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  1. Sometimes you just not look forward to an episode. Whether it’s the synopsis, unimpressive preview, or whatever, something didn’t click. Personally, I looked forward to it, although I understand why some didn’t. It had the makings to being the worst episode of the season at this point. Fortunately, it’s not. In fact, it’s a sneaky great one. For one, there’s a whole lot of really good comedy. Like every other episode this season, there’s a huge array of facial expressions, and they sell the jokes really well. My favorites are: Rarity looking very cross after Yona burped munched Brussel sprout on her muzzle. Gallus and Smolder teasing each other, the latter including a wink. Rarity’s smiles, such as asking Yona what she wanted at the Boutique and pronouncing sophisticatedly. Silverstream’s sass as she gobbled potato chips first and a really nervous grin the next. Yona romantically blinking at Sandbar, triggering giggles from her friends. And there’s also all of Yona’s antics as she tried to “fit right in.” When she tried the first time, she caused either a little commotion or chaos, ala damaging Rainbow’s classroom by accident. Then after she succeeded, she pretended to be Rarity in hilarious fashion, all the way down to her accent, dress choice, and mannerisms. Observe the title. It references the 90’s cult hit, She’s All That, which in turn was inspired by Oscar-winning musical My Fair Lady. I'm not familiar with the former (never watched it), but I am with the latter, and you can find similar tropes used for My Fair Lady in at least three other Disney films: Aladdin, Pocahontas 2 (the one best compared to All Yak), and Mulan. As such, there’s no denying how cliché this type of story is, and this episode’s formula (despite a wide variety of emotion carrying it, and I put not much focus on total clichés nowadays) may be a little too on the nose with it and could do more by straying away. But there’s no denying the emotion that drives this episode. Yona, being the least ladylike of the Young 6, is justified to be uncertain of Twilight's Amity Ball. The Amity Ball trophy's taken from Ponyville's annual Fetlock Fête, a dancing competition with an award going to the winner, and the poster features two ponies, no other creature. Additionally, pay attention to the language: To be fair to the teachers, it's not wrong for them to teach non-ponies Ponyville traditions. Twilight also changed the name so non-ponies can feel more invited. But there are problems. Today, Ponyville remains a homogeneous society, and the School's next door to Twilight's castle. She's supposed to teach a more inclusive Magic of Friendship, yet so far hasn't taught traditions from other cultures. Despite their efforts, it shouldn't surprise anyone why the unfortunate implication pressured Yona to assume she'd have to be a pony to qualify for the Pony Pal trophy. The event also showed how those same implications impacted the rest of the Young Six. Observe their faces. Ocellus's is blank. Smolder rolled her eyes. Gallus looked cross, implying he felt tokenized by ponykind. While everypony and Spike danced, they sat out and played cards. Outside of expression, Gallus expressed his concern, too. Prior, when ponies went to a faraway land to teach the Magic of Friendship, they risk very imperialistic implications, suggesting that those creatures are inferior. Two episodes that fell into this trap were Dragon Quest (stereotyping dragondom thanks to misogynistic teens) and Lost Treasure (treating friendship as the go-to method to fix a desolate, corrupt country). Thankfully, they've been more cautious lately, but this type of episode opened itself up to it. So how did they bypass those implications? Instead of coming to her and telling her she had to change, Yona came to them. She understandably assumed that she had to change into a completely different character. Therefore, by seeing all those dresses, she also assumed that she had to dress like a pony in order to "fit right in" with the rest. That little, innocent accident produced further doubt and fear into Best Yak's childlike psyche. But at no point does the episode look down on her or see her as stupid. Throughout, it listened to those fears and let airing her doubts whenever without interruption. When she tried to persuade Rarity to design the right dress for her, Rarity reluctantly agreed. When she struggled, everyone — and by extension, the episode — encouraged her to improve. On the other end, when her friends saw how she was speaking and behaving, their first impressions were worry. They wondered what was going on with her, and all giggling aside, they were concerned the entire time. Sandbar, who asked her out, was also getting increasingly worried after she nearly spilled punch all over her dress. Rarity's reluctance plays another key. Why does Yona's visit take her aback? Because she doesn't expect anyone to dress. Yes, the Fetlock Fête's a more formal tradition, but the Amity Ball isn't, and Twilight didn't announce dresses as a requirement. Thanks to peer pressure, Yona thought she had to. Rather than say no, Rarity agreed to her demand. After all, she's her client, and objecting may only worsen things. One little line subtly adds to this doubt: Rarity suggested she stand out for Sandbar. Yona corrected her. Instead of thrusting her beliefs onto her, she listened and, despite being opposite her morale, obliged. Everyone else actively wanted to help her improve. At first, Yona struggled mightily. The Pony Catillion chart really confused her, 'cause all of the colors and hooves overlapped each other, and Yona (hilariously) smashed up Dash's classroom when trying to learn the Pony Prance. Meanwhile, Pinkie's quick organization of the ingredients comes second nature to her, but Yona was overwhelmed. Seeing how she needed help, they started from scratch, modified their instructions, and slowly worked upward as Yona improved. Another big improvement here in comparison to other episodes is how they remained in character the whole time. Nopony looked down upon her the entire time. Instead of forcing her to agree, Yona came to them for help, and they worked the best they could to her demand. Did they get flustered, insult her, or treat her or her culture as inferior? Nope. They genuinely believed they were helping her accomplish what she wanted. Come the end of the montage, everything was according to plan. Unfortunately, they had no idea that, despite the best of intentions, they unknowingly perpetuated the same imperialistic "out-of-pony" stereotypes. What they intended was to help Yona impress Sandbar, have fun, and win Best Pony Pal. But their coaching accidentally suppressed Yona, who was beginning to treat her own identity as a yak as a weakness and took their lessons as means to become more self-conscious. This line further implicates this: Pay attention to the last two words. "Well spoken" is a microaggression. It may "sound" nice on the surface (and sometimes not intended to be offensive at all), but when a Caucasian calls an African-American "well-spoken," they say he's better not talking like "other" blacks, a.k.a., anyone who speaks Ebonics. Regardless of intent, it's racist and not a compliment whatsoever. In FS's POV, she's complimenting her, and Yona accepts it without a second thought. Albeit very on the nose, Fluttershy's supposedly innocuous line further backs up the episode's anti-assimilation theme and, along with the rest of the coaching, made her really vulnerable to shame and distressed if she messes up. And boy, did she mess up. Surprise surprise, Yona became very ashamed and depressed, hiding in the Palace of Solace. Recall what the Tree told them four episodes ago: Within the Everfree Forest's castle ruins, this treehouse provides a safe space for anyone who needed it. After the biggest humiliation of her life, Yona needed to air her despair, and this was the best place. Her song to begin Act 3 ranks up there with The Pony I Wanna Be, Moondancer's rant, Sunset losing her memories, and Grand Pear's apology as one of the most heartbreaking moments of the entire series. However, what happened during the lowest moment of her entire life resulted in one of Pony's most heartwarming moments. Sandbar's a fine addition to the Young Six, but he's the most mellow, so he doesn't have plenty of oomph. Thankfully, he more than makes up for that by listening to her, treating her as an equal, and showing that he won't trade anything away that made her the way she was. His unconditional support for her and empathy cheered her up and reignited her self-confidence, demonstrating what helped make this show so successful: not only teaching us the Magic of Friendship, but proving it. Just to balance the perspectives more, I would've liked to see Sandbar sit inside the Palace just after the intro. That way, we get to see his insecurities a little more. But this is a nitpick, so carry on! Let's go back to Fluttershy's "well-spoken" line. Again, it's supposed to mean well, but has unintended consequences, staying true to the episode's critique of assimilation. The RM6 had absolutely no intention of leaving any non-pony out, but someday, someone was going to take these unfortunate implications to heart. Being the most emotional and vulnerable of the Y6, Yona was the perfect vessel. Even though they believed they did the right thing by trying to teach her the Fetlock Fête's traditions, they inadvertently cleansed her psychologically and culturally. They wanted nothing more than to make her happy, but not by taking away what made her so special. Apologizing to her and reassuring they love her for who she is is the right call. As for the sporadic critique of Yona and Sandbar winning the Pony Pal trophy, think about this. Once more, as Yona suffered the deepest humiliation of her life, Sandbar offered his ears, patience, and a proverbial shoulder for comfort. His actions embody the School of Friendship's values; they more than deserved that award. In addition, cleaning up meant they had plenty of time to rethink the Amity Ball's purpose. Why did they change the award's name and dress one of the pony statues up as a yak? To symbolize how friendship crosses boundaries and cultures. Thanks to their own mistakes, they can improve the Amity Ball to include everyone much better. Look at how everyone joined in her Yakyakistan Stomp. They show how much she means to them. For the ponies, this will be a lesson in working with non-ponies to make the School of Friendship and its activities feel more welcoming. Given the show's flaw of ponies sometimes acting as the savior to non-ponies, it's a long-time coming for the show to not only address this problem, but flip it to make the ponies learn this lesson. Also, if you believe this episode's moral is "be yourself" and a near-copycat of past episodes, such as Common Ground, you're overlooking the nuances. Common Ground's are to not use bitterness to isolate someone from being part of a family and to not pretend you have to follow a passion to bond with someone. The primary lesson from She's All Yak is not to feel like you have to erase your own identity to belong. They're not the same. Pony's on a hot streak. Since Matter of Principals, they haven't released one mediocre or bad episode, and aside from a rare fine one, they're all good to really good. So far, every season 9 episode is really good at least, and this is the fourth great one in a row. I'm unsure how well it'll age over time, but today, all I need to say is that She's All Yak is sneakily great and could (hopefully) land near the top of S9's best episodes
  2. NOTE: Copied and pasted my review from here and contains some extra edits. Trixie and Starlight's chant and dance were total cringe. Looking for me to dish another negative? You ain't gonna find it here. (On the) Road to Friendship's story's incredibly simple, its focus driven 100% by Starlight, Trixie, and their incredible chemistry. Just like Spike, Big Mac, and Discord from Break Down, they only became friends two seasons ago, yet thanks to Haber's clever writing, you'd think their friendship goes back to childhood. Until Season 6, Trixie only stood center stage for Boast Busters, Magic Duel, and Rainbow Rocks as a tertiary character. But Haber brought her into becoming a reoccurring character and has become a vehicle for storytelling around Starlight. Their magnificent chemistry is thanks to Haber's incredibly tight dialogue, a continuous improvement of the show started by Shadow Play. With everything they say to and about each other, you buy into it, whether it's their praise, banter, jokes, passive-aggressive insults, and full-blown arguing. Their exchanges were snappy and completely believable; each moment and line flowed so well, even when the vocabulary repeats, with no hitch at all. Thanks to their chemistry, Haber takes advantage of as many comedic opportunities as possible. Virtually all of them land. Some of my favorites include: Starlight teleporting back to the school in a hurry, only to briefly return to say goodbye in between. Starlight throwing a little meta joke about how Twilight and friends would sing a song to commemorate their voyage, only for them both to start a song themselves. Blowing open the inflatable raft causes Starlight to get pinned to the window. During their descent into fighting, Starlight and Trixie share passive-aggressive barbs at each other during the Somnambula magic show. While sleeping in the caravan in Somnambula, Trixie talks and rehearses in her sleep, while Starlight snores noisily, each a callback to previous episodes. Kudos to Haber for using a combined pun of the village's name. The elder pony peaks out of the chest, sees nothing happening, and returns to sleep. Cue credits. But the best comedy comes during We're Friendship-Bound. Aside from being the season's best song up to this point, it's incredibly upbeat with catchy lyrics and just-as-catchy jazzy beat. Like Apples to the Core four seasons ago, its jovial tone reverberates through each scene, which ranged in activity, danger, and atmosphere. I don't recall the last time Pinkie broke the fourth wall, but Trixie and Starlight shattered it everywhere, especially this line(!): But like the rest of the season, Haber progressively tests their friendship. While Starlight's preoccupied at the school, Hoo'Far asks if he can trade his bigger caravan for hers. She says no, because it's her home. Her smaller, cramped wagon comes into play twice, including as they relaxed the first time. Trixie closes the door, causing SG to accidentally drop a smoke bomb. Starlight wasting bits on street food over essentials. Trixie waiting a long time in line for a particular street vendor over shopping at another empty vendor that orders the same thing. After all the hotels are booked, they get really testy with each other. Despite apologizing with each other… …they get really cramped inside her wagon. Starlight can't move, so she moves the smoke bombs, squashing Trixie. They couldn't sleep in the same room! Trixie wrapped a bandana around her muzzle to stop her snoring. Next morning, thy passive-aggressively take the last of each others' food, the haycake by SG, the juice by Trixie. This passive aggression continued into the failed magic show, one of Road to Friendship's funniest scenes. The water boils that night when they traded sleep- and meal-related insults and accusations, culminating with Starlight ejecting Trixie's supplies and: But the boiling foamed the next morning when Starlight traded away her wagon for his behind her back. You think that her impulsiveness would let her think twice about trading it away. Despite her decent alibi of traveling with a roomier wagon, Starlight has two major problems here: Her timing. Neither of them got along and fought the night before. Those feelings pass over here. Starlight traded it while Trixie slept. It doesn't matter if your intentions are good. This is her property, and she decides what to do with it, not SG. It ain't no surprise why Trixie's so upset; her anger's completely justified. Starlight comes off as a major plothole here, why she's primarily written to be in the wrong in Act 3, and becomes the episode's primary apologizer. This is a reversal of No Second Prances, but done way better. In the former, Trixie used Starlight, and she had to make it up to her. Here, Starlight screwed up badly and has to make it up. Some are a little disappointed we see nothing of Saddle Arabia beyond just Hoo'Far (who, BTW, had really excellent and witty dialect), but like Chrysalis in The Mean Six, those who do miss the point. This episode's about experiencing the ups and downs of friendship, having their friendship tested, overcoming it, and becoming closer. In the grand scope, Saddle Arabia isn't necessary, and the story in between more than makes up for it. All in all, it's an excellent episode — one of the best of not just the season, but the show, too.
