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Stop littering

Hooboy, this is getting out of hand. Guys, 2014 is the year of the HORSE, not the KITTEH. Get it right. Better than propane (and it's accessories) I guess. <<This message was brought to you by the Tongue In Cheek Comedy Association>>

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Are The Friendship is Magic Comics Canon?

The comics are great. I like the art style, I like the darker stories, I like the funny little references they throw in. (Well, some of the artist OC cameos get a bit annoying, but eh) Some are better than others, of course, but overall, they're a hoot.
And Applejack agrees. The question is, are they canon? Or should they be considered an alternative continuity? Can we use the comics as evidence for headcanon theories in the same way as the show itself? Join me as I examine this question. The first 4 issues deal with Queen Chrysalis, which puts it chronologically after the Season 2 Finale. The second arc is the... sigh... "Nightmare Rarity Arc" (reasons for the sigh to be addressed when I've saved up enough anti-nausea medication to consider reviewing it... it might be a while...) And here is where things get interesting. You see, Luna is shown in this arc, but as she was at the end of the pilot, her "depowered" form.
Yeah, you go to your room and think about what you've done! During the events of the comic, she gets powered up by the POWER OF LOVE! This restores her to her default Season 2 appearance... wait a minute... Season 2?
Woah... that is badflank... but don't try to distract me! This is where we apply our brains (or whatever reasonable facsimile thereof I can muster...) You see, Season 2 has Luna in her new form by the 2nd (I have a different counting scheme... just go with it) episode, while the comic has her in her old form as late as following the Season 2 premiere. So we have a contradiction... oh, wait... no. You see, I was assuming that the comic arcs are presented in chronological order, but actually, there's no reason to make that assumption. The "Nightmare Rarity" arc could in fact be placed chronologically before the Queen Chrysalis arc, which wouldn't contradict the show. Thus proving conclusively that the comics do in fact follow the same continuity as the show... Well, unfortunately, there's more to the story. You see, during the "NightRarity" arc, we get this panel. There is not much else that this could be referring to, except the CMC being kidnapped in the events of the "Queen Chrysalis" arc. We still have the comic contradicting the show's timeline, so I have to conclude that the comics cannot be canonically linked with the show itself. I would consider it an alternative timeline of sorts, personally. Since generalizing from only one example could be misleading, I do have another example of a mismatch between the show and the comics. For this example, we turn to the comic featuring Princess Cadance and Shining Armor in High School, “Neigh Anything”. At the party during the climax, we have a scene where the past!Mayor Mare (one hopes that’s her title and not her real name, because otherwise her parents are clairvoyant) is talking with the past!Cheerilee about what their aptitude test results were. Cheerilee states that hers says she should be a teacher, and she disparages the notion (for those not fluent in Eighties Dudespeak, “grody” means gross, so she definitely is poo-pooing the idea of being a teacher here.) According to the show, Cheerilee’s cutie mark only appeared after she had decided to become a teacher and bring joy and learning to fillies and colts. Hence we have another contradiction of the show. Huzzah! Well, Sunny Fox, one might say, you can’t see her cutie mark with Mayor Mare in the way, so you can’t be sure she has one yet. Fair enough point, but luckily, I have an answer for it. From a previous scene with Cheerilee, we can clearly see that she already has her cutie mark. Thank you, comic writers! At any rate, I'll be reviewing the comic themselves in this section too, to give my own impression about each of the major arcs, along with ranking, a list of pros and cons, and of course a list of the references I got in each one. I hope you'll join me in my endeavour. Until then, stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Allow me to strip...

Wow, there's been quite a lot of... shall we say furor?... over staffy things recently. (And that wasn't a reference to Twilicane, which I am really tired of now, but tangent!) I'm still organizing my thoughts on it, but this definitely resonates with me right now. Of course, this is really simplified, and is not a fair, balanced answer to the recent concerns raised, but if it can make someone smile or chuckle ruefully, that's enough for now. Stay sunny side up, people.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

March Madness and the Rarijack Effect

Now that the March Madness competition has ended in a four-way tie, I feel like I need to talk about some of what has transpired in the course of this contest. My involvement until the quarter-finals was rather perfunctory. I really started taking an interest in it when Twilight went up against Rarity. And this is how it ended… bump... bump... sugarlump... SMASH! It’s no secret that I’m a pretty gung-ho Rarity fan. Not at Ghostie’s level of devotion, perhaps, but I’m vociferous enough about it in my own right, if I may be so bold as to say. So I was overjoyed to see this happen, I really was. I don’t think that it can be fairly held against me by fans of Twilight that I found the victory reason to celebrate. I don’t believe I gloated about it much either (except perhaps in the Rarity Fan Club thread, but that’s understandable, isn’t it? At least it’s in the right place.) I then concluded that the reason that this happened was that Rarity’s popularity must have grown. I still think so, but I understand now that I was wrong about the nature and magnitude of the change. There will be more on that later. Unfortunately, I was less than impressed with certain Twilight supporters’ reactions. I’m not going to make this personal and name names, or directly quote entire posts, but the general idea was that there were some green people sitting in corners. “It was unfair,” some said. “Twilight is the better pony,” quoteth others. “Let’s make sure we do everything we can to ensure Rarity fails from now on,” spake still others. I found this to be both churlish and childish. (Although, some of them later changed their stances, to their credit.) In contrast to the intensity of this match-up, the following matches were very low key. Derpy, a perennial fan favorite (don’t ask me why, but members are entitled to like whichever pony for whichever reasons they choose) lost to Pinkie Pie, and Rainbow Dash lost to Applejack. Around about this point, I started to see mentions of a Rarijack alliance, to whit, a collaboration among fans of Rarity and Applejack (generally in a shipping capacity) to vote for those two ponies. Such mentions seemed to carry the subtle implication that this was somehow wrong or unfair. Or maybe there really was no such implication and I’m being defensive. For myself, I guess I have to admit that I qualify for membership in this alliance, although not for reasons of shipping, but rather that Rarity is my favorite pony and Applejack is my second favorite pony (btw, my most relatable pony is Twilight Sparkle and in some part Pinkie Pie, but I don’t need a character to be relatable in order to like them. As for shipping, when I ship any Mane Six pairing, it’s Twilight X Rarity) So naturally, I would wish to support both of these ponies against their opponents, and vote accordingly. I also voted for Pinkie in her matchup against Derpy, because I like Pinkie Pie better than I like Derpy. (Shall I call this the RariPie/Pinkity alliance, then?) Then the semi-finals began, Fluttershy vs Applejack and Rarity vs Pinkie Pie. I voted for Applejack and Rarity. And wow, did things catch fire. Both competitions were fierce, as much so as Twilight vs Rarity, with all four ponies alternatively gaining leads (quite massive leads in some cases) and then being caught up or surpassed. It really was all up for grabs, and I was very entertained. Less entertaining to me were some of the posts. Again, naming no names, but there was a great deal of mud-slinging going on. From certain members we got the now infamous “Rarity is a Nazi” posts. And then they tried to pull the “don’t take it so seriously, it’s only a joke” card. Has that ever been a mitigating factor? You can’t say something deliberately insulting and then add “no offense/only joking” and expect people to accept it. There were other victims of what can only be called a “smear campaign”, such as Fluttershy. This is really saddening, and I had hoped that forums members wouldn’t stoop to such measures. Support for a pony is best shown by supporting that pony, not attacking and slandering/libeling their opponent. There were also rumours of other underhanded tactics being employed, such as getting friends from off the forum to register and vote, or duplicate accounts being created. I can’t really speak to the accuracy of said rumours, and if true, fans of every pony are just as likely to have done so. It would be a little arrogant to assume that Rarity fans are incorruptible angels and every other pony’s fans are ruthless cheaters. I can only speak for myself when I say that I don’t use tactics like that. All of the above had left me feeling a bit down on the whole shebang. It being late where I live, I switched off my computer and went to bed, putting it out of my mind as far as was possible. I’m currently suffering from a blocked nose, so it wasn’t precisely a restful sleep, and around about 2am, I was still awake, only having dozed fitfully on the interim. So I decided to check on the results using my cellphone. I had last seen Rarity trailing Pinkie by 1 vote, and Fluttershy trailing Applejack by a few, so I steeled myself to the probability that Pinkie had won the round over Rarity. And although I would have been disappointed, I would have congratulated Pinkie and her fans on a hard-fought and well-deserved victory. As I said, without knowing for certain that questionable tactics had been used and how much, I would have accepted the result. Imagine my surprise when I found the new poll. Basically, now each member could vote for only one pony, or all of them. So it was no longer possible to vote for the one you like better from each match. You had to vote for your favorite. A vote for “all characters” was precisely what it says on the tin: every character got a vote… actually 2 votes. (Each vote for a particular individual provided half a point. Why add this mathematical complexity?)
Don’t you use your fancy mathematics to muddy the issue! This is like a high jump competition where you vary the height above sea level. It doesn’t matter how many members vote for all, just as it doesn’t matter how high up you are. So it’s meaningless in the practical sense. But it lets a member feel good about helping everyone equally, doesn’t it? To this I say, rather just abstain from voting altogether and feel good about that. Since the option to abstain was always there, a “vote for all” choice adds nothing except the opportunity for self-deception. The new Battle Royale system is equivalent to a control group in an experiment. It eliminates (controls for) the ability for fans of multiple ponies to mutually aid each other. In other word, it eliminates the effects of the so-called Rarijack alliance. Given doing so has put Rarity far behind the other three and shows that she was indeed benefiting from votes from the Applejack crowd (and I would wager some from the Fluttershy camp too). While it’s good to know what the real situation is, this result is troubling, and not just from the view of those who supported Rarity. Twilight’s fans are now quite entitled to question whether Twilight might not have beaten Rarity if this method had been used since the beginning of the competition; I find it hard to deny that they’re probably right. And I can understand the frustration they may be feeling. But does this make the result of the bout between Rarity and Twilight unfair? I don’t think so. Here’s my reasoning. If one wishes to count how many fans consider a particular pony as their favorite, a head to head elimination tournament is not the way to proceed. Because at each round, you are not asking “which of these ponies is your favorite pony?”, you’re asking “which of these two do you like better?” Sometimes the questions yield the same answer, but much more often, they don’t. As such, how a person ranks the contestants comes into play, not just which of them is their favorite. A pony whom more members consider their favorite can be beaten as long as enough members don’t have either competitor as their favorite, yet rank David above Goliath. I think this is a natural consequence of the tournament model, and in no way goes against the spirit of friendly competition that is the objective of the tournament itself. And if one wishes to point out the influence of Rarijack, surely we need to ask: why is Dashlight not equally prevalent? Or DerpDash? Or any other pairwise combination of ponies that fans may prefer? If Rarijack is a stronger influence than is Dashlight, surely Dashlight supporters only have themselves to blame. There was nothing preventing Twilight fans from voting for Rainbow Dash and Rainbow Dash fans for voting for Twilight in their respective matches, and I’m sure there were plenty who did. It’s a little late to start calling foul when the same conditions have been prevalent since the beginning of the contest, just because they ended up causing your favorite pony to be beaten. Heck, if you want to completely eliminate the influence of alliances, just put all 32 names in a single poll, and forgo the entire tournament setup. No need for seeding. Dr. XFizzle’s heart was in the right place, but I don’t think this change to the poll was fair, and I can’t view it as a legitimate move. It undoes all the hard work and effort of members to rally legitimate support for their favored pony. I still voted for Rarity, but out of loyalty, not out of a spirit of eager participation as I did before. The change to the poll removed the influences of fan alliances, but I don’t think it did much to control outside rallying, mudslinging or multiple accounts, which really do constitute an unfair advantage. The immorality of multiple accounts is easy to show, being a violation of the “one person, one vote” principle. What about outside rallying, i.e. asking friends from off-site to register and vote? This is incorrect because it relies on the newcomers’ loyalty to members who are their friends, and not loyalty to the ponies being voted for. It becomes a competition to gather supporters rather than a competition to support the ponies. Now mudslinging isn’t unfair, as such, but is certainly is not a respectable way to go about doing things. There is no easy way to prevent duplicates/outsiders from voting. You would have to do it manually, i.e. members would have to actually post their votes. That way, any usernames that are suspect like Rarijack20 or only joined on the day (i.e. Blank Flanks) could be ignored. Any member who tried to use smear tactics would forfeit their right to vote. Of course, this means a rather prohibitive amount of extra effort on the organizer’s part, and duplicate accounts that have been around for a while and not been detected could also slip through, so it’s unlikely we’d ever get an entirely fair contest. It’s the nature of the beast. I would be interested in a control of the control, as it were, to investigate the Rarijack Effect. I would change the poll from “vote for your pony” to “vote for the final you want to see”. So the options would be Fluttershy vs Pinkie; Applejack vs Pinkie; Fluttershy vs Rarity; Applejack vs Rarity. It’s equivalent to the first format used, rather than the new system, since it basically asks who do you want to see win and be runner up. I wonder what sort of data would result from this. A brief note on tactical voting… I don’t tend to do this. I consider it a little unfaithful to the pony you support, because you’re trying to get the opponent that easiest to beat. If you’re confident in your pony’s chances, you would expect them to come out on top even against worthy competitors. I also feel a close race is much more entertaining than a one-sided one to watch. That said, I don’t think of it as underhanded or unfair. Vengeance voting, however, I highly disapprove of. As I said, it’s childish and petty to wish failure on a contestant just because they beat one you liked. At least make sure the pony you’re getting vengeance on actually is the one who beat your favorite. Of course, all the above it now moot, since the competition has now been declared a four way tie. I guess Dr. XFizzle decided that continuing a compromised tournament was meaningless, but it’s another move I disagree with. It’s not fair to the supporters of whichever pony would have been the champion, and I doubt it would have been Rarity, much as I would have liked it to be. It makes the past two or three days of voting an exercise in futility. I still do take away the warm fuzzies I got from seeing Rarity win against Twilight, so it wasn’t entirely a waste, although I wish the tournament had resulted in a sole winner. If their success were due to doubtful practices on the part of some of their supporters, then whoever had participated in such would have found their victory hollow. And if they didn’t feel bad about winning through cheating, then they’re not the kind of people I’ll waste my anger on. For my part, I know I supported the ponies I like in a fair and sportsmanlike way.   Conclusions So, looking only at which pony fans identify as their favorite, Rarity’s rank within the fandom is still quite low, and has not increased as much as I originally thought. But in terms of ranking all Mane Six, I feel Rarity is in a much stronger position than she has been previously. If this weren’t the case, there is no way she would have beaten Twilight even with the Rarijack alliance helping her along. She may not have moved to the top of many lists, but she’s probably moved up in more lists than she has moved down. And it seems that in many lists, the first two spots are now 1. Applejack 2. Rarity. I hope that lessons can be learned from this March Madness tournament, and that future competitions will be consistent, fair and the participants well-behaved. Stay sunny side up.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 16. Sonic Rainboom: The Rar-Icarus Episode

“Yay!” – Fluttershy Rainbow Dash is teaching Fluttershy how to be a cheerleader. As the quote above indicates, it doesn’t really seem like the best choice of pony for the role, with her sweet, demure voice unsuitable for loud cheering. Rainbow needs Fluttershy to cheer for her as she competes in the Best Young Fliers Competition, to be held in Cloudsdale. Rainbow practices her routine for the competition, to more barely audible cheers from Fluttershy. However, her piece de resistance, the Sonic Rainboom, goes wrong, sending her corkscrewing into Twilight’s library, which has just been tidied. At least she got the “boom” part right.
Library fine? Hardly. After explaining the situation, the two Pegasus ponies leave. Rarity, seeing that Rainbow’s apparent bravado is a show to mask her anxiety over the competition, exhorts Twilight to find a spell to get the non-flying Mane Six ponies into Cloudsdale too, so that they can support their friend. Luckily, Pinkie had a flight spell land on her face. Rarity volunteers to undergo the possibly dangerous spell as a test subject, and Twilight duly casts the spell. After the lightshow, an exhausted Twilight states that she thinks it worked, as coloured lights play over the walls. In Cloudsdale, Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy meet up with some stallions, who make fun of “Rainbow Crash” and ridicule the idea of a Sonic Rainboom as just “an old mare’s tale”. The teasing hits Rainbow hard, shaking her confidence in herself. Just then, Rarity arrives, flying with a set of beautiful butterfly wings that Twilight’s spell conjured for her. She is shortly followed by the rest of the group in Twilight’s balloon, who leap out onto the clouds… which to Rainbow’s astonishment, they can now be supported by, just like Pegasus ponies. Twilight explains that the wing spell was too difficult to do more than once, but luckily, she turned up a “walk on clouds” spell instead. Delighted, Rainbow offers to show them around her and Fluttershy’s childhood home city. As the tour goes on, Rarity starts to let her new wings go to her head, as it were, ignoring Twilight’s warnings that they are very fragile, and that she should be encouraging Rainbow instead of showing them off. Rarity, who by this point is virtually unhinged by all the attention she’s been getting, refuses. One of the Pegasus pony bystanders suggests that Rarity should also enter the competition. She decides to do just that, causing Rainbow to start spiraling down into a nervous wreck. The Competition itself begins at the Cloudsdale Coliseum, with the Wonderbolts as celebrity judges and even Princess Celestia herself in attendance. The remaining four Mane Six members are also in the audience, as are the stallions from earlier. Backstage, Rarity primps and preens in her dressing room, while Rainbow does her best to delay her own turn by switching numbers with other ponies on the sly (including Derpy). Eventually no other competitors remain and, confidence utterly demolished, Rainbow is called up… just as Rarity pronounces herself ready, dressed in a garish ensemble including thickly-caked makeup that even a clown would probably refuse to wear. Due to the late entry, there is only enough time for one more performance: Rainbow Dash and Rarity must go out together. To make matters worse, Rarity has switched out Rainbow’s rock and roll music for something classical! As Rarity does a graceful aerial dance, Rainbow finds herself messing up every part of her routine… crashing into the side, and sending a wayward cloud flying into Princess Celestia’s booth. Realizing her only chance to pull out a win is to complete the Sonic Rainboom, Rainbow gains as much altitude as she can. Rarity, meanwhile, is also flying upwards, so that she can beam the sunlight through her wings over the entire coliseum, hoping to give them a spectacle for the ages. She succeeds in doing so, provoking oohs and ahs from the audience. However, like Icarus, she finds that flying too close to the sun is a bad idea. Her wings having been immolated, she has only enough time for an “uh-oh” before she begins to fall. As she drops down below through the coliseum, the Wonderbolts dive down to rescue her, but are knocked out by her panicked flailing, adding three more imminent victims.
Rarity used Struggle! It’s super effective! Hearing Rarity shriek, Rainbow Dash quickly abandons the competition to dive down after her. With the life of her friend and her idols at stake, Rainbow goes faster and faster. And then it happens…
Phase 3: The Sonic Rainboom! With a rainbow shockwave, and a rainbow contrail, Rainbow Dash saves the day in the nick of time by catching all four ponies, and carrying them back up to the coliseum, to the cheers of every pony… none cheering louder than Fluttershy herself! In the aftermath, a contrite Rarity apologizes to Rainbow Dash for getting so caught up in her beautiful wings that she forgot why she was there in the first place, and Rainbow shows a good deal of generosity of her own by graciously forgiving her. She does wish that she could have met the Wonderbolts when they were awake… Luckily, they’re right behind her, come to thank her for saving their lives. Princess Celestia also joins them, to congratulate Rainbow Dash on winning the Best Young Fliers Competition for her heroism and her Sonic Rainboom. Even the stallions come to congratulate her and apologize for their earlier behaviour. They ask if Rainbow wants to hang out… but “Sorry, boys. I’ve got plans…”
For a Wonderbolt sandwich!   Thoughts on this Episode I love it. Yeah, it features some bad behaviour from Rarity, but I think it’s balanced out by the fact that she was the reason the Mane Six even decided to support Rainbow in Cloudsdale. Not only did she pick up on Rainbow’s true feelings (due to putting on enough fashion shows to recognize stage fright) but she insisted they be there for her, and she stepped up to be the guinea pig for the spell with little hesitation. Her subsequent behaviour is not far short of temporary insanity. First of all, listen to her laugh when she sees the ponies’ reaction to the sunlight through her wings. That does not sound like a mentally healthy laugh to me. Consider also the outfit she wore during the competition itself. Rarity prides herself on looking elegant, and she is anything but elegantly dressed there. The pony knows fashion, people, it’s her raison d’etre. She clearly wasn’t in her normal state of mind at the time. She also apologized profusely at the end. It’s also a pretty heartwarming episode overall. The contrast between Fluttershy’s cheering at the beginning and end of the episode is really emotional to me, and gives good feels, while also providing some comedy of its own. This episode provided a good glance at Rainbow’s character, showing that she can doubt herself at times, and implying that her tendency to toot her own horn might have its roots in a vulnerability she tries to keep hidden. That makes her a lot more interesting than she might have seemed beforehand. And let’s face it, she totally kicked flank in that climactic scene. She swooped into action without a thought to help her friend, despite the fact that that friend had put her through quite a trying time. And in the end, it all works out for the best. And her “ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh!” when meeting the Wonderbolts is pretty adorable too. Visually, the episode has a lot of nice touches. Even before we see the results of the spell, in the flash of light the outline of Rarity’s wings can be seen for a frame or two. Cloudsdale looks lovely, and it’s good to have a bit of world building. The scene where Pinkie tastes the liquid rainbow is pretty funny, and the expressions on Pinkie’s face match the colours… when it’s green, she looks ill, when it’s yellow, she looks like she’s tasting something sour… and of course, this is the pony who likes to cover cupcakes in hot sauce, so if it’s too spicy for her, it must be pretty strong. You can also notice when Rainbow is being teased, she flicks her tail, very much as a horse would if irritated.   Highlights After Rainbow smashes into the library, knocking all the books down.
Fluttershy: Rainbow Dash, you rock! Woohoo!…” Surveys the scene. “Did my cheering do that?” A bit later:
Pinkie: A flight spell? One sec. Page 27.
Applejack: How did you do that?
Pinkie: It fell on my face when Rainbow Dash knocked me into the bookcase.   Pros: Explores Rainbow Dash’s character. The action is genuinely tense and exciting. It can be quite emotional too. Cons: None, really.   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 sonic side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Equestria Ain't Out There, People

You know, there are a great many threads on this forum regarding the multiverse and the possibility that Equestria is real and "out there" somewhere. The argument is pretty much the "infinite number of monkeys" argument. Given an infinite number of monkeys sitting at an infinite number of computer keyboards, eventually one of them has to accidentally type out, by virtue of hitting keys at random, the complete works of William Shakespeare. To extend the thought experiment, any possible combination of words (i.e. every story ever told) would have to be produced. Good luck finding it among all those simians, though. That's fine as far as it goes. But I would give you another image. Sitting at a table and having an infinite amount of time to roll a 6-sided die (die is singular, dice is plural), no matter how long you sit and roll that cuboid sucker, you ain't ever gonna get seven. I doubt any region of the multiverse is conducive to Flash-animated sentient horses. So, is our universe an infinite number of monkeys on keyboards, or it is a roll of the die? I don't know, and I don't really need to know in order to decide. Because essentially, even if theoretically sound, the Equestria so postulated could not be reached by any foreseeable means. Which means it might as well NOT exist in the practical sense. So, I guess my point is that we can't yearn after a vision of Equestria. We have to live here in the real world. It's got plenty of wonder and the magic of friendship to spare. Go get it.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Derpy in Season 4

Let me get one thing straight right off the bat: I don’t hate Derpy. So please don’t immediately jump to the conclusion “he’s a hater, so therefore everything written here is irrelevant.” That isn't even a valid argument in any case. Even if I were a "hater", it would not automatically make my opinion any more or less worthy than it would be if I were her biggest fan. So I hope that is clear. Also from the beginning, I want to make a distinction, which is clear in theory, even if in practice it can be a little hard to differentiate. It is this: there is a difference between evoking emotion and manipulating emotion. Basically, the former invites you feel an emotion… the latter forces you to. An example may make it a bit more concrete. I once read a fanfiction about Trixie, retelling Boast Busters from her perspective. And throughout the fanfic, Trixie kept thinking to herself about how much she loves her caravan, how she views it as friend, how they’ve been through so much together. The upshot, of course, is that it later gets trashed by the Ursa Minor, which anyone who saw the episode already knows. So we’re forced to feel sorry for her even before the event we’re supposed to feel sorry for her about happens. That’s manipulative. If she had reflected after the fact on what she had lost, that would be evoking an emotion. It’s a matter of timing and subtlety. If you accept this premise, but wonder what it has to do with anything, read on. At the beginning of the Season, Derpy was noticeably absent from proceedings. There were even rumours that the show staff had been told they were not allowed to include her, and that she had been cut from the show. And that would have sucked. Luckily, this was not true… she had a triumphant return in “Rainbow Falls”!
The heavens opened, an angelic chorus rang out, and there was much rejoicing and dancing of bronies! And believe it or not, I was as happy as anyone to see that wall-eyed mare waving her flag. I thought it was a perfect way to put paid to the rumours of her demise, greatly exaggerated as they were. Unfortunately, then things started to get out of hand, and I began to get annoyed with the way they kept shoving Derpy into every episode. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was subtle, but the writers were making it very obvious when she appeared. Then it settled down again, and I thought things were going back to normal. Then came the Season 4 finale. When Tirek was on the rampage, he stole the Pegasus magical flight ability. I really didn’t like the way Derpy was used here. Surely the villain draining every Pegasus in Equestria should make us feel bad enough. But they make sure to show it happening to Derpy, presumably trying to make the scene even more shocking. To me, that seems to fall firmly on the manipulative side of the equation. “Look at all the poor Pegasus ponies…” “Who cares? Oh, wait, it’s happening to DERPY TOO? Oh, the ponianity!” (Yes, I know that’s not a word, just go with it.) I repeat that I don’t hate Derpy by any means, but the charm I find in her begins to fade when her appearances start being distracting or manipulative. It's possible that the more obsessive members of her fanbase are probably dusting off their pitchforks, lighting their torches and tracing my IP right now, but I maintain that Derpy should not be the focus of the show. Put her in, by all means. She just doesn’t need to be front and center, taking attention away from the true stars of the show. Personally, I like having Derpy in there to add a funny background event (like popping up from a well), or as an easter egg for eagle eyed enthusiasts (like being in Cranky’s snowglobe). I hope it goes back to that in Season 5.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 103. “Amending Fences”: It's My Party and I'll Cry If I Want to...

Twilight Sparkle! You old so-and-so! What are you doing here?! - Minuette Summary
After Spike comments that Twilight was a bad friend before coming to Ponyville, she decides to make a trip back to Canterlot to find her old “friends” so that she can apologize to and reconnect with them. The two revisit Twilight’s old quarters, to “start at the beginning”.
Apparently, it’s a very good place to start… I will give the writer a point here, for making a clever simile about how Twilight left her previous quarters and her friendships in the same incomplete state. Treasure that, writers, because you got virtually everything else wrong… but I’m getting ahead of myself. Twilight tracks down Minuette (Colgate to the bronies), and after a brief photo op, they head off to find Twilight’s other old “friends” , Lemon Drops and Twinkleshine. At Joe’s Donut Diner, Twilight apologizes for being a bad friend in the past. The three manage to brush it off while still somehow making Twilight feel worse. A visit to the school science lab triggers a flashback for Twilight, who asks where Moon Dancer (another “friend”) is. They track her down, but find she isn’t interested in seeing any of them. Twilight follows her for a bit, and sees she’s very isolated. She then finds out from Minuette that there was a time she seemed to be opening up… until the party Twilight blew off in the pilot episode. Twilight realizes that her nonattendance is the reason why Moon Dancer is so introverted and shy now. She resolves to apologize and help Dancer to overcome her past pain. Oh, the old awkward conversation in the library with everyone going “sssshhh!” bit. Really pushing the comedic envelope on this story, aren’t they? After that, Twilight takes Moon Dancer back to her old quarters, and proffers the key to the library, on condition that that she joins the old gang for dinner.
Oh, hai, Starlight Glimmer! By the way, how’s your stalker life? It doesn’t go well. Twilight, desperate to fix her mistake, enlists Pinkie Pie’s help in throwing a party for Moon Dancer. After Twilight again apologizes, Moon Dancer finally opens up and confirms that Twilight skipping her party really hurt her and made her retreat back into her shell. Seeing all the friends Twilight has gathered for her (including her sister), Moon Dancer decides to give friendship another chance. Spike gives her a photo of her friends, and the episode ends with Moon Dancer (now fulfilled) and the others heading out for a game of Calvinball.   The Bugz
I cannot understand why fans are praising the writing in this episode. I think it’s horrendous. Now don’t get me wrong… if you connected emotionally with Twilight and Moon Dancer’s story because you’ve had similar experiences in the past, and you like it on that account, I have absolutely no issue with that. Entirely without sarcasm I can say that I’m happy for you. But I will try to show that the story itself is very poorly written. The plot is artificially kicked off by a random comment from Spike. It’s not the first time this has happened (Lesson Zero comes to mind) but in this episode, going this route is missing a huge opportunity for the Cutie Map to come into play. Yes, remember that Map? The express purpose of the Map is to highlight situations requiring the magic of friendship. One would think that a pony that isolated, and (ostensibly) made so by the Princess of Friendship herself, would merit a response from whatever is controlling the thing. But not even a blip. Nearly halfway through the season, the Map has been used a grand total of twice. This was a perfect time to increase that count. It would also have been much more effective for Twilight to arrive in Canterlot, not sure why she had been summoned there, and then on encountering her old “friends”, had the realization that her past actions had led to this situation, and that she now had to fix it. Basically, I think it would be cool to have a moment of realization: "I'm not just here to fix the problem... I AM the problem!" You might have noticed I’ve been using quote marks every time I type “friends”. This is because whatever relationship Twilight had to the ponies she knew in Canterlot before moving to Ponyville, “friends” is not an accurate description. The pilot goes out of its way to establish that Twilight was isolated and antisocial. In the pilot, Twilight is tasked by Princess Celestia with “making friends”. Not “making new friends”, not “making friends in Ponyville”, “making friends”. There are many other lines that imply heavily that the Mane Six are her first set of friends. But perhaps you don’t consider that proof enough. And that’s fair, it’s got some wiggle room. Now how about A Canterlot Wedding? I don’t need the BBBFF song to make the point. Even before she starts singing, Twilight upright states the following: “Before I came here and learned the importance of friendship, Shining Armor was the only pony I ever really accepted as a friend.” There is no wiggle room or ambiguity there. Shining Armor was her only friend before Ponyville. And she didn’t even mention him until that episode. Now much less must she have cared for the “friends” who in Amending Fences are suddenly so important to her? She couldn’t even remember their names! Oh, and that’s a running gag that pretty much negates any and all emotion in the episode. Twilight can’t remember her friend’s names, her friends apparently don’t remember Moon Dancer until she brings her up, and Moon Dancer calls her “Twilight Twinkle” accidentally. Yet we find out that they were all friends before and Moon Dancer was so fixated on Twilight being her only chance to find friendship? Somehow, I don’t find that convincing. I can guess what you’re probably thinking. “Sunny Fox, didn’t you say in your Tanks for the Memories review that you don’t let continuity negate emotion? Aren’t you backpedaling here?” No. I still think an emotion connection with an episode trumps issues of continuity. But here, the emotional connection becomes unbelievable because what we’re given in the episode runs counter to what has been already firmly and unambiguously established. This is no minor point of fridge logic or a continuity error that can be handwaved; this is a full blown retcon of past events for the basis of creating a plot. The second major difference is that the emotional connection that is the focus of TftM, between Dash and Tank, has been built up over a few episodes, such as the quick, surreptitious nuzzle in Just for Sidekicks, and involves a pony that we already know very well and can connect with, ourselves. We feel Dash’s emotional pain because the relationship is believable in and of itself, and because the closeness of their relationship has already been established prior to the episode. This is most certainly not the case with Twilight and Moon Dancer. (tl;dr: Emotion trumps continuity, but only if the emotion is convincing.) Other decisions puzzle me as well. The flashback in the science lab has no real purpose. It doesn’t establish any meaningful backstory, other than to confirm Twilight and Moon Dancer went to school together. It certainly doesn’t help convince me that there was anything worthy of the name of friendship between the two. At best, it serves to remind Twilight that she hasn’t seen Moon Dancer yet… which is also unnecessary, since Spike already mentioned her as one of the “friends” to reconnect with, so Twilight doesn’t really need a flashback to justify bringing her up. Edit: @@Dark Qiviut has pointed out something I missed regarding the flashback. It establishes that Moon Dancer is very similar to Twilight (a bookworm and antisocial) and would therefore probably feel closer to her than the others, which might help explain why she took Twilight's rejection so hard. Good catch, DQ! That’s enough ripping the story to pieces. Let’s look now at the characters. Minuette was extremely annoying with her constant giggling. I previously described her as a “discount Pinkie Pie”. My mind hasn’t changed. And then when all three get together, the giggles have been tripled! She’s not entirely useless, as she is the main source of exposition for Twilight, but she really grated on my nerves the whole episode. Speaking of Pinkie Pie, she is brought in (rather unnecessarily, I feel: Twilight couldn’t have planned a party on her own?) to set up the party at the end, and to just be Pinkie. I get the feeling gravity has just entirely given up on being able to control her. It’s worth a chuckle, but it’s still reducing Pinkie from a character to a gag machine. The episode doesn’t do any favours for Twilight, either. She just assumes she’s so important to other ponies that her losing contact with them is causing them terrible suffering. She was right in Moon Dancer’s case but that’s, what, one out of five? She only could be about 20% wronger if she tried (hur hur hur). Her demeanour in the flashback reminded me more of Diamond Tiara than Twilight. How does one reconcile that with the happy filly who leaps around shouting “yes yes yes yes!” in the Cutie Mark Chronicles? This episode doesn’t make Twilight fallible and thereby relatable, since her mistake was made before her character development. I don’t consider her a Mary Sue, like some of her detractors do, but this episode certainly makes me wonder if they might not have a point about her being represented as infallible these days. The previous episode had a similar problem, because her “failure” wasn’t due to her but to the yaks deplorable tendency to make a huge fuss over tiny inconsequential details. I mean, what kind of immature idiot behaves like that? Now we come to the real millstone around the neck of this episode: Moon Dancer herself. Let me start with a question: if this character were to be introduced as someone’s OC, what do you think the response would be? Overwhelmingly negative, is my guess. A minor positive point is that they use the colours of G1 Moon Dancer, but she’s just a Twilight recolour with glasses and eyebrows; two thirds of Groucho Marx, as it were. Apart from her lackluster design, her fixation on Twilight is one of the least justified elements of the story. Apparently, Twilight hurt her by not attending the party she organized, thereby causing her to give up on friendship. There are a number of problems with this. First, she never actually invited Twilight to her party, or made it clear in any way that it was important to her. Twilight was given an off-hand, second-hand invite by Twinkleshine. Second, why was Twilight so important to her in the first place? That flashback indicates that their similarlity might have caused that. But oh-so-similar Twilight wasn’t the one who started to bring her out of her shell. Moon Dancer literally credits the three of them (Minuette, Lemon Heart and Twinkleshine) for making her think she might want to be more social, and as far as we’re aware, everypony but Twilight was at the party. Their support and friendship apparently wasn’t worth anything in Dancer’s eyes; it was Twilight or nothing. Third, as Spike mentions, she was given an assignment by Princess Celestia, and so couldn’t have attended the party even had she wanted to. Princess Celestia knew she needed to send Twilight to Ponyville to stop Nightmare Moon (she as much as says so at the end of the second episode), so the assignment would have given to Twilight regardless. Because of these points above, her reaction to Twilight’s absence from her party becomes an overreaction, and Twilight shouldn’t be blamed for that. All in all, I don't find Moon Dancer's reclusion and subsequence outburst at Twilight was justified, which really rips out the heart of the emotional conflict the episode is built around. What moral are we meant to take from this? "Attend every event you're invited to, just in case someone's self esteem relies on you being there"? "It's okay to shut yourself off from society because one person snubbed you once"? "Focus on one person and if they won't be your friend, give up on people entirely"? Or just maybe, it might be "Be careful of what you do, because even the smallest action may have consequences"? Yeah, let's go with that one. My point here is that the moral is kind of confused. They may have been going for something like the last one above, but I don't think they did a very good job of it.   The Shrugz
It was interesting to see Starlight Glimmer stalking Twilight. I admit I was not observant enough to notice her for myself when I watched the episode, so I only found out by reading the episode's thread. It has to be deliberate, and I'm glad to see that the writers are trying to build a continuing story arc. It doesn't make the episode better or worse, but it's definitely worth mentioning. I found this entire episode to be in a sense unnecessary. Going back to a single scene, that in all likelihood was there just to establish Twilight's credentials as a antisocial bookworm, and expanding on it, doesn't really contribute to the story of Twilight and the Mane Six learning good lessons through friendship. It's going back and revisiting your past, not improving yourself for the future. I want to see Twilight moving forward, not going back and trying to fix every mistake she's ever made. Let her make new mistakes and learn from those. Fancy Pants and Fleur de Lis appear to be a couple again. So much for my Rarity x Fancy Pants ship, huh? Or is Fancy Pants just a two timer? Yeah, I call shenanigans on the idea that Spike's tail can perforate and crush a present, disemboweling a teddy bear in the process, yet leave the picture (which generally would have been placed on the bottom of the box with the teddy bear on top) untouched. Minor nitpick, though, so it's a neutral rather than a negative. And what's up with the title of the episode, anyway? "Mending Fences" would have been just as accurate a title, with the added benefit of actually being an existing expression. Why "amending fences"? It just comes off as trying too hard to make the title some kind of pun (not a new problem with FiM...) Twilight can invade Flatland, if only for a few minutes. I find it somewhat amusing that some fans have praised this idea for showing a limit on Twilight's magical power. She can go from three dimensions to two and make herself into a sentient line drawing, and because it's a temporary effect, that makes it a restriction? Do tell.   The Hugz
As I've mentioned in the episode discussion thread, there is a lesson to be learned here, about how a single act of thoughtlessness can lead to hurting someone, and that one should be careful of that. It's somewhat mired in the poor writing, but I think that's what they were going for. Spike at least got a little screen time that didn't involve him getting dumped on by the universe. He also showed his more thoughtful side, by presenting Moon Dancer with a present. Which she apparently treasures, even though it didn't come from Twilight...   Pros: An interesting premise, and there is a good moral in there somewhere, trying to get out.
Cons: The premise is poorly executed, the central conflict is based on one pony's obsession with Twilight, the characters introduced are nowhere near as likeable as our Mane cast is, the moral is rather unclear.   Final Thoughts
I had hoped that on reflection, I would find a few more positives in this episode. Unfortunately, the opposite happened. The more I think about this episode, the clumsier and more nonsensical I find it.   Final Ranking:
Rarity’s Cutie Mark Rank – A scintillating story! Sure to be rewatched frequently.
Rock Candy Rank – A highly enjoyable episode, but it couldn’t avoid a cavity or two.
Tom Rank – Average. While it looked like a diamond, it turned out to be just a rock.
Boulder Rank – Below average. Take it out once or twice, and then leave it in your pocket.
Rock Farm Rock Rank – A terrible episode. Leave it where it lies. Wow. What has happened to me? Have I become jaded? I've spent most of a day typing up a scathing condemnation of a simple story about righting past wrongs. I blame Slice of Life... it all went downhill from there... Stay sunny side up, or whatever.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

#TrixieDidNothingWrong

Coming up next millenium, on a Very Special Episode of Sunny Side Den: A recently created thread is sparking a heated debate about Trixie! And her (mis)treatment at the pointed ends / of the writers' quill pens... (Do they still use those? Why did that last sentence sort of rhyme? WHY DO WE PARK ON DRIVEWAYS AND DRIVE ON PARKWAYS?! So many Questions!™) But I have cut through the Gordian Knot™ of argument and counter-argument to arrive at THE TRUTH!™ Sad! Sick! Believe me! And here, in all its glory, is the ultimate truth, justice and the American way! (which, by the by, appears to be "outsource all your voice acting needs to Canada!") Guys, I think we all know who the real cause of all Trixie's #Totally #Unfair and #Not #At #All #Poetically #Justified #Woes is... one scaly S.O.D. (Son Of a Dragon) at whose clawed feet we can lay the blame! If Spike hadn't said "Look, unless an Ursa Major comes waltzing up the street for Trixie to vanquish, I am not gonna believe a word she says, and neither should you!", Spins™ and Slains™ would never have gone looking for one. GAAAASP! Does his evil know no bounds? When will just vengeance fall upon the one who truly deserves it? This is something that cannot be denied! Grab your pitchforks, ready your torches! We must punish the perpetrator truly responsible for the totality of Trixie's torrid treatment! (Alliteration never gets old for me... for you, eh, YMMV.) Brought to you by the Trademark Corporation™ and your friendly neighbourhood Sunny Fox! PS -  

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

 

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

 

Episode 83. “Trade Ya!”: The Bizarre Bazaar

If you want to trade for a mint comic, you gotta have a mint comic! - Spike I’ll give it to you straight: This episode sucks. It feels pointless, a tale told by a fool, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Seriously. We learn nothing new about the characters, the moral is both obvious and obscure simultaneously, and there is almost no comedy or action throughout the majority of it. So let’s examine this cluster-cluck, and I’ll show you just how deep the suckitude goes. (I know that’s not a real word, just go with it.) We return to Rainbow Falls for this episode – a bad sign already, considering the flak the titular episode got – as the Mane Six arrive to join in the Trader’s Exchange. Twilight has to officiate as part of her duties as Princess, and is nonplussed to find out that her arrival is very much the focus of everypony’s attention. Borrowing a page from Fluttershy’s book, the poor Princess runs away from all the hype, hiding her face behind her wings; Applejack’s response is rather philosophical. At the Trader’s Exchange, traders exchange items (wow, I am insightful, aren’t I?) and as long as both parties get something they want out of it, anything goes. I have a few issues with this that I’ll explore later. At this point, the Mane Six split up into pairs (Spike goes off on his own) and the story line splits into three parallel stories. These threads are mostly separate, although we occasionally get a glance at one or other of the pairs in the background as each story unfolds. Story 1: Rarity and Applejack
Having a common desire to obtain some vintage items, the Odd Couple heads over to the appropriate stalls. Along the way, they decide that they should pool their items in order to get something they really, really want. It's a stupid plan, and sure enough, the obvious problem arises... they both find something that they will need their entire pool to get. Applejack wants a pie pan that can cook pies 5 seconds faster, while Rarity wants a brooch identical to the one she already has, but is older and therefore more valuable. I have to say, Applejack's item is at least practical, so she really should have gotten it. We've seen pie deliveries done by the Apples, so the pan will definitely be put to good use. In a slight reversal of what one might expect, the two of them start arguing over who is the better friend and therefore who should let the OTHER pony get what they want. They make little headway by humorlessly bickering over this for the majority of the episode, so let's move over to Story 2, shall we? Story 2 (The Main Story): Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash
Rainbow really wants to get her hands on a unique first edition copy of the first Daring Do book, thereby completing a whole set of first edition copies. Meanwhile, Fluttershy wants to trade her bear call whistle for a bird call one, but puts off her own ambitions to help Rainbow. Finding the owner of the book, Rainbow is crestfallen to discover that her prized possession (a rusty old horseshoe she considers lucky) is of no value whatsoever. The unnamed stall-owner (Let’s call her Theodora) agrees to give Rainbow the book if she can get the two headed canine, an Orthros, from the Ancient Beast stall, the owner of which wants something else. Naturally, this sets up a chain of items that Rainbow needs to eventually trade for the book, in the finest tradition of annoying video game trading chains. Rainbow finally finds someone who will trade what she needs for her old rusty horseshoe, a fragile crystal chalice. One touch, and it shatters. Distraught, the two Pegasus ponies painstaking stick it back together, only for the pony who requested it to shatter it again to finish a mosaic… alright, I’ll give the episode a point there, that was amusing.
Mosaic me like one of your French hens… Finally obtaining the Orthros, they head back to the original stall, but find a crowd of ponies in their way as the sun starts to set, which will signal the end of the Trader’s Exchange. Fluttershy uses her bear call to clear the road, but drops it as Rainbow desperately drags them onward. Reaffirming her decision that helping Rainbow is her priority, Fluttershy decides to leave it. Despite all their travails, Theodora now says she doesn’t want the Orthros, having spent a whole day watching how vicious it is. Fluttershy manages to convince her that an Orthros just needs to be properly trained, and entreats her to complete the trade. Theodora eventually agrees, but only on condition that Fluttershy comes with the Orthros to train it herself… a process that will apparently take months. Rainbow, blinded by the hope of getting her hooves on her prize after all the effort, agrees. Her joy turns to horror, however, when she realizes that she just traded Fluttershy away as well. Story 3: Twilight Sparkle and Pinkie Pie
While she is there mainly to discharge her duties, Twilight reckons that she isn't obligated to do nothing the whole time. She has decided to trade away some of her books, since the library is getting overstocked. Pinkie, who doesn't have any thing she wants to trade and is just pony watching, decides to set herself up as her agent. This is after Twilight nearly trades away ALL her books to a little filly for a BROKEN quill, which Pinkie, sensibly, calls her out on.
Is Pinkie Pie gonna have to choke a filly? Less sensibly, Pinkie uses Twilight princesshood, and relationship to Princess Celestia, to raise the books perceived value, which results in nopony being able to trade for them. Which is just as well, since Twilight now decides the books have sentimental value. This makes the entire plotline here pointless, too. At this point, stories 2 and 3 converge when Rainbow arrives, desperate for Twilight to reverse the deal she made for the book by declaring it an unfair trade. After hearing both sides of the story, Twilight finds that she has to decide in favor of upholding the deal, since Rainbow Dash did verbally agree on it being fair in the first place. Rainbow makes an impassioned speech about nothing being more valuable than a friend, and therefore no trade involving a friend can be fair. This moves Theodora so much that she agrees to undo the trade, and Twilight declares the day’s proceedings closed.
Which technically makes this trade by Spike illegal… In the denouement, Applejack and Rarity each give the other a lesser gift that they traded their stash to get, Spike shows off his illegally gotten comic book (which is not encased in plastic, so I doubt it’s a mint comic anyway), Fluttershy reveals that Rainbow traded the Orthros to get her the bird call whistle, and Twilight gets rid of exactly one book, which is her copy of the first Daring Do book, by giving it to Rainbow. Mission accomplished? She claims it’s better because she can read it now with her friends.
Yeah, we see how often she reads books with her friends.

… I withdraw the comment. Why this Episode Sucks 1. The concept of trading one item for another makes sense, but how exactly does that extend to exchanging multiple items for a single item? If that’s valid, every pony would hold out for additional items, and less trading would be done as a result. The multiple item trade idea is in place for one reason: to drive the Applejack-Rarity plot thread. Speaking of which…   2. Not only was it utterly predictable to the audience that the plan of pooling resources would backfire, but it should have been entirely predictable to the characters too. In fact, a much better reason for going together and pooling their stashes is that it makes it more likely that they would have an item available that a particular stall owner would like to trade something for. Or did Applejack and Rarity both have junk that wasn’t worth much in the first place? In which case, why did they bring junk to the trader’s exchange?   3. Technically, Twilight trading all her books for a broken quill IS a valid trade. While Twilight doesn’t want the quill itself, she does want to get rid of her books. So she would be getting what she wants out of the deal, it would just be an intangible benefit. And intangible benefits are included in deals, since Fluttershy’s training of the Orthros is ultimately an intangible benefit (equivalent to indentured servitude – more on that later) and Twilight finds no reason to reject the deal on those grounds. And I hope no one would argue that the training clause didn’t form part of the deal. If the deal doesn’t go through unless that clause is included, then it’s part of the deal.   4. Most of the really big problems arise in the Fluttershy / Rainbow Dash story. First, we have Fluttershy totally ignoring her own desires on one hoof and Rainbow Dash’s thoughtless, nigh callous, acceptance of this on the other. That’s more than just being kind, that’s almost pathological self-sacrifice. Fluttershy’s not usually quite that meek. There was also an opportunity for her to show her more assertive side when defending the antique chickens from being traded, but she (literally) crawls away, once again making it clear that no amount of character development will stop her from being a pushover when the plot calls for it. The character derailments don’t stop there, however.   5. Oh dear, Dashie. She royally antique-chickened-up in this episode. Not only did she continually accept Fluttershy’s subsuming of her desires for her own, but she ended up trading her services away in the end. And yes, it’s true that Fluttershy was willing to make that sacrifice, but Rainbow didn’t know that. She was focused entirely on the book, and she never so much as glanced at Fluttershy, let alone asked her if she was willing to spend months away from her friends training the Orthros. (Note that Twilight doesn’t seem to have asked Fluttershy if she agreed to have her services traded for the book, either.) This is very jarring when you consider she is supposed to be the Element of Loyalty. Here, she is being loyal only to her own wishes. In her defense, I will say that she had a pretty rough time of it over the course of the episode, considering all the frustrations she suffered and the hoops she had to jump through, plus being put under pressure due to the time for the trade running out. Even so, this is something I would hardly expect of Season 1 Dash, let alone post-“Hurricane Fluttershy” Dash.   6. The deal itself carries some pretty unsettling implications. In fact, it includes outright indentured servitude for Fluttershy. I had originally thought that this amounts to slavery, but in doing a little bit of research, I found it wasn’t so clear cut, and that there are differences between the two. What is worrying is that in many cases, historically, these indentured servants were at the mercy of their masters, the unluckiest of whom could even end up killed by mistreatment. Is this really something that is allowed in Equestria?   7. Were any good lessons learned here? “Don’t trade your friends away for stuff” is hardly a moral that needs vital attention. Twilight learns that you need material items to remind you of the good times you had with your friends. And that you should hold onto your past, rather than look to your future. I can understand the idea of keepsakes or mementos, but holding on to every book you ever read because they played a small part in getting you where you are isn’t really a great moral. Applejack and Rarity didn’t learn any real lesson, and spend a lot of the episode pointlessly arguing. Neither Spike and Pinkie even had a moral to discover. So does this episode have any redeeming qualities? Well, yes.1. There were plenty of cameos to be seen in the background, such as Aunt and Uncle Orange, Donut Joe, Matilda, etc. And this one in particular: See, there's the stallion Rarity bought the asparagus from in "Putting Your Hoof Down". Seems he's more confident with the ladies, now doesn't it? Just as I predicted   2. There was a touch of humour, like the crystal chalice bit I already mentioned. There's also the scene where Applejack gets to reuse her Spock impersonation, then tries to play a shell game with the two brooches. It sort of backfires when she's forced to admit she doesn't know which one is which any more.   3. This pony. She is pretty. I call her Petal Pink. This was a really pointless episode. There was a funny touch here and there, but overall, it didn't teach much and it didn't do much to entertain, either. The idea of exactly what can be traded seems simple on the surface, but has some really unsettling implications, which I'm not sure the writers really considered while coming up with the plot. 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!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Looking at Rarity Part 1: Reasons Rarity Rocks

Let’s just jump right in. Talented Her talent is recognized by ponies such as: Hoity Toity, a fashion bigwig (literally) from Canterlot (Suited for Success – review coming soon ); Sapphire Shores, the Pony of Pop, who also mentions that Rarity has been given at least one rave review as an up-and-comer in Clothes Horse Magazine (A Dog and Pony Show); the ruler of the land, Princess Celestia (A Canterlot Wedding); and in her latest focus episode, Prim Hemline, the fashion community of Manehatten and even a costume designer for the Equestria equivalent of Broadway (Rarity Takes Manehatten). So her skills as a fashion designer have been recognized in at least two major cities. It’s pretty apparent that if it were not for the fact that she consistently puts her friends ahead of her fashion career, she would already be a huge success. It’s not that she isn’t good enough to leave them all behind and achieve her dreams. She chooses to remain with her friends, and she is not willing to sacrifice her friendships for success, give or take the odd wobble. Sophisticated This is not a result of serendipity. She was not born into a high class family; quite the opposite, in fact, as her parents and Sweetie Belle make entirely clear. She has lifted herself up to that level, through nothing but her own hard work and determination. In Sweet and Elite, she proves that she fits right in with the most upper class ponies in Canterlot. All it takes is one chance meeting with Fancy Pants to set her up as the Pony Everypony Should Know. Even if that was a case of right time and place, she still made the best of the opportunity, as she later impresses the upper class ponies in the absence of Fancy Pants himself. Even in real life, making the right connection is often necessary for one’s virtues to be recognized, so I believe Rarity should still be given credit for making the most of her lucky break. And despite knowing who and how important he is, she didn’t just sycophantically agree with everything he said, like the hangers-on were doing. She was willing to vocally disagree with him. Finally, that wonderful accent, darling? That sort of accent has to be worked on and polished, much like a diamond. In many senses, she is a self-made mare. Which bring us to the next point. Hard-working She owns her own business, Carousel Boutique, and she runs it alone. She has no employees, purchases her own supplies, finds her own raw materials and she makes all her own dresses (I’m looking at you, Suri Polomare). With the possible exception of Applejack, she is the one who works the hardest out of all the Mane Six, and even then, Applejack has her family to help her, while Rarity goes it alone. Related to this, she is trendy, and I mean that in the most positive sense. Rarity does not follow fashions, for the most part. She actively looks forward and tries to anticipate what fashions will be popular in the near future, and she strives to stay ahead of the game. Another thing she works really hard on is her appearance, and that is the next thing I want to look at. Beautiful, Cute and Charming She is gorgeous. That mane deserves its own billing in the credits. Purple being one of my two favorite colours doesn’t hurt her case either (the other one is green, if you were wondering ). I’ve also always been partial to ladies with blue eyes, and Rarity’s peepers are just the right shade. The only pony (both in universe and out) who can compete in the beauty department is Fluttershy. The indications are that (apart from mane extensions ) Fluttershy is beautiful without making any effort to be (just look at how little mud her mud mask needs in Green isn’t your Colour) whereas Rarity works at being beautiful. She wears false eyelashes, frequently goes to the spa, and apparently brushes her mane a hundred times before she goes to bed and uses curlers. She brings out her own beauty. To me, the essence of Rarity is bringing out the hidden beauty in things. She strives to be better in her appearance and her behavior, and wants others to be better as well. She takes raw materials and produces beautiful dresses from them. She finds gems hidden in the ground, and if they weren’t already cut and polished naturally, no doubt she would cut and polish them as well. Out of all the ponies, her cutie mark is arguably the most appropriate to her character. She is also amazingly cute. Just look at her expressions.
How can you say "no" to this face? Finally, whether you agree with how she employs her ability or not, Rarity is able to charm just about anypony. And she does it without ruffling any feathers or making anyone feel bad to have her turn her attention to them. Even when she does it to get something for herself, she makes her target feel good about it. Caring and Forgiving Rarity is often shown to be very insightful into her friends. She recognizes when others are putting on a brave face, like Rainbow Dash in Sonic Rainboom. She noticed that something was bothering Twilight in Lesson Zero. She was the one who comforted Spike after he rampaged through Ponyville in Secret of My Excess, and defended him against Rainbow’s teasing in Dragon Quest, before trekking half-way across Equestria with Rainbow and Twilight in a dragon costume she made herself with no prior notice in order to keep an eye on him. And finally, despite being in a deep depression, she came running to the rescue when she thought her dear pet Opal was caught in a tree in Suited for Success. When the Cutie Mark Crusaders were found out to be Gabby Gums in Ponyville Confidential, Rarity was the only one who actually tried to explain why what they were doing was wrong, instead of just turning her back to three young fillies who had made a mistake and felt terribly guilty about it. She forgave her friends at the drop of a cat (pun intended) in Suited for Success, forgave Sweetie Belle for ruining the cloth she spend a long time making in The Stare Master, and forgave Fluttershy when she said some extremely hurtful things to her and Pinkie Pie in Putting your Hoof Down. Intelligent; Quick Thinking; Adaptable; Witty While Twilight may be the acknowledged as the brains of the Mane Six outfit, Rarity shows that she is far from vapid herself. She very quickly gets the number of the Diamond Dogs, and outfoxes them thoroughly by the end of the episode. In The Crystal Empire, she not only learns a traditional hat-making method overnight, but also manages to think up excuses for Spike’s sudden departure in order to keep the crystal ponies from realizing something is wrong. She came up with a great idea to explain why they had a fake Crystal Heart, which Applejack totally ruined. She also showed her ability to learn things quickly when she volunteered to work on Cadence’s hair, and despite skipping a step, she managed to correct the resulting disaster in time (Game Ponies Play). She also delivers her fair share of snarky lines. Tough Not only is Rarity both beautiful and intelligent, but she can kick serious flank when she wishes to. She may be a lady, but she can take care of herself. Notable scenes include her giving Applejack a roundhouse kick to the face and lugging around a huge boulder in Return of Harmony; coming just short of first place in a race alongside Sweetie Belle, and being athletic enough throughout that Sweetie Belle had no idea that it was not in fact Applejack running with her in Sisterhooves Social; facing down three teenage dragons in Dragon Quest (and delivering a fabulous line at the same time) and outright smacking Changelings in the face with a solid right hook during A Canterlot Wedding. Let’s face it, for somepony who is often called "prissy" she’s really quite a powerhouse. Dramatic Rarity is generally agreed to be one of the most entertaining ponies to have on the screen. Her flair for the dramatic and tendency to chew the scenery make her a riot to watch, and provide some of the series best lines (“I’ll destroy her!”; “Fighting’s not really my thing, I’m more into fashion… BUT I’LL TEAR YOU TO PIECES IF YOU TOUCH ONE SCALE ON HIS CUTE LITTLE HEAD!”; “Of the all worst things that could happen, this is the worst. POSSIBLE. THING! beat What? I really mean it this time…”) Of course, not everyone appreciates that aspect of her as much as I do, but I’m including it as a positive here in any case. Complex Now to be fair, none of the Mane Six are what you would call simple or flat characters. There is a lot of depth to all of them. Still, I feel that Rarity goes beyond the others in this category. Rarity wants good things for others, but she also wants good things for herself. She's caught in a tug of war within herself between these two motivations. For example, consider Green Isn't Your Colour. In that episode, Rarity wanted to be happy for Fluttershy and her success as a model, but she was also very jealous of the attention she was getting. And then she felt guilty for having those feelings, especially when things seemed to be going wrong for Fluttershy. That's just one example from one episode, and I could list more, but I think that suffices for the point I wanted to make here. She has her flaws, as well, which I will deal with in another entry at a later time. Now you may have noticed that I have yet to mention what most consider the foremost aspect of her character, her generosity. That’s quite deliberate. I don’t need to defend Rarity’s generosity in order to justify her being my favourite pony. Not when there are all these other great reasons to like her. If you want evidence of that, I’d recommend getting hold of @@ghostfacekiller39: he has a list. So that was Part 1 of Looking at Rarity, focused exclusively on what I think to be her good points. In Part 2, I want to look at some of her more questionable personality traits. I’ll examine the things fans point out as reasons not to like Rarity, and I’ll explain which ones I think are sound, and which ones I think would be Look forward to it, and of course, stay Rarity side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Disney Princesses Tattoos

In my varied travels through the 'net, I came upon these: Tattoo-arific (I know that's not a word, just go with it) pictures featuring the most well-known Disney Princesses.   Which one do you like the best? Can you guess which one I like?   Source: http://www.buzzfeed.com/donnad/disney-princesses-as-fierce-vintage-tattoed-pin-ups I had nothing to do with the creation of these, but I sure do like them.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Sometimes, you just gotta join the rest of the guys in the asylum...

READ FULL ENTRY READ FULL ENTRY READ FULL ENTRY READ FULL ENTRY READ FULL ENTRY WHAT? IT'S MY BLOG, I CAN DO WHAT I WANT READ FULL ENTRY READ FULL ENTRY READ FULL ENTRY READ FULL ENTRY READ FULL ENTRY Well, I finally caved in and joined a forum fad. This one is cute enough that I couldn't resist. You finally, really did it. You blew me up. You maniacs. Have some Apple Bloom:  

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

 

Jack vs Aku – Part One (Episode C)

Why does this episode make think of John Lithgow and Sylvester Stallone? Huh… Anyway, the penultimate episode of Samurai Jack is upon us! Let’s see how the lovebirds are doing...   What Happens Following on from the last episode, Jack and Ashi are kissing. However, the romance is dampened by the fact that they still have slug juice in their mouths, causing them to separate and spit the taste out. Reassuring each other that it isn’t a reflection on the kiss itself, they decide to get clean. While Ashi, still wrapped in Jack’s gi, goes to find some suitable clothes, Jack heads outside the ship and luckily finds a broken pipe to use as a shower. Ashi, now clad in a green one-piece dress, appreciates the view of Jack nekkid, but leaves his now-clean gi where he can find it. The two both manage to find some bugs in the desert to cook for dinner that night, despite being chewy and rather unappetizing. Jack reminisces on the beauty of the valley where he grew up, before Aku returned, and mentions that he thinks that he will only ever have the memory, which saddens Ashi. We switch back over to Scaramouch’s journey and Scarry has coopted an octopus to serve as his body. He finally finds Aku’s spire, and despite an automated recording from Aku that he is not currently receiving visitors, proceeds inside. He convinces Aku to talk to him and tells him about the issing-May ord-Sway of ack-Jay. Aku is pleased to hear this, and restores Scaramouch’s body as reward for bringing the good-bad news. They dance.
Do the Robot! In the morning, Ashi wakes to find that Jack has left her behind in secret and follows his trail again. (Note the separate beds… I guess a kiss is as far as they went… pity) Jack walks through the desert, and finds himself in a familiar place… the wreckage of giant robots all around. As he clambers over them, he comes to a destroyed time portal and sees some familiar red sun-glasses broken on the ground. It seems the Guardian and his time portal are no more. (Ah, man. I had hoped to see him again. I guess prophecy is not infallible…) Ashi arrives and soon, so do Aku and Scaramouch. Aku does his usual “fooooolish Samurai!” bit, until Jack unsheathes his sword. Scaramouch barely manages to protest before Aku blows him up… this time for good. (He just got… Scarasmooshed…  YEEAAHHH!) Jack tries to attack Aku, but the Shogun of Sorrow avoids him easily, despite being distracted by something that smells like him, but isn’t. Aku then turns to Ashi… As it turns out, Aku did once visit the Cult of the Daughters, and even contributed some of his evil (from his hands, I might hasten to clarify) for the High Priestess to drink, thus impregnating her with Ashi and her sisters. (So the name “the Daughters of Aku” turned out to be literal. I must confess, I didn’t see that one coming…) Ashi is unable to control her body, attacking Jack with a purloined sword. After they trade a few blows, Aku fully releases the evil within Ashi, turning her into a black-clad clone of himself, with GREAT FLAMING EYEBROWS! The fight resumes, Akushii being much stronger and faster now. Jack still manages to graze her with the sword, releasing the good part of Ashi long enough to beg Jack to kill her before she is again subsumed. However, Jack cannot bring himself to do it, and drops his sword. A triumphant Aku holds it up as Jack collapses before Akushii and… WATCH OUT! Thoughts on the Episode You see, Friendship is Magic: that is how you do a cliffhanger! I always disliked the habit of two-parters in FiM being aired together… it leaves no time for tension to build. And for now, that is where I will leave it. Comments welcomed, and look forward to a bumper review when this whole shebang is all wrapped up. Stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 35. “Sweet and Elite”: Rarity, Lacking Verity, Inspires Hilarity

What croquet mallet? – Rarity I love Rarity but this episode really tries its hardest to make me dislike her. I mean love as a character, not romantically – whatever floats your boat, but that’s just not my kind of thing. But in the words of the Cat!Inquisitor, “This is your judgement day, bud. I gotta be cruel. There can’t be no favours.” Enough stalling, let’s do this.   Summary
Rarity is in Canterlot to buy fabric, and is staying at the Castle as a guest of Princess Celestia by way of Twilight’s request. She decides that making Twilight a dress for her upcoming birthday party would be the perfect way to thank her. She has a chance encounter with a pair of Canterlot socialites, Jet Set and Upper Crust, who admiringly ask about her hat. When she is outed as being from Ponyville, the two retract their approval and insult Rarity as being “country”, before sticking their noses in the air and leaving. This snub spurs Rarity to show her class by making Twilight’s dress super fancy and something “worthy of Canterlot”. On her way back to her apartment with necessary supplies, she literally runs into a pony of very high social standing named Fancy Pants.
Now isn’t that an ironic name? He doesn’t even wear pants. Stammering apologies, Rarity lets slip that she is a guest of the Princess, which Fancy Pants thinks makes her worthy of his attentions, and he invites her to join him in his VIP (Very Important Pony) box at the Wonderbolts Derby. After a brief internal debate about whether to prioritize the social boost spending time with FP will bring, or the time needed to make Twilight’s elaborate dress, she chooses the former. Joining FP are other important high society ponies, who are shocked to hear her contradict him in who is most likely to win the Derby. As it turns out, Rarity’s inside knowledge of the Wonderbolts, which of course comes from Rainbow Dash, means her prediction is vindicated. This further impresses FP and his hangers on. I like this scene for its treatment of both Rarity and Fancy Pants. First, it shows Rarity is not afraid to speak her mind, and second, it shows FP is quite gracious when contradicted and proven wrong. As a bonus, it’s the first time Fleetfoot is named. Unfortunately, this is almost immediately followed by Rarity lying about who Rainbow Dash is, saying she’s the Wonderbolts’ trainer. This is bad because, well, lying is wrong, and inexcusable, even for one’s favourite pony. Secondly, it’s a lie that makes no sense: she could just as easily told the truth. Rainbow Dash is the winner of the Best Young Flier competition, and one of the ponies who saved Equestria twice, and a pony who clearly has the ability to become a Wonderbolt herself. Which should be plenty important enough for anypony. Nice going, writer! Suddenly being the center of attention, Rarity is invited to various events by the socialites. She tries to refuse so as to work more on Twilight’s dress, but eventually gives in, by way of a musical montage. I love this song, Becoming Popular. I don’t care who you think is the best singer out of the Mane Six, unless you say “Kazumi Evans”, you’re simply wrong. (Okay, not really, music is very subjective… still, you can’t deny she has a lovely voice.)
Art Gallery Rarity – the true masterpiece on display. Rarity, having made little progress on Twilight’s dress, is about to return home in time to finish it, when she gets a written invite to the Canterlot Garden Party, courtesy of the two snooty ponies she wasn’t important enough for before. She decides to go, despite this meaning she will miss Twilight’s birthday. She next perpetrates the biggest lie ever written in the show, claiming Opal is too sick to travel as an excuse for why she can’t be there. Despite the entertaining histrionics, this is again a lie that is pretty unnecessary, and y’know, wrong. (It might even be… badong!) The simple truth would probably have been accepted. Rarity is about to leave for the party when the Mane Six surprise her: they decided to move the Twilight’s birthday to Canterlot so Rarity could attend despite Opal’s condition… when they ask to see Opal, Rarity douses her with water to make her look sick, which earns her a face that promises retribution…
Of course you realize, this means war? Luckily, Twilight prefers thinks the plain dress and thinks Rarity deliberately made it that way. The group head to the Canterlot Ball Room, which Pinkie has decorated using her party canon (first appearance!), since the Garden is being used for the Garden Party. As the evening proceeds, Rarity joins in the party antics of the Mane Six, but decides to try to split her time between the two parties. This leads to one of the funnier sequences in the show, plus what I consider the best visual gag ever:
Of course, splitting her time between two parties tires her out, and she ends up being found out when she accidentally brings in a croquet mallet from outside. She tries to apologize, but Twilight still doesn’t realize she was being dishonest, and thinking of her as just being business savvy, is perfectly okay with Rarity going to the other party. Then disaster… Rainbow Dash suggests they all go to the other party, which they promptly do. This is probably not as presumptuous on Dash’s part as it might seem; after all, they had no idea that Rarity had been specifically invited, or that it was an exclusive party. Still, their behaviour at the party is pretty disruptive and boorish. Rarity tries to pretend she’s not part of their group, but when Fancy Pants asks about Twilight’s dress, the jig is up. Twilight proudly proclaims that Rarity made her dress, and she loves it. Fancy Pants asks if Rarity does know the other ponies, and she hesitates… however, seeing the dismay starting to appear on the faces of her friends, Rarity confirms that she does know them, and that she considers them wonderful ponies and wonderful friends. When Jet Set and Upper Crust deride them all as “ruffians”, they are unexpectedly defended by Fancy Pants himself, who says they are “charmingly rustic”. Rarity starts a Lesson Letter to Celestia, but gets to deliver it to her in person instead, saying that one is a product of where they come from, and they should always be proud of it.   Thoughts on the Episode
This episode is entertaining, but it really does a number on Rarity’s integrity. She tells blatant lies for her own benefit, sneaks around behinds the back of her friends, and generally behaves more like a weasel than a pony. And this is coming from ME, so you know it has to be bad! Perhaps even worse, her lies and bad behaviour are never discovered, never acknowledged or even noticed in-universe. I also feel that her treatment of Opal was reprehensible. Never mind Rainbow’s treatment of Tank; this was outright animal abuse. I can only hope Opal gave Rarity a good few bites and scratches when they got home, because they would definitely be deserved. And although she was polite to her poor, put upon bellhop, neither she nor Princess Celestia really seemed to care about his problems. The moral too pretty much comes out of nowhere, and the lesson pretty meaningless considering she spent much of the episode trying to deny her roots. Worse, she sacrificed nothing of herself to learn the lesson. Oh, and one more big flaw in the episode: No Spike! At Twilight’s birthday party! He’s not even mentioned. Not cool, writers, not cool! Now that I’ve fully acknowledged the bad, allow me to focus on some good. First, we see that Rarity really does have what it takes to make it in Canterlot. As in real life, making the right connections socially is an important part of making a success of your endeavours, especially in a society where status is paramount. Her ability to think on her hooves is demonstrated as well, even if it is mostly used in devious ways. Fancy Pants was a great character to introduce. Despite his position as an elite of Canterlot, he seems quite down-to-earth, friendly and kind. (And he has a huge… horn… wink wink, nudge nudge) He’s nowhere near humble, of course, but he still provides a wonderful contrast to Jet Set and Upper Crust. Our first view of these two is them stalking about, noses in the air. And they’re a pair of trend chasers, too. They are snobs, through and through, and give the lie to anyone who ever described Rarity as such. There’s a difference between pride and arrogance, and arrogance is needed for someone to be a snob. Despite her poor showing in other areas in this episode, at least Rarity is not anything like those two. Also, it should be acknowledged that she did make the right choice in the end. And she didn’t have to actually make the bad decision and then somehow make it right, as happens in some other episodes. When push came to shove, she came down on the correct side. I enjoyed the humour in this episode too. The two-party sequence is extremely funny, and is done with minimal dialogue, letting the visuals and facial expressions do the work of portraying the hilarity.   Highlights/Quotes
The song: absolutely spectacular. Party cannon becomes part of the canon! The aforementioned conga line gag. Plus Rarity absently dipping her hors d'oeuvres into the chocolate. It’s all in the details, Dash:
Dash: Okay, what’s with the croquet mallet?
Rarity (muffled): What croquet mallet?
Dash: Duh, the one in your mouth.   Pros: Great humour, especially visually; some nice firsts introduced in the form of FP and the party canon.
Cons: Rarity really misbehaves and yet avoids due karma mostly through luck; a clumsy, tacked-on moral; no sign of Spike.   Final Rating
5 – Celestia Rank: A great episode. It will be re-watched frequently.
4 – Luna Rank: A good episode, but with one or two problems that prevent it from being great.
3 – Spike Rank: An average episode. Positives and negatives are balanced.
2 – Discord Rank: Worth watching once. After that, turn it to stone and put it in the garden.
1 – Nightmare Moon Rank: Send it to the moon! Woah, ironic. At any rate, I think I’ve spoken enough ill of Rarity… in the next episode, there’s a scene where I can actually defend her actions, and thus the rightful order shall be restored to the universe of this sunshine vulpine. Until then, remember that honesty is the best policy (even if you think you can get away with lying) and stay on the sunny side.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Season 4 Retrospective: The Best and the Worst Episodes

I have some good news and some bad news for you, dear readers. The good news is that there were some great Season 4 episodes. The bad news is that there are some real stinkers in there too. I ascribe to the idea that in situations like these, one should have one’s choice as to which kind of news to hear first. In the interests of following that principle, you will find my picks for the Best and the Worst episodes in Season 4 under the appropriate headings, hidden behind spoiler tags for your convenience (or perhaps inconvenience). It shouldn’t need to be said, but it will be anyway: these are just the way I personally feel about the episodes, and if you loved an episode I hated (or vice versa), that doesn’t mean I’m right and you’re wrong (or vice versa). Everyone reacts to things in their own unique way, and that is to be celebrated. If you think I got my facts wrong and want to correct me or wish to offer an alternative interpretation of events, feel free to do so. No guarantees you'll manage to convince me, but I'll try to weigh the evidence fairly. And so, I invite you to join me in a roundup of Season 4’s thrills and spills. The Good News The Bad News And there you have it, folks! Season 4, all tied up with a pretty little bow. Feel free to comment (politely, of course ) if you think I got the wrong end of the stick, or if you saw good or bad things I missed in any particular episode. See you in Season 5, and 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

 

I need advice about pets…

I have a pet by the name of Paul. I got him as a gift from my parents when they visited me a few months ago. I recently decided it was time to train him. However, no matter how hard I try, I can’t get him to respond to his name. And you can forget about playing fetch, he doesn’t even move when I throw the stick. Please help me. I’ll post a picture of him so you can identify his species…     What do you think the problem is?

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 21. “Over a Barrel”: How the West was Won, and the Pies It Got Us

My father stampeded on these grounds, and his father before him, and his father before him, and his father before him… – Chief THUNDERHOOVES The Mane Six are on their way via train to the Western frontier town of Appaloosa so that Applejack can give one of her apple trees, Bloomberg, to her relatives there.
The train's engine is not very powerful, unfortunately… it only has four horsepower! Applejack is babying the tree by reading it a bedtime story, to the annoyance of Rarity, so is also put out that the tree has a car all to himself while she is lodging with the rest. The gals are chattering excitedly, irritating both Rarity and Spike, who are trying to get some shuteye. Spike eventually escapes to Bloomberg’s car, while Rarity goes for the direct approach and shouts the others into silence. They awaken in the morning to find a herd of buffalo are keeping pace with the train. Their delight turns to concern when the buffalo start ramming the train, sending the Mane Six bouncing around. Eventually, the smallest of the buffalo, later introduced as Little Strongheart, jumps onto the roof and heads towards the rear car, Bloomberg and Spike. Although Rainbow Dash attempts to confront the interloper, she is unprepared for how agile she can be. RD slams into a sign, and gets left behind as Strongheart uncouples the last car and the rest of the herd push it away. Poor Spike is last seen calling to the Mane Six for help as they recede into the distance. On arrival at Appaloosa (sorry, I mispronounced that, it should be AAAAAppa<<whinny>>LOOSA! ) they try to explain the situation, but AJ’s cousin Braeburn is too busy pushing them from sight to sight to listen. He shows them the various puntastic locations, including horse-drawn carriages, horse drawn horse-drawn carriages, Wild West dances, Mild West dances, the local watering hole and the Sheriff’s office.
Always ready to serve and protect… but only after his siesta! After they get to the apple orchard, AJ finally gets through to Braeburn and explains that buffalo took their tree, and their dragon, while RD and Pinkie are both missing, presumably attempting a rescue. Braeburn talks about how the buffalo want the orchard to be removed entirely (although not why, an issue which I will discuss later). While this is going on, Rainbow is indeed on Spike’s trail, although she still has both a headache and a grudge against Strongheart to nurse. Pinkie surprises her, and Pinkie being Pinkie, gets them discovered by the buffalo, due to her own obtuseness. Luckily, Spike is nearby, and has clout with the buffalo on account of being a dragon. Thus safe from trampling, the three head back to the buffalo’s camp. As they eat dinner (gruel and gemstones, you figure out who eats what), Rainbow encounters Little Strongheart again, and is mad enough to try to leave. Strongheart apologizes for the earlier ruckus fracas and makes amends. They meet up with Chief THUNDERHOOVES, the leader of the buffalo, who explains (at enough length that even the other buffalo are falling asleep) that the Appaloosans have planted their orchard on the tribe’s sacred stampeding grounds and trapped them. Rainbow Dash decides to take their side, and resolves to talk to the Appaloosans and get them to move the trees. As the Mane Six Appaloosa-side prepare to set out for their own rescue attempt, their missing party members meet them, and bring Little Strongheart to talk with Braeburn. The peace talk is immediately derailed by RD and AJ taking sides and starting to argue. Pinkie tries to mend the rift with a song, but it’s apparently so bad that all the Sheriff and the Chief can agree on is how much it sucks. Chief THUNDERHOOVES gives an ultimatum for high noon the next day… the trees are either gone, or they will be trampled, along with the entire town. Sheriff tells him to “bring it” and thus both sides prepare for war. Despite the overtures of the Mane Six, back on the same side again, no pony or buffalo seems willing to listen. As the deadline approaches, Chief THUNDERHOOVES begins to have second thoughts, and it seems like the war is averted… until Pinkie repeats her awful song, and “CHHAARRRGE!” As the buffalo advance, the Appaloosans let loose with a barrage of apple pies, as well as defensive measures that have varying degrees of effectiveness. As Chief THUNDERHOOVES charges at the Sheriff, who has run out of ammo and can only resolve to meet death with dignity, a stray pie downs the Chief. The battle comes to a halt as both sides start to mourn the Chief’s falling, until the pie also has a falling… onto the Chief’s tongue. Awakened by the taste of the pie, he announces that he has a much better idea. The majority of the trees can stay as long as the buffalo have enough room to stampede, and in exchange, the Appaloosans have to provide them with pies. The peace restored, Bloomberg is planted in a new home, AJ and RD run off into the sunset with Little Strongheart, and Twilight tacks on the moral for today’s lesson: compromise good, conflict bad.   Thoughts on the Episode I have to admit, I don’t have much of a cultural context on this one, not being American. Even so, I can see how taking something like the conflict between Native American tribes and western settlers, an extremely violent period of history, and reducing it to a food fight could be considered rather damn insulting. The writing is really off this episode. The conflict over how the land should be used is not such a bad concept in itself (except so far as mentioned in the former paragraph) but how is it that the buffalo could have made their dissatisfaction known without actually saying WHY they wanted the trees gone? Braeburn knows the buffalo have a problem with the trees. So did they just march up to the ponies, say “Move those trees!” and then trot off back to their teepees without another word? It would be another thing if the two groups had had some sort of meeting before that, and been unable to come to a resolution. There’s no evidence of any such thing happening, so the groups on either side of the conflict seem rather unreasonable. That’s simply not realistic, and as I said, pretty insulting compared to the actual conflict it was based on. The conflict within the Mane Six is also badly handled. Little Strongheart and Braeburn were ready to discuss the issue, and at least find out what the other side wanted and where they were coming from. This could well have led to a compromise and resolution, sans The Battle of the Baked Goods, but both Rainbow Dash and Applejack ruined it by taking it upon themselves to speak for the two parties and ending up in an argument. Yet in the scene where the Appaloosans are preparing for the fight, all of the Mane Six are together and on the same side. I think it would have been more interesting to have Applejack actually side with the settler ponies, and Rainbow side with the buffalo, with the other Mane Six ponies caught between the two. As it is, the conflict between the Mane Six members goes nowhere and so seems somewhat arbitrary. Speaking of Mane Six characters, both Rarity and Pinkie Pie had a pretty awful outing in this episode. Let’s start with Rarity. In this episode alone, I could understand how some people could have considered her behaviour whiny.
I am not whining, I am complaining! I mentioned this briefly in my recap of A Dog and Pony Show, so as promised, here’s a bit fuller of an explanation. (Ghostie and the rest of the fan club will just have to forgive me for this…) First, in the opening scene, Rarity was complaining about having to sleep in the same car as the others while Bloomberg got a sleeper car to himself. Apart from her plaintive tone, she’s also being a bit of a diva here, acting as if she should get special treatment. She was also rather abrupt in shouting at the others to be quiet… although, I sympathize with her somewhat in this. I also hate being kept up by others making noise when I’m trying to sleep, and can get very irritable. Still, it’s not a very admirable scene for Rares there. She also sounded pretty whiny when Applejack accidentally pulled her saddle bag strap too tight. (“Gently, please!”) Now for Pinkie Pie. Oh, man, was Pinkie in poor form. First of all, she disappears to follow Rainbow Dash without apparently giving the others any explanation of where she was going, then gets them captured by the buffalo by being oblivious to the fact that Rainbow was trying to hide. Even Pinkie should have been serious, if she was there to rescue Spike as she said she was. They were lucky that Spike was there to rescue them instead by vouching for them with the buffalo. Later on, she sings a song that escalates the situation. Oddly, it’s not all that different from any of Pinkie’s other songs, so why it made things worse is beyond me (plot convenience, I guess, so one more chalk mark under Poor Writing.) That may be forgivable, since she was just trying to help, and couldn’t have known that the song would be such an epic fail. But then right before the battle, she sings the damn song again for no reason, and sets off the buffalo, who were having second thoughts. Pinkie usually knows when to be somewhat serious, and her childish behaviour here is another mark of poor writing. The final battle and the downing of Chief THUNDERHOOVES during it are also problematic: for the buffalo it makes sense, but why are the ponies sad he went down? To them, he’s the unreasonable enemy who wants them gone, and is willing to trash their town and destroy their food source to make it happen. They should have been glad when he gets taken out. Speaking of, how could anyone have really thought an apple pie in the face was lethal or even damaging?
I used to be a buffalo chief, until I took an apple pie in the face…

Tell me about it! Unless the pie Chief THUNDERHOOVES was hit with was a dark matter apple pie, it shouldn’t have knocked him out, and it certainly shouldn’t have stopped his unconscious body from squishing Silver Star due to pure momentum. (The Sheriff’s “face death with dignity” moment was pretty awesome, though.) It's even more egregious (I love that word!) considering that we see how the pies work against every other buffalo: they don't do damage but rather make it so they can't see where they are going. As for the final solution Chief THUNDERHOOVES came up with, it’s blindingly obvious in hindsight: clear enough space for the buffalo to stampede while still letting the rest of the apple trees grow, and share the fruit / pies. Did it really require a minor war, major property damage and grieving for a fallen leader for someone to hit upon that idea… … Actually, the thought occurs that it did. Maybe the writer was a bit more subtle and skilled than I’m giving him credit for. You see, Chief THUNDERHOOVES gets the idea because the pie was so delicious. This matters because we were shown what the buffalo eat previously, a kind of mushy gruel of unknown composition. From Rainbow Dash’s reaction, it doesn’t seem very appetizing. Pinkie likes it, but then, Pinkie likes any food that doesn’t outright poison her (and liquid rainbows aren’t food). At any rate, the hint is there. Once Chief THUNDERHOOVES tastes the pie (tastier than what he’s used to), he realizes that the trees can benefit him and his tribe as well. He no longer sees them as an obstacle and nothing more, and this opens the way to the compromise. There was even some foreshadowing of the resolution during Pinkie’s song, when she sticks an apple into both Little Strongheart and Sheriff Silver Star’s mouths… so Pinkie did have the answer after all but no one noticed! ) Can we balance out the negatives even further? On the plus side… at least it gave Dark Qiviut an idea for an OC. Alright, that’s not really much to do with the quality of the episode itself, so let’s look for some more positives, of which Little Strongheart is one. At least she gets a name and a bit of a personality; better than the rest of the buffalo, apart from Chief THUNDERHOOVES. As her name implies, she’s determined, but kind. She was willing to apologize to Rainbow Dash, and wanted to find a peaceful solution to the orchard problem. She’s also pretty athletic, and as Rainbow admits, rather fast for being so bulky (compared to the ponies at least… except Bulk Biceps). One wonders why she’s not only the youngest but apparently the only female member of the tribe. Is she the daughter of Chief THUNDERHOOVES? Do only males and youngsters get the opportunity to stampede, and the female buffalo are just elsewhere while the episode plays out? I guess we won’t get any answers to these questions, unless the buffalo reappear for more than a cameo (Pinkie Pride) in Season 5. As for the buffalo, although clearly the Equestrian equivalent of Native Americans, they manage to avoid many of the stereotypes. They speak perfectly good English / Equestrian, no “hows” and “ums” are heard, and they don’t dance around the fire beating tomtoms, so we should probably give the writer credit for not making them as offensive as he could have. He pretty much had to include the feathered headdress, teepees and war paint, though. Overall, the episode has some major problems, and the things it gets right are much less in evidence. Still, on thinking more about it, I can’t give it the lowest ranking, since those things are there to be found. The upshot of this is that it gets a rescue from the bottom of the pile… but not by much.   Highlights/Quotes Regarding Bloomberg getting a bedtime story and a private car.Rarity: You talk about it as if it’s your baby or something.
Applejack: Who are you calling a baby? Bloomberg’s no baby!
Applejack: <To Bloomberg> Don’t let Widdle Wawity make you all saddy waddy, Bloomberg’s a big strong apple tree, yes he is! A-coochi-coochi-coo-coo-coo! Everyone knows the “Fluttershy is a tree” conversation, so no need to repeat it here. After Pinkie’s song:
THUNDERHOOVES: It appears that Sheriff Silver Star and I have come to an agreement.
Silver Star: We have indeedy.
Everyone leans forward hopefully…
THUNDERHOOVES: That was the worst performance we’ve ever seen.
Silver Star: Absatively!   Pros: Little Strongheart is a somewhat interesting character. The tree conversation was amusing. Here and there is an instance of clever writing / foreshadowing to be found. Cons: Mostly poor writing. Rarity is too whiny. Pinkie Pie is a bubblehead who ruins everything. Rainbow and Applejack do more harm than good. It takes a bloody conflict and great tragedy of history and reduces it to apple pies and bad puns.   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

 

Jack’s Backpack (Episode XCV)

I’m getting a sinking feeling that the theme naming of these entries is going to become harder to pull off... and speaking of sinking feelings, let’s check in with Jack and Ashi!   What happens Jack falls from the sky, hitting a few branches on the way down that slow his descent enough for the snow to cushion his impact and save his life. When he regains consciousness, he leaps up in panic, swinging a spear around in case of attack (STOP! Hammerspace! ...Oh, God, I’m old…) The only creatures in sight are some crows, and Jack calms down a bit. He notices a blood trail, and follows it to find Ashi, lying as if dead. The crows begin to caw at him, Jack hearing it as a chorus accusing him of murder; in defiance, he shouts back that it was the Daughters’ choices that lead to their death, ending the latest hallucination… but not the last one we’ll see in this episode. When he gets close to Ashi’s “body”, she leaps up and attacks him with her sausage-onna-bun sickle-onna-chain (actually, the former is generally considered to be more lethal than the latter). However, on her own she is quickly defeated and left dangling wrapped up in her own chain again. She verbally lays into Jack once more, but when he just stands there watching her swing, she eventually runs down. Jack tells her she is confused about the respective locations of Jack and Aku on the spectrum of morality, and muses that he has met machines programmed with Aku’s lies and hate, but never a human. Ashi is having none of it, however, having been warned by the High Priestess that Jack is deceptive. Tricksy and false, precious, yesss. Their “conversation” is interrupted by a colossal worm devouring them and half the nearby landscape. Even while falling towards the monster’s maw, Ashi is still trying to cut down Jack, which pretty much just annoys him at this point. She knocks herself out on some of the floating debris, and Jack grabs her as they enter the body of the creature, Jack slowing their descent with his feet. After setting her down, Jack rests for a bit, only to hear joyous laughter from an awoken Ashi, who praises Aku and rejoices that Jack has finally been defeated: they’ve both been devoured and are in her opinion already dead. Jack replies that he has been inside giant beasts before and escaped. A group of large bugs approaches, and Jack uses the chains still wrapped around Ashi to make her into a backpack, to her annoyance.
Presenting: AshiUshiro! Stylish and practical! Get yours today at your local GIANT WORM! She still tries to sabotage Jack, even as he fights, but a glancing blow from an enemy knocks her unconscious. Jack defeats the monsters and escapes further into the kaiju. During a rest period, Jack hallucinates some more (I’m getting tired of typing that word at this point), having a conversation with a British-sounding puffball and then HalluciJack. HJ scoffs at him for “getting involved” again with Ashi, and reckons that he should just give over trying to convince her to join his side and simply leave her to her own devices. Jack notes that Ashi is resisting him not because she is inherently evil, but because she’s been fed lies her whole life; she’s essentially an innocent victim. He also blames himself for the situation, since he never found a way to defeat Aku and return to his own time. While Ashi watches Jack argue with himself, another kind of bug monster abducts her, and Jack is forced to rescue her. Then back on his back she goes as the journey continues. Various scenes of odd Parasites Of Unusual Size ensue, until Jack and Ashi find themselves close to an exit from the monster (That’s good!)… pity it’s located over a pit of acid. (That’s bad.) However, various flying creatures are in the same area. (That’s good!) But so is a giant predatory flying fish. (That’s bad.) Barely avoiding the predator, Jack and Ashi are shot out of the exit, escaping the kaiju and landing in the sea. Luckily, there is an island nearby. Jack drags Ashi to it and then sits down to rest and recover. Ashi, seeing him with his guard down and his back turned, manages to find her sickle and creeps towards him. However, a ladybug suddenly flies past. Ashi remembers the High Priestess crushing one that found its way in the Cult's cave, and notes that this one lands on Jack's hand. He simply smiles and lets it fly away. Comparing his behaviour with what she has been taught he is like, she finds she is unable to kill him. She drops the weapon and hugs her knees while she contemplates and… SHE DOUBTS!   Thoughts on the Episode I laugh at Ashi and Jack’s first conversation. “You are very troubled…and very confused,” indeed. It’s a minor laugh in a rather dark season. In retrospect, the whole getting swallowed thing was ultimately fortunate for Jack. Actions speak louder than words, and Jack’s continual heroism in keeping Ashi alive really hits home for her in the end. Not to mention the ladybug scene. Throughout Ashi’s appearances, there’s been one aspect of her nature that is highlighted: her curiosity. Curiosity is the bleach to indoctrination’s mould. A curious person asks questions and their eyes (and minds) are open, so they are the hardest to pull the wool over. Once she saw that Jack’s actions gave the lie to the picture of him she had been painted, she found it impossible to hold to her belief in his evilocity (Yes, I know that’s not a real word, just go with it). Of course, while she can’t simply kill him out of hand anymore, she still doesn’t fully trust him. She’s simply considering the new information she now has about him. While Jack is quite right about her being a victim of a slanted worldview and therefore blameless, he doesn’t seem to have extended that logic to the Daughters he has already killed. Or perhaps he has, and that guilt is just hidden. Will we see Jack having hallu – grrr… visions of the Daughters in a later episode? Perhaps he reasons that despite their innocence, at the time he had the choice of him or them, and can lay the blame for their deaths at the feet of whoever raised them to hate him. Questions, questions. Obligatory HalluciJack cameo is obligatory. Quite strange how he notes that Ashi has disappeared before Jack notices. Is HJ really a product of Jack's mental strain, or could it be somehow independent? A ghost Aku cursed him with that tries its best to get him to just "end it all"? I'm probably overthinking things. Jack inside a giant monster: been there, done that, got the furry-back armour. Still, Ashi is now at least entertaining the belief that Jack isn't the evil she was told he was, so the interlude didn’t happen without reason. We are moving right along to the reappearance of everyone’s favourite Celtic warrior, so I’ll see you in the next episode, and don’t forget to stay sunny side up!

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

 

Episode 31. “Sisterhooves Social”: Sibling Spat Sees Sweetie Switching Sisters

Well, then, maybe I’ll try the Sisterhooves Social without a sister. In fact, I think I’ll try the rest of my life without a sister! – Sweetie Belle Rarity is having a wonderful dream which is intruded on by the smell of smoke. Thinking it’s a fire, she wakes up and tumbles downstairs… only to find that her sister Sweetie Belle is the culprit. The smoke is an intended “breakfast in bed” burning. An annoyed Rarity is about to give her sister a piece of her mind when her parents surprise her with a cheery morning greeting. It turns out, they’re going on holiday, and leaving Rarity to look after Sweetie for an entire week. After the parents leave, Rarity suggests they clean up the kitchen and prepare an actual edible breakfast. However, Rarity being Rarity, she ends up doing everything herself, to which Sweetie protests. Rarity reluctantly allows her to garnish the finished breakfast, but even that comes with overbearing oversight and demands that it be carried out perfectly. The tension between the sisters continues to rise as Sweetie tries to be helpful, but only ends up messing up something – she washes Rarity’s one of a kind sweater, shrinking it; uses up her stock of rare baby blue sapphires to draw a picture of the two of them, forcing Rarity to go find more; and worst of all, tidies up Rarity’s Inspiration Room, which only serves to disrupt her creation process. Rarity only just manages to push down her anger, but states that she needs a little alone time. A dejected Sweetie Belle goes for a walk, bumping into Apple Bloom, who listens to her tale of woe. Trying to be helpful, Apple Bloom suggests that Sweetie ask Rarity to join her for the titular Sisterhooves Social, an annual event held at Sweet Apple Acres in which sister teams can compete. Sweetie’s enthusiasm is swiftly dashed, as Rarity tells her that “playing games in the dirt” is simply uncouth. Angry that Rarity is so unwilling to do anything except on her own terms, Sweetie decides that she’s going to disown Rarity as her sister. In the heat of the argument, Rarity is only too happy to agree to these terms, and the two part ways. Sweetie ends up being consoled by the Apple sisters, and they show her how they work together at almost everything. As Sweetie remarks, it’s like they’re just one pony. Even when it seems like AJ is going to get angry on account of AB splashing her with crushed grapes, it ends with just a playful tussle, much to her relief. Meanwhile, back at her boutique, Rarity finds that the previous disasters Sweetie caused all seem to have unanticipated benefits: the shrunken sweater is perfectly sized for Opal Wopal, and her newly neatly organized Inspiration Room ends up giving her an idea for another line of clothes: “Full Spectrum Fashions”…
Hey! I should sue! Although Rarity tries to rationalize away the good fortune so as to maintain her indignation, she finally comes across the picture that Sweetie drew of the two of them, showing that she really does love Rarity and appreciates the fact they are sisters. Overcome with remorse for her earlier behavior, and wanting to make things right and get her sister back, she heads out to find Sweetie so they can make up. When she does find Sweetie later that evening, who is having a camp out with the Apple sisters, her attempt at patching things up is quickly scuppered by her own inability to realize that she still wants everything, even the reconciliation, to happen her way, and Sweetie quickly rebuffs her, deciding to adopt AJ as new big sister… to the consternation of everypony else. Rarity is understandably put out by her failure to return to her sister’s good graces, but AJ finally makes her understand that being sisters requires a give and take, and that Rarity is failing because she is not willing to compromise. Rarity comes to a decision… The following day is the day of the Sisterhooves Social. Sweetie sadly wishes the Apples luck, but perks up immensely when Apple Bloom steps aside to allow Sweetie to be AJ’s sister for the day… and she means one day. As they come to the first obstacle, a mud pit, AJ falls in and re-emerges covered in mud. (SPOILER! ALERT: It’s actually Rarity, as one could see with a closer look at “Applejack”.)
The eyes have it… Working together, the two manage to come within a gnat’s wing of victory, but ultimately get second place. Her spirits not dampened in the slightest, Sweetie Belle gives a big thank you hug to “Applejack”, knocking off her hat and revealing a unicorn horn. Rarity quickly shakes the rest of the mud off, and Sweetie realizes that the Apple sisters were in on the plan too. Given proof that Rarity really is able to put her own wishes aside in favour of doing something nice for her little sister, Sweetie Belle forgives Rarity and readopts her as sister. Rarity suggests they celebrate: with a trip to the spa. She’s quite serious about it, too. Fortunately, despite the spa joke and final semi-disagreement, Rarity really has learned her lesson, and is now willing to compromise with Sweetie… even if it does involve getting a little a lot just the right amount of dirty on occasion.   Thoughts on the Episode
While the basis of the episode is Rarity being selfish in her relationship with her sister, it’s not too much of an out of character thing for her. Rarity likes things to be organized, or not, the way she likes it in her own home, which is fair enough. I know from experience that sometimes an older sibling might be slightly less willing to do things that they would do without hesitation for their friends, in a “darkest under the lighthouse” kind of way. Both sides have a point here; Sweetie is driven by nothing but affection for her older sister and a desire to help her out, but good intentions don’t always equal good results. On the other hand, a sibling relationship does require a certain amount of compromise, and Rarity was at fault for not being willing to do that. The good part is that she does learn her lesson, and it stays learned. In a series that quite frequently has characters forget previous morals and lessons and so have to relearn them, this is quite the refreshing aversion, as we’ll see in some of the later episodes. Praise should also be given to both Applejack and Apple Bloom for not only behaving like sisters should behave to each other, but also AB being willing to relinquish her “sister rights” and a chance at competing in the Sisterhooves Social, and AJ for her sensible wisdom and wholesome advice. We have seen in previous and following episodes that that relationship is not always as perfect as presented here, but that’s an understandable move on the part of the writers, to contrast the one-sided relationship that Rarity and Sweetie have at first with a more equal partnership, as the Apple siblings represent. There was some decent humour in this episode, even if it wasn’t a laugh riot. The jump cut with Sweetie confidently predicting that Rarity will love the idea of the Social, to Rarity disparaging it is classic. The voice acting is great, with Rarity’s declaration of intent to get back her sister and Sweetie’s pretty spot on impersonations of her sister being fussy being highlights. Oh, and two words: “One. Day.” It’s interesting to see the contrast between Rarity and the rest of her family. Her parents, while seeming like good ponies, are nothing like their refined and elegant daughter, and it’s pretty clear that Sweetie takes after her folks much more than Rares does… especially the cooking skills. Rarity points out the burnt juice, but personally, I find it more impressive (for a certain value of “impressive”) that Sweetie is able to melt toast. There is really very little to criticize in this episode.   Highlights/Quotes
That previously mentioned cut:
Sweetie Belle: That sounds like the perfect way for us to hang out! Rarity will think it's an excellent idea.
<CUT>
Rarity: What a ridiculous idea. The uncouth discussion… about being uncouth:
Applejack: 'Uncouth'? She said the Sisterhooves Social was 'uncouth'?
Apple Bloom: Yeah! Uncouth? [belch] Wait. What's uncouth?
Sweetie Belle: It's not just the Social. She thinks I'm uncouth.
Applejack: Honey, Rarity thinks everything's uncouth.
Apple Bloom: [with mouth full] What's uncouth?
Applejack: It means uncivil. Y'know, bad mannered?
Apple Bloom: [belch]
Applejack: Exactly! This epic fail at persuasion:
Sweetie Belle: Hm. You want to me to go home with you, so that we can do what YOU want to do?
Rarity: Um… yes?
Sweetie Belle: Just forget it! She may be willing to lend out her sister, but not for very long:
Applejack: Sisters for a day!
Sweetie Belle: No way!
Apple Bloom: One. Day.
<A little later>
Apple Bloom (poking Sweetie): One. Day. Good luck! Any example of Squeaky Belle, really. This moment:

Even mud knows better than to dare stain Rarity... her fans can be a little protective!   Pros: A good moral that sticks; some fine voice acting; AB and AJ are great here; some chuckles to be had.
Cons: Nothing really worth marking the episode down on.   Final Rating
5 – Celestia Rank: A great episode. It will be re-watched frequently.
4 – Luna Rank: A good episode, but with one or two problems that prevent it from being great.
3 – Spike Rank: An average episode. Positives and negatives are balanced.
2 – Discord Rank: Worth watching once. After that, turn it to stone and put it in the garden.
1 – Nightmare Moon Rank: Send it to the moon! Stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox