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  1. Arguably the most important part of a Cutie Mark is the Glyph, here meant to refer to the image depicted. It is from this that we gain the most significant indication of a pony's talent. That said, there is a fair amount of interpretation involved in reading Cutie marks. For example, Cheerilee's Cutie Mark, a Triune of Smiling Daisies is meant to represent her skill and passion for teaching. She described the mark in the episode "Call of the Cutie" What this tells us is that apart from the pure symbolism inherent in the Cutie Mark, a pony's personal understanding of it can play a significant role as well. This presents us with a bit of a Dilema. Using the system that I have devised would not give us the best understanding of a mark like Cheerilee's. The question then is this; How do we handle the subjective meanings of Cutie Marks? One possibility would be to simply disregard this aspect of Cutie Mark Interpretation as it makes the entire exercise a foregone conclusion if you already have an idea of what a Cutie Mark means. In it's capacity as a tool for character creation, this would be a perfectly tenable solution, but in it's secondary purpose of reading meaning from existing marks, this falls short. I recognize that it would be impossible to systematically derive the subjective meaning from a mark so I'm still left with the question of how to do it. As always, your input is welcome and encouraged.
  2. Good morning, everypony, and welcome back from the U.S. mid-season hiatus of MLP Season 7 to another edition of "Batbrony Reviews"! Well, we had a double heaping of some truly exceptional MLP goodness yesterday (well, rather I should say we had a heaping of great goodness followed by a mountain of "HOLY BUCK THAT WAS THE MOST AMAZING INCREDIBLE SHIT I'VE EVER SEEN!!!" but, eh, details, details), so let's not waste anymore time and dive right into the first new episode of the day (and first new Discord episode of Season 7, I should add). Without further ado, this is "Discordant Harmony." So as far as Discord episodes go, I actually have to say this one was oddly... simple for him. Now, I don't say that simply because of how it was executed alone or how he behaved, no no, I'm saying that the actual conflict around which the entire episode revolved was oddly simple. Don't get me wrong, there were some complex character developments at play, especially in the third act, but what was technically the central conflict around which everything revolved? A tea party. Yeah, Discord decides he wants to host Fluttershy, his best friend, for a tea party at his place for once because they always hold them at her house instead. I have to admit, I'd be hard pressed to think of a Discord episode that has had a more straightforward conflict than that. Of course we all know that since this is Discord we're talking about, nothing about what happened in the episode's execution was truly "simple," but I think most of you know what I mean. So Discord wants to host Fluttershy for a tea party, and really (given how the episode concluded) if he'd just stuck with doing everything he did to start off, everything would have gone smoothly. The first act is largely Discord just bamfing around town gathering supplies for the tea party, and that alone amused me quite a bit, just the fact that he was doing it at all; think about it, Discord has shown multiple times that he can manifest whatever he wants to out of thin air, so he most definitely DID NOT need to shop for those supplies. My working theory is that either (1) he wanted to actually buy the supplies to add a personal touch to his tea party with Fluttershy, ya know, act like she mattered enough to him to go out and get those things rather than just pop them into existence, or (2) he was bored and just wanted to buck with some ponies. Anyways, he gets some supplies and of course adds his own chaotic touch to them, until of course he's met by Pinkie Pie. Apparently her name is Jasmine Leaf... can we seriously, PLEASE get more of her? If only for her adorable mane and accent alone!!! This is where things take a turn. Pinkie offers admittedly good advice that as long as Discord makes Fluttershy feel comfortable, she'll have a fun time. Unfortunately Discord of course interprets this as meaning that she'll never enjoy herself at his place given how, well, absolutely bonkers it is, so he goes about tidying it up as only he can... with six of him, of course. By the time he's done, he's so normal that he's pretty much Mister Rogers (no really, I'm 99% certain that's exactly what they were referencing with his "normal" look), and, well, his place is as... not-Discord as it could possibly be. As boring as normal Discord may have been, I will forever be grateful for this delicious reference This leads to exactly what you'd expect... that's right, Discord almost fades from existence. Yeah, in a curiously dark turn in the third act, Discord quite literally almost ceases to exist (which, now that I think about it, if that had happened I'm pretty sure that Fluttershy would have been stranded in his realm as well, leading to all kinds of uncomfortable questions about what her fate might have been in that event). Heck, he can't even really do anything about it himself once he becomes too normal, so it's all up to Fluttershy (who was already weirded out by his out of character behavior) to literally bring the chaos back into his life. This whole bit is easily the best scene of the episode and illustrates a lot about how both characters have grown as a result of their unusual friendship with one another. So of course Fluttershy succeeds, the day is saved, Discord more or less gets his groove back, and they get to have the tea party at Discord's that they both always wanted. Now, at first glance this episode seems utterly predictable. I mean, what it boils down to is "Friend A misunderstood Friend B and thought they wanted Friend A to behave one way, when Friend B already loved them for who they were and wanted Friend A to act their normal self." That is a very, very, VERY recycled plot formula in television for all ages, appearing in shows ranging from animated cartoons to sitcoms aimed at family or adult audiences. So yeah, anyone who does believe that, in many ways, this episode is predictable, they're not wrong. It is, and yet I still found it to be quite exceptional. Why? Execution. Really, that's about it, the episode was just executed incredibly well. John de Lancie was phenomenal as usual as Discord (I particularly appreciated some of his subtle touches here, such as the fact that his "Discord 2.0" a.k.a. "Discord with glasses" had an ever-so-slightly lower, more mature and serious sounding voice than Discord himself did) and brought the laughs as we've come to expect by now from this character. His chores about town and tidying up his place were probably his two funniest scenes, and I especially enjoyed seeing Discord screwing around with ponies besides Fluttershy and the Mane 6. Frankly, it was hilarious how nonplussed most of the other ponies dealing with him seemed at this point. I mean on the one hand some of them seemed curiously unaware of what his chaos magic can do (odd considering he more or less lives in Ponyville and has been screwing with that city for years), but on the other hand they definitely didn't treat him like a threat either, more like an annoyance. His party supplies and the alterations he gave to them as well were also quite a hoot, particularly the singing Ginseng tea bags and the sapient pinata (also, "Pinatas hate bats" is easily the best line of this entire episode ). Not sure if best beehive or worst beehive ever. Hmmm... best beehive. The other part of it that made it really exceptional in execution was Fluttershy herself, particularly in the third act. Now, it may seem predictable, even Mary Sue-ish, that Fluttershy would just want Discord to be himself, but the way they delivered it was actually quite smart and clever. You actually got the sense that, if this were Season 1, Fluttershy maybe would have preferred a perfectly normal tea party, but this is Season 7 Fluttershy who's been friends with the Lord of Chaos for years, she is much less rigid in her own wants and needs. Her explanation that not only would she expect Discord (in fact, she seemed to look forward to it even) to host an incredibly crazy, chaos-filled tea party at his own home, but that she'd come to truly appreciate their differences as they'd grown in their friendship, was one of the smartest pieces of Fluttershy writing we've had in some time. It showed that she's really not as predictable as we might think she is sometimes, and that even if she herself may seem like the most mild of characters, that doesn't mean she wants or expects everyone else in her life to be like that. What she showed us is, just like with all of her other friends, while she's completely comfortable with who she is and how she lives her life, she enjoys the variety and spice that they bring to her life as well, including Discord in all of his chaotic ways. Plus I won't lie, Fluttershy trying to (and somehow succeeding in) channeling her "inner-chaos" in order to save Discord was not only touching, but hilarious cute as well. Oh Fluttershy, you so crazy Overall, this was a solid start to the second half of Season 7, and really, I think it would be getting much more attention than it has if it weren't for the episode that came directly after it. Unfortunately for "Discordant Harmony," it had the bad luck of preceding what may possibly be the most important episode of MLP ever. But we'll find out more about that in my next review. Tune in next time (which should be today) for a very, very special edition of "Batbrony Reviews."
  3. Ponies + Indian Food = This Now that that's out of the way, good morning everypony, and welcome to another edition of "Batbrony Reviews," our last for a while I'm afraid given that the Season 6 hiatus is upon us. Thankfully, I am glad to say that today's episode was most delightful indeed, even if it wasn't perfect. A nice return to the Friendship Map formula of last season with a fun pair of ponies we've already seen once this season, let's dive into "Spice Up Your Life." So, in this case I feel compelled to get what I thought didn't work in this episode out of the way first, because it bugged me as the episode unfolded. I was honestly having a hard time figuring out what the lesson was supposed to be. That is not to say that the episode didn't have a message, oh no, it did indeed. But I think it was the Friendship Map formula in general that threw me off; the presumption was that the quarrel Rarity and Pinkie had to solve was that between Coriander Cumin and Saffron Masala. Now there clearly was a quarrel, but I don't think that's actually what Rarity and Pinkie had to do (though the episode didn't do a very good job of explaining that). The nature of the quarrel wasn't very well explained; obviously both ponies were fighting a lot since their business was struggling, but I never really got a sense for what Coriander wanted to do differently from his daughter. Rarity pretty much handled everything in the music montage on his end, and Coriander was just kind of grumpy the whole time. In the end, the action did not center around those two at all, at least not salvaging their relationship. It also wasn't just about saving their business, because that's not really a friendship problem either. Yelp and RT reviewers manifested as a pony; as one can imagine, she sucked as much as you would think she would :crackle: No, in actuality, the message is actually quite nuanced, if not a little too subtle until the very end. I think the friendship lesson that they had to teach was to all of Restaurant Row in Canterlot, not just Coriander and Saffron. The crux of the conflict was that nopony in Canterlot would even try their food because they didn't have a hoof rating from Zesty Gourmand. Up till the very end, even after tons of other ponies in Canterlot were trying and clearly loving their food, Zesty still refused, contending that it was beneath her to do so and would ruin her reputation. What we have here, oddly enough, is a critique of critic culture, specifically critics who write for published and major media sources. Critics can sway public opinion quite a bit, and that can often be a good thing if the critic is good; but the problem with critic culture, sometimes, is that critics can sometimes become too full of their own opinions for their own good. They care more about the weight of their critique than remembering that they have their own personal tastes just like everyone else, and sometimes it can be so bad that it even prevents them from giving something new a chance, or judging something based on its own context/what it's trying to be instead of measuring it against things it simply shouldn't be. An Indian restaurant should be an Indian restaurant, not a place of high, cultured food. A blockbuster should try to be a great blockbuster, not an art house film, just as an art house film shouldn't try to be a blockbuster. Forming one's opinion, especially if voiced in public with the power to sway others, is a heady responsibility that should not be taken lightly, especially if you do have the social standing to sway others, and sometimes it's all too easy for people to forget that they could be wrong or just not like something that most others will if they actually can influence others' opinions. I very much liked this message, but again, I feel like it was not delivered, until the last few minutes of the episode, in a way that was readily understood, at least as the center of the episode's theme. Like I said, the friendship problem was not readily apparent at any point in the episode, but I think it came down to the episode title; people shouldn't be afraid of spicing up their lives, trying something new or giving something a chance, and shouldn't let the opinions of others prevent them from trying something if they think they'll like it or actually do like it. If you have a different opinion or tastes than someone else, that doesn't make you less of a person for it; all it means is that your ideas of what's enjoyable are different from what others find enjoyable. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that most of the time, and like I said, I really like this message; I just think it could have been delivered better. I love this guy! Coriander just does not have any time for any of your BS, Rarity; don't take it personally darling, he doesn't have any time for anyone's BS, and he thinks that everything is BS 99% of the time Now that that's out of the way, let's get to what I loved. Really, I loved everything about how this episode looked and felt. The style was great; getting to see Canterlot again, great; getting to see more Rarity and Pinkie Pie, great; getting a father/daughter conflict, great; father/daughter turn out to be Indian, very unique and awesome to see the writers branching out their character types in such a diverse way; the song, just as unique and awesome, combining familiar musical talents with a style of music we've never heard in the show. Basically, this FELT and LOOKED exactly as I hope new slice of life MLP episodes should; enough familiar elements combined with new ones to add some great flair and style, with just a dash of nice world building to boot. Admittedly, Rarity made a few more mistakes than Pinkie Pie, but really they both just weren't doing the right job from the get go; Pinkie Pie was just as bad at attracting customers to a restaurant in Canterlot as Rarity was at preparing the decor of the place, and in that regard the episode again felt a tad confused as to what it was trying to tell us about them. I think it came down to each of them working off of each other's strengths as the situation demanded; Rarity was still great at converting the restaurant, but that simply wasn't what needed to be done. Likewise, nobody questions that Pinkie Pie is as friendly as can be, but she wasn't about to attract new customers in Canterlot simply by being outgoing. This goes back to the episode's message; in Rarity, we see how the opinion of one with social standing can be turned to good in helping nudge others along to trying something new. In Pinkie Pie, we get obviously the tried and true message that, if you love what you do and know that others can and should love it too, then you shouldn't conform to the point that what makes your product unique and special in the first place is entirely absent from the finished product. Pinkie, that's not helping anyone Coriander and Saffron were a great addition to the show; again, the nature of their conflict with each other wasn't explained the greatest, but Saffron was perfectly friendly and Coriander was a hoot when he was grumpy, with his constant, deadpan expression and complete disinterest in everything (very nicely captured in his movements; I thought the animators did a wonderful job of making Coriander actually LOOK as heavy-set as he was drawn through his very slow, drawn-out movements). Zesty Gourmand was genuinely unlikable, and it was very nice how the episode showed she was so stubbornly set in her ways and had such a high opinion of her own opinion that she wouldn't even taste Coriander and Saffron's food. She missed out on a great chance for some great food all because she thought too highly of herself. As I said, I loved the Canterlot setting, and aesthetically the episode was extremely bright, colorful, and vibrant, very befitting an episode with this title. The music too, as I mentioned earlier, was a real treat and, although unique for the show, felt perfectly at home in it all the same. Overall, while this was hardly a perfect episode, it was a very delightful episode all the same, and if you can figure out the messages, they're actually very good ones. They're just a little hard to catch in the episode's actual execution. Until next time everypony, which may be a few months given the hiatus, this is Batbrony, as always, signing off. I'm off! *cue dramatic exit* That's not helping anyone either, Pinkie P.S. Before I forget, it was great seeing Starlight at the start of the episode with the rest of the Mane 6, in an actual slice of life episode, and on top of that fixing the Friendship Map with Twilight. Very nice to see the writers working her in like that finally in a small, supporting role.
  4. OK, welcome back everypony to another edition of "Batbrony Reviews." Gonna try to keep this one on the short side of things since I got some 4th of July activities to get to, so let's get started. Overall, this was a delightful episode! It had good characterization of both new and old characters, some really cool additions to show canon, hearkened back to A LOT of Season 1 bits from the very first episode even, and addressed a good issue very soundly. First of all, I thought Twilight and Spike were both great here. We got to really see Twilight acting on her own as a Princess of Friendship handling an actual friendship problem; even if it was one very close and personal to her, that was still cool to see. Spike was spot on too, very much the lovable and helpful assistant that he is when he's at his best; the fact that he was able, for example, to prevent major awkwardness between Twilight and most of her old friends by reminding her of who they were and helping her track them down was a major plus in his favor here. His old present for Moondancer was also a nice touch that had a very good payoff in the end. Pinkie for the little bit that she was in the episode was of course Pinkie, what's not to love? My favorite bit with her was that of course she knows Minuette, why wouldn't she? Onto the new characters (or, rather, old characters getting characterization for the first time). For starters, I really liked Minuette, Twinkleshine, and Lemon Hearts here. Minuette seems very bubbly and outgoing, possibly even the Pinkie-equivalent of the Canterlot bunch. I know some people were at first worried that she was being a suck up to Twilight, but it really seems like that was her genuine personality, and I like that. We learned some cool canon about Lemon Hearts working as an event planner/organizer at Canterlot Castle, and while Twinkleshine was more a third wheel than anything else, she seemed nice and she has a lovely design. What I liked most of all about all of them was how they were so forgiving of Twilight's past behavior, and in fact hadn't even really cared that she wasn't the most outgoing, they'd just always loved her for the bookworm she was. It highlights rather nicely just how friendly so many ponies in Equestrian society in general are, and that the Mane 6, while certainly exceptional ponies, aren't necessarily unusual as far as how outgoing they are to others. As for Moondancer, aside from her being a cool revival of a G1 character, she was a very effective example on the writers' part of how important early friendships especially are. Seemingly small events when we're young can really effect our entire outlook on things, and how hurt she was by Twilight's absence at her one and only party is a great example of that. And that, furthermore, highlights by extension just how important friendship is at an early age. Having people around you that you trust like that, people you really know care about you for who you are, it helps you learn better how to live in the world, how to thrive and enjoy life to its fullest. It may seem like a well-worn phrase, but it really is true that friends really do often help people come out of their shells, and sometimes our first ones can be the most important in that regard, even if we don't always keep in touch with them throughout our lives. *sigh* I love pony physics. How do they work? Sunglasses: You're doing them right, Minuette Good job, Princess of Friendship! Besides these major elements, I did love having another episode set in Canterlot. It wasn't a terribly funny episode, interestingly enough, but I think that's because it wasn't going for a whole lot of jokes. It had a lot to tell, for one, and it was also handling a fairly serious and complex issue for another, so I think it can certainly be forgiven for not being the most rip-roaringly funny episode of Season 5. There were some lovely locations they went to, the callbacks again to Season 1, both those that were and weren't important to the episode, were very cool and impressive to see, and there might have even been a sighting of Starlight Glimmer in one scene (which I'll have to go back and look for when I rewatch this episode). A bit of foreshadowing, perhaps? Perhaps indeed, but we'll just have to wait and see, now, won't we? Overall, this was a splendid episode. A nice change of pace, I thought, felt very suited for a Twilight episode to her character, I have no complaints about the pacing or execution, all around just a very lovely, solid episode that I can't wait to rewatch. That's all I got for ya'll today guys! To all my fellow American bronies out there, I wish you all a very Happy Fourth of July!!! Later all, I'm off!!! *cue dramatic exit* Dun, dun, DUNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!!