  3. Note: Credit goes to @Cwanky for this review. For the first time, FIM brings back a celebrity guest: Patton Oswalt. When I first watched Stranger Than Fan Fiction, I panned the character he voiced (Quibble Pants), calling him a stereotype of superfans and for being so dumb to think he's still near the Daring Do convention despite being in a radically different climate. Upon reflection, he's nowhere nearly as bad as I claimed. Holding onto the idiot ball in Act 2 is a big flaw in the episode, but he's no stereotype. Yes, he can be obnoxious, but he cares for the product. (Thank Fame & Misfuckton for helping me change my mind.) Common Ground pushes forward new ground (pun unintentional ) for Quibble Pants in my favorite role of him so far. From the get-go, he fails to hide a inferiority complex, screwing up basic buckball knowledge and sports puns. But the second Clear Sky and Wind Sprint arrive, he shows a side from him we never see before: a devotion to his girlfriend and her daughter. For the first time all series, FIM tackles stepparenting, specifically the development of one. Haber marvelously intertwines his façade and desire to make the relationship work, notably to impress Wind Sprint and get her to like and appreciate him. And it's in their introductory scene do we see how important Quibble is to their dynamic, notably when Wind tries to sneak into the buckball stadium. Quibble planned the trip, both to the museum and stadium. Regardless of his knowledge, he knows Wind like sports and to play them. The Hall of Fame in Appleoosa is a mark of excellence for Equestria's growing sport and foreshadows both her talent in athletic competition and love for her biological father (back to this point later). He researches his material and tries to apply the resources he has to make her happy, which becomes more evident by buying that humongous buckball almanac for her. Unfortunately, his effort ends up deflating her and further exposes him as a try-too-hard to Wind. By pleading for help, Q shows that he's at his wit's end. He wants WS to like him, but no matter how much he tries, she only ends up detesting him more. Self-confidence from STFF was replaced with desperation and a cry for help. In a brief eye-to-eye, Clear Sky reminds him how he doesn't have to try too hard to get her to like him, further alluding the idea that he tried to impress her many times before. Planning this trip was likely his final shot. Luckily, Dash was there, and she's one of Equestria's most athletic ponies, so it can't be all bad…can it? Ummmmm… All of this leads to the episode's biggest flaw: the pitch scene. Wind Sprint's extremely skilled in buckball, perhaps better than Flutters, Pinkie, and Snails. Unfortunately, Quibble isn't, so there's a huge difference, even though Team Ponyville eased their skills to make things more fair. Seeing him so lost on the pitch means he fails so easily, and that sometimes makes it rather hard to watch. That said, it's a billion times tamer than Spike being forced to sing the Cloudesdale Anthem, which makes him out to be both Spike and SA dumb enough to assume Cloudesdale lost and let him take the mic, respectively. And Quibble actually not only tried to be better, but successfully bucks into his own net (and calls out a vaguely-written rule in the almanac, so he may suck on the field, but understands some of the game's basics from the outside). But we can't talk about Quibble without Dash, Wind, and Clear. Outside of Complete Crap Clause, Rainbow Dash has been on fire, and CG's no exception. After a poor start three seasons ago, they're now friends, and it shows through their exchanges early. When Q stumbled or screwed up sports phrases, she got confused or corrected him. But when he pleaded for help, she immediately accepted the offer. Why is she outstanding? Because it balances her flaws with her strengths. To describe what I mean: She believed everypony has a sporty side in some way. Through Operation: Sportify, she worked tirelessly with him (once with Snips's help). Sadly, not everyone is so athletic. But when she couldn't find it immediately, she planned to have him and family work together as a team so he can work with WS. However, shoving him under the spotlight in front of tens of thousands of passionate fans wasn't the wisest decision, albeit with good intentions. Her speed, athleticism, and agility come naturally for her. So when she shows off how well she can turn the corners while flying, she quips: A little conceited? Perhaps. Then again, she's so skilled that what she does is normal, so when others can't, it's a surprise. But the episode cleverly juxtaposes this, displaying an understanding that he can't do all, so she starts small with plans to train him once he improves. All day, what does she do? Help train him. She wants him to improve, even by the lightest amount, and help him unite with Wind. But her biggest testament to her character comes after Wind rejects his efforts and runs away from the pitch. As he disappointingly rummages through her present, she tries to regain his confidence by assuring him of other sporty ideas to help his athleticism. After finally letting his frustrations out and (on assumption) getting ready to quit his relationship with Clear, she offers him her best advice so far: Short, sweet, and to the point. Wind Spirit, the little filly in the episode, adds so much to the episode. When she doesn't say much, she shows her disappointment and disdain for him. Take a look at the first few seconds. On first impressions, she looks like a little brat who's spoiled and with very specific tastes. The Hall of Fame museum bores her due to lack of action, preferring the tournament instead. But Clear Sky calls her out for misbehaving, only to eventually have Dash agree with her (cutting herself off after Q glared at her). Once inside the museum, the episode raises the stakes instantaneously, beginning with Q's confusion of sports and ending with this: From this point forward, the episode has a very clear goal: get Wind to like him. But take a look at Q's first line, which says her biological dad was athletic. Two things come out of it: With her father being athletic and really into sports like her, Quibble is left out of the loop. She sees him as a stranger, because he isn't what her dad was like and that he tries too hard to be like her dad that he comes off as phony. Hence her glares and sarcastic "thanks." Her dad isn't there anymore. Usually, when someone's referred to in past tense, they're telling us they passed away or sometimes divorced. From the way he speaks of her, she's not happy that he's the opposite of who her dad was and doesn't appreciate him. Later moments, including her disappointment of him when he got stuck in a buckball basket, learning he bought her a book, and Quibble trying to impress her, add more into the conflict. Compared to Pear Butter and Bright Mac, we don't know his fate, and Patton Oswalt said on "Conan" prior that Clear and her husband (likely) divorced. But aside from past tense, two points hint his passing: Wind reminiscing of him while talking to Dash and Clear showing how much she still loves him. But when Q's not nearby, Wind's attitude changes. After Dash meets her, she gets so excited and loves how well she can fly. Throughout the day, she's really happy to just be with Clear and watch the matches from the stands…only to scowl the second he returns from training. Despite exciting her with an offer, she doesn't hide her feelings for him before turning to Pinkie and FS glowingly: Recall what this episode is about: He's trying to get her to like him by making her believe there's more to them than what she truly sees. He doesn't understands sport or look sporty, but he can be and will prove it. But the harder he tries to hide his insecurities, the more she'll repel from him. By hiding behind an obvious façade, he's disrespecting her. Consequently, she justifiably insults him for being phony. Her limit's finally pushed after Quibble scores an own goal and tries to argue otherwise so they keep playing: Thanks to his plan and screwing up so poorly, it's not fun playing on the field with him or Snips. If playing it wasn't fun, then what's the point of going to it in the first place? This leads me to the episode's glue, Clear Sky. With Quibble Pants and Wind Sprint eccentric and rather cartoony, a mellow head like her's necessary to balance the cast, and Haber handles her so well. Clear Sky adores Quibble Pants for being kind, smart, selfless, and hard-working. When they show disagreement, she keeps them all in check, such as Clear reminding Wind to appreciate his efforts to bring them all to the HoF. Instead of one-dimensionalizing her role, Common Ground rounds her by reassuring Quibble when he's down and unconditionally supporting Wind. Her best moment occurs near the end after Wind and Q's relationship all but fell apart permanently. Wind's spirit was at her lowest all episode, her dislike towards him devolving towards bitterness. She wasn't simply disappointed in having him as a stepdad, but embarrassed, too. She's proud to be the daughter of an athletic dad, but he isn't around anymore, and now her new "dad" is an un-sporty pretender. The dialogue underlined my me, though, is the key to not only the exchange, but the evolution of her and Quibble's relationship. To echo @Cwanky, Wind misses her dad, wishes to have him around, and the episode doesn't look her down for it at all. Fear She fears Quibble will not only replace his dad physically, but in memory, too. Those memories of him hold dearly to her, and the prospect of Clear's new relationship with Q forcing her to throw them all away kills her. She doesn't want that. Neither does Clear. From her motherly reply, she still loves him just as much as Wind Sprint and would never trade that away at all. After all, her relationship with him led her to mother Wind, who her husband resembles a lot of in her eyes. But that doesn't mean she can't love another stallion, even if he and Wind's dad share nothing in common. She loves him because he loves those around her and wants to make things right for her and her daughter. At no point does she want Wind to assume Q will treat her or her memories of Dad as an afterthought, and she doesn't want Wind to believe her fears are silly. They're not. By treating her fears seriously, the episode treats those who relate to her dilemma the same. Wind's experiences and feelings parallel those in real life, and Clear's words of comfort allow her to heed her own fears, grieve, and potentially welcome a really sweet stallion who deserves another chance. This episode also mirrors plenty from what happened to the Oswalts, too. In 2016, Patton's first wife Michelle McNamara died in her sleep, leaving him and her daughter Alice (Wind's voice) behind. One year later, he married Michelle Salenger (Clear's voice), who posted this little tear-jerking recording of herself and Alice for this episode. Reading and watching what happened behind the scenes (including this chain from Big Jim) really helps me appreciate this new classic. On the surface, it's a "be yourself" moral, but in reality, it's more than that. Besides not letting your own fears create a barrier from welcoming people to your family, don't pretend to know a passion in order to feel like you're a part of one. Dash was the Mane 8 featured, but she didn't have to learn the lesson. This was Quibble's episode, and his actions worsened the divide and threatened his relationship with Clear. To fix it, he had to own up to it to WS and work together to resolve their tense conflict. Bittersweet it is, leaving the ending more open than traditional's the right call. Wind's wounds ran deep, so her bitterness won't disappear immediately. That almanac (a great callback to his love for Daring Do) foreshadowed that slow mending of their relationship. He may not physically play buckball, but became unknowingly knowledgeable of it from reading it and absorbing the analytics. As a result, Wind read it for herself, understood Team Ponyville's patterns, and realizes that by reading together, they can learn from each other and bond off the field. Now, do they have more to go? 100%. But with Clear supporting them, they're on the right track. ^ If this ending doesn't warm the cockles of your heart, I don't know what will. I can write more about it, but I'll leave it here. Common Ground's a fantastic episode and will go down as one of FIM's best.
  4. This was a very typical Twilight freaks out about something episode (aka twilighting), pairing with Spike, and her going crazy trying to find answers. It was an episode that had a good pace, good writing, and an overall a good episode. My grade: B
  5. First of all, it was a brilliant move to have the voice actors pitch ideas for this episode. I loved much of the episode, and twilight twilighting like she always does. It was overall a great episode for the 200th episode, and at the same time very funny. I loved every second of it. My grade: A+
  6. Note: Credit to @CloudMistDragon, @Justin_Case001, Kaperon TSB, and Applegeek for this review. Today Sparkle's Seven is Season 9's greatest episode. Everything fell into place and was written so, so well. But writing just this much only really undercuts the mastery of its storytelling and humor. Rather than doing simply a breakdown of the episode in a strength/weakness structure or a long essay, I'll break down specific points, ala my Movie review and Zeppelin analysis. Setting the Tone. Within the first minute, Haber and Dubuc establish the episode's whimsical tone, beginning with this little whammy. Spike's so excited to receive Shining Armor's letter that he burst in Twilight's office, accidentally spooked Starlight enough to cause her to drop a stack of papers on the floor, and unroll his scroll with extreme glee. All punctuated by a very happy trumpet score in the background. Ten seconds in, the audience begins to have a quick impression of what its tone, atmosphere, and overall direction could be: casual, fun, and possibly exciting. The crown may be a toy, but Spike's face and Twilight's subsequently surprised reaction reveal how important it is to them: It establishes a friendly sibling rivalry between her and older bro Shining Armor, which the montage shows they had a huge amount of fun to earn it. That toy crown's nostalgic, a will to be impressive during the week, and improve if you miss it. Being a bro himself, Spike's excited to see SA revive it, even if for one more time. Before the open ends, Sparkle's Seven alerts us of the stakes: Whoever wins the crown this time officially wins Sibling Supreme. Forever. It effectively delivers on the episode's direction and tone without wasting one precious millisecond. Speaking of tone… Twilight: "For…ev…errrr…" What do Best Night Ever, Lesson Zero, Pinkie Pride, Slice of Life, Saddle Row Review, and Break Down each have in common? They're filled to the brim with comedy and among the best episodes in part of or because of it. Sparkle's Seven ups the ante hundredfold. Everywhere it goes, it's ripe with humor. To go over a few early examples: Starlight's last, quizzical line. Celestia's beat after Princess Luna takes a verbal shot at her (along with a small stare at her as SA gloated). This face… Suddenly, I'm hungry for pudding… Princess Luna whinnying like a horse. Recall his fans giving that poor robin having trouble flying near the Royal Sisters's castle? Here's the next scene! Eeyup! Same robin, dazed from crash-landing, walking near the castle instead! Going a little dark there, eh, story?! Pinkie cutting off Rarity and Dash's film noir scene (a very clever callback to Rarity Investigates!) and breaking the fourth wall during the cartoony space scene. Her small whine sells it quite well. Spike imagining himself as a spy teaming up with Fluttershy to steal his crown. From the start, Sparkle's Seven doesn't let up on any comedic opportunities. If they find a spot, they were going for it, be they succeed or fail. Varying the humor — rather than relying on one type — by equally including sound effects, the score, little Easter Eggs caught on repeated rewatches, different camera/animation techniques, and dialogue catches the audience by surprise, a crucial ingredient to good-quality comedy, and increases its replayability. The cartoony medium also helped accentuate their faces, going extreme without becoming uncanny. One will be covered in more detail right now. The Many Faces of Equestria! Despite the boatload of comedic variety, their faces drive most of it. Haber, Dubuc, and the animators successfully take advantage of the animation medium and exaggerate them without becoming gross, uncanny, or out of place. The only question: When's the right time? Thanks to its absurd tone, whenever they surprise us. Act 1's full of them, but some of my favorites occur during the second. Here are just a few. Earlier, AJ claimed to possess an alter ego named Apple Chord and would use it to distract the Canterlot guards while the others snooped inside. But after telling her story, Dash realized she wasn't telling the truth, leading to this awkward mouth. Does a face like THAT tell you she wants to be Apple Chord? Nope! Onstage, one uncomfy dudette forces herself to live a lie long enough for her friends to get inside. This one is sequential: Twilight and Shining Armor's exchange outside the castle. Suspected she was up to something, he questioned her. How did she respond? By sniffing a nearby flower with a cunning grin. Shining scooted away, peeking as she innocently waved to him. What makes this so interesting? Because it adds to the friendly yet passionate rivalry between them. Silly, yet serious in showing a tight, competitive relationship. Twilight realizing Rarity's scheme fell apart. If that doesn't accurately describe her sinking loss of hope… Poor Twilie. Yeah way! Uh huh! But my favorite moment, until the end, is the Dash and Rarity scene. Realizing in shock that the café was closed during the afternoon catalyzed their moment to spy on the episode's first truly suspicious event: Luna replacing two Canterlot guards with Zephyr Breeze. At first, one might wonder why she'd hire someone like him to take part, but then you become reminded of SA's words from earlier: ponies guard every door, so it makes sense for ponies to replace them while they're out to lunch. That said, it's Zephyr we're talking about here…! But we'll talk about that later. The true gift of this scene is how they react to him. Including, well, how shall I say it? Uh…eeyep? Oh, eeyup! When I first watched Sparkle's Seven, I laughed. The second time around, I nearly fell to the floor from laughing so hard. Sneaky sneaky, DHX! XD Ironically, they also made Zephyr, one of the worst characters of the series, actually pleasant to watch. Sure, he's still a diva, but he's much more self-confident now (clever subtlety). His ego's no longer patronizing; only Dash finds him annoying. Why does the way they present him matter here? Ashleigh Ball wanted Rainbow Dash to interact more with Ryan Beil (Zeph's VA). They showed great chemistry in FB, and Dash helped get his life back on track. SS's the first Pony ep we see him in since then, so the question is will his development stay or not? Sparkle's Seven answers that question with nuance. Oh, and do I need to post a couple of more faces? I'm the Youngest One(s) Like past episodes such as HW Club, Best Night Ever, Lost Mark, and TT123, the third act really elevates it. The first pivotal moment occurs just following the commercial break, when Spike tells Fluttershy he sometimes feels forgotten and uses their rivalry to back up his point. Immediately, two innocent moments from the cold open impact the story: baby Spike drawing gold stars below their chart and his wish to take part in it right after Twi's flashback. But there's more than that, as well. For most of the series, Spike's family presence with Twilight's more like an afterthought. In Season 1, Spike's primary occupation was assisting her in her studies. At one point, Twi wanted to wake Spike up from his sleep and request him to retrieve her quill, implicating he's a slave. Thanks to the ending, Princess Spike sent misandric messages in a pro-feminist show. Have we come a long way since then? Yes. But his arc felt incomplete, and episodes like Zeppelin (Iron Will believed Spike wasn't family enough to reward him a ticket!) and Father Knows Beast only created more Q's than A's. Long-time continuity backs up his doubts. FS, recalling her strained sibling relationship with Zephyr, understands his feelings. Twilight — so determined to win the Hard-Won Helm — accidentally ignores Spike's "little brothers" line minutes later. Thanks for proving his point, everypony. Fortunately, this scene was an extra cog to one of two big reveals in the climax: Under everyone's noses, Spike stole the crown, shocking everyone. But he wasn't alone. AIN'T THAT TWIST SO…GLOOO—RIOUS?! So how does this make any sense? Recall the first bit of foreshadowing mentioned a few paragraphs ago. Celestia and Luna share very strong differences of opinions of Shining Armor's security. Celly really liked it, but Luna was unsure and, as stated in Act 1, wanted to test it with her, but she chose to summon Twilight instead. Everyone was so caught up that they overlooked its fatal flaw: They're so focused on outside threats they overlook inside ones. Spike quickly realized it, and observing how Luna and Celly couldn't stop nonverbal arguments with each other, he concocted an inside plan with Luna to prove it to everyone. And boy, did they take serious advantage! Knowing his vanity would distract him from doing his job, Luna replaced two experienced guards with Zephyr for the afternoon shift. Spike tore Pinkie's hot-air balloon with his claws, not only further sabotaging Rarity's plan, but also providing enough of a distraction for AJ to steal a Royal Guard medal (which Rarity later used). Luna keeping Celestia and SA out of the Throne Room long enough for Spike and Fluttershy to explore the catacombs, escape, and invade. At one point, they got lost, and Dash pulled down every wall sconce to try to escape, so he mapped out the catacombs and noted all the traps and secret passageways. Spike's wits are essential to his character. Sparkle's Seven explores 'em in a completely new way: strong forethought. He not only rightfully predicted Rarity's plan will fail, but also Twilight's and SA's. All they needed to do was play it out, let SA catch Twi off-guard, and then *snaps fingers* capitalize. He won the Hard-Won Helm of the Sibling Supreme fair and square. Kudos to both SA and Twilight for acknowledging them as their little bro all along. But give credit to Luna, too. From a storytelling perspective, her little disagreement with Celestia fueled the spy parody that Tabitha St. Germain suggested. Her tiny shots and glares at her sister foreshadowed the climax and smoothly tied into both Twilight's rivalry and Spike's plight. Celestia's decision to ignore her justified her reasons to behave sourly made sense and gave her a solid alibi to help corrupt their flawed security system. By one-upping her older sister, she won well-earned bragging rights herself. The Miscellaneous Typically great episodes offer more than simply the story. Little details, smaller jokes, and intentional subtexts increase layers and replay value, giving viewers a reason to rewatch it either now or in the future. Beyond the dazed bird example… This whole episode is a parody of spy film, mostly inspired Ocean's 11, a classic film remade twice. According to Applegeek, Kaperon TSB, and @Justin_Case001, there are several references to not only Ocean's 11, but other spy and action films at large. Rarity's "unexpected" speech parodies George Clooney's "The house always wins" speech from the 2001 remake. Credit to Justin Case for finding this. DHX recreated this classic Ocean's 11 poster. After Shining tells his sis of all the security measure, Twilight uses mathematics to figure out how to break through, parodying a moment from the blackjack scene during The Hangover. Credit to Kaperon for discovering that. Luna stroking the goose satires the Bond-villain-strokes-the-cat cliché, and like Applegeek himself, I have a good hunch the goose (with his pink, skin-toned feathers) is supposed to resemble Dr. Evil's sphinx from Austin Powers (another Bond parody). This episode is also one subtle, yet gigantic, parody of itself, a great catch by @CloudMistDragon. FIM doesn't shy away from admitting how predictable their stories are sometimes. Whether your enjoyment of the product is determined by that is up to you. (Nowadays I rarely ding it for this, as the journey factors more.) Shining Armor accurately predicts her whole plan, is prepared for any other unpredictable folly by them, expects them to put their plan into action, and lures them into the Throne Room until the last minute. This self-deprecation is easily the smartest showcase of Shining's experience with security and wits. Simultaneously, it winks at those in the fandom who use the "predictability" card through Rarity's and Twilight's plans without being condescending. Was her plan unpredictable, yet in character of everyone? 100%. But Plan B had many major problems, notably inexperience and lack of cooperation. OTOH, Twilight's plan, while predictable, was well thought-out and highly tailored to their talents, cleverly commentating how a well-crafted, predictable story is more valuable than an unpredictable one. Ironically, this allegory subtly foreshadowed the unpredictable plot twist. Nice swerve, DHX. Very clever use of time is shown through the flashback. Back then, the family's Hard-Won Helm was shiny and new. Today, it's cracked, dented, and busted. Listen very carefully when Spike dons it; there's a small ruffling sound to further indicate its worn-out condition. Methinks SA enjoyed it a little too much, eh? During her heated argument with RD, Rarity stopped briefly to say "hi" to Spike and continued her diatribe, stopping after completely realizing who's there. (BTW, I haven't watched any of the Ocean's 11 films, Hangover series, or Mission: Impossible series. So I had to get the references from elsewhere. Nevertheless, ain't that tantamount to its high quality: not fully getting the references, yet finding it all funny, nonetheless?) Conclusion. So much describes this new classic. The characters are perfectly in character, including Zephyr (who's actually funny). Every joke lands perfectly, and is sometimes funnier on rewatches, with my favorite being Dash begrudgingly dressing in style. It got serious at times, rounding its story without becoming melodramatic and maintaining its lightheartedness. Several stories are simultaneously intertwined flawlessly, including its satire of spy films, itself, and allegory. On top of it all, its moral on listening to your loved ones and making sure they don't feel left out is executed so well. How awesome it really is to see Spike treated with so much dignity once again. Regardless of all of Season 6's well-earned criticism, Spike's writing was top-notch. Thank Haber for partially why. Whenever he's the editor or writer, this small dragon gets the respect he deserves. Thanks to Weseluck, Sparkle's Seven addresses a series-long concern related to his family and provides a solid alibi to craft a devious deed to win the game. If it doesn't prove how far he's come since Princess Spike, I don't know what will. He gets Spike, period. But don't leave Dubuc hanging, either. She co-wrote the ingenious Shadow Play with him. Sparkle's Seven continues to show how well they work as a team, and the former's inspirations clue us all. Its top-notch dialogue, successfully multi-layered stories, and brilliant executions from top on down are all found here. And finally, thank you to all the voice actors who stayed with this show for so long. You all dedicated so much of your time to building FIM's success, and your voices are iconic to the very same characters. It's so fitting to have the 200th episode dedicated to you, and watching it was a huge honor. Thank you, all, for contributing to this all-time great and show that commenced western animation's renaissance.
