My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Friends Forever #32 (My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Friends Forever #32): “Fluttershy & Daring Do”

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Synopsis:

Fluttershy is just getting ready to enjoy a week off with no “adventures”, only to get a surprising uninvited guest: Daring Do. She’s trying to find the lost treasure of Queen Parabola, hidden in a castle that can supposedly only be found by reading the map off of the back of a Map Spider. She needs to catch one to find it but claims she is allergic to them, and therefore needs Fluttershy’s help in wrangling one. In spite of being highly nervous at the thought of going on a Daring Do adventure, Fluttershy agrees at the thought of meeting exotic animals. Daring Do ends up taking her through a series of scuffles and dangers including against Daring Do’s nemesis Dr. Cabelleron, all of which she finds terrifying and barely manages to get by, and the two eventually manage to acquire a Map Spider and end up in Queen Parabola’s castle. Unfortunately, they end up ambushed by Daring Do’s other nemesis Ahuizotl and are caught tied in a deathtrap by him. While faced with certain doom, Daring Do admits the real reason she brought Fluttershy along is because she’s an arachnophobic, and she says, of the two of them, Fluttershy is the one who is truly brave because she’s able to be confronted with her fears and press on anyway. Realizing the Map Spider they still have can undo the knot that’s tying them up, but only if it is allowed to crawl on Daring Do, Fluttershy convinces her to confront her own fears so they can get free. Daring is able to let the spider untie them, and the two manage to foil Cabelleron and Ahuizotl and secure the treasure. Both congratulate each other on facing their respective fears, but when Fluttershy suggests Daring made friends with a spider and she yelps and cringes in response, she suggests she takes “baby steps”.

Review:

This was another good little story in the Friends Forever series, and once again one with rather unlikely characters. In fact, if I had to give it one flaw, that would probably be it. While the story only really works out if it is Fluttershy and Daring Do together, and the moral wouldn’t if it wasn’t the two of them, two of the last characters one would ever expect to see being put together would be Fluttershy and Daring Do considering how different they are. The way the show is set up, pretty much it will always only be Rainbow Dash or (at a stretch) Twilight Sparkle. Heck, in Season Seven, in order to get a connection of Pinkie Pie to Somnambula, they had to use Rainbow Dash as a bit of a bridge in relationships to connect to Daring Do. Fluttershy is pretty much the opposite of everything she is and, in the series, they have had pretty much zero interaction.

But if you can overlook that and see them actually getting together, it’s a nice dynamic. A classic foil of Daring Do being bold, daring, forthright, and fearless, while Fluttershy is timid, shy, nervous, and hesitant. It’s played up for a good number of sight gags and jokes in this one. However, the big point is the lesson, which is one that hasn’t really been displayed on the show yet or, at least, not as clearly. Bravery is not never being afraid; it’s being afraid and pressing forward anyway. And when taken in that sense, Fluttershy might actually be one of the bravest characters on the show. Since everything scares her, the fact that she’s able to go out and do anything at all shows she’s constantly needing to be brave. Of course, for this to work for this lesson, Daring Do had to be given a phobia, but I think it worked out. And actually, I like it as a trait. Aside from being an adventurer that Rainbow Dash idolizes, we know very little about Daring Do as a character. Comics like this help give a bit more to her.

Normally I don’t care for Daring Do episodes because they seem so superficial and, thanks to the Y rating, toned down too much to be that exciting. However, this one was nice and with a nice moral I could get behind.

Fun Facts:

This entire story might have been inspired by Daring Do’s first appearance in Season Two’s “Read It and Weep”. In that one, part of Ahuizotl’s death trap is a bunch of spiders that don’t actually do anything, although the cobras also don’t really do anything in that scene either.

One of the items the IDW Comic ended up having to recant was an earlier arc in which they made Daring Do temporarily become a “real” character…only for the show to later make Daring Do a real pony as the alter-ego of her own author, A.K. Yearling. Although that episode was old by the time this issue came out, the storyline still seems to focus on Daring Do rather than A.K. Yearling, indicating it might have been written as early as when “Daring Don’t” aired.

Daring Do helps herself to some of Fluttershy’s tea, but she cleans up after herself. 😛

Queen Parabola is depicted as a zebra alicorn, of all things.

Daring Do has a whip, similar to Indiana Jones.

Jay Fosgitt’s style of Ahuizotl makes for some rather amusing panels. 🙂

Fluttershy and Daring Do, when forced to confront their fears, both keep their eyes closed and chant: “I’m not scared… I’m not scared…” Even the words that are bolded are the same in both panels.

Rating:

3.5 Stars out of 5

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My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Friends Forever #31 (My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Friends Forever #31): “Rainbow Dash & Little Strongheart”

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Synopsis:

While showing Fluttershy and Tank around the higher-altitude clouds, Rainbow Dash spots a smoke signal from Appleloosa of her Cutie Mark. Realizing she’s being summoned, she rushes over and meets with Little Strongheart, but also sees that the region is currently caught in what seems to be an unending winter. The bison (buffalo) share with Rainbow Dash the legend of the Rainbow Crow, and that when winter fails to break their tradition is to conduct a ceremony where they light one of the feathers of the Rainbow Crow on fire to summon the sun. They are out of the feathers, however, and called in Rainbow Dash to acquire more. After giving her a pouch to offer tribute to the Rainbow Crow, Little Strongheart begins to guide her. However, along the way, Rainbow Dash keeps protesting the roads they’re taking, dismissing them as being inefficient artifacts as a result of clinging to old bison traditions. Eventually, Little Strongheart gets so fed up at her disrespect she lets her go her own way without giving her advice, and Rainbow ends up suffering for it. When they finally reach the Rainbow Crow, Rainbow goes on alone but, on reaching the bird, realizes she accidentally lost the tribute when she went over an icy mountain rather than taking Strongheart’s advice and going under it. However, the crow still allows her to have the feathers in exchange for a strand of her rainbow mane. On the way back, the two reconcile, and Strongheart admits they still like to do things the traditional way not necessarily because it’s “better” but because it keeps them connected to their past. Later at the ceremony, when one of the feathers is lit and lights up the sky with rainbow light, Rainbow admits the ceremony way is better.

Review:

This one…is odd. I’m not sure if I’m simply uncultured and unthinking enough to get past the superficial surface for a deeper meaning, but this particular story doesn’t really seem to have much of a moral, lesson, or point to it.

If you focus on the big themes, it was likely intended to be a lesson in respect for the culture and traditions of others. However, that point never really got rammed home or emphasized. It’s true that Rainbow Dash did suffer some misfortune for not taking Little Strongheart’s advice, but that’s not so much tradition as thinking she knew better. It would be one thing if Rainbow’s way ended up being faster but mostly it was usually out of experience and jumping to the conclusion that the reason Strongheart was doing something was out of tradition rather than wisdom.

The legend of the Rainbow Crow is a nice story presented in a format more akin to Native American folklore, but even then it seems a bit distracting. There’s very little of the story that ends up having much bearing on the overall plot other than a MacGuffin, and yet several pages are devoted to it. It could have just been an excuse to show off the artwork I suppose, which was an interesting departure from normal.

The one part that does seem to tie the themes together is Rainbow Dash meeting the Rainbow Crow. I had to read it two or three times to get the idea, but the point was that the crow was far more down-to-earth and understandable, similar to how Princess Celestia is in spite of practically being deified by ponies. The idea was in showing in spite of traditions and cultural differences that the bison (buffalo) weren’t all too different from the ponies.

Yet beyond that, I’m having a hard time seeing the point. The lesson seems to be trying to make the idea that tradition and culture’s primary value, even if seemingly outdated, would be in giving a people an identity. That’s why the topic of other cultures moving in or the idea of giving up some form of tradition is such a hot topic around the world. However, similar to “Over a Barrel”, this storyline over-simplified what is a very complex and potentially controversial topic. In the Western world, the idea of multi-culturalism is the dominant idea, whereas in many other places in the world the thought of becoming multi-cultural is considered the same as eroding society. On top of all of that, no matter where you are in the world or in what country, everyone has certain ideas for cultural traditions they think should be rejected by modern society.

But even if the central idea behind this story is learning to appreciate that tradition and culture helps define national identity, it’s not clear that Rainbow Dash ever “got it”. She simply thought their ceremony was “cool looking”.

All in all, I have a feeling this comic was trying to be more mature and not so “on-the-nose” about its moral like many other storylines are. Unfortunately, I think it bit off a bit more than it could chew. It’s not bad, but it requires a bit more thought than the target audience would get.

Fun Facts:

Rainbow Dash kind of ditches Tank for a couple days, doesn’t she? 😛

This is only the second time Little Strongheart has appeared and the first since Season One of the TV series, also bison (buffalo) have appeared in other episodes.

At one point, Rainbow Dash offers to clear the snow clouds, but Chief Thunder Hooves says they already tried. Do bison have a way of manipulating the weather too?

The legend related in this story is similar to many other Native American mythologies, which often portray a creature as once possessing a physical trait that it lost permanently following an incident in a legend. And yes, as the legend says, crow feathers are in fact iridescent.

A gremlin cameos again in the forbidden jungle. What is with the gremlins? I’m headed to Bronycon for the first time this year and I can ask Tony Fleecs myself…

At one point, Little Strongheart (in a mocking way) calls Rainbow Dash “kemosabe”. “Kemosabe” was the name that Tonto, the Lone Ranger’s Native American companion, called him.

Rating:

2.5 Stars out of 5

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Friends Forever #30 (My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Friends Forever #30): “Twilight Sparkle & Princess Cadance”

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Synopsis:

Twilight Sparkle is visiting Princess Cadance at the Crystal Empire for the dedication of the Court of the Crystal Princess, but as they have a few days before that happens they decided to spend some time together. Cadance elects to go with Twilight to the marketplace incognito, as she’s tired of all the Crystal Ponies always bowing to her and treating her with an air of royalty every time she appears in public. However, she gets an unpleasant surprise when she finds that figurines and costumes of her and the other three alicorns are being sold there, but marketing her at the “Pretty Princess” and selling her with the idea that her purpose is to “get married and live happily ever after”. This impacts Cadance negatively, wondering if that’s how ponies really see her, and, unable to shake this self-doubt, she ends up flubbing her royal duties and needing Twilight and Shining Armor to bail her out; which, in turn, only reinforces her identity crisis. By the time the dedication arrives, Cadance is miserable and depressed, and seeing her like that the rest of the crystal ponies feel disheartened–actually causing the Crystal Heart’s light to fade. Twilight tells Cadance that she’s not looked up to just for “being pretty” but because her own love and light fills the crystal ponies with the same light, and inspires them as well as her. On realizing that Twilight, Shining Armor, and the crystal ponies themselves all look up to her, Cadance’s self-confidence is restored and the Crystal Heart is relit. Later in the marketplace, Cadance walks freely without disguising herself anymore, and is pleased to see that Twilight got her own costume changed from “Pretty Princess” to “Crystal Princess”.

Review:

I know the IDW Comic has a tendency to get more “meta” than the show does, but this one outdid itself.

There’s no denying that Princess Cadance was never created because the show needed another alicorn. (Lauren Faust herself was committed to the idea of there only being two alicorns in existence as “gods”: Celestia and Luna.) She was made for the explicit purpose of creating a fairy-tale-princess to sell wedding-themed My Little Pony merchandise. And while the writers were smart enough to think ahead and eventually give her a bit more lore, and later seasons have given her more to do from the perspective of a sister-in-law and new mother, the fact is in terms of being an alicorn princess her role is indeed to simply “get married and live happily ever after”. Look no further than her two whole lines she got in “The My Little Pony Movie”.

As a result, one can look at this particular issue as her own character’s existential crisis with her very reason for being included in the series. Does Cadance really have a reason to be there besides to be pretty and loved by everyone?

Oddly enough, the answer seems to stem from the same type of reasoning that eventually got me to fully accept Starlight Glimmer on the show. It doesn’t necessarily matter how important or irrelevant the audience thinks she is if the characters on the show believably want her around. And this arc made it clear how important Cadance is to Twilight. And because she matters to her, she matters a bit to all of us reading as well.

Aside from that, this was a very cute and sweet arc with a very understandable problem for Cadance. On top of all of that, Twilight was actually encouraging her for a change. This is one story that I think could easily be made into a full episode (if not for the fact Cadance cares more about raising her daughter now than how the crystal ponies see her), although it would need some fleshing out. The humor is a bit light in this one aside from the sight gags, but with a good story like this I like it just the same.

Fun Facts:

Right in the first panel, it looks like the IDW Comic writers got the nursery rhyme right after flubbing it in “Neigh Anything”. 😛

One panel appears to have one of the crystal ponies be a pony version of Elsa from “Frozen”, but I can’t tell for sure. (I’m struggling to find fun facts for this one…)

Rating:

3.5 Stars out of 5

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Friends Forever #29 (My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Friends Forever #29): “Rarity & Maud Pie”

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Synopsis:

While attending the Equestrian Geological and Gemological Survey convention looking for new gems for her designs, Rarity runs into Maud Pie attending to study for her rocktorate. They attend a lecture by Professor Deep Strata where she reveals she discovered a new set of caves beneath the Crystal Mountain Range but has no time to discover them, and announces that the first pony to do so will get full credit for the discovery. Rarity immediately volunteers Maud for it, in spite of her seeming lack of enthusiasm, but they soon get competition in the form of Buried Treasure, a rival student who wants credit for the discovery herself. Rarity leads Maud on through a series of mishaps and adventures, taking Maud along the way but getting put off by her lack of enthusiasm or even emotional interest in everything. They finally reach the caves only to have the one bridge leading to them crossed by Buried Treasure first, who burns it down. Rarity laments their failure but, while going to write in her diary about it, accidentally picks up Maud’s diary instead. Maud, however, encourages her to read it, and she discovers that Maud actually has been emotional and nervous the entire trip and has been relying on (as well as extremely grateful to) Rarity for helping her get this far; it’s just that she doesn’t express herself so overtly. Rarity apologizes for thinking Maud “lacked passion”, and Maud herself finds an old lava tunnel that deposits her and Rarity right in the caves moments before Buried Treasure can arrive. Rarity goes home after thanking Maud for helping her realize there are beautiful things buried everywhere, and Maud settles down to begin her studies of the cave.

Review:

Personally, I think this is one of the best “Friends Forever” issues. Rarity always seems to lend herself well to these one-issues, but I liked even better that it went a route most wouldn’t think of from the series. The fact was, at the end of “The Gift of the Maud Pie”, Rarity was invited along to Pinkie Pie and Maud Pie’s next sisterly event, indicating that Maud had accepted her as a closer friend. While that hasn’t really been explored too much in the series since (instead focusing on Starlight Glimmer), this issue nailed it.

The IDW Comic often proposes ideas that later on get rejected or contradicted by the show, but this one, at least so far, is spot on canon. Maud’s character is perfect given the revelations she’s given about herself in the series as well as her odder habits, so everything in here seems believable with the main series. And, in all honesty, it’s a very sweet climax that really does highlight the friendship between the two better than most of the “Friends Forever” issues do. In addition, it also has plenty of humor and good action, making it just perfect for the IDW series.

I am just a teeny, tiny bit thrown off by the OC introduced just to be a rival, but it makes sense. Heck, they even manage to stay canon with the show at the end. While it’s mentioned Buried Treasure is a fellow student, at the end she quits and goes to law school, so it makes sense Maud is the only student left in “Rock Solid Friendship”.

This all makes for a “rockin'” good time. Ha ha ha! Yeah, that was lame.

Fun Facts:

Based on the storyline, it seems this takes place after “The Gift of the Maud Pie”.

One of the gremlins is at the EGGS convention.

“Cantertine” gets mentioned again. Originally, it was used as a smidge of comic relief in “Siege of the Crystal Empire” in a scene that was a knockoff of “Star Wars: A New Hope”.

In this issue, Maud hits a seemingly random wall and opens a tunnel passage. This is rather similar to a scene that eventually became canon in “Rock Solid Friendship”.

The bat that hitches a ride on Maud’s head is “big-eyed” on beholding the caves.

Similar to in “The Gift of the Maud Pie”, Maud is able to stare down Buried Treasure.

Rating:

4.5 Stars out of 5

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Comic Arc #23 (IDW My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Issues #46-47): “Election”

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Synopsis:

Shortly after Mayor Mare dedicates and opens a brand new playground on a plot of land donated by the Apple Family, an earthquake suddenly destroys it in spite of the fact the ground has been stable for years. Some of the Ponyville citizens end up blaming the mayor for not being better prepared for the incident, in spite of her insistence that not all disasters can be prepared for and some have to be dealt with as best as they can when they show up before making sure they don’t happen again. Filthy Rich seizes the opportunity of discontent to make his own bid to run for mayor, leading to Ponyville needing to hold its first election in years. All of the girls are divided, each wanting to vote for a candidate for different reasons, and Twilight Sparkle herself ends up joining Mayor Mare’s campaign team. Filthy runs an aggressive campaign making a great deal of promises for benefits for everypony, swaying a majority of the voters, while Mayor Mare’s own campaign of only making sure ponies get what they need rather than things they want but can’t have ends up falling flat. Filthy Rich wins the election and starts off with a fresh slew of promises, capping with a vow that no earthquakes will ever happen in Ponyville again…right before one demolishes a house.

As soon as Filthy Rich is sworn in, things start going bad. The earthquakes continue to destroy parts of Ponyville, the new Hoofball Stadium is being built right next to Fluttershy’s property (keeping her and the animals up all night), taxes are soaring in a vain attempt to try and pay for all of Filthy’s promises, the new playground he builds is made using the cheapest labor and materials and falls apart instantly, and pretty much all other promises he made he has to renege on. The girls try to ask (Former) Mayor Mare for help, but she answers not only can one pony not fix everything, but she’s not the mayor anymore. At a town hall meeting that night, Filthy gets pelted by the furious townsfolk and vainly tries to promise them more to pacify them, which prompts Mayor Mare to make an appearance and set the townsfolk straight that an elected official’s job is to make plans, work hard, and fix things when they go wrong. At that moment, the source of the earthquakes reveals itself: a tatzlwurm. Mayor Mare ends up rallying the town and using them to drive the monster off. Filthy Rich, ready to be done with politics, begins to go about the long bureaucratic process to resign from being mayor and turn it over to her, while Fluttershy finally gets some sleep.

Review:

Considering the timing of this issue on when it came out and the content, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that this was poking at one 2016 US Presidential Election candidate in particular. However, I don’t agree even if that was the intention. The moral of this one could apply to pretty much any political candidate, including both Presidential ones in 2016 or any election.

The moral is a pretty good one for living in any sort of republic or democracy, or even for something as simple as putting your trust in anyone such as a lawyer or salesman: be careful about individuals who tell you what you want to hear and stop to think about whether or not they can deliver. This goes certainly for candidates you are not in favor of but more so for ones that you are, as you’re likely to simply hear what you want to hear in those cases. The problem is the lesson was more one for the citizens of Ponyville as a whole rather than just Filthy Rich, although he still needed one of his own. After all, they were the ones who fell for Filthy’s promises to begin with.

Other than that, it’s a pretty good story. I tend the Apples were a bit more ornery and hostile than they needed to be, but it was fairly entertaining. I noticed with Agnes Garbowska’s art style that the comic story can be more “drawn out” because she tends to draw big characters with fewer word balloons in a panel, so that even though this is a two-issue comic it feels more like a one-parter. While I normally didn’t take Filthy Rich for the politician type, I’ll admit that in the situation he seems appropriate. The only real alternative would have been to create an OC just for the issue, and it would have had less of an impact that way. Ironically enough it didn’t seem to have the same amount of laughs as the previous arc, but I liked the inclusions not only of Starlight Glimmer (appearing on equal footing with the rest of the Mane Six is always a plus) but also giving a bit of time to Diamond Tiara, who has had little reason to be in the series since Season Five.

