My Little Devotional #159: “No Son of Mine”

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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Uncommon Bond”

In this episode, Starlight Glimmer invites her old friend Sunburst over for a friendly visit to Ponyville and some quality time. Unfortunately, the visit doesn’t go very well. Most of the time Starlight spent with Sunburst was during their childhood, but now that he’s an adult he seems to have more interests and things in common with Starlight’s other friends. Before long, he’s more eager for chances to spend time with them during the visit than her. It eventually gets so bad that Starlight herself starts to feel like a “fifth wheel”, and begins to fear that Sunburst would rather abandon her in favor of her other friends; leading her to take extreme measures to try and reconnect with him.

This was another episode I had to think about for a long time, but eventually what stood out the most to me was Starlight’s feelings and, as a result, behavior. I eventually realized it wasn’t all that different from my own feelings as a Christian and, I imagine, the feelings of other Christians.

The New Testament emphasizes that we are only saved by the Grace of God and the Sacrifice of Lord Jesus. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9). He loves us because of who He is and who we are, not due to anything we have or haven’t done. Yet the Old Testament and much of the New Testament are still devoted to the pursuit of righteous living. Some passages indicate that doing so is proof of our acceptance of Lord Jesus’ Sacrifice and our devotion to live for Him, while others indicates that God shows special favor to those who lead more righteous lives as opposed to those who lead less righteous ones.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:22-27)

Light dawns in the darkness for the upright;
    he is gracious, merciful, and righteous.
It is well with the man who deals generously and lends;
    who conducts his affairs with justice.
For the righteous will never be moved;
    he will be remembered forever.
He is not afraid of bad news;
    his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.
His heart is steady; he will not be afraid,
    until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.” (Psalm 112:4-8)

And we need only look around our own congregations to easily see that some people donate more, some give more of their time, some praise louder, some press on through tougher challenges, and some speak out more boldly than others. In spite of the idea that, as sinners, we are all equal in God’s sight, there’s much external evidence to give reason to believe that some Christians are “better” than others.

And when people start believing that, naturally what happens next is they start feeling ashamed. After all, most of us can look at, say, Mother Theresa and then look at our own lives, and start realizing there doesn’t seem to be much comparison. We may start wondering how we can call ourselves Christian when people like that walk around far more righteously, more boldly, and seemingly more devoted to God. In the worst cases and in our darkest moments, we may start to question how God can really love us compared to those people as we seem to be so much less and have so little of “what he’s looking for”, and we may feel we need to start doing external acts of our own to start to measure up to those standards and be someone more like the person God wants.

While regular self-evaluation is an important part of any Christian lifestyle, as is the need to challenge ourselves to be bolder and to step out and do greater things for Christ, it’s important that we don’t fall into the trap of starting to believe these works make us greater or lesser in the eyes of God. That’s, as King Solomon once said, meaningless and chasing after wind (Ecclesiastes 1:14). We can’t do anything through our own actions to elevate our status before God. Only the Sacrifice of our Savior could accomplish that. However, as a result of what He did, we are now considered sons and daughters of God (Galatians 4:5-7). Christ’s Sacrifice makes us perfect and without blemish before him. That was all the work of our Lord without any input from us.

What we do now is the result of a desire to live for Him and to become more perfect/complete as He is. It comes from a growing relationship and affection for God and his heart and a desire to be as loving and gracious as he is. It’s nurtured by developing greater trust and faith in God to surpass all trials and tribulations and to do great things in His name. Therefore, doing “greater works” is not so much from greater effort on our part but instead having more faith in God’s own sovereign power and the willingness to let it act through us.

Always strive to live in greater harmony with his Will, but do not think your salvation is key upon it, and get the mindset of God just sitting there waiting to brush you off into condemnation for not “living up to expectations”. Rather, learn to see God as someone encouraging and empowering us to succeed in all the plans he has in mind for us.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you for the blessed Sacrifice of our Lord, Jesus Christ, who has made us blameless in your sight and your own sons and daughters. When discouragement comes upon me of not being able to “live up” to your expectations, let me always cling to the absolutely unchanging and unbreakable reality of the Cross that has already made me clean, and rather than fear your disapproval draw closer to you for strength and encouragement greater than anything I myself am capable of, and through relying on your Will and Power do more than I ever thought possible. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

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My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Season Seven, Episode Nineteen: “It Isn’t the Mane Thing About You”

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Synopsis:

Rarity is pleased (and perhaps a tad smug) to know that Photo Finish will be arriving the next day to photograph her mane for a piece on the most Lovely Manes in Equestria for Vanity Mare, and is busy going about town getting various things ready to accent her look. One of her errands, however, takes her to Sugarcube Corner, where Pinkie Pie accidentally gets a large quantity of silly string stuck all over the shop and in her mane. Both head out to Zecora for her to make a remover for Pinkie and a special shampoo for Rarity. Unfortunately, both potions are identical in appearance and in identical unmarked bottles, and Rarity grabs the wrong one by mistake and totally butchers her mane as a result. She’s immediately in anguish at the loss of her prized mane, and is so ashamed of the loss that she purposely covers herself up and acts quieter in public, which in turn causes other ponies to ignore her and make her even more miserable. After going to all of her friends for help in getting a solution but finding none other than to wait for her mane to grow back, she cancels the photo shoot and locks herself in her boutique to wallow in self-pity and feelings that she’s nothing without her mane. However, her friends stage an “intervention” and remind her about everything she is and how talented her gift of inspiration is, and that none of that has anything to do with her mane. Encouraged by them, Rarity styles what’s left of her mane and takes on a “punk” style just as eye-catching and stunning as her previous one, and soon shows it off to the whole town. Months later, after Rarity’s mane has grown back, the girls encourage her to read the Lovely Manes article in Vanity Mare in spite of what happened, and she’s stunned to see she was featured in the story after all. It turns out the girls got her to photograph her and her ability to “shine from the inside out”, featuring that as the main story instead. Rarity is left speechless by the gesture, but her style speaks for her as ponies all over Ponyville have adopted the same punk mane style.

Review:

As you may expect, I’m a bit biased in favor of this episode as Rarity is Best Pony for me. Nevertheless, most would agree this is a great Rarity episode.

About the only negative about it is how bad the residents of Equestria get. While most people give the prize for worst acting ponies to those in “Fame and Misfortune”, in that one it was hammed up for the lesson of the episode. In this one, the ponies get about as bad as they were in Season Two’s “Putting Your Hoof Down”, which is to say thoughtlessly and selfishly treating all other ponies that aren’t them like dirt in the middle of the episode. Especially the couch and quill salespony (Davenport) who simply lets the highest bidder claim Rarity’s custom-made couch (I think I see why his sales are so low… :()

However, on second viewing, part of the reason for Rarity’s poor treatment was her own reaction. She was trying to hide and wasn’t speaking up as much as she should have. She basically became a self-fulfilling prophecy by wallowing in her own insecurity, which was a minor lesson in and of its own.

The rest of the episode had a lot to like, though. Like any good Rarity episode, it was more dialogue and drama-heavy rather than action orientated, although this one had a bit more action with the various attempts to replace Rarity’s mane. Once again, it served as an episode where Starlight Glimmer was on the “same level” as the rest of the Mane Six. Considering the fact she wasn’t a contributor to the Friendship Journal in “Fame and Misfortune”, this is probably the first true episode where she’s “one of the gang”, especially during the intervention with Rarity during the climax. And, of course, “Raripunk” drove the fandom wild. Storms of fanart immediately began to pour out.

If you’re a bit of a cynic, you might pick on the moral of this episode, which is about radiating inner beauty even if unable to show outer beauty. After all, Rarity isn’t ugly at all in the end. However, you have to keep in mind that Rarity’s virtue is Inspiration. It was highlighted again and again throughout the episode how Rarity is able to be inspired by anything and make it beautiful and successful. Naturally, she would be able to take even a butchered mane like that and still make herself fabulous. She could have done that a lot earlier if she had remembered herself and not focused so much on what she didn’t have. That was the ultimate point of the episode. The title and its pun are perfectly suited to the moral.

All in all, a very nice episode with some very excellent art and a memorable rendition of the most fabulous unicorn in Equestria.

Fun Facts:

Apple Bloom and Burnt Oak are talking in the background in the beginning.

While Rarity’s element ended up being “Generosity”, that was only because the people behind the show feared the target audience wouldn’t understand “Inspiration”. In spite of that, the show has always been quick to point out that inspiration is clearly as part of Rarity’s personality, and in Season Seven they seemed to move away from the “generosity” and toward “inspiration” (especially with Mistmane’s own Pillar, Beauty, which gives rise to Inspiration rather than Generosity).

Rarity is buying a couch from the “Quills and Couches” salespony from “Owl’s Well That Ends Well”. Sure enough, his store sells nothing but quills and couches.

Pinkie Pie is using silly string in this episode, which was big for years in the 90s but ended up being a mess and highly flammable, which was bad as it was often used at parties. There was a gag in the movie “Big” in which Tom Hanks’ character and his friend pretend to sneeze with cans of silly string.

One of Zecora’s two appearances this season. Back-to-back appearances, no less.

Usually whenever the show cuts to a commercial, it plays a chime at the transition to black. In this episode, when Rarity sees what’s left of her mane, the only sound is her screaming with no background score.

The return of Rarity’s shroud from “Green Isn’t Your Color”. 😛 Also the return of rude Ponyville residents being cutthroat in the marketplace from “Putting Your Hoof Down”. 😦

Twilight’s spell stole a mane from the Crystal Empire. Apparently, their manes are crystalline as well. :O

Ponies can somehow milk cows with hooves…which means they not only milk cows but drink their milk…in spite of the fact cows are sentient as seen back in “Applebuck Season”… So many questions.

Needless to say…”Punk Rarity” or “Raripunk” was extremely popular. It worked in perfectly with her killer guitar solo back in “Honest Apple”. I think Rarity has a surprisingly “edgy” side. 🙂

While most episodes take place over two days, this one probably had the largest span of time ever, accounting for the months it took for Rarity’s mane to grow back.

While Photo Finish is mentioned multiple times and is voiced by Tabitha St. Germain, the same as Rarity, she never actually appears in this episode aside from a picture in the magazine.

Derpy adopted the punk mane style.

Rating:

3.5 Stars out of 5

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Season Seven, Episode Eighteen: “Daring Done?”

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Synopsis:

Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie get a shock reading the local news when they discover A.K. Yearling is retiring from writing, which means her alter ego, Daring Do, is retiring from adventuring. When they visit her to confront her, they find she’s sunk in depression on receiving a large amount of hate mail from the residents of the towns she passed through on her last adventure in Southern Equestria. Because her adventuring leaves a large amount of collateral damage in her wake, she’s seen as a menace by Equestrians who have never read her books or known any of the good causes she was trying to accomplish. To prove to her that most of the locals appreciate her, Dash and Pinkie take her back to Southern Equestria to talk with the locals and see what they really think about her. That plan soon backfires, as not only do the residents hate the consequences of her action, but a hooded pony keeps whipping up the crowd to think of her as a destructive villain. Things get worse when she is further accused of having stolen the glowpaz jewelry of the local city, which was meant as an offering to the memory of Somnambula–a legendary pegasus whose unfailing hope allowed her to save an ancient prince and send away a Sphinx that once terrorized the land. Dash, angry at his continuous accusations, confronts the hooded pony, and soon discovers it’s actually Dr. Cabelleron. He came to the town intending to steal the glowpaz for himself, but on seeing the bad impression Daring Do had given used it as leverage not only to frame her for the crime but to hopefully dishearten her into quitting all together. Now, however, he captures Dash and ties her up in the same trap that Somnambula crossed ages ago in an attempt to dishearten Daring Do by having her fail to save her friend. Pinkie, however, encourages Daring to have the same hope that Somnambula did and attempt to traverse the trap through a leap of faith. She does so, and as a result succeeds and is able to rescue Dash. The three head back to the village and head off Cabelleron and his goons just as they try to escape with the glowpaz, exposing them to the villagers and causing them to run off in defeat. Daring Do is acclaimed by the town for saving the day, and, before making good on fixing her collateral damage, she thanks Pinkie and Dash for reminding her never to give up hope.

Review:

“Daring Do Episodes” are not my favorite ones in the series. It was fine in her original appearance in “Read It and Weep”, but once she became an actual “real” character I never was quite grabbed by it. It doesn’t help that her other two episodes, “Daring Don’t” and “Stranger Than Fanfiction”, had an element of a surreal and meta vibe to them that made the entire thing seem to not reflect reality as it pertained to the show. This one, however, got me particularly unhappy as it had the trappings of a mess.

There’s a lot of plot to mix into this one and still seem like all of the same story, and I’m not sure it works out. On one hand, it’s supposed to be a story about Daring Do interacting with Rainbow Dash and getting her confidence back after being disheartened by a bad experience. And if that would have been the stand-alone moral, it probably would have been good. It was something not really explored yet on the show, but has been around since the creation of Spider-Man as a comic superhero…what does a hero do when the only side of them the world ever sees is their negative consequences?

Yet this was also another entry in the second-half-of-the-season narrative leading up to the season finale that needed to introduce Somnambula. That was far more difficult to utilize. The two biggest fans of Daring Do out of the Mane Six are Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash. Suddenly, however, Pinkie Pie has to become a huge one so that she can tag along in this episode, so that she can hear the story of Somnambula, so that she can in turn idolize her by the time the season finale comes around. Working those morals into the story was far harder. Unlike “Campfire Tales”, which was just an opportunity for some nice little pony stories, this one had to tie into the main plot.

Unfortunately, I don’t think it did too well. While there are parts of Somnambula’s story that are intriguing, walking across a rope bridge blindfolded isn’t the greatest challenge in the world. It is a challenge, true, but not necessarily one that requires hope so much as careful footing…especially since all she had to do was walk in a straight line. I’m assuming the bridge wasn’t supposed to be there originally and Somnambula had to make the same leap of faith Pinkie later did, but that it was omitted because it would have looked as if the Sphinx was just up front trying to trick her rather than give a challenge she couldn’t hope to succeed at. Not to say the Sphinx couldn’t have done that, but if the Sphinx had been that devious then there would have been no reason for it to honor losing the challenge. Plus, the focus of this episode, as it is Daring Do, is mostly Rainbow Dash and Daring Do. Pinkie Pie is more of an afterthought. And I don’t really get the sense as to why she would have gravitated to Somnambula more than anyone else.

Aside from that, this episode had been leaked on Youtube like so many others and I knew from pictures on recommended videos that Dr. Cabelleron would show himself in this episode. Nevertheless, I think I would have guessed rather quickly who the hooded pony was, and once that happened a lot of the ending was telegraphed. Finally, the ending moral as a result of all of this tried to jam three lessons into one: (1) not getting discouraged when things go wrong, (2) making things right when something happens due to your own irresponsibility, and (3) never lose hope. Smashing them all together didn’t really seem to work out too well.

Unlike other Daring Do episodes, this one doesn’t have any gaping plot holes so I can’t mark it down for that, but due to everything being put into it and forcing Pinkie and Somnambula into the whole thing, I don’t find it too great otherwise.

Fun Facts:

The timing wasn’t exactly perfect on this episode’s release along with the comic. Legends of Magic #5 was the first to reference Somnambula as well as the events of this episode, but it came out on September 6, 2017. This episode wouldn’t premiere in the United States until September 9, 2017. While this is something more of a fact for my review of that issue, Somnambula is portrayed in that comic as being more similar to Pinkie Pie, whereas in this episode (and “Shadow Play”) she seemed more solemn and mature.

The paper-selling pony at the beginning is a palette swap of Featherweight’s unusual design. A bit unconventional…

The “noodle story” is apparently on the same page as A.K. Yearling’s news.

Southern Equestria is apparently a bit more backward and isolated than Northern Equestria. Based on existing maps, the Badlands likely separate the two halves from each other.

For the source of the name Somnambula, a “somnambulist” is a sleepwalker…i.e. one who walks with their eyes closed. It’s a bit of a stretch to Somnambula’s story, but eh.

The “Get-On Inn” was featured in the novel “Daring Do and the Marked Thief of Marapore”. The innkeeper is also a character introduced in that story, Mrs. Trotsworth. She doesn’t get mentioned by name in the episode but her name appears in the credits.

A true sphinx should have the body of a lion and the head of a man, but in keeping with ponies being the dominant sentient life in Equestria, the Sphinx in Somnambula’s tale has the head of a pony as well as wings of a pegasus.

Interesting animation goof. In the “hieroglyphic” style of Somnambula’s story, the Pharaoh appears to be female, but in the fully animated portions there’s a brief shot of the Pharaoh in the background with an Egyptian beard, indicating the Pharaoh is male. There’s a chance the gender was switched midway through production of the episode and never corrected.

The deal with the “leap of faith” is similar to a scene in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” with the final Grail Challenge.

As an interesting note about which member of the Mane Six idolizes which member of the Pillars of Old Equestria, most of the Mane Six idolize someone who is their same species but Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy change it up. Pinkie Pie idolizes a pegasus while Fluttershy idolizes an earth pony. I thought that was an interesting detail if intentional, as there’s no reason a pony of one species can’t look up to a pony of a different species, but based on how this episode went I tend to wonder if it was a last-minute goof up in the original plan and had no time to change it.

Although Somnambula has speaking lines in the legend, the narrator “speaks for her”. We wouldn’t hear Somnambula’s actual voice until the season finale.

Rating:

2.5 Stars out of 5

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Season Seven, Episode Seventeen: “To Change a Changeling”

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Synopsis:

Starlight Glimmer and Trixie are heading out to the Changelings’ Hive to give Thorax a surprise visit and encouragement with his duties as their leader, but soon after arrival are attacked and captured by a particularly vicious and aggressive Changeling still in his “monstrous” form. On being brought before Thorax and released, he explains that Changeling was his brother Pharynx and is the only remaining Changeling who has refused to accept the new way of life and metamorphosis. Pharynx hates the new way of Changeling life, accusing of it having made the Changelings soft, weak, and defenseless against attackers, and is constantly expressing his hate through outright hostility to the other Changelings. As a result, the entire hive (except Thorax) wants him kicked out to not have to deal with his aggression and demeanor. Starlight and Trixie make an attempt to reach out to Pharynx, but he only responds with insults and threats, and as a result in what they think is a private meeting they reason that what’s best is if Thorax assents to the hive’s demands before not doing so undermines his authority. Yet when they go to tell Thorax the news, he shares how, in spite of his hostile and fight-prone nature, as a nymph, even though he always thought Thorax was too soft, Pharynx genuinely did care about him and wouldn’t let the other Changelings pick on him. This prompts Starlight to get the idea to disrupt Thorax’s plan to lead a Dread Maulwurf, a massive monster that has been lured to the hive ever since they allowed plants to start growing there again, away from the hive and instead straight to it so that Pharynx can save the day and prompt him and the hive to reconcile. Unfortunately, Pharynx was changed into a boulder during Starlight and Trixie’s discussion and left the hive of his own accord, so not only is the hive unprotected but Pharynx is now out on his own with the monster abroad. Thorax, Starlight, and Trixie run out to find him, only to find him battling the Dread Maulwurf alone. The three jump in and are soon joined by the rest of the hive, but due to being out of practice they are unable to win, so Pharynx instead works with Thorax to trick the monster into hitting itself with its own attacks, until it’s beaten up enough to retreat. Following the encounter, Pharynx grudgingly admits to the whole hive the reason he attacked the Maulwurf alone was that in spite of how much he dislikes how the Changelings have changed, he still cares about them although he hates expressing it. This, in turn, gets the other Changelings to admit that they still want him around on realizing that they still have a need to defend themselves even if they aren’t “picking fights” anymore, and they’re ready to welcome him back. The mutual understanding allows Pharynx to metamorphosis into a “lesser” King Changeling himself, and Starlight, facing Thorax’s angry glares at how she nearly doomed the hive through her plan, quickly asks Pharynx to relate the tale of how he used to make Thorax “hit himself” to divert attention.

Review:

This is another one of those episodes I liked more than most of the fandom, or so I get the impression. To me, it’s another notable achievement for MLP:FIM; namely that it was gutsy enough to handle a subject that both adults and children are increasingly being called to consider “open and shut, end of discussion”.

I get the sense that a lot of fans are still rather ambivalent toward “the new Changelings”. We’re nearly to the point where we’ve seen more of them in their current status than we have when they were still monsters, but even so there’s still an amount of “adjustment” on the part of the audience. People have talked about how Sunset Shimmer changed so much that she’s practically a different character, but it’s hard to imagine the “nice” Changelings ever having been anything like their monster versions. Not just due to the pleasant and colorful designs, but their “cute” voices that sound like Smurfs, their almost child-like and innocent demeanor, and their more “pony way of acting”. There’s a number of moments in this episode in which Changelings actually get angry, and yet even those seem more subdued and gentle. The change was both rather sharp and dramatic. It’s sort of understandable, nevertheless. Thorax is the only Changeling who was pretty much the same “before and after”, but with his character that made sense. The other Changelings who underwent metamorphosis might have undergone internal as well as external changes to become essentially a different species. Nevertheless, in doing this, the show eliminated the one species they could have used as “fodder villains” (similar to how JRR Tolkien created orcs just to be fodder for army battles), and some fans may wonder why we need the Changeling race at all anymore. I don’t mind them myself, especially if it keeps Thorax in the show. There’s still ambivalence to him too, but I like him because, like I said, one of the few male regulars.

As I said before, I like the Starlight/Trixie dynamic, but in this episode I can understand how people who don’t really care for Trixie might have disliked it. Trixie didn’t really have anything to contribute to this episode other than to bounce dialogue off of Starlight, so most of her entertainment value came from her “being Trixie”. If you don’t go for that sort of thing, yeah, I can see how this episode might have gotten on your nerves. As I do, I thought it was ok.

Yet what really stands out to me in this episode is the moral. Most children shows that try to “teach lessons” teach good ones but, occasionally, when confronted with a difficult topic in which the lesson could be somewhat ambiguous opt for the “easy answer”. MLP:FIM seems to be doing that a lot with villains, in that in most cases it’s possible to win without a straight fight, instead usually befriending them or reforming them in some way. The show is called “friendship is magic”, so it makes sense that this would usually work. However, it won’t always work, especially in real life. To paraphrase Asriel Dreemurr in “Undertale”, you won’t always be able to solve your problems by “being nice”. And that’s something that was rather refreshingly realistic in this episode. As I mentioned in “Triple Threat”, King Thorax is the polar opposite of Queen Chrysalis in how he decides to rule the Changelings. It makes him a better ruler, but not necessarily the best ruler, although unlike her he’s willing to change and improve how he does things. Yet for right now, his idea of being gentle and pursuing things like flowers, plants, and art is better in most situations, but not all.

As was expressed in the Friends Forever issue of Prince Blueblood & Shining Armor, just because an individual is personally a jerk doesn’t make them “wrong” about certain things. Pharynx was definitely a jerk in this one, going out of his way to be hostile not only to Starlight and Trixie but to his own hive. But not only, deep down inside, did he care, but he was also right in the end. The Changelings had gotten too soft. They needed to maintain some of their fighting instincts for personal protection.

The problem is how the Changelings reacted. Rather than compromise, they were so opposed to the idea of maintaining any level of battle-readiness that they simply fixated all on Pharynx’s behavior. They treated this as akin to wanting to become vicious and warlike again and maintained that not being vicious and warlike is identical to not having any threats to look out for. Most of all, they said a key phrase…that having Pharynx around makes them “uncomfortable”.

This is a reflection of how American society is starting to react nowadays. Pundits and political groups make everything one of two choices, especially on the Internet. They keep looking at one person’s stance and then go immediately to a straw man. They keep refusing to see any validity in the other person’s viewpoint. Instead, now we’re beginning to treat even the existence of a divergent viewpoint as itself being an act of aggression or even hate. People are acting more and more like the Changelings in this episode and trying to alter society such that discussion of alternate views is itself intolerable and banned from public, and that one who does have an alternate view should not even be allowed in society. My dad went to the YMCA for over twenty years for weightlifting, donating money and equipment to them and even having his name put on the wall as one of their contributors. He was banned from it because he wore a Trump shirt and the people working there didn’t like having to look at it. Surveys are showing more and more young voters believe Freedom of Speech should not be allowed on certain topics. These things should scare people and scare them a lot.

So all in all, I thought this was one of the better episodes to address that, and I compliment it for doing so. While in general I felt the second half of Season Seven wasn’t as good as the first, this was one of the higher points and better lessons.

Fun Facts:

This episode was a milestone although many fans didn’t realize it. This is the first episode not to feature a single character from the series pilot. However, Ashleigh Ball (Rainbow Dash & Applejack) still provides voices for a couple of the Changelings.

On the second viewing, I noticed Thorax does have a throne. It’s made of trees, obviously. (Apparently plants are filled with lots of love and feeding on love kills them…?)

I always thought it was weird that Thorax calls out Pharynx specifically as his “brother” when, based on what we saw back in “The Times They Are a Changeling”, it looks like pretty much all of them should be siblings based on coming from the same mother and clutch of eggs.

During Starlight’s speech to the Changelings, you really get to see their diversity. Not all have “wing tails”, some have different wing coverlets, and some are virtually identical to Thorax except lacking extra horns. The speech itself is somewhat similar in presentation to the infamous “Braveheart” speech, with Starlight continuously moving back and forth to hit everyone.

Similar to “Triple Threat”, this episode confirms that Changelings take on physical characteristics of what they turn into, making them rather dangerous when they want to be.

The Dread Maulwurf’s unusual nose is similar to the Star-Nosed Mole.

While Pharynx transformed also looks like a “King Changeling” and he’s taller than other Changelings, he’s smaller than Thorax with shorter horns. In other words, Thorax and Pharynx have the same design dynamic as Celestia and Luna…only Pharynx is the “older” sibling.

Rating:

3.5 Stars out of 5

 

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Season Seven, Episode Sixteen: “Campfire Tales”

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Synopsis:

Applejack, Rarity, and Rainbow Dash are out with their respective “little sisters”, namely Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo, on another camping trip to Winsome Falls. Unfortunately, their campground is attacked by a group of ravenous “flyders”, forcing them to take shelter in a cave and eventually getting trapped there. As the CMCs consider the trip a disaster, the older girls tell them three campfire stories to cheer them up. Applejack tells her favorite legend of an earth pony named Rockhoof, who by strength of will and determination single-hoovedly saved his home village from a volcanic eruption. Rarity tells her favorite legend of a unicorn named Mistmane, who sacrificed her physical beauty for the sake of restoring her own friend’s lost beauty and the ability to spread it throughout Equestria. Rainbow Dash tells her favorite legend of a pegasus named Flash Magnus, who bravely risked his own life to act as a diversion for dragons to save his comrades. When the stories are done, the girls are unable to get out the way they came in and instead find a new exit through the rear of the cave that leads straight to Winsome Falls. Encouraged by the stories, in spite of having lost their original campground the girls decide to make the most of their trip anyway.

Review:

And with this episode, we got the kickoff of probably the strangest thing the series has done so far. Keying off of the IDW Comic’s high popularity, Hasbro actually worked hand-in-hand with them this season not only to produce the various movie prequels but to create the “Legends of Magic” arc that introduced and elaborated on the Pillars of Old Equestria. For several months, both the TV series and the comic ran with parallel stories, gradually building up to the Season Seven finale. The comic arc ran a continuous story of Sunburst investigating the ancient library of Starswirl the Bearded and discovering stories about the Pillars of Old Equestria. In turn, the show would debut an episode featuring that character having been introduced in the comic.

From a personal standpoint? It sounded like something that should have been pretty awesome. In reality, I didn’t find it too intriguing. I’ll be honest…none of the Pillars of Old Equestria are that noteworthy to me. A huge problem was made with them that drags them down throughout this entire arc, and it boils down to forgetting what the show was all about.

Applejack embodies Honesty. That means she always tells the truth, and it also means that she can be pushy and mean because she always gives her opinion and says it’s the right one. Rarity embodies Inspiration and Generosity. That means she is always willing to share beauty with others, but it also means she fixates too much on external beauty at times and lets herself get taken advantage of. Rainbow Dash embodies Loyalty. That means she always sticks up for her friends, but in sticking up for them she’s learned to love the nature of a competition as well as winning and has gotten an ego.

By comparison, Rockhoof embodies Strength and that’s it. Mistmane embodies Beauty and that’s it. Flash Magnus embodies Bravery and that’s it. None of them have any negative characteristics, and because of that…they’re legends on a page, not real characters like the rest of those in the series are. What made the girls so great was because they were so well developed and rounded, to the point where their own virtues could be flaws in the right situation, that you could admire them no matter what situation or plot they were in. The Pillars of Equestria only get one “good side” and that’s it. The only one who would eventually be shown to have a negative side would have that be his only side, and the same problem but in the opposite direction. More on this later, but…it’s a general complaint for now.

This episode in particular, though?

It’s got more than a few flaws. For the overarching narrative, it’s not too bad although there is one huge one. Scootaloo has been Flanderized from how she appeared in “Sleepless in Ponyville”, now being scared of everything even in broad daylight. Scootaloo wasn’t even scared in that episode until she heard her first scary story. Yet aside from that, the six girls don’t do much this episode other than set up reasons to hear the other stories.

As for the stories themselves…none of them were terribly great to me. Honestly, I found the best part of all of them was the art design. It looks like the animators really had a chance to be creative with the Pillars of Equestria and the associated worlds they are from.

In terms of the content, though, they didn’t really grab me. Rockhoof’s was considered the worst by at least a few fans and…I’m kind of one of them. It’s basically perpetuating the immortal myth that so long as you just simply “believe in your dreams” and “be determined” you’ll always succeed. In reality you usually need to put in a ton of effort and hard work to reach your goals, and even then there’s a good amount of talent that needs to be there usually. Bottom line, you’re not going to just get the best possible outcome handed to you because you believed in it.

Flash Magnus’ was better, but still nothing too wonderful. In his case, bravery in the face of almost certain destruction was emphasized, and it is story that has happened many times in history from many brave men and women. Situations where they knew they were likely doomed to die but they had a chance to save others if they risked their lives. Yet in real life, you usually don’t get magic shields to help, and many of those stories end up with people making the supreme sacrifice rather than achieving eternal glory. Still, many times people do survive and get Medals of Honor, and so this one was better at least, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen characters we like more and understand better having done before.

Mistmane’s was the best of the set, as it featured, a bit surprisingly, a character making a permanent sacrifice. That’s actually a little surprising for the show, and it was a decent lesson to show kids that true beauty comes from within and not all stories have a perfect ending. It had more interpersonal drama than the other two stories as well, which were more tales of one lone hero standing up against forces of nature when everyone else was ready to give up. The design was nice too. Yet in spite of all of that…I dunno. Something seemed so “bare bones” about all of it. Maybe if we would have had more of a chance to get into the characters and the setting it would have left more of an impact.

It’s not a bad episode by any means. But with something mixing the IDW Comic, which is prone to taking more content risks than the show does, in a grand arc with the actual show, I expected something with a bit more punch. Instead, to me, it was something that was more, like most of the second half of Season Seven, solidly average.

Fun Facts:

This episode continues the new tradition started way back in Season Three’s “Sleepless in Ponyville”.

I’m sorry…because Equestria actually has swarms of flying spiders, it is the most terrifying place in existence, friendship or not. 😦

Sweetie Belle has mastered how to use magic shields.

Rainbow Dash can carry fire. O_o

As mentioned in the review, this episode marked the start of the build up not only to the Season Seven finale but was part of an arc that tied into the IDW Comic’s “Legends of Magic” series. The first issue of the “Legends of Magic” series was put out on April 12, 2017, several months before this episode would air. However, this arc officially kicked off with Friendship is Magic #50, the first issue in the “Chaos Theory” storyline, that was published on February 1, 2017, which introduced Shadow Lock who would later turn out to be a descendant of Stygian. At the time the episode debuted, only four issues had been published introducing four of the Pillars of Equestria: Starswirl the Bearded (in his appearance he would take on the show in spite of earlier renditions), Rockhoof, Mistmane, and Flash Magnus.

Each of the Pillars of Equestria corresponds to a different nationality. Rockhoof is Norwegian-based. Mistmane is Chinese-based. Flash Magnus is Roman-based.

In spite of being tied in with the IDW Comic, fans of both were quick to notice a discrepancy. Rockhoof’s story in “Legends of Magic” #2 indicated that he gained his incredible power through hard work, determination, and sticking to his routine no matter what. In this episode, however…he just sort of gets it magically bestowed on him for plot convenience. :/

Rockhoof does not get any lines in his story. It wouldn’t be until “Shadow Play” that we would hear his voice.

Interestingly enough, in this episode Rainbow Dash mentions how it would be impossible even for her to dig the trench in time, yet in “Shadow Play” there would be an allusion that Applejack herself might actually be physically a match for Rockhoof. 😛

Rarity somehow makes shadow puppets with her hooves… Not only that, they’re of “Ballerina Twilight” from “A Royal Problem”.

Both Mistmane and the other Chinese-inspired unicorns in her story have somewhat unique physical features, in that their ears are more pointed and their horns are recurved. It’s possible that she and the other Chinese-inspired unicorns are supposed to be “Kirins”, the Chinese unicorn, although those are usually depicted with long necks.

Mistmane has the unusual and unique design choice of having two-toned legs, ear tips, and a horn that blend into another color rather than having a clear demarcation.

It’s entirely possible that one of the dragons in Flash Magnus’ tale was Dragonlord Torch, not just in appearance but actual identity.

Rating:

2.5 Stars out of 5

My Little Devotional #158: “To Whom It May Concern: Nevermind”

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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Secrets and Pies”

Rainbow Dash doesn’t care for pie. Nothing’s necessarily wrong with that, as everyone has things they like and things they don’t like. However, what complicates this particular instance is the fact Pinkie Pie likes making Rainbow Dash pies. And rather than telling Pinkie that she doesn’t like them, Dash is so scared of offending her and hurting her feelings that she keeps graciously accepting them, complimenting her highly, and then disposing of them at the first convenience. In not telling Pinkie that she hates pies, she figured she was doing her a favor by sparing her feelings.

As it turned out, the opposite ended up being true. As someone who himself is an amateur writer, I can tell you that it would be extremely infuriating, frustrating, and even disheartening to have someone tell me for years that they loved my work only to find that they hated it the whole time and were just trying to spare my feelings. That’s because praise has the side effect of making one try harder to please the fan even more next time, even to the point of devoting extra time and effort to it, because they believe it makes them happy. Not to mention it has them take more pride in their work than they might otherwise. And so it was for Pinkie Pie. As the girls point out, Rainbow Dash set out to keep from hurting Pinkie Pie’s feelings by omitting the truth, but she ended up hurting them even worse.

There comes a time in everyone’s lives in which they believe that a “little white lie” or simply omitting the truth would be preferable to sharing it. And in some cases that might very well be true, but not most. Like I said before, I’d want someone to be honest with my work. Even if they were “brutally honest”, I might sulk or fume for a while, but I’d eventually realize what they were saying and realizing it was something I needed to change. Obviously when there’s a situation of abuse, whether physical, mental, or sexual, the last thing to do when asked about it is to omit the truth. And if we see someone indulging in self-destructive behavior, trying to ignore it or excuse it won’t do anyone any good in the long run, even if, as I have said in earlier devotionals, we run the risk of alienating a loved one or “driving them to do something worse”.

But naturally, for the Christian, the biggest truth we can’t afford to omit and also the hardest one to share is the truth of God’s Judgment of the World (Romans 3:23; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Matthew 25:31-46) and the saving hope of the Gospel message (John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9).

I’ve heard the sermon many times before about the importance of sharing the Gospel, and likening it to seeing someone about to walk off of a cliff. If you saw someone about to do that who was in mortal peril, you’d yell and tell them about it, wouldn’t you? That’s true, and it is important, but it omits a few key details. To be more applicable to real life and the Gospel, you’d first have to convince the person that there’s a cliff there at all, and that the way you’re taking is the only safe way to avoid the cliff out of all the other paths out there…each of which you claim all lead over it. Then you’d have to deal with the person shouting back at you that you’re just trying to get them to go on your path because you like exploiting people and controlling them, forcing them to go down your trail and no other one. Or perhaps they’d argue about how you have the nerve to tell them to walk away from the cliff when they’ve seen you put your feet over the edge many times before. Or how you know that your path is the safe one and all you can say is you have a sign that says it’s the right one and all the other signs out there are lying.

In my darker moments, I’ve asked myself before if the greatest thing a Christian can do really is convince people God loves them or convince them that they should be scared of him. Like it or not, all of us became Christians at least partially out of fear of the Final Judgment. There’s a good chance most of us wouldn’t be Christians otherwise. It’s not a pleasant thing to think about or dwell on, and it certainly isn’t something we want to go around blasting people in the face with (unless, perhaps, we’re one of those campus soapbox preachers). Common sense and human nature tells us we’ll make some people irritable, angry, or hostile…not just to our message but to us as individuals. In some cases, we might even end up driving away people or getting ourselves in trouble with the law, in public, at work, or even at home. After all, the Bible cautions that the Gospel will make us the enemies of most.

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn

“‘a man against his father,

    a daughter against her mother,

a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—

    a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’

“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:34-39)

However, as this episode pointed out, omitting the truth can be even worse, and no more so in the case of the Gospel. We profess that Jesus Christ is the only hope for a doomed world and the only way to salvation from sins. “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”” (John 14:6) “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) No amount of other good works or other religion can replace Him. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) We believe that and attest to that, and we have accepted and received it to become Christians ourselves. And that sort of message is too important not to share.

We may not all be called to be mass evangelists or preachers, but we are all Christians, and we do all have a story to tell. And while the time may come where we are called to minister or witness to a stranger we meet and we need to be ready and waiting for that, we all have our own sphere. Our family, our friends, our co-workers, and our children. The people who know us personally and we know personally. These are the folks who most likely would hear us telling them to “watch out for a cliff” and realize we wouldn’t be telling them to if there wasn’t one there.

Furthermore, don’t think that God just tells us to do something like this and then sits back and waits for us to mess it up. On the contrary.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10) “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17) “I can do all this through him(Christ) who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

Not only does he not abandon us when he asks us to do something, but he wants us to call on him for help. He wants to grant us power and ability that we don’t have ourselves so that he may be glorified through us. (2 Corinthians 2:9) Don’t lose sight of that.

Lastly, if you happen to be a non-Christian and you are interested in learning more about this “warning message”, you can learn more here: Click here.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you for your saving message of the Gospel and the glorious sacrifice of your Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ; by which mankind can find salvation from its sins. Thank you for allowing me the providence to have had that message shared with me. I commit myself to you today and to the great Commission Lord Jesus gave us all  (Matthew 28:16-20). Please help me to so live that I may share the Gospel with every life I touch both today and for the rest of my life. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Season Seven, Episode Fifteen: “Triple Threat”

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Synopsis:

As the official Friendship Ambassador of Equestria to the dragons, Spike is hosting a big event in Ponyville for Dragonlord Ember, who has been dealing with increasing divisiveness among the dragons and wants his advice with how to be better at friendship. Unfortunately, as he’s scrambling to make things perfect, he forgot that he invited King Thorax over on the same day to talk about problems he’s having with Changelings that are refusing to follow his leadership. Spike fears that since the two are so different (Ember being assertive, self-confident, and aggressive and Thorax being gentle, uncertain, and meek) they’ll hate each other and spur a Changeling/dragon war, so he ropes in Twilight Sparkle and Starlight Glimmer to help him keep them apart all day but, as a result, neglects both of them. Things are made worse when the Cutie Map activates again, this time summoning Spike to fix a friendship problem in Ponyville itself. Eventually his attempts to keep them apart while trying to find the friendship problem to solve break down and they learn how he was purposely trying to keep them apart, angering both of them (Ember because this shows how bad Spike thought she would be at friendship; Thorax because this shows how Spike doesn’t respect him any more than his own Changelings) and causing them to fly off. However, while away they meet up again, and end up helping each other with their own problems: Ember shows Thorax how to be a more assertive leader while Thorax convinces Ember that respecting the feelings of her own subjects will unite rather than divide them. Both of them confront Spike more formally about their complaints and, on seeing how the two helped each other, apologizes and says he should have realized they could have gotten along the whole time. This causes Spike’s scales to glow, and he rejoices that he fixed a friendship problem…although Starlight points out he himself was the one with the friendship problem. The episode closes with the three new friends having fun at the event together.

Review:

Oh, Spike, Spike, Spike… Whatever are we going to do with you and your ability to ruin the momentum of a season?

All things considered, this episode wasn’t too bad. There have been far worse Spike episodes. People are kind of ambivalent toward both Thorax and Ember, but I appreciate both of them.

As I said before, I like that Thorax is one of the few male regulars on the show. And while a lot of people don’t care for his “King Bugmoose” look, I appreciate a lot of the little animation details that go into him. I also kind of like what they did with him in Season Seven. It would have been one thing to simply say because Thorax was the “nice” Changeling that everything would be all sunshine and rainbows with him in charge. Yet MLP:FIM is more intelligent than that, and Season Seven illustrated that “being nice” isn’t the only element required for a good leader. His gentleness and timidity can be detriments at times. Does that mean he’s a poor leader? It means he’s better than Queen Chrysalis, but not necessarily the best possible leader. Unlike her, however, he can adapt and improve himself with time.

As for Ember, yeah…she’s probably the one solid tsundere on the show. 😛 And in occasional doses like this, I think that makes her an interesting character. The mere fact MLP:FIM has a tsundere is again a nod to the young adult audiences who, more exposed to anime, would appreciate that character quality. And I kind of appreciate her. She’s somewhat like a better version of the yaks. She can be too aggressive and mean at times, but she doesn’t degenerate into being a brute. She’s just simply someone who’s not into all that “touchy, feely stuff”.

Since those two dominate the bulk of this episode, they make up for a lot of it. And the two helping each other out with their respective problems is fitting and clever. The one thing I mark this episode down for is Spike, unfortunately. By this point, it’s become pretty obvious that Spike is eternally the Memetic Loser.

I mentioned Season Six had “The Paradox of Starlight Glimmer”. I think that one’s slowly fading as Starlight is very gradually shifting into a role of the rest of the Mane Six. Unfortunately, this episode brought “The Paradox of Spike” to a head for me. This one is far more prevalent and hasn’t changed since the show began:

“Spike can only fix a problem he started.”

“Owl’s Well That Ends Well”, “The Secret of My Excess”, “Just for Sidekicks”, “Inspiration Manifestation”, “Power Ponies”, “Princess Spike”…Spike caused the problem in all of those. He didn’t cause the problem directly in “The Times They Are a Changeling”, but he made it worse. “Gauntlet of Fire” he was pretty much the hero, but it doesn’t change the fact seven seasons in and Spike can’t highlight an episode without ruining everything. That’s the main reason he keeps dragging down episodes. The fact that they called it out here just made things worse.

On rewatching, this episode has enough fun to it to offset it a lot. Not as much as “Power Ponies”, but it does. Yet if you were hoping for an episode to break the normal kind of fare we get with Spike highlighting things, keep searching.

Fun Facts:

After the Eternal Flame singes some of Spike’s scales off, dusting himself off regenerates them. 😛

Being a giant bug, Thorax is attracted to bright lights like the Eternal Flame.

Last season, “Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?” ran after “Slice of Life” and seemed to pick up on a few fandom quirks that had gotten missed. Something similar happens here. Ember can’t tell the difference between Twilight Sparkle and Starlight Glimmer, a notable joke about how Starlight Glimmer was thought to be “Twilight 2” in Season Six and meant to replace her.

I didn’t notice this in “Gauntlet of Fire”, but Ember’s pupils are actually more rounded than Spike’s.

Spike has no Cutie Mark for the Cutie Map. His scales simply glow.

Spike temporarily gains Pinkie Pie’s ability to pop up anywhere.

Ember’s “greeting” in Ponyville brings up memories of Luna in “Luna Eclipsed”.

Derpy’s poor muffin. 😦 At any rate, that’s one thing from “Slice of Life” that’s persisted.

Thorax’s long rambling includes details that came out again in “To Change a Changeling”.

From this episode, it appears that Changelings actually gain the physical attributes of whatever they change into. That’s…pretty useful.

As a nice little detail, Ember’s sneeze lights Thorax’s antlers on fire. He doesn’t seem to notice (or at least let her know he noticed), so Ember blows him out.

Rating:

2.5 Stars out of 5

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Season Seven, Episode Fourteen: “Fame and Misfortune”

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Synopsis:

After breaking up an argument between two filly friends, Toola Roola and Coconut Cream, Twilight Sparkle goes back to her library and digs out her old Journal of Friendship and gets an idea. With Starlight Glimmer’s help, she makes hundreds of copies of it to distribute across Equestria, believing all the friendship lessons she and the girls learned will benefit ponies all over with their own friendships. Soon after, however, everything becomes a disaster. Apple Bloom is only using the book to market her own Cutie Mark related activities, ponies who hate Rarity in the book have driven her to compulsively “stress sew”, everypony won’t stop laughing at Pinkie Pie for thinking everything she does is supposed to be funny, pegasus fillies won’t stop mobbing Rainbow Dash, ponies are accusing Fluttershy of never growing out of her shyness everywhere she goes, and Applejack is overrun by fans who want to “join the Apple Family”. Things continue to get worse until a mob of so-called “fans” are nearly rioting outside the Castle of Friendship, and Twilight is miserable and blames herself for their own outrageous behavior for publishing the journal in the first place. Even when she and the girls confront the crowd, they only rage at each other even more. Feeling hopeless, the girls retreat back into the castle only to have Starlight bring around Toola Roola and Coconut Cream, who both read the journal and had their friendship strengthened as a result of it. Seeing that at least two ponies read and appreciate the journal for what it was trying to be, the girls are encouraged to believe it was worthwhile. They share a “friendship hug” while leaving the raging crowd outside to rant and fume.

Review:

This is another one of those weird ones. This episode got pretty much universal hate from the fans…while I really enjoyed it. For everyone who hates it, heh…I got two things for you. (1) I wonder if you’re missing the point of this episode. (2) Most of the people who hate this episode make me laugh because they don’t realize what they’re doing…essentially becoming the lesson of the episode themselves.

To sum up: if “Slice of Life” was the ultimate love letter to the fans, “Fame and Misfortune” is the ultimate hate mail to the fans. Almost everything that went on with all of the characters in this episode wasn’t meant to make background ponies hateworthy or, in my opinion, to even be considered as canon with the rest of the series. It was for the writers and show creators to vent their frustrations they receive on having to deal with the (often toxic) fandom.

Here’s what I found:

  • Ironically, the show takes a stab at its own original purpose with the CMCs, who decide to use the book to push their idea for a Cutie Mark Summer Camp. Twilight gets unhappy that the book is being used simply to sell a product…which is the whole purpose of “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” to begin with: to sell toys.
  • The ponies who simply get signatures from Twilight Sparkle on their journals before turning them into collectibles is poking fun at the fans who don’t even really care about the show to begin with–they simply buy all the merchandise hoping to sell them for a profit years from now.
  • The two ponies talking at the outdoor cafe represent the “haters” of a fandom: individuals who do absolutely nothing but hate a particular character and, in order to justify that hate, constantly misinterpret everything they say or do as something despicable and loathsome. Starlight Glimmer has been the target of this section of the fandom for some time. As a result, these two ponies are the only ones she confronts personally off camera. 😛 In fact, fans disliked Starlight Glimmer so much they did indeed begin to boycott the show…which is exactly what
  • Pinkie Pie’s “fans” are those who read way too much into something. While these ones aren’t always as annoying, the fact that they continuously see things, good or bad, that were never there when that was never the intention gets annoying after a while. They declare certain things brilliant or hilarious simply due to love of a character rather than reality. Princess Luna and Derpy Hooves were targets of this early on.
  • Rainbow Dash’s “fans” are the ones who go crazy about only one character in particular. Basically they only care about one character and think everything they say or do is wonderful and brilliant, and anything negative about them (even if they’re intended to be a negative character) was really them secretly being wonderful or sabotages by others. It’s somewhat similar to Pinkie Pie’s fans, only they go to the extreme where they think all other characters need to be diminished to prop that character up or even project negative characteristics onto them to make them look less. Fans like this eventually give rise to Draco in Leather Pants and Ron the Death Eater tropes.
  • Fluttershy’s haters…well, um (swallow)…are those who get upset that characters never seem to grow even late in the series or even regress from time to time…you know, people like me. ._. (Yes, I’m ashamed…)
  • Applejack’s fans are the ones who take their love of the show way, WAY too far, essentially making themselves “honorary ponies” and trying to act like the characters on the show. Every fandom has them. You know…crazy people. 😛
  • Finally, Toola Roola and Coconut Cream represent the “real fan”…not so much from learning lessons about friendship, but the individuals who take what MLP:FIM is and appreciate it for what it is, no more and no less.

Fandoms are, unfortunately, a misfortune of life when you want to be a fan of anything, yet the Internet has made them a whole new level of insane and crazy, to the point of shaming people into wanting to commit suicide and forcing show writers to bow to their insane delusions even if they were never the original staff. Often they drive more casual fans away from the show with how crazy they get and can be downright savage to one another. However, writers, actors, and staff for a show get it even worse because they have to be subjected to every nut out there. People often say they dislike something because of the “toxic fandom”. What they fail to realize is that fandom is short for “fanatic domain”. If a show has a fandom, by definition it’s made up of crazy people who represent the absolute worst of the fans. Every fandom is toxic because that’s what a fandom is.

And frankly? They need to be called out on it. Being a fan doesn’t give you a license to be a maniac or a jerk.

This episode was an attempt by the writers, to me, to highlight the irresponsible and downright nutty behavior of the fandom. It was an allegory for how the people behind the show feel when being subjected to this insanity, and how the fame and notoriety the show has achieved nevertheless is a mixed blessing because of how people act and rave. It showed how emotionally draining and miserable something that you love, something that your passion is, can be when it’s forced to be subjected to fandom poison.

The lesson at the end was supposed to be that the people out there who genuinely appreciate the show, who see the mistakes and flaws of characters as the very things that make them more real and relatable, are the ones who make all of the toxicity worthwhile. The girls are able to press on because they realize “someone out there gets what this is supposed to be”. It’s a lesson for anyone who wants to pursue an artistic fashion, and it’s a lesson for the fans themselves who aren’t toxic: you can’t control other people, only how you respond to them.

It’s disheartening that so many people in the fandom ended up doing exactly what their pony representations did at the end of this episode…missed this point entirely and argued instead about how repulsive the ponies in the crowd acted. They don’t even realize they ARE the ponies in the crowd. Yet even this episode seemed to anticipate that would happen, and the answer is to simply ignore them and press on.

For me personally? I saw what this episode was supposed to be on the nose, and it’s a bit sobering for my own reviews. I only mark it down because, er, it’s not exactly the most uplifting of episodes even with the end. And none of the target little kids would get what it was trying to say.

Uh, heh…I’ll try to tone down my Fluttershy criticism from now on… (gulp)

Fun Facts:

This episode was penned by M.A. Larson, the most infamous writer on the show. With episodes like “The Return of Harmony”, “Magical Mystery Cure”, and “Slice of Life”, he’s gained the reputation of being the most unconventional writer of the show who never writes an episode unless something striking is going to happen. As a result, misinformation was leaked about who the writer of this episode was to the public. It wasn’t until the episode debuted that he was revealed as the writer.

Toola Roola and Coconut Cream were both G3 My Little Ponies originally. Similar to Moondancer, they have identical coloration in their Friendship is Magic incarnations.

As another nod to Larson’s influence, the moral that Twilight teaches Toola Roola and Coconut Cream (“Friendship isn’t always easy, but there’s no doubt it’s worth fighting for.”) was for “The Return of Harmony”…and which Discord infamously gagged to on hearing.

I hate to emulate one of the ponies in this episode, but…the “Journal of Friendship” phase of the show only was during Season Four. In Season One and the first part of Season Two it was Twilight’s letters to Celestia, while most of Season Two and Three it was the Mane Six’s letters to Celestia. There haven’t been any since the Cutie Map took over in Season Five, although the IDW Comic (which, as we will see, influenced the second half of this season) continued to use them. The letters could have always been compiled in the journal, I suppose.

One of the pages in the book completely disintegrates. O_o Twilight makes an odd face after Starlight’s mockery.

Failed attempt at continuity. Apple Bloom mentions she’s thinking of creating a “Cutie Mark summer camp”. This seems to allude to the future episode “Marks and Recreation”, but in that episode the idea is fresh to them again.

The Journal of Friendship only received 1 and a half stars according to the book review. :/

By far, the most infamous face from Season Seven is the one Rarity has when Twilight and Starlight confront her in her sewing room.

Toward the end, the crowd of ponies echo various complaints that the writers had to have heard a dozen times. Probably the two biggest ones are “Twilight was more interesting before she got wings”, which was a major complaint of fans when she was turned into an alicorn at the end of Season Three…and one M.A. Larson himself is probably sick of hearing. Another one is “Are Pinkie Pie and Applejack related or what?”, which really shouldn’t have been a big of a deal as it ended up being but was drug up with “Hearthbreakers” and Marble Pie (I’m sore about that one ruining MarbleMac. :()

During “Flawless”, the girls pair up with their own species: the pegasi (Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash), the earth ponies (Applejack and Pinkie Pie), and the unicorns [originally](Rarity and Twilight Sparkle).

I noted after the song Amethyst Star seemed to “get it”, but she joins back in with the arguing soon after. :/

Rating:

4 Stars out of 5

My Little Devotional #157: “You Couldn’t Have Picked a Worse Time”

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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Once Upon a Zeppelin”

Twilight Sparkle had it rather rough in this episode. She set out with her family on what she thought would be a relaxing cruise to give her not only some time with her loved ones but some good old fashioned R&R and a break from her “princess duties”. Quite the opposite ended up being true. It turned out the reason her family got the cruise for free was because it was a “Princess Tour” in which she and her sister-in-law were expected to be the main events for the passengers. In order to buy her sister-in-law and family a break, she ended up having to take the role of princess more than ever as she went about hosting events and making appearances, and soon needing a vacation from her “vacation”.

While for Twilight this served as a lesson in needing to make time for herself, for me it brought to mind a different Christian dilemma. The fact that ministering the Gospel doesn’t tend to keep “normal hours” and often blindsides us unawares.

I’m sure all of us as Christians would love every time we were called to witness or be as Christ to someone to be practically gift wrapped to us. To come right after a Sunday service in which we’re feeling particularly energized and “holy”, to the tune of a golden ray of sunshine or a rainbow encircling the very specific target of what God is calling us to do, and in a situation we are perfectly suited and prepared for. Naturally, that sort of idealistic situation never occurs, but often we don’t even get anything remotely close.

Instead, opportunities to witness and minister hit us unawares. Maybe when we’re driving back from work and thinking of everything we have to do when we get home. Or when we’re waiting for the bus or a taxi while going out running errands before needing to make an appointment later. Or when we’re at the work concentrating on our jobs and what deadlines we have to meet. Or, possibly in a vein similar to this episode, when we’re out with our families at an attraction or on vacation just trying to get some relaxation in. Life doesn’t operate according to a normal schedule, and neither does God. As a result, we could often find ourselves tired, stressed, preoccupied, or even desperately trying to get a moment for ourselves when we find we’re being called. Odds are it often happens at times when the last thing we are thinking of is being Christian. And even if we are willing to make an effort, we’re probably too distraught or haggard to put our “best foot forward”.

The Bible tells us to be ready to preach the Gospel at all times (“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” 2 Timothy 4:1-2; “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” 1 Peter 3:15-16), but that, like most things in the Bible, is far easier said than done. How can we be ready to minister at all times, including the majority of times when our minds are elsewhere or when the last thing we’re thinking doing is “acting Christ-like”?

For me, I think it’s important to realize that being a good witness for Christ is not like preparing for a test or a competition, in which we will get one big event where we’ll have a chance to show our stuff and then it’ll be over. Christianity isn’t just poignant acts of ministry or evangelism; it’s a way of life and a state of mind. To me, far more important than trying to be prepared to say or do the right thing at that one big instance that could come up (or, more appropriately, that we think will come up) is to maintain a more Christian frame of mind and heart. To make our lives as a whole more in line with the heart of God and the things of the Bible. When you do that, everything else, including witnessing, ministry, and even being able to be “as Christ” at the worst of times, becomes more natural because it’s simply an extension of who we are rather than us trying to be something we’re not. Furthermore, it’s our ability to naturally turn to God and to count on him to bear us through all difficulty, both in the best and worst of times, that ultimately shows the world why our faith is so powerful.

The Bible cautions not just to pretend to love people or to care about them. (Romans 12:9; 1 Corinthians 13:1-3) To me, that goes part in parcel with ministry. If it’s simply memorization and training ourselves for specific moments or instances to give out some well-crafted and yet canned response, it’s no good in the long run. No ministry or witnessing is truly effective unless it comes from the heart and what God has placed in our hearts. And I feel the best way to have something placed in our hearts is to strive to draw closer to God in a greater relationship and have him place something there. For the closer we are to God, the more we understand him. The more we understand him, the more we understand his desires both for us and others. And the more we understand those, the more we want to work toward fulfilling them even if we’re exhausted or overwrought. After all, as Twilight illustrated, no matter how tired or stressed we feel, we’d all do something for our own loved ones that needed to be done.

A suggestion I have to aid in this is a challenge I received a couple Sundays ago. Just for five work days, Monday through Friday, make a commitment to devote time three times a day purely to God. No other tasks, no other thoughts, no other concerns during that time…just nothing but you and God. I myself was only able to find five minute periods, but I did try it out and it did make quite a difference. For anyone wishing to enhance their devotional life and draw closer to God and his desires for us, I recommend it highly.

As a final note, something that I always find encouraging (which those moments of prayer I just mentioned helped me realize) is to remember that God will never ask you to do something that, with his help, you cannot do.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you for your blessed assurance, in my times of fear, exhaustion, self-doubt, and anxiety about doing your Will, that you will never forsake me or abandon me but will guide me through all difficulty so long as I commit to follow you. I seek to draw closer to you today and understand you more and your desires for both me and the rest of mankind. Please draw me nearer so, in getting to know you more, I will have a greater love and enthusiasm for the riches of Heaven and the salvation of the world. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Season Seven, Episode Thirteen: “The Perfect Pear”

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Synopsis:

While going about the market, Apple Bloom meets an elderly pony who has opened up a pear stand named Grand Pear, who she learns used to live in Ponyville but moved away to Vanhoover where his pear farm met financial success. He talks kindly to her and gives her a jar of pear jam for free, which she rushes home to show Applejack and Big Macintosh. However, on seeing the pear jam, they react strongly: saying that the Apple family and the Pear family have been feuding for years and have nothing to do with each other. Yet when Apple Bloom asks why, neither of them know as Granny Smith has always gotten emotionally distraught when asked about it. They end up going to visit Goldie Delicious to ask, who reveals the Apples and Pears used to have farms adjacent to each other in Ponyville, and Granny Smith and Grand Pear led their respective families in a feud over who was the better farmers for years. The only two who got along were Bright Macintosh of the Apples and Pear Butter of the Pears, who the three realize were their deceased parents. They next go to Burnt Oak, Bright Mac’s best friend, and find out the two started a secret romance after Bright Mac refused to let Pear Butter take the rap for him accidentally breaking a Pear water tower. They next go to Mrs. Cake, Pear Butter’s best friend, who got her Cutie Mark and talent for baking thanks to her and discovered how much time they spent together while trying to bake her a “thank you” cake. After years of secret dating they confessed their love for one another, but soon after Grand Pear gave the announcement that the Pear family was relocating to Vanhoover and the two realized they’d soon be separated. Finally, they go to Mayor Mare, who reveals the night before the Pears were supposed to leave Bright Mac had a secret wedding ceremony with Pear Butter so that they’d always be a part of each other’s lives, which they sealed by planting an apple seed and a pear seed on the very spot where they exchanged their vows. Yet at the conclusion of the ceremony, both Granny Smith and Grand Pear stumbled on the marriage. Grand Pear, unable to stomach the idea of Pear Butter being married to an Apple, forced her to choose between her family and Bright Mac, breaking her heart. She ended up siding with the Apples and Grand Pear angrily disowned her and walked away, never seeing her again. Hearing all this, Applejack, Big Mac, and Apple Bloom decide to confront both of their grandparents. They first go to Grand Pear, who finally realized after all these years how foolish he had been and moved back to Ponyville to try and get to know his grandchildren while he still had time. They bring him to Granny Smith, and the two both apologize to each other and finally reconcile. Their grandchildren then take them out to the grove where Bright Mac and Pear Butter were married, and reveal that the seeds they planted have grown into trees that are wrapped around each other.

Review:

When “My Little Pony: The Movie” came out, there was some fan hype that it might actually be a contender for Best Animated Film. I never seriously believed that, and I feel these fans shouldn’t have either. They forgot the one crucial element about “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”: it is a show that exists for the explicit purpose to sell toys. It probably has had more effort put into it than any other show that exists simply to sell merchandise, and definitely far more than was ever necessary, and as a result it helped elevate the quality of children’s animated programming as a whole and got viewers to “expect more” from their shows…but it still is there to sell toys. It’s not out there to make anything dramatic like “Steven Universe”. It’s not out there to make anything intelligent like “Gravity Falls”. You can’t expect anything award-winning from it as if it was. This isn’t Disney, Pixar, or even Dreamworks; it’s Hasbro.

Yet every once in a while, through a combination of the talent, heart, love, and intrigue that the writers and animators put into it, it manages to make something genuinely beautiful, poignant, and honestly heart-wrenching. It did that once with “Crusaders of the Lost Mark”. It did it again with “The Perfect Pear”.

Needless to say, “The Perfect Pear” remains the most highly-rated episode on IMDb of MLP:FIM. This episode finally got into the topic that the audience has been kicking around for a couple seasons: what happened to Applejack’s parents? The funny part is it didn’t really answer that particular question, and it probably never will thanks to the show rating. Nevertheless, this episode did everything humanly possible to say “their parents are dead” without actually saying it. Just like the romantic content in this episode, a lot of “dancing around the issue” without making it look as if they were dancing around the issue had to be done in order to meet archaic censor requirements. (Balderdash, of course. As I’ve said before, death really doesn’t care how old you are. Might as well expose kids to it now.) The episode deserves some credit just for that.

The side characters in the episode are also notable. Burnt Oak was obviously created just for this episode, and it’s clear from his design that he was meant to be at least partially a gag character, but he still works in very well. Very natural. So does Goldie Delicious, Mrs. Cake, and Mayor Mare. None of them seem like they were “forced” to be in this episode in order to tell the narrative. So another good point there.

The fact this episode actually had some “star power” behind it was likewise surprising. Both William Shatner and Felicia Day were in it, and both of them did a great job. The role of cartoon ponies is something that would have been so easy for both of them to just go silly with. The fact that both of them took their parts so seriously for, again, a show designed to sell pony toys is a major credit in my opinion to them both.

Now, of course, the actual plot…

I’m not sure I liked this episode for the same reasons everyone else did. People were quick to point out the “Romeo & Juliet” nature of Bright Mac and Pear Butter’s relationship, or the idea of them being from feuding families. I didn’t really care too much for that aspect. That’s been done to death for literally centuries. It was already an old plotline by the time “Romeo & Juliet” made it famous. Nevertheless, it’s because it’s a timeless tale that it’s stayed around for this long. And compared to “Hearts and Hooves Day”, between the animation and the voice acting, this is finally a “genuine” romance. In “Hearts and Hooves Day” it was nothing more than a parody of what kids thought romance was like. This one, on the other hand, definitely feels far more genuine and sweet. Again, not something that’s easy for a Y-rated show to pull off, and it works because everyone commits so hard to making things look natural. Bits like Bright Mac and Pear Butter having a playful exchange over the guitar song and the etching in the rock, or Bright Mac sending that picture of Pear Butter to her only for her to send it back with him added to it, or Pear Butter waking up that morning seeing Bright Mac passed out pulling her weeds for her that night. All things that are genuine and sweet. Honestly, far more convincing than the actual “Romeo & Juliet” (then again, most romances are, but…moving on…).

Yet like I said, that wasn’t what got me. Part of the appeal with a timeless story is not in retelling it verbatim but rather finding a different way to tell it. And that’s what this episode did. While everyone (including the characters within it) makes it look as if this episode is all about the story of Bright Mac and Pear Butter, at the end it’s clear it’s really the story of Grand Pear.

I come from a family myself in which, unfortunately, clinging to a hatred of an individual is ultimately more important than familial relationships. It’s a tragedy. It does nothing good for anyone involved. It’s astonishing to me that we as human beings can get it into our heads that somehow the best thing we can do in regards to someone else is “stay angry”. This is another episode in which I feel the moral is solidly for adults rather than children, but it’s one that needed to be shared.

Ultimately, it wasn’t Pear Butter who chose between her father and Bright Mac. It was Grand Pear who chose between his grudge and his own daughter. He ended up placing a higher value on his grudge, and as a result he never saw his daughter again and will now have to live his remaining years knowing that the last thing he said to her was words of anger. And it took him years of a wasted life to finally come to his senses and realize he could either regret what he lost until the day he died or try and get back what his daughter left him while he still had a chance.

I fixated a lot in this episode on Granny Smith. Although her role in everything ends up being downplayed, along with her reactions, I did notice that right up until the break up at the wedding she had as little love for Pear Butter as Grand Pear had for Bright Mac. It’s not until she saw Pear Butter get disowned by her own father that, I think, she got a wake-up call of her own. I’m probably reading too much into cartoon characters, but…I do wonder if Granny ever asked herself after that…possibly more than once…”If their roles had been switched and it had been Bright Mac choosing to stay with the Pears, would I have done the same thing?” I figure it was that which got her to embrace Pear Butter as her daughter-in-law, and that was the real reason Granny got upset every time the feud was brought up. She knew all along she played as bad a role as Grand Pear. In the end, yes, it was he who did the leaving…and that’s probably the reason she’s still a bit upset to see him again at the end. Yet I also think she realized she was in the wrong, and that telling her grandchildren the truth would have meant admitting there was a time she hated their mother.

The ending of the episode is happy…yet still bittersweet. The Apples and Pears are finally one family as their children had always seen themselves, but it was something that took years to finally happen. There was a lot of wasted time there, and there ended up being some things done that can never be undone. Yet even then, it’s like Apple Bloom said. They can’t go back in time and change what happened no matter how much they want to, yet now they can move forward together as Apples and Pears.

The result is a haunting message for those at home. Don’t waste your life being angry at people. It’s too precious for that, and you aren’t even guaranteed that they’ll still be here at the end of today. As was once said, “holding a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die”. This episode made that abundantly clear.

This episode was far more realistic drama than had ever been seen before on the show. The final supreme irony is that it was an Applejack-themed episode, ones that are traditionally, as I have said before, bland. Loaded with sweetness, sadness, heart, and tears, this was the rare episode that fully shed its “toy sale chains” and rose to be something genuinely poignant and beautiful.

Nothing else to say besides that it’s nickname is well-deserved: “The Perfect Episode”.

Fun Facts:

Although it is hinted at in every single possible way by the nature of the character dialogue and responses, as well as the memorial at the end, due to being a Y-rated show it is never explicitly stated that Bright Mac and Pear Butter are dead. One of the writers, however, at one point tweeted that they were killed by Timberwolves.

Burnt Oak appears right in the beginning in the background when Apple Bloom is walking through the market.

Grand Pear is voiced by William Shatner of “Star Trek” infamy. I can’t help but marvel at the irony that this is the first non-comedic role that William Shatner has played in years…and it’s a cartoon pony. Nevertheless, there is just a touch of meta humor with his character, as his hair style is the same infamous one Shatner had in the Star Trek “movie era” as Captain Kirk.

Applejack’s family “washes up” in the outhouse. Ew. Also, Granny Smith is totally oblivious to the hole Applejack and Big Macintosh dug in the floor. She even walks over it without a thought.

Kudos to Tabitha St. Germain for her “young Granny Smith” voice. It sounds as if she decided to go with her best imitation of Ashleigh Ball’s Applejack.

I’m not sure if it happened in earlier episodes, but young Goldie Delicious appears in her story. Her mane used to be green.

It’s a great episode and all, but…uh…wish they could have afforded younger voice actors for the part where Bright Macintosh and Pear Butter talk to each other as foals. The adult voices are awkward.

Pear Butter is voiced by Felicia Day, who I personally know best from the revival of “Mystery Science Theater 3000”.

Burnt Oak is a pony version of Sam Elliot. Specifically, the unnamed cameo that he played in “The Big Lebowski” who acted as the narrator. This is emphasized in his official introduction in the episode when he just gets done talking to “Lebowski Pony”.

Mrs. Cake’s maiden name is Chiffon Swirl.

On a personal note, I hate the whole “two lovers sharing the same scarf” thing. That’s the sort of thing that they do all the time in animation but in real life would be terribly awkward. Moving on…

Way back in “Ponyville Confidential”, it was revealed that Mayor Mare’s natural mane color is pink and that she dyes it gray. This episode showed that it really is gray.

To emphasize the time period, in all of the flashbacks there is still a “Mare in the Moon”.

This episode marks the first time ponies are ever seen kissing in the series. Note that it is never depicted until Bright Mac and Pear Butter are explicitly declared to be married. Censors for ya’. 😛

Rating:

5 Stars out of 5