  7. Note: Credit to @Zestanor and @Truffles for this review. Since School Daze, the Young Six have been some of the best characters. Eccentric and childlike, yet diverse in personality, gender, and race, their friendship is linked by caring for each other. After Cozy thrust doubts subconsciously, the Tree's spirit reminds them of their powerful friendship. Uprooted is their second (unplanned) test: The Tree's detroyed to their massive shock, and they concluded to memorialize it. So how well was is written? Not all that bad. In only a couple of minutes, the opener effectively establishes what their personalities, goals, and weaknesses are (often intertwining them through jokes, whether they’re brand new or called back from previous episodes, e.g., Smolder’s closeted femininity). Then when Twilight tells them the news of the Tree’s destruction, it’s easy to see why they’re devastated. The Tree not only solidified the harmony between them, but Equestria’s as a whole. Additionally, Dubuc addresses to continuity from What Lies Beneath and School Raze while keeping it self-contained so newcomers mustn’t watch earlier episodes to understand. At the same time, it gets clumsy at points. Their commemoration for the Tree sometimes gets repetitive, referring to it by name quite often. Altogether, dialogue's serviceable. Sometimes it can get quite preachy, treating the Tree, the Elements, and their messages of friendship as religious relics. Granted, that’s the point. No one can agree on how to honor it without desecrating its legacy, and their solutions range from complacent (the statue) to one-dimensionalizing (the friendship forum) to selling out (Gallus lying about the Tree to make the cave a tourist attraction). But personally, they can make the subtext a little bit more subtle. Gallus’s money-making scheme is cringeworthy. I laughed at Yona’s reaction, but not his embellished plan. Dude, you ain't no Flim and Flam! Sandbar revealing to stashing the Tree's broken parts in a wagon out in the open is the episode's worst moment. The whole dilemma throughout Act 2 is bound by Sandbar's decision to clean up the cave in favor of his little plant, and there's no second exit. For Yona to find it really easily (especially after Gallus asked him where it is beforehand) and nearby one of Silverstream's murals makes the remaining five look incompetent throughout their argument. However, Uprooted has several bright spots. The whole montage is fantastically set up and executed. Early, the students departed for the School earlier than what their families and tribe leaders permitted. Unlike the others, Thorax balances out severity with worry and understanding the most naturally. The Changeling Kingdom altogether's one big family and successfully adapted to his fight-less vision, and the last thing his kingdom wants to do is get into another war, which almost happened last season. However, he'll agree to a suggestion beneficial for everyone. Thorax and Twilight agree to the Y6's plan, leading to one of their best montages (and to echo @Zestanor, "one of the more significant parts"). In addition to establishing a very strong reason why everycreature returned to school so soon, their cultures are presented authentically. Some of it, like Smolder winning an arm wrestling match, is silly (and Gallus's was dark humor), but none are shown to shoot them or their homelands down. They all back up their personalities, subtly expand their lore, and affirms their care for each other and their homes. My favorite's Yona: If you didn't awe from clearing the snow for her dad and this, then y'have no soul. Speaking of Yona, she's fantastic, as usual. This time in a voice-of-reason role. When everyone's superficial tributes didn't capture the Tree's heart, Yona stayed on the sidelines, waiting for everyone to listen to each other, only to finally speak up and remind them what the Magic of Friendship. Sure, the Tree may be gone, but not its memory. BTW, her explanation for the yak's love for smashing cleverly develops more into her culture and really shows there's more into their lives than just aggression. Not a bad evolution after Party Popped wrote them as savage and primitive. Spike and Twilight are written well, retaining their complementary relationship while helping the Y6. This episode climaxes with The Place Where We Belong, S9's and the Y6's first song. Sentimental yet hopeful, its tone and message are wonderful. While things and lives come and go, their memories don't as long as we remember them and use them to self-improve. It feels a lot like an allegory about death, but rather than replace it for hibernation, there's a true sense of finality with Sombra destroying the Tree and Elements and the unknown of how to properly tribute it. Their decision to build a small treehouse solves that problem wonderfully. Yes, it's not the best built, using broken trunks, branches, and spare parts, but it centralizes who the Young 6 are: a diverse cast who represents the best of each kingdom and each other. The following lines punctuate it: But then, a miracle. By representing the Magic of Friendship at its purest, they rebuilt harmony within each other and applied their close friendship to rebuild it in its memory. Consquently, the Tree of Harmony turned to this: The Treehouse of Harmony's beautiful! Its crystalline pastel colors of blue, pink, and yellow invite the eyes, and it's breathtakingly composed. Compared to the Castle of Friendship, you'd want to actually go there. The Tree's spirit says they'll be safe within the house's walls, and optically, you believe her. Also, the ruins of Castle of the Two Sisters is collapsing (credit to @Truffles for pointing this out), so the Treehouse now takes its rightful place, replacing it for something more useful. As far as the elephant of the room's concerned, sure, the inspirations to Castle Sweet Castle are obvious, thanks to its similar structure and ideas, but the plots aren't the same. In fact, there's one gigantic difference between them: In CSC, the RM5 want to make Twilight's castle feel more like home. Twilight stayed away from it because she found it to not feel as homey as the Golden Oak Library, and no one found a cohesive solution for vral hours. So what do thy do to? Use the Golden Oak Library's roots as a tribute to her old home to connect her old home with her new one. Here, the episode's about memorializing the Tree only, but none of the Y6 could come up with a proper solution without desecrating its legacy. Until Yona reminded them of how they became friends and became closer as a result of the Tree's test. So they used the Tree's old branches, trunk, and Elements to build a treehouse, and the Tree used its powers to create a temple. Coming into Uprooted, I predicted the Y6 will become the new Bearers of Harmony, for the Tree tested them, saved them, each on sharing similar qualities with the ReMane Six (while still being themselves), and the Tree encasing them with the Elements' glows encased them in Raze. But with the auras being trading interchangeably (compare this to this), the Elements and Tree evolve into the Treehouse, and the spirit wants the Magic of Friendship wanting a safe space for friendship, it's becoming more and more possible that the Tree's spirit and magic used when the Pillars planted the seed want to pass down the MoF, perhaps to everyone, not just six masters. The fact that we also see no cutie marks may foreshadow more of what's to come. Altogether, a really good episode.
  8. This was the season debut of the Student 6. I really enjoyed this one. It showed the difference of ideas that each of the 6 had, with Yona yet again being the big player in this episode. We also had the first new song of the season. I won't give anything away here, but it was a good episode that showed the differences that friends can have. But, when you get through those differences, friendship can create something beautiful. My grade: B+
  9. Pre-Sequel has always been treated as the black sheep of the Borderlands series by many fans, and I'll agree with them on that. I avoided this game until recently because I couldn't initially get into it, but I had a change of heart. I played it. Today, I'll be answering these questions: Are the flaws with this game really that massive, or are they really not that big of a deal? Is this game actually bad? That's what's up for discussion here. Before I get into it though, the format of this will be a lot like a series done by a favorite YouTuber of mine named Fawful's Minion called "Blessed or Messed." If you aren't familiar, I'll be placing a point value on positive and negative traits of the game (except I'll use a different points system) and I'll make a judgment from which number ends up greater and by how much. I'll just start with the good. This game, mechanically speaking, actually retains most of what makes the Borderlands games great (Yes, most, and that will come up later). The loot system (although the more flawed one from Borderlands 2) remained completely intact, the gun variety is still there, it kept it's sense of humor, and the gameplay still feels like you're playing Borderlands. It's the fast-paced, first person shooter and RPG hybrid that we know and love still and that in itself is quite great. I mean it is expected, but the gameplay is still quite solid. +10 The platforming in Zero-Gravity, although a little easy even by Borderlands standards (hey it isn't a platformer!), feels absolutely AWESOME. You can utilize the lack of gravity to your advantage in navigating levels with an amount of speed and thoroughness that's absent in other games (although bunny hopping and grenade hopping are rather fast ways to move around in Borderlands 2 and 1 respectively). Also, it feels like it was executed in such a way that it almost feels natural after a while. +3 (Two plus one more because of the Slam mechanic) I really like the premise of the story. It's always refreshing to see a game from the villain's perspective, and see how they justify their own actions. It brings a level of depth to the plot that makes for a lot of interest on my end. It's really helpful in the case of Handsome Jack to have this because he made feeble attempts in trying to justify himself and demonize you in the original game. +2 Am I the only one who wishes that there were a character like Athena in another game? I think her kit has easily the best design of everyone's in this game. You can either play around elemental damage, your action skill, or massively painful melee attacks. She also complements the addition of Cryo perfectly. +2 Oh I forgot. A point for the addition of Cryo. Although it's way too powerful, I really like the crowd control mechanic, and it was executed fairly well. +1 The characters you play as ACTUALLY TALK NOW. Seriously, they respond to NPCs in certain conversations. It's a nice touch of polish. +1 This game added a dimension to Lilith specifically that I can appreciate. This game actually makes her look really bad, and I like it. +1 Some of the side quests are actually pretty entertaining. Nothing quite like Face McShooty's quest from Borderlands 2, but I found some humor in them. Especially the Torgue quest, because anyone who can't find Mr. Torgue amusing doesn't have a soul... +1 The game does a decent job of further building on the Borderlands universe. Yeah, just decent. +1 (Total: +21) Now moving onto the bad... I said the PREMISE of the story was good. The story itself though? It is the WEAKEST of the series. BY AND FAR. It did almost nothing to justify Jack's actions during the game or Borderlands 2. The plot had several holes, and didn't really mesh well with the rest of the series, either. Why exactly would the vault hunters ALIGN THEMSELVES WITH THE PERSON THAT TOOK ALL THE CREDIT FOR OPENING THE FREAKING VAULT? It's convenient enough ANYWAYS that they're even ON Elpis (they're there on... VACATION?)... It seems more like it should have been DLC than an actual game in this regard. -4 The O2 meter was an ASTOUNDINGLY dumb design choice. I understand Elpis has no atmosphere, and you couldn't breathe without oxygen, but that cannot and WILL NOT justify a mechanic that punishes you for trying to get around, or FORCES you into standing around doing nothing for an amount of time that adds up QUITE quickly. Not even to mention that the only reason they'd add this isn't consistent with the blatant lack of realism the series has. -3 They kept Badass Ranks. I can't believe that they'd keep literally the WORST thing about Borderlands 2... -3 Why exactly do the laser weapons of this game feel totally redundant to me? Is it because they could have been replaced by Sniper Rifles or SMGs with similar effects? Oh why am I asking this question, when the answer is quite obviously yes. This weapon category contributed next to NOTHING to this game, and I hope they replace it with similar weapons of different types in Borderlands 3, or maybe make their effects apply to a specific manufacturer. -2 Moxxi being blatantly out of character is downright inexcusable. The attempt to brush it off really didn't work on me. Not even to mention that attempt wasn't even referring to the ACTUAL PROBLEM! It was referring to... her make-up being different and her covered up southern accent? Seriously? -2 The boss fights in this game are so badly designed... None of these fights was remotely interesting or compelling to me at all... -2 NO. FREAKING. SLAG. I don't care if it doesn't precisely line up with the game canonically. I MISS MY SLAG. -1 Nurse Nina is literally a walking "strong, Russian-sounding woman" stereotype that reminds me WAY too much of Zarya from Overwatch for some reason. Zed was an amazing character, who probably had some of the funniest lines in the entire series, and they replace him... with that? Not acceptable. Just not acceptable. -1 Congratulations for butchering Mordecai's character even MORE. You make him look like a bumbling drunk has-been who can't stop stealing second winds and annoying you with a bad impression of his old voicing, and then you make him look like a complete moron? He was totally badass in the first game... What went wrong? -1 Aside from Athena's kit, I didn't really like the design of the other characters. None of them have quite the appeal of the playable characters from the other games. -1 (Total: -20) This game may be the black sheep of the series for good reason, but it's not really a bad game. It still retains what makes Borderlands great, and puts in interesting twists. Sure, it proved that Gearbox and 2K Games should never trust 2K Australia to make a Borderlands game EVER AGAIN, but it's still going to get a solid 7/10 from me. I can still see a degree of enjoyment here, and a unique experience that is worth playing, though I'd recommend not doing so not too many times more than once. The first two games are much more worth playing over and over with every character, and I'd even recommend doing so. But here, all I could recommend is maybe two saves... Past that point, you have to have better things to do with your time than playing this.