All in all, a nice little story.

Fun Facts:

This was the first IDW arc to feature Starlight Glimmer as a character, although the events of “The Cutie Map” were mentioned in an earlier issue.

At this point, “Crusaders of the Lost Mark” had taken place, so Diamond Tiara was finished being a bully. I think the few lines she got in this arc was the most use they’ve had for her character since. 😛

After the town meeting, the girls return to the Castle of Friendship for a snack. They aren’t actually eating at the Cutie Map but the dining room, but, for some reason, Twilight’s chair is in there…

One of the mayor’s aides that’s spazzing out is named Nervous Nellie. Please don’t tell me her special talent is being nervous. 😛

In spite of the fact that “Slice of Life” called him “Doctor”, in this issue the Doctor Who pony is officially named “Time Turner”.

Pinkie Pie is dressed as Abraham Lincoln for election day. Was there an Abraham-Lincoln-Pony at one point…?

Starlight raises the question of if “Mayor” is a part of Mayor Mare’s name. 😛

Boffyball, from Rarity and Gilda’s “Friends Forever” issue, gets a callback.

Apparently, at one point, Filthy broke the fourth wall and promised background characters more screen time. 😛

The Tatzlwurm, which first appeared in “Three’s a Crowd”, is back. Apparently it behaves just like the Grab-oids in “Tremors”: attracted to small sounds but scared away by really loud ones.

One of Andy Price’s cover illustrations features the pony version of Tara Strong voice acting for Twilight Sparkle, and not being happy with IDW’s choice in dialogue. 😛

Rating:

3 Stars out of 5

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Comic Arc #22 (IDW My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Issues #43-45): “The Ponies of Dark Water”

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Synopsis:

On the way back from Abyssinia after saving Equestria yet again, the Mane Six and Spike hear a bubbling and a rumbling, and soon discover a recently-emerged hot spring. Deciding it looks like a good place to relax, they all slip in and ease up for a while before heading home. The next day, Spike wakes up and sees Twilight missing. On going into town, she finds that the city is routinely being disrupted by continuous Sonic Rainbooms, Applejack is acting like a ruthless, cutthroat businesswoman and yelling at Apple Bloom for being a bad “employee”, Twilight is using her magic to declare herself the new Empress of Ponyville by virtue of her intelligence, and Rarity’s vanity has grown so staggering that she can no longer tolerate the slightest imperfection and is wanting to challenge Twilight for rule as she is “the finest”. Spike gathers the CMCs and they retreat to their clubhouse, where they determine all of this happened as a result of the hot spring. Not knowing what to do, they send a letter to Princess Celestia, who, on realizing that the Mane Six are being dominated by their own darker natures, dispatches Princess Luna (who has experience) to help. Soon after, Spike and the CMCs are bucked out of the clubhouse by Applejack who demands rent. Luna arrives and puts a stop to her, discovering dark magic inside of her. Before she can draw it out, however, she discovers the hard way that the magic has also increased her power; allowing her to break free of Luna’s holding spell and flee. Unable to change her or the others back on her own, Luna dispatches the CMCs to go get Zecora and see if she knows a potion to undo the magic while she and Spike try to maintain order in town. However, on entering the Everfree Forest the CMCs almost immediately run into a hoard of savage animals being led by Fluttershy, and back in Sugarcube Corner Pinkie Pie gets ready to unleash her own twisted brand of “fun”.

The previous day, Twilight, obsessed with gaining all knowledge and gaining it immediately, invents a device to allow her to steal the brain power of other ponies and add it to her own; soon running around town and turning ponies into morons to add to her intelligence. In the present, the CMCs are surrounded by Fluttershy’s animals and Scootaloo accidentally steps on Angel Bunny’s foot. As a result, Fluttershy calls for their blood and sics the forest on them for intruding. Back in Ponyville, mysterious gifts have been left all over town, but on opening them they explode; driving panicking ponies into the local theater where Pinkie Pie holds them hostage for a deranged comedy show. At the same time, Rarity, infuriated at outdated fashions, blows up a clothing store, getting the attention of Luna. Back in the forest, the CMCs manage to meet up with Zecora just as Fluttershy catches up to them, but on using one of Zecora’s smoke bombs to escape she ends up growing so angry she has the forest declare war on Ponyville. Back with Luna and Rarity, they get into a battle and, in the ensuing struggle, bust into the theater; prompting Pinkie Pie to blow it up with her (live) party cannon to escape. In the aftermath, the CMCs, Luna, Spike, and Zecora reunite and realize that Spike was not affected by the water like the Mane Six were. Zecora theorizes that the cure may reside in Spike’s draconic nature, but before she can do anything Rarity and Pinkie Pie re-emerge, with the former running off to confront Twilight for rule of Ponyville while the latter begins bombarding the town with water balloons loaded with the same hot spring water. As all of Ponyville begins to turn evil, the group runs for cover only for Luna to get hit by one of the balloons, causing her to revert into Nightmare Moon.

Pinkie Pie gloats over her success only momentarily, before Nightmare Moon sets her sights on her as her first target. Fortunately, in the length of time it takes her to finally disable Pinkie Pie, Zecora and Spike are able to make a cure from his scales. Once Moon disables Pinkie and runs to the Castle of Friendship to deal with Rarity and Twilight, they give the cure to Pinkie and revert her to normal. The girls go to Applejack next, stopping her from cornering the Appleloosan market and reverting her as well. On hearing Pinkie say she only cared about being funny no matter what, and Applejack say she only cared about caring for the farm and her apples, the CMCs realize the water took their virtues and enlarged and distorted them into vices. Using that as an idea, they create a cure-water-trapped target and start loudly boasting that nopony can hit it, causing Rainbow Dash to come out of the sky and nail it to prove them wrong and, as a result, curing her as well. She takes pails of water loaded with cure and creates a thunderstorm over Ponyville next, curing both Fluttershy and the rest of the afflicted residents. Unfortunately, Rarity and Twilight were both indoors locked in a battle for supremacy. As the two battle on, Princess Luna is cured by the rainstorm, but continues the guise of Nightmare Moon and gets Rarity and Twilight to agree to a compromise to divide Equestria among them, sealing it with a toast spiked with cure. Although Rarity falls for it, Twilight does not; boasting that at this point she is so intelligent she has already imagined every possible contingency and future imaginable. Soon after, however, she sets off another one of Pinkie’s cure-water-traps, because the essence of comedy is unpredictability. All of the Mane Six are miserable that they caused so much trouble from doing things they thought were their assets, but Luna comforts them: telling them to be glad it was just cursed water and not their own arrogance and jealousy. The girls undo all of their damage that they can, and Zecora purifies the hot spring before Luna sets off to depart. She leaves saying she was glad that the corruption of the water also ruined their friendship–saying if they had been both evil and united no pony could have stopped them.

Review:

It had been a while since the IDW Comic did a multi-part story, and even longer since it had done a multi-part dramatic arc. To me, similar to the plotline itself, this arc suffered a bit of an identity crisis.

The storyline itself isn’t necessarily new. As early as “The Return of Harmony” we had a storyline where the Mane Six were acting the opposite of their true selves. This one ramped it up to eleven, however, basically turning each of the girls into a different form of supervillain. I also give it props for being something that hasn’t really been done on the show or the comic yet: an installment where both the Mane Six and the CMCs highlight the same storyline. In fact, this goes a bit farther by having it be the CMCs and Spike vs. the Mane Six. In “The Return of Harmony”, the girls still seemed like themselves but just grossly (and humorously) exaggerated in the opposite direction. Here they all seem far more mature and dark-natured in all aspects. Hence, I think it’s different enough to not think of it as a ripoff. It also highlights both Princess Luna and Zecora, who are two of my more favorite recurring characters, so it has that going for it too.

However, as a I said before, this arc has an identity crisis. Similar to “Night of the Living Apples”, the storyline doesn’t seem to know whether it should be the theme of a normal episode or if it should aim for something darker. Whereas the silliness in “Night of the Living Apples” eventually won out, here…I don’t see a clear victor. While the evil versions of the Mane Six get to go overboard to a humorous degree a few times, the “fight” between Pinkie Pie and Nightmare Moon is pretty amusing, and some of the comments from the stupefied ponies are funny, there’s something missing in the tone in this one. A lot of the dialogue doesn’t even seem like it’s still MLP:FIM, and at times it looks like it’s relying on the artwork to keep the story grounded in the show’s motif. I know the girls aren’t exactly supposed to be acting like themselves, but at times it seems like that’s being used as an excuse to go beyond making them evil versions of themselves and go straight to making new characters.

I got a little hung up on the fact that the evil versions of the girls kept insisting they were “better”, while once they were cured they claimed they were obsessed with one thing. The two don’t seem to connect to me. I’m not a big fan of “corruption” in fiction, in which a character is turned by external means into an evil version of themselves. I always have the thought that if a character we normally think of as moral, upstanding, devoted, and determined can be so easily turned evil just by a cosmic light switch, then what does that say about the character?

This storyline does have what you would expect from a drama-based episode, namely a mixture of the show’s signature humor along with some points of genuine tension and drama. Especially at the conclusion of the second issue. The problem is a lot of the tension that’s built up at the end of the second issue goes nowhere. Even as Nightmare Moon, Luna ends up helping out by disabling Pinkie Pie and then reverting back to normal “off screen”. The plotline with the rest of the town beginning to turn evil doesn’t seem to go anywhere (other than a quick piracy joke by DJ-Pon-3). But most of all, it ends rather awkwardly. I’m not sure if Luna’s final statement is supposed to be in praise of the Mane Six (who, admittedly, have little to be proud of by the end of the arc) or ending on a bit of a dark note. Either way, it seemed an odd way to wrap it up.

In the end, I’m not really sure whether this should be taken as a more serious arc or something that, in spite of having the evil Mane Six, is all there just for an odd yet good laugh. I think it’s ultimately a pretty good story and entertaining, but it’s not quite as smooth or memorable as it could have been.

Fun Facts:

The title of this arc is a knockoff of “The Pirates of Dark Water”, an early 90s action/adventure animated series.

In the beginning of this issue, the girls are coming back from an adventure in “Abyssinia”. Aside from a brief mention in Season Four’s “Glass of Water” song by Discord, this region has never featured in the main TV series. However, one of the MLP Movie prequel comics placed Klugetown within its borders.

When Evil Applejack tries to buck the CMCs out of their clubhouse saying she’s taking it back, she says: “I eminently need your domain.” Eminent Domain is a principle of government to be able to seize private property for public use under certain conditions, provided it compensates for it.

Evil Pinkie Pie is a parody of the Joker. In her first appearance, she parodies not one but two scenes from the 1989 “Batman” film: breaking into hysterical laughter on seeing her appearance in a mirror and quoting: “Wait ’til they get a load of me!”

As another Batman parody, Evil Twilight Sparkle’s brain-power-stealing device resembles the Riddler’s first model of “The Box” from “Batman Forever”.

The two philosopher ponies mention an older philosopher named “Sowcrates”. In “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”, the title characters routinely mispronounce Greek philosopher Socrates’ name phonetically as “Sow-crates”.

Part of Evil Pinkie Pie’s act is to imitate Jerry Seinfeld, while at another part her puppet show quotes the novelty song: “Yakity Yak”.

Issue #44 was actually used in the Screwattack series “Death Battle” for the match between Pinkie Pie and Deadpool, when it was used to show the destructive potential that Pinkie Pie’s party cannon has when loaded with live ammunition. Oddly enough, if they had included Issue #45 as well, it would have shown she shares another power with Deadpool: namely in that she can’t be predicted.

Spike mentions that he had tickets to see “that Celestia Rap Musical”, likely an allusion to “Hamilton”.

In spite of the continuous “Sonic Rainbooms”, Evil Rainbow Dash doesn’t even appear until the final issue of the arc.

It’s never really explained if Evil Fluttershy was able to command the animals or if she somehow infected them with the corruption as well. At any rate, when she dismisses them some of them look annoyed that she canceled the war… O_o

One of the philosopher ponies, once stupefied, says: “Mashed potatoes can be your friends”, a line from Weird Al Yankovic’s “Dare to Be Stupid”. The other philosopher pony says: “You see, both characters’ mothers have the same name”, an allusion to the infamous “Martha” scene from “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”.

When cleaning up Ponyville, Twilight enchants multiple brooms to sweep together, a possibly allusion to “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” from “Fantasia”.

Rating:

3.5 Stars out of 5

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Equestria Girls: Forgotten Friendship

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Synopsis:

At Canterlot High School, Sunset Shimmer, who has retained position of President of the Yearbook Committee and Editor-in-Chief since her days when she was still a bully, is finishing up getting the results for the “superlatives” for this year’s edition. She’s pleased to learn that she and the rest of the Humane Seven have been named “Best Friends”, but Trixie is outraged that she was not voted “Greatest and Most Powerful-est” (in spite of the fact that was never a category) and vows revenge. The girls decide to take their group photo using Twilight Sparkle’s new drone camera tomorrow at a beach outing for the yearbook, and that night Sunset writes to the Equestrian Twilight Sparkle thanking her for giving her the second chance that turned her into who she is today. The next day, however, when Sunset arrives at the beach, the rest of her friends act cold, afraid, and hostile to her. On touching them, she realizes the girls have had their memories of her erased.

On further learning the only memories any of the girls have of her is of her being cruel, mean, and deceptive, Sunset writes to the Equestrian Twilight and is relieved to discover she still remembers her “being nice”. Sunset returns to Equestria to try and find out how the Humane Six lost their memories and, unable to help her alone, Twilight takes her to Princess Celestia; leading the two to finally reconcile. Celestia and Luna, in turn, take the two to the forbidden section of the Canterlot Library, where they find a record from Clover the Clever in the pre-Equestria era of an old pony sorceress who used a magical item called the Memory Stone to erase memories and fragments of memories from her victims. The records show Clover was able to thwart her attempts to erase his own memory by keeping records of everything she erased, and eventually chased her through a portal before the record abruptly ends; indicating Clover hid the rest to keep anyone from finding the stone. Sunset believes the stone was hidden in the human world and a human has uncovered it and used it against her.

Sunset returns to the human world while Equestrian Twilight continues her research, attempting to convince the girls through photographs that her claims of their friendship are real, but not only are the photos dismissed as forgeries but she is falsely accused of intentionally breaking Human Twilight’s drone camera when she accidentally steps on it. When Sunset sees Trixie is still trying to get into the yearbook, she suspects her of having the stone and using it as revenge for not including her superlative and confronts her in the school hallway. Trixie ends up being clueless about the entire matter, but on overhearing Sunset talk about how she knows she’s one type of way yet everyone in school sees her differently, she sympathizes with her considering her own attempts to constantly be “great and powerful” and believes her story. She agrees to help Sunset find the true culprit in exchange for getting put in the yearbook. Meanwhile, Equestrian Twilight finds Clover’s missing record showing the stone was buried in a circle of three rocks, but also discovers that erased memories are gone permanently if they stay removed for three days.

Sunset and Trixie go about the school but are unable to find anyone who looks like a potential suspect. Finally, they are down to only one student left to investigate: Wallflower Blush, a quiet, introverted member of Sunset’s own yearbook committee and the sole member of the Gardening Club, who is so unremarkable that she constantly goes unnoticed and forgotten by everyone (including Sunset and Trixie). At that point, Twilight writes back to Sunset with the news of the rock formation and the warning that the stone has to be destroyed by sunset that day. On seeing that Wallflower’s desktop background is of the rock formation, she touches Wallflower and discovers she accidentally discovered the Memory Stone and used it to remove everyone’s positive memories of Sunset. She angrily confronts her and demands to know what she did to her to cause her to do this to her, to which Wallflower angrily responds that, to her, Sunset never changed at all: she ignored her completely as a bully and she continued to ignore her completely as everyone’s “best friend”, and that she erased everyone’s memories so that everyone would see her the same way she does–as”the biggest meanie”. Before Sunset and Trixie can stop her, she uses the stone to erase their memory of the entire encounter and leaves them locked in the editing room.

Sunset, however, took a cue from Clover the Clever and left herself a note to check Twilight’s broken drone’s camera, which she set to record the moment before she confronted Wallflower. After watching the footage, Trixie gets Sunset to realize Wallflower had a point, and Sunset mentions that even when everyone hates her permanently tomorrow she’ll still have one friend in her. This, however, emboldens Trixie enough to try out one of her “escape artist tricks”, which manages to get Sunset free. She runs out to confront Wallflower again, but this time does so in front of the rest of the Humane Seven and, in the ensuing confrontation, Wallflower accidentally blurts out that she did indeed erase their memories of Sunset. Infuriated that her plan to get back at Sunset has been exposed and determined to make her suffer, Wallflower moves to erase the Humane Six’s memories of high school all together. Realizing that will destroy their friendships with each other, Sunset jumps into the path of the attack rather than let herself be the cause of breaking up their friendship a second time. Sunset’s own memories of high school (and, ergo, the entire human world and living as a human) are erased, but on seeing her sacrifice for them the rest of the girls finally believe that she’s really their friend and are still able to unite with her to “pony up” and destroy the Memory Stone before sunset. Everyone’s memories are restored and Wallflower, after seeing firsthand what her desire for revenge did to Sunset, repents of her own behavior. As it turns out, however, Sunset apologizes to her for never being a good friend. As Sunset writes to Equestrian Twilight about the stone’s destruction, she reveals she made amends by including Wallflower on a page in the yearbook for the Gardening Club, as well as gave Trixie her full page superlative for “Greatest and Most Powerful-est”.

Review:

The “Equestria Girls” franchise, by most estimates, was undergoing a degeneration until this special. No one really liked the original, but “Rainbow Rocks” blew everyone away with one of the show’s greatest ensemble darkhorses: Sunset Shimmer elevated from generic villain to deuteragonist. “Friendship Games” was considered by most fans to be lesser by comparison, and “Legend of Everfree” paled compared to that. The three 22 minute specials were rather unremarkable as well, especially among those who disliked Starlight Glimmer as “Mirror Magic” made it look as if she was going to shanghai the EG universe just as she was accused of doing the same to the main series. Even ignoring that, continuous generic plotlines with one-dimensional villains who “just needed a friend” led the entire series to feeling like it was more or less copies of each previous one with slight modifications.

By comparison, the shorts featured on Youtube were a bit better received as they were small vignettes that allowed the individual girls to shine in different situations rather than have most of the Humane Seven squashed into a “character lump” while one or two other characters did everything. Yet once again, the shorts shined when they went to the star of the EG series, Sunset Shimmer. Through them, Sunset has been revealed to be a multi-faceted, oddly pragmatic, and lovable character…especially in ones like “My Past is Not Today”, “Monday Blues”, and “Rarity’s Display of Affection”.

It seems only natural that what would get the “Equestria Girls” franchise back on track would be a special devoted to everyone’s favorite bacon-headed girl.

“Forgotten Friendship” was widely loved by the fan base, and with good reason. Not only was this special a bit of a departure from the normal fare, but it also was a bit more “mature” than those others. It relied a lot heavier on character and internal conflict rather than on a lot of magic and colorful pictures and action sequences. In that sense alone, the new Y7 rating was justified. This special was good in the same way that “The Perfect Pear” was good–the story is great but really little kids likely won’t understand why.

Going with that, this is a special that focused more on a theme and concept rather than an overt tangible antagonist (although there was one of those too): namely the idea of how much of our own identity is, ironically, shaped by the perception of others toward us. Most of us work very hard to make sure people only see the “best” side of us, and if we do something wrong we work even harder to try and show off so much good that people will forget those moments. Sunset is caught in the situation of what would happen if all anyone could remember about them was everything bad they had ever done. The end result is a look at just how much of ourselves we define based on the reaction of others, and what sort of existential crises might result. (There are a number of times in the episode Sunset begins to revert to her old way of acting as a result of being treated like her old self.) The lesson Sunset herself learns (Can you really go around calling yourself a good person if all you are is “not mean” to people?) even goes back into that–causing her to ask herself if it really matters if the school gives her an award for a superlative when she personally knows she didn’t live up to that standard.

Some fans might have thought making Trixie be the surprise co-star of this special was just to capitalize on her newer, more prominent role in the main series. Since she’s Starlight’s friend now, they decided to make her Sunset’s friend. I…disagree. Going with the theme of the special, she belongs here. As is pointed out, Trixie is the very poster child of an individual who is constantly trying to make herself into a better individual by making herself appear to everyone as a greater individual. She always fails at it, but…in spite of continuously failing, she always sees herself personally as “great and powerful” even if no one else does and never gives up trying to promote that view. In that odd way, for all of her obnoxiousness, selfishness, childishness, and pettiness…Trixie is rather endearing and even slightly admirable. It’s something of the same deal as with Wile E. Coyote or Team Rocket: you admire a character for never giving up or abandoning who they are.

Wallflower Blush ended up being one of the more popular EG villains as well. While I’m pretty sure the Dazzlings still hold Number One, I’d place her up there with Midnight Sparkle in a tie. While Midnight Sparkle definitely has more charisma, in terms of realism and motivation it goes to Wallflower. Since “Rainbow Rocks”, the villains were pretty much cookie cutouts: character who doesn’t rely on friendship acquires Equestrian magic, ends up misusing it and being corrupted, turns into a monster, and gets blasted into submission/tearful apologies by the Humane Seven. Wallflower Blush…didn’t really break the mold, but she did “deform” it quite a bit.

On the spectrum of villains, there’s multiple axes to consider. Most modern ones place villains on the range from “True Villain” to “Anti-Villain”, dividing villains between those who are genuinely evil and those who are pretty much just confused or misguided individuals with good intentions. A different spectrum not often considered is motivation. Even if a villain does something genuinely cruel and malicious out of spite or hostility, there are some with such good motivation that we can’t help but admit we might have done the same thing. Wallflower isn’t quite to that extreme, but she’s close. Most fans of the show probably couldn’t identify with Gloriosa Daisy or Juniper Montage, but a lot of them have experienced feelings of invisibility or the dehumanization of being part of the high school crowd. In Wallflower’s case, she was an individual who had done a lot of work toward digging the hole she found herself in. The flashbacks reveal she didn’t make a ton of effort to try and join in at parties or social gatherings, and later she reveals that she erased memories of anything she had ever done to stand out…ironically making herself invisible as those would have been the things that would have made her stand out in people’s memories. Nevertheless, the fact remains Sunset never noticed her as a bully and never noticed her as a good friend either, so from her perspective Sunset never changed at all. So to see someone who you remember being a tyrant and a brat be loved and admired by everyone while you yourself, having never done anything cruel to anyone, still remain ignored by everyone?

The other part of this is that Wallflower shares something with older EG villains: egocentricity. She tends to see the world only from her perspective. She’s not as overt or obnoxious about it as other villains were so it doesn’t stand out, but it’s clear based on the episode. Wallflower continues to act the same way around Sunset in the editing room in spite of the fact she knows what she did to her. She describes the entire thing as trying to “teach her a lesson”. It heavily indicates that Wallflower does not realize just how badly she hurt Sunset by what she did, or what she would be doing if she fully erased the high school memories of the Humane Six. It’s not until she removes Sunset’s memories that she finally sees what she’s really been doing to her all this time, and the look on her face makes it clear she doesn’t like it. The fact that we get that instead of Wallflower turning into some magic memory-stealing demon is a major step forward. It’s not perfect, but it’s enough to make Wallflower’s change far more genuine.

If that wasn’t enough, this episode gave a lot of what fans had wanted to see. Sunset gets to interact with the Equestrian Twilight Sparkle, who hadn’t been seen since the brief appearance in “Friendship Games”. And it also gave what they had really been longing for, namely the reconciliation between her and Princess Celestia. Similar to a few scenes in “Legend of Everfree”, this special also indicated that Sunset Shimmer has a closer relationship with Sci-Twi than the other girls. Now…some fans have made the jump straight to homosexuality from that, but I think that’s extreme. For one thing, it would be one-sided because Sci-Twi has a boyfriend, and that would only make things more awkward for her to be around Sunset in that case. I tend to think that Sunset sees Sci-Twi as a “little sister”. And there are some genuine dramatic and gripping moments, including the climax in which Sunset cries out in anguish as her memories of the girls are removed one by one and how she looks at Sci-Twi and says: “Don’t forget me!”

Alas, there are some negatives.

This special has been compared to the infamous “Anon-a-Miss” arc from the IDW comic, which enjoyed a resurgence in popularity following the release of the special. One of the big differences between that story and this is that in this one the Humane Six have a plausible reason for instantly giving Sunset the cold shoulder. Nevertheless…most fans were a bit upset that the friendship-orientated personalities of the Humane Six didn’t make more of a connection. There are a fistful of scenes in which Sci-Twi starts to question it, which makes the most sense for her because she only has one “bad” memory of Sunset Shimmer and most of who Sci-Twi is today depended on Sunset Shimmer’s actions, meaning she would be the most likely to conclude something was “missing” in her memories. However, none of the girls ever seem to get the sensation that their group is somehow incomplete or question Sunset’s absence…in spite of the fact a comment by Rarity indicates they should have been experiencing deja vu of some sort or another. I think it would have been a nice touch myself, although going with the theme of the special I’m not sure it would have meshed.

The resolution was a bit hurried as well. While I compliment it for evading some of the expected tropes and cliches, it still adhered to quite a bit of convenience. The Humane Six just happened to be at that location and, what’s more, after giving Sunset the cold shoulder for three days they’re suddenly paying enough attention to her to overhear the key parts of her argument with Wallflower. And by not doing what I said above, it makes the fact that the girls turned around so easily, even considering Sunset’s sacrifice, a little unbelievable. If they had been starting to question if Sunset might be telling the truth, it would make sense. Since they didn’t, it seems like it was just a tad convenient.

Lastly, the moral was a tad smudged again. Everything started because of those superlatives in the yearbook. So was it arguing that superlatives were bad? Or that everyone should get a superlative just so that you acknowledge them, which defeats the purpose of a superlative to begin with? Also, by presenting the idea that Sunset was indeed in the wrong about her treatment of Wallflower, it leads to the idea that some of what happened to her was “merited”.

Nevertheless, none of those are major issues. This special was rightly one of the best in the entire Equestria Girls franchise. If future specials stick with the concept behind this one, not being afraid to consider a theme and treat the audience as being a bit older than the original crowd, and the EG franchise might indeed be able to endure when the main series departs in two seasons.

Fun Facts:

This special was the first entry in the “Equestria Girls” franchise to be rated Y7 instead of Y. While the dominant thought for the rating change is Wallflower Blush shouting: “I hate you!”, I noticed old Equestria Girls specials were retroactively upped to Y7 ratings as well, indicating it’s likely more of a change of ratings policy than new content.

This special was originally conceived as a five-part miniseries to be showed as part of the Equestria Girls Youtube series, which was eventually put online in weekly installments under the title of “Most Likely to Be Forgotten”. The special itself is a condensed version of the miniseries and is six minutes shorter, with several jokes and asides cut out, such as the pony Sunset Shimmer briefly spotting the pony Flash Sentry and a broken library index machine.

Similar to other Equestria Girls specials, this initially debuted in junior novel form under the title: “A Friendship to Remember”.

This special has frequently been compared to the IDW Comic Equestria Girls Holiday Special. Both plotlines featured Sunset Shimmer being unjustly accused of still being a cruel bully, the other girls casting her out, and the one responsible wanting to make Sunset suffer out of jealousy. It also shares a lot in common with the popular Season Five episode “Amending Fences”, which dealt with a character thinking of herself as a great friend discovering she had been neglecting someone for years.

A “wallflower” is a type of introverted person who attends social events but tends to stick to themselves and avoid standing out in any way.

Snips and Snails, in keeping with early episodes of the main series, have become Trixie’s minions again. With their memories erased, shouldn’t they be serving Sunset again?

Twilight’s drone had its AI changed by the Memory Stone to fear Sunset…somehow. O_o

It has been noted that the Memory Stone is very similar in appearance to the Gossip Stones in “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time”. However, as Silver Quill noted in his own review, this is likely not so much inspiration from Zelda as both drawing inspiration from the same source: namely the “third eye” in many Eastern belief systems such as Hindu and Taoism. It’s considered to be a point of higher consciousness, intuition, and spiritual perception. As Silver Quill also mentioned, it is worth noting whenever the girls either lose or gain memories, the point of entry/origin of the memories is the same spot where the “third eye” is said to reside.

In a surprising change to Equestrian history, it is revealed Clover the Clever was in fact a stallion. Apparently back in Season Two’s “Hearth’s Warming Eve”, the girls weren’t necessarily playing roles to gender.

Both songs in the special are incidents of the characters being aware of their own musical number. Wallflower mentions she was trying to get Sunset’s attention through her own song, and Trixie later fast-forwards through Wallflower’s on the drone recording.

When Sunset “ponies-up”, her memories are still missing and so, naturally, she looks confused about the entire experience.

Rating:

4.5 Stars out of 5

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Season Seven, Episodes Twenty-Five and Twenty-Six: “Shadow Play”

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Synopsis:

Sunburst has discovered that one of the treasures in the “blind buy” he made (in “Uncommon Bond”) was actually Starswirl the Bearded’s old journal. He reveals its contents to Princess Celestia, Princess Luna, the Mane Six, Spike, and Starlight Glimmer. Starswirl was gathered by an unnamed pony along with the five other legendary individuals mentioned in the Mane Six’s favorite tales, revealing them all to have been actual ponies and not mere myths, to form the Pillars of Old Equestria: the original group that devoted itself to banishing the newly-formed Equestria of the various evils inhabiting it and upholding the ideals of strength, bravery, beauty, hope, healing, and sorcery. However, he says the unnamed pony only brought them together to try and steal their power for himself. On driving him away, the pony embraced the powers of darkness and was turned into “the Pony of Shadows”, a foe devoted to covering Equestria with the same shadow. Unable to defeat him, the journal says the six went to confront him with a desperate plan, but fails to mention what happened afterward, and neither Starswirl nor the others were ever heard from again. Celestia entrusts the journal to Twilight and Sunburst to crack the mystery of their old mentor, and after extensive study and help from Starlight they discover a clue about a place called Ponehenge and, following the journal, uncover its ruins. On accidentally placing the journal at one spot in the ruins, a vision is projected showing what happened. The Pillars united their power through a magic artifact in each of their possession (Starswirl’s journal, Rockhoof’s shovel, Flash Magnus’ shield, Mistmane’s flower, Somnambula’s blindfold, and Meadowbrook’s mask) to create a spell to banish him to Limbo at the price of banishing themselves as well. As time and space has no meaning there, they have been trapped in that instant ever since. After further research, however, Twilight discovers that the spell can be broken and the six of them freed by reassembling their old artifacts, and the Cutie Map activates to show them where each of them are. Starlight suspects that Twilight only wants to break the spell for a chance to meet with her idol, and that they wouldn’t have banished themselves without good reason, but in the end her decision and those of the rest of the Mane Six and Sunburst overrides hers, and the artifacts are reassembled and the spell cast. The Pillars are immediately returned to the exact place where they disappeared, but as soon as they get their bearings Starswirl immediately tells Twilight to reverse the spell, shouting “you cannot bring only the Pillars back”. Moments later, the Pony of Shadows manifests himself as well.

The first act he performs is to immediately destroy Starswirl’s journal and Ponehenge so that he can’t be banished again. He attempts to destroy Starswirl next, but Twilight and Starlight intervene and, to his surprise, prove to be stronger than him in his currently weaker state. Vowing to destroy all hope in Equestria, he vanishes to regain his power and leaves everypony else behind. Starswirl is furious at Twilight for undoing the spell, and the chastisement by her idol leaves her feeling miserable. He states that they need to find where the Pony of Shadows went to perform the banishing spell a second time. The group takes the Pillars to the Cutie Map, where the Pillars reveal that the Tree of Harmony that resulted in the formation of the Castle of Friendship and the Cutie Map came from a seed they planted with a bit of their own virtue imbued into it. Seeing how much its power has grown in a thousand years, Starswirl decides to use the Elements of Harmony to perform the banishing spell again, much to the reluctance of the Mane Six on realizing doing so will kill the Tree of Harmony. Twilight, desperate to atone for her mistake and to prove she’s a good magic user to Starswirl, works on modifying the spell so that the Pillars themselves will not have to be trapped as well, and comes up with a solution that will allow the Elements of Harmony to open the gate to Limbo so that one powerful magic-using pony can push the Pony of Shadows inside; a solution Starswirl, after some pressure, accepts. However, when the Cutie Map activates again and all six members of the Mane Six are drawn to the Hollow Shades to confront the Pony of Shadows, Starlight grows concerned as the map has only ever sent the girls to solve friendship problems. On speaking with the other Pillars, she discovers the identity of the unnamed pony: a magic-less and weak unicorn named Stygian who had scholarly knowledge but no skill like them. She also discovers all of them always simply assumed Stygian tried to steal their powers out of greed and envy rather than knew for sure. Fearing this might be another friendship problem, Starlight confesses that banishment might not be the best course to Twilight but she, eager to prove herself to Starswirl, doesn’t listen; causing Starlight to chastise her as well. The Mane Six reclaim the Elements of Harmony from the tree and depart for the Hollow Shades, where they finally track the Pony of Shadows down. The gate is opened and starts to draw him inside, but Twilight hesitates to push him in and, in the course of doing so, notices a pony struggling to get out from within the Pony of Shadows. Diving inside of him, she meets Stygian face-to-face, who reveals he wanted to copy the powers of the Pillars not out of jealousy but because he always felt useless compared to them and wanted to help. When he was cast out as a result, he turned to “the darkness” and accepted its offer to make him stronger than the Pillars so he could have revenge. Unknown to Stygian, everything he has said is audible outside of the Pony of Shadows, and the Pillars realize their mistake. Starlight jumps in as well and she and Twilight encourage him to try and reunite with them, but when the shadows respond by clinging to him and forcing the two of them out, everyone, including Starswirl, shifts from trying to blast the Pony of Shadows into Limbo to seizing Stygian and yanking him out from within the monster. They’re able to separate him, and the shadows themselves are banished into Limbo instead. Starswirl finally admits he was wrong and he and the Pillars reconcile with Stygian, while the Mane Six are happily surprised to see the Elements of Harmony remain. Starswirl reunites with Celestia and Luna in Canterlot, but says that it isn’t the place for him. Instead, realizing he has a lot to learn, and with the Pillars eager to see how Equestria has changed, they decide to journey through Equestria before deciding where they will go. The episode ends with Twilight thanking Starlight for helping her to remember her “lessons” that she already learned.

Review:

And finally, the culmination of months of IDW Comic collaboration with the show in another two-part dramatic season finale. What’s my personal verdict?

Well, I find it better than Season Five and Season Six’s finales. Beyond that…it’s complicated. Short version, it had a couple things I liked and a lot of things I didn’t necessarily dislike but I was very “meh” about. Similar to the case with “My Little Pony: The Movie”, I expected more than got delivered. However, as time has gone on I’ve appreciated the movie more for what it did have and its villain. This episode, on the other hand, is very by-the-numbers…which is a much bigger minus.

It would have been one thing if this was a typical season finale, but this is a season finale that was being built up to in the IDW Comic for months. In the comic, the Pony of Shadows was made out to be such a powerful and malevolent villain, one so beyond any of the other villains until now, that his descendant Shadow Lock was purposely trying to erase any knowledge of his existence specifically to keep him from ever returning. That’s pretty intense. That promises something huge. And…we got a friendship misunderstanding with a character who’s practically a background pony. It may be the theme of the show, but…”Twilight’s Kingdom” left too much of an impression that’s being felt to this day. Fans long for powerful villains to defeat. It’s only a minor complaint, but it is a letdown. All that build-up for this.

There were some good points. Although it was mostly episode padding, Spike did get a little scene to himself with Rainbow Dash and Garble in which his clumsy, timid, yet determined nature comes through. And while Starlight does get a lot of credit for the resolution, this ended up being an episode where she and Twilight worked more alongside each other to save the day rather than one standing out above the other. And again, the end of this episode rams home the point made in the previous episode and the reason I finally accepted Starlight as a cast member: Starlight means a lot as a friend to Twilight, and if that’s the case then I can accept her based on that.

The nicest thing about this episode, however, is the Lore associated with it. We’re finally really breaking ground on the history of Equestria and making it canon. While a lot of the characters in this episode were alluded directly to by the comic, interestingly the one comic-concept that seemed to become canon from this episode is the idea that there are dark and malevolent forces, “shadows” if you will, that actively tried to ruin and corrupt Equestria in ages past. Thanks to efforts of Celestia, Luna, and the Pillars, most of them are diminished or banished and Equestria is now the land it is today, but they aren’t gone completely. The idea was used frequently in the comic with creatures such as the Nightmares and the Umbra, entities of nothing but darkness that constantly look to claim others and use them for their ends. It’s somewhat analogous to the shadow entity in “A Wrinkle in Time”, the idea that all civilized worlds have to constantly be on guard from interstellar darkness invading them and that their best defense are those that embody love, peace, justice, and everything good and wholesome in this world. It also ties in further to the idea that began to come to light in the movie, that Equestrians are in fact terribly powerful and destructive but because they’re so peaceful and friendship-loving their power is never used for ill ends. I’m wondering if more of this Lore will come to light in later episodes.

Unfortunately, that’s where the good stuff ends to me. If I had to sum up what’s wrong with this two-parter in one phrase, it would be this: character overload.

This episode features all of the Mane Six, Spike, Starlight Glimmer, Sunburst, and all six of the Pillars of Old Equestria in the roles of protagonists…a staggering 15 characters. Each one of them gets a couple lines. With so many characters and so many things to do in order to set up this episode, there’s no time for all of them. In fact, there’s practically no time for any of them. Almost all of the first half of this has to be devoted to exposition, and a lot of the second half has to be devoted to backstory. Whatever is not devoted to that is devoted to the tension between Starswirl the Bearded, Twilight Sparkle, and Starlight Glimmer…three characters out of fifteen.

With all of this taking up so much time, there’s little opportunity to devote to character interactions with the rest of the girls and their respective idols, building up the malevolence and tension with the Pony of Shadows, getting into the heads or personas of the Pillars who suddenly find themselves instantly 1,000 years in the future, how they all react to suddenly being in this new world so radically different from theirs, or even having enough backstory to really have a chance to develop sympathy for Stygian and a sense of the relationship he once had with Starswirl. Instead, the last part has to be spoon fed to us in a monologue. That’s a real shame in light of the movie, which managed to garner sympathy for Tempest Shadow without any lines in a silent flashback.

All of those other details could have made for good plot points. Perhaps even good distinct episodes. Any one of the Pillars of Old Equestria adjusting to this new world they find themselves in could make for a good storyline, or any of their old exploits as a group and how they met (which I hear is being handled by the comic). Instead, because so much exposition has to be presented and so many characters are there to cycle through, we barely get any time at all for most of them. About the only thing new we know about any of them other than Starswirl at the end is…Flash Magnus and Rainbow Dash want to hang with each other.

None of that necessarily makes the episode “bad”, but it does water it down quite a bit and diminish its dramatic impact to practically nothing. This has the feel of a story that could have stood to be three or even four episodes long to try and dig into everyone a little more. I appreciate that in every scene the shot is overloaded with characters that the animators took time to give them all their own reactions, but that doesn’t change the fact they’re mostly there along for the ride.

At least the Elements of Harmony are back and doing their thing. And this episode does leave me hopeful for the future and where the show could go from here.

Fun Facts:

As mentioned in the previous review, IDW My Little Pony: Legends of Magic #6 leads directly into this episode. That issue concludes with Sunburst first reading the journal, discovering something shocking, and then running off to tell the princesses. This episode begins with him revealing his findings to them, the Mane Six, and Starlight Glimmer.

“The Pony of Shadows” was first introduced in IDW My Little Pony #53. His presentation and modus operandi, as well as his backstory, is somewhat similar to Ganondorf from “The Legend of Zelda” series, in particular with six “sages” unable to defeat a force of evil and instead sealing him away. However, he also has a lot in common with Venom from “Spider-Man” comics. In particular to his appearance, how the “darkness” appears to have latched onto him like a corrupting symbiote, and in one particular scene in which extensions of his fake wings act like Venom’s own synthetic webs. The Pony of Shadows is the closest the show has come so far to depicting a male alicorn.

Each of the “Pillars” corresponds to an “Element” in the sense that when the pillar is upheld, it gives rise to the virtue the element represents:

  • Strength begets Honesty.
  • Bravery begets Loyalty.
  • Healing begets Kindness.
  • Beauty begets Inspiration (and kind of Generosity…note Inspiration was originally supposed to be Rarity’s element, not Generosity)
  • Hope begets Laughter.
  • Sorcery begets Magic.

As I mentioned in an earlier review, Celestia and Luna now share the throne.

Twilight has a “nerd laugh” (with snorting) when she giggles about Starswirl’s hoofwriting.

Limbo was a non-Biblical idea Roman Catholicism endorsed back in medieval times as a place where those who lived morally righteous lives (and therefore were not culpable for suffering within Hell) yet who died prior to the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ (and therefore were not eligible for Heaven) went after death. (It is separate from the similar and likewise non-Biblical Roman Catholic idea of Purgatory, which is endorsed to this day.)  It was rejected with the emergence of Protestantism and the idea that mankind’s own righteousness alone is insufficient to gain any form of salvation, and rather that all salvation is purely through the work of Christ and that His Sacrifice transcends past, present, and future. Nevertheless, it remains a popular literary device as an extra-dimensional realm separate from the mortal realm. Now it’s apparently part of Pony Lore.

Petunia Paleo cameos at the old Mighty Helm site, who first appeared in Season Six’s “The Fault in Our Cutie Marks”. There’s also Indiana-Jones-pony, and looking like the “Crystal Skull” version. 😛 Ironically, Daring Do was originally a knockoff of Indiana Jones, and she cameos in this episode too.

Holy crud, Applejack is super-pony-ly strong. O_O

When Rainbow Dash answers Garble’s wager with “Fine”, I like how Spike panics. 😛

Ugh…Pinkie Pie carries Somnambula’s slime-coated blindfold in her mouth…

Similar to how the Timberwolves are drawn using 3D art, allowing the mixed media to make them more unsettling, the Pony of Shadows is hand-drawn as opposed to animated in Flash to make him stand out from the other characters.

By far, this two-parter sets the record for the most voice actors in a single episode (ok, technically two). Mostly because so many of the voice actors have done only one or two voices in show history. Starswirl the Bearded, first mentioned all the way back in Season Two’s “Luna Eclipsed”, finally gets a voice by Chris Britton, who has had an assortment of voice acting and live acting roles with his more notable ones being Mr. Sinister on the old “X-Men” TV series and Soichiro Yagami on “Death Note” (he also played a role in Netflix’s poorly-received live-action “Death Note”). Bill Newton, who plays Stygian/the Pony of Shadows, is new this season but got a lot of work as he’s also the voice of Pharynx and Bright Macintosh. Other “one-voice” roles include Ian Hanlin reprising Sunburst and Chiara Zanni reprising Daring Do.

When Pinkie Pie interjects to explain all the foes they’ve defeated to Starswirl, she produces the Journal of Friendship out of nowhere. The original one no less. Yay, hammerspace.

Neither Rockhoof nor Somnambula ever spoke in their original appearances. This is the first time either of them received a voice.

I pointed this out in an earlier review, but…Somnambula’s personality ended up being radically different from how she was depicted in the IDW Comic. Whereas that made her more like Pinkie Pie, here she’s definitely more sagacious and reserved.

I’m still kind of stunned that Mage Meadowbrook knows so much about magic and can’t do any. 😛

Does Rockhoof use his shovel as…a weapon? I’m getting flashbacks to “Mystery Men”… Does that make it a Warshovel?

One of the biggest surprises in this episode came from the flashback, in which one of the foes of the Pillars of Old Equestria were revealed: the Sirens in their original bodies. This was rather shocking because the show creators had officially stated that the “Equestria Girls” universe was a spin-off and distinct from the show’s universe. In fact, previous attempts in the series to feature a cameo by Sunset Shimmer have been shot down on those grounds (such as in “Slice of Life” and “The Cutie Re-Mark”). There’s a chance that this is an alternate version of the Sirens who got banished to Limbo themselves rather than the human universe, but most fans consider this permission to start including Sunset Shimmer as part of the regular show. At any rate, this is the first look we’ve really gotten of their true forms. Although they appeared somewhat in “Rainbow Rocks”, those forms were inconsistent in size and it was debatable if it represented reality or simply projections the actual Dazzlings were making of themselves. The design is mostly identical as is their size, which is revealed to be several times larger than a normal pony. Changes included adding different tones of color and reducing the size of their eyes. “The Art of Equestria” reveals one of the basic ways the artists make “evil-looking characters” more Y-rating appropriate is by enlarging their eyes, such as they did with Chrysalis. Apparently we can “scare” the kids a bit more now. 🙂 It seems even in Equestria their jewels were key to their power, although in this version they seem to be embedded in their chests rather than simply jewels they wear. Ironically, although this episode represented a collaboration with IDW Comic, it renders IDW’s FIENDship is Magic #3 completely bunk. 😛

In the flashback with the Sirens, a filly version of Esmeraldas teases a hunchback pony, who in turn slams a giant bell down on her. 😛

“Stygian” is an adjective that refers to the river Styx, a place in Greek mythology which represents the barrier to the Underworld. A very dark place, in other words. His design is rather interesting, made to look like the “dumber” ponies in the series and, therefore, more unremarkable and forgettable ones.

While the Castle of the Two Sisters makes an appearance in flashbacks, no sign of young Celestia and Luna like in the comic. Aw…

“It seems I never accounted for the Magic of Friendship.” This is an echo of the line Princess Celestia gave to Twilight in “Magical Mystery Cure”: “Something even a great unicorn like Starswirl the Bearded was not able to do, because he did not understand friendship like you do.” It’s a nice nod.

Rating:

2.5 Stars out of 5

My Little Devotional #160: “Filter Feeding”

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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Shadow Play”

While meant to be a drama, this episode ended up serving well as one of the “friendship lesson” episodes–illustrating the dangers of perceiving the world the way we are instead of how it really is. The epic battle that lasted over a thousand years between Starswirl the Bearded and Stygian, the Pony of Shadows, all boiled down to neither individual seeing the truth. Starswirl interpreted Stygian’s attempt to copy the powers of the Old Pillars of Equestria in order to earn appreciation as an attempt to steal their powers for himself, making him a villain in his eyes. Stygian, on the other hand, interpreted being cast out as an act of ingratitude and hate, making the Old Pillars, and his old friends, his enemies in his own eyes. In the end, their banishment and their fight was the result of misunderstanding reality rather than truth, but that didn’t mean both of them didn’t defend such misunderstandings vigorously. Starswirl saw Stygian as a monster to be banished, and Stygian wanted to destroy all of Equestria if it meant getting his revenge on him.

When thinking about this episode for this devotional this past week, a thought occurred to me that tied in with it. Many of you are probably aware of the abuses of social media. How they seem to be used as an excuse to vilify, insult, shame, and breed every kind of discord and intolerance imaginable to get everyone at each other’s throats, whether consciously or subconsciously. Enough to where a backlash has begun where people are beginning to swear it off. However, I myself don’t have much of a problem with it and I use Facebook regularly. How, you ask? I discovered a couple years ago I wonderful option to block posts from certain groups. Before then, anyone and everyone I friended would repost things that were political, aggressive, argumentative, and occasionally obscene. I used to always find the urge to respond to them, often resulting in arguments breaking out and the desire to feel justified overriding the desire to be Christian, but I eventually decided to go with the “if you can’t say anything nice…” maxim and simply blocked sites that had nothing but political and inflaming rhetoric. Since then, Facebook has become far more manageable for me (especially in election season…). Now that I filter out the stuff that ticks me off and leave only the stuff I’m interested in, things are much better.

How does this tie in to today’s episode? As I’m emphasized in other posts, we never see the world the way it is but the way we are. Everything from our view of international affairs to our outlook on our job to our attitude toward strangers to how we wake up in the morning and look around our rooms…whether it’s good or bad, hopeful or depressing, an opportunity or a lost cause: it all comes down to our outlook. And what many of us don’t realize consciously is just how many “filters” we put on everything subconsciously.

Such was definitely the case in this episode. Both characters had put up their own “filters” so that they could see nothing in each other except what they had already decided on seeing. In particular with Starswirl. To him, Stygian was nothing but evil to be stopped. He wouldn’t bother listening to anything Starlight tried to say about it, dismissing even considering an alternate viewpoint as irrelevant, and adamantly refusing to see anything but his version of history. In other words, anything that challenged his mental schema was blocked out entirely. Only things that confirmed it were let in.

Getting back to the topic of politics. I try to stay out of them, but my family listens to them and I get feeds from news sources both liberal and conservative. I’m amazed at how it seems as if they’re reporting on two different realities most days. Essentially, each source casts everything one way or the other. If it’s something that the party they’re in favor of did, no more how horrible, disgusting, illicit, or harmful, it’s always cast to make it look like it was either not a big deal or even a virtue. By comparison, if it’s something that the party they’re against did, no matter how good, noble, wholesome, helpful, or even innocuous, it’s always cast to make it look as if it’s the worst thing ever conceived by mankind. Or oftentimes they simply ignore whatever news story makes the other side look good as if it never even happened. Again, it’s all a “filter”.

Politics is an easy target, but it extends to everything. How you view this race or that gender. How you think of this religious group or that country. Even how you view the homeless and the needy, or what personal choices you make for recreation or fun. People don’t realize how often they have made a subconscious yet firm decision to love something or hate something. When that happens, they put on “filters”. And as a result, they often won’t give anything a chance or think up reasons to not do something or try something. Sometimes it’s used as an excuse for hate or intolerance. And sometimes it becomes just plain crazy. (I myself know one person who refused for ages to try a restaurant named “Cheddar’s”. Why? Because he hated cheese…in spite of the fact the restaurant doesn’t specialize in cheese and that’s just the name.)

Whether you pick the Old Testament or the New Testament, the Bible warns against the sin of showing partiality and seeing the world according to human eyes rather than God’s eyes. “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'” (1 Samuel 16:7). “Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:2-4). “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28). In short, we are to strive to see things the way God sees them rather than according to our own internal “filters” and all of their associated biases and prejudgments.

However, to me, the good news is that the right kind of “filtering” can also work to our advantage.

Just as internal filters can keep us biased toward seeing the world in a negative light, it can help us see the world in a positive one. We can train ourselves to stop looking for reasons to hate or dislike things but instead to look for the living spirit of God in everything. When looking at a group or individual we dislike, we can choose to see how they are a precious child of God and loved by him as much as we are. When disaster strikes, we can choose to see in what ways we are still blessed and what opportunity we might now have. When feeling attacked unjustly or persecuted, we can choose to look for how God is guiding us and how he wishes for us to grow in that situation. It’s possible, even in the worst of circumstances, to still see the presence of God, his spirit, and goodness and love in everything, while at the same time filtering out anything negative, externally terrible, hostile, or that in any other way tries to get us to react with a hostile, angry, or hard-hearted attitude. But even if you’re not in the worst of circumstances, you can do the same in everyday occurrences, no matter how mundane or simple.

And over time, we can train ourselves to see the world that way by default, and to keep growing to see the world the way God sees it. And when that happens, like it did on my Facebook page, the world becomes a much more pleasant, hopeful, lovely, and opportunity-filled place.

My suggestion for this devotional is to focus a bit more on trying to identify filters that we have set up that are keeping our world view rather grim and pessimistic, and instead to focus on seeing things more the way our Lord wants us to. It might make all the difference in the world.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you that the world is filled with your Spirit and blessings, and that they are all around us no matter the situation if we will look for them. If there is something in my life that is keeping me from seeing the world the way you want me to see it, or is warping my view toward others and keeping me hard-hearted, please help me to identify it, and I now renounce it and repent of it. Instead, please give me eyes to see the world the way you see it, so that I can better grow to love this world you have made and especially the people you have created to fill it. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Season Seven, Episode Twenty-Four: “Uncommon Bond”

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Synopsis:

Starlight Glimmer is excited for Sunburst to arrive from the Crystal Empire, eager to spend the next couple days hanging out and catching up with her old friend as she believes they have so much in common. However, the visit doesn’t go quite as planned. It turns out Sunburst has developed an interest in antiques which Twilight Sparkle shares, causing the first day to be blown antiquing all day with her. The next day when she tries to get some apples from Sweet Apple Acres, she runs into Trixie, at which point Sunburst reveals his interest in stage magic and spends the whole morning with her instead. When she tries to show her to the Mirror Pool later, they bump into Maud, and, again, Sunburst reveals an interest in geology and spends his time with her. Desperate to try and relive their old friendship, Starlight ends up resorting to a spell that both transforms the interior of the Castle of Friendship into the house they played in as foals and regresses them to child age so they can play a board game called Dragon Pit. This, however, both unsettles and upsets Sunburst, and as a result of his backlash Starlight fears that he would prefer to be friends with her other friends, and that they now have so little in common that they can’t be friends anymore. When she runs off, Sunburst learns about her fears and tries to think of something the two still have in common, but coming up dry he turns to Twilight, Trixie, and Maud and discovers she doesn’t have terribly much in common with them other than they understand each other and accept each other. With that in mind, the four of them make a life-sized version of Dragon Pit to play with Starlight so that they can all do something together as friends. Starlight and Sunburst realize having a lot in common isn’t necessarily needed to be friends, so long as you understand and appreciate one another and enjoy being together. Starlight helps Sunburst get on board a train bound for home with a “blind buy” barrel of antiques, which includes a rather ancient book with a star swirl pattern…

Review:

I disliked “Marks and Recreation” the most this season, but this one remains a contender for one of my more disliked episodes.

It has a good lesson…kind of. The idea that you don’t have to actually have things in common to be friends. True, but…most of the time you do. It’s a rare occasion that you don’t, and usually in my experience your “bestie” is not the person you have the least in common with. The idea of having friends with different interests and appreciating each other in how they’re something you’re not was already explored better in “Discordant Harmony”. Nevertheless, the lesson is appropriate here. Starlight is indeed different from almost any other character on the show. Her choice in friends reflects her ability to understand them rather than already having a pre-established interest in geology, stage magic, etc. And really the only thing you need to do to have someone want to hang around you is appreciate them for who they are. So, even though it’s a teeny bit of a stretch, it’s still a good moral.

We have good bits from both Maud Pie and Trixie in this one too. It’s nice to see the continuity with them. Maud doesn’t get a terribly large amount of screen time but she does get to “be Maud” in all of her scenes. (Amazing how so much of Maud’s personality can come out when she has so little personality. :P) And if you find Trixie obnoxious usually, this is one of her “lighter” episodes. And honestly? She is a bit cute-looking when she doesn’t have her normally arrogant look on her face.

Nevertheless, I found some bad things in this episode. The biggest one is Sunburst. The only thing I’d say he has in common with Starlight is neither of them have a high degree of empathy for others. When an old friend invites you over to spend a few days together, you were invited to spend time with them, not their friends. Now, at first it’s forgivable. Sunburst could have forgotten himself in the moment with Twilight. And he does say Starlight doesn’t have to pretend to like what they’re doing. All of that is fine. But when Starlight wakes him up early the next day and all he goes on about is Twilight-this and Twilight-that, not to mention once he hears Twilight won’t be coming with them he ignores Starlight and tries to go back to sleep…yeah. Sunburst also never seems to fully realize his own mistake. The closest we ever get is toward the end of the episode when he tries to think of things he and Starlight has in common and begins to realize they don’t have anything in common. Yet that realization never translates to him fully thinking Starlight may have had a point in being upset. At the end of the episode, he still seems to think she was “worried for nothing”.

It’s true that Starlight goes (a bit creepily) too far with regressing their ages, but she’s done worse and she reverted it pretty quickly. I can’t believe I’m actually saying this, but…this episode actually makes me sympathize with Starlight in “The Cutie Re-Mark”. Yeah. I actually feel she was casually tossed aside by someone being an insensitive jerk now. There were parts in this episode I wondered why she wants to be friends with Sunburst at all.

Aside from that, the resolution seemed a bit awkward. If trying to physically relive childhood is disturbing, I don’t think playing a giant version of the game is much better. It’s still Starlight only able to remember them having anything in common as children, and both of them grew up. I thought it would have been nicer if both of them had learned more to appreciate each other’s company rather than…that. I still don’t get the sense that Starlight and Sunburst are very close at the end other than the plot fairy said “make it so”. That seems to happen a lot with Starlight…

So, while I don’t think it was much of a “stinker” in the realm of bad episodes, I still didn’t leave feeling to great about it even with the moral and cameos.

Fun Facts:

IDW My Little Pony #53 is a prequel to this episode, and was the first appearance of Starswirl’s journal as well as “the Pony of Shadows”. On the last page, it highlights the barrel containing Starswirl’s journal.

IDW My Little Pony: Legends of Magic #6 opens with an alternate ending to this episode in another instance of the comic and the show not quite synching up, but ignoring that the comic is, in all other ways, a continuation of this episode and, in turn, is also a direct prequel to “Shadow Play”.

Sunburst can give Rarity a run for her money on luggage packing.

The Mighty Helm, the group that Rockhoof belonged to, is mentioned in the antique shop. By looking at the old map you can get a vague idea of where all of their Old Pillars of Equestria originated. Mistmane’s country was in the northeast, Rockhoof’s country was on the west coast, Somnambula’s country was to the southwest, and Mage Meadowbrook’s country was the southeast. Flash Magnus was obviously Cloudsdale while Starswirl the Bearded was obviously Canterlot. By the way, Starlight sounds unimpressed but…I find the fact the earth ponies made a map of Equestria a thousand years ago to be impressive.

Old Ponish gets mentioned again, and this time actually spoken: “Hliet forsettan pliht.” or “Reward prefers risk.”

Another Donald Duck moment in which Sunburst is embarrassed to be seen from under the covers with his cape on.

Even if you don’t like Trixie, you got to admit she looks rather adorable in a lot of scenes in this episode. 🙂

In another questionable decision by Starlight Glimmer, she uncovered the Mirror Pool from Season Three’s “Too Many Pinkie Pies”. Eh, Maud would have found it anyway. On the plus side, this finally eliminates the fear any fan might have had that the original Pinkie got trapped down there. 😛 Later in the episode, Boulder appears to have duplicated himself…er, herself?

“I thought he came to Ponyville to see you?” Excellent point, Twilight.

Pumice is indeed a light rock. It actually floats. Also, Maud is the only one who doesn’t snicker at the pitfall Starlight made.

On the train at the end, Lyra and Bon Bon get off the train together.

At first I thought Trixie had gotten good enough to levitate all of Sunburst’s luggage, but…it turns out Twilight is using her horn too. 😛

Rating:

2 Stars out of 5