Them's Seeing Ponies

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  1. Finally finished a full chronological viewing of Urusei Yatsura (begun around December) - while the series is initially remarkably solid with a plethora of memorably comic characters (particularly the main, uh, 'romantic' couple, Cherry and Megane's hilariously disturbing nerdish filibusters, not to mention the remarkably odd-yet-compelling plight of Ryuunosuke), the run of episodes produced following Mamoru Oshii's departure is arguably a conspicuous downgrade (with weaker gags, less innovative (if nonetheless lush) visuals and, most noticeably, less substantial plotting and characterization, to the extent where numerous episodes within the final run watch akin to a series of thinly-conceived setpieces incessantly eked (via elaborate-yet-unnecessary visual sequences) to occupy a 22-minute runtime with minimal characterization plugged into the mixture to yield a more investing experience, marking a surprisingly far cry from the the idiosyncratically appealing infusion of humanity and surrealism set by Oshii's tenure). Not to mention my appreciation for the earlier films as well - "Only You", for its incessant shoehorning of secondary characters into its loosely-conceived plot, is a surprisingly breezy and coherent watch and "Beautiful Dreamer" captures a unique high-concept spectacle and conviction more befitting Studio Ghibli's output than one would expect for a film adaptation of a bizarre romantic comedy series. Definitely one for the ages.
  2. While I can't contest that the rewrite above contains several valid improvements over the original episode (chiefly the division of the plot into two parts, which enables more breathing room for dramatic buildup as opposed to the events of the episode proper occurring within an ostensible period of a few hours, which ultimately felt overly abrupt to me given the gargantuan plot and character developments the basic narrative encourages the audience to swallow), I feel it simultaneously doesn't fully address the core conceit of MMC both as an individual plot and a component of the wider show, which arguably constitutes its most grievous faults; I wouldn't claim to be entirely opposed to the conceit of Twilight ascending into a full leadership role, but the lack of buildup within the preceding season (owing to its truncated runtime and lack of notable focus on Twilight save for the premier and Magic Duel, neither of which provided a magnitude of buildup (save for a handful of sporadic forced moments) proportionate to the level of development MMC insistently claims Twilight to have achieved) and the episode's own insistence on the grandeur and poignancy of its own narrative (which asserts that the audience must feel 'proud' for Twilight through numerous 'theatrical' musical numbers and moments broadly conceived to elicit 'impact' as opposed to constructing clearer narrative logic and justifying its own plot twists, which yields an odd dichotomy when interposed against the immensity of the twists in question to give the episode a somewhat manipulative air - I suspect that brony criticisms at the time of the episode's airdate may stem from this indirectly, given that one of the show's most notable strengths during the Faust seasons (essentially a year prior) was its ability to present conclusions in a more honest and grounded form than its contemporaries, which a comparison of episodes such as "Hurricane Fluttershy" (in which the character development itself is emphasized over the broader outcome of breaking the speed record to channel a more honest visualization and depiction of the cast) and MMC (in which a vastly more significant character development is abruptly unleashed on the audience with minimal proportionate buildup, specific characterization or explanation (what specific qualities does Twilight possess that position her willingly within a leadership role?) in favour of bombastic musical sequences and 'dramatic' moments) illustrates further). Admittedly, the elongating of the narrative's runtime aids in softening the blow, but the pacing in question is effectively an external symptom of a wider issue (both with the show's pacing of Twilight's arc and of Meghan McCarthy's tenure as a whole).
  3. Ah yes, contrived, hyperactive 'this character is, like, so awkward' gags, oversimplified, vector-esque animation and self-indulgent meme faces. We've got an impending masterpiece on our hands, folks.
  4. Well, guess my plastic horse-eating days are over then.
  5. Either goat's cheese with plum (definitely a pungently-odored 'acquired taste') or orange marmalade (which had a surprisingly strong/sharp orange flavor compared to several of the other citrus-flavored types I've attempted), although lemongrass with cardamom (virtually no creaminess to its taste, despite being genuine ice cream) and brown bread (as in ice cream with caramelized brown bread chunks) are definitely contenders.
  6. And thus the head of the MLP franchise transitions from a former Class of 3000 and Foster's alumnus to a former marketing/educational head who gained professional 'prominence' from presiding over the marketing for far more conservative content (I wouldn't exactly deem DisneyToon a particularly creative outlet given their track record as a factory for low-budget TV spinoffs sequels to Disney's most iconic properties prior to evolving into a factory for sequels to a spinoff to one of Disney's most iconic properties concurrent with her tenure there). I'm not necessarily likening this to a major detriment to MLP overall, but it does present a higher possibility of the impending G5 series lapsing into a safer and more didactic (and inferior) general aesthetic than FiM embodied (even following the departure of the original writing team); the goat's worth his cheese in that regard. On a related note, I honestly suspect that Meghan's departure from MLP was linked to the development for G5 - I won't reveal any specific details, but the emails leaked a while back indicate that Hasbro appeared to be pushing for a rapid rate of development in addition to a number of changes (particularly regarding AJ, I believe) and restrictions which I recall she generally disapproved of. Reminiscent of Faust's departure much?
  7. S1: The Best Night Ever (the best and most cohesive of the show's finales, with legions of great comedy ("you' LOVE MEEEE!!!!!") and a lightweight-yet-solid plot which serves as an excellent and touching reflection on the surprisingly consistent and well-paced character arcs of season 1) S2: Lesson Zero (an obvious choice, but an astoundingly tightly-structure and detailed delve into the darker side of Twilight's character unsurpassed by the remainder of the show, complete with a uniquely (and compellingly) brutal satirical perspective on her more formulaic role in S1) S3: Sleepless in Ponyville (a touching introspection on Scootaloo's previously overlooked characterization paired with some of the show's most poignant character interactions) S4: Pinkie Pride (an immensely entertaining exploration of Pinkie's role in the show (and the interactions between her self-imposed and the Ponyville populace's external perceptions of said role, which yields a somewhat deeper conflict than many other Pinkie-focused episodes) aided by a fitting utilization of Weird Al) S5: Slice of Life (pure, undiluted insanity injected directly into the veins, resulting in a refreshingly offbeat and irreverent episode in a season increasingly insistent on its own grandiosity) S6: A Hearth's Warming Tail (the presentation of the (solid and Starlight-befitting) narrative is great stuff, particularly the unique, intricate visual aesthetics (as I would expect from one of Sibsy's final works on the show) and the infectious soundtrack, which leans into a wider spectrum of genres than the show typically engages with) S7: The Perfect Pear (notable for its surprisingly subtle and detailed framing narrative and use of melodrama as an effective conveyor of wistful nostalgia as opposed to an emotionally exploitative utility) S8: The Hearth's Warming Club (one of the few episodes to integrate more compelling quirks and details into the Student Six's characters, which largely pays off in a surprisingly heartfelt manner) S9: Going to Seed (less genuinely is more in this context)
  8. These are all major issues, but I feel the greatest failing of the prequels is the lack of attention to characterization... at all, effectively. I rewatched all three recently and was stunned by the complete lack of investment I felt in virtually any of the events on-screen, primarily as Lucas seemed more intent on shoving as many random CGI items and details into the audience's face as opposed to exploring the films' characters or even providing any detail as to their mindsets - take the cinematography, for example, where Lucas rarely frames any shot to represent or even imply the characters' emotions or the chemistry between them in favour of overusing extremely broad shots to maximize the amount of details per frame (think when the protagonist descend into Couruscant for the first time in TPM, where, instead of framing each shot in a specific way to explore each character's (or maybe just Anakin's) perceptions and feelings towards this vast, imposing urban sprawl (particularly if, in the latter case, you were a nine-year-old kid who had spent his entire life as a slave on a sparsely populated desert planet) and thus enabling the audience to understand and empathize with/relate to them, Lucas just shoots the cruiser landing and the characters exiting), which compounds with the lack of focus on characterization in the script (they actually veer close towards establishing a concrete character for Qui-Gon in TPM but continue to cut back towards CGI or action sequences whenever the plot seems to command more attention to his motivations and thought processes) to leave the film without a true core or human element, in turn leaving the majority of the prequels severely lacking in impact; when you're watching a two-hour sequence of stuff that 'just happens', smaller issues such as the overcooked lightsaber choreography and Jar Jar's grating antics register more clearly in relation to the passive numbness you feel otherwise. Sure, the prequels contain a number of compelling and original ideas (arguably more so than the sequels) and contain traces of the trademark Lucas-era SW high-concept weirdness and dry humour which the more homogenized sequel trilogy mostly lacks, but that arguably renders the incompetent filmmaking of the prequels more frustrating in perspective.
  9. Seasons 1 & 2 remain my favorite of the series to date for basically the reasons AT explained above - whilst the later seasons began to slide into a series of weaker or more wrongheaded formulas, the earliest seasons generally exhibited a fresher aesthetic and a desire to evolve upwards to accentuate their strengths (the surprisingly subtle and well-rounded interplay and development of the main characters, the use of offbeat gags to reveal new aspects of the cast and world (as opposed to the more ubiquitous 'jokes for the sake of jokes' indigenous to many of its contemporaries) and the use of the atypical quirks and chemistry between the mane six (and the show's resultant lighthearted and offbeat style as a whole) to embellish otherwise shopworn plots with a unique energy and wit; by the end of season 2, the show also commenced a deepening of its world and broadened the scope of its subject matter to heavier topics (What if someone in-universe found Pinkie irritating and refused to associate with her? What if the CMC's previously 'charming' attempts to grab at their destiny actually inflicted a series of very real and painful consequences on the town as a whole? What if Dash was forced by circumstance to confront her enjoyment of an activity she perceives as 'uncool'?), which, when hybridized with the show's then-signature trademarks, promised a heightened complexity and more in-depth exploration of the main characters. The problems, I think, were largely the result of Faust and Renzetti leaving at the end of S2, which cost the show much of its breezy comedic charm and cohesive approach to character development (I believe the loss of a concrete writing team and frequent writers' meetings circa S4 may have cemented this issue; the remaining Faust-era writers such as AKR and Larson arguably continued to understand aspects of the Faust/Renzetti approach, but couldn't fully execute it without the 'glue' of the Faust seasons) and the remaining crew gradually losing sight of the show's strengths - McCarthy gradually adopted the approach of utilizing more action and worldbuilding to 'darken' the show's tone, yet these efforts seemed, at least to me, too focused on being 'dark' and impressing specific sections of the show's fandom as opposed to serving as trials for the characters and exploring their reactions and growth around it, which I feel cost the main cast some of the detail and depth of the Faust seasons (particularly as the original charm of the M6 partly derived from the attention to detail Faust and Renzetti devoted to outlining and utilizing the unorthodox quirks in their characters; neglect this and it's simple to fall into the trap of writing them as basic archetypes instead, which may explain why the writing team gradually began to groom Starlight and the Student Six as potential successors to them) and therefore made some of their development more simplistic than it should have been, Haber (in season 6) exhibited attempts to return to a more low-key and character-focused approach which were undermined by ubiquitous awkward high-maintenance comedy (the type that basically pauses the episode's tone and plot merely for a few seconds of exaggerated weirdness or facial expressions and therefore reveal little about the characters in the same way as the more organic gags of the earlier seasons) and the sidelining of established characterization in service of basic plotting (which simply minimized the space remaining for organic character interactions leads to the M6 in season 6 feeling empty and awkwardly utilized), Lewis and Songco pushed for a more casual tone but prioritized rigid plotting and moralizing, thus sacrificing most of the M6's development for basic coherency and the Haber/Dubuc teamup effectively threw their hands in the air and attempted to tie up the six's character arcs while barely revealing any new aspects of them beyond the baffling/possibly unintentional (Fluttershy in "Fake It") or well-intentioned but clumsily presented (Dash in "The Washouts"). Of course, the M6's gradual slide into semi-limbo was probably also worsened by the loss of the original writing team - I often feel that episodes from S6 and onwards, while they can handle the mane six well, lack a specific feeling of ownership towards them, being characters that Haber and co. had not created under their creative priorities nor were responsible for much of the development of - but the focus on 'ambition' and 'maturity' had already set in noticeably by season 5, and led to the show changing its approach and priorities (particularly as writers trained under the McCarthy seasons' philosophy of the M6 took the helm) and thus sliding into routines (such as using career changes as a semi-substitute for M6 development) which feel like an inferior alternative to the growth the show seemed to indicate at the end of season 2. I can't confirm that the show would've improved further had Faust and Renzetti remained on board for longer (given that not all of S2's attempts at deepening the show's world were successful) but it definitely would've moved in a different trajectory, and presumably wouldn't have exuded the air of stasis (even the Starlight and Student Six development is relatively inconsistent and/or rushed) that many of the later seasons do to me.
  10. S1 - The Show Stoppers (a disheartening glimpse into the type of overly safe, obvious and meandering kids' TV outing that the general public expected of FiM in its early days, with a dull plot, banal gags and the aggravating obliviousness of the CMC uplifted mostly by the hilarious climatic song sequence) S2 - Dragon Quest (some decent gags and moments, but the creative team's decision to liken the conflicting 'pony vs. dragon' identities that Spike confronts to a gender metaphor (note how Spike shirks evidently feminine 'pony' behaviour upon recognizing his goal to discover his dragon heritage during the montage in the second act, as if the episode intends to convey Spike as 'misguidedly' attempting to discover his 'male' identity) plasters a more cringeworthy air over the episode than I suspect was intended (are we meant to view Garble and co. as exaggerated stereotypes or a relatively valid depiction of 'male identity' for some reason? Are there any aspects of 'dragon' identity which may actually benefit Spike and vica versa for a more well-rounded moral as opposed to 'girl good boy bad'? Are all dragons either jerks or negligent?) S3 - One Bad Apple (the musical number is excellent, but ultimately watches akin to a distraction from the bland execution, nonsensical moral and dull gags) S4 - Rainbow Falls (virtually every aspect of the episode miserably fails - wooden dialogue, illogical plotting, shoehorned and flanderized characters, empty fanservice and lame comedy) S5 - What About Discord? (one of the few episodes of the series to be irreparably broken on a fundamental level - the entire runtime is effectively a sequence of incomplete story beats and gags without any other (actually complete or fully conveyed) elements to invest with otherwise, leading to a bizarre sense of confused distance which culminates in Discord all but admitting said 22 minutes of bewilderment (and filler, given the tedium of the second act) were a waste of the viewer's time. S6 - 28 Pranks Later (the entirety of the first and second acts are so thinly (and lazily) scripted and plotless that they appear to be little more than a weak framing device for the asinine zombie climax. Essentially a textbook example of the inherent issues in writing an entire episode around a poorly conceived or unfitting setpiece at the expense of any surrounding story or integrating said setpiece into any kind of meaningful context) S7 - Hard to Say Anything (a shallow, grating 'lightweight' episode which clearly expects the audience to find a surface-level burlesque of (circa 2010) Justin Bieber in 2017 and Big Mac singing in a cringeworthy manner comedy gold. Everything here exhibits a painful lack of subtlety, which is actually a major issue when writing a romantic narrative) S8 - Fake It 'Til You Make It (the episode offers no logical explanation or buildup to Fluttershy losing herself in her various 'identities' (itself a bizarre conceit given its overly literal and exaggerated execution), almost under the assumption that the audience finds Fluttershy mirroring stereotypical goth or valley girl behaviour hilarious, only to create a bewildering mess in the process) S9 - 2,4,6,Greeaaaatt (a sorrily cliched and poorly characterized conclusion to the main arc of one of the show's most unique and compelling cast members, with a frustratingly flanderized Celestia to boot)
  11. 1. A Friend in Deed (Pinkie does push the limits of patience at times (most notably her emphasis of Cranky's... middle-age hair loss and her relentless stalking of Cranky in the third act, which comes off as slightly too exaggerated even by Pinkie's standards at this time) but this is arguably one of her most quintessential episodes, and I love the fact that it portrays Pinkie as flawed but well-intentioned whilst remaining relatively well-balanced and infectiously entertaining. I should also reference the excellence of the Smile Song here, but I would simply be mirroring the words of a considerable majority) 2. Maud Pie (an imperfect but admirable attempt on the show's part to delve into a style of comedy it typically shied away from utilizing to such an extent during its formative years. Resultantly, while Maud is relatively one-note, the episode's mechanics somehow support this as justifiable, considering that the comedy is well-time enough for the episode to merely focus on a sequence of joke-based scenes with the show's typical moralistic themes played down to a level where they accentuate the tension of the situation and propel the narrative forward without intercepting the gags. Barely short of being great) 3. Crusaders of the Lost Mark (overrated and structurally sloppy, but an admirable effort. The crew were clearly striving to tell a far larger story than feasible for the runtime, leading to an arguable overdose of cheesy melodrama and Diamond Tiara/the CMC arguably earning their marks in an overly easy way, but the underlying sentiment is surprisingly open-hearted in a way which renders these issues more acceptable than the standard) 4. She Talks to Angel (generally structurally solid, but suffers from predictability) 5. Daring Done? (a frustratingly tedious episode which executes its potentially interesting plot in such a bareboned manner that virtually every aspect of interest (save for the Somnambula backstory, which is relatively brief) is subsequently ironed out of its framework) 6. Yakity-Sax (a failed attempt at a more dour episode, largely due to its awkward moralizing) 7. The Show Stoppers (a glimpse into the type of show apprehensive critics initially expected FiM to mirror, with the CMC effectively acting as bland child characters blindly executing a dull and predictable plot (as if the crew felt obligated to include at least one 'pure CMC' focus episode in the season). The song sequence is hilarious, however) 8. Buckball Season (one of the emptiest and least organic episodes of the series)
  12. 1. A Dog and Pony Show ("NOOOOOO!!!!!") 2. For Whom the Sweetie Belle Tolls (a somewhat overly dour yet touching and unique introspection into Sweetie Belle's relationship with Rarity, and I appreciate the episode's willingness to delve into a brand of psychedelic imagery this show typically refrains from) 3. Road to Friendship (arguably the most effective utilization of Starlight and Trixie in the series) 4. The Fault in Our Cutie Marks (simple but affecting, and manages to salvage a conceptually grating character into something surprisingly tolerable and sympathetic) 5. The One Where Pinkie Pie Knows (thematically shallow but a fun watch) 6. It Isn't the Mane Thing About You (includes several decent moments and I appreciate the more down-to-earth tone, but simultaneously burdened by Josh Haber's typical flaws (clunky overexpository dialogue and repetitive comedy)) 7. Putting Your Hoof Down (the interplay between Pinkie and Iron Will is amazing, yet the episode itself is soured by uneven pacing and an uncharasterically uncomfortable atmosphere by FiM standards) 8. Dragon Dropped (as one user on here accurately summarized, it's like the conclusion to an arc that doesn't exist)