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Story Arc #1 (Issues 1-4) The Return of Queen Chrysalis

I think it’s about time I turned my nitpicking attentions to the IDW Friendship is Magic Comics, and subject them to the same stringent examination as in my episode reviews. My quest to over-analyze the franchise continues! ATTENTION, FAIR READER! SHOULD THOU YET WISH TO PURUSE WITH THINE OWN EYES THE COMICS, WE BID THEE BE MINDFUL THAT MESSIRE SUNNY FOX SHALT MAKETH NARY THE LEAST ENDEAVOR TO AVERT SPOILERS! THUS HAST THOU BEEN CAUTIONED! Thank you, Princess Luna. The first four-issue arc of the comics follows the fallout following Queen Chrysalis’ fall out of Canterlot. While it’s entertaining to read, it has a few problems, which make it just a little less enjoyable than it could have been. I’ll keep my commentary to a minimum in the summaries, which are intended more for readers who haven’t read the comic, and save most of it for the analysis. Issues 1 to 4: The Return of Queen Chrysalis Katie Cook: Writer Andy Price: Artist Part 1 Summary It starts off with the Cutie Mark Crusaders busy (what else?) crusading for their cutie marks in Fluttershy’s menagerie. The more off-beat comedy as compared to the show is immediately apparent, including a hippo with a bow just like Apple Bloom’s, and a lion named Mr. McBiteyPants. Unfortunately, some of the animals seem to be a little on the “weirdly glowing eyes” side, and rush at the CMC to fillynap them.
This is Shere Khan-age! The following morning, it seems the three fillies are fine, but they are acting very strangely, causing their sisters and honorary sisters some concern. But they’re not the only ones out of character; the rest of the town apart from the Mane Six and Spike seem to have become possessed, forcing our heroines (and hero) to lock themselves in the Library. Twilight tries to get hold of Princess Celestia, but she is incommunicado, due to a major magic surge caused by the approaching Secretariat comet. Twilight soon concludes that the odd behaviour of the Ponyvillians is due to them having been replaced by Changelings, and the group resolves to find out where the real ponies are being held. Seeing an eerie green glow from City Hall, they burst in to rescue the townsponies. Even Spike manages to look badass here, although his dragon fire does little more than anger his opponents. Pinkie eventually ends the battle by trapping the Changelings with gum shot from her party cannon. They break all of their fellow Ponyvillians out of their pods, but can’t find Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle or Scootaloo. At this point, Spike coughs up a giant green orb, which the Queen (now officially named Chrysalis) uses to communicate with them. She shows the Mane Six the three fillies she has imprisoned, and tells them they have only three days to rescue them, even providing a map to her location via the orb. Despite the obvious trap, which Rainbow points out, Rarity and Applejack want to rush off immediately. Twilight suspects the three day deadline is related to the comet’s appearance, and that the Queen intends to use it against them somehow. Despite her misgivings, the Mane Six have no choice but to follow the map, and they set off, leaving Spike behind to continue trying to contact the Princess.   Part 2 Summary The map leads the group to a mountain. Rainbow Dash wants to go over, but the rest of the group decide to stick together and go through a set of tunnels left by diamond dogs. The first obstacle they encounter is a enormous cave troll. Luckily, being a typical brony, he’s not hostile, but he still wants to play with his new pony “toys”. Rarity makes substitutes for him, and the Mane Six manage to sneak off. Unbeknown to them, the Queen is following their progress in her crystal ball.
That looks familiar somehow…

Oh, right! The Queen sends her flying monkeys Changelings to cause a cave-in which separates the Mane Six into pairs. They then turn them against each other by taking on their appearances and saying nasty things. This results in an argument breaking out, which is put on hold when a group of giant spiders attack them. Using their webs, they wrap the Mane Six up. Pinkie runs off and brings back the troll, who adopts the largest spider as his new “teddy bear”, allowing the Mane Six to go free. When they finally exit the caves, the argument flairs up again, and the pairs split up. Rarity and Applejack head off into the woods in one direction and Twilight teleports herself and Fluttershy away, leaving Rainbow and Pinkie together, but without a map.   Part 3 Summary Out of all the parts, this one seems to have a subtitle: “Love is a many splintered thing.” Why none of the other parts have one, I don’t know. It seems a little odd. Spike provides a summary of what’s happened so far. He also starts a flashback to Queen Chrysalis and her minions being flung out of Canterlot, as happened in the flawed but enjoyable season 2 finale. They landed in a land populated by cute little cats who love absolutely everything. The Changelings quickly drained them, ruining and corrupting their bright little land. Yep, we just had genocide in Equestria. Hands up, who still thinks the Changelings aren’t truly evil?
Anyone? Hearing that they need time to regroup for another assault on Canterlot, the Queen says that she doesn’t care about that any longer; she just wants revenge on Twilight, who ruined everything. She’s going to use the power-up from the Secretariat Comet to drain her magic. The next page reveals that the Queen herself is telling all this to her Cutie Mark Captives. Since the Mane Six are now split into the Mane Three Pairs, the Queen again sends out her minions to spy on them and report back, while she continues to watch Twilight. Fluttershy manages to convince Twilight that despite her friends being mean (sigh) they need to look past it and reconcile. Meanwhile, Applejack and Rarity are having dinner, with Rarity insisting on good manners despite “roughing it”. Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie are also shown; Rainbow is finally realizing the Changelings are responsible for the schism, and Pinkie brings out (rather frightening) costumes of the two of them to wear in case the Changelings try it again. Over the next few pages, each pair encounters monsters that they are forced to run away from, and in doing so, run into each other. Falling down a cliff, the Mane Six end up in a heap, and the various animals chasing them start fighting with each other, ending the danger. The Mane Six finally reconcile, despite still not cottoning on to the way they were tricked, and they travel the last few hours to get to the final showdown.   Part 4 Summary At their destination, they find themselves in a creepy castle. They open various referential doors, and eventually find the one the Changelings are behind. A fight breaks out as Twilight faces off against the Queen, while the others fight the Changeling minions. As the Comet nears, the Queen’s power grows, and she manages to trap the other ponies in pods with a powerful blast of magic. After seeing Twilight blast a giant hole in the wall, she decides that instead of draining Twilight’s magic, she wants her to come over to the Changeling Side and be her evil protégé. When Twilight refuses, the Queen gives her a choice – watch her captive friends drained of their essence in front of her… or join the Queen, in exchange for not harming them. Twilight gives in, hoping that at least they can save themselves and return to defeat the Changelings – and her if necessary – later on. As soon as they are released, the ponies charge in to try to rescue Twilight, but the Queen blocks them with a force field. The Queen then tries to renege on the deal: she’s going to drain out all Twilight’s love for her friends, and let the newly minted Evil Twilight do them in instead.
I am altering the deal… pray I do not alter it any further! Furious at this, Twilight renews her struggle. Realizing that she can also use the power up from the Comet, she eventually defeats the Queen, and rescues her friends. Outside the final dungeon, the Mane Six meet up with Princess Celestia and Spike, who have been battling Comet-Magic-empowered cockatrices in Canterlot. When asked where the Queen is, Twilight reveals that she and her Changelings are trapped in the castle by one of Pinkie’s costumes… which has been magically animated not to let them out until they can come up with a rhyme for “orange”.   Analysis: Writing Part 1 does a decent job of setting up the plot, but I feel that Part 2 drops the ball a little. A major flaw is the way the conflict between the Mane Six is handled. First of all, it’s a quintessential example of an idiot plot, where it only works by making usually intelligent characters be totally stupid. Considering what they already know the Changelings are capable of, there is no way the ruse of “separate and impersonate” should have worked. The Mane Six should have seen through it easily. Instead, they get taken in hook, line and sinker, and it’s only much later that Rainbow Dash alone of all ponies gives any consideration to the possibility that they might have been tricked. How the Changelings know enough about each character to so accurately say the right thing to hurt them is yet another mystery. Apart from that, if they had simply talked about what the “friends” had said and how they felt hurt by it, they would have discovered what had happened. A conversation like this should have been inevitable:
Pony A: “You said <<bad things x and y>> about me!”
Pony B: “I never said that, and I never would.”
Pony A: “Then who did? Either you’re lying about saying it, or it was someone who was impersonating you who said it.”
Everypony: “The Changelings can impersonate us! It must have been them!”
Q. Fucking E.D. If the Mane Six needed to be separated for the story to work, why not just have the cave-in force them to travel to three distinct and mutually distant exits from the cave? Then you could still have the three separate journeys in Part 3 and avoid the need for the nonsensical conflict at all. Unless I’m really missing something, it could have (and should have) been left out entirely. Part 3 really shines through with humour, letting each pair of characters banter with each other as they face various strange creatures and other hazards, with amusing interludes featuring the Queen getting more and more irate with her young prisoners. It’s easily the best part of the story. Unfortunately, it still has to spend time resolving the conflict from part 2, and again, I don’t think it was done that well. First of all, they STILL haven’t figured out that it was the Changelings who were responsible. Neither Rainbow Dash nor Pinkie brings up the idea at all. So they basically are forgiving each other for something the other didn’t even do. Part 4 seemed more interested in cramming as many references as possible than advancing the plot. It sort of stalls for a bit, until they actually manage to confront the Queen and her minions. Of course, the final fight is pretty breathtaking, although for a series meant to emphasize the Mane Six all working together and supporting each other, it’s a little odd to see Twilight pretty much singlehoofedly finish off the opponent. Still, the idea that the Comet the Queen was relying on becomes the very reason for her defeat is a wonderful example of irony, so that’s a big plus. You may be wondering why I keep referring to the Queen by her title rather than her name. There are some reasons for this. First of all, she was never named Chrysalis in the show. It was in the script, but no character actually says it. Even Celestia only called her "The Queen", and how they now know her name is left unexplained. Secondly, I think she's better represented as a title. Her position is the important thing about her. Of course, I'm in no position to criticize the tendency to use insect puns as names... the final reason is that "The Queen" just sounds much more intimidating and badass to me.   Analysis: Artwork The art is fantastic, showing both Ponyville and its inhabitants in a new way. Particularly noticeable is how Queen Chrysalis is drawn. At times she seems actually quite beautiful, and at other times she appears as a hideous, slavering monster. Price has the ability to completely change her from one form to the other, while still making her recognizable in both, which is skillfully done. I also was interested to see how large the wings of the pegasus ponies are in the comics as opposed to the show. It’s just a style choice, but you get a better impression that they could actually fly with wings as big as those.   References:
Part 1: The pod ponies idea comes from “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”.
Part 2: There are plenty of David Bowie references

Ziggy Stardust

Lyrics from "Diamond Dogs" The cave pony has some recognizable toys, including a Rubik's Cube, Optimus Prime, a magic Eightball and a slinky, and of course, the ponies provide the brushy brushy. Part 3:
Welcome to Wuvy-Dovey Smoochy Land aka Equestria Care-A-Lot
Twilight steals Nightcrawler's teleport sound effect. Good thing we didn't see any "Snikt!"
Triffids, Chupacabras, and Jackalopes, oh my! Part 4: Too freaking many to list!   Bonus Comic We actually get to see what was keep Princess Celestia and Spike busy during the events of the mane comic. The only problem here is that Spike implies in the mane comic that he rode a cockatrice into town, but the comic has him riding Princess Celestia into town to save the day instead. Minor gripe, and the rest of the short comic is fine.   Pros: Definitely great art. Parental bonuses galore. An exciting climax. Plenty of humour both dark and not. Cons: An unnecessary Apple of Discord added in Part 2, which could have been done without and didn't really make sense.   Final Rating
5 – The Latest ‘Daring Do’ Book Rank: A great story. It will be re-read frequently.
4 – Starswirl’s Journal Rank: A good story, but with one or two problems that prevent it from being great.
3 – Twilight’s Sleepover Guide Rank: An average story. Positives and negatives are balanced.
2 – Spike’s Power Pony Comic Rank: Worth reading once. After that, let it vanish to parts unknown.
1 – The Astronomical Astronomer’s Almanac Rank: Get Spike to sneeze on it, immediately! Keep on turning those pages, and as always, stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

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

 

Soooooo.... Toffee...

Two warnings should be issued... first, this post is about Star vs. The Forces of Evil. If you don't watch that show, this blog entry will be mostly devoid of interest for you. Second, this post is being written by someone who has watched the entire first season of the previously mentioned show, so naturally SPOILERS will abound. Still here...? Oh, goodie. I'll just give it to ya straight... here are my predictions / thoughts about Season 2 of Star Vs. , especially as regards the now obvious main villain, Toffee. The very first on-screen appearance of Toffee is a shot of his right hand, which is missing a knuckle's worth of finger.

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

Exhibit B... The details are somewhat unimportant, but Star is forced into a final choice... watch Marco meet his doom at the (newly regenerated) hand of Toffee, or to destroy her wand... up until this point a McGuffin of literally universal power for whoever wields it. Toffee is apparently willing to forgo this power for his own purposes...
SURPRISE! Having no other option, Star duly destroys the wand using the "Whispering Spell", which Toffee tells her is not only the first spell her mother taught her... (wait a minute... how would Toffee, a monster, and thus the ultimate antithesis of the Mewnian Royal Family, know a detail like that...?) but is a sort of Self-Destruct Button for the wand itself. And if there is one thing mad scientists have taught me, it's that Self Destruct sequences always are accompanied by giant explosions. (Thanks Invade Zim and Kaolla Su...) At this point, I tend to differ from those who claim that Toffee had prior knowledge that the wand would explode... for he clearly is surprised by what happens... at first. After telling his minions "it's been a pleasure"... (which just adds to the ambiguity. It is pretty much what a Big Bad might say to his minions either when he achieves his ultimate goal and nothing more, or if he knew that the result of achieving his ultimate goal would blow them all up... most commentators seem to go for the latter interpretation, although there isn't much to favour either idea) his expression when the wand starts glowing shows clear surprise...
Star's reactions slightly earlier in the episode imply that the ghost of her wand's unicorn let her know that the explosion would happen. Toffee apparently wasn't privy to this. However, there is this later expression we see on Toffee's face: Now it's pretty deliberately framed so that we see this directly after the jewel in the wand is sundered, which would seem to imply that the sundering of the jewel is what makes Toffee smirk... however, this doesn't really gel with what I previously mentioned, and thus makes me suspect sea-animals of the scarlet persuasion... and the further revelation (later in the episode) that the sundered jewel is bad thing for the Mewnians just seems to be calculated to further this impression. I believe that Toffee was smirking for an entirely different reason. Namely, he knew that if this version of him got nixed by the explosion, there's still his missing finger: a backup from which he could regenerate if he were to be destroyed. So the first prediction I would make, is that Toffee will reappear at some appropriately dramatic point later in the series, explaining exactly what I've put down here... that his missing finger is insurance against his body's destruction. As for who he is, I suspect he is a missing member of the Mewnian Royal Family, possibly a sibling of Star herself, who was magically transformed into his monster form. First, we've seen that magic can permanently change a human into a troll (Ms. Skullnick), so it's not such a stretch to suggest that a Mewnian could undergo the same to become a monster. Second, it explains Toffee's knowledge of the secret wand destroying spell (which knowledge might not have included the explosion part - which it seems Star herself didn't know until the ghost unicorn told her about it). Third, it explains the line he said in his debut episode... "Yes, well. You're not the first monster to fall victim to their magic," and the look he gives towards the palace... which, admittedly, even a natural born monster might be inclined to say. But here's Exhibit C... why does a lizard have hair? None of the other monsters have hair, unless their design is clearly mammal, such as the bear and giraffe. The lizards, Lobster Claws and chickens don't have anything that could be construed as hair... even Ludo is a kappa, so his hair is expected somewhat. But for Toffee, a lizard monster such as he shouldn't have hair, unless something else is being hinted at here... So to summarize, here are some of my predictions as regards Toffee for the next Season of Star Vs: 1. Toffee will return, citing his formerly severed finger as the reason for his survival...
2. He will turn out to be a former member of the Mewnian Royal Family, transformed into a monster by magic and thus disowned, giving him a good reason to want to seek revenge on the Mewnians. What do you think? Is this likely? How do you interpret Toffee and what do you think Star Vs will give us in the future? Feel free to comment, and as always, stay sunny side up.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Sonata's Lament

I just don't get why so many fans wanted or expected a heel face turn from Sonata Dusk. As for me, I never saw any hint of remorse or doubt about her actions as a member of the Dazzlings. Not once did she look even the slightest degree uncomfortable with what was going on. Yeah, I get that she's ditzy and that she's cute, and that she loves tacos. I even compared her to Avatar: The Last Airbender's Ty Lee, who <<don't click if you don't want spoilers>> But really, I never saw any hint of redemption in Sonata herself throughout the entirety of the film. And it baffles me that anyone could look at the character and seriously see any hint of desire to turn from her evil ways. Oh, well. -_- I guess if you look cute and ditzy, you can get away with anything. To make the point, I offer this: After watching Twilight outright cry because of what Flash Sentry said to her and how he behaved, this appears directly afterwards, and Sonata is smirking the entire time (not to mention channeling Doctor Evil). Like, so a villain. And a moment later, she laughs just as loud and long as the other two do. Why no expectations of "coming to the Light side" for them? To conclude... Sonata does not want to be redeemed. She does not deserve to be. She is a villain, end of story. A cute, somewhat distracted villain, but a baddy nonetheless.

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

 

Sombra is Best Villain (A Bookend Diaries Supplemental)

Before I take on the Season III episodes, I wish to first talk about a few of the more controversial issues raised. To start, I want to discuss the issues that some fans have with Sombra.   I don’t think he was that bad a villain in many ways. The ironic thing here is that Sombra, easily the most disparaged villain of the series, is the only one who did not give the Mane 6 victory on a silver platter. He loses despite, and not because of, his actions, none of which are stupid. I wish that I could say as much for Nightmare Moon, Discord and Queen Chrysalis. The other point is that the Mane 6 only won through a series of very lucky coincidences that no villain, no matter how savvy, could have predicted or planned for.  In part, I understand why he gets a bad rap, because he is (on first viewing) a very poorly characterized villain. He simply isn’t shown to have the depth of the other villains. His lines are extremely limited, and he didn’t get to do much in the episode itself before blowing up. One thing he did do, however, is disable one of the only two ponies who are keeping him out of the Kingdom he wishes to retake. And I don’t think that’s an accident.  Here’s my reasoning. He couldn’t have known the Mane 6 were coming. He has been camping right outside the empire, trying to get in. Shining Armor did know the Mane 6 were coming. When he left the city, Sombra would have seen him first. Being a unicorn himself, he would know that Shining Armor must be the one keeping him out, since the Crystal Ponies don’t have the magic necessary to protect themselves without the Crystal Heart. All of this makes me think that Sombra was there to attack and disable Shining Armor, who as far as he knew, was the only one stopping him from reclaiming the Crystal Empire. That implies that Sombra is not just an animalistic shadow (har har) of his former self, as some claim, but a reasoning, self-directing villain, as much as can be claimed for any of the other foes the Mane 6 have faced. His plan, if indeed that is what we are meant to assume it is, is not only clever, but it works. At least, it would have if Shining Armor were the only unicorn protecting the Empire. So that runs counter to the claim that “he doesn’t do anything in the episode”. The thing about Sombra is that most of his villainy and planning was set up before the episode even begins. He removed the relevant page from the one book mentioning the Crystal Heart. The entrance to where he kept the Crystal Heart was hidden and only someone with dark magic could open it. None of the crystal ponies have horns, and presumably they have no magic. Even if they did, it's far more likely to be Light magic. The next trap, a door leading to the victims worst nightmare is more fiendish still, because it's triggered by using Dark Magic, which the victim would already have been primed to use because it got them results a little bit earlier. It's also an insurance policy against a pony having dark magic skills to begin with. The only way to escape it is to have someone else come and snap you out of it. Sombra also created a delaying staircase that Twilight just happened to have a spell to deal with, which she had never demonstrated before this episode. Then at the end of that, he had an alarm set up around the Crystal Heart to let him know someone had found it. It's not an automated trap, though. When Twilight triggers it, we are given a brief glimpse of Sombra reacting and then casting the spell to trap Twilight. So, again, Sombra is acting and doing things in the episode. This also hints that he might have even stronger magical power that Twilight does. He's savvy enough not only to consider the possibility of her teleporting, but also has the power to override her when she tries it. So Sombra plans intelligently and craftily, destroys information vital to his enemies, is strong enough to negate the magical ability of both Shining Armor and Twilight, actively targets those who stand in his way and only has victory snatched from his grasp due to pure luck on the part of the Mane 6. First, it's lucky that Rainbow happened to bump into the librarian pony just as she remembers the real Crystal Heart. It's lucky that Twilight just happened to bone up (stop sniggering, please) on gravity spells for her "test". It's lucky that her last-second dive for the Crystal Heart ended up not with her grabbing it, but instead knocking it away from the trap. And last, certainly not least, it's lucky that Spike was around to save everyone. Spike is the key to victory throughout the whole episode. He breaks Twilight out of her Demon Door trance; his own experience with it clarifies how it works; he points out that the staircase is just a delaying tactic, and finally, he's on hand to grab the Crystal Heart while Twilight is trapped. To summarise, Sombra's pre-planning and actions in the episode would have resulting in him winning if not for the interference of Spike, a healthy dose of unanticipated good luck for the heroes, and a last second wife-toss, all of which is enough to ruin anypony's plans. I feel saddened that fans allow his lack of discernable personality (beyond that of being an evil dictator with an unhealthy fascination for dark crystals, of course) to distract from the fact that he was actually very effective at being villainous. Keep chasing those dark crystals, everyone.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Shipping the Mains

I like cartoons. You might have noticed. But there is a trend that sometimes drives me pretty nuts. Whenever you have a pair of main characters (of opposite gender or sometimes of the same gender), there is this tendency to somehow entangle them romantically. No matter how much ship tease the mains have with less central characters, it somehow seems that the two of them always end up together.
Case in point... And it almost never works... unless the relationship upgrade happens at the very end of the story (e.g. Korrasami in Legend of Korra), or it's clear from the start that the two only have eyes for each other from the very beginning (e.g. Bob and Dot in ReBoot). Why does it work in the first instance? Because we can let our imaginations go wild. How will they interact from here on out? What problems will they solve together? What will the children look like? The possibilities become endless. If the story continues after the mains have hooked up, all that potential is necessarily pruned, since we see what canonically happens during the "happily ever after" phase. We get the real life that happens after the honeymoon, and really, who wants to see what Reality Ensues? Why does it work in the second instance? Because we see what they went through to be together. That's inspirational. They broke through all barriers to be together in the end. We feel that we too can become the kind of person who deserves the love of another compatible person, and that nothing will stop us! So, the upshot of all this? I've been watching Star vs The Forces of Evil. I don't want Star Butterfly and Marco Diaz to end up as a couple (like... ugh... KP and RS). They work better as Marco X Jackie, and Star X ???. Can't we just have two friends who kick ass together and remain simply friends?! Star vs is already slated for a second and third season. I hope Star and Marco can stay "friends who will do anything for each other" rather than mucking it up with unnecessary romantic feelings for each other. I ship (when I ship @ all) Marco X Jackie. Plus, Jackie is totally a secret mermaid. Anyhoo, stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

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

 

New Angle on an old OC

Some of you may remember a blog entry I later deleted featuring an OC by the name of Foxy Flash. Well, I've fleshed her out a little bit more since then, although I'm finding it difficult to write her story right now. Here are some details: "Foxy Flash" is her pen name. Her true name is Foxglove Trotter. She is a young mare who lives in Canterlot with her family. Her mother used to be a famous model, Petunia, who married self-made stallion, Salvador "Savvy Sal" Trotter, a business-stallion from a less well-off family who made good as a retailer, in a similar vein to Filthy Rich. She also has a (much lovelier) sister named Marigold, who is married to another stallion. Her best friend is a pegasus stallion named Slipstream, who is the oldest son of a pegasus family of similar social level to the Trotters. Fox's mother wanted her to become a novelist, since her cutie mark (a typewriter) represents her special talent for writing, and a novelist is an "appropriate" career for a well-to-do young mare. Secretly, though, Fox has always wished to be a writer and columnist for The Canterlot Chronicle, a newspaper which is known for printing the truth, no matter how embarrassing it might be for any rich and powerful ponies. Knowing that her mother would never condone her daughter writing for such a tawdry (in her eyes) publication, Foxglove hides her other life from her, remaining anonymous as she sends in her pieces for the newspaper. The setting is mainly Canterlot and Ponyville, in the current time of the show. I had intended for her to relate the adventures of the Mane Six from an outsider's perspective as she write columns about them, while having her own adventures in between. Foxglove tends to take after her father, rather than her mother, in looks and personality, so she isn’t particularly pretty. She’s a bit of a daddy’s girl. Traits – stubborn, headstrong, tenacious – not quite ruthless, but willing to go farther than is perhaps wise for the sake of getting a good story. Her personality is still developing, and probably will continue to change as I write, but that's the basic outline. Do you have any comments or suggestions? I'd love to hear them.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

My Gemsona

So I've been getting into Steven Universe a bit, and after catching up on all the episodes, I got to thinking about creating my own Gemsona. So here she is, and even though there's probably a billion Gemsona's with this particular name out there, I'm sure she's still a unique Gem. Enjoy, or not... Background:
Obsidian managed to survive the Gem v. Crystal Gem War, and went on the run, hiding from both sides. Following the War, she wandered the planet. Sometime within the past few centuries, she found herself in Japan (Japan exists within the show - Connie once said "itadakimasu" before eating, although it would probably be more like Japan as usually depicted in Western animation than the historical version). She became enamored of the idea of the ninja, and the form of her current projection is modeled on them. She decided on becoming an assassin, who take jobs not based on the money (since she doesn't need it) but rather on how difficult her target is to get to and eliminate. Since the people who make enemies who want them assassinated are usually not very innocent, she mostly kills people who would be deserving of it i.e. evil people. However, the good she might do in eliminating these people is incidental and not her motivation, which is only the thrill of the challenge. (Of course, as her character interacts with the Crystal Gems and Steven, she'd probably develop into an anti-hero. But at first, it'll just be the thrill of the hunt.) Gem:
Her Gem is a triangular piece of Obsidian, divided into four smaller triangles, the middle one being raised. (Think of the Triforce from Legend of Zelda as a pitch-black gem). It's set into the back of her right hand. She can shape her gem weapons as knives, kunai or throwing stars. She can produce up to 8 of them (4 in each hand, extending from between her fingers) at a time and can throw them pretty accurately. Since obsidian is volcanic in origin, she can make them explode for extra damage or to produce a smoke screen. Fighting Style: Assassination / Ninjitsu
Her preferred style of combat is almost exclusively to strike from the shadows, then fade away into them. She can change her colour from light grey to pitch black in order to help her hide. If the advantage of surprise fails her, she uses her speed and agility to remain on the move, keeping at a distance from her enemies and throwing her weapons. Like her namesake mineral, she is brittle and therefore not very durable. Despite being relatively fast, she is next to useless in close quarters combat. If she is forced into melee distance, she can extend a shield from her Gemmed right hand. If the shield is hit, it immediately explodes into a larger version of her smoke bomb, allowing her to make a getaway. Appearance:
She appears to be a young Japanese woman. Her skin usually looks pale, but she can darken it at will, with her lips being a few shades darker. Her hair is shaped into a short bob, and is pure black. (In my mind, she resembles a more feminine version of Touya Akira from Hikaru no Go) Her outfit resembles the traditional black ninja garb of popular culture, rather than any historically-accurate outfits. A template for her appearance:

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

 

Magical Mystery Cure: Destiny, Job - What's the Difference?

I was thinking... I know, I know, it's a dangerous pastime, but... There is a lot of confusion about the cutie mark swap in Magical Mystery Cure and what it means. Are the Mane 6 defined by their destinies, their cutie marks or their jobs in Ponyville? Something I realized is that, in a certain sense, there isn't much difference. What are the destinies of the Mane 6? To be the bearers of the Elements of Harmony, of course. When Twilight cast the incomplete spell, it acted on the Elements of Harmony. The magic started with Twilight's crown, and then spread to the rest. Since her Element was only revealed when the other five were gathered, it makes sense that it can affect the others in such a way. Does this contradict Call of the Cutie, where it was "established" that cutie marks are not magically mutable? No, not if you accept that Starswirl's spell acted on the Elements of Harmony, the physical manifestation of their destinies (their Manifest Destiny, if you will) and that when their destinies were switched, the cutie marks naturally followed suit. This is a very different situation to what was presented in CotC. There is no contradiction. To even ask that question caters to a fallacy. The cutie marks were never affected by magic, only the Mane 6's destinies, of which the cutie marks are a visual representation. So now the question becomes this: How do the jobs of the Mane 6 in Ponyville related to their destinies as the bearers of the Elements of Harmony? For Fluttershy, it's pretty easy to see how her caring for small animals, and even her ability to understand them, derives from her position as the Element of Kindness. Pinkie Pie as the Element of Laughter is scarcely more difficult to fathom... she lives in a sweet shop, she throws parties and cheers up everypony in town. For Rainbow Dash, I suggest that her role as Ponyville's weather pony is tied to her Element of Loyalty. Even in the pilot, she tells Twilight "I'd never leave Ponyville hanging." Naturally, her denial of the Shadowbolts later in the episode is also an expression of her loyalty, but the second one doesn't negate the first, it only reinforces it. Rarity is the Element of Generosity, and there too, her job can be considered an extension of her Element. She is using her talents to create things of beauty that other ponies can enjoy. The fact that she doesn't do it free of charge is im-material. (See what I did there?) To be honest (the puns just keep on coming, folks) it's not immediately clear how Applejack fits into the framework. She also produces things for other ponies, so why is she the Element of Honesty, rather than Generosity? Firstly, she's more about working together with her family than giving up of herself to others. Secondly, she produces something that is consumable, as opposed to Rarity, where there is a potential for one of her creations to become something longer lasting than an apple pie. Even in real life, clothes are passed down the generations (think wedding dresses). Thirdly, the phrase often heard is "an honest day's work", and where else but at an apple farm (or any other kind of farm) can a phrase be so readily applied? And finally Twilight. I think it could be said that she doesn't really have a job in Ponyville. She doesn't seem to be acting as a librarian, although she does occasionally recommend books to others or re-shelve the library. She doesn't run the place, because that's Mayor Mare's job. Her "job" is to learn and report to Princess Celestia about the magic of friendship. In Magical Mystery Cure, she reaches a certain plateau in that job, and is thus "promoted" to a higher station. Now does this remove all the question marks raised by the events of Magical Mystery Cure? Indeed, it does not. But I think it is a different way of looking at those events, and for me, goes some way to explaining what happened. Keep on chasing those rainbows, everyone...

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Looking at Rarity Part 3: Allies, Associates and Antagonists

Mane 6 (and Spike!) Applejack This relationship has definitely seen the most development. From barely being able to stand each other for more than a few hours in “Look Before You Sleep”, they now seem to be quite firm friends. Of course, Rarity still tries to get Applejack to be more ladylike, and Applejack still thinks Rarity needs to be less fussy, but overall, they seem to have come to an understanding of each other. Applejack’s selflessness devotion to her family has helped Rarity strengthen her bond with Sweetie Belle, where before she was a little selfish. Applejack taught her the importance of compromising. Highlights:
Episode 46. “It’s About Time”: Applejack fixes the crack in the dam, while Rarity fixes up the leaves in AJ’s mane.
Episode 53-54. “The Crystal Empire”: Applejack cheers Rarity up with a kind word in “The Crystal Empire”.
Episode 61. “Spike at Your Service”: Rarity teaches Applejack how to play the “damsel in distress”.
Episode 73. “Rarity Takes Manehatten”: Applejack says bluntly, “Yep, you were pretty rotten…”
Episode 78. “Simple Ways”: They each parody the other. Twilight Sparkle I don’t usually ship Mane Six members together, but when I do, it’s Rarilight. If I were one to let subtext reign supreme, I would believe these two are already in a relationship. Right from the first episode, Rarity has been very touchy-feely with Twilight. Just go watch the end of “The Crystal Empire”, and tell me she doesn’t act rather tenderly towards Twilight there. She was the first to start singing, went to Twilight to raise her head up with a gentle touch to the chin when Twilight blushed, and put her hoof over Twilight’s as the train left. Sorry, Spike, you’re losing out to your adopted big sister. Even if you ignore the subtext, it’s clear Rarity has a strong regard for Twilight. She noticed she was bothered in “Lesson Zero”, she worried about Twilight not having her crown in Equestria Girls, and most importantly, although she wanted to marry a prince and be a princess, she has never once expressed the slightest sense of jealousy that Twilight is now a Princess and not her. That’s pretty telling, because she was jealous of Fluttershy, and they’re probably the two who spend the most of their time together. Highlights
Episode 16. “Sonic Rainboom”: Rarity rump bumps Twilight to encourage her to find a spell.
Episode 29. “Lesson Zero”: Rarity calls Twilight a drama queen, after a day of non-stop drama.
Episode 53-54. “The Crystal Empire”: Rarity starts the song to Twilight. Rainbow Dash Rarity’s relationship to Rainbow is similar to Applejack, only with a lot less butting of heads. They don’t usually interact, and when they do, it’s pretty low key. We mostly see Rarity doing nice things for Rainbow, like making her a pretty dress for Princess Celestia’s visit, or supporting her in competitions... at first. Not much else to say. Highlights
Episode 14. “Suited for Success”: Rarity facedesks when Rainbow can’t be any clearer about her dress than it needs to be cooler.
Episode 47. “Dragon Quest”: Rarity tells Rainbow she was surprised her plan worked, and gets a rump to the face in response.
Episode 61. “Spike at your Service”: Rarity gives Rainbow a very snarky response to her fanfiction plot, which goes right over Rainbow’s head.
Episode 75. “Rainbow Falls”: Rarity takes the relay horseshoe to paint it, to Rainbow’s annoyance. Fluttershy Indications are that Rarity and Fluttershy have been firm friends for a very long time. They often have spa dates together, and Rarity frequently tries to bring Fluttershy out of her shell. Being the prettiest and second-most ladylike Mane Six, they seem to have a lot in common. Their Elements are also quite compatible, since Generosity is being giving with one’s possessions and Kindness is being giving with one’s time and emotion. Other indications of their closeness include Fluttershy helping Rarity with Opal, Rarity calling on her when she needs someone to fly up and help her borrow the Castle decorations. She also tried very hard to be happy for Fluttershy when she caught the eye of Photo Finish, and felt terrible when she was envious. She also very quickly forgave Fluttershy for the vicious tongue-lashing she got in “Putting your Hoof Down”. Highlights
Episode 17. “Stare Master”: Rarity is speechless when a quiet word from Fluttershy pulls the CMC into line.
Episode 45. “Putting Your Hoof Down”: Rarity pushes a slack-jawed Pinkie’s mouth closed after Fluttershy stands up to Iron Will.
Episode 57. “Magic Duel”: Rarity creates a camouflage outfit for Fluttershy that includes bunny ears.
Episode 79. “Filli Vanilli”: Rarity quickly picks up on Fluttershy’s eagerness to continue singing. Pinkie Pie Again, not really much to say here. Rarity is sometimes exasperated at Pinkie’s antics, and can even be quite stern with her, but they tend to get along very well most of the time. Pinkie also seems to put some trust in Rarity. In “Last Round-up”, she simply leaps off the stagecoach and tells Rarity to catch her. Highlights
Episode 7. “Dragonshy”: Pinkie beats Rarity at Tic-Tac-Toe… 35 times in a row.
Episode 45. “Putting Your Hoof Down”: Pinkie and Rarity team up to help Fluttershy be more assertive, but she does so badly that Pinkie buries her head in the ground. Rarity tries to comfort her with a gentle hoof on her mane.
Episode 62. “Keep Calm and Flutter On”: Rarity checks her reflection in Pinkie’s newly polished hooves.
Episode 73. “Rarity Takes Manehatten”: After Rarity delivers her “going down in flames, isn’t friendship magic?” line, Pinkie gives her a sheepish grin and nods agreement. Spike This is one of the most important and talked about relationships in the series. Ironically, given that FiM doesn’t have much by way of romance. A lot of people give Rarity grief over what they see as her taking advantage of him. In some ways, they’re right, but it’s actually much more of a give and take than is sometimes recognized. Yes, she gets him to do stuff for her, but most of the time, Spike’s perfectly okay with it. And she’s hardly the only Mane Six who does. She also frequently gives him rewards for his troubles, such as gems to eat, a carrot-dog, etc. She also sticks up for Spike frequently, and went to great lengths to keep him safe in “Dragon Quest”. It’s clear that she does care for him in her own way. I suspect that Rarity simply doesn’t know exactly how to handle Spike’s precocious crush on her. After all, by the standards of dragonhood, Spike is not even a teenager yet. She can’t view him as a romantic prospect, but she cares for him and certainly wouldn’t want to hurt his feelings. So, until she can find a way to let him down gently, she keeps their relationship at status quo. Perhaps in her mind, letting him do things for her is a way of showing that she does want him to be around. Not always, of course, but I think that’s a large part of it. Highlights
Episode 19. “A Dog and Pony Show”: Spike valiantly defends Rarity from the Diamond Dogs.
Episode 36. “Secret of My Excess”: The most touching Rarity-Spike moment, as he tries to confess while falling, only for her to shush him and show that she already knows.
Episode 61. “Spike at your Service”: She takes a bite out of his terrible pie to make him happy.
Episode 73. “Rarity Takes Manehatten”: Rarity gives Spike that carrot-dog, which is promptly stolen by a bird. He has it again later, so either he got it back or bought a replacement. Family: Parents, Sweetie Belle and Opal Rarity seems to be deliberately avoiding taking after her parents, who seems like very friendly, if unsophisticated types. Middle class is probably a good way to describe them. We don’t yet know if her dad is a unicorn or earth pony, due to his hat. (BREAKING NEWS - He actually is a unicorn, as shown in "Imagination Manifestation"!) She hasn’t really interacted with them enough to get much of an idea of how close she is to them. While Opal can be temperamental, she seems to have affection for Rarity in her own enigmatic cat way. Her moods follow Rarity’s, and she tries to remind her mistress of her priorities at times. Opal seems to stoically suffer some of Rarity’s more whimsical tendencies, such as her baby-talking and coddling. Rarity’s relationship with Sweetie Belle is the focus of a fair number of episodes. While their sisterly relationship has had its ups and downs, Sweetie Belle clearly looks up to Rarity, and Rarity clearly loves her and tries to do good things for her. While she took her a bit for granted in earlier seasons, Rarity has gotten much better at compromising, mainly due to the events of “Sisterhooves Social”. Where before she would put her own comfort and desires first, she’s now more willing to sacrifice them for Sweetie’s sake. The most recent episodes have shown that Sweetie has long been harbouring a grudge for Rarity overshadowing her, and they may become even closer now that Sweetie has realized that Rarity doesn’t want to keep her in her shadow. Highlights
Episode 31. “Sisterhooves Social”: We get to meet Rarity’s parents. This episode also improves the sisters’ relationship.
Episode 35. “Sweet and Elite”: Opal taps the design for Twilight’s dress, and is annoyed when Rarity doesn’t notice.
Episode 58. “Sleepless in Ponyville”: Despite despising camping and “all that… ugh… nature”, Rarity is willing to brave the wilderness for her sister… as long as no heavy hauling for her is involved. Sweetie doesn’t seem to mind, just being glad that Rarity is there.   Romantic Prospects Fancy Pants Catching the eye of this stallion is one of the best things ever to happen to Rarity. He’s also later appeared in Ponyville and Manehatten. Could he be following Rarity around? And is that supermodel pony who always hangs on him just eye candy, or a romantic partner? For Rarity’s sake, I hope not! Trenderhoof Creepy shrine? Check. Trying everything she can to win him over? Check. Learning that changing yourself for someone else is a bad thing? Check. Getting over him?
Antagonists: Discord Along with most of the others, Rarity is skeptical of Discord’s change of heart. She blames him for the embarrassment of making her think a rock was a diamond, and so she has little patience or sympathy for him. Photo Finish Photo Finish was rather abrupt to her, made Fluttershy a star and caused Rarity to feel like she had betrayed her best friend by being so jealous. Photo Finish has yet to return in a speaking part, but she was present in a cameo during “Sweet and Elite”, so we could speculate that Rarity is over it. Prince Blueblood Apart from acting like a prat, he used her as a pony shield against flying cake. In the dress she was terrified somepony would spill something on in “A Bird in the Hoof”. A crime against fashion! After she told him just what she thought of him, she was forced to flee, and smashed her glass slipper so that he couldn’t find her. Despite this, he also had a cameo, so perhaps she has forgiven him too. Trixie Although Trixie has done some nasty things to her, Rarity seems to dislike Trixie mainly because of how she treated Twilight. Perhaps we can learn more if Trixie gets another episode (I’m counting the minutes ). Suri Polomane Suri represents what Rarity could become if she lost her sense of generosity. And morals in general. Although Rarity was deeply hurt by her betrayal, she didn’t try to excuse her own bad behaviour towards her friends. She also doesn’t seem to feel a need to get revenge on Suri for taking advantage of her generosity. Perhaps she considers Suri losing her talented assistant, Coco Pommel, to be punishment enough. And with that, I draw this three-part analysis of Rarity to a close. Do you think I was accurate? Do you disagree with my points or have something more to add? Any comments are welcomed. Until next time, stay Rarity-side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Looking at Rarity Part 2: Flawed Fashionista

As a Rarity fan, I often cite her complexity as one of the reasons to like her. That complexity comes about because there are some flaws which Rarity has and that need to be acknowledged. Fans like myself, and anyone who uses her complexity as a reason why she is a good character, can’t have our Fire Ruby and eat it too. We simply cannot try to explain away all her flaws, because then we’re implying she is perfect, and that isn’t what makes a character interesting and likeable. That being the case, I now want to look at her flaws, the ones I think need to be acknowledged. There are also come criticisms that fans may level at her that I don’t think are entirely fair, and I’ll explain why I disagree. So let’s have another look at Rarity, our flawed little diamond.   Manipulative Oh, for a certainty, Rarity uses her beauty and charm to get others to do what she wants them to do. In The Best Night Ever. she charmed some stallions into pulling the carriage to the Grand Galloping Gala. She successfully relieved Spike of his precious Fire Ruby in Secret of my Excess. Speaking of Spike, she often gets him to carry her things, and if he’s reluctant, she only has to bat her eyelashes at him. She flattered a decidedly unhandsome pony shamelessly so as to get his asparagus away from him. She expressed a desire to have someone eternally in her debt so that she could get them to do things for her in Spike at your Service. The thing is, even though I can acknowledge this as somewhat ignoble, the more vociferous among Rarity’s detractors tend to make more of this fault than it actually warrants. They mistake manipulation for selfishness, when it often isn’t the case. Let’s look at the examples above. The Carriage Incident in “The Best Night Ever” Twilight had enchanted mice into horses to pull the carriage, but they were chased away by Opal. There was a problem facing her friends, and Rarity is the one who knew exactly what to do. She simply asked some of her neighbours for help. They were quite happy to do so, and it was for the good of the whole Mane Six, not just Rarity. The Asparagus Incident in “Putting Your Hoof Down” First of all, many fans seem to forget that Rarity’s intention was to help Fluttershy, who had been unfairly deprived of her asparagus. That isn’t selfish, it’s supportive. Sure, poor Poindexter lost his asparagus, but how many fans notice that she actually paid him back the coin he had spent? She didn’t leave him short, even though he was eating out of her hoof and seemingly wouldn’t have cared if Rarity were to steal both his kidneys to go with the asparagus. She could have taken advantage of him far more than she did. Heck, he’ll probably remember the time a pretty girl pony flirted with him with a warm fuzzy feeling for the rest of his life. In my fanfiction brainspace, that incident actually made him braver and more confident about his looks, and led to him being happily married to a lovely pony lass in the future. (Hands off, fanfiction writers! This idea is mine! ) The Fire Ruby Incident in “Secret of my Excess” Anyone who accuses Rarity of being selfish or greedy in this scene is not giving it enough consideration. Let’s do a play-by-play, shall we? She originally enters the library in order to ask Twilight for a book about fashion. Before she can do so, she is distracted by the sight of the Fire Ruby, and gushes over how beautiful it is. At this point, there is nothing to indicate she wants it for herself. She is just appreciating it for its beauty and even turns away from it when Twilight asks her why she is there in the first place. Then she realizes that Spike called the gem “totally delicious”, and when he confirms that he is going to eat it, she looks devastated, not avaricious. This is the thing that some fans (perhaps willfully; perhaps not) misunderstand: she doesn’t want the gem as a pretty bauble for herself. She wants it because otherwise Spike will eat it and destroy its beauty forever. Rarity lives for beauty and the thought of something so lovely just being eaten and destroyed is unbearable to her. Twilight gives her the book she needs, and again, Rarity turns away from the gem and talks about other plans she has. Then she remembers that Spike is going to eat it. At this point, we see she wants to get the gem, and even bites her own hoof to stop herself from asking for it. In fact, she never does ask for it, even though she clearly wants it. She mentions again how beautiful it is. This is the point where Spike himself notices that she wants it. Eventually, he offers it to her as a gift. From her expression, it’s clear that she is taken aback by this: she actually shows surprise that he is giving it to her, and is genuinely delighted, pronouncing it as the most generous gesture she has ever experienced. None of the above is at all congruent with a callous and selfish manipulation. Any fan reducing this intricate interplay of motives and events to “she wanted it, so she manipulated him into giving it to her” is doing not only Rarity, but also Spike, a grievous disservice. It was a meaningful gesture of sacrifice and generosity on Spike’s part, motivated by the desire to make the one he loves happy. That Rarity got what she wished from it in the end is not an indication of her selfishness or manipulative tendencies. The fact that she continually turned away, kept herself from outright asking for it, and didn’t act like it was a foregone conclusion when she finally did get a hold of it, shows that she wasn’t single-mindedly dedicated to seducing the gem away from him. Greedy I often hear this repeated about Rarity. She’s greedy.
Sayeth whaaat? One of the very few times I would call her actions greedy is when she was under Discord’s influence, and that was clearly stated to be the opposite of her true self. In Castle Mane-ia, she again showed that she will go to great lengths to preserve something she considers beautiful. Like with the Fire Ruby, she wanted to preserve beauty for its own sake, not for her personal edification. That fans point to that as greedy is something that really boggles my mind. At most, she was hoping to gain some inspiration, and she is an artist, so seeking inspiration is perfectly all right. She wants things, yes, but those things are not generally material possessions. She’s pretty free with her jewels, as well. I don’t know how else to defend this point, since I can’t see where the fans who say this are really coming from. The only other example of pure greed I can remember is in “Dragonshy”, where she was focused more on getting a diamond than their actual reason for being there.   Snobbish A snob is someone who acts as if they are superior to others. Rarity does not act (usually) like she is superior, she simply has a certain standard of behavior and decorum that she strives to maintain, and she urges other to do the same. But she doesn’t allow the fact that she is more sophisticated than most keep her from maintaining friendships with the rest of the Mane Six, which is what a snob would do. A snob would not associate with those who do not act as upper class as they do. And let’s face it, her friends can sometimes be a bit lacking in the social graces. “Sweet and Elite” illustrated this quite neatly. The Mane Six invite themselves to an extremely exclusive party (second only to the Grand Galloping Gala itself, which required tickets and a guest list months before the event) and proceed to wreck the place like a band of hooligans. Yet Rarity not only acknowledged their lack of sophistication, but then stated that it didn’t matter, calling her friends “the most important ponies I know.” Again, snob certainly does not fit.   Whiney She was being deliberately whiney to annoy the Diamond Dogs. That’s all. She doesn’t even really complain all that much outside of that single episode, except for saying “Gently, please!” in “Dragonshy” when Applejack was pulling her harness too tight.   Lazy As I pointed out in Part 1, this is probably the least appropriate word to use for Rarity. She works really hard on her appearance, as well as her chosen line of work. She is extremely hard-working. The fact that she doesn’t carry her own bags doesn’t make her lazy. She expects that as a lady, she shouldn’t have to carry her own bags. Same with Sweetie Belle in “Sleepless in Ponyville”. In Rarity’s mind, she’s done enough just to be out camping, an activity she despises and only agreed to out of her love for her sister, and in line with what she learned in “Sisterhooves Social”. In both cases, I see it more as a matter of her feeling entitled to have someone else do the heavy lifting rather than a sense of laziness. Is that a good thing? No, it’s one of her flaws, but one that shouldn’t be mislabeled as laziness. If anything, it should fall under the snobbish category. Right, so now that the false accusations are out of the way (boy, doesn’t that sound defensive? ), I want to discuss what I feel are the legitimate failings of Rarity.   Entitled, Selfish Following on from the previous point above, Rarity does have certain expectations. That Spike should have to carry her bags; that Prince Blueblood should have been treating her as a lady in “The Best Night Ever”; that Sweetie Belle should have to do everything she can to make her own camping experience as luxurious as possible. This is a fault, even if the characters concerned seem anything but unhappy to do it, and it’s clear that sometimes, Spike does mind. She also forced her friends to work through the night, have a late dinner, and finally miss a show they were really looking forward to in “Rarity Takes Manehatten”. She has been particularly selfish where Sweetie Belle is concerned. She’s been getting a little better about it as of “Sisterhooves Social”. She still wants things for herself. She wants success, the adulation of the fashion world, and she wants a stallion to sweep her off her feet. Sometimes she has to struggle between this and her need to be generous to others. It’s a definite tug of war, but she usually makes the right choice in the end, even if she wavers along the way.   Obsessive and over-dramatic Much like Twilight, Rarity can sometimes be so focused on the little details that she misses the big picture. A prime example is the nest-building in “Winter Wrap Up”, where she lets her need to correct Twilight’s nest overwhelm her (to the point of tears) where it would have been much more sensible to trash it and continue building more. A rather more disturbing example comes from the recent episode, “Simple Ways”. Apart from her creepy shrine to Trenderhoof, she also becomes fixated on being “country” so as to get him to notice her. It takes a crime against fashion to bring her back to herself. There are other instances of this as well. Consider “Magical Mystery Cure”. She clearly had the power to rearrange the weather properly; it was just that she insisted on placing the clouds in lovely but useless patterns rather than uniform and practical ones. She also has a tendency to histrionics, often making a big deal out of the smallest things. I find these outbursts more amusing than annoying, but I can understand how fans could take the opposite view and see it as a flaw. (“I forgot the plates for the picnic!” Cue fainting couch and self-pity!)   Hypocritical Oh, so much. Sometimes she seems self-aware of it, but at other times, oblivious to her own hypocrisy. Self-aware examples come from: “Lesson Zero” where she has the gall to call Twilight a drama queen, when she was driven to the point of a teary tantrum over not being able to find a ribbon; in the same episode, when they think Twilight is going back to magic kindergarten, she uses the same line as for all the other really small issues, but at least she notices, and clarifies that this time it’s justified; being jealous of Fluttershy’s success even though she earlier stated that “a lady is never jealous” (she has the good grace to acknowledge to Twilight that her feelings are inappropriate); and snooping in Sweetie Belle’s saddlebag, but feeling betrayed at having her diary read without permission in “Ponyville Confidential”, even turning her own shortfall into an object lesson for Sweetie Belle. Speaking of that episode, it also has an example of the oblivious kind, where Rarity is quite content when others get embarrassed by Gabby Gums, but flies off the handle when it happens to her. Halfway through saying that “maybe they deserved it”, to boot. She also was oblivious when Discord asked for someone to provide him with a fainting couch, which Rarity seems to have on permanent stand-by (in case of drama emergency ), prompting her to answer everyone’s glance with “What…?” She was also jealous of Applejack getting the attention of the stallion she liked, and even tried to change her personality to suit someone else, which she later chided him for doing (although that was more like her putting into words for him the lesson she had just learned for herself, so maybe calling that hypocritical is being a bit harsh).   Vain She definitely is. Sometimes she can get so entranced by her own beauty, that she forgets everything else, and sometimes even becomes the stereotype of a self-centered, vapid bimbo that she usually manages to avoid. The most prominent example in the first season comes from “Sonic Rainboom”, where her magical wings went to her head, as it were, and ended up causing a lot of distress for Rainbow Dash, whom she herself had been most vocal about supporting. She also put a number of other ponies in danger due to her actions. In the end, it warped her character entirely out of true. The evidence for this: first, the laugh she gives when everyone praises her wings sounds rather unhinged; second is the utterly garish outfit she ended up wearing in the Best Young Fliers Competition. In her normal state, Rarity would never have dressed in something that tacky. It’s nearly as bad as any of the ugly dresses she ended up making in “Suited for Success”. Even in more normal circumstances, she still can be a bit of a Narcissus, in an almost literal sense. She often becomes absorbed in her own beauty when there is any available reflective surface for her to gaze at herself in. She again forgot what she was supposed to be doing in the Crystal Empire, having a self-indulgent fantasy of herself as a Crystal Pony, and bemoaning the fact that when she did get turned to Crystal, it was only a temporary effect. Luckily Applejack was there to make her feel better. And that concludes Part 2 of “Looking at Rarity”. Did your list of Rarity’s faults match mine? Do you think I let her off too lightly in some areas, or was too harsh in others? You’re welcome to leave a comment and let me know what you think. Part 3 is going to expand out from Rarity herself and delve more fully into her relationships with the other characters in the show, including but not restricted to the rest of the Mane Six

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

 

Jack’s Swag (Episode XCVIX)

In this episode, another of my theories goes belly up (I sincerely hope), and I’m forced to make some retractions… what do you think of that, Jack?
“Drinks all around!” Oops, wrong Jack. Anyhoo, let’s move on to the seventh episode of Samurai Jack, Season 5. Fish heads, tiger heads and Stanley Kubric inspired imagery await us…   What happens A gigantic monolithic ship is hit by asteroids and crash lands. Next we see Jack and Ashi in a desert city. Jack samples some of the local cuisine and gets his head transformed into a fish. Ashi is less than enthused, but luckily it quickly wears off. They board a gigantic camel, along with a large number of tiger-headed aliens. In the crowded quarters, Jack and Ashi are pushed together, and it gets a little awkward… we see quite a bit of UST between the two as they try to avoid touching hands and any other bits, in fact. The will-they-or-won’t-they-tête-à-tête is interrupted as they are attacked by the tiger aliens, and forced to escape out a window. They swing down to the desert on the reins and continue on foot. A gigantic sandstorm begins, and they seek shelter in the crashed ship from earlier, which is revealed to be huge. They make their way deeper and end up getting lost, when something starts chasing them. Ashi gets bitten by a venomous slug, forcing Jack to suck out the venom.
So, here’s Jack sucking on Ashi’s… um, ashi… Oh, by the way, “ashi” means “leg” in Japanese, so get your mind out of the gutter! You’re blocking my light. As they continue on, they find themselves being stalked. Their enemy is revealed as a colony of slugs like the one from earlier that form a giant monster.
“My God… it’s full of slugs!” Jack eventually finds an armoury with a device that can destroy the monster, but the critical part of the explanation is lost when Jack is distracted by Ashi accidentally discharging a blaster into the wall. The two take the device and move on, Jack desperately trying to activate it. Ashi, having armed herself with a double headed sword and a shield, once again takes point as Jack struggles to use the device. The slug monster attacks them again, and Ashi ends up losing her outfit to its attacks. She feels no real qualms about fighting in the buff, but Jack certainly does and is forced to use his gi to cover her. When Jack admits he has no idea how to work the device, they trade roles back and forth. They finally manage to activate it just as the slugs swarm all over them. The device makes the slugs explode, leaving the pair alive, panting from exertion and covered with slug goo. Perfect time for a Big Damn Kiss!
"Romance in Samurai Jack? Surely you can’t be serious!”
“I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley.” MAKE OUT! Thoughts on the Episode On Jack and Ashi’s blossoming romance: *sigh*… the Rule 34 squad is going to have a field day with this episode. Which brings us to my first retraction: I was also wrong that Jack and Ashi would be revealed to be father and daughter. At least, I really really hope I’m wrong about that, because otherwise… ewww. Even worse, Ashi technically already fulfilled the first part of the Electra Complex double whammy, when she killed her own mother. We can probably take it as read that there is no familial relation between the two, because surely that would be a bit too squicky even for this season. With that caveat, I don’t really object to Jack and Ashi getting their freak on together. Sure, there’s an age gap and a probably even larger experience gap, but they’ve been through a lot together in a short space of time, and Ashi’s speech about how he saved her life and showed her the truth of Aku’s evil gives them bonus relationship points. Plus there’s a hint of real world psychology in the way they ended up, ahem, sucking face. Known as Misattribution of Arousal, in situations that involve a heightened arousal of the nervous system, the signals generated by fear, exertion or similar can be misinterpreted as physical attraction. How much this works in reality is up for debate, as with so much psychology/sociology research (the “squishy” sciences), but it’s a good enough working theory. Ashi not feeling any shame about fighting naked is a pretty clever touch, given the revelation that she always fights essentially naked, and Jack’s reaction to her nudity is adorable and in-character too. So all in all, the romance angle is pretty well justified in my mind, but YMMV. Since I’m in a retracting mood (I’m assuming Jack is not, at this point )… uh, do you remember my review of Episode XCIII, in which I opined that the tiger-wolf subplot was unnecessary and didn’t contribute? Well, whoops. Second retraction: that was foreshadowing for this episode that the tiger guys would try to kill Jack.
This might also have been a bit of a clue, in hindsight. In other news: I liked the villain of this episode, a non-sentient hive-mind of venomous slugs. There’s been a great variety of foes for Ashi and Jack to fight this season, so the creativity category gets a solid ten out of ten. This show has never had a problem with creativity and it’s good to see this is still the case. In the category of things to question, I’m not sure how much I liked the fish-head scene. It seems rather out of place… although, one earlier season episode had Jack being magically transformed into a chicken by a bad tempered wizard, so perhaps it’s more a return to form i.t.o. the comedy? It just seems odd given the darker tone of Season 5, so maybe the contrast is responsible for this seeming like a Big Lipped Fishhead Moment. It also seems a bit odd to dedicate a whole episode to forging Ashi and Jack into a Battle Couple. Fun though it was, it didn’t really change much in the grand scheme of things, making it seem like filler. There again, it avoids the whole Avatar: The Last Airbender issue of keeping the leads’ romantic relationship up in the air unnecessarily, so perhaps the episode deserves its place in the lineup. To sum up, this was definitely an interesting turn of events, but I’m not entirely displeased by it. It’s good to see Jack having things going his way after how much he’s been suffering, and they do make a good couple… assuming as always that certain theories are wrong. Jack will one day be an emperor, after all, and an emperor needs an empress. In fact, I foresee the final scene of the season showing Jack and Ashi in the past, with their newborn heir as the ultimate happy ending… make it sho, numba one! And with that, little remains but for me to invite you to comment as you will, and as always, hope that you stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Jack’s Journey (Episode XCVIII)

In this episode, questions are answered and unexpected characters make their reappearances. Join me as we rejoin Ashi and Jack on their quest to regain the Sword of Evil’s Bane…
No, not that one… So let’s jump on our oversized budgerigars and have a look.   What happens The episode opens in the past, as Jack Classic climbs a mountain pass, escorted by the cutest little mountain goats that ever did goat. At the top he finds some old stone pillars and (wonder-of-wonders!) a working time portal… and it’s not guarded by an African-American Blue Warrior…
No, not that one… Jack leaps into the portal and it seems like his quest has finally been achieved… until, in the ultimate Dick Move, Aku reaches in and plucks him out of the time portal. Casually blowing the time portal to pieces with his eye beams, Aku gleefully informs his nemesis that that was the last one in existence and taunts him about how he almost made this time. Enraged, Jack leaps at Aku, but the villain, leery of his sword, avoids his attacks and transforms the goats into gigantic evil minions to occupy Jack while he escapes. Still blinded by his anger, Jack doesn’t recognize these as the same goats who accompanied him earlier and he kills all three. Seeing them return to their normal forms, but still quite dead, Jack is horrified, and drops his sword. One of the pillars falls and knocks the sword into the pit where the time portal once was. Jack is left unable to anything except watch it fall into the darkness. Back in present day, Jack and Ashi ride a gigantic budgerigar (if you’re unfamiliar with the term, a budgerigar is a kind of small parrot – err, except that this one is, ya know, gigantic and all…)
We’re gonna need a bigger Speedo(TM) to smuggle this one… The Australians out there should get that joke. They descend into the hole to look for the sword but are unable to find it. Ashi wonders if someone took it, but Jack, seeing the bones of one of the goats he killed, is sure that the sword abandoned him when he killed innocent creatures in his anger. He decides he needs to go on a spiritual journey to retrieve it. They return to the top and Jack sits near the edge of the cliff to meditate. Meanwhile, Ashi is left to guard his back, and it’s a good thing she’s there… an army of orcs has arrived to kill Jack. Ashi makes like Gandalf and blocks the path. Despite being derided for thinking “one little girl” is enough to defeat an entire army, she promptly does just that… However, the army is merely a distraction… an assassin slips past and starts to climb towards Jack. Ashi reaches the top first, courtesy of your friendly neighborhood giant parakeet, and is confronted by an unexpected enemy… her mother, the High Priestess. The HP tries to get Ashi to turn on Jack, but having seen the truth of things, she refuses, and they fight. The HP proves a strong opponent, but when she gets a chance to leap towards Jack’s unprotected back, Ashi throws an arrow through her and she plunges over the cliff. Exhausted, Ashi collapses. Meanwhile Jack makes a trip while tripping and reaches a temple with a small old monk who asks him to make tea. He does so, but when the monk tastes it, he declares it bad… Jack is not balanced internally, and therefore cannot make good tea. HalluciJack reappears and he’s once again the crazy version. He screams imprecations at the old monk and tells Jack to force him to give the sword back. Jack finally realizes that HalluciJack is the reason why he is no longer worthy of wielding the sword… or maybe we should call him… Mad Jack! Dun dun DUN! Eeeyarrrk! Gesundheid! Yes, Mad Jack is back! Jack faces off against the manifestation of his own negative emotions, and with Eye Beams of Understanding, destroys Mad Jack. This brings him back into inner harmony and he meets the three gods Ra, Odin and Vishnu. They not only return his sword, but they also use a clothes beam…
No, not that one… …to restore his previous look.
Shave and a haircut… three gods, 50 years and a secret test of character!... TWO BITS! Returned to reality, Jack is finally, truly truly truly outrageous back! He finds Ashi and revives her and she compliments his new (for her) look. Where to next? Aku! WATCH OUT! Thoughts on the Episode Well, a lot of interesting parallels with previous episodes are on display here. Of necessity, I’ll need to explain one or two things that happened in the previous seasons for context. First of all, there was an episode that featured Mad Jack… a being Aku manifested from Jack’s own anger; think Dark Link. He had all of Jack’s prowess and was essentially unbeatable in combat. Jack’s solution to this was pretty much the same one as in this episode… he calmed himself down and got rid of his anger, thus causing Mad Jack to fade away. My previous theory re Omen and HJ is therefore wrong, but I’m happier with it this way. It provides us with a great callback. Okay, so maybe it isn’t literally Mad Jack back, but it’s close enough for government work. Second, there was an episode where Jack was lured into a graveyard and attacked by zombies resurrected by Aku, who actually managed to steal Jack’s sword from him and pin him down. When he tried to stab Jack with the sword, however, it simply bounced off without leaving so much as a scratch. Jack then says that “in the hands of evil, [the sword] could never be used to harm an innocent,” before reclaiming it and forcing Aku to flee. Is there a contradiction here? Perhaps not; Jack is not evil, so he can harm innocents with the sword. It could also be that the transformed goats were given a veneer of evil by Aku, and this by-passed the protection enough that it could kill them, leaving them still dead when they reverted. Thus the heartbreak. Speaking of, this incident could help explain why Jack was so distraught when he thought the children from two episodes previous had died, and why he didn’t bother to check first. It’s still a question mark for me, but less of one now. The sword continues to display some measure of sentience and mystical power, literally vanishing from the world when its wielder was deemed unworthy to wield it. I mean, heh, what does it think it is, Mjolnir? Come to think of it, Odin WAS instrumental in its creation, so that kind of makes sense. Hmm... Well played, writers… well played. So here’s a bit of a discussion point – given that the High Priestess displays quite the serious skill of her own in fighting Ashi, who curb-stomped an army of thousands single-handed, why did she not simply join the Daughters when there were still seven of them and assist them in crushing Jack? Did she think she had to stay behind in case they failed and she would have to replicate the feat of having sextuplets? This seems like a serious case of Villainous Stupidity on her part. Poor form, writers… poor form! Well, at any rate, Jack has his sword back, HJ/MJ and HP (probably) are toast and Ashi is still alive. Aku’s days appear to be numbered… in fact, only three episodes remain! Join me again for the next episode of Samurai Jack Season 5. In the meantime, leave your comments below and remember to stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

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

 

Jack’s Attacked (Episode XCIII)

Here we go with the second episode of Season 5, featuring the first fight between immortal wandering Ronin Jack and the team of warriors dedicated literally from birth to slaying him, the Daughters of Aku. Things are going to get interesting...   What happens The first part of this episode allows us to catch up with an old friend: the Shapeshifting Master of Darkness, the Emperor of Evil, the Shogun of Sorrow… the one, the only, AKU! After waking up, while dealing with dirt-tracking delegations and socializing with scheming scientists, Aku tries to brush aside any mention of the Samurai, saying he no longer cares whether Jack is still running around, and sinks back down out of sight. In actuality, though, he is very much in despair and depression over the issue. He has a conversation with a psychiatrist version of himself, lamenting the fact that his plan of destroying all the time portals and letting old age defeat Jack for him has backfired so horribly, since Jack no longer ages.
Special Offer: Two LARGE HAMS for the price of one! He wonders idly if there is not someone out there who will take care of the whole having-an-immortal-mortal-enemy-thorn-in-his-side issue for him. Cut to Jack, as he is ambushed by the Daughters, who wreck his bike and attack him with such speed and ferocity that he can barely even track their movements as they hit from all sides. In the melee, he loses his Tuning Fork Sword to one of his attackers. Pressed to his limit, he manages to use a belt of grenades as a smokescreen and hides under a metal dome (wreckage of a giant robot Jack easily defeated earlier in the episode) as it begins to rain. And enter HallicuJack – a version similar in appearance to Jack as he had been in previous seasons, his hair still neatly tied up, clean shaven and dressed in his signature robe. Jack and HalluciJack have an argument as HalluciJack claims that these new enemies are too strong for him, and he should just give up. Jack responds that his opponents are only nuts and bolts; he has been in seemingly hopeless situations before, but then finds a way to survive. HalluciJack counters that that was when he still had his sword, and further states that he just wants this to end and that their ancestors are waiting for him to join them. Jack sees the Apparition again, but behind it, he sees the entrance to a temple. Ignoring HalluciJack’s certainty that he’ll be killed before he reaches it, Jack sprints for the entrance and its promise of safety, the Daughters soon following. Jack goes to ground in the darkness, but rather than searching for the needle in this temple haystack, the Daughters instead hide themselves to lure him out. After a period of stillness, Jack attempts to sneak out again, but can’t avoid encounters with the Daughters. Eventually, he runs into a giant cavern filled with sarcophagi and the remains of an unknown Warrior King and his armies.
He keeps them up his sleevies… Jack hides in one of the sarcophagi, and the Daughters regroup in order to stalk him. After a tense game of hide and seek, Jack is discovered and the fight resumes. Finally, the last of Jack’s armour is destroyed, leaving him clad only in a loincloth. He manages to gain some distance and runs desperately through the corridors seeking escape. One of the Daughters (the one who took his Tuning Fork Sword) cuts him off, but with only a single opponent to face, Jack manages to take it back and in one swift counter-attack, slits her throat. Her mask falls apart, revealing the face beneath. Jack is horrified to realize that what he thought was just another machine was really a human being. He also discovers that she managed to stab him with her own dagger in the last moments of the fight. Bleeding heavily, Jack drags himself towards the end of the corridor, leaving a long smear of his own blood on the stone. He uses the Tuning Fork Sword on the walls of the corridor, and falls into a fast-flowing river, just as the temple explodes and partially collapses. Jack floats face down in the water, bleeding aaaand… WATCH OUT!   Thoughts on the Episode Savvy readers may note that the summary makes no mention of the white wolf fighting the tigers. I left it out because one – it interrupts the flow of the summary unnecessarily; and letter number B – I feel it didn’t add anything to the episode itself. I know that the wolf’s story parallels Jack’s own struggle against the Daughters, and that the wolf himself reappears in the following episode, but symbolism for its own sake, particularly blatant symbolism, can be distracting and actually detract from a story. And I think it kind of did here. Also, we know Jack will survive, so showing the wolf apparently dead after the battle with the tigers doesn’t even work as misdirection. Still, these are relatively minor gripes. Back to the episode itself. Yay! Aku’s back, too! And we get to see his take on the whole situation, which is “yup, this sucks”. The psychiatrist version of Aku is pretty funny, seemingly being more eloquent than Aku himself, even though it doesn’t make that much sense, considering it IS Aku himself. While the original voice actor of Aku, Mako Iwamatsu, unfortunately is no longer with us, the new guy, Greg Baldwin (thanks, IMDB!) does a pretty good version… not perfect, but then, Mako was one of a kind. I had kind of hoped that Aku would remain unseen for a while longer, to make his eventual return to the small screen more impactful, but since we already heard him on the phone, I guess him being The Ghost in this season wouldn’t make that much sense. Greg Baldwin has bills to pay, too, you know. This scene does serve to give a bit of light humour amid the rather dark tone of the rest of the episode, so there’s that, I guess. This episode being mostly a running battle with Jack against the Daughters, there isn’t much to talk about apart from the HalluciJack scene (a rather darker mirror of the earlier Aku segment) and the hide-and-seek scene, so let’s go over those. The fact that the Apparition appears when the HalluciJack part of Jack mentions suicide firms my opinion that the Apparition is the representation of Jack’s desire to end it all, which he struggles against. There’s a bit of libido / destrudo dualism there – while the word libido has been co-opted to mean “sex drive” in common parlance, it’s probably more accurately described as the desire for life, as opposed to the desire for death – and making an external representation to portray an internal struggle is pretty common in fiction. Stinker HalluciJack is going to be a fixture from here on out, though, so we’ll have a chance to discuss him again further down the line. The scene with the cavern and the Daughters hunting Jack down is simply wonderful, and perhaps the best part of this episode – the music ratchets up the tension beautifully (the music is almost too beautiful) and Jack’s terror is highlighted here, but I do have one or two questions. First, I didn’t quite understand the firefly bit. Does that represent Jack’s fading hope the closer the Daughters come, or did the firefly somehow lead them to him – which doesn’t make sense since it was inside with Jack. Secondly, exactly how do the Daughters all gravitate to the correct sarcophagus, if the firefly was inside and didn’t lead them there? Any explanation would be welcome, since I don’t quite understand that part. The final fight with the single Daughter provides us with the non-robotic reveal, and reaffirms Jack’s superiority – while outclassed by the Daughters as a whole in this episode, one-on-one he is still the better warrior. In fact, the final stab the Daughter gets in probably would have been avoidable had Jack not been in a blind panic and already at the tail end of his strength from the previous fighting. This scene also cements the tone shift by actually presenting real, red, non-oil blood being spilled for the first time – on both sides. We’ve seen Jack get scratches now and then before, but actual messy, bleeding abdominal stab wounds is a first here. It’s done so suddenly that the blood is legitimately shocking on first viewing. Well, unless you’ve been watching the previews or adverts, it would be. It’s fortunate for Jack that the sister he faced had his TFS: convenient coincidence is convenient. Another honourable mention for the scenes fought in darkness, lit up only when steel strikes sparks. It’s simply beautiful to watch and gives an idea of just how skilled the fighters all are… just not quite skilled enough on the Daughters’ side, as the above paragraph demonstrates. Overall, despite some question marks, the second episode of Season 5 is pretty solid. The Daughters are set up as a legitimate threat to Jack’s life, his continual struggle with pushing himself on despite having little hope and running more on pure stubbornness to survive than any kind of end goal helps us identify with and root for our favourite samurai, and there is even a little comic relief from everyone’s favourite Architect of Annihilation Aku to keep the mood from getting too bleak. And that was episode, still bringing the thrills. I’ll be back to give my thoughts on the next episode real soon. Complain or compliment below, you know the drill. Stay sunny side up, y’all, and remember to WATCH OUT!  

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Jack's Back! (Episode XCII)

Very recently in a close-by land...A wish really did come true... Yes, cartoon fans, Samurai Jack is back on the grid! A mere 13 years after the series was left in limbo, a final ten-part conclusion is airing. Jack's back, babe! And he is sporting a new beard, a new ride and a new attitude. It's beau coup cuckoo, babe! Skeeeee-dee-bab-bab-boo! (That's scat speak for SPOILERS AHEAD, YO! - and those spoilers will cover more than just the first episode - you've been warned!) What Happens
The first episode of the new season begins with a trio of aliens (rather cute anthropomorphic dog-ant hybrids of some sort) running from Aku's minions. The three (either a mother, daughter and babe-in-arms, or a big sister, little sister, and a babe-in-arms, or some combination of those - does it really matter?) are quickly surrounded by the robotic bugs. Thinking this the end of the line for them, the two eldest each give a final message of "I <3 you", using their antennae to spell it out. All of a sudden a warrior in samurai armour riding a motorcycle appears and quickly lays waste to the robotic bugs, using spiked wheels, a staff/spear/trident thingie and even various guns. During the fight, his mask gets destroyed, revealing a familiar face with a distinctly unfamiliar amount of facial hair. "Jack"   "?" signals the middle child. After defeating the final attacker, the Jack rides off wordlessly, with the grateful middle sister signalling "Thank you!" to him as he leaves. The intro plays... we get a voice over from Jack (Phil LaMarr reprising his role as the eponymous samurai) stating that "Fifty years have passed..." He also mentions that he has found that he is not aging and expresses his despair that Aku is choking the past, present and future. Despite the bleak overtones, Jack's final words show he is still determined to succeed... "Got to get back... back to the past... Samurai Jack!" The new season wastes exactly zero time in clarifying that it aims to be far darker than previous seasons, with a silhouetted scene of a woman crying out in the throes of childbirth. As each of the seven children is born, they are held up by the Cult of Aku and then placed on a altar. The high priestess (also the new mother of the seven - how she can bare to stand up and then doesn't die from blood loss, I have no idea) pledges the seven daughters to Aku's service - specifically to kill Jack, thereby succeeding where all others have failed. The next scene is Jack riding through a bleak desert (no symbolism there, no indeedy) and then finding himself in the Running of the Leaves.
Shouldn't that involve actual running? He sees a column of smoke in the distance, but decides to ignore it. He comes upon a stream, and refreshes himself. He is soon disturbed by visions of his father, mother and his people, crying out to him and asking why he never returned to save them from Aku; accusing him of leaving them to die. He then sees a mysterious ghostly apparition of a warrior on horseback wearing samurai armour, which finally scares him enough to run towards the smoke. Stopping to make camp, Jack finds the visions returning in even greater force when he rests, pushing him to make haste. In an odd example of Time Dilation Story-telling, we see the Daughters of Aku training as they grow from toddlers to young adulthood. One of them in particular (named Ashi) stands out... first by making a mistake during the martial arts training (and being told that one mistake = death), then by sneaking away to gape at the beauty of the world outside their conclave enclave cave while the others face off an Amazonian fighter of their order (which scene incidentally provides us with the central tenet of the Daughters' training and indoctrination: Aku is a powerful and beneficent creator and the Samurai is an evil monster who seeks to desecrate what Aku has created - the jury's still out on whether the Cult as a whole believes this, or if it's just a convenient way of instilling a wish for Jack's demise into the Daughters). Later on, a teenage Ashi almost falls off a pillar, just managing to hold on with one hand. Another sister attempts to help her, but is stopped by the High Priestess, who states that "the weak have no place with Aku". She then grinds her staff on Ashi's hand and demands "Are you weak?!"... to which Ashi gives a kiai yell and then regains her footing and pushes on... to the approval of the HP. Back in modern day, Jack finally reaches the smoke, and finds an entire village (more like a city) in ruins, its now-dead inhabitants sprawled everywhere. As the smoke clears, the perpetrator is revealed... a robotic assassin who introduces himself as Scaramouch the Merciless (plus a tithe of titles too tiring to type). He exhorts Jack to take out his ka-ray-zee sword, and is delighted to discover that Jack no longer has his sword... a quick flashback reveals that it fell into a pit (presumably) many years ago. Scaramouch attempts to contact Aku via phone to relay this vital info, but Jack puts the kibosh on that by throwing a kunai at the phone and then firing a few Consecutive Normal Punches at Scaramouch's face. Unfortunately, Jack is not Saitama, and Scaramouch manages to recover and gain some distance. Scaramouch uses his magic flute to animate the rubble into a golem to attack Jack. Jack defeats the golem but then starts hallucinating starving children pleading for him to help them, prompting Scaramouch to observe that he's gone beau coup cuckoo. Scaramouch sends some rocks flying at Jack, inadvertently snapping him out of his reverie. This time, Jack manages to destroy the flute. Scaramouch is not particularly put out, using his scatting powers to remote control his scimitar and pulling out a "tuning fork" sword - anything it hits soon explodes. This causes one of Jack's daggers to blow up. Scaramouch declares "No one plays the blades like I do... NO ONE!" and sends his scimitar at Jack again. Elegantly dodging the attack, Jack allows Scaramouch to hit his final remaining dagger three times... and pause... (kidney punch!) Scaramouch declares it's been fun, but the outcome of the fight is clear... Jack's going to lose and die... until Jack nonchalantly throws the dagger at Scaramouch just as it explodes. This gives Jack the opening to cut Scaramouch in twain with his own scimitar. Scaramouch declares "th-th-th-the-the... that's all folks!" before exploding. Jack takes the tuning fork sword and strides off, once more victorious. Next we switch tracks to the Daughters as their final trial is at hand. The seven climb a spire, fighting off the best fighters of the Cult. Ashi dodges a few arrows, and uses one to stab the archer in the eye, before stealing her bow and shooting two of the Cultists her sisters are facing, also in the eye. Both turn and mutter "Ashi." (The Daughters do, I mean, not the Cultists, who are in fact dead now.) All seven make it to the top, to be greeted by the High Priestess, who declares their training complete and them ready...  "You are Seven... but now you wear the face of One... One Purpose, for which you were born... to kill THE SAMURAI!" They exit the temple and WATCH OUT! Gotta get back, back to the past... Samurai Jack! Thoughts on the Episode
Hmm, let me guess which of the Seven Daughters of Aku is going to feature most heavily from here on out... it's got to be... Grumpy! Oh, wait, that's one of the seven dwarfs... my bad. I doubt I'd have been hailed as any kind of seer for predicting that she would become one of the central characters this season (since she does). More on that later. The whole concept of the Daughters, from the depiction of their birth with attendant screams of birthing pain, to their brutal training regime, to their final violent test of readiness, highlights that the new season is going to be far darker and bloodier than previous... and I say, bring it on! Not to mention that their tight-fitting catsuits really accentuate their, um... skills. Jack himself is quite understandably having difficulty after fifty years of non-stop wandering the land, not even aging; a side effect of being flung into the future, it seems. The loss of his sword, being in itself a massive development, has forced him to update his armoury and adopt the use of guns (Holy Sidearms, Batman!) Then there's the hallucinations - his people alternately drowning in streams, burning alive, children begging them to save him, "have you forgotten?", "why have you forsaken us?" and all the rest... understandable manifestations of his guilt, although pretty disturbing to watch. And we haven't even met HalluciJack yet! Although we do first see the Samurai Apparition in this episodes. Some fans think this ghost represents someone Jack fought in the past and now wishes to escape. I'm more of the opinion that the Apparition represents Jack's final "solution" - killing himself and joining his ancestors. Which is really kind of messed up, now that I think about. Where there's life, there's hope, but Jack definitely is struggling with finding the will to keep going. Small prediction here: Jack will get his sword back - it is still the only thing that can actually defeat Aku. Unless he finds some other way, but if he hasn't managed to do so in 50 years... I also think that Ashi will help him to do it, maybe sacrificing herself in the process. Moving on to the villain of the first episode (the Daughters don't count): Scaramouch the Merciless, babe!
"Hiya, Jack, baby, welcome to Scatman's World!" This guy is just a lot of fun, combining over the top theatrics with a pretty BA skillset. He also has a bit of hidden pride, seen when he declares "No one dances the blades like I do, babe. NO ONE!" while giving Jack a death glare, right before going back to Affably Evil scatting. His weapons of choice all fit right in with his theme of musical assassin - a scimitar he can control by scatting, which is heavy enough that Jack himself has to drag it along the ground, a pipe that can control the debris around him and even form it into attack monsters, and finally that sword that sets up a resonance on anything non-organic, causing it to shatter explosively. Although perhaps he is not as valuable to Aku as he suspects, since Aku doesn't recognize him over the phone. Despite being quite fun to watch, he is totally a bad dude, and Jack's fully justified in ending him for killing an entire village just to draw Jack out. The fight itself is pretty spectacular, demonstrating that while Jack may have lost his sword, he hasn't lost his skills. In the end, Jack doesn't even really seem to be pushed to his limits. Without his PTSD getting in the way, it would have been even more one-sided. The way he simply tosses his final dagger as an improvised hand grenade is not only made awesome by his sheer coolness, but also demonstrates that he has brains as well as brawn... although, that was never really in doubt for anyone who knows about the previous seasons. A quick mention of the animation - gorgeous as always! Just looking at some of the establishing shots of the landscape, I could weep for their sheer beauty. And the action is wonderfully animated too. This is currently my desktop background: So the final season of Samurai Jack is at long, long last under way. It hasn't disappointed me yet, 4 episodes into its 10 episode run, and I don't expect it will. What do you think of the continuation? (Not a reboot, thank Odin, Ra and Vishnu!) If you like, leave comments below and WATCH OUT! for my next review of Samurai Jack season 5, babe!      

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Jack vs Aku – Part Two (Episode CI)

And here, at long, long last, we are: the final episode of Samurai Jack. When last we left him, it seemed Jack had finally been beaten by the shapeshifting Master of Darkness… and Daddy’s Little Destroyer. Let’s see how this all pans out… What Happens
Throughout the land, all the various peoples and groups that Jack had encountered gather around their viewing devices in dread, because Aku is making an announcement. Aku uses the opening from previous seasons to preface his gloating. Then Aku himself appears, showing off the captured Samurai Jack and his sword. In order to break the spirit of his subjects for all time, he is broadcasting live his final victory in finishing off Jack… if only he could decide quite how to do this momentous event just right… Jack pleads with Akushi to fight, but it seems to have no effect, and Aku finally decides to let her have the honour of killing his defeated enemy. However, before the final blow is struck, the armies of every group still able to put up a fight attack Aku’s tower. In the ensuing battle, Jack is blasted free. He tries to get the sword while Aku is distracted by the others, but Akushi stops him. While able to inconvenience Aku to a degree, the armies of good are unable to actually do any significant damage, and Aku even starts using his evil to create an army of his own. Things seem to be looking bleak for our heroes, but then the Scotsman’s ghost arrives with the red-haired, reindeer-riding cavalry!
Scotland! F*ck yeah! Using a set of mystical ghostly bagpipes to transport his daughters through the sky, and to launch an attack powerful enough to affect Aku himself, the Scotsman reunites with Jack, naming each of his daughters and offering Jack his pick.
I think the last one’s name is Ovalylongag… Jack demurs and shows the Scotsman his new girlfriend… but, said girlfriend still being a black blob of Aku’s evil at this point, the Scotsman is less than impressed. Aku, frustrated by the attacks on him, launches himself into the sky and rains down spears of darkness, to devastating effect. The armies of good are being routed, until the Scotsman uses his bagpipes to create a shield, and even destabilize Akushi. Jack is caught inside Akushi's roiling black blob, and struggles to reach Ashi, who is still fighting the ocean of darkness. It seems like they will lose the struggle, and Jack desperately shouts to Ashi that he loves her. Ejected from Akushi, Jack lands flat on his back, and Akushi begins to choke him to death. (Now there’s an erotic asphyxiation meme waiting to happen.) Then her hold on his throat loosens as Ashi, empowered by Jack’s confession of love, manages to overcome the evil, reverting to her black catsuit look. Aku orders her to kill Jack again, but this time she is in control and denies Aku as her father. He attacks and she fights back with the same powers that Aku has, like eyebeams and shapeshifting. It seems her victory over Aku’s compulsion hasn’t severed her access to his powers. All his powers… as Jack and Ashi both quickly realize, that includes time travel! Ashi stretches her arm to grab and return Jack’s sword. Then she uses her screech powers to make a portal back to the past and, as Aku realizes with despair, it’s one he can’t interfere with or destroy. Back in the past, the initial fight between the as-yet-nameless Samurai and Aku plays out as before, with Aku sending him into the future… however, Jack and Ashi arrive back in the following moment. Aku chokes out what will turn out to be his final words, “You’re back already?!” as Jack wastes no time using his sword to cut down, trap and then destroy Aku once and for all. Soon after, all the people the Samurai trained growing up, as well as all the citizens of the Empire, are gathering for his wedding to Ashi. As she walks down the aisle towards him, she suddenly stumbles and collapses. Jack runs to embrace her, as she tells him what is happening: since Aku was killed in the past, he never donated his evil essence to the Cult in the future and thus Ashi was never born. She fades away, leaving Jack clutching her empty wedding kimono. The disconsolate Jack rides his horse through a misty gloomy forest. He sits down by a tree and mourns. A ladybug lands on his hand, and he slowly smiles with renewed hope and lets it fly away, as the sun comes out and lights up the same trees that Future!Aku had destroyed. The screen fades to black as the title “Episode CI” lingers.

So beautiful, it almost makes me forget the writers tearing my heart out and stomping on it... Thoughts on the Episode
And thus the curtain falls on Samurai Jack. It’s been a long ride, with many ups and downs. I’m glad that we got this final Season to resolve Jack’s story, but… sob… They killed Kenny ret-goned Ashi!
You bastards! In a way, I admire the sheer brass testicles / ovaries of the writers that led them to go this route, but… why? Why can’t we have nice things?! I didn’t think something like this would happen, really, even given how dark Season 5 could get. This… this was just mean-spirited. And it’s not like it was a necessary consequence of time travel, either. You can’t simply resolve the grandfather paradox by erasing Ashi. If Ashi didn’t exist, Jack would never have gone back to the past, thus wouldn’t have been able to kill Aku and thus make Ashi not exist. (I’m not going to do the cross-eyed joke! I’m not in the mood.) And then there’s the fact that Jack still remembers her… unless the ending scene is meant to imply that the memory of her faded away eventually, just as she did – unlikely with the way the scene was shot and how Jack’s expressions were shown, but still something your mileage could vary on. Speaking of delayed-reaction reordering of timelines, that’s another weird thing… why did it take so long for Ashi to be affected? Just so that the timing could be even more sucky for our poor hero? Dick move, writers, dick move. I mean, I can understand making the artistic choice they did, but I really did want Ashi to get her happy ending with Jack. I'm just really sad I didn't get to see my prediction come true... instead, heartbreak. But I'll live. If I were able to rewrite the ending, it would go like this… Jack and Ashi arrive in the past the moment BEFORE the Samurai gets sent to the future. Jack and the Samurai team up to take out Aku, and kill him with a super-cool double magical sword strike. As Aku dies, Ashi feels Aku’s evil leave her, as before, but as Jack tries to help her up, their hands go through each other. Jack and Ashi realize that preventing the Samurai from going to the future in the first place means they, the second copy of the sword, and the future timeline of Aku’s reign (coincidentally, virtually the entire series itself) all will cease to exist. After taking a short time to explain to the Samurai what would have happened, they start to fade away. Jack and Ashi redeclare their love for each other and share a final kiss as they fade out of existence, saddened but consoled by the fact that they are leaving existence together. The Samurai revels in his victory over Aku and the celebrations begin. Jump ahead a while, the Samurai is married, with a new born heir being held by the new Empress, wife and mother… who just happens to look a lot like Ashi. Bam! Perfect happy ending… Ashi still goes out, but now so does Jack, who now never had to suffer those 50 years of despair. We can still have our victory at a price without leaving the hero to suffer alone. Since the Samurai was never affected by Aku’s time travel, he ages perfectly normally, thus removing the question mark over whether or not Jack is still immortal. The Prophecy of the Guardian’s time portal is also resolved by never actually having happened, so the inconsistency of Jack’s older appearance in that vision vs the events of Season 5 is reconciled. All tied up with a neat bow, thank you very much! It’s such a pity the writers didn’t consult me, I coulda set them straight… sigh. Other thoughts: So in the end, the Guardian was apparently killed by Aku. I had hoped we might see him one last time… even if it were merely a flashback to witness the battle between them. Seeing the various friends Jack had made reappear en masse makes his absence even more notable. At least the Scotsman got his chance to shine and reunite with Jack. Oh, the irony… Aku managed to destroy all the time portals, yet still sowed the seeds of his own destruction by “blessing” the Cult of Aku. This lead not only to Ashi being born, meeting Jack and helping him regain his determination to destroy Aku, but also equipped her with the exact necessary power to negate all his efforts at preventing Jack’s return to the past. Add in the fact that he could have won if he had simply done to Jack what he did to the Scotsman a few episodes earlier and the Pie of Irony is complete, ready to throw in Aku’s flaming-eyebrows, fang-mouthed face. Heh.   Overall, Season 5 has been a fun but bumpy ride. I give you my thanks for joining me on this journey. I may or may not write a review of the whole of the season/series at a later time, and I think I should probably start on FiM Season 7 like I’ve been saying I’ll do for the past couple of months. Please look forward to it, and join me again in the future. In the meantime, feel free to give your own perspectives in the comments. How did you feel about how the season wrapped up? Do you think my ending would have been better? (Because I do.) What did you enjoy most about the season? What did you enjoy least? Share your thoughts. And until the next time we meet, stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

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

 

Jack Tracking (Episode XCVII)

The fun fun fun continues with the sixth episode of Samurai Ashi… I mean, Samurai Jack Season 5. While Ashi tracks Jack’s journey, a villain unexpectedly returns, on a journey of his own. Will the villain’s dastardly plan succeed? Will Ashi find Jack before he does something irreversible? Isn’t it weird how the word “irreversible” is itself irreversible? (Well, not if you want it to make sense anyway…) Questions, questions! And the answers lie below, so let’s leap right in…   What happens We rejoin a concerned Ashi riding on an airship. She is attacked by two large hooded creatures who have heard her asking about Jack’s whereabouts. She dodges them and tells them she is trying to find Jack to help him. They reveal themselves as two of the Woolies – a race that Jack saved in the previous seasons. We get a flashback to the relevant event. (Get used to that happening in this episode.) A staff member of the airship tells Ashi that Jack got off in this area, and she immediately leaps out of the airship. She uses her sickle-onna-chain to slow her descent into a forest and continues on her journey. Back in the destroyed village from the first episode of Season 5, what is left of Scaramouch reactivates and rejoices in being alive, baby… despite being just a head and neck, which reduces him to moving around at the pace that a bunny hops. Or perhaps the pace that a fox trots.
How is he going to do the Fandango, now? With his phone destroyed, he shoulders the burden of giving Aku the news about Jack’s loss of his sword in person, and legs it, since he has some news he needs to get off his chest. You’ve got to hand it to him for being resolute, folks! You wouldn’t think he had the stomach for it! He’s not totally ‘armless yet! Okay, I’ll stop now. For every body’s sake. Ashi sees a group of Akubots riddled with arrows on the retreat. The archers responsible for the robot rout confront her and ask if she is a friend or foe of Jack’s. When she says she is the former, they lead her to their village complete with giant Jack statue and relate their tale (by flashback, natch). They were tricked by Aku (slight “retcon” there, I’ll come back to it) into gaining superlative skill at the cost of being enslaved to protect a magic Wishing Well. Jack defeated them and destroyed the Well instead of wishing for passage home, and thus freed them. However, they haven’t seen him recently, so she continues on. Scaramouch finds a port, and tries to board a ship. He is stopped by a bouncer (oh, the irony!), who won’t let him on because he’s just a head, and when he boasts about being Aku’s favourite bounty hunter / assassin, is pointed to a sign that lists him as #3. He finally gets on board by bribing a guy with a shrunken head into letting him use his body. Once they part ways, Scarrie opines that the guy looks kind of like a talking penis… Yes, he uses the actual word “penis”. We’ll come back to that, too. Back to Ashi, who hears rave music and travels down to Funky town. When she asks a party-goer if a Samurai came this way, a spotlight shines down on her. The DJ (who is YARC - Yet Another Returning Character) asks the obligatory “Friend or Foe” question, and then plays a tribute track to Jack, telling how, well, just guess… Yup, you got it in one… how Jack saved them once. They all dance the Jack Dance and make S shapes with their fingers, before sending Ashi to the next checkpoint. Said checkpoint is a clear water spring with a waterfall and pool and all. Ashi remembers a particular childhood ceremony, where was dumped naked into a bunch of presumably not entirely mundane coals, thus creating her catsuit by burning it directly onto her skin! She enters the pool and uses a rock to scrape the catsuit away. Since this leaves her naked, she creates a dress using the plant life around her to replace it.
I guess it’s the latest spring fashion! (The joke works in two ways! ) Scarrie is enjoying his cruise, albeit with a few bumps along the way, but he manages to locate a phone and get through to Aku. Before he can spill the beans re Swordless Jack, though, he gets into an argument with some dogmen about the noise they are making, and is thrown overboard. Aku hangs up, never realizing how close he came to getting the information he needed to hunt down and destroy Jack once and for all. Huzzah! Good going, Scaradouche! You see, Lone Star, Good will always triumph, because Evil is dumb! Or something like that. Ashi finds a bar where she meets Da Samurai (YARC), who is now the bartender, and has been for many years. She hears how Jack defeated many of the bar patrons in the past, and even taught Da Samurai what it really means to be a samurai. The group is also graced by a cameo from Demongo the Soul Collector (YARC). Leaving the bar, she runs into a shadowy figure who directs her towards Jack (YARC?). She finds him sitting in a graveyard with a bare blade in front of him. The Apparition, who is finally officially named as the Omen in the credits, appears and floats over to her, telling her she can witness, but not interfere. When she asks what she is to witness, Omen responds “the end.” The Omen then tells Jack he has been dishonoured by his failures, and he must therefore commit seppuku. Ashi tries to get through to Jack as he prepares to disembowel himself, and the Omen fights with her. Overmatched by the spirit in strength, but agile enough to evade his attacks, Ashi continues to remind Jack of all the people he has helped over the years, and the lives he has saved (including hers.) Nothing seems to help, and the Omen declares “No more words!” but Ashi finally reveals to Jack that the children he thought he had helped kill are still alive. This breaks Jack out of his suicidal depression and he quickly puts paid to the Omen. Jack compliments Ashi’s new look, and thanks her for her help. She asks “What now?” and Jack replies, “It's time to find my sword.” Aww, snap! Looks like Aku had better… WATCH OUT! Thoughts on the Episode Let’s first deal with the ever-classy Scaramouch, and the “penis” line. Umm… yeah… for the record, I did NOT expect that sort of line in Samurai Jack. Ever. I kind of had to stop the video for a minute after that and simply... marvel. By the way, how does a robot even have the context for that sort of comment? All he should have down there is plastic underpants and a trademark! (I will wuvs you forever if you can tell me where that reference originates! ) He got very close to ruining things for Jack, but luckily, his cocky attitude (heh) got him in enough trouble that he wasn’t able to get the message across to Aku, so sighs of relief all around. "Evil will oft evil mars", indeed. If he had just been polite to those he encountered, he would have succeeded and that would probably have been curtains for Jack before he could get his sword back. Speaking of the sword, I’m glad that Jack is finally back on track as far as defeating Aku once and for all goes. While my suggestion that Ashi might have to sacrifice herself to bring Jack back to the land of the living was incorrect, (although she did risk being killed by the Omen, so give me half points, okay?) she might still have to do so to retrieve the sword. I hope not, though; killing her off after she finally came over to the Light side would be pretty cruel. Blood, eyebeams of death and mentions of male reproductive anatomy aside, I don’t think Season 5 is going to go that dark. Next, as I contemplate Ashi, there’s that whole thing with the origin of her form-fitting catsuit. It appears to be less a garment and more, well, wearable charcoal. This reveal pretty much means the Daughters have in fact been wearing little more than black body paint this entire time, which is just odd to contemplate. I mean, freedom of movement I can see as being an advantage, but what about modesty, huh? They aren’t Doctor Manhattan, with his "withdrawing from humanity" excuse, is all I’m saying. Plus the logistics of it all… how do the Daughters go to the bathroom or deal with menstruation or any of that? On second thought, maybe it doesn’t need to be thought about too much. I like Ashi's new look, particularly the Expository Hairstyle Change. It makes her look even more Asian, which brings me to a Wild Mass Guess: could Jack, somehow, be the FATHER of the Daughters of Aku? I admit it’s unlikely that the High Priestess was impregnated by Jack, given the whole “we have to kill the Samurai” deal, but it would certainly put an ironic spin on Ashi’s quest to kill him and subsequent conversion to being his ally. Then again, "[50 - Ashi's Age + nine months] years of no progress" + young man's body = rather big need for stress relief... intriguing... It's probably just my imagination running wild again, but time will tell. Ashi’s journey is a textbook example of a Continuity Cavalcade, with many appearances from characters featured in episodes from previous seasons or YARCs, as I decided to call them. It fulfills two purposes… it expands the knowledge of newcomers to the series and serves as a nostalgia buffet for fans like me. Best of all, because of the first point, it’s not actually fan service! Slice of Life, take note! Again, I note the distinct lack of the Guardian, but there are still four episodes to go, so plenty of time for him to reappear. Perhaps once Jack actually defeats Aku, he will age a bit (not the full 50 years, but a decade at least) and his appearance will become more like it was shown in the relevant episode, and we'll have a final Jack / Guardian showdown. Or maybe that’s all going to be retconned. Again, not much to do about it but wait and see. Genndy Tartakovsky, don't fail me now! Speaking of retcons, the archers mention that they found out after the fact that Aku was the one who cursed them. If I remember the episode in question correctly, the Well was a Jerkass Genie that had nothing to do with Aku: it granted wishes, but always in some kind of twisted, monkey’s-paw-esque way. The archers wished for unbeatable skill with their bows, which they were given... in return for becoming mindless slaves conscripted into protecting the Well. Jack decided he couldn’t risk his wish to return to his own time being corrupted in the same way, and therefore destroyed the Well instead. This episode says it was Aku’s doing all along… which I find somewhat unsatisfying. It’s not like Aku is the ONLY evil being in existence, and having it all bad stuff somehow trace back to him seems unnecessarily trite and simply bad writing, in the final analysis. Oh, Well. (Heh.) A quick word on the Jack Track; I blame that on Tara “Twilight Sparkle” Strong, as she provides the voice of Ashi. I guess she can’t appear in any series where there isn’t at least one musical interlude. In seriousness, though, I used the word “blame”, but the song isn’t that bad, and to see Ashi just having fun dancing for once was very heartwarming. Plus lots of hot swaying bods to look at.
Why isn’t Scaramouch at the rave? Because he had no body to go with! Dah dum TISH! This episode again had no HalluciJack. Maybe the Omen and HalluiJack were connected in some way, so once the Omen had Jack ready to commit seppuku, HJ was no longer necessary. Maybe we’ll never know, but some clarity there would be appreciated. (Yes, I know I’ve implied in the past that “mystery is good”, but I want this particular thing explained, dammit! So sue me.) Again, this was a good episode, niggles aside. Plenty of call backs, more Scaramouchy goodness (as it were), Ashi getting a new outfit to mirror her change of heart, and best of all, Jack’s finally got his game face on, and is determined to find his sword, defeat Aku and get back, back to the past! And Sunny Fox will be with him each step of the way! Until the next episode airs, feel free to make your mark below, tell me what you think, and don’t forget to always stay, as they say, sunny side up! PS – I guess I should get around to reviewing Season 7 of MLP at some point… I'll keep you updated, y'all. Mwah!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Jack Attacks Back (Episode XCIV)

Rivers and caves and wolves, oh my! Welcome back, loyal readers! Today I look at the third episode of Samurai Jack Season 5. There’s quite a lot to get through, too, so let’s not waste any more time and dive in like we just got stabbed in the gut and found a river!   What happens Following Jack’s first battle with the Daughters of Aku, he is left bleeding out while floating downstream. After the shock of going over a waterfall, Jack regains consciousness long enough to grab onto a log, and is later startled by a frog sitting on the log that shouts, “They’re coming!” causing him to panic. Jack finally gets to shore, leaving a few patches and handprints of blood. Finding a cave, he drags himself into it, finally pulling out the dagger from his stomach before collapsing again. HalluciJack returns, looking a lot more monstrous this time.
Here’s JACKIE!! (And yes, I know they used this joke in the show.) He taunts Jack about having killed a human for the first time, not simply a robot… although he also points out that Jack has left literal piles of robot corpses in his wake, (at least one of which was sentient, which is pretty close to killing a living person). Jack is so weak he can barely speak, much less argue with his alter-ego. HalluciJack continues, saying that the rest of the Daughters will still be coming after him, and that he will have to kill them, or let them kill him instead… or is that exactly what Jack is counting on? Jack denies it. The white wolf from the previous episode also comes into the cave, but sensing that Jack is a kindred spirit, the wolf doesn’t attack, instead allowing him to share the den. Pulling himself together a bit, he uses a piece of bone and some plant fibres as needle and thread to stitch up his own wound. Jack continues to spend time with the white wolf as they both recover from their injuries. The wolf helps Jack find food, licks his wounds and even curls up with him on cold nights. Eventually, the wolf is back to its full strength, and sets out, leaving Jack to ponder. Jack has a flashback to his childhood before the return of Aku, when his father, the Emperor, had his carriage/palanquin/whatever-they-used-in-ancient-Japan-to-cart-around-Royalty attacked by bandits. After killing all the guards, the bandits call him out. The Emperor calmly tells him them to leave peacefully, or they will be killed. When the bandits refuse and attack anyway, the Emperor slaughters them in seconds. Jack is watching through a gap in the door, and has his face splattered with blood. Later on, the Emperor cleans Jack’s face, and tells him that everyone is a product of their choices. This memory gives Jack the resolve to fight the Daughters, even kill them if necessary. Meanwhile, the Daughters have managed to find their way out of the collapsed temple, dragging the body of their dead sister. However, they simply dump her body and leave, stating that “Death is failure.” The remaining sisters travel down the river, finding the occasional evidence of Jack’s trail, following it into the forest. While in the forest, they see a deer. Having never been outside their Cult’s temple, however, they are unsure exactly what it is, presuming it’s a minion of Aku. Then the larger buck steps into the open, and they conclude this is a stronger minion, that will kill and eat the smaller deer. Instead, the two start nuzzling, which totally surprises and even weirds out the Daughters. As the Daughters stalk closer, they hear Jack’s voice from the trees. He gives them the same ultimatum his father gave the bandits, to leave or stay and face their “destiny”. Ashi retorts that “Our destiny is your death!”, and they reject his offer. Jack suddenly bursts out from under the snow, using handmade spears to kill three of them in rapid succession. The remaining three Daughters team up and manage to hold their own for the most part. However, Jack has prepared the terrain too well, and after a running battle, they have a final showdown on a fallen tree over a high cliff face. Forced by the narrow arena to face him one on one, the Daughter quickly find out that Jack still outclasses them individually. The first sister (who uses a spear) he fights barehanded, eventually throwing her off the tree, presumably to plunge to her doom. The second sister attacks and Jack punches her so hard her neck is broken, and she too falls. The final sister (Ashi, who else?) manages to put up the strongest fight, but even she is ultimately defeated and left dangling from her chain, losing her mask in the process. She goes into a furious tirade against Jack, insulting him, and vowing to never stop trying to kill him. Jack is unmoved and calmly unwraps the chain from his arm and lets Ashi drop, still screaming imprecations. He breathes a sigh of relief… then the tree below him snaps off and he too falls.
I guess he forgot to… WATCH OUT!   Thoughts on the Episode Jack hallucinates a lot in this season, doesn’t he? The frog, the haranguing from HalluciJack, the weird blood-trickling-everywhere scene when he meets the wolf; the list goes on. I think this is justified due to his 50 years of induced mental issues, plus massive blood loss. No, really, with all the blood spilled it’s a wonder he has any left in him five minutes in. Although HalluciJack does state that the wound itself is not the reason he becomes so weak and feverish (“You’ve survived worse.” Yes, but not on-screen, HalluciJack!), but instead the realization that he has killed another human being for the first time. This episode confirms that up to this point, Jack has only fought or killed robots, certain previous season episodes about bounty hunter team-ups notwithstanding. Hurray, we can stop arguing about it now! And it only took 13 years, too. The white wolf returns! As I mentioned in my previous episode review, the parallel story of the wolf being included in it strikes me as unnecessary. Here he actually plays a role in helping Jack to survive, so he has a valid justification for inclusion. In my opinion, the wolf’s appearance here in this episode would have worked equally as well had it been the first time we saw him. We know who the wolf is and how he was injured, but I would have preferred the air of mystery. It would have worked well with the frog, too, to create an “even nature wants Jack to survive” theme. Ah, well, their story, their blatant symbolism and unnecessary clarity, I suppose. The interlude with the Daughters and the deer is simultaneously amusing and saddening. It highlights just how ignorant the Daughters are of the world they are supposedly trying to defend by killing the Samurai. The one Daughter opining, “I don’t like it!” when the deer are showing affection makes it clear just how little affection the Daughters have experienced themselves in their lives, to the point where it’s an alien and uncomfortable concept to them. Moving on to Jack’s flash back – once again, the sheer beauty of the animation and the skill of the writing are demonstrated – the colours are fantastically vibrant, and the way Jack and his father share a moment of quiet awkwardness in the wake of what would definitely be a shocking experience for a young child is simply wonderful storytelling. The expressions let us experience the emotions of the two better than any dialogue could. And the father’s explanation of what happened and how it was necessary, even if unfortunate, is exactly how a good father would discuss a difficult topic with a young child. Choice and consequence: people must decide their own path and they have to accept the outcome of their choices. And if that means you have to kill them to defend yourself and your family, then that’s their responsibility, not yours. How good a moral that ultimately is, is an exercise left to the reader. Jack’s rematch with the Daughters is awesome. Jack shows just how skilled a warrior he is, and turns the tables on them perfectly by ambushing them in turn. Reality Ensues: training from birth is not effective as 50 years of fighting experience, not to mention Jack’s own extensive training with multiple weapons. Only as a group do they have any chance of defeating Jack. A thought here about the Daughters: they do clearly know how to work together and fight as a unit, as their Ashura mode shows.
Maybe it’s actually the Dazzlings in disguise? I like the way Jack uses his battle experience to good effect to lure them out to where he makes his stand, choosing a place where the terrain nullifies the advantage of their superior numbers, allowing him to basically curb stomp them one by one. Ashi is the only one who manages to injure Jack when alone, and even then it was more that Jack was allowing her attack to hit so that he could use the chain against her. Ashi’s final tirade against Jack smacks of a child throwing a temper tantrum, and Jack clearly treats it as such. He barely bothers to listen as he unwraps the chain and drops Ashi. That he follows her in free fall a few moments later is quite ironic, and gives us a downer ending (pun intended). It was not something I expected, to be honest, so good for you, writers! On another note – Jack definitely kills the first three sisters, and the one he punched probably died immediately, but apart from Ashi, there was one more sister he simply tossed off the tree, who by rights should be alive. Although she fell into a different place than it seems Jack and Ashi did, and may therefore have made landfall in a rather more fatal fashion. Still, it’s possible she might return. This episode crammed a lot in: Jack’s recovery, his flashback and the final fight, but it managed to do it all with aplomb. If the previous episode had a gripe-worthy element or two, this episode pretty much redeems all of that. Plus yay for white wolf survival! This fox approves. Season 5 goes from (slightly lowered) strength to strength. Join me again soon as we find out who will be dropping in on the next episode. Same fox-time; same fox-blog. Stay sunny side up and don’t forget to WATCH OUT! (Like Jack did.)

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox