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(Updated 11/13/2016)

Well, the sixth season of “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” is over. Perhaps a few of you out there have been sitting on the fence for a while, wondering whether or not to try and check out the fandom or see what the hubbub is about. Perhaps you recently thought about “joining the herd” but are a bit confused. Well…being a child-orientated TV show, it’s not too terribly hard to “jump in anywhere”, although there are a few “overarching” plot points to consider. Otherwise they couldn’t attract new viewers. However, there may be a few bits of confusion.

The best way to resolve these bits of confusion, in my opinion, is to start at Season One, Episode One, and just work your way through the series. But for those of you who don’t want to do all of that, I present to you…

TEN THINGS A NEWCOMER NEEDS TO KNOW ABOUT “MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC”

These comprise either items of confusion/misconception or details that may confuse the first time viewer. Let’s jump right in…

1. There are four pony “species”. The setting for the show, Equestria, features a variety of sentient races, both mythological and pseudo-anthropomorphic (gryphons, zebras, cows, “diamond dogs”, dragons, etc.). In terms of the main “species” of the show, ponies, there are four classes although only three usually get touched on.

“Earth ponies” are traditional ponies in that they’re the four-legged, ground-bound variety. They come off as being more down-to-earth and less wise than unicorns and less athletic than pegasi, and have a natural ability to tend the earth and make it yield; which is why they’re relied upon for agriculture and farming. They’re seemingly the most numerous race as well.

“Pegasi” are ponies with wings. They can fly, but the fact that they have wings also enables them to treat clouds as solid physical objects, so that they can stand on them and move them. They can manipulate the weather and actually control all aspects of climate in Equestria, and are more athletic and aggressive than the other races in general. Since they can dwell on clouds, they have a flying city in which only pegasi live known as Cloudsdale.

“Unicorns” are ponies with horns, which enables them to perform magic. Unicorns are usually the smartest and wealthiest of the races in Equestria, presumably as follows from their magical powers. They’re often seen in positions of power or prestige. The capitol city of Equestria, Canterlot, is heavily “unicorn-biased” due to use of magic.

At the beginning of Season Three, “Crystal Ponies” were introduced to make up the fourth species, but they are almost exclusive to the domain of the Crystal Empire. They give off a crystal sheen to their coats, making them appear to have been made out of gems, and the watermarks in their eyes are gems as well. Aside from that, they appear to be the same as Earth Ponies save in one regard: the demeanor and emotional state of the Crystal Ponies as a whole provides power to the Crystal Heart, which in turn influences the demeanor and emotional state of all of Equestria.

A “fifth race” is known as “alicorns”, but is not a true race so much as the mark of divine authority, and there are currently only five which are known. They possess both unicorn horns and pegasi wings and are capable of performing greater magic than any unicorn.

2. There are only six main characters. Previous versions of “My Little Pony” had characters out the wazoo in true Hasbro fashion…trying to make as many characters as possible for as many toys as possible. However, the show focuses in particular on only six characters AKA “The Mane Six”. Applejack is an earth pony with cowgirl characteristics, a “country drawl”, and a tomboyish disposition who loves farming. Rarity is a unicorn fashionista who loves making dresses, arranging decor, and being high-mannered with a New England accent (likely one she gave herself rather than due to her upbringing). Fluttershy is a, well, shy introvert pegasus who loves taking care of animals and, ironically, is usually too scared to fly. Rainbow Dash is an athletic, tomboyish pegasus who loves competing in athletic events and dreams of being one of the best fliers in Equestria. Pinkie Pie is an earth pony who loves baked goods and parties, is always excitable and friendly, and regularly breaks the laws of space, time, and physics. Finally, Twilight Sparkle is the “main character” out of the Mane Six, with most episodes focusing on her, and is a bookish, somewhat-socially-awkward expert at magic. For the first three seasons, she was a unicorn and the student of one of the rulers of Equestria, Princess Celestia. At the end of the third season, however, she became an alicorn herself and is now known as Princess Twilight Sparkle.

Other important characters who occasionally get the “limelight” are Spike, the baby dragon who is Twilight Sparkle’s assistant, or the Cutie Mark Crusaders, a trio of filies: Apple Bloom, an earth pony who is Applejack’s little sister; Sweetie Belle, a unicorn who is Rarity’s little sister; and Scootaloo, a flightless pegasus who appears to be an only child but looks up to Rainbow Dash as her inspiration.

In the pseudo-spinoff “Equestria Girls” series, there is a “seventh” main character, Sunset Shimmer. Like Twilight Sparkle, she too was originally a unicorn who was a student of Princess Celestia, but, unlike Twilight, her pride led her to abuse her power and she eventually fled to the human dimension where she was transformed into a human herself. Initially a villain, she has since atoned for her crimes, befriended both the Equestrian and human Twilight Sparkles, and has become the co-main character in the “Equestria Girls” franchise.

As of Season Six, there is now debate-ably a “Mane Seventh” within the main series: Starlight Glimmer. Starlight Glimmer is a completely unsocial (nearly anti-social) unicorn with an almost unprecedented level of magical ability that surpasses that of alicorns. Initially she was an extremely powerful, intelligent, and cunning villain who proved herself smarter and stronger than Princess Twilight Sparkle. Nevertheless, at the end of Season Five Twilight made her into her own student to teach her about friendship. It’s uncertain whether or not Starlight can fall into the same “ranking” as the rest of the Mane Six or is more of another side main character like Spike at this time.

3. There are two “classes” of episodes. Episodes fall into two general categories: drama/adventure and after-school-special. The bulk of the episodes are the second type. One of the characters does something rather “everyday” and “mundane” that involves some important aspect of life or social interaction during which the Mane Six or CMCs (Cutie Mark Crusaders) resolve a problem and “learn a valuable lesson”. Topics include bullying, sibling rivalry, racism, selfishness, being honest, etc. The first type is usually the “big” episodes that take two parts, although a few one-episode ones exist. They’re also usually far more dramatic with villains and action sequences. It’s important to note there are two classes of episodes depending on where you start watching. Many individuals who watch from the pilot episode, which was a drama/adventure type, ended up getting the mistaken idea that the show is “like Sailor Moon with horses”. The truth is the Elements of Harmony are rarely used to stop a villain (in fact, including the spinoff “Equestria Girls”, the Elements of Harmony have been used only three times by the Mane Six to “save the day”, and two additional times [one to free Discord, the other to summon him]).

4. Pony royalty/theology. As mentioned earlier, Equestria is ruled by a select fistful of individuals. These compromise the alicorns. Princess Celestia and her younger sister Princess Luna rule the bulk of Equestria from Canterlot. Princess Cadance rules the Crystal Empire in the Arctic. Currently, Princess Twilight Sparkle does not have a specific domain although her castle is in Ponyville, and if need be she commands as much authority as the other princesses. (The final princess, Princess Flurry Heart, the child of Princess Cadance, is only a baby right now.) In addition, however, Celestia and Luna are considered to be the “gods” of Equestria. Both are nearly immortal, and Celestia has dominion over the day while Luna has dominion over the night. Celestia is often invoked the same way that a human would invoke God. (i.e. “As Celestia is my witness…” “What in the name of Celestia…”)

5. Nature is “broken”. Nothing in Equestria “functions of its own accord”, including wildlife, weather, seasons, and even day and night. The sun and moon do not rise unless Celestia and/or Luna manipulate the sun and the moon, although prior to Celestia and Luna ruling Equestria over 1,000 years ago, unicorns were able to do the same feat. The weather does not change unless the pegasi make it, and rainwater won’t even recycle into the clouds unless the pegasi drive it back into the air annually. No plants would grow if not for earth ponies; agricultural or otherwise. Even the animals that live about Equestria cannot survive on their own and must be tended to. The only place in Equestria where animals live freely and the weather and days change on their own is the Everfree Forest…and, as a result, is regarded as a dangerous and frightening place by most of the citizens of Equestria.

6. There are villains on the show. Most of them have done heel-turn-faces, however. “Quasi-villains” include antagonists for the after-school special episodes who are more like jerks than true villains. These include the Flim-Flam Brothers, who tried to force Sweet Apple Acres to close its doors for good; Gilda, a griffon with a cruel attitude who tried to drive Pinkie Pie away from being friends with Rainbow Dash; and Babs Seed, Apple Bloom’s cousin from “Manehattan” (who has a Brooklyn accent, no less) who initially bullied the CMCs so she could avoid being bullied herself. “True villains” appear in the drama/adventure episodes most of the time. The “big six” (for now) are Nightmare Moon, Princess Luna’s malevolent alter-ego who lusts only for power and domination at the expense of all living things; Discord, an omnipotent “draconequis” who desires chaos to reign supreme and gets his laughs from turning friends against each other and making ponies suffer; Chrysalis, the shape-shifting Queen of the Changelings who gets her power by mimicking loved ones and then devouring the love that others have for them, leaving them dried out, soulless ponies; King Sombra, a powerful dark unicorn who dominated the Crystal Kingdom and abused and tortured the citizens so much they forgot what it felt like to be happy at all; Lord Tirek, a demonic centaur who has the ability to drain magic from unicorns, flight from pegasi, and strength from earth ponies and add it to his own power; and Starlight Glimmer, an extremely powerful, cunning, manipulative, and controlling unicorn who made ponies “equal” by removing their special talents and forced them to adopt her way of thinking. Somewhere “in between” is the Great and Powerful Trixie, who initially appeared in a cautionary episode against being a braggart when Twilight showed her up, but later appeared as a much more powerful villain after being corrupted by the Alicorn Amulet and managed to conquer Ponyville (the hometown of the Mane Six). In either case, she eventually did a heel-turn-face.

7. Dragons are “Tolkienesque”. For the most part, the dragons in “Friendship is Magic” are just like the dragons one would find in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. They are long lived and grow larger and more powerful over time. They keep treasure hoards, partially because their favorite food to eat is gems and partially because they possess monstrous greed, which they guard fiercely, even from other dragons. For the most part, they dismiss all other non-dragons as subcreatures and don’t care if they hurt them or torment them. They’re generally cruel or ill-tempered. The only exception to all of this is Spike, who has been raised by ponies since the day Twilight Sparkle hatched him with a spell, giving him a much friendlier and innocent demeanor. In spite of that, he’s susceptible to having the same terrible greed that all dragons have, and the greedier he allows himself to become, the more like a “true” dragon he appears. However, he’s the only dragon known so far who was able to “defy his own nature” and perform acts of generosity.

8. Cutie Marks. Cutie Marks are what every “adult” pony on the show possesses on their flank, rather like a brand. They were neither born with these nor did they place them there. Rather, the Cutie Mark appears when a pony realizes their “special talent” or even “destiny”. Among younger foals, gaining a Cutie Mark is considered a “rite of passage” and those without them are considered to be more like “little kids”, and can be used as a point for mocking (such as with the case of the Cutie Mark Crusaders who were the victims of bullying for not having their own Cutie Marks). Several individuals gaining their Cutie Marks together as the result of a single event is a sign that the individuals involved have a very special destiny on which the future of Equestria could hinge.

9. Just what are the “Elements of Harmony”? The Elements of Harmony are the “weapons” used by the Mane Six against threats who are impossible to stop in any other way. Specifically, they were used against Nightmare Moon (who, being a goddess, was impossible to stop by force) and Discord (who was omnipotent and otherwise impossible to stop). [They were also used against Sunset Shimmer in the “Equestria Girls” spinoff movie, but that’s not considered canon with the main series.] The six elements are Honesty, Laughter, Kindness, Generosity, Loyalty, and Magic. They originally appeared as gems and later stone orbs, but once destroyed by Nightmare Moon they reconstituted themselves as necklaces (except for the Magic Element, which is always a tiara). Each of the Mane Six embodies one element, which has the same shape as their “Cutie Marks”: Applejack-Honesty, Pinkie Pie-Laughter, Fluttershy-Kindness, Rarity-Generosity, Rainbow Dash-Loyalty, and Twilight Sparkle-Magic. In the past, Princess Celestia and Princess Luna were able to wield the Elements of Harmony by themselves, and later Princess Celestia was able to do it by herself. However, it has since been shown since then that it takes all members of the Mane Six to use them and that if anyone else tries to use any one of the elements who isn’t the “proper wielder”, they won’t work. Using the Elements of Harmony involves creating a rainbow beam that blasts whatever villain is present. In most cases, the end result is not only a temporary “stripping” of power but usually also purging the individual of whatever negative emotions (hate, jealousy, anger, etc.) were dominating their thinking. The Elements of Harmony had to be restored to their original source, the Tree of Harmony, at the beginning of Season Four, but at the end of the fourth Season the Mane Six gained their “Rainbow Power” forms, which makes the power of their elements innate to them.

(NOTE: In the “Equestria Girls” franchise, it has been hinted that Sunset Shimmer herself also represents Magic. Starlight Glimmer does not appear to represent any of the elements in spite of her magic proficiency, indicating she’s not quite on the level of the Mane Six.)

10. What about “Equestria Girls”? In between Seasons Three and Four of the TV series, a movie called “Equestria Girls” was released in which Twilight Sparkle went into a world where she became humanized and attempted to stop Princess Celestia’s former pupil, Sunset Shimmer, who had also been humanized and had been living in that world as one, from using the Magic Element of Harmony for evil, which she had stolen. The movie was notable in giving Twilight Sparkle a love interest in the form of a character named Flash Sentry. However, the show creators have officially declared that the movie was a spinoff from the main series as opposed to canon, and therefore the events of the movie did not take place in the actual series.

The movie spawned a sequel, “Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks”. In this one, new villains, the Dazzlings, were introduced, and Sunset Shimmer fully went through a heel-turn-face and began to move into the role Twilight Sparkle once had, only this time with the humanized versions of the rest of the Mane Six.

The second sequel, “Equestria Girls: Friendship Games”, saw Sunset Shimmer fully shifted into the role of main character and introduced the human version of Twilight Sparkle (also known unofficially as “Sci-Twi” to differentiate her from the true Twilight Sparkle) at last. Sunset Shimmer has since befriended her and brought her into the “Main Six”.

The third sequel, “Equestria Girls: Legend of Everfree”, gave the human versions of the Mane Six plus Sunset Shimmer new abilities not dependent on the magic they draw from their friendship with each other: Sunset Shimmer–Tactile Empathy, Sci-Twi–Telekinesis, Applejack–Super Strength, Rainbow Dash–Super Speed, Rarity–Gem Projection, Fluttershy–Animal Communication, and Pinkie Pie–Conversion of Passive Energy into Kinetic Energy.

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