  10. I have a present for you this Christmas evening: A little glimpse on how MLP:FiM is promoted in China. Preface As its many knock-offs show, MLP:FiM is very popular in China, with small shops selling everything from off-color clay figurines of Princesses Celestia and Luna to almost official-looking play sets of tea parties with Rainbow Dash and Rarity. This fandom does not hesitate to share the knock-offs of the toy line, and to wonder why Hasbro does not crack down on the peddlers more. I have taken many photos of the merchandise on my trip, but very likely others have found these a hundred times over. Surprisingly, I have found that comparatively little of MLP:FiM merchandise other than toys from China gets shared, especially the books. (This seems to be true of other countries and languages too, but of course, this is an American/Canadian (and therefore English) production.) For a show that emphasizes values and therefore a concept of culture, the lack of analysis of books in other languages is rather surprising. Many of us love the show for both the morals and the way it presents the morals, and while the values it presents are very universal, it is still informed by a Western philosophical tradition (and perhaps even an Anglo-Saxon one, as language does shape thought). To see how the East (or China more specifically) treats the morals of the show and their presentations would be quite enlightening. I first bought the second book in the series “MLP: Presenting You 18 Good Habits” to help me learn Chinese using stories I was already familiar with, but soon became interested in the way it presented the stories in themselves. I eventually got the whole series. Introduction The covers are elegant and simple: A floral pattern dominated by one color, based off the member of the Mane Six that graces the center. The series is published by the Tongqu (lit. “childlike”) Publishing Company Ltd., a joint venture of the People’s Post and Telecommunications Publishing House and the Danish publisher Egmont, and apparently only has offices in Beijing. So far as I can tell, this company only has a Chinese distribution. It specializes in children’s books, with IP licenses not only for MLP:FiM but Thomas and Friends, Astro Boy, and various Disney properties, as well as publishing their own original material. Each book is 120 pages long, containing adaptations of three episodes from the show with a common theme of a class of good habits. The first one, “Good Habits of Learning,” which appropriately shows Twilight Sparkle in thought, contains “Read It and Weep” (loving to read ardently), “Rarity Investigates!” (observing and reflecting), and “Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3” (having right study methods). Second has Pinkie Pie delivering “Good Habits of Living,” and features “The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000” (eating a healthy diet), “Hurricane Fluttershy” (exercising), and “Flutter Brutter” (taking care of oneself). The third one, with Rainbow Dash reclining casually on a cloud, is (rather ironically) titled “Good Habits of Working,” and comprises “Somepony to Watch Over Me” (working independently), “Sonic Rainboom” (being earnest and down-to-earth), and “Newbie Dash” (developing team awareness). Fourth has the soft-spoken Fluttershy presenting “Good Habits of Speaking,” through the stories of “Luna Eclipsed” (speaking politely), “Putting Your Hoof Down” (learning to say no), and “Crusaders of the Lost Mark” (not taunting others). In the fifth, Rarity dresses three episodes as “Good Habits of Relationships”—“Amending Fences” (valuing friends), “Make New Friends But Keep Discord” (not monopolizing friendship), and “The Gift of the Maud Pie” (empathizing with others). Finally, Applejack brings us “Good Habits of Safety,” gathering “Appleloosa’s Most Wanted” (staying away from dangerous places), “Viva Las Pegasus” (not falling for sweet talk), and “A Friend in Deed” (not doing dangerous games). The books start with a preface, “Good Habits for Achieving a Good Future,” written by Xue Lei, a National Psychological Consultant, Learning Competency Instructor, and Early Childhood Education Instructor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences Psychological Institute (among other things). (I have not been able to find her listed on the CAS website, perhaps because of her status as an instructor.) She is associated with the Faber and Mazlich series of parenting lectures and workshops based on “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk,” which both explains quite a few features about these books and gives it somewhat less of a Chinese slant than I hoped. In the preface, Xue notes that the key to good behavior for “the long prop-up” is not changing bad habits but developing good habits, and that stern lectures tend to backfire. She then goes on to explain the set-up of the book, and concludes with two quotes about cultivating good habits, one from the American psychologist William James, and the other from the Chinese journalist and author of children’s books Ye Shengtao. Curiously, though she describes the stories that follow as “vivid and interesting,” she doesn’t give any explanation of why she chose the stories from MLP:FiM in particular as her vehicle of cultivating good habits. So far as I can tell, however, she has not drawn from other franchises for similar series of books. The Stories Each story, after a title page, begins with an introduction of the major characters in the story. Remarkably, the series often varies the description for the same character, highlighting facts about the character that are relevant for the story that follows. For example, in “Read it and Weep,” Twilight Sparkle is noted as often encouraging other ponies to read more books, because “she knows most ponies do not know the historical legends.” For “Amending Fences,” however, her introduction focuses on her not caring much about friendship before coming to Ponyville, and even “Hurricane Fluttershy” describes her as “able to make all sorts of precision instruments.” At times, especially if it involves one-shot characters like Zephyr Breeze or Gladmane, the introductions end up giving away the story that follows, but not enough to completely spoil it. The stories are written in a colloquial, brisk style, using plenty of common Chinese idioms to add spice and informality. (They editors are particularly fond of using the phrase “bugan-shiruo,” meaning “not to be outdone.”) As one might expect, the stories follow the events in the episodes, but there are some exceptions. These likely are to keep each book at their 120-page limits, but perhaps also is a matter of style. Notably, the cold open from “Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3” is mostly omitted, despite its great characterization of Twilight and RD, instead going straight into reading the Wonderbolts history book. The reader does not really understand the significance of the test until RD fails Twilight’s pop quiz. In the adaptation of “Sonic Rainboom,” Twilight does not warn Rarity about the fragility of her wings, and their melting in the sun comes as a genuine surprise to the reader. Foreshadowing and other hints at possible futures thus do not appear to be favored devices. The hyperbole gets toned down too: A few of AJ’s protective measures from “Somepony to Watch Over Me” are skipped, as is Fluttershy’s encounter with the tourist in “Putting Your Hoof Down.” At times, the stories assume the reader is familiar with the show, despite the character descriptions at the beginnings of each—“Viva Las Pegasus” begins with “The Map once again called out…” even though it is the only Map episode to be featured in this series. The changes are not just limited to omissions. In “Read it and Weep,” Rainbow Dash actually invites Fluttershy and Twilight in when they come to visit her at the hospital, instead of the two knocking and entering themselves. This of course softens the interruption, so the reader is not as attached to RD’s annoyance at being stopped from reading the Daring Do book. The changes and additions are particularly common when necessary to fit the intended good habit. Sometimes these additions and changes are fairly creative and fitting: When, in “Crusaders of the Lost Mark,” Diamond Tiara announces her about-face and gets her father to pay for the playground, she explains that her cutie mark talent is not only about getting other ponies to do what she wants, but even makes a point of the fact that it is a tiara, that she thought it meant she could “dictate to everyone without regard to [their] feelings, even speaking meanly.” This rendition thus emphasizes the flaw of arrogance because of social status more than the actual episode does. (I almost suspect, because it is published by People’s Post and Telecommunications, that it’s Communist Party meddling.) Others are completely shoehorned: For “A Friend in Deed,” the lesson that Pinkie Pie takes from her antics with Cranky is not that everyone has their own way of expressing friendship, but “[to] never do a dangerous game again!” which she even swears on a Pinkie Promise. Earlier, the editors even interpret the Smile Song at the beginning of the episode as not just that she likes seeing everypony smile, but that as long as she can make everypony smile, her friends will let her do whatever she wants, framing her as more careless than the episode would suggest. One shoehorned, but still fun, addition is in “The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000,” where, to make the episode better fit the “healthy eating” theme, the editors add a pony getting a stomachache from drinking the Flim-Flam Brothers’ cider. The Pictures The pictures, as expected, come from screenshots of the show, one (sometimes two) per page. More than occasionally, the pictures do not perfectly correspond with the actual text per page, sometimes even omitting key information. Again in “Read it and Weep,” the page where RD starts reading Daring Do in fact has a picture of RD trying to resist reading the book. A picture of RD wearily starting to read does appear on the next page, although the text describes RD’s reactions to be far more exciting. For “Putting Your Hoof Down,” the text mentions Angel Bunny several times, but only one screenshot with him appears, and there the corresponding text doesn’t mention him. Even more puzzling is the omission of Applejack from any screenshot from “Flutter Brutter,” even though she is listed as one of the described characters at the beginning. It seems as though the editors were less concerned about matching the text with the picture and more content to just remind the reader of what she (or he) had seen in the show. The pictures are largely unedited, but there is at least once instance where something is added: Princess Luna in front of the spider target game in “Luna Eclipsed," using an obvious vector to make clear that she was the one making the spiders real. With the exception of “Rarity Investigates,” each story has at least one line that summarizes the moral of the story, highlighted in colored text, a direct commentary to the reader put in a heart-shaped blurb in a screenshot, or both. The blurb commentaries do not always serve the same functions. Some summarize the moral, others make a tangential point, and yet others give direct advice. Some are self-aware that the ponies are not perfect role models: For “Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3,” in the scene where RD blows spitballs at Twilight during her flashcard lesson, the editors give this warning: “Throwing spitballs [lit. marbles] at other people is very dangerous, kids, you cannot imitate it!” One unusual case, from “The Gift of the Maud Pie,” describes the characters’ own thoughts when Maud retrieves the party cannon. A few are even addressed to the parents rather than the children, such as in “Somepony to Watch Over Me," where, as a caption to Apple Bloom taking care of the chores before Applejack returns, the editors say “Kids are more capable than we imagine. Give kids a free hand to do what they can for the housework.” The Follow-Ups From the stories themselves we turn to the more unique aspects of the books. One of the most interesting is a section called “Pony Voices from the Heart" which summarizes in four frames the story from the perspective of one of the characters, often, but not always, from the one who had to learn something from the events. For a show that emphasizes character development, this approach is quite fitting, to further help the reader empathize with the characters and therefore better internalize the message. Next is the section called “Pony Classroom," which further explains the good habit that the story is supposed to inspire, with three “tricks” each providing a way to develop the habit, and some lines for the child to write down any additional tricks that she can think of. Here the editors are freer to use screenshots out of context, which is usually not a problem but can result in some awkward deliveries. One of the stranger ones, shown to the left, is in the healthy eating tricks after “The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000,” where the second one takes a screenshot from “Spice Up Your Life,” where Rarity and Pinkie are trying the Zesty Gourmand-approved cuisine. The caption that follows reads “Don’t be a picky eater, focus on matching meat and vegetables, and eat vegetables, meat, and fruit of all sorts.” Given that “Spice Up Your Life” was an episode about not eating the same things over and over again, it’s a surprise that it wasn’t used as the story. At the same time, it seems very odd for our vegetarian friends to tell us to eat meat. (It is also interesting in itself that Chinese children also are picky about eating meat, when Western parents would just expect their children to eat their fruits and vegetables. Having tried a lot of authentic Chinese cuisine while in China, I suspect it is because in many meat dishes the bones are chopped up and cooked with the meat.) After that is a section called “Magic Practice Camp,” which presents the kids with a series of hypothetical situations that they are to judge either right or wrong, based on what they have learned. For the ones that are wrong, it further instructs the kids to discuss with their parents what should be done instead. What is particularly notable about this section is that the editors appear to have made a real effort to make the hypotheticals gender neutral—that is, both male and female characters are presented as virtuous and not-so-virtuous about equally. (I qualify this tally, though, because, especially as a non-native speaker, it is difficult to tell which names are male and female, and many Chinese names can be both.) This is interesting because in previous pony storybook publications from Tongqu, the audience was blatantly gendered—one series from 2015 was called “My Little Pony Teaches You to be a Perfect Girl.” Even more interesting is that there is no answer key in the back to accompany the questions. Though nearly all of the hypotheticals are not morally ambiguous, it still shows that the editors are more concerned with getting the children to think and interact with their parents in a dialogue, rather than to come up with the right answer. (Either that or there wasn’t room in the 120-page limit.) What Xue considers the most important part of the books is the “Good Habit Cultivation Chart,” to encourage children to “progress a little every day.” In this four-week chart, she instructs the reader to make a small goal for oneself to develop the habit just taught, and to color in the cutie mark each day that the goal is met. Interestingly, these pages never vary per habit, always using RD’s cutie mark. I find it cute, though that Applejack always heads the chart, as a sort of watchful eye over the reader to ensure that she (or he) is honest in filling in the marks. But what is most puzzling to me is the application of such a chart to the negative injunctions in the safety book, as not playing dangerous games, avoiding dangerous places, and not believing sweet talk always require someone or something else to provide the temptation to do otherwise. There is no reason to believe that a child will encounter such situations every day, unless the goal is not to put a fork in every electrical socket one sees. Each book ends on three notes: First is a reflective send-off of sorts, headed by these sentences: “The cultivation of good habits requires unremitting persistence. The ponies will always be there for you to cheer you on.” These are followed by a blank space next to one of the Mane Six, so the children can draw or paste a picture of themselves next to them. Next is a gallery called “Pony Fan Artwork Exhibition,” which celebrates the artistry and creativity of those who love the show (and the books). I am not sure if these children send these pieces of artwork to Hasbro’s China offices or to Tongqu, as the book doesn’t invite them to send their own artwork to any particular place. In any case, some of the artwork is quite impressive for those from three to eleven. One six-year old (not pictured here) created a traditional Chinese shadow puppet of Fluttershy with the help of her teacher. She must have had her stage fright in mind, for she comments “Although Fluttershy is timid and shy, I hope that she can be as happy as I am every day.” Many of these young fans also like writing letters to Princess Celestia of the moral lessons they have learned in real life. Unlike the hypothetical characters, all the fans featured are girls, but it’s hard to find a young boy who is into MLP:FiM anyway, so that’s not a huge problem. Finally each book provides a paper cutout craft of one of the Mane Six, somewhat boxy but still cute. Miscellaneous Thoughts Although the editors designed each story to be read on their own, there are some indications that the stories also flow from each other. Most obvious is the order of the books: Learning how to learn is of course fundamental to developing good habits, so that is taught first. The basic needs of living are explored in the second book, followed by the habits of good working, which support the basic needs of living. The higher-level ideas of communication with others and forming relationships come next. The only book that completely bucks the Maslow hierarchy of needs is the last book on safety, which should have come in either between the habits of living and the habits of working, or before the habits of speaking. (To its credit, there is a blurb in “Somepony to Watch Over Me” where the editor advises the reader, as Apple Bloom encounters the swamp chimera, that “safety is most important.”) It is also interesting that “Somepony to Watch Over Me,” the story about working independently, directly follows from “Flutter Brutter,” the story about self-care, as a natural expansion of the idea. I have already hinted my puzzlement at why “Spice Up Your Life” wasn’t used as the “healthy eating” story. I suspect two things: First, the Flim-Flam Brothers, as symbols of capitalist dishonesty, are easier, safer targets than the voice of authority that Zesty Gourmand brings. Further, Saffron Masala and her father are clearly inspired by Indian culture, and because of the border disputes between China and India, the Chinese are more likely to see India unfavorably than favorably, so having a story featuring them might get some backlash. (I did not see a single Indian restaurant when I was in China. At the same time, I do not know how "Spice Up Your Life" was received there.) What puzzles me even more is why “Wonderbolts Academy” wasn’t used for the “don’t play dangerous games” lesson instead of “A Friend in Deed.” As I have already said, the editors had to really shoehorn that lesson in. Meanwhile in “Wonderbolts Academy,” not only does Lightning Dust purposely take extreme risks, but RD feels overshadowed by Lightning Dust because of all the risks she takes. It’s hard to interpret the fire in “A Friend in Deed” as anything more than an unhappy accident, and certainly that accident wasn’t morally significant the way that the tornado in “Wonderbolts Academy” was. Perhaps, in light of using “Newbie Dash” for the “teamwork awareness” lesson, the editors found themselves debating whether it was a good idea to show RD retrogressing on her implied awareness in “Wonderbolts Academy” on how the Wonderbolts really should operate. Maybe they thought that RD had too many episodes centered around her at that point. Maybe they just saw “A Friend in Deed” as more fun for the kids. Maybe they also thought that the scenes where Pinkie Pie keeps on waiting for mail from RD to be too distracting from the main story. It puzzles me in any case. (I should further note, however, that this series is not the only set of pony-themed moral development books that Tongqu has recently published; there is one that focuses on making children feel proud of themselves as unique, and another that seeks to impart a more general “wisdom.”) Conclusion While far from perfect, “Presenting You 18 Good Habits” manages to capture a lot of what makes MLP:FiM so appealing to many bronies: the engaging stories, the impact of the morals, the empathy we feel with the characters, and the creativity it inspires. And probably because it was made with the parents in mind, it is no wonder it attracts fans like me, more than many English-language pony publications. (Or, at least, those who know at least a little Chinese.) Happy Hearth's Warming Everypony!
  11. Season 8 Episodes 1 and 2 "School Daze" Review by EpicEnergy Season 8 Episode 1 “School Daze Part 1” Review Episode 1 Opening: Normally, I don’t have an episode’s opening as an individual category in my reviews, but this is an exception because this opening is the first scene we see of season 8, containing much information right off the start. Since this is the first episode of season 8, this episode indeed has a connection with the previous MLP Movie, but not with season 7. First and foremost, I don’t expect S8 ep1 to take place right after the events in the MLP Movie, which is the Storm King’s defeat and the celebration of a certain festival afterwards, since the occurrences taking place in season 8 indicate at least a few weeks have passed since the events in the MLP Movie. Anyways, we are reminded of the incidents that took place during the MLP Movie and the new areas explored. The recollection in this episode of the MLP Movie incidents serves as a crucial component in establishing a firm foundation for future season 8 episodes because it reminds us that the MLP Movie and what happened in it is canonical; moreover, since most of the places there that were visited will be revisited in season 8, knowing about where they are located, who lives there, and what happened there is highly important. Additionally, the dialogue each character gives in this opening of episode 1 is very informative of what happened after the MLP Movie ended, such as where Tempest Shadow went. Very well handled, writers, I couldn’t ask for a better reminder and account of the MLP Movie, what a way to start an episode with. Moving onward. A good portion of season 8 is about the School of Friendship which reaches out to all creatures. Another portion is about adventuring to those places beyond Equestria on friendship quests. Both mainly originate from Twilight’s decision to start a school. It is this decision that lays the path for many Season 8 episodes, and this decision originates from the MLP Movie itself. This opening tells us about the lake from where a good amount of season 8 flows from. We know why there is a school, why Twilight founded the school, why creatures who are not Equestrians attend this school, why we see more of other lands outside of Equestria, and how these lands were found in the first place. The only issue I have with the opening is the fact that the map expanded without explanation. This map remains a contrived and arbitrary plot-device, which is a large problem to have in a narrative, and having it expand for no given or indicated reason makes this even worse. Consequently, I must subtract a few points for this poorly designed and improperly used plot-device that will most certainly affect future episodes until fixed or removed. Characters: The leaders of the nations outside of Equestria all have excellent personalities and play a great role in this episode, so thankfully there is nothing to criticize here. The mane six are also used and depicted fantastically, the only problem is Twilight Sparkle in a particular scene. The mane six approach Twilight to tell her that going by the book simply isn’t working. It is here that Twilight acts severely out of character, which is somewhat irritating because Twilight has set the book as the ultimate authority instead of her own as the Princess of Friendship. I must take off some points from the rating for this incident being illogical, as Twilight completely ignores all her friends and ignores the disastrous effects of following the book that are clearly evident throughout the school. New characters: The EEA scene is where we see the main antagonist of episodes one and two, Chancellor Neighsay. Neighsay has a somewhat arrogant and very serious personality which seems to be present in the entire EEA organization. This arrogant personality is what fits with his speciesism, which means that he thinks that ponies are higher and more important than any other creature/species. Next characters. In this episode, we are introduced to the student six. Their personalities are quite likeable. The student six are comparable to the mane six, but not to the point where they have completely identical characteristics, personality, and/or appearance. They are well-balanced characters. Plot: Overall, the plot is great in this episode; however, there have a few problems in some scenes. The first scene I shall address is when Twilight and Celestia in Celestia’s school talk about how to run a school. This where Celestia reveals that she and no one else has no authority over the EEA in academia despite her standing as a princess or any other standing whatsoever, like a princess of friendship. I suppose the EEA is some sort of independent organization that somehow manages to be the ultimate authority when it comes to academia, but this area remains unclear. The writers could have made it clearer as to why and how such an organization rose to power. Such a restriction has not been seen in Equestria up until now either, as far as I remember that is, though I won’t take off any points since this doesn’t appear to be much of an issue anyways. I must move on. Next, we see the School of Friendship itself for the first time. I don’t like that it is just there. The writers could at least have somepony say when it was built instead of just having Twilight announce ‘I’ll make a school’ then proceed to have it partially accredited, and instantly afterwards we see a fully operational school building. Hence, I must deduct a few points from the overall rating of this episode. Now I will critique the “friends and family day” scene. It’s good the writers gave us that reason for every leader to be there, because this makes the next scene seem hardly contrived and arbitrary at all. I’m referring to the scene where every single leader hears Neighsay make racial comments. During the chaos beforehand, I noticed Gallus just dropped Sandbar for no apparent reason which knocked over the leaders like bowling balls. Sorry to be so critical of what is meant to be a humorous moment, but Gallus just dropping Sandbar for no reason makes no sense, and Gallus wasn’t even upset or showed any sign of doing that purposely, yet he threw Sandbar very tremendously anyways. Also, Derpy causing both Smolder and Silverstream to crash out of the sky into the food/desert stand even though Derpy didn’t appear to touch them at all makes no sense either. What’s more is that Ocellus destroyed a good and sturdy tower as a large, flying insect, which also makes no sense how she managed to do that. Therefore, I must take off some points. Now for the final scene. Neighsay shuts the school down at the very end of this episode, and then the “to be continued” image pops up, which leaves us with suspense. Nicely done on this scene. Moral: There is no evident moral in this episode yet, because it is only part 1 of 2. Episode Rating: 8.5/10 Season 8 Episode 2 “School Daze Part 2” Review Characters: The characters are well-treated in this episode, so there is no problem here. We also see more characteristics and personalities of the new characters. Plot: The general plot of this episode is well designed as usual, but there are some aspects of it that fail to be genuine. To begin with, the opening of this episode, the usual part 2 MLP opening, consists of a summary of the previous events that took place during part 1. I appreciate this, because sometimes people can’t watch both episodes back to back on certain occasions, and this opening type assists by helping us to recall those events. Next scene, we have Twilight, who has entered a temporary yet severe state of depression. She acts severely out of character here and even entirely ignores her friends, but the real question I’m asking is whether this is reasonable. My interpretation, based on the previous occurrences in part 1, is that going into this depressive mood is in fact reasonable and not illogical since Twilight just had her dreams crushed and her friendships with other nations seemingly ruined, and that Twi tends to overreact; thus, no points will be deducted. The next scene I want to address is the potential world war scene. As a large part of the plot that exists to stir up suspense in the viewers to this episode, this subplot has a few issues that I must mention. The major problem is that all five nations instantly threaten each other that will result in a world war if not dealt with, and that every nation’s reason to start such a disastrous incident is that the leaders simply don’t know where each one’s student went. I find this highly unreasonable, since war, which should be used as a last resort, is used as the very first resort; moreover, we don’t even have any reason why the six students are highly important to the leaders to begin with, except for Sandbar (being a pony) and Silverstream (being the Queen’s niece). For these two reasons, I must deduct some points from the episode rating. Oh, by the way, what also makes no sense is that only the mane six go searching for the students while no one else does anything despite the threat of a world war. Moving onward to the next scene I will address, Silverstream says that she has never seen stairs before, and that this is her first time seeing them. As funny as it is, this is inconsistent because Silverstream was at a school with plenty of stairs to be seen. A simplistic, minor error on the writers’ part, but I still must count off a few points. Next scene. We are now introduced to a strange, new critter species. I would call them the correct name, but since I don’t know how to spell it correctly, I will refer to them as the colorful porcupines (I know, very creative). These creatures are obviously used for plot-convenience, because they suddenly appear right on time to threaten the student six so that the mane six can rescue them, and these critters disappear right after that. Since this plot-convenience is at least slightly subtle, and an attempt was made to make it completely subtle, I will deduct a very small amount of points. The remainder of the episode is great, and I have nothing to criticize in it, so I shall end this section and proceed to the moral. Moral: One may argue that there is no moral in “School Daze”, since it is a two-part episode, and most of those episode categories focus more on the story aspect rather than the moral aspect. I would disagree with that. The major moral is that all creatures are equal. This is symbolic of the modern-day issue of racism. Neighsay enforces the morally wrong idea that ponies are superior than any other race. Twilight demotes this by promoting the morally right idea that all creatures should be treated equally, and that friendship should be available to everyone. It isn’t pleasant when writers force modern-day issues into movies because we have seen enough of it in real-life and because the writers usually force it in there and ruin the narrative, but this modern-day issue is symbolized, and it don’t feel forced at all. This symbol fits perfectly into the theme and context, and it teaches us a very valuable lesson. Episode Rating: 9/10 Additional Areas (if applicable) I’ll be speaking of both episodes 1 and 2 as one episode in this category. Humor: The humor is excellent and solid! I am glad the episodes aren’t overflowing with it, nor are they kept at a too serious level either. It’s the perfect balance for this episode, and it is thoroughly enjoyable. Aesthetics: It’s pleasing to see that MLP S8 keeps the traditional 2D animations despite the movie’s animations. G4 is better off continuing what they started than switching over to 3D animations suddenly, though it wouldn’t bother me if G5 had them. Overall Episode Rating (parts 1 and 2): 8.5/10 Conclusion: There are minor problems in both episodes. The map is of course introduced once more, which a very contrived and arbitrary plot-device; however, it doesn't really play a part in "School Daze" so it hardly affects the rating. There is a plot-convenience in part 1 at the end where the students suddenly become extremely clumsy to further the plot, but the context makes this problem rather miniature and insignificant so this also hardly affects the rating. The second part has an illogical subplot, which is the only major problem out of both parts. Aside from those minor problems, the amount of good content in "School Daze" outnumbers the amount of bad content by far. Therefore, this entire episode is rated 8.5/10, unless you round it off to the nearest whole number which would give it a 9/10, Rating Scale: 0 = the worst of the worst, an absolute failure 1 = an extremely horrible disaster 2 = very dreadful 3 = terrible 4 = bad 5 = mediocre 6 = good 7 = great 8 = very fantastic 9 = extremely amazing 10 = an absolute perfection
  12. This year, I had an exit strategy. If My Little Pony wasn't entertaining me by the third episode of the season, I'd bail. As it turned out, I watched every episode, so clearly this season was an improvement over last year's wretched showing, and there's actually a lot of trends this season which were pleasant surprises for me. At long last, this show is making some serious changes to its approach which have been long overdue, and as it turns out, this season wasn't half-bad. I mean, it's two-fifths bad, and it retains some of the same issues the show has had for years, but it's a small improvement. What season 8 showed me is this: My Little Pony can improve, I can still have fun with it, and the people currently writing the show have no intention of getting their priorities straight. It's still a show which regularly overextends its reach, and it's still a show which has no idea what to do with its own main cast. But it's a more watchable version of that show this year, and even its failed experiments are a bit less dull and rigid than they were last year. It's still a show mostly made by people who care about telling good stories, and that's ultimately what keeps me watching. I just wish they cared a bit more about which series they were writing those stories for. So, first, the good. Most obvious is that the show has finally adopted a seasonal gimmick in the form of a so-called "School of Friendship," where Twilight and her friends teach all of the lessons that they've learned to students from across Equestria and beyond. It's not a gimmick which makes much sense, admittedly, as the show never explains where Twilight or her friends actually find the time to run the school, and none of them ever really seem to know what they're doing. But it's a breath of fresh air nonetheless, and it allows the show to tell stories which are a bit different from the norm. Say what you will about their respective quality, but episodes like "Non-Compete Clause," "Molt Down," and "Marks for Effort" take advantage of the school setting to explore stories which might not have been possible in prior seasons, and even when those episodes are bad, the change in pace is refreshing. Also refreshing is just how much emphasis this season places on continuity. There are multiple episodes which directly reference the passage of time, and "Molt Down" in particular introduces a notable change which affects every episode afterwards. The character of Neighsay, introduced in the premiere, appears briefly in "Friendship University," and characters from earlier seasons make somewhat more regular appearances this year as well, most notably Chrysalis in "The Mean 6," Lightning Dust in "The Washouts," and Rockhoof in "A Rockhoof and a Hard Place." The seasonal villain, Cozy Glow, makes repeated appearances throughout the season, every time seeming more and more suspicious. Don't get me wrong, there's still no tangible running plot, but there's a clear increase in serialization, which is a marked difference from the tepid experiments of prior seasons. In fact, there's definitely a sense that the show's willing to take more risks this season, and some stories here directly cover subject matter which the show was unable to in the past. For instance, the aforementioned "Molt Down" covers puberty in a very recognizable and obvious manner, while all three episodes featuring Neighsay relate to racism and xenophobia, and "The Hearth's Warming Club" explicitly presents a character as an orphan. It's not that the show has never covered these subjects in the past, but this year it seems to feel no need to hide them. A great example is "Father Knows Beast," which mines a lot of pathos out of Spike's missing parentage, not only for Spike, but also for Twilight, who tries to fill the void but worries she can't. Even more surprisingly, the show has returned a good deal of imagination to its worldbuilding. Whereas last season it paired simple parables with aesthetics ripped from world mythology, here it much more cleverly builds upon already established concepts to greater effect. In "Surf and/or Turf," the hippogriffs' divided identity is given a little more detail. In "The Hearth's Warming Club," holiday rituals and cultural stories from various non-pony species are explored. In "What Lies Beneath," the Tree of Harmony is revealed to be a sentient entity which is capable of learning. If there's any quality of this season which is an unambiguous leap forward, it's this, which finally puts the show in a world which lives up to its original groundwork. And then there's the absurd bloat of the cast, which is handled way better than it could have been. Six new characters are introduced in leading roles, and although all of their episodes are together, this ultimately bloats the main cast up to no fewer than 14 characters. That's a lot to juggle, and the show doesn't quite manage to make the balance work, but these "student six" characters get a handful of genuinely charming episodes mostly to themselves without taking attention away from the main six. Alas, this doesn't actually leave them much room to develop individually, so most of the episodes they appear in take a somewhat forceful approach to establishing their personality. "Non-Compete Clause" has Rainbow Dash and Applejack act poorly seemingly for the sole purpose of making the students look better, and "What Lies Beneath" contrives an adventure scenario to explore each character's greatest fears. I found myself rather fond of these characters, but their development could have been handled better. That's a recurring trend in season 8. A lot of the general trends of this season imply the show moving forward, but none of them are executed quite as well as they should have been. For instance, another character who I surprisingly enjoyed this season was Starlight Glimmer, whose caustic personality has been expanded upon while her seeming ignorance of social norms has been greatly reduced. Several episodes, especially early in the season, find her doing nothing worse than speaking somewhat tactlessly, and each of those instances is either reacted to accordingly or actually pretty understandable. But the writers can't resist having her make extreme impulsive decisions, like in "A Matter of Principals," where she casts a weird banishing spell on Discord, or "On the Road to Friendship," where she trades Trixie's cart without bothering to ask first. The thing is, this season has done enough work with her to make her lapses fit in with those of the mane six, and they're at least more interesting than what the mane six actually do this season. If there's anywhere that the school gimmick falls short, it's in giving the mane six something new to do, because season 8 falls back on bickering more than ever, reducing formerly nuanced relationships to irritating bickering that makes you wonder why these characters are friends in the first place. "Non-Compete Clause" and "The End in Friend" have characters act without even the slightest bit of consideration towards each other, and even that is less baffling than "Fake It 'Til You Make It" and "Yakity-Sax," which both have characters behave in ways which are completely inexplicable in the grand scheme of things. In a season which has more direct continuity than ever before, those lapses are all the more noticeable. There are other cases, too, which are more justifiable but still irritating. "Sound of Silence" is another episode which relies partially on bickering, and while at least those arguments are comparatively important and thematically justified, the characters still come across as overly stubborn. Meanwhile, "The Maud Couple" and "The Washouts" make heroic efforts to justify their central characters' behaviour, but can't keep those characters from seeming unreasonably insensitive. Even a genuinely funny episode like "Friendship University" is dragged down by implying that Twilight can't handle anyone making a competing school. The problem is implications: Pinkie Pie is implied to be so fragile that Maud needs to lie to her, and Rainbow Dash is implied to not be willing to accept Scootaloo taking any path other than what she chooses. These implications are appropriate for those episodes' morals, but they reflect poorly on those characters, and create a sense of distance which the show didn't have even as recently as season 6. These don't always feel like the same characters I fell in love with all those years ago. As with last year, I really do think the problem is that the writers come up with ideas for morals first and try to fit the characters into that, and while the results are at least somewhat less dreary this year, they still feel at best like a pale imitation of what the show is supposed to be like. One of the biggest tells is the rise in ambition, which after all of these years still hasn't been accompanied by an actual rise in nuance. "The Washouts," for instance, recognizes how authority figures' actions can push children away, but Rainbow Dash's actions often come across as an exaggerated caricature of such behaviour, making her less sympathetic in the process. On the other end of the spectrum, "Surf and/or Turf" has such a fluffy take on being divided between homes that it barely feels like a real problem, and doesn't resonate with any of the thornier issues it's superficially similar to. This is a regular problem with the season, and even episodes which transcend that, like "Father Knows Beast," suffer from exaggerated character behaviour and overly simplified morals. This show has proven time and time again that it can't live up to its ambitions, so it really needs to scale them back. Moreover, this show tends to be very predictable, so focusing too much on the big ideas doesn't offer enough to distract from that. A good example is "A Rockhoof and a Hard Place," which orients itself so completely around the main idea of Rockhoof feeling out of place in the modern world that it has nowhere to go but to repeat itself for several minutes. If the early seasons got surprising depth out of their simple themes, the new seasons aim so high that they forget that subtlety. Everything is telegraphed at the start, and then repeated several times before getting resolved in obvious fashion at the end. The worst example is perhaps "The Parent Map," which creates a mildly clever parallel and then repeats it every five seconds, because it doesn't trust kids to get the hint. A lot of the topics this show has brought up these last few years beg for a more sophisticated and poetic treatment than what they get here, but a children's show like My Little Pony might never be able to offer that. Still, this season was much less constrained by moralizing than last season, and some episodes clearly have other priorities. "Marks for Effort" and "Molt Down" seem way more interested in character development and creating relatable scenarios than in communicating a grand thesis, and "The Mean 6" has such a simplistic moral that it might as well not be there at all. Stuff like this makes me wonder what the show would be like if the writers approached it like a sitcom, or even a soap opera, because whenever it finally decides to relax a bit, it can still accomplish great stuff. Other episodes, like "Horse Play" and "On the Road to Friendship," find an ideal balance, telling simple stories with simple morals while spending most of their time veering from one gag to another. Ultimately, I guess the biggest issue is that a lot of season 8 still wasn't much fun to me. Here, all I really have to offer is raw numbers: I enjoyed 63% of episodes this season, and my average rating was 64/100. That's a huge leap over last year, but it doesn't even meet the heights of seasons 4 and 6, let alone 1 and 2. The even-numbered seasons are the good ones, but there's been diminishing returns ever since the second season, and this year, the charms simply weren't enough to overcome my increasing boredom and frustration with this show. I should be happy. It's done a lot of the things I've been demanding for years now, and even if the show's still in decline, few shows decline as ambitiously and weirdly as My Little Pony has. But watching this show has become a bit of a chore for me, and at this point it doesn't seem like that's ever going to change. My Little Pony season 8 was alright, but I'm starting to wonder if I'm done with this show. 6/10 Here's how I rank every episode of this season, with scores included beside the title: 1. Horse Play (100) 2. The Mean 6 (85) 3. Marks for Effort (83) 4. The Hearth's Warming Club (83) 5. Molt Down (80) 6. The Break Up Break Down (78) 7. Road to Friendship (78) 8. Grannies Gone Wild (75) 9. School Daze (75) 10. Friendship University (73) 11. What Lies Beneath (70) 12. Father Knows Beast (70) 13. The Maud Couple (68) 14. A Rockhoof and a Hard Place (65) 15. The Washouts (65) 16. School Raze (58) 17. Surf and/or Turf (55) 18. Yakity Sax (53) 19. The End in Friend (43) 20. A Matter of Principals (43) 21. Sounds of Silence (43) 22. The Parent Map (35) 23. Fake It Til You Make it (35) 24. Non-Compete Clause (25)
  13. Hello everyone! If you do not know, I review MLP episodes as part of the show 'Pones N Stuff' on my YouTube Channel, 'The CC Network'. After a long time thinking whether I COULD showcase them here, I've decided to post them to a topic, to see what you guys think of them and putting your own opinions towards the episodes I've reviewed thus far. Sadly, due to only starting the show for Season 7, those are the only episodes that I have thus far. While some may be missing, they will be addressed at a later date. Here's a playlist with all the episodes thus far: I've also started Equestria Girls Month for the entirety of this month, where I'm reviewing the feature films. Only one has been put up thus far, more will follow in the weeks to come: I also do countdowns as well, unrelated to Pones N Stuff, which will be uploaded when they come as well, unless there is a demand to see those as well. All in all, I hope you enjoy the result of my critical and creative labours.
  14. Note: Credit to @Truffles, @Sparklefan1234, @PathfinderCS, and Silver-Quill for this review, which I C&P'd from here with extra edits. This review has been revised to include a little more content. Sludge may be the most hateable non-villain of the series, if not one of them with Svengallop, Garble, Zephyr, and Spoiled Rich. Garble's someone to just hate, but Sludge you love to hate. This slob knows how to con others with no remorse. He wants to lives the luxury life and make you work for it, all the while tugging the right strings to make you fall for his tricks and divide you from who you love at your most vulnerable state. While he freeloads, he's not a stereotype, as he always cleans up after himself and trades his laziness for his brains. Smart, calculating, and very manipulative, he catches himself, remains convincing, and uses Spike's want for biological parentage to bypass all doubts. Several clues indicate his scheming ways before he became more brazen: He stopped jogging on the treadmill to chug the fresh cider…with hilarious results. XD The Wonderbolts held him above them, but he won't fly until Dash lectures him. He doesn't admit to being his father until after he fully recovers (just as he's about to depart) and walks with Spike back inside. Just by his stops and gestures, he's making up his backstory as he goes along, including not answering other questions the RM5 asked, but his tale's canonically logical, and his tears sound real, adding a layer on uncertainty. Silver-Quill brings up this point. Look at the image below: In this shot, she's nearly as tall as Torch, a monster-sized dragon. In the next, she's nearly as tall as Sludge, who's much smaller than him: After his song, he cackles, cutting into Act 3. ^ The synopsis gives away a very important clue: "dad" and "real" are in skeptical quotes. Dismisses Spike after being asked if he wanted to do anything with his son and then casually accuses him of not being a "real" dragon, cutting deeply into his psyche. His name has negative connotations related to muck and sewage. Despite being clean, his personality perfectly fits his name. Because he's so conniving, I'm really glad he's not his father; if he was, he'd be a deadbeat. However, as excellent he is at crafting a façade, this leads to a few big problems I have with it, echoing from @Truffles's review, @Sparklefan1234's comment, and Discord conversations with @PathfinderCS. Spike's hurtful comeback to Twilight absolutely crushes her, but doesn't have the weight. From the beginning of Act 3, the RM6 were already suspicious of him thanks to his sleazy manipulation of Spike and major holes in his backstory previously. Unfortunately, they can't prove anything, and Spike grew so close to him that telling him the truth without being delicate risks fracturing his relationships with the ponies. They must give him the benefit of the doubt and hope he doesn't brainwash him further. Emotionally, the delivery of disappointment feels stilted, further hurting its importance. Spike doesn't truly figure out he was being used until after his conversation with Smolder, and their plan takes place off-screen. Afterwards, everything starts falling into place. Because he figured it out late and needs Smolder's off-screen advice for some closure, the pacing feels a little off. No one can blame Spike for being so disappointed with Sludge revealing to be a phony. After getting so acquainted with him, his reveal's a major slap to his face. Yet, just before it concludes, he starts getting over it and feels mostly satisfied with the only family he has. But as this and DQ demonstrate, wanting to know his family roots matters to him, and he thought he was so close to actually figuring out who his biological father is. Heck, he revealed his scroll of things to do with them and was so happy to do them. As a result, Father Knows Beast's ending feels really hollow and forced. Sludge's backstory, even with the holes, is plausible, and you can fill in the cracks with them. His sobs after telling them his story also feel real. The script and Allspark even built interesting and complex lore behind it with a very unique art style of its own, suggesting a degree of reality into his tale. At the time, he looked very sympathetic and acted like he wanted to reunite with his "lost son." So for FKB to use the Liar Revealed trope feels like a gigantic letdown, and Sludge's reveal alone is anticlimactic. Previous clues indicate he set Spike up, but one big unmentioned red flag is stating he searched everywhere for him. Why does it hurt the story? Because he never recognized Spike nor said his name until after he fully healed. It was only a matter of time before Smolder and Spike craft a plan to out himself for being the fraud that he is. I don't like to harp on predictability in FIM nowadays, because the journey determines the episode's success above the destination, but that blatant piece of foreshadowing really risks sucking the audience out of the story. It's no surprise why many, myself including, feel dismayed. By revealing to NOT being his dad, the episode reverts to the status quo. After all this time, Spike's past remains a mystery. So despite a competent, nicely written story with a nicely song, great comedy (i.e., Sludge chucking SG out of the castle as she bathed ) and one of the best non-villain antagonists of the series, the resolve feels hollow. More could be done to tighten the plot or not feel so isolated from the rest of the series. At the end, I still feel uncertain whether I like it or not. Even after I submitted my initial review in the discussion thread. Nevertheless, it's got some big positives. Spike is very good here. He really wants to do the right thing and tries so hard to impress his "father." Here, we see his vulnerable side and one other flaw rarely exploited that well: his naiveté. He became so devoted with reuniting with what he thought was his biological father that he overlooks when he becomes a sleazy slob. Despite telling Twilight off, her worry clearly was on the back of his mind, evident by expressing his confusion towards Smolder. (This is also the first episode to refer to Spike as an orphan.) The audience sees his personality, how it was shaped, and (despite accusing her of being a fake parent) sympathize with them. His commitment for Sludge was genuine, which made his disappointment feel more crushing. Twilight has one of her more mature secondary outings of the series. Throughout FKB, Twilight is more than Spike's friend, but mom, too (and he sees the others as his family). From thinking he let her down after he was quiet and turned away for so long (punctuated by a really funny pillow reveal XD) to hugging him after he admits to being orphaned. Spike's health and well-being matter to him and will do anything to make sure he's safe, even if it means probably upsetting him. When he revealed Sludge ditched him and wasn't his real dad, she consoled him immediately, equally upset with the results. These shots really show their love for each other: Unlike Sludge, Smolder represented authentic dragondom despite their rough reputation, and she was great at it. When Twilight had trouble instructing Spike how to do tricks, she's there to help, explained that their parents teach them to fly when they're ready, and Spike offers a thank-you pillow to her, who doesn't sleep with pillows. Also, she knew Sludge phonied everything and worked with Spike to out him, because he treated her as his servant instead of his son. When he fled, she comforted him. Sludge is a fantastic, competent, and clever antagonist. No need to repeat. This is Dragon Quest (S2's worst episode by far) done right. How so? Recall the sexist implications and xenophobic stereotyping of dragons by the Mane Six. In DQ, while the RM5 watched dragons, they mocked Spike for looking "feminine" and proudly claimed that he's unlike the "other dragons" because of it. This sexism and xenophobia crossed over to teenage dragons, who are are written to represent dragondom, with Spike disowning his identity until Gauntlet of Fire. These implications are nonexistent here, and Haber wisely dignified dragon culture. Sludge claims he teaches Spike how to be a "real" dragon, but in reality, Sludge is a false representation of dragondom, while Smolder is. Guess who's in the right here. DQ's lesson actively uses racism in a positive light and treats the dragons other than Spike himself as savages in comparison to ponies, creating imperialistic implications that ponies are inherently superior. Thankfully, FKB handles a similar moral much better, this time focused on family over individuality, but Spike neither forgets nor abandons his dragon identity or sees dragon culture as a bad thing. Suspicions aside, they supported Spike's dad and worked with Spike to fulfill his wishes. They were all really charitable throughout the second montage: Pinkie and Fluttershy vs. Spike and Sludge in buckball (Granny Smith the ref): Rarity & Dash mimicking HW Day so they trade presents: Spike & Sludge bake and eat cupcakes together. Accusations of xenophobia from the ponies to dragons in DQ by bronies are justified, courtesy of their racist and sexist language. In FKB, no one acted like that at all, including Twilight. As mentioned previously, everyone's focused solely on Sludge being a terrible person, not because they believe dragons are primitive. When TS expressed concern, Spike retaliated with false accusations, which he apologized for. In DQ, Fluttershy agreed to watch the dragon migration after Dash agonizingly watched the butterfly migration, but punted her chest and cowered away. Here, Fluttershy actively helps him heal and no longer outwardly fears larger dragons. Disappointment aside, is Father Knows Beast a good episode? I believe it is. Compared to the rest of its post-Matter streak, it's the weakest of the bunch, especially so after its excellent run from Road to Friendship to Sounds, but it's still competently written. Hopefully, it'll continue to hold up on its own and age better in the future, but right now, don't expect me to watch it again anytime soon.
  15. Note: Credit to @Truffles and @Justin_Case001 for my review. Am I interested in talking about this episode? No. I'D RATHER SIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING! For Season 8, Nicole Dubuc brought in a few writers: Brian Hohlfeld, Kaita Mpambara, and Kim Beyer-Johnson. Minus Kaita, each of them have strong connections with Dubuc and worked with her on Transformers: Rescue Bots. Gregory Bonsingore is no exception. But for him, he's a little different compared to the rest. Bonsignore is an award-winning playwright and lyricist: His Off-Broadway play "Gorgonzola: A Cautionary Sicilian Tale" won several awards at a Miami musical festival, including Best Musical and Best Music/Lyrics. So to have an accomplished writer on FIM is a treat regardless of outcome. In his Friendship Is Magic debut, he displays his credentials. This episode covers a lot of information, comparable to Lost Mark or even MMC. But what he does so well is manage it. How? When scenes weren't as important (i.e., the Map calling), little time's used, but when he needs to delve into the important plot points (i.e., communicating with the kirin, finding Autumn, figuring out what caused the vow of silence), he takes advantage. Therefore, despite an abrupt ending, the story flows well. It goes by fast without rushing through. As what Twilight said, this is the first time a set of ponies took part in a second quest, this being AJ and FS. And here, each of them were tremendous. Was Fluttershy scared? Thanks to its ominous name and craggy exterior, more than plausible. The Friendship Express quickly hightailing from its weathered station further and freaky clerk support her fear. But as the episode progressed, her fear starts to ease, starting with helping nearby squirrels gather up bright yellow-to-blue flowers, who in return helped her locate the Peaks's real entrance and their discovery of the kirin. Needless to say, the kirin are gorgeous! Their earthly tones complement really well with their environment and contrast really nicely to the pastel-ly look of AJ and FS. Their manes, horns, toes, tails, and dragon-scale-esque backs are wonderfully designed, with only their brilliant eyes to pop out. And, yes, @Justin_Case001 is right. The tilting of the head makes them look really cute! But the outsider of the clan, Autumn Blaze, is easily the star of the show and takes up the bulk of the run time compared to the others. Pinkie and Silverstream are massive chatterboxes, but Autumn gives them a massive run for their money. She talks a lot and is full of quirks with solid reason. Other than the view and makeshift toys, she hasn't talked to anyone in ages to the point of forgetting or mispronouncing words. AJ is her first companion since Rain Shine exiled her. And her rapid, sometimes flowery, talk is completely hilarious. Her personality is more than charming. It's warm, bright, and optimistic. Even when she's bored, she finds ways to remain eccentric and hopeful to reunite with her clan, evident in many ways, including her gossip with a stick. Oh, and We're Friendship-Bound? You're dethroned! A Kirin Tale is the best song of the season. Nuff said! Not enough? Well, alright. The events Blaze described are quite serious, but because she and the song sound so happy with a boatload of humor (including pop culture jokes referencing Citizen Kane, Hamilton, and especially Phantom of the Opera!), the tone's nowhere nearly that dark. The song itself, written by Big Jim and Dubuc, is really funny with many fantastic lyrics. The kirin society's closed off from outside contact and, if going by the ancient shield Rockhoof used, lived closed off for millennia. Its vow of silence is relatively new in their history, but painted on a nearby rock (and shown to FS offscreen) to remind them of why they accepted this vow. The graphic imagery in itself paints a really dark era of what happened and, to echo what @Truffles stated in his replies, why Rain Shine (the kirin's longtime empress) was completely justified to take such a drastic measure in the first place. The kirin clan devolved into a literal flame war over who'll buy a homemade water pitcher, and their nirik fight destroyed their water supply, flora, and village. But even after becoming homeless, they kept going, and some of them were completely incapable of controlling their temper, hence their sustained nirik form. Had Rain Shine not step in and order everyone to step into the Stream of Silence and suppress their feelings, they'd lose more than just their village, but way of life or even themselves. And in response to those who criticize Rain Shine's plan as flawed, that's the point. Anger's normal, and it's okay to express your anger. But it's important to channel it responsibly. Rain Shine's solution restored order and peace within the Peaks of Peril, but sacrificed being able to communicate and feel without being reminded of why they suppressed their emotions. The following lyrics metaphorize the very moral: Rainbows won't light up the sky unless you let it rain. Shiny apples sometimes come with worms. Candles just won't glow until they burned. And that was why the Map called AJ and FS: to teach them how to constructively moderate their anger and disagree without sacrificing their joy, ability to feel, or fearing to hurt each other's feelings and reunite Autumn with the others. Why Applejack and Fluttershy in particular? For a few reasons. Applejack can tell the firm truth while also being sensitive to their feelings. She's not afraid to express what went wrong or what goes against her core morale without marginalizing them. In short, she tells the truth because she cares. If you have someone like Starlight, you run the risk of undercutting the very moral you're trying to teach, because she's plain and blunt, and with a history as sensitive as the kirin's, even more so. AJ's softer personality balances out better with the conflict as well as Fluttershy's further tenderness and care for the animals who live with them. Fluttershy is way more connected to the animals than anyone else. When they're happy, she's happy, and when they're sad, she's sad. She understands what they want, how they feel, and what they're saying. She inadvertently discovered leftover Foal's Breath flowers for the squirrels, and in return, they help them discover the Peaks' true entrance. Because of her ability to read emotions and understand what's wrong, she's observant in how to properly communicate with the kirin, including advising Applejack to ask yes or no question (even though AJ contrivedly ignored that to begin Act 2 ). Despite being initially frightened, she grew more comfortable around them as AJ searched for Autumn Blaze. Observe how she stopped being scared after Applejack returned to the village. The episode validates both their arguments, which won't work with another pair. Autumn's explanation packs the events with a lot of humor, which masked its seriousness. But because the kirin are mute and emotionally suppressed, Fluttershy fully realized how serious the situation was immediately. Her closeness to the wilderness justifies her to opt for the opposite solution. OTOH, AJ had a valid argument, too, which was find the Foal's Breath flower to free them from their vow of silence so they can emote and communicate again. Both sides have a point, rounding the conflict. It's easy to see why they briefly argued; they were both passionate about solving the kirin dilemma and couldn't find common ground, which they did after Blaze rescued them and used her anger and nirik alter ego to protect them from harm. And @Justin_Case001 makes three great points in his review. This is an episode about communication, more specifically being able to communicate without fear of hurting each others' feelings or starting an argument. Is it important to be sensitive to others? Without a doubt. Otherwise, you suggest you don't care. But it's important to talk to people, communicate with them, and find common ground to compromise without compromising your integrity. While The Cutie Map is about being diverse in your opinions, talents, and personalities, Sounds of Silence is about being diverse in how to communicate and find common ground. As I mentioned before, anger is important and will always be a part of your life. Unfortunately, it's attached to many harmful stereotypes, i.e., the angry black woman, which stigmatizes the emotion. But in itself, it's okay to be angry. Just like anger in itself is important, constructively channeling it is even more important. The nirik's temper were out of control, and until the end, only Autumn Blaze figured out how to manage it without manifesting into something worse. Fluttershy's solution to the friendship problem — keeping the kirin silent — is the wrong option, and she realizes it after they nearly dunked them into the Stream of Silence. However, it's very clear she didn't come to this conclusion with the worst intentions, but instead the opposite. Fire and wood mix easily, and nature is vital to the health of the kirin's secluded village and society. The nirik's temper was clearly a traumatizing event that she and the village altogether don't want to repeat, and this extreme option seemed to be the best one. Observe their faces as they argued: They were clearly distressed. Their heated argument reminded them of what happened long ago. That's why they interrupted it before it escalated. Other than the pacing, cramming of detail, and AJ getting briefly nailed with the stupid stick, its last flaw is how obvious the Foal's Breath flower's impact into solving the friendship problem becomes as the plot progresses. Fluttershy and the story spent a good amount of time arranging it for the squirrels, and its brilliant gradients of blue to yellow with all that detail stand out really strongly against the dirty-looking desert. The fact that Blaze landed in a bed of identical flowers and made a tea out of them connects the dots much more. Yet, they're all very minuscule in the thick of things. Bonsignore's scripting talents really shine with well-done dialogue, pleasant characterization of AJ, FS, and Autumn Blaze, and intelligently simple story. Despite its fast pacing, the script is tight and polished; everything logically flows from one point to another without anything out of place. Since S4, FIM plugs in one episode featuring at least one celebrity guest: Weird Al for Pinkie Pride, Lena Hall for Mane Attraction, Patton Oswalt for Stranger Than Fan Fiction, Felicia Day & William Shatner for The Perfect Pear, and now Rachel Bloom (Autumn's VA) for this one. DHX, now Allspark Studios, puts forth a ton of effort into making the guests belong into the story, and that hard work pays off into an excellent episode (with TPP museum-worthy). Sounds of Silence is no exception. In an already-phenomenal Season 8, this is another addition to the pile of outstanding episodes.
  16. This episode started off with Rockhoof trying to find his place in Equestria by trying various jobs, especially over the first 10 minutes. The episode was a slow building through the early part. The moments with Rockhoof trying various jobs were very funny. This episode also featured the return of a few of the Pillars, showing what they where doing as their job following their return and integration. The star of this episode was Yona, who admitted to him that she wan'ts to be like him when she grows up. By the end, he's anointed the Keeper of Tails. Overall, this was a very good episode. It had an overall good pace, through it was rushed a bit toward the end. Yona was the star in this episode as well. I hope we see more episodes that focus on the individual members of the student six. My grade: 8.9/10 B+
  17. Note: Credit to @Ganondox and Loganberry for this review. Like using Chrysalis to explain past events to the Everfree trees, much of what Vogel uses to start What Lies Beneath is exposition to describe the Tree of Harmony, its history, and purposes. But rather than using a character babble it out, it's told in the context of a classroom lecture followed by studying for a surprise test, and it wasn't all explained immediately or through one mouth. When Twilight lectured, students either asked questions, didn't believe her, or became frustrated over not knowing pony history, organically informing the audience of its lore. Now, whereas HW Club gave the Young Six the boost they truly deserve, WLB expands them further. Each of the Young Six start having doubts over whether becoming friends with others is natural to their consciences, culture, and themselves. Cozy Glow nicely sets up the conflict by going deep into parts of the Young Six's psyche, exploiting areas of their culture and livelihoods that are really sensitive to them. Is it racist? Absolutely; she's stereotyping the creatures as inferior to ponykind, and given how dubious she's been this season, it's intentional. Unlike Neighsay (whose racism is mixed with bitterness), her manipulation is masked with sweet innocence and then changes the subject, as if she meant no harm. Yet, pay attention to the moment afterwards and their little argument that night in the library, started by Gallus after getting annoyed at Silverstream for tapping her claws on the table. Her superiority complex cut deeply in them. And it's at this moment where the episode turns into an improvement of two past episodes: the pilot and The Crystal Empire. To get this out of the way, I agree with both Loganberry and @Ganondox regarding the Tree of Harmony's tests for the Young Six. Not only were they really harsh, but also morally questionable. What if Gallus failed his test? Would he be trapped in the enclosing cavern forever? Would the Tree create another test? Or what about Yona's arachnophobia; will she become so scared of spiders that she'd rather kill them over acquainting them? Fear is reactionary and not always based on logic. (And the dialogue was also a little rough with plenty of repetitive dialogue.) So, why does the Tree get a pass when Celestia and Luna don't? The Tree is omnipotent and understands the characters' strengths, weaknesses, and virtues. After seeing a friendship-related problem, she ties it to being(s) who can successfully heal it. Sometimes it's one, two, or more, depending on who and what they all have in common. Of course, this is a little different, because she tests them to determine whether they can become friends with each other or not. Additionally, despite its strong powers and subsequent growth, it can't fix it alone. Faith is placed upon them, and it's up to them to use their knowledge and friendship capabilities to solve it. OTOH, Celestia and Luna already defeated King Sombra, who cursed the Crystal Empire into disappearance. But after one of their guards alert of their resurgence, what does Celly do? Write to Twilight and place thousands of lives on her shoulders! Conversely, the stakes here are nowhere nearly as severe. In addition to needlessly putting countless lives on the line, they assigned her and her friends to take part in Twilight's challenge, but Celestia warned her that she and only she can save the Empire, contradicting the assignment Celestia placed on her since the beginning of the series. If she goes against the test in any way, she risks failing. So once she's trapped and requests Spike to return the Crystal Heart to its altar, she's rightfully worried, hence her dismay after Sombra's defeat. And the episode also has the gall to emphasize passing the test as the most important plot point over protecting the empire from Sombra, which makes the sacrifice lesson she spewed really hypocritical and phony. WLB counteracts this. Firstly, the Tree can't mandate them to take her test; they choose to explore what was under the drain grate she popped open. When Gallus crossly questioned her tactics, she was precise in her reply. Secondly, from the start, she explicitly tested their meddle to make them prove whether friendship's in their nature or not. She has the wherewithal to know that, yes, they'll break free, but will also not leave until they found each other. Tightening their friendship was the purpose for her tests, and the moral excellently backs her up. And how does WLB improve the pilot, specifically Part 2? Vogel spends a great deal of time equally pacing and exploring each of their fears along with sensible ways to face and beat them. Gallus and Smolder beat theirs first, but WLB doesn't forget about them. Instead, when one of their friends is very vulnerable and doubts if they'll ever conquer their fears, they bond with them more and use their own experiences as an example of overcoming them. The bonding between Ocellus and Smolder has added weight, because changelings and dragons retain an awful reputation (dragons for their brutish nature and history of terrorizing pony villages, changelings for nearly overthrowing Equestrian royalty twice), and the same can be said with Silverstream's horrific belief that the Storm King will reconquer Mount Aris. One little thing that gets overlooked is what Smolder and Gallus say after they arrive at the cave entrance… …AND after reuniting with all but Sandbar: With every opportunity to leave the cave, they willingly risked being trapped to find the others. Twice. No matter the consequences, they were NOT leaving ANYONE behind! Their friends matter, period! When the Mane Six were tested in the Everfree Forest, each one was segmented. When one trial ended, another began, and they were all written in to prove they properly represented the Bearers of Harmony. Sure, individualizing them isn't a bad thing, but by splitting them all up into only a few minutes, none of them had time to develop or breathe. Each segment was crammed, and be being bound to the E/I rating, the stakes weren't heightened as much as they should or paced more evenly. By contrast, Vogel intertwined each and every one of them simultaneously. None of their tasks ended at once, but he neither rushed them through nor ended them abruptly. He gradually built up their fears, exploited them, and ended them properly. What do I mean? They conquered their fears at the right time of the story, used the right characters to help pass their tests, and only after Vogel exhausted development of those fears. No matter the tone, each of their fears are treated with equal validity: Smolder's fear of femininity overtaking her persona was by far the most lighthearted, but the episode didn't treat it as a joke and utilized it as an example of being able to change from who she once was to Ocellus, who recalled how they used to treat others back then. The Storm King was already destroyed, but Silverstream's fear of his return resulted in her cheerful, optimistic personality being replaced to debilitating fright to the point of crying. Gallus realized his "return" was a mirage, but that wasn't enough for her. So he used his fear of small spaces, helped her overcome her fear of his return, and she let it all out to him. How Yona faced her fear was the most different. Gallus's trick foreshadowed what was to come, but when spiders faced her, her strongman personality gave way to intense arachnophobia. When spiders got too close, she was justifiably upset. With no friend she knew around, she wished they were there so she could get out. But in a twist, the lead spider Spindle talked to her. What the spiders were doing was that they weren't trying to scare her. They wanted to help, Spindle leading by example. Language barrier aside, they shared something in common: befriending each other and reuniting her with the others. Recall the second quote box above. Sandbar's fear's more subdued, but nonetheless validated. From the beginning, he focused on returning to his friends so they, "Dash," and "Rarity" can go on this adventure. Every time he questions his teachers' logic, they manipulate him into removing doubt and forcing him to run in a massive loop. Soon, he has enough, questions them outright, and when they express disappointment in him for caring about his friends than them, he turns the tables on them. As he lectures them, his friends arrive and watch from behind, adding more weight into how much they mean to him. He may be the quietest and most straight-man-ish of the Young Six, but he also needs to grow; confronting his fear of disappointment head-on was a fantastic solution. Without the constrictive E/I rating and by rearranging the plot, Vogel legitimized the stakes without phoning them in, which makes us invested in their obstacles, friendships, and outcomes. This next paragraph deals with spoilers for the S8 finale and S9 leaks/speculation, so it's under the tag. Overall, What Lies Beneath is another really excellent episode within S8B's fantastic lineup.
  18. This episode started with a concept we've not seen in a long time, the Rainbow Dash fan club, with devolved into the fan club for "The Washouts". It was a good cold open, featuring Scoots and RD prominently. The first segment featured a good pace, and a return of Lightning Dust, who hadn't be in an episode since her appearance in season 3. RD and LD both let their rivalry be known. A couple of funny moments were sprinkled into the episode in the first segment. Heading into the second segment, Scoots does a tweener turn, becoming a Washouts member. The pacing, and RD saving the day were what made this episode a great episode. The ending was cute as well, It, overall, was a great episode, one of the best of the season thus far. The return of Lightning Dust made the episode good, but what really made this a great episode was the emphasis of the sisterly relationship that RD and Scootaloo have. There has not been enough of these kind of episodes to be honest. It had good writing, a good pace to it, a couple of funny moments, and a great resolution to the episode. My grade: 9.3/10 A
  19. Note: Credit to @gingerninja666, @Ganondox, @Theanimationfanatic, and Justin Galloway on YT for this review, which has been revised to expand my thoughts better and for better editing as a whole. Out of every legend from Season 7B, Rockhoof's was the worst. Combined with being a boring character, the story itself was very bland, and Applejack told the entire thing rather than letting the tale show. It's competent, but completely uninteresting. How ironic that in his first self-contained episode, ARaaHP is spectacular with some of the best characterization of a Pillar since they were first introduced. Hard Place is a "fish out of water" story, an idiom that puts the character in a setting or situation they're very foreign or uncomfortable with. DHX holds none of the comedy back, which had a lot of variety, but mostly came from the characters' reactions, starting off with Professor Fossil. Rockhoof doesn't understand preservation at all, because he lived in the era she continues to discover, emphasized by his destruction of an old sweat lodge (rightfully upsetting her) and triggering the conflict. Fossil's line, which sounded completely innocent on the surface, foreshadows future events while remaining wonderfully subtle: The scene in the auditorium to begin Act 1, while adding on to Rockhoof's inability to adapt to modern times, established connections, providing pivotal context as the episode progressed. Rockhoof's a Pillar, adding to the mystique and adoration from folks across generations. Most of this generation in the School of Friendship's very young, with five of the six unfamiliar with pony folklore. Smolder's sarcasm in response to Rockhoof's first accident is just one opinion (which changed as he told his story of his fight with an Ursa Major), but Yona adored him immediately, because his strength and bravery remind her of yakdom back home. As for the rest of Act 1, there was criticism of what Ocellus said about Discord's stone transformation (Celly and Luna casting a spell) as not being true to continuity. That's not true. From Princess Twilight Sparkle, Part 2: Sisters power up the Elements. Them casting a spell. The Elements couldn't turn him to stone alone. And I agree with YouTuber Justin Galloway regarding this point (his comment from this video link): Indeed! Personally, I can't blame the students for feeling excited (and Gallus lying about the class's direction). Learning can be fun, but sometimes boring, and Gallus is the perfect rebel to steer the class and Rockhoof in another direction. The story, despite in small doses and done to further emphasize his trouble to adapt, was really entertaining. To reiterate, the comedy in this episode as a whole is absolutely fantastic. This one in particular is probably the best one. (You know what I'm talkin' about. ) Several other funny moments include: Rockhoof incredulously swatting decorative set pieces out the school window, not knowing it belonged to Rarity for class (and was not created to fool him). Despite all of the carnage inside Twilight's classroom, the worst he can do to her wooden desk is squish it like a marshmallow. Cranky being heavily embarrassed after Cranky announced he had a rash somewhere in his privates. OTOH, in hindsight, this accidental embarrassment was well-earned for Cranky, who spent all day in the school treating the students like garbage on the buckball pitch. During Somnambula's speech, Rockhoof suddenly falls asleep and squashes a mare behind him. XD Despite doing so inside the school (even though Twilight told him to wait previously and didn't react at all to the fire), Spike and Smolder's bond continues to evolve through a fire-breathing competition. Small, but compared to their conversation in Molt Down, they're more comfortable around each other, and she's not so bristly towards him. That said, no matter the jokes or how much Rockhoof screws up, the episode never treats him as dumb at any point, which @Theanimationfanatic points out. Everywhere he works, he's always willing to impress, whether it's delivering the post to the right house, massaging, helping Zecora, or teaching. Wherever he went long ago, his warrior-first instincts aided him, and he applies them here. Today, harmony replaced war. He doesn't need to fight much anymore, especially now with Stygian redeemed. As a result, he screws up, sometimes badly, yet the episode does a great job not making him look worse each time he faults. To expand my reply, his struggle feels real, and he always works to at least try to succeed; at times, he does the right thing, but overlooks one crucial detail, whether it's teaching instead of preparing for battle, trying to relive life on his soil rather than retaining its history, and so forth. As a result, we sympathize for him and root for him to succeed. It's a major strength that the episode worked very hard in getting right. What's more interesting is how most of the Pillars still contact each other and know their whereabouts, but not Rockhoof. Despite their close connection as champions and friends, it also shows us an audience how distanced Rockhoof became since the Pillars split. He goes back home and virtually spends his days there, as if his life is complete. He can keep his shovel, but not need to use it. He remains a warrior, but as the episode progresses, he realizes he's less of a warrior, but now a veteran who can't settle after being gone so long. On the other hand, DHX/Top Draw puts forth a lot of effort to make the other Pillars's adaptations as seamless as possible. My favorite is Mistmane's just because of her work in The Crystal Empire. There are a lot of amazing set designs throughout the series. But Twilight's right. The imagery here's some of the most beautiful ever put forth for the show. The composition, colors, crystal designs, light, shadow, and perspective are so organic to the country. As the episode progressed, Rockhoof's struggles slowly took a toll. Sulking away from the School started it, and his doubts reappeared in the CE scene, especially after he tells her that shovel ponies aren't in current demand. It progresses further by accident after Meadowbrook was able to open her clinic back home and then after Twilight finds Stygian's new novel. Both of these sting him for two reasons: He can't go home. If STYGIAN can adapt, why can't him?! But the final trigger? Accidentally sinking the Aris navy. @gingerninja666 explains that point perfectly: And it's after this when Rockhoof requests to be turned to stone. Mpambara doesn't hide one bit how it's an allegory of suicide, and his (the writer's) logic narrows this down in several key areas: No matter how hard he tries, he's always one step behind, and he can't catch up. Everyone successfully adjusted, but all he does is, in his eyes, ruin his reputation, and it's not only self-embarrassing, but also self-deflating. If he can't rely on using the stars to navigate around the world, then what can he do now? Rockhoof believes his friends are better off without him. Because he can't transition, he believes he looks weak to them, even though he means so much to them and were willing to help him in any way they can. That's why he avoided communicating with them for so long. He understands how much the Realm idolizes him and the others, but he doesn't want them to think of him as the washed-up veteran he became, but the warrior they grew up remembering. Turning into stone means preserving his legacy. Older adults are at highest risk for suicide; for U.S. veterans, twenty died by suicide daily in 2014, 65% of them 50 years or older. @Ganondox even pointed out an even sadder implication of one reason why an elder may commit suicide, and one powerful Golden Girls episode long ago does the same. Rockhoof's generation is long gone; he's the lone relic left. He believes his time has passed him. Additionally, he fears of what's to come. What if he stays un-stoned, and everyone sees him as this old relic who relishes for the good old days? He doesn't want to look old, washed up, and useless. Twilight agreed to write a stone spell, thereby assisting his suicide. The fact that it's temporary doesn't change the implications. Everyone reacted to Rockhoof's wish in complete horror. Twilight didn't want to write it, because she knew he belonged somewhere. But the students, especially Yona, reacted the hardest for obvious reasons. The followup scene in the castle hallway is one of the best of the series. Yona developed a student-to-teacher crush on him, but when his life was in danger, she came right to him, and her idolization for him evolves, evident by the class report she recited. She's in school in Equestria, where no one looks like her or shares her interests; her constant running almost got her into big trouble immediately, and Neighsay spouting racism towards non-ponies doesn't help. Bonding with others eases her fears and makes her feel safe. His ability to be strong, brave, and persevere inspired countless individuals, including her, who's innocent and childlike. Their chemistry and her admiration are incredibly genuine, and the fact she stood up for him and convinced everyone in the school to gather around outside and listen to his stories at maybe the lowest moment of his life makes him realize at just that moment he means so much to them. It fixes a big problem from two previous episodes: Magic Sheep and No Second Prances. Magic Sheep: Luna's Tantabus creation is an allegory of either depression or addiction. Self-punishing with the Tantabus not only reminded her of her crimes long ago, but also gave her an escape from the torment she inwardly suffered. But it's marred by an awfully-executed moral, thanks to its rushed, absolute ending. Addiction and illness don't magically disappear. NSP: After Trixie and Starlight fell out, Trixie acted like she didn't want to live anymore, but it's an unfortunate implication, and Twilight and Starlight doing nothing as she treks into her cannon is just insulting. Here, A Rockhoof and a Hard Place tackled a really dark subject, but took a long time developing the allegory, provided key clues foreshadowing what was coming, and treated it with the delicateness and seriousness it so richly deserves. The moral it teaches — "No matter how hurt, lonely, or hopeless you feel, you matter." — is also magnificently executed. But it isn't just Yona and Rockhoof. AJ and Twilight were really good in their roles, too. Twi may lead the school, but she trusted AJ into conversing with each other and letting AJ help guide her and him wherever he went. Working with him and helping him was a team effort throughout. More importantly, Mpambara keeps Spike in character in Act 3 without looking insensitive. How? With this shot: Spike has a history of being snarky, but thanks to the suicide allegory, his sarcasm, sardonicism, and sometimes blasé behavior won't fit at all to the tone and messaging DHX is aiming. If not careful, viewers may end up hating his portrayal. By opening the act with him asleep and then woken up with a start, the episode instantly sets part of the tone, and his sleepy behavior parades into the classroom, allowing DHX to use his snark for comedy without unfortunate implications. This episode was an amazing surprise. Because Season 8 was so good up to this point, I had high expectations for this one. After watching it the first time, I knew it was great. But watching it again and again helped me pay closer attention to the effort put into creating this wonderful story. Ever since I first watched the S8 leaks last year, I had Break Down as its best. A Rockhoof and a Hard Place replaced it, and it's one of the ten best of the whole show. Bravo! P.S.: Those who read my statuses may have read and followed my episode order, but for those who don't, this is my current top-10 of the series (including Rockhoof): The Perfect Pear The Best Night Ever Crusaders of the Lost Mark Amending Fences Shadow Play Sisterhooves Social The Cutie Map A Rockhoof and a Hard Place Parental Glideance The Break Up Break Down An episode of such a quality deserves such a spot. More can't be said about how amazing Hard Place is.
  20. Preliminary Topic Before I begin my review, I must bring up an essential topic. If you already know why Celestia is a problematic character and what those problems are, then there is no need to read this section. Feel free to skip down to the review at any time. Season 8 Episode 7 “Horse Play” Review by EpicEnergy To begin with, I have much to say about the characters, starting with Celestia. There are three things about her that I want to address. Firstly, the writers fixed the area where Celestia’s ability to raise the sun was diminished due to the Hearth’s Warming story that said unicorns could “bring forth day and night”. Now we understand that bringing forth day and night was not as simplistic as the Hearth’s Warming story depicted it to be, because it required multiple unicorns and Starswirl himself to raise the sun, which permanently depletes the other unicorns of their magic in the process. The strength required to raise the sun is now evident, and it makes Celestia more important and unique. I must commend the writers for providing this significant and needed fix. Secondly, this episode reveals and expounds on more of Celestia’s characteristics, making her even more enjoyable and relatable. Thirdly, this episode creates a negative characteristic in Celestia. Throughout this episode, Celestia interprets things too literally. It starts to get very annoying, but at least Celestia makes up for it in the end. Proceeding, I now will address Twilight’s behavior. Twilight acts out-of-character and bluntly lies to Celestia throughout the episode, which is illogical because she should have listened to Applejack in the first place and she should have known that telling the truth to Celestia would be morally correct and not contradictory to everything Twilight learned. Twilight’s actions are unreasonable, so I must deduct a few points off the episode rating. Lastly, I will briefly refer to the Method Mares. Their involvement in this episode provides even more theatre-related content, adding to this episode’s theatrical theme. The last subject I want to refer to is the moral. It is very basic, and completely unnecessary. It’s also a repeated moral, we obviously heard it before in previous episodes. The focus of the episode was on Celestia and not the moral; consequently, the moral didn’t receive the same treatment, and it is not satisfactory. Everyone already knows not to lie and to tell the truth. Episode Rating: 5/10 In conclusion, this episode focused on making Celestia a better character, and it succeeded despite not fixing every single one of her problems. However, the episode also made Twilight be unreasonable and gave us a basic moral that was already given in previous episodes. I would say that this episode had a balance of positive and negative features, giving it a “mediocre” rating. Rating Scale:
  21. Season 8 Episode 3 “The Maud Couple” Review by EpicEnergy Characters: Let me initiate this review by starting with the primary new character in this episode – Mudbriar. His personality is mainly technicality; as a matter of fact, he is only technical and hardly nothing else. This becomes very annoying over time, since he is always acting and speaking with technicality. Consequently, I must subtract a good portion of points from the episode rating for this. Next, I shall briefly talk about Pinkie. She acts somewhat out of character, overexaggerating too often, which doesn’t provide a natural feel to this episode. Therefore, I shall remove a very small amount of points for this. Continuing, I shall discuss Starlight. She appears to replace the rest of the mane six in this episode by counseling Pinkie and attempting to resolve Pinkie’s friendship problem with Mudbriar. I disagree that she replaces the mane six in this area; rather, I would say that her involvement in this episode has no problems. The only pony who would be qualified to take Starlight’s position would be Twilight, but she is not friends with Maud, so Starlight is the best candidate for this type of situation. Lastly, I want to address Maud’s personality. Maud can now demonstrate with ease her emotions through her tone of voice and facial expressions while still maintaining her normal personality. This is contrary to Mudbriar, as his technicality prevents his emotions from appearing to be genuine. Overall, I must deduct some points from the episode rating because of Mudbriar’s technicality and Pinkie’s highly overexaggerated personality. Plot: The general plot is superb, and well executed. Surprisingly, I found absolutely no contrived and arbitrary plot-devices or plot-conveniences in this episode. As a result, I must commend the writers for creating this genuine plot in this episode. Scenes: In this section I will review specific scenes. I may also skip one or more scenes. Firstly, there is the opening, with Maud performing her “stand-up comedy” that I was really looking forward to after she announced it in the season 7 episode “Rock Solid Friendship”. That isn’t the only amazing aspect of this opening, because the developers also added the “Hayburger” restaurant building into this scene, which was first introduced in the season 4 episode “Twilight Time” (there are a few differences, but it is the same building). Now this is where the new MLP opening song is first revealed. It really needed alteration, since the school and numerous new characters were added, so this change is appreciated since it included the new features of season 8 while still maintaining a few of the old opening features and general flow. The entire opening sequence of this episode is well done. Now I will proceed far into the latter half of the episode toward the scene where we have Starlight and Maud flying kites. Starlight’s kite flying hobby is fantastic and serves to add to her being a great character, so its return makes this episode even more enjoyable. Also, before I proceed to the next subject, one should note that Starlight has kites hanging from the ceiling in her room during this episode. Next, I will discuss the Pie rock farm scene. The writers include Pinkie’s other sisters, Marble and Limestone Pie. It’s very nice to have them back into the picture after a very long time since their last appearance on the show. They are well written, so nice job on this part. They also played a significant role by enlightening Pinkie on what is known as the moral of this episode. That is basically all the scenes I wanted to review, since the remainder has nothing notable that I need to focus on that I haven’t already addressed in this review. Moral: This episode’s moral is well informative and illustrated though the given metaphor. It is amazing how looks can be so deceptive, that’s why I always loved the geode metaphor, a long time before this episode even aired. I own a miniature geode that is within my bedroom up to this day to remind me of how one should not look on the outward appearance and judge someone by that method; rather one should look at the inward gems of another human, the positive side that has so much potential. That is a very considerable lesson to learn, and an even harder one to apply with humans being so judgmental of others. Episode Rating: 7/10 Conclusion: This episode is highly enjoyable in all aspects except the characters. With Pinkie's overexaggerated personality and Mudbriar's technicality, it came become annoying, leaving this episode with a "great" rating. Rating Scale: 0 = the worst of the worst, an absolute failure 1 = an extremely horrible disaster 2 = very dreadful 3 = terrible 4 = bad 5 = mediocre 6 = good 7 = great 8 = very fantastic 9 = extremely amazing 10 = an absolute perfection
  22. Season 8 Episode 4 “Fake It Till’ You Make It” Review by EpicEnergy Characters: This episode centers around Fluttershy, so I will focus solely on this character for this reason and that there are no new characters introduced. Fluttershy acts far out of character in this episode, so the question that should be asked should be based around whether this is inconsistent and whether it makes sense or not. I would argue that it is very inconsistent and makes no sense. It will be evident why I say this in the “scenes” section. Plot: Fluttershy maintains the Manehattan boutique for Rarity and decides to act as the Saddle Row pony’s stereotypical personality to be effective. At first this works. As time progresses though, Fluttershy becomes a more and more unpleasant Saddle Row pony who eventually takes this acting to an extreme that is displeasing even for a Saddle Row pony, which renders her acting ineffective. Now for a short review on this plot. I must complement the writers because they have carefully designed the incidents so that nothing appears to be solely a plot-convenience or an arbitrary plot-device. I must also add that this main plot is laid out nicely, from beginning to end. Scenes: I will review a few individual scenes in this section. The opening scene is great, because it occurs in Fluttershy’s animal sanctuary which is nice to have its appearance once again after its initial development in season 7. This opening also serves to further the plot, providing an explanation of the events that will ensue later in the episode. The next scene I will review occurs a while after this which has something that is plainly absurd. It’s when one of the customers tastes the lukewarm tea and instantly spits it out, and Fluttershy proceeds to lecture the raccoons very harshly afterwards. I’ll refer to this incident from now on as the “lukewarm-tea encounter”. It is at this point, I argue, where Fluttershy losses her character and unnecessarily acts excessively unpleasant. It also at this point that Fluttershy does the completely illogical, which should not have occurred. She does not apologize to the critters, and proceeds to make offensive remarks to the customers while elevating the boutique dresses to a god-like level that no one could buy because they are not worthy. There is a presented reason why Flutters does this, which is also illogical, but I’ll get to that afterwards. For now, I must address another scene before I get to the last part. In this scene, Fluttershy ignores her friends, despite them attempting to help, and kicks them out of Rarity’s shop! I know Fluttershy was acting, but acting does not mean one loses all sense of reason and not know when to stop and take things seriously! The final scene I will review is when Fluttershy admits she became too distracted with her acting, but it fails to suffice as a plausible explanation for her behavior, seeming to be more of an excuse than anything. She says, “I’m sorry, you know I was only pretending right?”. This is a terrible explanation because getting too distracted by acting and pretending to be an overexaggerated and illogical stereotypical Saddle Row pony does not justify being a detrimental employee and horrible friend. In other words, pretending to be someone offensive doesn’t justify being offensive, since harm is inflicted either way if the offended doesn’t know you’re pretending, which is exactly what happened. Also, everyone just forgives Fluttershy after her illogical explanation anyways without even speaking of how wrong her actions were. It’s implying that Fluttershy shouldn’t be held accountable for her actions at all because she was too focused on pretending to be someone she was not!!! I’ll have to subtract many points from the episode rating for this erroneous explanation, response, and implication. Moral: I will now focus on the main moral. In case no one knows what that moral is, it simply is that one has inner strength and need not change himself/herself in order to show it. This moral is highly fantastic, because it is very true and very helpful. Additional Areas (if applicable): Inconsistency with the Season 1 episode “Suited for Success”: In “Suited for Success”, Fluttershy is said, by her friends, to have a freaky knowledge of sowing, which helped her create Rarity’s dress exactly as intended. This knowledge is clearly obvious when Fluttershy gives her real opinion on the dress Rarity made for her a few moments back in this season 1 episode. The inconsistency is that Fluttershy is depicted as having hardly any knowledge of fashion in season 8 episode 4, which even Fluttershy herself admits. Episode Rating: 3/10 Conclusion: Everything about Fluttershy makes sense up to the “lukewarm-tea encounter”, and then everything goes downhill from there. The main moral is exceedingly great, as well as the general plot, but Fluttershy’s behavior is illogical along with a terrible explanation for it. In addition to those problems, this episode also contradicts the season 1 episode resulting in an irritating inconsistency. To conclude, I must give this episode a negative rating. As brutal as a 3/10 may appear, if you line it up with my rating scale you will find it is not nearly as brutal as it could be. Rating Scale: 0 = the worst of the worst, an absolute failure 1 = an extremely horrible disaster 2 = very dreadful 3 = terrible 4 = bad 5 = mediocre 6 = good 7 = great 8 = very fantastic 9 = extremely amazing 10 = an absolute perfection
  23. Season 8 Episode 5 "Grannies Gone Wild" Review by EpicEnergy This episode is impressive. The worldbuilding in it is very appreciative, as Las Pegasus is the setting of this episode, this time without having any antagonist. As if the worldbuilding wasn’t enough, the numerous side characters (old and new) are given satisfying spotlight time that allows them to develop. This also opens the door for plenty of fan-fics and so much potential for the show. I’d also like to add that Jackpot and Trixie appear to be alike, which generates the theory that Jackpot is Trixie’s dad. I would love to see that area explored in later episodes. Proceeding, Rainbow Dash is the only character who presents a complication in this episode, because she acts out-of-character. Acting out-of-character is sometimes inconsistent and illogical, like in the previous episode of season 8 (“Fake It Till’ You Make It”). I would argue that in this episode it is not inconsistent or illogical because Rainbow Dash’s behavior is understandable as she is forced to obey Applejack’s list or face the consequences. That doesn’t make it any less bothersome though. Moving onward, the moral is remarkable. It has been constantly stressed throughout the episode, not in a forceful manner, and is very relatable for many of us. The moral is that old people aren’t as boring and stupid as they are normally said to be. This moral reminds us to respect our elders and not assume unnecessary things about them simply because of their age. Before I close, I wanted to mention that throughout this episode Rainbow Dash uses her wings as hands. As minor as this may sound, it is very creative, and I find it rather neat to have in the show. Episode Rating: 9/10 Overall, this episode is one of my most enjoyed episodes in season 8, except for Rainbow Dash following AJ’s list, which is very understandable in the given context but still can be somewhat irritating in a few scenes. Rating Scale:
  24. Season 8 Episode 6 “Surf and/or Turf” Review by EpicEnergy This episode was amazing, but it did contain a few problems. First and foremost, I must address one of the largest problems in season 8 – the Cutie Map. I briefly mentioned it in my episode 1 review, that it will affect future episodes, and that is exactly what is occurring here in episode 6. I’ll briefly explain the situation – The Cutie Map is already a contrived and arbitrary plot-device, because it suddenly appeared with Twilight’s Castle at the end of season 4 and was largely used after that to mysteriously tell the mane six where friendship problems are and where travel to solve them without any explanation at all. It’s being used to further the plot of many episodes before and many to come yet continues to be arbitrary; thus, it remains to be problematic until an explanation is provided. This arbitrary plot-device mysteriously calls the CMCs in this episode and tells them exactly where to go and gives us no explanation as to why it called the CMCs and how it knew where a friendship problem was. Consequently, this incident affects this episode’s rating. Next topic. The characters and worldbuilding are overwhelmingly superb! There are numerous new characters all over the place. The episode’s story takes place at the majestic Mount Aris, which was first introduced in the MLP Movie. This kingdom is magnificent and has a culture of its own, with new buildings, events, creatures, hobbies, wildlife, and more! The most important aspect is that this kingdom has two separate places to live in: the land (with Harmonizing Heights) and the sea (aka., Seaquestria). I am genuinely astonished at both the characters and the worldbuilding in this episode! Proceeding to the next subject. The moral of this episode has a normal meaning and an allegorical meaning. The normal meaning is that one doesn’t necessarily have to choose between two things, and that your family will accept you for who you are even if you don’t choose. The allegorical meaning focuses on a specific topic, which is the modern-day issue of divorce. After a divorce occurs, the child can sometimes feel like he has no choice but to choose between one parent or the other. The episode is saying that the child doesn’t have to choose, and that he could switch between parents as much as he likes. This is very good advice, but one must take into consideration that it is only applicable to certain contexts. Minor Inconsistencies with other episodes: Before I proceed to the episode rating, I must address a few inconsistencies this episode has with previous episodes. Firstly, in the MLP Movie Twilight is looked down upon by the seaponies/hippogriffs after she intently steals their pearl, yet she walks around Mount Aris without anyone bringing it up whatsoever. How is she suddenly forgiven by the Queen Novo and the hippogriffs for this? I find this to be an irritating inconsistency. Another inconsistency is evident far back, when Twilight says she can’t go to Griffinstone because the map didn’t call her (in the S5 episode “The Lost Treasure of Griffinstone”); however, she easily goes to Mount Aris despite not being called by the map. Why couldn’t she go to Griffinstone for the sake of research, yet she could easily go to Mount Aris for this reason? Like I said, another inconsistency. Episode Rating: 8/10 To conclude, this episode has positive features and negative features, with the positive outweighing the negative by a good amount. It succeeds by far in the worldbuilding, characters, and moral aspects. On the contrary, it had a severely contrived and arbitrary plot-device that is only made worse through this episode. This episode also has a few minor inconsistencies with previous episodes. Rating Scale: