, which is rather suitable for a cautionary tale such as this one. Another moral one could glean from this episode is that you shouldn’t have unrealistic expectations. Ultimately, it was their misunderstanding of what the Gala actually entails that led to their own disappointment, and their attempt to force things to go their own way that led to disaster. The plot itself is a parody / satire of Cinderella. The theme gets set up at the very beginning, where Twilight does her Fairy Godmother routine, only to have things immediately go wrong. This very nicely foreshadows the later events. There’s also the part where Rarity makes sure the Prince can’t use her slipper to find her. The song is absolutely fantastic. The visuals are epic in scale, the melody is lovely, and each Mane Six gets their chance to sing. I particularly like Rainbow’s part, and the crescendo at the end… just wow. If you didn’t like this song, you may need to check your pulse. If there’s any negatives to be found, they are pretty minor. One is the rather prevalent animation errors in the opening scene, and the other relates to a minor plot inconsistency. In The Ticket Master, Rainbow wanted to impress their Wonderbolts by dropping in on their performance. However, their show was finished by the time the Mane Six entered the Palace. True, her plan had probably changed due to her wearing a Rarity special, but an acknowledgement of the change would have been a bit more satisfactory. Still, that’s really quite a nitpick on my part.   Highlights/Quotes The crowd song “At the Gala” is simply perfect, and so catchy, I still have to listen to it when it comes up on my mp3 player. “Into the Gala we must go, we’re ready now, we’re all aglow.
Into the Gala, let’s go in and have the best night ever.
Into the Gala, now’s the time, we’re ready and we look divine!
Into the Gala! meet new friends!
Into the Gala! sell some apples!
Into the Gala! find my prince!
Prove I’m great as a Wonderbolt is.
To meet, to sell, to find, to prove, to whoop!, to talk.
Into the Gala, into the Gala, and we’ll have the best night ever…
At the Gala!”
Just typed that all from memory, that’s how good this song is!   Possibly the single greatest line in Season 1:
Fluttershy: “You’re… going… to LOVE ME!”   Spike’s “I’ll tell you when I’ve had enough” moment with Donut Joe is a lovely little parental bonus.
Spike: Hey! Pony Joe! Another donut…
Joe: Don’t you think you’ve had enough?
Spike: Another donut! Extra sprinkles   Pros: Pure comedic gold. The crowd song is fantastic. The writing is skillful, with foreshadowing, references to previous episodes, and a smooth progression to a great climax, courtesy of Flutters, and to a lesser extent, the other Mane Six. Cons: There are some minor animation errors.   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! May all your expectations be met and stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

The Bookend Diaries - Part 1: The Start and the Heart of it All

Hey everybody, and welcome to my blog, Running the Gamut. I have finally resolved to quit procrastinating and to actually post something here. I had originally intended to start with a review of each Season so far, episode by episode, and give my thoughts on them. With further consideration, that seemed impractical, so I have now decided to restrict my reviews to the bookends, by which I mean the opening and closing episodes of each Season. So join me, dear friends, enemies, frenemies, and people who happened upon this page by accident, as we delve into the distant past of 2011 with The Elements of Harmony. It must be said: the pilot is not all that good. In fact, it seems a little odd in retrospect that this launched such a phenomenon as it did. I will admit that most of the problems stem from the second half of the pilot, but the first half also has its fair share. The first half of the pilot introduces us to the Mane cast. After the beautifully animated prologue, which can best be described as a storybook brought to life, we are introduced to our heroine and her beleaguered assistant. There are a few question marks here with regard to their characters. In Twilight’s case, for a pony that likes everything to be orderly and organised, she’s quite happy to have the books just fall on the floor. Spike is another example, since this is the first and last time that he seems unable to spell simple words like “brink”; and thank goodness for that. This is understandable, since the writers are still trying to define the characters, so not a big problem. This scene establishes the plot for the rest of the pilot, and also has the famous early glance at Nightmare Moon through the hour glass, which is a great touch. Sadly, it’s the last time we’ll see any such subtlety in foreshadowing for a while. I’ll comment more about that at a later time. Having her attempt at warning her teacher about the upcoming Apocalypse apparently rebuffed, Twilight is sent to Ponyville to set up a celebration and to make some friends. Here the rest of the cast is introduced. After a brief encounter with Pinkie, Twilight’s first real stop is at Sweet Apple Acres, and leads to the introduction of Applejack and kin. Good old fashioned Southern hospitality! Special mention must be made of Apple Bloom. She’s just adorable with her big eyes, pout and “Aren’tcha gonna stay for brunch?” Next in line is Rainbow Dash. Just watch Twilight when Rainbow happens to her. Fat stomach + Rainbow Crash = thin stomach. Did Twilight just throw up all the food she ate earlier, when Rainbow Dash ploughed into her? We also have the first of many overused RD memes with the ten seconds flat scene. Then there is Rarity, the total knockout, as Spike later puts it. Even those who aren’t her fans tend to admit that she has the best design, with that intricately shaded mane, apart from those who favour Rainbow Dash's multicoloured magnificence. Although, that horn... later episodes blended it into her forehead, but the distinct outline makes it look pretty terrible here. This scene is an early hint to her generosity... she instantly realises that Twilight's hairdo does not suit her, and goes to great lengths to fix it, before even knowing she is from Canterlot. Next up is Fluttershy and her bird choir. She is the only one to comment on Spike, hinting at her kindness right there. Just one thing bothers me. I know Spike is a baby dragon and therefore cute, but there is not a single sliver of hesitance from dragon-phobic Fluttershy. I don’t know many arachnophobes who still love baby spiders. After getting away from Fluttershy, Twilight finds herself in the middle of PARTY TIME! All of Ponyville is here, courtesy of Pinkamena GAAASP! Pie, including soon-to-be phenomenon Derpy Hooves. Then we have Pinkie’s propensity for hot sauce, which is referenced once in Sonic Rainboom and then never again. Now that the cast is introduced, the climax can begin. Just when they thought they would get to see their Princess raise the sun, Nightmare Moon returns and announces eternal night! The reveal of NNM is the best part of this episode. Her design, her voice (regal and threatening at the same time), her laugh, it’s terrific. As is appropriate, (for what could follow?) this scene ends the first episode on a cliffhanger. Pluses – Introduced the characters and launched the brony fandom. Nightmare Moon’s reappearance is wonderful to behold. Minuses – Some character traits seems contradicted by later episodes, and there are a few animation errors, such as Twilight being fed a green apple and spitting out a red one. Unless AJ just rammed it so hard into her mouth that it cuts her gums or something. So that concludes Part 1 of the pilot and Part 1 of this series of blog entries. Being my first one, I’m sure there is plenty of room to improve so you’re welcome to comment below and tell me how, or just comment on the review in general. Part 2 is going to deal with the second half of the pilot, which is where most the problems I have will be discussed. Until then... <<insert catchy sign-off phrase here>>

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Sunny Fox Reviews "Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks"

There are few enough sequels that can be said to be superior to the original movie in the series, but I think “Equestria Girls 2: Rainbow Rocks” manages to make the list. Although it also has its flaws, I found it a lot more entertaining than the first movie. So today, I’m going to share some of the impressions I had following my first viewing. When I can get hold of the DVD, I may make a more in-depth analysis, so this one might be a little rough around the edges. The Things "Rainbow Rocks" Rocked 1. This being a movie featuring a Battle of the Bands, the songs obviously played a huge role. The music I thought was fantastic all around. The Dazzlings’ songs really were atmospheric, and sounded almost otherworldly. I could quite easily believe that there could be some kind of hypnotic power in the Dazzling’s voices. The visuals also matched the sounds well, with the way the girls moved and swayed reminiscent of snake charmers.   The Rainbooms also had a few good songs, and they all sounded good. Par for the course from Daniel Ingram, I expected no less. The rest of the talent line up was serviceable, with Snips and Snails providing a stylistic suck rap number and mike drop, and even Trixie getting a scene with her band… pity she couldn’t sing more than one line of her chorus, but then, the less I see of Trixie, the better. I did feel sorry for her when her chance at the final was unfairly taken away from her by the Dazzling’s manipulation of Principal Celestia and Vice-principal Luna, though... I don’t like having to feel sorry for Trixie. Maybe this should have gone in the flaws section below.   2. The way Sunset Shimmer’s story arc was handled. While the Humane Five had obviously forgiven her and welcomed her into the group, the rest of the school are understandably less eager to forget her former bad behaviour. (They did have to endure it for 3 years, after all.) Despite this, she managed to avoid backsliding a la Discord, even when she had her confidence shaken by the Dazzlings. She also managed to provide the means for summoning Twilight to help them, had several moments where she kept the group from falling into conflict, and in the end, stepped up to save the day. This movie really should have been called “Equestria Girls 2: The Sunset Redemption”. At any rate, this should have made up for the rather quick heel face turn at the end of the last movie, which generated a fair bit of criticism. One problem is that Snips and Snails don’t seem to be as mistrusted as SS, even though they were just as guilty. A minor issue.   3. The introduction of Vinyl Scratch in the lead up to the finale was a great touch. Particularly since you could often see her in the background, walking around wearing the headphones that ultimately protected her from the siren’s voices. It made it natural in hindsight that she would be the one Spike brings to help the Humane Seven, and to provide them with the equipment necessary to counter the sirens’ song-spell and defeat them. Bass cannon, indeed!   4. Speaking of the finale, it was more of a natural progression in this movie. I always thought the end of the first Equestria Girls came a bit out of left field, what with Twilight’s crown turning SS into a literal demon. This time, in contrast, the final fight was built up throughout the movie, and paralleled Sunset’s own progression from Atoner to Hero. It was also very exciting to watch, and seeing Sunset Shimmer get her own (much less frightening than the last) alternate form was superb.   5. Maud’s cameo. Being a fan of her all the way down to my bedrock, (no off-color puns, please) it just made the movie for me when she appeared in the kitchen to “feed” Boulder a midnight snack. There were a few other notable human versions of various ponies, such as Lyra and Bon Bon, which were also fun to see.   6. The characters were mostly spot on, with Rainbow’s tendency to hog the limelight and show off brought up. There was also Rarity’s love of outfits that was turned against her during the semi-final performance; ditto with Fluttershy’s shyness. Twilight was so busy trying to repeat her feat from Magical Mystery Cure by creating a counterspell that she couldn’t see the group disintegrating in front of her eyes. Pinkie was getting annoyed that she wasn’t having fun in the band, and Applejack was trying to reign in Rainbow, as she usually does. Luckily, the new addition, Sunset Shimmer, had enough of an outsider perspective to keep apart from the conflict and see the way to resolve it, which shows her own development and justifies her joining them. So that was a list of some of the good things I noticed. I’m sure there are more that will become apparent to me on repeated viewings, but for now, I’m going to have look at the flip side of the coin. The Things that "Rainbow Rocks" Tanked 1. Let’s examine the antagonists a bit more: The Dazzlings.   Creatures banished from Equestria by Starswirl the Bearded himself, this trio of sirens have apparently been kicking around the alternative human world for quite some time. First and foremost, we have Adagio Dazzle, the leader, planner and basic evil driving force of the group. Following her lead are Aria Blaze, the snarking, perpetually bored and angry one, and Sonata Dusk, the perky, somewhat ditzy and generally too nice-to-be-a-villain one. A picture of them appears below: (spoilered for size)     Yes, the Dazzlings are pretty much expies of the three main female protagonists from Avatar: The Last Airbender. While it’s not objectively a bad thing to borrow personalities, (imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all) once I had the thought, I couldn’t get it out of my head, and I found it really distracting. There just wasn’t enough uniqueness there for me to form any lasting connection to any of the three characters. Blame A:tLA, but I just see Azula, Mai and Ty Lee. Personality aside, the designs were very creative and the colour schemes pleasing to the eye, so that’s a plus.   2. The exact nature of what the Dazzlings are wasn’t explored enough for my liking. Given that they were sent to the alternative world by Starswirl, who lived thousands of years ago, either they’re immortal, or they’re body snatchers. They certainly seemed to have a form that was separate from the human form, but when their gems were destroyed, the girls lost their abilities and became “normal teenage girls”, according to Twilight. And normal teenage girls with horrible singing voices, according to my ears. Does this mean the sirens themselves (who appeared as ghostly horses, not unlike the Windigos from Hearth’s Warming Eve) were destroyed, freeing the three girls? Or were the three of them just Brought Down to Normal by the loss of their gems? In which case, it seems a little bit harsh.   There was also no real resolution to the Dazzlings’ story. They’re just sort of beaten and then the movie ends. Where the “Meh” Things Were Meh. 1. Well, good ole Flash Sentry was in this one. Although he remains largely a flat character, at least he did misbehave once or twice, providing some hints at deeper character (aka flaws). In particular, he seems to throw a little hissy fit when his band is knocked out of the competition. He also proved no less vulnerable than anyone else to the Dazzling’s magic. Of course, there wasn’t enough time or focus to develop him much, but at least the romantic subplot didn’t end up distracting us from the plot.   2. The setup for alternative Twilight didn’t amount to anything, but instead, pony Twilight came back. This is a bit of a mixed blessing. It did give us a brief pony scene in Equestria, but it also retroactively nullified one of the central plot points of the first movie, that there was a deadline after which travel between the worlds wouldn’t be possible for a very long time.   I suppose they do justify it by introducing Sunset Shimmer’s diary that connects the two worlds, but it takes virtually no time at all for Twilight to engineer a brand new portal, and this one seems to be permanent. So watch out Flash x Twilight haters, now she can visit him any time she feels like it. Maybe the third movie will end with the two worlds colliding like in the comic series, and having to be permanently separated. It may be your only hope to avoid seeing this pairing.   Still, they did have to bring Twilight back to Canterlot High somehow, so at least they did provide some explanation of how it was possible, even if it was a little too convenient.   3. Princess Celestia and Luna were no shows in their Equestrian forms, and the human versions became little more than extensions of the plot, which could be considered a step back from the first movie, but then again, the focus was more on the conflict. I just wish we could have seen a little bit more of them. So to sum it all up, I really enjoyed Rainbow Rocks. I think it was better written story than the original Equestria Girls. The music was better and more varied than there as well. The three antagonists were decent, if a little too similar to A:tLA, and managed to be a legitimate threat. The voice talent, both singing and speaking, was up to its usual grand standard. The conflict in the Battle of the Bands was handled pretty well and provided a very exciting and satisfying climax. The denoument was a little bit too quick, and left some things unexplained, but perhaps we’ll find out more in the next movie. You know there’s going to be one. The portrayal of the Humane Seven was generally consistent with the respective pony’s characters and the way the human versions were shown in the previous movie. Sunset Shimmer steals the show with her character arc, and finally earns her happy ending and it was done in a rather realistic way. Unfortunately, Flash Sentry and the Principals were not given as much attention. So all in all, I’m pretty satisfied that Rainbow (indeed) Rocks. Share your thoughts on the movie and this review in the comments below if you feel the urge, and in any case, stay sunny side up.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox